If you are looking at a particular sermon and it is removed it is because it has been updated.

For example Year C 2010 is being replaced week by week with Year C 2013, and so on.

Friday, 31 July 2020

18th Sunday Year A 2020

 18th. Sunday, Year (A)
(Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21)

In the ancient world of the Gospel’s beginning Christians were mocked by the learning of Athens and persecuted by the power of Rome for proclaiming a unique God Who having taken on human flesh, lived, died, and rose again for our salvation.  And still today, Christians and above all Catholics, are mocked and reviled, rejected and persecuted more than any other religious body, for proclaiming this Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life for human beings, whereas so many of the wise ones of this world still repeat the question of Pilate, ‘What is Truth?’, and so many non-believers hate a God Who warns that a life of self-will and pride, pleasure and plenty, will ultimately lead to death and even damnation.

In Isaiah’s time, as you heard in the first reading, things were much the same: the success many people looked for was that of having a life of rich fare, lands, flocks, and houses to boast of, whilst worship of the most popular god from the local pantheon was the obvious way to walk
 together with plenty of companions of easy persuasion rather than the disciplined way of obedience in response the Israel’s one and only God.

What did Isaiah proclaim in the name of the God of Israel:

Isaiah spoke in the name of the God of Israel Whom no man could ever see and live; a God unseen indeed but not unknown, since He had been active in Israel’s history for over a thousand years, and, indeed, it was He Who had made Israel into a nation.

In our second reading, however, this true but unseen God had taken on human flesh, becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ, and St. Paul offers for our aspirations not a pottage of worldly success or social popularity, but that supreme blessing for the human heart and mind, which is the abiding love of the God Who made us:

Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ …. Nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

St. Paul offers us there a shield, a helmet of salvation, for our present situation:

Even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes or being threatened or even attacked …. These are (but) trials through which we triumph, by the power of Him who loved us.

From that you can appreciate how the spirits that rule our modern world and technological society are increasingly hostile to Jesus: He claims a power they will not acknowledge because it is greater than anything they themselves can muster; a power He exercises, moreover, through those who appear to be nothing, because they fear, obey, and love, the God Who speaks to them in their conscience: Who teaches and guides their experience of life as disciples of Him Whose love for mankind triumphed over the torments of the Cross.

Today, our alien society and hostile world, along with their ages-old  proclamation of success and popularity as the only criteria for a worth-while life, also assert that there is no creator-god greater than modern mankind itself – armed with scientific knowledge and technological ability – able to fulfil modern aspirations now freed from all the taboos of religious fears and imagining: there is no God Who wants to speak with you personally; there is nothing special about you that cannot be seen and appreciated by society around you, and treated appropriately by socially approved ‘health-and-happiness experts’.

However, there is still something that makes us yet more mysterious and suspicious to all secular influences around us, for our Faith in God and Love for our Saviour are imbued with an unbounded Hope, and a resulting confidence which springs up within us from the Gospel proclamation you heard:

Jesus said to His disciples: There is no need for them (the hungry) to go: give them something to eat yourselves.  He took the five loaves and two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing.  And breaking the loaves, He handed them to His disciples who gave them to the crowds.  They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps; remaining, twelve baskets full.  Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

There, of course, we see foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist in Mother Church, that sacrificial offering and sacramental banquet we are now in the process of celebrating. 

Holy Mass is, indeed, the deepest and surest source of our Hope since here Jesus’ very sacrifice of Himself is our offering to the Father, and the Holy Spirit we receive in return is the Gift of the Father and bequest of the Son, through Whom God’s life and power are at work in Mother Church and in our individual lives.  The sacramental Gift we receive is a power that can easily transcend our personal weakness, and cannot be thwarted even by our sinfulness, because the Spirit’s Personal mission is to raise up children of Mother Church who will not bend the knee to Satan, children whose Faith, Hope, and Love will allow Him to form them in the likeness of the Jesus Who said:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

So today, in the face of the world’s mockery Jesus calls us, as He did His Apostles in our Gospel reading to ‘give our needy world food yourselves',  that is, from your Catholic and Christian awareness, experience, understanding and love of Jesus in your contemporary lives, in fulfilment of the prophetic calling by Isaiah:

            Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.

