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.

Thursday, 27 August 2020

22nd Sunday Year A 2020

   22nd. Sunday of Year (A)
(Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27)

The words of St. Paul in our second reading:

Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good, and pleasing and perfect,

are as pertinent and necessary today as they were at the very beginning of Christianity.  Then, many Christians were tempted, or driven, by fear of the persecuting might of the Roman Empire, to conform to the expected state-worship and thus save themselves from being reported as refusing to join in sacrifices to the traditional gods for the well-being of the Empire and of the Emperor himself.

Likewise today, many wavering or nominal Catholics strive earnestly to keep in tune with the currently acceptable opinions and attitudes of society around them, and today’s first reading from the prophet Jeremiah was one that would not have been comfortable hearing for them, since the common impression of people these days with regard to the prophet Jeremiah --- if, indeed, such people have any awareness of the prophet at all --- derive from the cloud which hovers over his very name: for they regard a  ‘Jeremiah’ as one who always looks on the dark side of things, a harbinger of evil whose legacy is an ancient book called ‘Lamentations’, the like of which are now frequently termed as ‘Jeremiads’.

Occasional Catholics dare not resist such talk because it is so very easy for those who decry the prophet to turn around and mock any who would show him or his writings respect, as being weak personalities, fragile characters, unable to share and rub shoulders with others in the normal joys of life; of being – to put it bluntly – modern Jeremiah’s, full of despondency and complaints concerning modern society.

And so, although Jeremiah’s personal courage or fidelity to his office of prophet-in-Israel can never be questioned let alone denied, nevertheless, he seems condemned to permanently suffer under the misapprehension that he was a ‘moaner’, even though today’s short first reading show how far he was, in fact, from being a true ‘moaner’.  For moaners are always complaining to others, constantly soliciting the sympathy of those around them, whereas Jeremiah only gave expression to his anxieties and fears in the secrecy of his personal prayer to God; and -- far from being public cries for human sympathy -- his words were private and most humble acknowledgements before God alone of his deep fear of being personally unfit for the divine task being asked of him.

Before men, as I have just said, Jeremiah showed himself to be most courageous, being called to suffer much over many years as a servant of the Lord.   It is true that he publicly and frequently forecasted disaster, but that was the task given him by the Lord: the words and the warnings were of the Lord’s commissioning, not of Jeremiah’s choosing.

In one passage of his book he tells us (Jeremiah 15:16) just how much he loved the word of God:

Your words were found, and I ate them, Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; for I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts.

But, rejoicing so whole-heartedly in God's word, and having sincerely tried to fulfil the Lord’s command for the good of Israel, Jeremiah was both puzzled at the reception given his proclamation by God's Chosen People, and alarmed at the outcry it stirred up against him personally; and so, in his private prayer to God he says:

Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable?   Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream, as waters that fail? (15:18)

You will get an idea of his courage if you appreciate that what was happening to him was that which most people today fear above all: he was being mocked, opposed -- rejected by his friends and acquaintances -- and even hated by his own people because he was he was proclaiming in the name of the Lord a message they would not accept:

Whenever I speak, violence and outrage is my message; the word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day.  

Foreshadowing in that way the loneliness of our Blessed Lord on Calvary he cried:

Woe is me, my mother, that you have borne me, a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!  (15:10)

Surely you will appreciate that only a man of great courage and strong spirit would have dared to repeatedly proclaim a message everyone considered unpatriotic and defeatist, a message no one wanted to hear, and which brought down so great a measure of public opprobrium and contempt upon his head.

In his prayers Jeremiah told the Lord how he had thought of keeping his mouth shut: why keep on shouting what no one will accept, what only brings me increased hatred and derision?  However, when he tried to keep silent he found that:

(His word) becomes like a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary of holding it in, I cannot endure it.  

He was in a dilemma: for though he dreaded speaking out, yet he was finding it impossible to keep quiet.  He did indeed need to pray, to seek God's help and guidance, for only the Lord could appreciate and alleviate his situation.

Listen carefully to what the Lord said to him, however, because it may well surprise you, since it clearly shows that commiseration and empathy are not always or necessarily the true expression of divine love:

If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be My spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.  (15:19)

Notice those words “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve Me”.  In other words: repent, because at present you are not showing yourself as one worthy to serve Me; for, to serve Me -- even if it involves earthly suffering -- is a privilege.  We should also notice those other words:

Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them.

