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, 27 November 2020

1st Sunday of Advent Year B 2020

 

Sermon 313: 1st. Sunday of Advent (B)

(Isaiah 63:16-17, 19b, 64:2-7; 1st. Corinthians 1:3-9; Mark 13:33-37)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I give thanks to my God that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful, be alert, you do not know when the lord of the house is coming”.

Those two snippets are the essential of our readings from St. Paul and then Our Blessed Lord’s Gospel message.   And our last four Sunday Gospel readings have been warnings and/or exhortations of a very similar sort.

Now that is no criticism of Our Lord’s words, for His proclamation of divine wisdom for our salvation was done over a period of time, relatively short of course, but to many different individuals, in a Jewish society ‘stratified’ between radicals and traditionals, between the vociferous with plenty of time for trouble and the disinterested with no time for anything but just living, between the humble – the unique fruit of generations of right living in covenant with the God of Israel -- and the self-seeking career servers,  all of them with differing hopes and expectations, fears and agendas, and in circumstances of constant flux.

No, dear People I am rather wondering what was in Mother Church’s mind – so to speak – when choosing today’s readings for our Sunday celebration. One might possibly say that I am wondering what individual ‘bright spark’ decided on today’s readings after the series of readings we have been having from St. Matthew’s Gospel for the last four Sundays.  Any such thoughts, however, would have been nothing more than the somewhat irreverent expression of a preacher’s frustration at being faced with several basically similar texts and wanting to make his sermon in some measure both spiritually instructive and interesting. 

However, Mother Church is usually able to find and call upon God-guided disciples of her Lord and Saviour, individually unknown and unpraised, to save her rightful reputation of wisdom in her choice of liturgical texts: texts manifesting both divine (the Scriptures) and human (her Latin hymns and saintly commentaries) wisdom and beauty.  And we can see that today with the reading given us from the prophet Isaiah which serves to most providentially to guide us into an appropriate appreciation of both today’s Gospel passage and second reading:

             You, LORD, are our father, our redeemer You are named forever.

Why do You let us wander, O LORD, from Your ways

and harden our hearts so that we fear You not?

Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down.

Would that we were mindful of You in our ways!

Behold, You are angry, and we are sinful;

all our good deeds are like polluted rags;

There is none who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to cling to You, for You have hidden Your face from us and delivered us up to our guilt.

Yet, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay and You the potter:

we are all the work of Your hands.

There we have our Christmas longing contained in Isaiah’s words, ‘Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down’: but isn’t the context changed?

‘We are sinful; all our good deeds are like polluted rags‘: could all our rightly praised workers and carers say that of themselves?  Can we say that of ourselves?  And yet that is infallibly true in so far as Isaiah’s subsequent words are also true:

There is none who calls upon Your name, who rouses himself to cling to You.

Do you demur?  But didn’t Jesus Himself most solemnly declare (John 16:8):

When He (the Holy Spirit) comes He will convict the world in regard to sin, because they do not believe in Me.

Oh yes, Dear People of God, those words of Isaiah are so pertinent for our appropriate longing, praying, for Jesus’ coming to us this Christmas; and how they have confirmed in my eyes the divine wisdom of Mother Church in her liturgy.  Our liturgical inheritance is a gift transcending time, a gift not ‘coffined-in’ to present events and current attitudes-and-expectations.  Isaiah was a prophet for his times and ours: he interpreted for Israel the ‘signs of the times’.  Today we do not have much guidance, help, for God’s People about ‘panvirussing-sin’ and our world’s -- and Mother Church’s -- present sufferings and distress. Is there any connection?  Mother Church does, at times, tell governments how better to govern and mostly they reject or ignore what they consider to be her ‘interference’; but she is presently saying very little about what is her own unique ‘business’: our Christian and Catholic understanding of the supremely significant event of our times.

This Advent we centre our hearts and minds on Jesus’ coming among us at Christmas .... not just the original one in Bethlehem .... but on the 25th. December 2020!  What is our attitude to be?

Preparing, with the world, to have as good a meaning-less-celebration as possible?  Or, in refreshed awareness of our spiritual state, to long whole-heartedly for Jesus to come as our whole LIFE, our only HOPE, and our eternal SALVATION.

Come, Lord Jesus, we need You, come, Lord Jesus, our unbelieving world needs You!  And in such need, may St. Paul’s words provide us with a modicum of present consolation and hope that only You Yourself can fulfil in Your Coming:

As you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, He (God the Father) will keep you firm to the end, irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus (Christ).