Have no part therefore, dear People of God, in the throng of lusty, easy-going companions enjoying life as they would going to some mega occasion, crowding to worship their popular idols who -- with microphone in their hands -- sway and gesticulate hoping to encourage you likewise to sway with them and thus imbibe yourselves and communicate to all around you the emotion that is driving those idols to caress the microphone they are holding so lovingly and the head of which needs to be brought ever nearer to their glittering and quivering lips or gaping throat!!

TURN ASIDE, Isaiah says, from such pseudo-emotion, so carefully stoked-up with the help of glaring lights and pulsating music, AND LISTEN to God Who seeks to speak with you in the depths of your heart, hearken to Him, Who alone can give you true fulfilment – not childish/devilish excitement, not  success  which consists  in nothing more than passing popularity or plentiful possessions -- but real life itself, soul-life, transcendent and eternal life, at peace with One far greater than your own needy self, with the One Who knows you through and through, and whose love is not emotional but simply a commitment of being totally FOR YOU which is far, far above, immeasurably better and beyond, what is earthly.

And now we come to the very essence of today’s Gospel for our modern times, for Jesus says to His present-day apostles, mere local people – not Pope or Bishops so strangely silent – but like the original yokels from Galilee as the high society of Jerusalem thought:

            Give them some food yourselves!

Yes, you who think you have nothing to give: ‘Bring that nothing, here to Me’.

What do you have, dear People of God here at Mass?  You do not know? 

Let me tell you:  You have the power to bear witness to Jesus, by the mere statement that you are a Catholic, a Christian, a believer who loves Jesus, who trusts Him, who hopes in Him for heavenly life to come.  Notice that the disciples had only five loaves and two fish for thousands of people, you need only witness to the fact that you believe Jesus, you love Him .... you don’t have to give an explanation, maybe you can’t, but that is not essential, bring what you have to Jesus, that is, I repeat, the FACT of your love for Him, your belief and hope in Him!

You can then leave it there, as did those apostles of old, Jesus took what they had and used it to do what only He could do.   Put your neck on the line and have confidence in Jesus, He wants only your witness, He does not expect you to give also an explanation for your belief, your love, your hope, He will call others to do just that.  Remember,

            It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Go in peace with God, dear People of God, when you leave this Church; and go also with a greater measure of confidence in your Catholic and Christian selves too.           

Thursday, 23 July 2020

17th Sunday Year A 2020

(1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52)

What beautiful readings we have heard today!! 

Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of heaven as a treasure, to be ‘treasured’ in our hearts; He also compared it to ‘a pearl of great price’, to be delighted in, and joyfully shown to others: a treasure leading one to exclaim, ‘thanks be to God’ in personal prayer, and a pearl of great price leading me now -- for example -- to delight in displaying before you and for you: ‘Such is our Catholic faith, my God, how beautiful You are!’

Let us look a little closer at them both.

The Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a man finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Did you, on hearing those words, experience any qualms of modern ‘conscience’ which anti-religious people so readily try to drum up against the Gospel of God?  ‘He should not have bought that field after hiding the treasure!’ they say with most righteous indignation. 
We, however, know for certain that though Our Lord may occasionally choose to shock us, He is always deeply -- so to speak -- right, and has much to teach us if we will but listen so as to learn and love.

Those ‘righteous’ accusers or complainants are not interested in the deeper meaning of Jesus’ words; like the Pharisees of old they seize on the literal words and, ignoring their meaning, press on to make a ‘popular’, usually trite, criticism, expressing not truth but fear and antagonism.

This ‘treasure’ in the parable -- the treasure of the salvation in the Kingdom of God -- found buried in a field was and is of such absolute, all-embracing importance, that it could never -- under whatever circumstances -- be passed over or ignored.  Salvation is a matter of life and death, indeed, eternal life and death for each and every one of us; it is that without which our present life can have no fulfilment, it is the sublime purpose for Jesus’ coming to suffer and die among us for us.