You must not try to make your preaching acceptable: My Word is My Word, it alone is good for My people, don't you dare change or adapt it to their liking.

Yes, People of God, it is a privilege to serve God and any suffering it involves does not change the fact that it is a privilege.  Moreover, God's message is not to be evaluated by its popularity: God's message cannot be adapted, let alone changed, in order to accommodate modern fancies, opinions, or desires. 

The heroism of Jeremiah and his fellow prophets who faithfully proclaimed God’s message at such great cost, was absolutely vindicated and sublimely confirmed when Jesus, the Son-of-God-made-man, came to destroy sin in man, and thereby proclaimed the worldly reality and universality of such sin and the inevitability of its ultimate destruction in the punishment of those who embrace it, by His own sinless Death and Resurrection for the salvation of all repentant sinners. 

Dear friends in Christ, our world, not just our country, is in the grip of a deadly pandemic destroying not merely lives, but human living and working together as social beings, and leaving in its wake poverty, homelessness, and despair. And are we to assume that this world-wide phenomenon has no message for God’s people and the world today? Are there no prophets today like Jeremiah of old?  Or, is God today not allowed to speak a prophetic message – as Jesus Himself was not allowed to speak God’s truth by the Pharisees and Chief Priests of His day -- for His People in this coronavirus pandemic because He might draw unwelcome attention to that other modern, and much more deadly, pandemic of sin?

For sin is a concept which is totally absent from the vocabulary of modern social ‘teaching’ and legislation, which promote, with almost ‘evangelical’ zeal, equality and freedom for all, ignoring, of course, that most blatant and shamefully hushed sin of the millions of unborn children who have had and still have to be killed (‘aborted’ is the preferred word) perhaps in those very hospitals so rightly praised for the self-sacrificing, life-saving, anti-virus, work done there; those fetuses (they must not be seen as children!) have to continue to be ‘aborted’ to cover up our ‘mistakes’, to save us from embarrassment, or inconvenience!

Nevertheless, today I do not want to exclusively reprove a negligent Church or poor Catholics, but also and indeed thereby to build up Mother Church and encourage good Christians, because in our Gospel reading there is encouragement for us -- such as was given to Jeremiah -- by the Lord.
Jesus began to speak to His disciples about His forthcoming condemnation and crucifixion, and we are told that:

Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, "God forbid Lord!  No such thing shall ever happen to You.”

Whereupon Jesus turned sharply on Peter saying:

Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle to Me.  You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

There Jesus insists most firmly  -- but not uncharitably as milk-and-water Christianity would ‘teach’ -- that He Himself, and consequently His Church and His disciples, cannot expect to live untroubled lives here in this wicked world:

You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.

Consequently, we who love Mother Church should not, must never, allow ourselves to be alarmed or become despondent, when our Faith is attacked, mocked, denied, or simply ignored by the majority: it happened to Jesus Himself:

Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him Who sent Me.  (John 15:20s.)

In our present trials, and in the present persecutions suffered by Catholics and Christians all over the world, we must always bear in mind Jesus' words:

Whoever wishes to come after Me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.   For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
People of God: have quiet confidence and firm trust in God, for you have all been personally called by the Father to serve His Son and to find salvation through Him.  You have divine strength available to you, for you are in the Church where the truth about Jesus and all the grace and power of His Spirit are at your disposal in her teaching and through her sacraments.   Try to realize and appreciate just how close you are to those earliest Christians who suffered for the Faith in the pagan atmosphere of the Roman Empire and to whom Peter wrote words which apply personally to us today:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.  If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.  (1 Peter 4:12-14)

Friday, 21 August 2020

21st Sunday Year A 2020

          Sermon 146a:Twenty-first Sunday, (A)

(Isaiah 22:19-23; Romans 11:33-36; Matthew 16:13-20)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How inscrutable are His judgments and how unsearchable His ways!  For, from Him, through Him and for Him, are all things.  To Him be glory forever.  Amen.

That hymn of St Paul expresses beautifully the spirit which animates those who have a true appreciation of God; and since the Incarnation and Work of our Redemption are the greatest works of God’s inscrutable wisdom, how could any mere mortal know the dispositions of God in regard to His Christ, the Messiah?

