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, 30 October 2020

All Saints 2020


 ALL SAINTS (2020)

(Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12)



Today we are celebrating all the saints who are beloved of God and the glory of Mother Church, be they renowned or unbeknown to us; those who now join with their fellow angelic choristers in giving Him eternal glory.  Let us, therefore, now try to learn from those most successful of all human beings by considering as closely as time allows the readings Mother Church has chosen for us today, that we may perhaps be able to discern and learn the way Jesus traces out for all those who wish to share with Him and them in the blessedness of the Father’s kingdom.

You heard in that first reading something of the glory of heaven, so far, that is, as human, earthly, words can describe it:

I had a vision of a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, race, people and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  They cried out in a loud voice: "Salvation comes from our God, Who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb."

No racism, no sexism, no privileged groups, but people from all nations and all times, together forming a great multitude; and they are one because they are all stood before the throne with the Lamb their leader and saviour.  All in heaven are praising God for the victory He has won for this multitude saying:

Amen! Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honour, power and might be to our God forever and ever. Amen!

And -- note this well dear People of God -- it is there we all aspire to join with them when this, our earthly pilgrimage, is ended.

You will most probably have heard non-believers mockingly speak of heaven in such words as: “I can’t imagine me enjoying anything like that; and all the time, too, nothing else but that!”

Though such words are expressions of nothing better than ignorance concerning God and the spiritual life, nevertheless, they show us how important it is for us to have some real awareness of what we are aspiring to as committed Catholic disciples of Jesus, and the  only way to understand and appreciate something of heavenly joy is to recall some moment when you yourself were totally delighted in something.  For example, try to remember when you were, perhaps, first in love: recall how your delight in just being with the one you loved made time fly.  Recall when you experienced, something wonderfully beautiful and remember how it seemed to lift you up above ordinary events and again made time fly.  Again, on a much more mundane level, imagine a football supporter whose team has just won the Cup or the championship: that instant of utter and complete joy!

Now the happiness, the blessedness of Heaven is something of that nature: total wonder, uplifting and ecstatic joy; and such recollections will also help you to realize that in heaven there is no such thing as time, that wondrous joy never becomes wearisome, for there is no time to drag on in heaven.  Heavenly joy, blessedness, is an eternal instant of total ecstasy which has its origin in the vision of the infinite beauty, goodness and glory of God Himself.

Such heavenly blessedness, however, is not restricted to heaven.  It can be felt in its beginnings here on earth by those who have become deeply aware of the great goodness that God has shown to them in the course of their life thus far: secret blessings, timely helps, mysterious peace and comfort unwarranted but most gratefully embraced:

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.  Beloved, we are children of God now, what we will be has not yet been revealed.  We do know that when it is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.    Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

We who believe in the only Son of God Who died for our sins, rose again, and is now seated at the right hand of power are already blessed with the beginning of eternal blessedness; and we are meant by God -- through prayer and faithfulness in the way of Jesus – to deepen our awareness of that blessing, and begin to experience something of the joy which is contained within that treasure we have received through faith.

Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

If you would grow in that awareness of beatitude, if you would like to experience something of that heavenly joy, you must now turn with me to the Gospel and try to understand something of the way Jesus opens up for each of us in and through the course of our life.

Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who mourn. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are the merciful. Blessed are the pure in heart. Blessed are the peacemakers. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness …

There we have the virtues of the one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed servants of God mentioned in our first reading.  It is a wonderful compendium of whatever was good and best under the old covenant: the truest fruits of the Law, the inspirations of the prophets and meditations of the sages, all finding sublime expression in the ecstasies and laments, the humble prayers and joyful songs, of the Psalmist, before finally culminating in what was to be the fulfilment of everything that had gone before: namely, the  Life, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, sent by God:

            Not to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfil them.  (Matthew 5:17)

With Jesus, the time of fulfilment has ultimately arrived; and so, instead of simply recalling the teaching of the Old Testament, Jesus goes one unique and immeasurable step further, He now addresses His words directly to His disciples standing around Him:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you … ON MY ACCOUNT

It is as if He was saying: such were the virtues of the OT, but now, for you who are My true disciples, your true title to heavenly glory is the fact that you are My disciples.  It is no longer enough to say that you are among the gentle, the poor in spirit, the merciful, for you who listen to Me and who believe in and follow Me, are all of that and more: you are disciples of Mine; and that is how you will enter heaven, that will be your title to eternal glory.