Think back to the boy Jesus of Nazareth on pilgrimage in Jerusalem: think of Him after His reception in the Temple having just come-of-age as a Jewish young man and then staying behind in this new adult world of His, watching the learned rabbis and holy priests walking about in the Temple known as a ‘wonder of  the world’.  Continue thinking of that same newly-come-of-age Jesus of Nazareth -- Who later as a mature man would say to a Samaritan woman ‘we Jews worship what we know’ – think of Him, I say, as a boy/cum/man now hearing, speaking to, even in some measure communing with, a deeply learned yet humble doctor of the Law there in the Temple or with a priest who found his delight in leading the Temple worship and singing the Psalms used there.  Think of that Jesus Who – in the depths of His being, knew God as His Father – think of Him now delighting to hear and speak with those thus learned and devout in that majestic Temple, delighting with them in Israel’s God, and being thrilled beyond all previous measure at knowing  Him as His very own Father and now being able to speak of Him at a level He had never been able to share as man before!!

So great was His delight in God, in His heavenly Father -- His heart’s deepest treasure and pearl without price -- that He forgot all about Mary and Joseph, forgot all about returning home with the caravan, among relatives, friends and acquaintances!  Indeed, He forgot all about Himself, save as Son of His heavenly Father: for example, what did He eat, where did He sleep for those three days?   Out of sheer joy He -- as it were –'gave up all He had to own that field’.

Jesus then went on to address another parable to His audience highlighting a further, most important, aspect of the Kingdom of heaven:

Again, the Kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all he has and buys it.

Here we have a man searching for what is beautiful.   It is true that he sells all that he has to buy it, but he is able to pay for it: he divests himself of what is good, helpful, useful, and to a certain extent necessary, for all those things cannot rival the sheer pleasure, joy, admiration and delight, this beautiful pearl affords him.  Therefore, Jesus tells us that he buys it, he pays for it in open bargaining.  In this parable, the pearl it is not something of transcendent, life or death, importance that absolutely cannot be missed, it is rather something of such great beauty that the buyer wants to possess it,  HE DOESN’T WANT TO MISS IT, even though it cost him so very much.   Here there is no implicit warning about the danger of not buying this pearl, the loss, that is of eternal salvation; here, there is simply the fact -- the undeniable truth -- of the BEAUTY, the transcendent beauty of this ONE Pearl.

Dear People of God, those two minuscule parables (70 odd English words in total) say absolutely all that needs to, must, be said about the Kingdom of God which Jesus came to bring!  Further words can add nothing to them: the Kingdom is life, divine in its nature and in its beauty; and, if one wanted to more fully describe such a treasure and such a pearl, one would surely agree with St. John saying (21:25):

I suppose not even the world itself could contain the books that would have to be written.

No one can tamper with the Gospel of Jesus because it is Jesus as Word, just as the Eucharist is Jesus as Sacrament.  Jesus made abundantly clear that no one could come to Him unless the Father had drawn them thereto; and that the Father gives, sends, followers to Him so that He, Jesus, might save them for eternal life.  It is not our job as Catholic believers and Church members to persuade people to come to a Jesus we concoct up for them.  We all -- priests and people -- are, in our degree, Catholic witnesses to Jesus, and as such we have to offer all who seek their Saviour, the Jesus revealed in the Scriptures as understood by Mother Church; in other words, we have to be authentic, Spirit-guided, witnesses to Jesus, not purveyors of popular or personal persuasions concerning Him:  such is the Jesus for Whom the Father Himself calls disciples that they might learn to know, love and serve Him in sincere faith; and such disciples the Father Himself loves and will visit because of their commitment to and love for His only begotten and most-beloved Son.  How we -- practicing and proclaiming Catholics -- can fittingly respond, and bear authentic witness, to such love of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is our foremost vocation, privilege, possible glory, and inevitable responsibility.

Once again, dear People of God, notice Jesus’ third parable today:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind.  When it is full … the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Such a net is expected to collect fish of every kind, good and bad.  Bad fish are expected but not, ultimately, tolerated; because they, at the end of the age, will be separated and thrown into the fiery furnace.   For the present, however, it is no disgrace that the Kingdom of Heaven – like a good fishing net – collects bad fish as well as good, because the Kingdom only collects fish that are candidates originally intended to become good fish, which the Kingdom as such seeks to nourish, help, and encourage that they might fulfil their own original promise and subsequent calling by the Father.   That some, perhaps many fail, is a cause of sorrow rather than surprise; did not Jesus expressly say, ‘Will the Son of Man find faith when He comes?’  It is, however, always a reason for prayers: of intercession for sinners, for the blessing of Mother Church, and of ‘compassion’ for the God and Father Who is wonderful enough to  ‘suffer’ on such occasions.