When the mother of James and John asked Jesus for positions for her two sons, one at His right hand and the other at His left in His Kingdom (Matthew 20:21), Jesus answered that, despite the sacrifices she and her husband Zebedee had made  by wholeheartedly supporting their sons decisions to leave home and their father’s business in order to follow Jesus, it was not for Him Jesus -- out of an imaginary debt of gratitude? -- to give places such as she was asking for, because they were exclusively at the disposal of His heavenly Father and belonged to those  whom His Father had chosen or would choose to give them.  Thus, there was mystery even for Jesus concerning His disciples: true, He had chosen them, but they had been sent to Him by His Father (John 6:44):

            No one can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draw him.

And so, in today’s Gospel reading, when Jesus puts the question:

            Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

and then follows it with another:

            But who do you say that I am?

we can sense Him waiting to discover which of the disciples the Father would choose to give the right understanding of the mystery of His Person. 

It was then that Simon spoke up, giving voice to a wisdom that was not his own:

            You are the Christ the Son of the living God!

Who has known the mind of the Lord?  writes St. Paul; and Jesus -- recognizing His man, so to speak -- said in response to Simon’s assertion:

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.

And here we are at a supremely significant moment for the Church of Jesus: the Father has picked out, designated, Simon for special prominence in the proclamation of the truth about Jesus’ Person, and in the continuance and extension of His ministry of saving grace; and Jesus, recognizing His Father’s intervention, adopts His Father’s choice by Himself appointing Simon as head of His Church by bestowing on him a new name, Peter, for that very purpose and function:

And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

The name Peter is a translation (through the Greek) of the Aramaic word ‘Kepha’, which is identical in form either as a personal name, or as the noun, ‘rock’.

People of God, this is also a moment of great significance for each of us personally.   The Church, as a visible structure, is established, founded, upon Peter’s faith; and in like manner, as regards the interior and spiritual life of each one of us, the Kingdom of God is to be established in consequence of our act of faith.  The whole supernatural life-stream in us originates with our act of faith whereby we say ‘yes’ to God’s revelation, and to Mother Church’s proclamation, of Jesus.  Just as Mary said ‘yes’ to Gabriel’s message, so our ‘yes’ of faith-in-Jesus allows God’s saving grace to enter our lives and begin to totally transform and transfigure them.

But what kind of faith is this?  Earlier in St. Matthew’s Gospel (14:33) we were told how Our Lord walked on the waves of the storm-tossed lake towards His disciples labouring hard to keep their boat afloat, and how Peter had – at Jesus’ bidding – begun to walk from the boat towards Jesus, before hesitating and then beginning to sink.  Jesus rebuked Peter for his little faith as He raised him up, before they both got into the boat and the wind ceased.  Whereupon, we read that:

Those in the boat worshipped Him saying, ‘Truly, You are the Son of God.’

To those words Jesus answered nothing at all so far as we know.  Yet later on, Jesus having left the Sea of Galilee with His disciples for the northern hills approaching Mt. Hermon, when Peter used similar words as reported in today’s Gospel:

            You are the Christ the Son of the living God!

Jesus proclaimed him blessed because he had been favoured with a revelation from His heavenly Father.

What was, what is, the difference between: ‘You are the Son of God’, and, ‘You are the Christ the Son of the living God’, that brought about such a reaction from Jesus?

In the second example Peter recognizes Jesus as not only the ‘Son of God’ but also as the Christ, the Messiah … in other words, as distinct from the terrified disciples’ acclamation of Jesus as Son of God, that is as One able to perform such wonders as silencing the storm, which was an acclamation which expressed their own relief as much as it acknowledged Jesus’ sovereign power, Peter’s inspired exclamation expressed no such personal relief, but ‘with heart and voice’ he proclaimed a divinely bestowed awareness of Jesus not just as the powerful Son of God able to work miracles, but as the SAVIOUR; the Son of God indeed, but come to save and redeem from -- make atonement for – the sins of Israel and all mankind!    And this was presaged years before by Zacharias the father of John the Baptist, one taught of God about the calling and future mission of his son:

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, for He has visited and brought redemption to His people.   He has raised up a horn for our salvation within the house of David His servant, even as He promised through the mouth of His holy prophets from of old.  (Luke 1:68–70)

Yes, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the faith which saves us today, the faith which is God’s gift, is not merely knowledge about God, but the ability to recognize and respond to the divine truth of God’s presence and saving-power in Jesus -- His beloved, only begotten Son, come among us as Man in order to-save-us-from-sin in His Person and through His Church.

