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, 15 January 2021

2nd Sunday of the Year (B) 2021

 

 2nd. Sunday of Year (B)                            

             (1 Samuel 3:3-10, 19; 1 Corinthians  6:13-15, 17-20; John 1:35-42)

 

Let me begin by giving some background on Eli, the high priest who received the boy Samuel into the service of the Temple.

A man of God had recently come to Eli and said to him:

Thus says the LORD: “Did I not clearly reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt as slaves in Pharaoh's house?  Did I not choose them out of all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to offer upon My altar, to burn incense, and to wear an ephod before Me? And did I not give to the house of your father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire?  Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in My dwelling place, and honour your sons more than Me, to make yourselves fat with the best of all the offerings of Israel My people?” (1 Sam. 2:27-29)

Eli was a failure as high priest, and for that he was under threat, as the messenger from the Lord went on to make clear (v. 31):

Behold, the days are coming that I will cut off your (arm) strength and the strength of your father's house, so that there will not be an old man in your house.

However, that sword hanging over his head did not express the full horror of his situation, for the man of God had yet more words of the Lord for Eli:

Any of your men whom I do not cut off from My altar shall consume your eyes and grieve your heart. And all the descendants of your house shall die in the flower of their age.  Now this shall be a sign to you that will come upon your two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die, both of them.  Then I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in My heart and in My mind. I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before My anointed forever.

Eli’s two sons would soon die together, along with many of Israel’s defeated army; and those of his descendants who remained would only blind his eyes with tears and burden his heart with grief before they too died in the prime of life.  What a terrible punishment for Eli!  It was, indeed, one given to match the magnitude of his sins: both as high priest who dishonoured the Lord in his service at the altar, and as father who – loving his sons more than the Lord – pandered not only to their desires but also to their sins.

Today, parents so often think they are good parents because -- choosing to follow the most popular and least troublesome way -- they seek to make their children happy here and now, as they themselves want to be happy: they want to be surrounded by a sunny atmosphere, full of childish laughter, giggles and kisses, an atmosphere that engenders warm feelings about themselves and confidence in their standing in other peoples’ eyes, for surely everyone will see that their children are happy and have plenty.  Eli was a good father according to such standards: his sons would have said that they were very happy; after all, they got plenty of what they wanted and they were sharing their father’s honour as priests in Israel.  However, unknown to themselves, they were walking to their death and would never -- to his dying days -- afford him any comfort or consolation, let alone true joy or deep gratitude.

However, that is enough about Eli for the moment, People of God, for now I want to bring something else to the forefront of your attention, hopefully for your guidance and consolation.   Recall what you heard in the Gospel reading:

The next day John was there again with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he said, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”   The two disciples heard what he said and followed Jesus.

One of those two disciples, Andrew by name, went to tell his brother about Jesus:

 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus.   He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Anointed).   Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Kephas” (which is translated Peter).

What great blessings have been called down upon John the Baptist because he guided those two disciples of his to Jesus!  Likewise, what praise and thanksgiving has been accorded to Andrew subsequently for bringing his brother Simon Peter to Jesus?

Now, who do you bring to the Lord?   Perhaps you are thinking that you do not have the words of the Lord in your mouth like John: very well then; but do you have a brother or sister like Andrew?  You don’t have a brother or sister?  Neither do I.  But that does not mean that we are not to be zealous for the Lord, that we are not called -- not able -- to help people to God.  Look again at Eli.  He was a failure; indeed, one might say, a disgrace: having betrayed the Lord as High Priest, having brought dishonour on his father‘s house, and been found miserably wanting in true care for his own children and grandchildren.  Yet even such a wretched failure as old Eli was still obliged, and therefore still able, to help others to the Lord; and, in the event, he did ultimately manage to help someone to God, the child who -- for Eli’s blessing -- grew to become the great prophet Samuel.  Listen again to that story:

The lamp of God was not yet extinguished, and Samuel was sleeping in the temple of the LORD where the ark of God was.  The LORD called to Samuel, who answered, “Here I am.”  He ran to Eli and said, “Here I am. You called me.” “I did not call you,” Eli said. “Go back to sleep.” So, he went back to sleep.  Again, the LORD called Samuel, who rose and went to Eli. “Here I am,” he said. “You called me.” But he answered, “I did not call you, my son. Go back to sleep.”   At that time Samuel was not familiar with the LORD, because the LORD had not revealed anything to him as yet. The LORD called Samuel again, for the third time. Getting up and going to Eli, he said, “Here I am. You called me.” Then Eli understood that the LORD was calling the youth.   So, he said to Samuel, “Go to sleep, and if you are called, reply, ‘Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.’” When Samuel went to sleep in his place, the LORD came and revealed his presence, calling out as before, “Samuel, Samuel!” Samuel answered, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Now you can clearly see that no one can truthfully say that they are unable to help another, some other, to the Lord.  Unless we are irremediably dead before our time -- spiritually dead though walking on our feet -- we can, by word or deed, by prayer or advice, by teaching or example, still be of help to one sent us by God.  That is why we are called, that is why we are able and obliged, at all times and in all circumstances, to help spread the Kingdom of Jesus. 