Let us now give our attention to what is most attractive in our two main parables today, where the Kingdom of Heaven is portrayed as a supreme, and incomparable treasure, and also as a pearl of outstanding beauty and great price.   Why the Kingdom is such a unique treasure and so beautiful a pearl today’s reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans explains; for there, Paul tells us what – so to speak – ‘goes on’ in the Kingdom of Heaven in the course of its earthly preparation:

All things work for good for those who love God, who are called (by the Father) according to His purpose.  For those He predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son He also called; and those He called He also justified, and those He justified He also glorified.

You, dear People of God here at Mass for our Sunday celebration, have been called, drawn, by the Father to Jesus, and you are thereby in the Kingdom of heaven’s preparatory stage.  You are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son; and in the Kingdom God is now justifying you, beautifying you, so that you might be enabled to put on, be endowed with, some share -- an ever greater share -- in the glory of Jesus as a member of His glorified Body.  

Notice, People of God, that it is at this precise point that we can appreciate the real nature of the horror, the tragedy, of sin among Catholic and Christian figures: as apparently representative members, called-by-the-Father members, of the Kingdom, they are actually refusing, rejecting, repulsing and distorting His desires and efforts to prepare them by the Spirit for a heavenly life, in Jesus, in the family of the Father of all.

However, let us forget that necessary aside about the tragedy of sin among the chosen, and let us turn back in gratitude and admiration, love and humility, to the God of great goodness and the Lord of all salvation, opening our mouths and our hearts wide to welcome and embrace the Spirit of beautiful hope.

Lord, let Your kindness comfort me according to Your promise, let Your compassion come to me that I may live; for Your law gives understanding to the simple, and is my (great) delight.

Friday, 17 July 2020

16th Sunday Year A 2020

 16th. Sunday of Year (A)
(Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, among those regarding themselves as devout Jews in the time of Jesus were at least two groups who claimed to be the ‘holy remnant’, alone faithful to the commands of Israel’s God-given Law in its fullness, and who thought they, exclusively, would usher in the coming  Kingdom of God; outsiders were, they thought, ‘beyond the Pale’.  Thus, they formed two, not only ‘holy’ but also ‘closed’ remnants, distinct from merely nominal Israelites by reason of their passionate adherence to and rigid observance of their own unique understanding of the requirements for authentic Mosaic liturgical purity, traditional piety, and personal asceticism. 

Of these two groups, the Pharisees, separated themselves from other people’s popular society but not from their physical proximity; whereas the monastic community of the Essenes carried out this separation at Qumran in the Judean desert, near the Dead Sea and as far as possible from sinful Jerusalem.  The  Pharisees set out to promote the priestly character of the Jewish people by their religious observance and spiritual practices, while the Essenes pursued and expressed the same claim for their members even in their clothing: each member of the order, even the laity, wore a white linen robe, the ceremonial dress of priests in office.  The Pharisaic movement demanded ritual washing of hands before meals from all its members; the Essene community exaggerated this requirement to the extent that it demanded a full bath before every meal, in order to achieve the highest possible standards of purity.

And how exclusive these groups were!  Even the physically handicapped were not allowed to belong to the assembly of the Essene community.  So what hope was there for sinners?

The biggest difference between them, however, was that the Essene community ‘legislated’ for themselves, whereas the Pharisees assumed for themselves the mantle of Moses, as authoritative teachers not only for their members but also for the whole People of Israel.

Such pride and presumption on their part merited Jesus’ whole-hearted disgust:

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You traverse sea and land to make one convert, and when that happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as much as yourselves. (Matthew 23:15)

And consequently, the Pharisees went ‘the whole hog’ in their claim for recognition as unique teachers in Israel by deliberately and diligently seeking out and publicly decrying Jesus, before finally colluding with Herodians and High Priests to make use of the over-riding and heartily-hated Roman power to have Him crucified for the sake of their exclusive understanding of not only the Law of Moses but, indeed, of the very will of God, as Jesus to their deep chagrin had long recognized and even dared to proclaim (Mark 7:8-9), saying:

‘You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.  How well you have set aside the commandment of God in order to uphold your tradition.