Yes, People of God, I am sure that you will understand that, in heaven, before the God of all holiness, it is not possible that the meekness, the gentleness, of any human being could be admirable in His ‘eyes’.  But ... the fact that someone has, in this sinful and most deceptive world, recognized as true, loved and served as Lord, the man Jesus of Nazareth, God’s only-begotten Son made flesh, that does indeed draw down upon the disciple the admiration, gratitude, and love of God the Father.  He is most assuredly pleased to see human virtues of gentleness, humility, patience, mercifulness, or whatever, but He is all-holy and He sees the limitations of our virtue.  However, the fact that someone here on earth has seen, recognized, and supremely loved His dearest Son – though wrapped in the veil of flesh like ours -- surpasses all human virtue in His eyes.

Perhaps we can picture it best if we think of a sculptor.  God chose His material, the People of God, the nation of Israel; and through the Law and the Prophets He formed -- as does the sculptor with his chisel -- that block ('stiff-necked people' the prophets called them) gradually into some likeness of the Christ Who was to come.  This work, however, was always done from the outside, so to speak, just as the chisel of the artist always chips away from the outside.  When Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God made flesh, came, however, He gave His divine word to His disciples, to take root in their mind and heart, and His example to inspire them.  He finally gave His human life for them, and then, having risen from the dead in the power of the Spirit of God, He ascended to the right hand of His Father, and from there He sent the Holy Spirit, His Spirit, to be with His disciples, to make them into one Body, His Body, His Church.

The Holy Spirit was to remain with His Church: guiding her into all truth and protecting her from the snares of the enemy; and in that continuing task, the Spirit works from the inside, in the minds and hearts of the disciples, and thus forming a living likeness of the Christ, for the Father:

I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.  (Matthew 11:11)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.  Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."  By this He meant the Spirit, Whom those who believed in Him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.  (John 7:37-39)

That, People of God, is the glory of our calling and the joy of all the blessed in heaven.  As living members, and living likenesses (not plaster-cast copies) of the Son, to share in His glory and to bathe in the Father’s love which is totally lavished on His only-begotten Son, Who has indeed become our all:

(For) you (who) are in Christ Jesus, (He) has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord."   (1 Corinthians 1:30-31)

In our first reading we heard questions being asked about the blessed in heaven:

Do you know who these people are, dressed in white robes, and where they have come from?

In answer to the first question "who are these dressed in white robes?" we can recall that we heard St. John tell us:

            Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He, Jesus, is pure.

So, we know now why the blessed are dressed in white robes, they are disciples of Jesus who have purified themselves as Jesus is pure, they are in heaven as true disciples of His.

But what about that second question, "where have these people come from?"

Here we must bear in mind what Jesus has already told us:

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

That is where those dressed in white have come from, as the elder in heaven said:

These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

Today we have great reason to celebrate: we who are privileged to be disciples of Jesus.  We have been offered already a share in heavenly life and blessedness, and we can experience ever more of that blessedness if we purify ourselves, as St. John told us: by trying to walk ever more faithfully in the way of Jesus, by seeking to appreciate the beauty of His truth, and the mercy and compassion of His great goodness, ever more deeply.  The final washing of our robes, however, will only be brought about by our suffering with and for Jesus, just as God wills for each and every one of us in our life.  And yet, even here, such is the blessedness already given us, that we can come to rejoice in our sufferings for Jesus as did our apostle Paul:

May it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  ((Gal. 6:14; 2 Cor. 1:5; Rom. 8:18)





Friday, 23 October 2020

30th Sunday Year A 2020


 30th. Sunday of Year (A)

(Exodus 22:20-26; 1st. Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40)



Those words of Our Lord in answer to the Pharisees’ question should be unforgettably etched on our memory:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.   The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. 

In the first reading taken from the book of Exodus, we learned how Israel was to practice true love of God:

Whoever sacrifices to any god, except to the Lord alone, shall be put under the ban (utterly destroyed).

There we are taught an absolutely essential aspect of loving the Lord our God: we must be totally loyal to Him, and loyalty still defines true love today, as was the case over 3000 years ago when the Law was given to Moses on Sinai.  Today, of course, Mother Church does not put anyone under the ban, as seems to have happened in Israel under the Law of Moses, yet, nevertheless, by their infidelity such people are destroying themselves spiritually, and, in the course of time, that self-banning, that spiritual self-destruction, can become manifest and perhaps even eternal.

Such infidelity is wide spread today among those who love their own emotional idea of goodness.  They love it because, being emotional, it is in them, part of them, they can feel it, it even excites them at times.  As for the ideas  they support,  they can pick them up  anywhere: Hinduism might inspire some of them to an emotionally heightened love of animals, even above humans who do not love animals as much as or in the way they themselves do; they may remember bits of Christianity, and become emotionally committed to all in whatever ‘need’; they can latch onto current popular slogans and become violently emotional against anyone they can call ‘racist’; they can love children, the aged, the mentally disadvantaged .... but whatever they pick up, they choose to love it EMOTIONALLY, because their emotional commitment demonstrates their own goodness to themselves: they do not follow any law from outside, so to speak, their own heart provides them with their supreme law.