It is above all priests of the Lord, together with parents of God-given children, who are at the focal point of our readings today.  A priest must preach God’s truth for God‘s people, not seek favour and approval for himself; he must guide those who hear him in the way of Jesus as taught by Mother Church, not blindly follow the presently prevailing, politically correct, attitudes of those whose mind and heart are set upon the things of this world rather than those of heaven.  Parents, too, are to look carefully at themselves in their attitude to, and teaching of, their children.  Sometimes it seems that parents are more intent on enjoying themselves by delighting in their children, rather than serving their children’s true good by guiding and teaching, correcting and supporting, those entrusted to them by the Lord.  Such parents must realise that they can indeed, at times, be condemned in their children.  And yet, on the other hand, they should not condemn themselves prematurely: John the Baptist could not force his disciples to follow Jesus, neither could Andrew force Simon to come back with him to Jesus. 

In like manner, parents are not always able to positively guide their children when they are older: when adults they will go where they want, while their parents can only watch, pray, and perhaps advise where advice might be welcome.  The example of Eli, however, shows that there are some parents who can, indeed, be condemned in their children for having seriously failed to guide, correct, and discipline, them in their infancy, childhood, and early years; condemned, because they failed, ultimately, to truly love those children.  Eli gave his boys plenty of food, plenty of freedom, and plenty of influence; those sons then went on to provide themselves with plenty of pleasure, bringing upon themselves an even greater measure of disgrace.   Eli, however, was personally involved in these later developments because he had neither taught nor disciplined them as children, neither had he ever prevailed upon himself to remonstrate with them as they grew older.  It was for that guilt that he suffered much, as you have heard; and there are parents today who will likewise suffer much because of their guilty indulgence of both themselves and their children.

Finally, let us turn to St. Paul’s teaching in the second reading:

The body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.

Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body.  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, Whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you have been purchased at a price; therefore, glorify God in your body.

Women’s liberation supporters can be heard saying a woman’s body is her own to do with as she wills, and so they condone and promote abortion.  Young men, and women too, think that life’s pleasures are their direct birth-right, not the God-given concomitant of responsible love.  As a result, they can easily think that getting married is too expensive, indeed perhaps a dangerous knot to tie when still relatively young.   They may, therefore, be inclined to live together outside of marriage, with no promise of life-long love and no binding acceptance of responsibility; and some will, indeed,  then go on to use their baptized, God-given, bodies -- intended to be shrines of life and Temples of the Holy Spirit -- to promote death: the physical death of infants in the womb, and the spiritual death of themselves.

People of God, you belong to God because you are members of Jesus His Son Who died for you and Who lives in you by His Spirit.  Bear witness to Jesus whoever you are, wherever you are, however you can; even if all else seems to be lacking to you, praise and serve Him in your body, with your body which is always present to you, and always able and waiting to do good work.  It has been given you as a means for the physical expression and realization of your own unique personality and spiritual calling.  And though, at times, your mind might be dull and your heart dry, with no penetrating thoughts or warm inspirations, your body can and will still enable you to serve God by giving timely, instinctive, warning for all ‘erring’ into sinful ways; and when put to its proper and worthy use, help you express pure love, give true glory to God, and ultimately find the salvation Jesus has won for all of us and wants, above  all, to bestow upon each and every one of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 8 January 2021

The Baptism of Our Lord Year B 2021

                                 The Baptism of Our Lord (B)

(Isaiah 42: 1-4. 6-7; Acts 10: 34-38; St. Mark 1:7-11)

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“Behold, I tell you a mystery” are words of St. Paul in his first letter to his converts at Corinth that are most applicable to our considerations on today’s feast of the Baptism of Our Lord.