Now, separation from ‘outsiders’ was completely alien to the ‘Church’ community  founded by Jesus, as was patently clear from the way in which He recommended His disciples to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind to their table; and from His own sitting at table with the friends of Levi/Matthew, the former tax-collector become a disciple, and uttering those most famous words of public reprimand to critical Pharisees:

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but the sick do.  Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice’.  I did not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.  (Luke 5:31s.)

What distinguished Jesus from the Pharisees was first of all the authenticity of His Personally unique authority for Israel, for He was the Son of Him Whom the Jews said was their God, He was the Son sent by His Father for Israel’s fulfilling and salvation; and He was distinguished also by the universality of His message of salvation: fulfilling and transcending its former Jewish ‘edition’ and proclaiming His Father’s will to save all – high and low, Jews and Gentiles -- without exception: all, that is, who would turn to Him, Jesus, in faith, as the Messianic Son of Man, and Son of the Father uniquely able by His Personal self-sacrifice and gift of the Spirit to bring about the eternal salvation of each and every person willing to repent in response to His Good News of God’s great mercy and goodness. 

Of course, Jesus was aware that there would ultimately be a division between sinners and those chosen, for He preached a call to repentance and not all want to repent from the evil of their self-promoting and self-satisfying practices which ultimately and inevitably destroy their hosts and perpetrators.  In Jesus’ public and popularly-understood parables that division is clearly shown and taught: there were five wise virgins with five foolish ones, there were goats and sheep that needed to be ultimately separated.  However, the final manifestation and separation is not for this world, and so there always was and is still a chance for all who hear the Lord’s message – now proclaimed world-wide by the teaching of His Church -- to open themselves up to His offer of boundless mercy and saving grace, and seek to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance.

And so, in the field of the Church wheat and tares live side by side, for the ever-possible improvement and benefit even of the human tares: for the fruitless and sinful members of the Church do receive and can profit from countless blessings percolating down to them because innumerable saintly men and women have lived, and are still living, holy but largely inconspicuous lives: unknown to those around them but not unnoticed by God, Who for the sake of such fruitful and much-loved disciples of Jesus, pours out innumerable blessings upon all in Mother Church.  We cannot know how much each of us may owe to some simple, holy, person we neither knew nor would perhaps have sufficiently appreciated if we had known them.    Conversely however -- and we should never forget this -- every time we knowingly sin, we harm the whole Church by impeding the full and free flow of grace throughout the whole Body, just as when some cell or organ fails to function appropriately in our own physical bodies. 

But the wheat and the tares growing together are not only to be found in a farmer’s field as in Jesus’ parable, not only in Mother Church, but also in our individual lives; and some saints -- for example, the Curé of Ars -- are known to have asked God to let them see their sins as they really were.  That holy and humble Curé, however, was unable to bear what he was allowed to see, and he immediately besought God, of His great mercy, to withdraw the vision.

And there are many sinners today who find their lives intolerable under that stress, as the number of suicides -- even by the young, the rich, the ’successful’ -- testifies, and as a very famous French philosopher, Blaise Paschal, observed:

Whoever fails to see the vanity of the world must be vain himself.  For who does fail to see it except those young people surrounded with noise, distractions, and dreams of the future?  Now, take away their distractions and you will almost see them dry up with weariness; they then feel their nothingness without recognizing it; how unfortunate it must be to find oneself in unbearable sadness as soon as one is forced to think about one’s self, one’s own state, and not to be distracted from that thought.’
If our condition were really happy, we would not find it necessary to seek our happiness in distractions.’

Well, that is what Christian life is all about.  It is meant, in God’s great goodness, to give us real happiness, true love and fulfilment, deep peace, and unshakeable hope; it is meant to make us fully human, more human than any irreligious life – no matter however charismatically endowed and successful -- could ever make us.  For Jesus Christ alone was and is Perfect God and Perfect Man possessing the keys of life-and- love both here on earth and in heaven, and He wants so much – yes, even to the extent of allowing Himself to be crucified – to save men and women from making themselves into junkies and pleasure-seekers of all kinds -- using, abusing, themselves and/or other people, even infants!--- into power-seekers promoting violence and fear, into swindlers great and small, bringing institutions to ruin or robbing even the poorest of whatever pittance they may have for food and shelter!  And our modern slave-traders practice a business far, far, more evil than that of the slave holders of Roman times!