There are those today who denigrate concern for doctrinal accuracy, not only in public words but also personal thinking.  For them, with them, the words ‘dogma’ and ‘dogmatic thinking’ have acquired unsavoury overtones of meaning whereby they are said to imply an overbearing, intolerant, and rigidly narrow cast of mind, to stifle our spontaneity and thwart our native spiritual growth.  Again, such thinkers and speakers claim that there is no such thing as objective truth, no incontrovertible truth concerning God.

But look at Jesus in today’s Gospel!  How interested and concerned He was that men, above all His disciples, should think the truth about Himself; and such was His esteem for that truth that when He heard Simon give voice to it He immediately concluded with absolute certainty that His Father had spoken to and through Simon, with the result that He most solemnly declared:

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My heavenly Father.

Moreover, He then went on to speak words of enduring validity:

And so, I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.

Again, later on He would declare (John 18:37):

For this was I born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth;

and would, on the eve of His crucifixion speak in prayer to His Father these most holy words:

Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you, and these (You have given Me) know that You sent Me (John 17:25),

where knowledge of truth embraces as one with the Father, both Jesus and His disciples.

Faith is, indeed, a most sure knowledge of divine truth, for Jesus Himself is ‘the Truth’; and it requires, calls for, a total commitment of love.

To know the Truth, to recognize the Truth, to appreciate, love and proclaim the Truth … that is a most sure sign of God’s loving presence.  On the other hand, to embrace error, rejecting the truth, is subject to the following dread judgment of Our Lord:

Because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.  Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God.  (John 8:45-47)

A theologian may be able to write volumes about God and more volumes about the Church and what it should be like ... but that, in itself, is not the exercise of Christian faith.  You who see in Christ your own Saviour, you who have come to Mass,  who draw near to the Holy Table at Communion, you who frequent the Sacraments and listen to the Word of God and obey it … you are those of whom  Jesus said:

Blessed are you; for flesh and blood have not revealed (such things) to you but My heavenly Father!

That ability to recognize Jesus as SAVIOUR, the God-Man, come to save each one of us personally, and to offer that salvation to the whole of mankind by means of His uniquely Personal self-sacrifice on Calvary, now sacramentally offered in His name in His Church, that is the true Christian faith which is the Father’s best gift.

A most important aspect of the need for dogmatic teaching in the Church and accurate personal thinking is the fact that our thoughts guide our choices and form our characters.  And that is the reason for the apparently strange, but in reality most significant expression in the New Testament writings, to do the truth (John 3:21; in the Latin, ‘qui facit veritatem’) well rendered in a more modern idiom by:

Whoever lives (practices) the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.

You who are true disciples of Jesus and desire earnestly to grow in love of Him and fidelity to Him, know, hold fast to your awareness of Catholic doctrine.  Do not let random vague feelings determine your deliberate thoughts, do not allow the emotionality of those who speak so much about the sufficiency of human help, human goodness, mutual sympathy, and scientific pseudo-knowledge (science knows nothing more than the latest working hypothesis) betray your oneness with the eternal, creating-supporting-and-saving God.  But rather, through your deliberate thoughts mould and adapt your feelings to the Truth of Jesus in the Church, and then endeavour whole-heartedly to love that Truth -- at times it has to be willed as Truth before it can become loved as Truth -- with your total commitment.

Note also that Simon said ‘You are the Christ’ foretold by the prophets from of old; the Christ whose message is for Israel and for the whole world through Israel; the Christ with Whom the whole world in all its inarticulate beauty, majesty, and power resonates in deep, mysterious, harmony; the Christ who fulfils all the longings and desires of the human heart; the Christ in Whom alone our individual lives at last take on a transcendent significance and purpose, so that we begin to experience something of the unimaginable joy of life penetrated through and through with a love leading to fulfilment both temporal and eternal.

In this aspect of our Catholic and Christian faith, People of God, lies the hidden treasure of our heavenly calling and earthly service for our world today; for we have to live ever more deeply our faith that Jesus is the unique Christ and only Saviour for the whole of mankind, because He is Perfect God and Perfect Man. We must develop our ability -- by grace and through prayer -- to recognize and respond to Him; and, in Him, with Him, we must learn to love the Father in heaven and our brethren on earth at all times and in all circumstances.  Only as we -- His humble and sincere disciples -- appreciate this ever more fully, will we be truly living in the heart of this sinful world as authentic witnesses to and members of Jesus, and in Him as Spirit-formed and Spirit-endowed children of the heavenly Father.