Let us first of all look at John the Baptist and his work of baptising or immersing.  For preference I will use the word “immersing” because John was not baptising in the way we understand ‘baptism’ since Jesus came. Jesus’ baptism forgives sin, John’s immersing was simply a token of sincere repentance calling for God’s mercy and guidance; John’s immersing foreshadowed Jesus’ baptism just as John’s preaching presaged Jesus’ Gospel.

John had been sent to warn the people of God that a great judgement was imminent, and that they would have to mend their ways if they wanted to survive that judgement.  He had a special message for those who -- having fallen away from Temple and synagogue worship and daily obedience to the Law -- now wanted to return to faithful Jewish practice.  In keeping with the seriousness and the urgency of the situation John proclaimed to such people, coming in crowds to hear him preaching by the banks of the river Jordan, that merely ritual immersions or lustrations were not enough.  He called on those who were seriously repentant to bring forth fruit worthy of repentance, to actually start doing what was right and just.  They must, John said, first of all bring forth visible, tangible, proof of repentance, for no merely ritual immersion in water could purify a wicked soul; and he insisted, God would not be satisfied with anything less than true righteousness.   Those aware of, and sorry for, their previous sins and failings had to make it clear to the Lord, to themselves, and to John, that they were actually turning away from past evil and were truly and sincerely desirous of making up for past misdeeds as best they could.  God alone could cleanse those guilty of sinful lives, but, John proclaimed, He would cleanse the hearts of those who, in this way, showed sincere repentance by taking upon themselves the practice of righteousness.

Once the heart had, indeed, been cleansed by God, then the immersion they were seeking from John would also serve to purify the body, for bodily purity was of the utmost importance for all those Jewish believers who wished to be acceptable to God through obedience to His Law.  The whole person, inside and outside, had to be prepared to do the whole of God’s will, which demanded right moral behaviour together with true and acceptable worship.

Let us now turn our thoughts to Jesus.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all the evangelists that is, tell us about John’s baptism of Jesus; or better, about the immersion of Jesus, by John, in the Jordan.  On the other hand, only two of them, Matthew and Luke, tell us about the birth of Jesus. Mark and John do not mention the manner of His birth because, for them, everything about Jesus our Saviour really began with the wondrous happenings on the occasion of His immersion by John in the Jordan, when the Father’s voice was heard from heaven and the Holy Spirit visibly descended upon Jesus to guide and strengthen Him in His obedience to and work for the Father.

How are we to understand these differences in approach?

We should note, first of all, that although Matthew and Luke tell us of the conception of

Jesus by the Holy Spirit and of His birth from the Virgin Mary, they make no mention whatsoever of the Child Jesus doing any marvels in the power of the Spirit: all such mighty deeds only come after His immersion by John; in that respect all four evangelists are in full agreement. 

So, we can see that though Jesus was indeed born of the Virgin Mary by the working of the Holy Spirit, and although He was born holy and the Son of God, as Luke tells us:

The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So, the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God”; (1:35)

or, to quote St. Matthew (1:23):

"The virgin will be with Child and will give birth to a Son, and they will call Him Immanuel"-- which means, "God with us",

nevertheless, for both Matthew and Luke, the Child -- though Son of God – was, indeed, also a most truly human Child, and this had to be shown by detailing the fact that, Jesus had, first of all, to begin slowly by a most beautiful experience (with Mary and Joseph!) of an ordinary human childhood, before then, developing through youth and early manhood as a fellow-worker with Joseph, as a worshipper at the local synagogue, and as a noticeable village member, He could  finally -- as a mature man -- enter upon the fullness of His saving work as our Lord and Saviour.

As Luke explicitly tells us:

Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men. (2:52)

Jesus grew not only in tune with God but also as a Man with men, becoming ever more and more aware of the powers and weakness, the potentialities and frailties, of the humanity He had assumed: a humanity which, though pure and holy in His case, was nevertheless, a humanity which simply could not enable Him to do all that He longed to do for His Father and among His fellow-villagers at Nazareth. Unknown to those around Him – unknown even to Mary His mother -- He was living in tune with God at an increasingly divine level and was, consequently, being filled with an awareness, on the one hand, ever deeper and more Personally painful, and yet, on the other hand, ever more compassionate and understanding, of human need and insufficiency.

And then, He heard what His distant relative John the Baptist – who had been in the desert for years -- was now doing in the name of God for the crowds of people coming to him from Jerusalem and all its surroundings to hear his proclamation of the coming Messiah and to be immersed by him in the waters of the river Jordan!!