God is faithful, and by Him you were called to fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

 

Friday, 20 November 2020

Christ the King Year A 2020

                                     Christ the King (Year A)                                                                                     (Ezekiel 34:11-12, 15-17; 1st. Corinthians 15:20-26, 28; Matthew 25:31-46)

 

Following the Gospel of Matthew we have recently heard Jesus warning us in parables, first of all, to be faithful and responsible, after the example of the wise and faithful servant set over the household whilst his master was away; then -- in the parable of the 5 wise and the 5 foolish virgins -- to be prepared and alert at all times; and finally, last week, He admonished us -- in the parable of the talents – to put to good use the gifts we have received by bringing forth fruit for eternal life.

And now, just before the chief priests and elders of the people meet to plot Jesus’ death, Matthew puts before us this awesome scene of the Last Judgement pictured for us by the Lord Himself:

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, He will sit upon His glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before Him. And He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Jesus goes on to make clear the grounds on which the sheep are to be separated from the goats, and in doing so He fills in with greater detail the advice given us previously in His parables by showing us how to remain faithful and responsible, ever alert and prepared, and how to invest for the future by bringing forth fruit for eternal life:

For I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me

Those, on the left hand, who do not remain faithful, alert and prepared, who make little or no effort to gain profit for heaven, will be most severely judged and condemned, and the immediate continuation of our first reading from the prophet Ezekiel tells us why:

Then the King will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

“As for you, O My flock,” thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.  Is it too little for you to have eaten up the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the residue of your pasture -- and to have drunk of the clear waters, that you must foul the residue with your feet?"   Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, I Myself will judge between the fat and the lean sheep. Because you have pushed with side and shoulder, butted all the weak ones with your horns, and scattered them abroad, therefore I will save My flock, and they shall no longer be a prey; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.”

St. John Chrysostom, a Greek Doctor of the Church, when commenting on today’s parable of the Final Judgement, told his congregation at the imperial court in the city of Constantinople some 1600 years ago that God does not demand great things of us, for He is gracious enough to reward even little things:

And in return for what, do they receive such a great reward as a share in heavenly glory?  For offering the covering of a roof, for giving a garment, some bread to eat and cold water to drink, for visiting one languishing in the prison.   In every case it is for what is needed; and sometimes not even for that, for surely, as I have said, the sick and he that is in bonds seeks not only a visit, but the one to be loosed (from his chains), the other to be delivered from his infirmity. But the Lord, being gracious, requires only what is within our power.

Consequently, we can be sure the supreme Judge in today’s parable is seeking only what is absolutely essential:

I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, a stranger and you welcomed Me, naked and you clothed Me, ill and you cared for Me, in prison and you visited Me.

All, expressions of human compassion and signs of the beginnings of divine charity.

At times this parable of the Last Judgment has been wrongly interpreted as though it  asserts that our salvation will ultimately depend exclusively on works of fraternal charity done or omitted by us.  However, when looked at in the whole context of St. Matthew’s presentation of the teaching of Jesus, works of fraternal charity are valid and valuable only in so far as they are true expressions of love for God.

A lawyer, asked Jesus a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"  Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'  This is the first and great commandment.  And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (22:35-40)

Love God with all your heart, soul and mind;  love your neighbour, as yourself.

St. Matthew elsewhere (19:16-21) quotes Jesus showing love of neighbour to be a necessary preparation for love of God when he tells how a rich young man, though having long kept the commandments and shown love toward his neighbour, came to Jesus because he still felt himself to be far from perfect:

"Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."  He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, " 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'Honour your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'"  The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?"  Jesus said, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

There Jesus obviously wanted to lead this promising young man on to the fulfilment of charity in personal love of God.

In our parable today also, notice that those called to His right hand by Jesus had indeed shown love of neighbour, but they had not sufficiently recognized God, Jesus, in their neighbour:

Then the righteous will answer Him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?  When did we see You a stranger and welcome You, or naked and clothe You?   When did we see You ill or in prison, and visit You?’

They still needed to learn much from Jesus in order to recognize and truly appreciate the pearl of great price.