Such a disease -- offering sacrifices to one’s own goodness, to oneself -- is contagious today, and it is destructive of loyalty to the Lord; and it can infect pope or peasant, wise man or fool, rich or poor.

Our reading from the Law of Moses also said:

You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.

If you take a man’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.  What else has he to sleep in?   If he cries out to Me I will hear him, for I am compassionate.

And such respect or compassion towards a neighbour in need is what Jesus had in mind when He said in the Gospel reading:

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Now, if love of God and neighbour was already an essential part of the OT, why did Jesus need to die and rise again for our salvation, and send out His Apostles to establish His Church that would endure to the end of time for a new People of God? 

The Son of God became Man among men, established His Church, died for it, rose again and finally ascended into heaven, in order to enable us -- members of His Church -- to love the Father and our neighbour fittingly through the gift of His Holy Spirit, and find joy in hearing and obeying the Gospel.

No human being, of himself, can love God fittingly, in a manner appropriate to His divine majesty, for He is infinitely wise, beautiful, good, holy, true ... He is INFINITE GOODNESS. And that is why the Jews, though God’s Chosen People at that time, had to be convinced of their fundamental inability to worship Him appropriately, by the fact that they could not even keep a Law adapted to their human condition perfectly, no, not even the most zealous of them, as St. Paul repeatedly insisted:

Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin.  As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; they have all turned aside … become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one."  (Romans 3:9-12)

Not even those who are circumcised keep the law. (Galatians 6:13)

Despite their zeal and piety, evil lay hidden, secretly ever deepening its roots, in the hearts and minds of the leaders of God’s People, Pharisees and Scribes, the Sadducees and priests, as was shown by the fact that when the very Son of God came as Man among men, they hated Him sufficiently to have Him put to death on a cross.

Jesus came as one of us so that in Him, through Him, human flesh might indeed fulfil those just ordinances of God in the Law given to Moses for the Chosen People that human weakness and sinfulness had never yet been able to fulfil (Matthew 5:17-18): 

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.  For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

This He did because of His consuming love for His Father; and He willed that, henceforward, all who -- answering His Father’s call with obedience -- would believe in Him, should be enabled to live as members of His glorified Body in the power and under the inspiration of His Holy Spirit, and thus overcome their native weakness to the extent that, as Jesus said, they would surpass even John the Baptist, the greatest of those naturally born of woman, in giving glory to His Father.

There, precisely, is the need for Jesus, the need for the Son to become flesh, since no one knows the Father but the Son:

No one knows the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him;   (Matthew 11:27-28)

O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them."             (John 17:25-26)

The glory of the Christian vocation is therefore, that the Son Who has become One with us who believe in His Name, shares with us that love for the Father which is His unique prerogative; and, by declaring His Father’s Name to us in an ever greater degree by His Most Holy Spirit abiding in His Church and dwelling in our hearts, He urges and encourages us daily to grow in love for the Father and thus become ever more one with Himself; so that we, who had been God’s special but subsequently fallen creation, might be brought to the glorious status of true, fully adopted, sons and daughters in the  Only-begotten and supremely Beloved divine Son of the heavenly Father.

People of God, our calling is -- first and foremost -- to love God as our true Father above all, in all, and through all, and thus become, in Jesus, His true children.  Such personal love of God is indeed the only authentic Christian holiness.  Those aspects of life we tend to value so highly, such as success, achievements, reputation, charismata, are ultimately of no significance.  How, therefore, are we to grow in that personal love which is the only authentic holiness?

First of all, we must examine our motives for wanting to become holy; we must appreciate, and aspire to, love of God for His own beauty and worth; we cannot desire it simply or primarily because of any benefits it may bring us other than the blessing of finding our own fulfilment in Him, by loving Him. 

Secondly, no human authority, no human tradition, can teach us authoritatively how to love God, because true love is a personal response to the God Who is offering Himself Personally to us.  However, because we are members of the Body of Christ, human authorities, traditions, even individuals, may give us guidance which we should not disregard, because we live as one, in the one Body by the one Spirit; nevertheless, in that Body, the Spirit is given to enable each of us to respond to the Father, as Jesus said, ‘with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength’, and that means as an individual, unique, personal creation.