Now we are prepared to understand the meeting of John the Baptist and Jesus on the banks of the Jordan.  Jesus came to John, along with all those who were dissatisfied with their past response to and present relationship with the God of Israel, because this was the one place in all Israel where God could be seen to be manifestly at work, and Jesus Himself -- about 30 years old and in the full maturity of  His manhood -- was wanting above all to put Himself into the closest proximity with God-His-Father publicly at work among His people, in order to give the very fullest expression to His own total longing to be active -- physically as well as spiritually --  at work with and for His father, that God’s will be done in Israel.  And this most urgent longing was no mere psychological experience of Jesus’, it was His heavenly Father ‘provoking’ Him, calling Him.

Jesus stepped forward before John the Baptist, not to manifest any Personal sinfulness, but simply His, by now most frustrating, human inability to do all that He wanted to do for His Father’s glory and His people’s salvation.  He wanted above all to be one with His Father, no longer as a child ‘in His Father’s House’, but as a full-grown man to be ‘about His Father’s business’ and for that He chose to join all who were seeking to draw closer to God, as the supreme Seeker needing His Father’s blessing and His Spirit to do His work.  And this need of Jesus’ was precisely His Father’s, lovingly provoking, CALL.

In that sense Jesus was the first fruits of all those who were then, are now, and ever will be, truly repentant; because Jesus was totally, shatteringly, aware of what none of us are ever sufficiently aware: that God alone is good and that we, mere human beings, can do nothing good or holy of ourselves.  That failure to appreciate our natural nothingness leads ordinary sons and daughters of Adam into sins of all sorts; with Jesus it simply made Him long, with excruciating desire, for that ability to do the work of God which only the gift of the Spirit can impart (Mark 1:9-11):

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  As Jesus was coming up out of the water, He saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on Him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven: "You are My Son, Whom I love; with You I am well pleased."

The Father was indeed well pleased with His Son.  He had sent originally His Son for the purpose of saving His People from their sins.  The holiness of this Child had not separated, cut Him off, from men; for His growth in holiness had meant an ever-greater longing for God and an ever-deeper understanding of and sympathy with mankind.  The Child had now become the Man His Father had planned, and so He called Him in the perfect fullness of His humanity to begin His public ministry by publicly taking over from John the Baptist.  It was not John who would conduct this true baptism: John would indeed immerse Jesus, but it was the Father in heaven Who embraced His Son rising from the waters of the river Jordan, and Who would truly baptise Him by bestowing on Him the Gift of the most Holy Spirit to prepare and empower Him for the task immediately before Him: His imminent conquest of the devil in the desert and His subsequent Messianic proclamation and ushering-in of God’s salvation.

And so, Jesus stepped forward as the sinless leader of all those who are aware of their human needs and inadequacies, and in this He was and is at one with repentant sinners of all times: past, as well as present and future; for although He did not, indeed, could not, share their personal sins, sin being totally alien to Him, nevertheless, their human needs and their personal, godly, longings were to be found in Him, fully and sublimely transfigured.  Coming up out of the waters where John had immersed Him, He was embraced by His heavenly Father and endowed with the Spirit, as the Messiah and Saviour of God’s People, or, as the Psalmist (19:5) puts it:

            As a strong man rejoicing, and ready to run his course.

John had prepared the Chosen People for Him Who was to come, he had indeed prepared the way before the Lord; and here, at Jordan’s edge, the Father renewed His original gift of His Son by His messianic call and bestowal of the Spirit, so that Jesus could take up the baton for the final stage in God’s saving plan, as the prophet Micah (5:4) had foretold:

            He will arise and shepherd His flock in the strength of the LORD, In the        majesty of the name of the LORD His God.

People of God, Jesus the supreme and heavenly Shepherd still leads His flock into a full awareness and understanding of their earthly human weakness, don’t refuse to learn His teaching about that!  But, as the only-begotten Son and Saviour, He also teaches His Church heavenly things with divine authority, and empowers her to walk with Him along His way, by granting her faithful children a share in His own most Holy Spirit.  Thus, He gradually brings them to their glorious fulfilment in Him and with Him, as Children of God and co-heirs to eternal life, and today He invites us too to become ever more truly members of that glorious company!