Thursday, 13 August 2020

Assumption of Our Lady 2020

 Assumption of Our Lady                
    (Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10; 1st. Corinthians 15:20-26; Luke 1:39-56)

The Assumption of Our Lady -- celebrated in the Eastern Liturgy since the 6th. Century, and in that of Rome since the 7th. -- was defined by Pope Pius XII in 1950 as a dogma of our faith.  It states that, at the end of her life on earth, Mary did not know corruption, but was taken up to heaven -- assumed body and soul - into heavenly glory.

That is the first point I want to stress today: Mary was taken up to heaven as a human being, in her human flesh; the whole person of Mary, the body and soul of a woman, is supremely happy in heavenly glory, showing us that the joys of heaven are for our human fulfilment and glorification.  In heaven we will see and experience unimaginable heights of divine beauty and truth, goodness, faithfulness and mercy: they may, at the most, be but fleetingly envisaged even in the course of a whole lifetime of commitment and devotion to God here on earth; but, the delight that mere glimpse bestows is enough for overflowing gratitude and profound humility to reign in the human mind and heart.

However, it may help us ‘earthlings’ to try to appreciate certain positive aspects of that life. 

Imagine, for example, a farming couple who started out with a small holding, who had to struggle through years of natural adversity, drought, floods, blights of various kinds, and through periods when capital was short and anxiety was oppressive.  Imagine such a couple, years later, when their farm has grown beyond anything they might have anticipated; when the can look out upon acres upon acres of fine crops growing and feel secure in the knowledge that they have built up something which will last because it is established on firm foundations of hard work and sound finance.  Their joy on looking out over their smiling fields will be all the greater because they are now seeing the fruitful outcome of all the efforts they had made over the years before.

Our experience of heaven will be similar to that in that its joys will not be something entirely new and unconnected with our earthly experiences. We will recognise the great mystery and goodness of the divine love which originally called and steadfastly guided us throughout our lives, which endowed us with personal God-given abilities and the gifts of human friendship and love we have experienced in our dearest relationships.  We will rejoice to understand why/how a concatenation of seemingly ‘chance’ happenings gradually shaped our lives, and how certain truths of our faith -- such as the fear of God -- guided and protected us in ways we had not known or appreciated before.  In other words, heavenly joy will be the full flowering and glorious fulfilment of all that has been truly beautiful and worth-while in our lives as disciples of Jesus on pilgrimage through this world.  St. Paul in his letter to the Romans (8:29-30) writes:

Whom (the Father) foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover, whom He predestined these He also called; whom He called these He also justified; and whom He justified these He also glorified.

Mary is indeed the only one who has shared in the glory of Jesus so far, it is His supreme gift to His most faithful and loving mother; but since she is -- by His gift -- also our mother, all His true disciples can receive and one day will receive, with her, their share in His glory when He comes in the fullness of time to judge the world.  Mary has already been glorified in her humanity: she is the pledge that what Jesus won in His triumph over sin and death, has been won for all His true disciples. 

Now let us turn our minds back to the first reading where we heard:

            A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun.

Pope Paul VI strongly suggested that Our Lady of Fatima’s appearance was the fulfilment of that prophecy, and Pope St. John Paul II not only suggested but even affirmed that this “great sign in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun” has been fulfilled, after 1900 years, in the events that took place at Fatima on the 15th. October 1917 when 70,000 people saw the “sun dance”.

Let me read the account in the masonic and anti-clerical newspaper “O Seculo” reporting those events:

We saw the huge crowd turn toward the sun which appeared at its zenith, clear of the clouds.  It resembled a flat plate of silver, and it was possible to stare at it without the least discomfort. It did not burn the eyes.  It did not blind.  Before the dazed eyes of the people the sun trembled, it made strange and abrupt movements, outside of all cosmic laws, the “sun danced” according to the expression of the people.

According to other eyewitnesses “it seemed the sun was being detached from the sky and was falling on us.  It was a terrible moment.”  The miracle lasted about 8 minutes, after which the sun returned to its place in the sky, while the ground, which before the miracle had been saturated due to an all-night driving rain, was seen to be dry.  Likewise, the clothes of those who had been standing all day in the rain before the miracle were completely dry.