Only in the Church we can breathe most deeply of that salutary atmosphere needed by the children of God; and, in the Church, we must always have our mind and heart set on Jesus, for He alone is the eternal Son loving and glorifying His Father supremely here on earth as in heaven.   It is through His Spirit that He leads us to love and glorify the Father with Him and in Him.  In Mother Church, therefore, we must always have our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our ears attentive to the breathing of His Spirit in our lives, that is the meaning of Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24):

The hour is coming and now is, when true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and Truth; for such people the Father wishes to be His worshippers.  God is Spirit, ad those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and Truth   

And how are we best to do that?   By our devotion to, love for, the Scriptures where Jesus is ever present as the Word of Life to guide us, and for the Eucharist where He is wanting both to rejoice us Personally, and to bestow upon us His own most Holy Spirit Who will form us anew, in the likeness of Jesus our Lord and Saviour, for the Father.

People of God, the Scriptures and the Eucharist are the two beautiful breasts of Mother Church, as the Song of Songs tells us, where we can satisfy all our needs and fulfil our deepest aspirations: to seek such food is our supreme Christian duty, while to find it is our deepest Christian joy.   If we do work at it through prayer and good works, that is, to put it better, through the practice, however imperfect, of a sort of continual companionship with Jesus, in response to the guidance of the Spirit, then the promised, heavenly, reward will start to become ours in instalments even here on earth: instalments of a joy which encourages us, and most sweetly compels us, to recognize its heavenly provenance.  God is never outdone in generosity, and our little efforts to grow in His love can, as I say, find themselves gradually rewarded with ever greater and deeper joys that can transfigure our whole earthly experience.

My dear People, look after yourselves; you have already received great blessings from God, and the promise of much more.   Never forget those words of Jesus (Luke 12:48):

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Produce fruit for the Lord in the garden of your soul while you can, and you will gain eternal blessedness, for the Lord is with you for that very purpose.   But seek to produce the type of fruit that God wants from you, the fruit which He had in mind when He created you in His own likeness and redeemed you in His Son, to become, by His Spirit, a unique functioning member of His Son’s mystical Body.  And what is that supreme fruit?  Listen once again:

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.   The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 





Friday, 16 October 2020

29th Sunday Year A 2020


 29th. Sunday, Year (A)

(Isaiah 45:1, 4-6; 1st. Thessalonians 1:1-5; Matthew 22:15-21)




Our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction.

Dear People of God, do those words used by St. Paul to characterize his proclamation of the Gospel ... Power, Holy Spirit, Conviction ... seem valid for our modern Christian experience and awareness?  If not, then surely their absence would be a condemnation of the current practice of Christian life and witness in Western society?  Let us therefore look a little more closely at them.

Power:  The Gospel originally came making demands ‘Repent and believe’ because it was offering power:

power to resist and ultimately overthrow the forces of evil which debase human beings and defile human society; a glorious power to which the martyrs who suffered so horrendously in that basilica of pagan pleasure and Christian torments called the Coliseum bore witness in the imperial city of Rome;

power to reject the popular fables and political interference that mocked and abused religious convictions; a power, that is, to bear prophetic witness to a Christian understanding and appreciation of life where earthly needs and callings are in harmony with supernatural aspirations: a life offering a fulness of beauty and hope hitherto unknown;

power to perform wonders for the betterment and extension of public health and education, wonders of fraternal charity and personal self-sacrifice above and beyond all merely normal expectations and possibilities.

These were all prominent in the original proclamation of the Gospel, to enable people rooted in a pagan world to get up -- so to speak -- and follow Christ.   Today, like things still occur in the lives of religious and saintly figures, but the great miracle of all is Mother Church herself still standing and witnessing to the truth of Christ and the power of His Spirit despite the failings of some of her children, and world-wide opprobrium and persecution, despite a modern, political version of biblical Phariseism which allows governments who deny the existence and authority of any God, to claim they themselves have a pseudo-divine wisdom and insight to recognize what is good and bad for humanity, and to determine right and wrong for their own peoples according to their own opportunistic rules of political correctness.

Over the centuries empires  have come and gone while Mother Church abides: admittedly, often in need of refreshment and renewal, even more urgently today indeed, when the world’s arrogance before God is so blatant; but, nevertheless, being subject to Him Who can, and has never failed to, refresh and renew her in the ways of holiness and truth which are His glory, she faces those enemies of His who pervert His saving truth by promoting themselves and their pseudo-holiness in the world today, with a calm confidence and humble trust.

Conviction:  How the early Christians amazed the Roman empire by the conviction that enabled them to stand strong in faith despite the direst torments inflicted in Coliseum’s all over the pagan world!