The rich young man, however, by his life-long endeavours to find God, merited Jesus’ Personal invitation to “Come, follow Me”: only three short words but of surpassing significance. “Come and learn from Me to love both God and neighbour; come, learn to love My Father and your Father so much as to be able to embrace the Cross with Me for His glory and for the salvation of mankind”.  He speaks those same words to us this very day, for we should recognize that there is much for us to learn concerning which none but Jesus can teach us.  Our world’s greatest need is for divine wisdom to understand God’s will in the signs of the times, and divine charity to love His will and our fellows aright, and such gifts are only in the purview of the Holy Spirit of Jesus.  Once Jesus’ coming into our lives has freed us from the slavery of sin then, by the gift of His Spirit, those God-given gifts of understanding and love can begin to reform and renew our darkened minds and stony hearts for God’s glory and the blessing of all around us.

If, therefore, we aspire to be counted among the sheep at God’s right hand we must make a beginning by fulfilling, as St. John Chrysostom explained, the first and easiest demands of Him Who will, ultimately, be our Judge.  Only little words and actions capable of expressing both sincere love for God and neighbour are asked of us: such as turning aside from evil, and witnessing to Jesus by speaking the truth in love; such as showing human understanding and compassion by admitting in others those human limitations and weaknesses which we consider so understandable and excusable in ourselves; such as setting aside our personal antipathies, and learning to forgive; such as refraining from snide remarks or whispered words of detraction, and being sincere and trustworthy in our relationships.  All these common, every-day, matters -- for the most part unseen by others and of no great difficulty to ourselves -- are, nevertheless, of the utmost significance in our endeavours to walk with Jesus for God’s glory and our neighbour’s good.  There is no need for us to look around for opportunities to make great sacrifices or adopt striking attitudes, for those who behave in such a way easily fall into the trap of seeking human praise rather than divine approbation.  

For it is only as the ordinary, everyday, attitudes of individual men and women become spiritually healthy and strong through Christ living in them, that the Holy Spirit of Jesus will be able to gradually correct and efface the social and political evils which afflict our country and our world, until that time comes when Christ -- reigning supreme in hearts and minds of His disciples—will be publicly manifested as King of Glory ushering in the Kingdom of God.  Towards that end every disciple of Jesus is able and called to contribute since all of us have a personal role to play in the development of that Kingdom and a necessary function for its fulfilment.

Dear People of God, be sure of this: in all that we do, each and every one of us is responsible to Jesus because each and every one of us counts for Him, each and every one of us is of unique worth before Him.         

 


Friday, 13 November 2020

33rd Sunday Year A 2020

 

Thirty-third Sunday, Year (A)

(Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20,30-31; 1st. Thessalonians 5:1-6; Saint Matthew 25:14-30)

=================================================================

 

What was the ‘talent’ mentioned in Our Lord’s parable?

It was a measure of weight used, in our case, for silver; and one talent of silver was a LOT of money ... those servants entrusted with three or five were effectively millionaires.

Looking at the three servants we can make the following observation: the third servant had no love for his master.  His comrades did respect their master, and not only did they feel obliged to use his goods well, but they also wanted to live up to his expectations of them, and that they did, both making one hundred percent profit for him.  The master’s return (hinting a Jesus’ second coming) was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience for those and for their well-pleased master.

Not so, however, for the fellow who received the one talent of silver ... remember, that was still a very sizeable amount of money ... he just wanted to secure the money as quickly and as easily as possible, and then be able to forget altogether about the absent master and his affairs, and get on with living his own life as best he could.   

Yet more surprising, however, was his attitude to the master when he had come back and expressed his dissatisfaction with the bald return of his one talent!  This servant did not acknowledge any fault at all, in fact, he blamed the master himself, for having made, so he said, him so afraid:

Then the one who had received the one talent came forward and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter; so out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here it is back.’ (Matthew 25:24–25)

The other two servants, however, had not found the master such a fear-inspiring man!  Far from it, they wanted to show gratitude to him for having trusted them!

It would seem that the third servant wanted – above all – to be safe from blame. And whoever might threaten his delightful shell of self-satisfaction he would attack: ‘Who can blame me for being frightened?   It was you who made me frightened.’

Dear People of God, this parable character, servant no. 3 let us call him, can be instructive for us.  He sits on his talent in the parable, and in real parish life too many parishioners, generally regarded as ‘good Catholics’, sit on their faith: they have got the faith, they are intent on keeping the faith, and with that they are satisfied, despite so many words of Scripture, despite exhortations by Mother Church, to bring forth fruit for Jesus.  There are, indeed, many, many, ways of bringing forth fruit for Jesus, even in the secret depths of our own heart ... but for all of them we do have to do one thing: we have work on, work with, develop, deepen our faith, we cannot just sit on it.