Saint John Paul II said:  According to divine plan, “A Woman clothed with the sun” came down from heaven to this earth to visit the privileged children of the Father.  She speaks to them with a mother’s voice and heart: she asks them to offer themselves as victims of reparation, saying that she was ready to lead them safely to God. The message of Fatima is a call to conversion, alerting humanity to have nothing to do with the “dragon” whose “tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth.

In those appearances, Mary affirmed clearly the existence of heaven and the reality of hell where, as she said to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go”.  She likewise affirmed the reality of Purgatory: when Lucia, one of the three children to whom Our Lady appeared, asked about a friend of hers who had died at about the age of 18 or 20, Our Lady answered, “she will be in Purgatory until the end of the world”.  Another friend of Lucia’s, however, who had died at the age of 16, was in heaven Our Lady said.

The important thing for me to do today, People of God, is to remind you of the great joy and confidence that should be ours because of Mary’s commitment to us as our God-given, cross-given, Mother, and also of our ‘duty’ of trust and confidence in such a mother.  Her prayers are totally dedicated to ‘making-up’, so to speak, for all the many failings in our response to God’s grace; grace which has been so abundantly won for us by her Son, and is so freely offered to us by His Spirit.  She is totally committed to us her children, and what she asks of us in return is prayer.

However, the final point I wish to highlight is concerning those words from the book of Revelation which state, as you heard:

Another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.  And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth.

Dear People of God, those were and are prophetic words being verified today.

What are the stars?  Catholic commentators have commonly said that the stars of Heaven represent the Catholic clergy.  Sister Lucy says the most effective way the devil can do harm to souls is by taking away their leaders, the priests.  Fr. Nicholas Gruener, perhaps the priest most closely associated with efforts to spread abroad the message of Fatima said:

If one third of the stars of Heaven are dragged down, then people will find it harder to save their souls.  The faithful must be careful to follow those Catholic clergy who preserve the faith.  It is important for people to pray for priests, for bishops, for the Cardinals, for the Pope. 

People of God, Our Lady’s Assumption is the pledge of our future blessedness and fulfilment in God; and just as sinful Eve, talking to Satan and leading Adam, closed the gates of Paradise to her children, so Mary Immaculate, listening to the Spirit and following her Son, the second Adam, opened those blessed gates once more for her children.  And now in modern times, Our Lady of Fatima -- the Woman clothed with the Sun -- has come to warn us of the dangers which threaten us her children in a world where the dogma of human self-sufficiency, and a plethora of human self-donated ‘rights’, seek to make everything available for mankind’s grasp and pleasure.

Let us therefore look once again at Our Blessed Lady on this celebration of her Assumption into heaven to learn more of the supreme glory of the divine inheritance that can, and should, be ours if we will but heed Our Lady’s warning and follow Our Lord’s way.

Mary received the Gift of God, that is, the Most Holy Spirit, when, St. Luke tells us:

The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” (1: 35ss.)

The Spirit was given her then to enable her to be the worthy Mother of God.    It was like that with Jesus Himself when the Spirit came upon Him at His baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist: for then the Spirit came upon Jesus for a particular purpose, namely, to prepare Him, in His humanity, to undertake and carry through to its fulfilment His public ministry to the People of Israel; and again, when Jesus rose from the dead He did so in the power of the Spirit Who glorified His human nature for His ascension to heavenly and eternal life.  Mary did indeed meet her Son in His Risen glory, but such earthly joy was short-lived, for He was to ascend into heaven, necessarily leaving her behind gazing after Him, because her human relationship with Him, even that of immaculate motherhood, could not sustain the intimacy, depth, and intensity of a heavenly and eternal relationship.

Mary, however, received the Holy Spirit once again, this time at Pentecost, for her role as Mother of the Church; she welcomed Him in our midst on our behalf, before He fulfilled His most immediate and primal task of glorifying her in her Assumption so that she might be and might reign with her Son for all eternity.  The Holy Spirit alone … the Spirit Who bonds Father and Son in the Most Holy Trinity ... could suffice to lift Mary up to enter upon her heavenly relationship with Jesus her Son, and in Him, with the heavenly Father.

Today therefore, let us both rejoice wholeheartedly with our Mother and -- being deeply and tenderly grateful for her solicitude manifested so publicly at Fatima -- let us carefully heed her warnings.