Men, women, boys and girls, children … all lovers of Christ able to ‘stop the mouths of lions’ as the Scriptures say, professing the Christian Faith in droves from East and West, North and South …. All, through the indomitable power of their convictions, were brightly shining witnesses to the death and Resurrection of Jesus and the veracity of His Church’s Gospel proclamation.

Power and Conviction, characteristics of the Gospel!  But there is yet something more, something supremely other and totally sublime:

The Gift of the Holy Spirit.

Those who worked such prodigies of power for our understanding of human nature in individuals and in its expansion into an authentically human society, all those invincible martyrs, men, women, and even children, of mostly humble bearing, were not only powerful, marvellous, they were indeed beautiful because of the Holy Spirit – Jesus’ Gospel Gift -- dwelling within, and working through, them unhindered and untrammelled.

We see the sublime fulness of human goodness and beauty in Jesus Himself, in His daily dealings with and endeavours for His people; and in today’ Gospel reading we were most privileged to hear perhaps the apogee of beauty and wisdom of the Holy Spirit abiding and working in Jesus Himself through His Gospel words addressed to those who would have trapped Him and destroyed Him:

Then the Pharisees plotted how they might entrap Him in speech. They sent their disciples to Him, with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are a truthful man and that You teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. And You are not concerned with anyone’s opinion, for You do not regard a person’s status. Tell us, then, what is Your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?”  Knowing their malice, Jesus said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?  Show Me the coin that pays the census tax.” Then they handed Him the Roman coin.  He said to them, “Whose image is this and whose inscription?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.” At that He said to them, “Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.”  When they heard this they were amazed, and leaving Him they went away.

 We too are amazed but, far from leaving Him, we want to become ever more closely one with Him in mind and heart as we continue this holy liturgy of sacrifice and sacrament; for here, we hope, we pray, we long, yes, we most humbly beg Him to share ever more and more with us His Gift of the Holy Spirit:

‘Lord Jesus, by the gift of your glorious and Most Holy Spirit, may we bear authentic witness to the truth and beauty of Your Gospel by the power and conviction of our lives as Your disciples in Mother Church.’

Dear People of God, Saint Paul teaches us that the words of Jesus’ Gospel bring power and conviction into our lives; Jesus Himself, Paul’s Master and our Lord and Saviour, shows us that, despite human hatred and conniving, His Good News -- wrapped in His own words of sublime beauty – offers the saving grace of divine wisdom and eternal truth and salvation to all who will forget their own earthly agendas long enough to  hear it, to listen to it, and thus allow themselves to experience something of the warmth and sweetness of its embrace.                DEO GRATIAS!!



Friday, 9 October 2020

28th Sunday Year 1 2020


 28th. Sunday of Year (A)

(Isaiah 25:6-10; St. Paul to the Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; Matthew 22:1-14)


Today we are celebrating God’s infinite goodness to us in Jesus Christ His Son, Our Lord, in the context of His yearly generosity to us in the harvest.  There is a close connection between these two aspects of God's love for us, a connection which the celebrant highlights in the course of Mass:

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made: it will become for us the bread of life;

and, when offering the wine, he says:

Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation, through your goodness we have this wine to offer, fruit of the vine and work of human hands: it will become our spiritual drink.

In that way we are led to recognize that not only is the whole of God’s creation good, but also that, because of its natural goodness, the whole of God’s creation can become a channel for our supernatural sanctification while the abuse of God’s good creation inevitably brings with it retribution, natural or spiritual.

We know, of course, that there is a great difference between natural goodness and the nourishment needed for supernatural life: food from the ground sustains natural life for but a limited time whereas supernatural life is both eternal and divine.  Earthly bread and wine can, therefore, only sustain and support supernatural life when they have been transformed into the very Body and Blood of the Risen Christ, under the blessing of His Word and by the power of His Spirit; and our understanding this relationship between natural good and supernatural blessing, puts us in a position to appreciate more truly the significance of Isaiah's words:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines. 

Such an earthly, natural, picture can well imply an infinitely more splendid, joyous, and fulfilling, occasion: a banquet of heavenly proportions; this Isaiah foresaw and intended, because after those words describing an earthly feast:

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will provide for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines;

he then went on immediately to speak of the spiritual blessings of heavenly life, a life without death or suffering, eternal blessedness:

On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever.  The Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people He will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.   On that day it will be said: “Behold our God, to whom we looked to save us!  This is the LORD for whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!”