Dear People of God, this week-end we have some very topical and comforting teaching concerning Mother Church in Our Blessed Lord’s three parables.

First of all, note that God puts good seed in His field of the Church by drawing souls to Jesus through the discipline of faith and the obedience of love, and so we can and should reverence, respect, and whole-heartedly trust Mother Church for that good seed of God sown in her and growing to maturity through her teaching and sacraments; and that good seed is still bringing forth fruit for the Lord, fruit which, when left standing upright after the weeds have been collected and burnt, will be found fit to be joyfully and gratefully ‘gathered into the Lord’s barn’.

Again, there are many in the world looking for, and aspiring to, Mother Church.  The mustard seed parable urges such little birds not to fly to the ‘mountains’ for human help:

In the Lord I take refuge, how can you say to me, ‘Flee like a bird to the mountains’?  (Psalm 11:1),

but rather to seek and find real shelter and true rest from all storms and predators in the shelter of the Kingdom of God and in a personal relationship with Him Who is supremely Personal, loving, and loveable.

The parable of the leaven shows us yet another aspect of the Kingdom of God here on earth in which the power of Mother Church’s teaching, worship, and fellowship can not only illuminate some of the most pressing human questions and most immediate personal difficulties and anxieties we encounter daily, but which can penetrate to the very core of our being and lift up the whole tone of our life to transcendent aspirations that will lead us ultimately to eternal fulfilment and a human joy divinised beyond all our earthly imagining in the Lord.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ we owe such much to Our Lord for this blessed time spent at Mass for His glory and our refreshment!  To Him be glory, honour, and our whole-hearted and most grateful thanks now and for ever.

Friday, 10 July 2020

15th Sunday Year A 2020

15th. Sunday of Year (A)
(Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23)

You may well have thought that the sower in the Gospel parable did a pretty careless job: sowing on patches of rock, and among thorns; and one popular translation apparently tries to make the sower seem a little more accurate in his work by saying that some seeds ‘fell on the edge of the path’!   That, however, though verbally more precise, is not accurate enough for most modern translations, which say quite clearly:

            Some seed fell on the path and birds came and ate it up.         

All this, however, can be understood if we realize that in Palestine of Jesus’ day sowing preceded ploughing; hence, in the parable, the sower is depicted as striding over the unploughed stubble.  As he sows on all hands, he knowingly allows some seed to fall on the path which locals have made walking through the stubble, since he thinks that such seed should be able to take root well enough when he comes along to plough up that unwanted footpath.  Also, we should not be surprised that some grains fall upon rocky ground, for the underlying limestone -- thinly covered with soil -- hardly shows above the surface and is not noticed until the ploughshare jars against it!   It is more surprising that he allows seed to fall among the thorns in the fallow, but that may well be because he is a working man who simply has neither the time nor the energy ... even if he has the patience! ... to keep stopping and starting, avoiding first this and then that; he needs must work over the whole field in order to get the job done in preparation for the seasonal weather and, as I have said, to have some hope for, possibly, just a little bit extra this time – most welcome in his relative poverty -- from what might appear to be the otherwise fruitless patches of land.  How many circumstances there were to frustrate, even thwart, the sower’s labours!  How much there was that could dishearten him!   
Nevertheless, he had known a few years – so treasured in his memory – when quite wonderful crops had resulted:
            Some a hundred-fold, some sixty, some thirty!!
Crops beyond expectations, larger by far than those other harvests that he had also known and remembered for the paucity of their yield!
Dear People of God, this was a parable meant by Our Blessed Lord to show – on the one hand -- that the rich blessings of God’s Kingdom here on earth will come to fruition despite what might be the insignificant beginnings, and slow, laborious, development of that Kingdom, and despite all human opposition that might make it appear -- humanly speaking – impossible for it to succeed.
My word that goes forth from My mouth shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent it.
The Kingdom of God will, indeed, come for those who have firm faith in Jesus and patient trust in God’s great goodness and mercy; because those wonderfully prophetic words from Isaiah are fulfilled most sublimely in the very Person of Jesus Himself:
My Word (My beloved Son-made-flesh) shall not return to Me void, but shall do My will, achieving the end for which I sent (Him).
And so, in Our Lord’s own life on earth among men, He suffered ‘social obstructions and human opposition’ to such an extent that He – the very Son of God made man -- died maligned and even hated, left alone and deserted: an abject failure in the sight of men.  But, His trust in His Father was unshaken; He committed Himself without reserve to Him:

            Father, into Your hands I commend My Spirit.
The Kingdom of God in our souls expands to its full extent in the same way.  With the sower we must do our best: first, to set out with confidence each recurring season to work well and then to trust, calmly and firmly, in the goodness of God, our Father.  We must, however, work at the whole field: not only in the good parts, but also in those which are thorny and stony, on the trodden down and hard pathway;  we must work not only at that which comes easier to us, but also in those areas of life which we find it more difficult, where the rough, stony, mediocre ground seems more abundant than the fertile.  The point is, we must work at our whole being-before-God with simple sincerity, and quiet, persevering, endeavour, and then trust in God with calm peace, and confident expectancy.  Results are His gift, for His glory, and for our greater well-being and true joy.
Then the disciples approached Jesus and said, ‘Why do You speak to the people in parables?’  He said to them in reply, ‘Because they look but do not see, and hear but do not listen or understand.’
It was no arbitrary decision of Our Lord which led to Him speak in parables to the people.  No, it was the inevitable consequence of, and a most appropriate accommodation with, the poor dispositions of those who listened to Him.  With a parable He offered them wisdom and life, hidden in a tale, in a little human story, they might find interesting enough to remember, one in which, someday, they might be able to glimpse and appreciate a little of the hidden life contained in it.
That is why we, dear People of God, as disciples of Jesus, must work at the whole field of our lives.  It is not enough to be good to our own family, if we are deaf and blind to the needs of others; it is not enough to be sober and thrifty if we are also ill-tempered or wrapped up in the things of this world; it is not enough to say, ‘I don’t do anyone any harm’ if we don’t seek to promote anything good because it is good; it is not enough to be a ‘good mum’ if you want children more for your pleasure or your imagined fulfilment, rather than for your children’s prospective good.
What beauty we see or what truth we hear, what love we conceive, depends so very much on who we are; that is, on what we have made of ourselves thus far:
            They look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
A man who is lustful may be generous hearted and hard working – but he cannot rightly conceive or meditate upon the love of God, because love for him has a twisted meaning; he cannot really imagine or appreciate a disinterested love or deep soul-satisfying joy because pleasure and passion clouds and distorts his outlook.  And such distortion spreads elsewhere and can come to contaminate all we do unless we react firmly against it and any other such vices which may have found a place in our character and a part in our life.  If we are slaves in one aspect of our life, we cannot be truly free in any other, because we are not really ourselves, the selves God intended us to be.  As Jesus said in this respect:
To anyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
And so, People of God, I would recommend you today to aim at being consistent in your endeavours to let God’s W/word take root, and God’s Kingdom come to reign, in your lives ... not just in one part, but in the whole of your lives, for that alone will bring true, lasting, joy and peace into your hearts:
Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear!  Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it; to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.
Yes, you will find God at work in your life, you will become aware of Him speaking in your heart, and you will rejoice as they alone can rejoice who have found a love beyond compare, a love which time can never tarnish nor changing circumstances disturb.  That, indeed, is the aim of all our religious practices: to recognize and respond with love to God in all aspects and occurrences of life; to see God’s beauty and loveable-ness in all persons and in all things, and to rejoice in Him with all our heart:
             I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.
May we have that purpose fulfilled both here and in eternity, through Jesus Christ Our Lord, and may His Gospel parable for today influence and guide our whole lives, for the sower did his utmost to get the very best out of the land he had; and so should, so must, we!

Friday, 3 July 2020

14th Sunday Year A 2020

 14th. Sunday of year (A)
  (Zechariah 9:9-10; Romans 8:9, 11-13; Matthew 11:25-30)

Recall the picture painted of the King-to-come in the first reading from the prophecy of Zechariah:

Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your King shall come to you; a just Saviour is He, meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass.

He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and He shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. 
The King-to-come whom the prophet foretold is, of course, Jesus, who will establish God’s kingdom over all the earth, proclaiming peace and banishing war, in all, a just Saviour, Who by His victory over sin and death, will conquer the power of Satan and free mankind from its thraldom to sin.