Why might too many choose to just sit on their faith?  Let us learn from our parable:  because that way they like to think that they cannot be blamed by anyone, and they can approve themselves: they have kept the faith.

Let us look back again to servant no. 3: he had a grudge against the master going off on a long journey because it meant that he had been burdened with a duty to take care of some of his master’s possessions.  Unlike the other two servants whose love and/or respect for their master made them pleased, first of all to see the esteem he had for them by trusting them with so much of his possessions, and secondly, most willing to show their gratitude to him in return by careful stewardship.

Now, it was that responsibility before, being made answerable to, his journeying master, whom he had never learnt to like or admire, that servant no. 3 deeply  resented and feared, and that is why he almost viciously attacked the returned master as we have heard:

Master, I knew you were a demanding person, so out of fear I went off and buried your talent.

Yes, Catholics who simply sit on their faith fear God, the Lord Who has promised to return, but because they, like servant no.3, have not opened up their hearts to their Lord and Master, they fear Him in the wrong way: not with a reverential fear that draws them to Him, but with a servile fear of punishment and loss which would push them from Him. 

Moreover, together with servant 3, they may also possibly have a deep grudge against the absent Lord, because they imagine Him to have left them burdened with an unwanted responsibility.

The promise of eternal, heavenly life, a blissful life of self-giving love, they find wonderful, but they hate being saddled now with a responsibility to earn such a blessing.  RESPONSIBILITY they want as little-of as possible and so they sit on their faith, holding it tight to themselves, refusing to allow it draw them to God or to their neighbour.

Dear People of God, there is a tendency to preach a Jesus of Whom people -- including unbelievers -- want to hear, so that they can remain untroubled, challenge free; and thus, authentic aspects of Jesus tend to be omitted and ignored.  Today we had the alternative Gospel which omitted the following words of Our Lord:

Now then, take the one talent from him and give it to the one with ten.  For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Dear People, Jesus was not on earth, and is not now in heaven, a milk and water personality wanting to become popular; He is eternally God and Man, Who died a most horrific death to save all those – and only those – who would believe in Him and obey His Gospel of Good News, proclaimed in and by His Church to and for all mankind.


Saturday, 7 November 2020

32nd Sunday of Year A 2020

 

32nd. SUNDAY OF YEAR (A)

(Wisdom 6:12-16; 1st. Thessalonians 4:13-18; St. Matthew 25:1-13)

 

Let your light shine before men so that they see your good works and glorify your Father Who is in heaven.  (Matthew 5:16)

My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, our parable about the Wise and Foolish Virgins -- bridesmaids for this occasion -- can be understood quite simply, but then with only a modicum of truth; to find its fuller significance, we must needs apply our minds to consider various aspects of the story and also the whole style and purpose of Jesus’ public ministry.

Understood simply, the five foolish virgins seem to have been prepared for pleasure rather than for a duty.  Their ‘job’ so to speak, was to wait for the coming of the bridegroom together with his friends – which could have happened quickly enough, but which most probably would take some time due to meetings on the way, involving congratulatory words from and celebratory drinks with their relatives and friends.   As a result, those bridesmaids, waiting to lead the groom and his party to the bride’s paternal home where the matrimonial ceremonies would take place, had to be prepared for whichever eventuality: early or late.

However, the five ‘Foolish Virgins’ were not prepared for the bridegroom’s delayed coming and had to rush off to buy some more oil for their failing torches. While they were away the bridegroom arrived and the procession had to be led to the bride’s family home by an odd-numbered group of bridesmaids carrying only half the desired festival lights, along ways with no modern paving stones and no public lighting.  Now that reflected very badly on the father wanting to be seen as giving his daughter ‘a good send-off’, and it would have embarrassed the bride-to-be very much.  It was no ‘understandable’ mistake by the foolish five, it was indeed a thoughtless oversight with serious repercussions, one of which was that on returning with oil they were not welcomed back for the official ceremonies and parental leave-taking of the bride, the splendour and festal character of whose wedding they had so publicly compromised.

The moral of the parable thus understood would be -- and it is, of course, a most serious and necessary teaching -- that the Kingdom of Heaven is open only for those who are seriously prepared to embrace it.

We should notice, in passing,  that the last sentence, ‘Stay awake, therefore, for you do not know the day or the hour’, does not fit in with the fact that all ten of the bridesmaids had fallen asleep, not just the five foolish ones ... it may be an additional exhortation by some copyist over the course of time ... certainly Jesus Himself did not say it, although He could have used those same words elsewhere (cf. Mt. 24:36).