“On this mountain”, that is, on the high place where ancient peoples used to gather in order to approach God as closely as they physically could, the better to worship Him.  Today we do not ascend mountains, not even that of Jerusalem intended by Isaiah; no, we come to Mother Church where God has promised to abide with all who seek Him; we come to Mother Church which is the Body of Christ, vivified, guided, and protected to the end of time by the Holy Spirit of both the Father and the Son.  In Mother Church, then, “He will destroy death for ever” and “wipe away the tears from all faces”: for all those, that is, who seek to find in her how great is His goodness and how sweet His saving grace; all those who, subsequently, will be able to say: “Behold our God, to Whom we looked to save us!  This is the LORD for Whom we looked; let us rejoice and be glad that He has saved us!”

Today, very many people have little or no trust in God: indeed, in our Western world, many find themselves so well-off, so socially distracted, so ‘high’, as to think that they do not need anyone to save them; they consider that they have plenty of what they want, think they can easily get more, and consequently cannot see themselves in need of anything for which they might have to pray before some God.  And what is even more, they do not, will not, acknowledge any God able to exercise any authority whatsoever in their lives, no God before whom they might feel responsible.  

Now, that is the precisely the situation painted by Our Lord in the parable we heard about the wedding feast and those invited to it.  The Father has prepared this banquet for His Son and the guests ignored the invitation given them.  The Father sent a further and urgent request for their presence at the banquet, but some cursed and killed those who brought His invitation, while others, perhaps, contented themselves with just mocking the messengers; it matters little, however, the result was the same: they were not going to the banquet, they had much else, more important and more interesting, to attend to.

Today, in our society, the very same drama is being unwittingly prepared: our worldly well-being will certainly end; what may now seem to be mere flies-in-the-ointment will fester and the bubble will, soon enough, burst.  Why? Because godlessness cannot resist, let alone master, the forces of destruction becoming rampant in a world embracing sin and rejoicing in godlessness as does ours today:

Whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world -- our faith.  Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

There is nothing in this world, neither power nor money, neither science nor technology, and most certainly not our own moral pretensions, that can save us from the evil, lodged and seeking to become rooted, in the human heart, and from the weakness inherent to our human make-up.   God alone -- in and through Jesus Christ – saves, by His Holy Spirit, those who have faith in Him.

In the Gospel story there were some, the poor and the needy, the bad and good alike, who were urgently invited by circumstances to come to the banquet; it did not matter who they were or where they came from; all that mattered to the king was what they became once they were in the banqueting hall. 

We are told that the King Himself came in to see His guests sitting at the tables and:

When he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it that you came in here without a wedding garment?’ But he was reduced to silence.  

What is that “wedding garment”?    St. Paul tells us when he says (Romans 13:14):

Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil its lusts.

The rich and the prosperous in the Gospel passage were fully occupied making such important provisions for the well-being of their flesh and the fulfilment of its desires, that they refused the wedding invitation; and likewise today, you do not usually find those who seek fame and power, cultivate influence and promote pride, in Church; because such people want to remain, prosper, and even to proclaim themselves, whereas we in mother Church as disciples of Jesus are called, as you heard, to put on Christ as Lord and Saviour.

Our parable speaks of only one guest being found in the wedding hall without a wedding garment because he represented ALL those who for whatever reason rejected the King’s invitation: the absolutely essential thing was that he was not wearing a wedding garment, that is he had not, as St. Paul tells us, put on Christ.  And today: the rich and the prosperous -- be they openly irreligious or confirmed, secret, hypocrites – they all have neither wanting nor will for a Lord with authority in their lives, nor need of a Saviour to free them from their sins; for they refuse to acknowledge they have any sins and they will not allow anyone – even God Himself (if He or his Son really exists) -- to have any authority in their lives.

The majority of those to be found in Church are, according to the vociferous non-believers, hypocrites.  But who do they have they in mind when speaking so dismissively of the church-goers they contemn?

It is true that, those who go to Church yet hold on tightly to themselves there, serving their own purposes, following their own lights, rather than loving the Lord and living in obedience to His teaching and the commands of His Church, can indeed be counted among the hypocrites so frequently decried by those outside the Church and whom Jesus had in mind when He said, in His parable:

Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’ Many are invited, but few are chosen.

But our Gospel message today is not against the ‘small time’ sinners who can be found in the Church of Christ and who are so disdainfully ‘tarred’ as hypocrites by those outside.  Far from it; today’s Gospel parable is for all those of members of Mother Church who are humble and contrite enough to want indeed to put on Christ as Paul told us, and who -- by His Spirit -- sincerely acknowledge and try to leave behind their own weak and sinful selves for His sake.  Those, accepted by the Father to partake of the feast He has prepared for the glory of His Son and their own joyous future well-being, may be likened to those in our parable who had put on the wedding vestment donated by the King and who – unaccustomed to such finery -- were still perhaps somewhat uncomfortable in it.  After all, does not the parable tell us that the King told his servants to:

Go out, therefore, to the main roads, into the streets, and gather and invite all they found, good and bad alike, to the feast until the hall is filled.