And if, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, you have not thus far recognized the present peril of coronavirus in our midst as Catholics and Christians, learn from Our Lady.  Secular governments -- blatant disbelievers as a whole -- are not the only ones who can speak on this world-wide event; Mother Church herself is supremely gifted, by the Spirit, to recognize the signs of the times, and Our Lady’s Fatima warning is of supreme importance today for our Catholic, Christian, and religious AWARENESS OF AND RESPONSE TO the coronavirus: sin is real and hostile to humanity, it inevitably has consequences, and we can see them being manifested in our world today.


Friday, 7 August 2020

19th Sunday Year A 2020

19th. Sunday, Year (A)
(1st. Kings 19:9, 11-13; Romans 9:1-5; Matthew 14:22-33)

In our Gospel reading last Sunday Jesus fed the five thousand and twelve baskets full of fragments remained over from the original five loaves and two fish, and in that miraculous feeding Jesus was preparing His disciples for the gift of the Eucharist which He was soon to bestow on His Church.  Since this is a time in Jesus’ life of schooling for the disciples, let us look carefully at His dealings with them immediately after that great miracle of feeding the Five Thousand to discover whether or not He might also have been preparing them for other mysteries soon to be revealed or gifts to be given; indeed, even perhaps helping us His distant disciples to better understand our heritage and face up to events in our lives as Christians in our very sinful and adulterous world.

Soon enough, Jesus would be taken away from the disciples and His Church, first of all for only 3 days, by His suffering and death on the Cross of Calvary; after that, He would rise from the dead to be with them again for a short while, until His glorious Ascension into heaven took Him from their sight for ages still unfurling.  Such an apparently definitive absence would most certainly need to be understood aright by His disciples, and so now, immediately after that feeding of the 5000, Jesus:

Made the disciples get into a boat and precede Him to the other side of the lake,

whilst He dismissed the crowds to make their ways home along the shore line, before finally:

            going up on the mountain (again) by Himself to pray.

Now, Peter’s boat has always been seen as a figure of the Church ever since Jesus first chose to put out on the water in it, that thus He might be able to preach to the large crowds gathered on the shore of the lake to hear Him, and so it turned out again on this evening, for, while Jesus was still at prayer:

The disciples’ boat was a few miles offshore being tossed about by the waves for the wind was against it.

This sudden and violent storm on the Sea of Galilee was indeed a matter of life and death, it was not just a chance happening that had caught Jesus and His disciples unprepared, but rather something Jesus was using to teach His disciples a lesson which -- as leaders of the Church of Christ throughout the ages to come -- they must never, ever, forget: for the threatened boat bearing the disciples this stormy night was intended to foreshadow the Church that would carry the Gospel of Jesus across stormy seas to hostile lands and distant continents so that all peoples might hear the Good News of salvation. 

The boat was in serious difficulties that night on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus – quite deliberately -- was not with the apostles.  Physically, He was praying on the hill top, just as when, after His Resurrection and Ascension, He would be eternally seated at the right hand of the Father as St. Paul would write in his letter to the Romans (8:34):

Christ Who died is also risen (and) is at the right hand of God making intercession for us.

The disciples thought they were alone, and it was supremely important for them to learn that no matter how lonely, vulnerable and dispirited they might find themselves they should never and would never be separated from the protecting love and power of Jesus.  Though rapt in prayer, Jesus was both aware of their difficulties and willing to help them in their need: He came towards them walking on the waves.  We are told: 

            They were troubled saying, “It is a ghost!"   And they cried out for fear.

Most assuredly, these future apostles of Mother Church were meant to remember this occasion, it was a most important part of God's plan to prepare them for their future: for Mother Church, the barque of Peter, following, pursuing, mankind wherever they might be over subsequent long centuries, would have to endure, and profit from, dangers and threats of all kinds, and she would not be able to do so without this rock-and-anchor original experience of Jesus’ ever-watchful awareness of her needs and willingness to save.

Their spontaneous outcry on seeing the figure of Jesus approaching them through the storm, apparently walking on the raging waters:

            It is a ghost (a spirit)!

contained, in itself, unsuspected potential.  For, the enlightened apostles would find it all the more easy to appreciate Jesus’ future Gift of the Spirit as  ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Gal. 4:6) for all needed help in their proclamation of His Good News and establishment of His world-wide Church,  and would not fail to assure God's People that security and peace would hold enduring sway in Peter's barque so long as they would trust and turn to Jesus, invoke, and commit themselves to the Spirit of Jesus, aka the Holy Ghost, bequeathed in unique measure to, and abiding unfailingly with, Mother Church.