We can, however, learn more about how we are to respond to Jesus’ proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven being at hand for those who repent by giving our attention and applying our minds.

First of all: the point of highlighting the five foolish virgins is the fact that their torches were going out.   I think we must all agree that for those entrusted to light the way to the future bride’s parental home where the actual wedding ceremony was to take place, it was absolutely essential that their torches be able to shine as brightly as possible for processional pomp and to show the way for the bridegroom and his party to his wife-to-be’s parental home for the marriage ceremonies despite possible darkness and obstacles!

Secondly, and here we have the essential point of the parable: what is the significance of those burning torches, so essential for entry into the wedding celebration?   And the answer is, scholars agree, they refer to good works; for the door closed to the foolish bridesmaids could only be opened by one to whom they called, ‘Lord, Lord, open the door for us’ and with those words we listeners are no longer waiting to see what will happen next at this imaginary tale, but are brought back to actual reality: Jesus is using this parable to teach, He is not just telling an interesting story for His hearers to enjoy, He is using an instructive parable to teach His hearers something most important about Him Who indeed is Lord, Lord.

Saint Matthew has other words of Jesus connecting lighted lamps with good works:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  (5:16)

 And with words most pertinent to our parable:

Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. But he who does the will of My Father’ (7:21)

Saint Peter told his disciples

Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that if they speak of you as evildoers, they may observe your good works and glorify God on the day of visitation.  (1 Peter 2:12)

And St. Paul who learnt the Gospel he proclaimed from Jesus Himself, has:

This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to insist, that those who have believed in God be careful to devote themselves to good works; these are excellent and beneficial to others.  (Titus 3:8)

Saint John in his Gospel tells us of Jesus saying:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit .... My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. (15:5,8)

And, of course, Saint James is most insistent in his letter on saying, repeatedly, in various ways:

            Faith, by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  (2:17)

In our parable, the foolish Virgins liked their friend very much they thought, and they were looking forward to helping her, but they had no works, their oil ran out!

Faith, and works of charity-in-all-their-varied-forms, are as intimately connected to each other as the inside and the outside, where the outside expresses, mirrors forth, embodies, gives appropriate shape and form to, the inside.

Today, such essential mutuality, complementarity, in our lives, is largely denied.

The majestic order and beauty of our functioning, living, world is not seen to manifest anything of One Who is other and greater; sins are not recognized as revealing what is evil hidden within our hearts and minds, they are only sicknesses, to be cured or treated as does a vet caring for animals; even our good, our very best, deeds serve no purpose other than the passing, personal, glory of those involved; our boasted scientific knowledge remains almost totally ignorant of the reality behind the factual scraps it gathers.   Above all perhaps, today the complementarity of man and woman in the one reality which is humanity is ignored, denied!

God and man, Creator and creation, right and wrong, true and false, all these mutual realities, complementary beings, relationships, and facts, are reduced to man and the world we live in as we understand it, to what is legal and what is criminal in our society, to what we will and will not accept in our closely-closeted self-awareness.

Dear People of God, there is far, far more to us than our modern world will acknowledge; and though for us believers, the inside of our cup of life is of supreme importance, nevertheless, we will never know much of our true selves if we fail to weigh and give attention to the outside.  As Catholics our faith has to be complemented by, completed and fulfilled, in works; too often there is a contradiction between what is professed in faith and what is done, and the whole Christian effort may be regarded as an effort – under the grace and guidance of God – to bring about unity in our lives, to make the inside and outside of our being and behaviour complementary to each other, to reconcile the flesh and the spirit; by faith and good works to become perfectly human and truly divine, able to taste the peace, joy, and fulness of life promised and bestowed by Christ.

The mistake of the foolish virgins was their complacent feelings of friendship for their friend and bride to be, and their anticipation of a joyful wedding; that complacent feeling was their ‘faith’ which they did not turn into true friendship by making preparations for the work to be done; and that failed friendship became selfishness as they looked forward and prepared to personally enjoy the coming event.

People of God, we must all make sure that our faith is not mere emotional thinking or warm feelings that cover and disguise a deep selfishness: selfishness is natural to us, faith has to be learned by humble and grateful acceptance before being confirmed and consolidated by works.  But, in all such endeavours our works must be expressive of the Faith we profess; indeed a witness to the presence, and supremacy of, the Spirit of Jesus in our lives as children of Mother Church, if we are to fulfil that ultimate aspiration of our Christian being, to become, in Jesus, true children of the One Father of us all in heaven.