Those poorer ‘invitees’ came to the feast wanting a square meal at the King’s good table; Christians likewise go to Church needing: God’s forgiveness, grace, peace, hope and promised fulfilment.

People of God, we cannot fail, especially at harvest time, to recognize that God’s creation is both bountiful and beautiful: a source of life and great joy for us.  But we must not allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in the beauty and desirability of this earthly banquet as to ignore the invitation that comes along with it to that other eternal banquet which will celebrate an eternal harvest.  The God Who makes us so pleased with this world’s good things, can He not prepare even greater joys for us in His heavenly kingdom?  Of course He can!  Let us, therefore, take up His royal invitation.

God's call is non-judgmental: His invitation of grace and promise of eternal fulfilment are for all: He is both supremely generous in His help (after all He gives us His own Son and His Holy Spirit) and mercifully patient as He awaits our faltering response to His repeated invitations and glorious promises.  Nevertheless, decisions must finally be made and judgment will eventually come, and for that we must prepare.  Therefore, dear People of God, let our lives -- as disciples of Jesus -- resound to and exemplify those words of St. Paul in our second reading:

To our God and Father, be glory forever and ever.   Amen.   



Thursday, 1 October 2020

27th Sunday Year A 2020


 27th Sunday of Year (A)                                     (Isaiah 5:1-7; Philippians 4:6-9; Matthew 21:33-43)


In our first reading the prophet Isaiah described Israel as a vineyard planted by the Lord which, despite the care He had taken of it, failed to bring forth good fruit.  And for that, the prophet went on to warn Israel, the Lord would reject her:

Now, I will let you know what I mean to do to my vineyard: take away its hedge, give it to grazing, break through its wall, let it be trampled!  Yes, I will make it a ruin: it shall not be pruned or hoed, but overgrown with thorns and briers; I will command the clouds not to send rain upon it.  The vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his cherished plant; He looked for judgment, but see, bloodshed! for justice, but hark, the outcry!  

In fulfilment of this prophecy the kingdom of Israel first of all, and subsequently the kingdom of Judah, were both politically destroyed: both were no longer kingdoms or independent political powers of any sort, just mere tracts of territory ruled by foreign lords, inhabited by vassals.

When, therefore, Jesus took up again the prophecy of Isaiah, when He Himself, told a parable of a landowner who planted a vineyard, prepared for and protected it to the full, and then was unable to get the fruit of the vineyard, His hearers, the religious authorities in Israel and Judah of Jesus’ time themselves totally subject to the world power that was Rome, realized that His words would be of great significance.

And so they were, for Jesus made some changes to the picture originally painted by Isaiah:

The vineyard itself was fruitful (you will remember Jesus’ earlier words):

The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few.  Therefore, pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.  (Mt. 9:37s.)

Yes, the vineyard itself was fruitful.

However, those in charge of the vineyard, the tenants were the unfruitful ones who would not hand over any produce or profit to the landowner even though, eventually, the owner’s very son came to claim it for his father.

The Jewish leaders were not, however, at that moment paying attention to the detail about the Son: they were only intent on what they feared would be the final outcome for themselves: their power, their position of authority, might be taken away from them.

Earlier, the prophet Isaiah had foretold of the destruction of the political kingdoms of Israel and Judah and that prophecy had indeed been realized; kings and rulers had always resisted God’s prophets’ message in order to maintain their own political power (haven’t kings and potentates done that since the beginning of time?).    But now, in Jesus’ time, something much more sinister was taking place: Israel’s religious leaders -- in particular the Pharisees and their Scribes -- were fighting against Jesus to have complete power over God’s spiritual kingdom on earth for themselves, claiming unique authority over God’s spiritual formation of His Chosen People.  Therefore, Jesus now speaks of the end of the cultic authority of Temple with its priests and Levites and of the rejection of the spiritual authority of the Scribes and Pharisees as authentic exponents of the Torah; and ultimately, He even speaks of the end of the whole nations’ spiritual exaltation as the Chosen People of God.

All these privileges, and the provisional type of divine worship they represented, would now have to make way for the future Church of Jesus Christ, the new and authentic People of God, comprising not only Israelites, but all men and women of good-will who would hear and obey the Good News of God’s own Son authentically proclaimed to all mankind:

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the scriptures: ‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; by the Lord has this been done, and it is wonderful in our eyes’?   Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that will produce its fruit.