Therefore, dear friends in Christ, let us truly rejoice in Jesus this day as He answers His Father’s call to step forward and take over from John, and bring to fulfilment the divine purpose of saving us from our sins.                                (2021)         

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Second Sunday after Christmas 2021

 

 Sermon 12: Second Sunday after Christmas (B)

(Sirach 24: 1-2, 8-12; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-18; St. John’s Gospel:1:1-18)

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One of the most important times in the life of any child comes when parents seriously think about what they are going to do for their child’s future. Their options, broadly speaking, are two: after school and education is over, the parents will either help their child, as best they can, to find as good a job as is available for them in the vicinity, and then they will more or less leave it to the son or daughter to gradually feel the desire, the need, to become an independent self; or else, the parents will – very early on -- begin helping their child to, first of all, joyfully recognize its own talents and potentialities, and then, gradually, envisage possible careers, based on an appropriate use of those gifts.

Christian parents who opt to thus help their child discover and develop its own potentialities, hope that their son or daughter may thereby become a more fulfilled human-being, gratefully aware of and able to rejoice in the exercise of his or her own talents and embrace the ensuing responsibilities.

Now that second choice, People of God, is close to the option chosen by God the Father in our regard.

In the third preface of Christmas at Mass this morning we heard: “So marvellous is this oneness between God and man that, in Christ, Man restores to man the gift of everlasting life.”  We, that is, were originally created in the image and likeness of God.  But the Devil, having been thrown down from heaven, and -- for his own purposes -- wanting others to share his personal sense of, loss, anger, and frustration, others -- earthly beings called humans – whom he most truly hated because of their utterly ludicrous aspirations to the heaven he had lost, through a so-called messiah, others over whom he could exercise his angelic power and authority to vent his hatred and frustration.  And so, he decided to make fools of those weak and worthless humans, first of all through Eve the more talkative and gullible one, and then through her, Adam: and thus, he led them to disobey God, by swallowing – quite literally – his, the Devil’s bait.  Sin and death thereby entered our earthly creation and we lost our eternal inheritance.

Now, God could have just given us back that which we had lost; to put it in common and vulgar language which will, I hope, help to underline the point I am making, God could have said: “Come on you wretches, you don’t deserve it and you’d never earn it, but I’ll give it you, I’m good.”

But the fact is, People of God, that the Father in His great love for us, also respected us, and wanted us to be worthy possessors of His gifts, so that we could really say, “They are truly mine”.  And this we can now say in Jesus, as St. John tells us (1 John 4: 9-10):

In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent His only Son into the world so that we might have life through Him.  In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.

God, that is, most lovingly and most deliberately, chose that His only-begotten Son should become Man that, as Man, He could overcome on our behalf, both the Devil and the sin we had admitted into the world: then we -- as human beings, and believing members of Jesus, God-become-Man -- might be able to say, “God’s gift of eternal life is truly ours, because Jesus -- One of us -- has won it for us”.

Why did God the Father choose that option?  Because God’s LOVE is, so to speak, strongly laced with RESPECT: Adam God commanded to love his wife, and Eve He commanded to respect her husband.   God the Father, because He is Father, totally, infinitely, perfectly, Father, willed to help us get back for ourselves that which we had wrongly allowed ourselves to be deprived of.  He did not want, that we who had been made in His own image and likeness, should ever possess that of which the Devil could say “It is not theirs really, I took it from them; they only have it now because He, the God I hate, gave it back to them: but it is not really their own.”

Therefore He sent His only-begotten Son to take on human flesh from the only righteous one living in the earthly city (cp. Abraham and Sodom), Mary of Nazareth, and through her He gave us His Word made flesh, as our Saviour, so that not only could humankind have the dignity of being worthy of eternal life, but that you and me, each one of us individually, might also be able to earn that dignity in Jesus, because you and I – God-fearing disciples of Jesus – can now, in the power of His Spirit, overcome the Devil, spurn his deceits, and win back self-respect as children of God.  Indeed, so much is this the case that the Blessed Virgin Mary -- as our Jesus-gifted-mother -- has already done this, in the power of His most Holy Spirit, to the extent that in Heaven she is above all angels and archangels, all principalities and powers; and, although being by nature totally human, she is now, for the glory of God, Queen of Heaven and all the angelic hosts:

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

This is the glorious mystery our Christian faith, that, as St. John told us in the Gospel reading:

No man has ever seen God; it is the only begotten Son, Who is nearest to the Father’s heart, Who has made Him known.

And, again as St. John tells us:

To all who accepted Him, He gave power to become children of God, to all those who believe in His name (as the Son of God), born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

People of God, our faith permeates the whole of our life because it is our glory; let us close now with the words of St. Paul contained in our second reading today:

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory in His inheritance among the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe, in accordance with the exercise of His great might which He worked in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come.  And He put all things beneath His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body.