How will He free mankind?  St. Paul told us in our second reading that Jesus, the Risen Lord, embraces all who turn to Him at His Father’s call, and bestows on them a Gift, the Holy Spirit, Who will abide with them and in them:

If the Spirit of the One Who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, you are not in the flesh, and the One Who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit Who dwells in you.  If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

A just Saviour, indeed, is He Who gives the Gift of His Spirit to those who, answering His Father’s call, believe in Him; that is the background painted by the prophet Zechariah and by Saint Paul, and with that background in mind we can well understand Jesus’ words in the Gospel:

Come to Me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden light.

Jesus is inviting those who believe in Him and His Good News to come to Him and take His yoke upon themselves, that is to embrace and obey His gift of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of Truth and of Love, that He might free them from their thraldom to sin and introduce them into His Kingdom where the Spirit rules:

Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

We come across Jesus calling out publicly ‘Come to Me’ again on the occasion of one of Israel’s greatest feasts when crowds were everywhere to be found:

On the last and greatest day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as Scripture says, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” 
And then St. John (7:37-39) goes on to tell us:

He spoke this concerning the Spirit, Whom those believing in Him would receive; for the  Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet  glorified.

We have other words of Jesus reported by St. Matthew (25:31-36) where He speaks openly of His Kingdom:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory ... all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.  Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.

The Kingdom to be thus fully manifested when Jesus comes in glory was inaugurated in the very first ‘church’ preaching of the word of Jesus as St. Luke (10:1-2.9) tells us:

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go (saying): ‘Heal the sick there, and say to them, “The Kingdom of God has come near to you.”’

And so, dear People of God, know yourselves, your situation, and your calling: you have heard the call of the Father, and the Good News of Jesus proclaimed to you by Mother Church; you have been made -- through baptism and the Gift of the Holy Spirit – an adult member of the Body of Christ and a privileged citizen not indeed of the Roman Empire but of the Kingdom of God, and as such, the Holy Spirit is now reminding you that, as a responsible citizen of that Kingdom and loyal disciple of its King and Lord, you should learn to fight against the enemies of that Kingdom in  the strength that He gives now and will give you, that is, against sin in your own life first of all, and then -- according to the measure of your endowment by the Spirit – against sin in the world around.

Let us now turn back to St. Paul in our second reading that we may learn what this, our Christian struggle and fight against sin, involves:

Brothers, we are not debtors to the flesh, to live according to the flesh; for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Life lived according to the flesh: a settled practice, that is, of living in accordance with our bodily lusts and vengeful desires, will lead us to death, eternal death; because such passions when indulged make slaves of those who give way to, and learn to delight in, them: slaves who take no account the needs of others, have no respect for the harmonious balance and blend of nature, and who totally ignore the fullness and beauty of our being as planned for each one of us by God, our heavenly Father.  The restraining of such native selfishness, the curbing and destruction of blind bodily lusts and longings for revenge, the restraining discipline and careful training of all unruly impulses, is what St. Paul means when he speaks of ‘putting to death the deeds of the body by the S/spirit’, for it is only through the Spirit communing with our spirit, recalling and enabling us to appreciate the teaching of Jesus, that we can find strength to walk perseveringly in accordance with the light of life.

However, dear friends in Christ, there is another aspect of Jesus’ teaching to be found in promises such as this:

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.  These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 10:10-11, 15:11)

For ultimately, dear People of God, it is joy in the Lord that most truly saves us, because Jesus came as Saviour that we might have life in fulfilment of our being: not earthly life as we know it, not an earthly life to delight in and learn to wallow in, but the life for which we were originally made, the life for which we are intended, the life of the Risen Jesus, Who has conquered sin and death on our behalf, and Who now calls us to follow Him where He -- our Head – awaits us, urging us to let ourselves be born anew, by His Spirit, as members of His Body.  Our Head, Jesus, is in heaven, and we, His disciples on earth, can be born anew to a life leading heaven-wards where HE our Head awaits us as His Body, born anew to a life of total fulfilment for us, because it will be a life in the context of the Divine Life of Beatitude, where the bonds of mutual Truth and Love, Troth indeed,  eternally embrace Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.