You can understand why Jesus was both feared and hated by the proud religious authorities of what had once been the kingdom of David: kings and people had sinned -- ignoring God’s many and great prophets – and now that former kingdom comprised nothing more than the two small and very insignificant Roman provinces of Judea and Samaria, along with mis-trusted Galilee in the north.  Nevertheless, its spiritual pride was even more intense because of such humiliations.  Yes, they hated what had befallen their once spiritually prestigious nation; and now, this  Jesus -- coming indeed from Nazareth in Galilee-of-the-Gentiles of all places -- was proclaiming Himself as the Son – yes, the very Son of God -- come to harvest the fruit due from the vineyard of the Law and the Prophets, promising no Messianic restoration of political power, and proclaiming that Israel’s hitherto unique privilege would no longer be their exclusive pride and joy but would be offered to all: the presently disdained Gentiles and pagans world-wide who knew nothing of God, above all the despicable and most hated Romans now ruling their country.

However, some might be thinking, all this is past history, how is it relevant for us today?  We understand that God punishes sin – He always has -- and we recall that, as punishment for sin in His Chosen People, He once destroyed their temple at Shilo which the early Israelites had thought untouchable; and that He likewise brought the great Temple of Solomon down to the ground; before finally -- as Jesus foretold -- humbling the supremely impressive and most prestigious Temple of Herod.   But what does all this mean for us?  There is no unique Temple today; we are from all nations not just one chosen people: the Kingdom of God’s own Son cannot, surely, be destroyed as were those ancient indeed, but, nevertheless, temporal institutions?

Let us look again at those who brought about the downfall of the Chosen People.

Those responsible for the twice-repeated exiling of Israel were predominantly political figures: kings, with their courtiers and sycophants, their emulators and opponents.   They did great harm to God’s People and were punished accordingly.  However, they opposed, resisted, God’s Kingdom in Israel for predominantly earthly, worldly, reasons, being afraid of the effect of God’s message proclaimed by the Prophets.  There were others, however, such as the Pharisees and their Scribes, who resisted the coming of God’s Kingdom, its flourishing in Israel, by attempting to take control of God’s proclamation itself.  The first opponents were rejected, and indeed ejected into exile, by God; the latter, however, themselves rejected God, and could only be themselves ejected by the death and resurrection of His Son.

People of God today, governments (kings) and those who -- like the Pharisees of old proclaim their own version of a ‘godly’ kingdom of social cohesion and well-being -- are now as one, shouting loud and in unison, LIBERTY, FRATERNITY, EQUALITY, for the deafening of all spiritual and moral teaching of divine origin, and ultimately for the destruction of all religious institutions of and for divine sustenance in the world.  And to punish such world-wide hatred for and ambition-to-replace all that is truly spiritual, the Bible and Christian testimony undoubtedly records, and surely encourages us to expect God’s saving  punishment  today for mankind’s threatened eternal salvation.

God’s People are not restricted to their leaders’ awareness of God’s desires and wishes, possibilities and dealings; they follow their leaders’ teachings in the name of Jesus faithfully and whole-heartedly, and in return they can and do expect some spiritual awareness and understanding, some religious guidance, which are most strangely lacking as regards our world’s current and pandemic troubles.   Is that pandemic, with all its dire troubles and resultant human fears, totally, merely, natural, and of no intentional, no spiritual significance?  Is God indeed irrelevant to, can He be thought to be disinterested in, what is happening all over the world.

My brother and sisters in Christ, we should be supremely careful of, solicitous for, the purity of our faith.   Today there are many who set themselves up as teachers, as guides to worldly success and to temporal happiness.  Indeed, they even lay claim to ‘know’ that God does not exist, and that nothing lies beyond death ... although such assertions are no longer backed up by that scientific knowledge which is modernity’s real pride and joy: knowledge which they can so readily present, prove and even demonstrate by practical experiment and sensible observation.  Spirituality, however, the life and breath of the human spirit is totally, totally, beyond them.

Today, many Catholics and Christians allow – or suffer -- themselves to be persuaded, overwhelmed, by such worldly but also devilish wisdom and its messengers.  Even more sadly, however, there are too many Catholics today who are willing to ignore or even distort Jesus’ Good News of life eternal -- which should be treasured by faith in their own mind and heart -- for a few years of social advantage, worldly comfort, and pseudo-security in a world that offers no future hope, no peaceful remembrance.

There is only one true peace, there is only one true way of progress and profit for salvation, and that is given us by St. Paul, in our second reading:

Brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard in (Mother Church). Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.