People of God, let us admire and give thanks for both God's wisdom and love.  He never springs total surprises on His servants; He aims to lead them to salvation and so He prepares them to accept and embrace His plans for their well-being.   Consequently, we should always aspire to hear, and expect to learn from, God as He seeks to help us walk ever farther, and with ever greater confidence and trust, along the ways of Jesus.

In our first reading we heard of Elijah.  He of all the prophets was the man for the big occasion.  Didn’t he -- on Mount Carmel -- call down fire from heaven to consume the sacrificial offering he had carefully prepared for the Lord before thoroughly soaking it with barrels of water?  Didn’t he subsequently order the slaughtering of the 450 prophets of Baal who were Queen Jezebel’s favourites?  Again, didn’t he inflict a drought upon Israel that went into its fourth year?  And didn’t he revive the widow’s son from death?  And in today’s first reading, once again he was in a climactic situation as he sought to find and learn about his own future from the Lord:

A great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks;

then, the mighty hurricane was followed by a shuddering earthquake and a consuming fire.

In all these manifestations of primeval power, however, Elijah did not expect the Lord to be present, nor indeed was the Almighty Lord present to speak with him about his future.  Elijah showed himself a true servant of the God he knew and loved because, despite his dramatic past history he waited more patiently and listened more closely for the Lord to communicate with His prophet through:

            A gentle blowing sound,
or, as other translations have it ‘the soft whisper of a voice’, ‘a still, small, voice’.

The voice of the Lord was being carried, as it were, on the breath of a floating sigh, and the Lord was demanding that Elijah listen; for only in one sublime moment of total self-forgetfulness and divine awareness in the depths of the prophet’s being was the – oh so breakable! -- silver thread of contact between divine and human able to make God’s message heard with understanding and acquiescence by the prophet of so many previous, humanly discernible, prodigies.

Here we should immediately recall that humble virgin of Nazareth, our blessed mother Mary, who alone heard the Angel Gabriel’s message of salvation!  This is not simply due to the fact that the angel was sent only to Mary; rather is it the case that Mary was the only one in the whole of Israel, past and present, able to hear such an angelic voice, to appreciate and respond to, such a sublime message: Mary was the only one possessed of a heart and soul so humble, so devout, and, indeed, so tranquil, that the divine message could be clearly heard, understood, and allowed to freely bring forth its Fruit.

People of God, just as the Lord prepared His disciples for life in and leadership of the Church, so He is always ready to guide all who are striving to be His faithful disciples in Mother Church.  However, it is a far too common failing among such disciples that they are overly-dedicated to ‘important’ moments and the big gestures; and this is mostly because they are not sufficiently strong in faith or humble enough in person to be able to wait and listen for long.  Many of them find long-listening wearisome, and quickly reject it as fruitless; others become so anxious in their waiting that they are irresistibly primed to high-jack the situation rather than wait for, and attend to, any still, small, apparently unimportant, voice addressing them.  Nevertheless, God will only speak decisively where His words are able to be heard and obeyed, and Mary was uniquely self-less and self-sacrificingly obedient, uniquely prepared, that is, to become the mother of such a Son as Jesus.

Truth and beauty go together, dear People of God, and holy Catholic living -- like Christian parenthood -- is to be seen as an art rather than a science, since it is not merely a knowing of factual truth, but rather a loving appreciation and response to living truth, which is only known in the fullness of its integrity when its beauty is appreciated and loved.   In that sense we disciples of Jesus are called to become true artists!   Artists whose selfless commitment to their art as distinct from worldly success and advancement are rare; but such a characteristic in a few secular artists can help us appreciate in some small measure the sublime virtue of humility and love in the life of Mary, the supreme artist of Christian living.

People of God aspire to know and love Catholic truth; seek to become, with Mary, sincere artists of humble, Christian and Catholic, living: and for that you must be willing and ready above all to hear and learn from the Spirit of Jesus in and through all the ordinary, apparently not very important, happenings of daily living in Mother Church. 

Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.  Delight yourself also in the Lord and HE SHALL GIVE YOU THE DESIRES OF YOUR HEART. (Psalm 36:3-4)