Sunday, January 13, 2019

BE IMMERSED INTO CHRIST! a homily for the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord, Year C (Luke 3:15–16, 21–22)

How strange John must’ve looked with his uncut hair and beard, wearing camel hair clothes and living on insects and wild honey.  Traditionally he was called ‘the Forerunner’, the one who went ahead of the Lord,  as well as ‘the Baptist’.  But he called himself the ‘bridegroom’s friend’, and the ‘voice of one calling in the wilderness.’  Here was a man from a priestly family who gave up everything to be totally at God’s service.  John himself identified the Lord as the ‘Lamb of God who was to take away the sins of the world’ and by calling himself the bridegroom’s friend he identified the Lord as the Bridegroom of Israel, that is, God Himself. 

John’s practice of baptism was not that unusual.  Throughout Israel archaeologists have found large pools cut from the stone for the Jewish purification practices.  They are called mikvahs and are still used by orthodox Jews to purify themselves whenever life makes them impure according to the Law.  So immersing oneself in water was quite common.  They had strict rules though about the kind of water one could use and how it was stored.  The best was fresh flowing water and this is why John is at the Jordan, the boundary of Israel, baptising, that is, immersing people in the flowing waters of Israel’s only major river.  He has placed himself outside and over against the structures of Judaism and offers what people long for: the promise of forgiveness, healing and restoration.  He does not promise to give these things but proclaims that the longing will soon be met.

John’s baptism is therefore symbolic.  It expresses a desire to change and a hope of restoration and renewal.   By submitting to John’s baptism our Lord identifies Himself with us, with our condition, with our holiest longings and gives us an example of humble submission to God.  By this baptism, by His immersion in the Jordan river He sanctifies the waters of the world for through His immersion into our material human nature He has sanctified matter itself.  The whole world is revealed and made holy by His becoming man.  His baptism, his immersion not just into the Jordan’s waters but into our very nature  has made  our baptism, our immersion into His Divine personhood possible.  By becoming one of us, one with us, He makes it possible for us to become one with Him for ever. 
His baptism makes our baptism possible.  Our baptism is an immersion into His death and resurrection, into His Divine Person so that through Him we share in  His Eternal Life.  Through baptism we are no longer mere human beings but our immortal souls have been given Eternal Life of God, a life to its fullness, a life our bodies will share in too on the last day.  
Jesus’ baptism is an act of profound humility.  Indeed the whole of his life, the whole of His incarnation right up to and including accepting suffering and death on the cross and burial in a tomb  was one long act of humility.  He was humbly revealing to us the One who sent Him, the Father.  Everything He did, said or though was about the Father.  He is the centre of His entire life.  On the Cross  He revealed, through His suffering and death, by means of His humility and obedience who worthy of love that Father is.  Not only that He made visible His eternal worship and love of the Father  and offered it to the Father on our behalf.  The sacrifice He offered on the Cross therefore infinitely outweighs any and all sins ever committed and all sins we could ever commit even if the entire human race did nothing but sin for all eternity.  

Not only that there’s more!  He did not merely offer a sacrifice to wipe away our sins.  His sacrifice gains for us the infinite gift of sonship.  As I have already said by our baptism we are immersed into Christ, into His Divine Person.  In baptism we put on Christ and share in His roles as priests, prophets and kings.  As priests we can offer our sacrifices to God through Christ and they will be accepted.  As prophets Christ can speak and act through us and as royalty we are full members of the royal family - the real royal family not the Mickey Mouse variety across the water.
There’s more!  Baptism makes each of us, male and female, young and old, whatever our nationality or culture, not just a child of God but a Son of the Father.  This means we share, through Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in His Sonship.  We are given a place in the very heart of God, in the very heart of the Most Holy Trinity.  When the Father looks at you He sees His Son, the Beloved.  When you pray He hears His Son.  This is not a mere veil, or a self-deception on God’s part.  It is not God turning a blind eye to our true nature.  In baptism our fallen human nature is changed and we are empowered to become one with Christ.  We are truly one with Him in the Sacraments and have His Holy Spirit in us. 
This is why sin is so terrible.  Sin is not the breaking or arbitrary rules or guidelines.  It is not just doing things our own way.  Sin is the violation of the moral law at the basis of our existence, that is woven into the very fibre of our being.  Sin is even worse for those of us who are baptised for it is an assault on the very likeness of Christ within us and a rejection of the infinitely beautiful and valuable gift He has given us.  It is through baptism and because of baptism that we are called to the heights of holiness so that the likeness of Christ shines out in us illuminating a world that is sunk in moral and intellectual darkness and devoid of hope and peace.  

If we take this gift seriously and embrace it, if we unwrap it and let it flourish within us we will bring great blessings on ourselves, on those we love and those we meet.  We will become saints and brings many, many souls to salvation.  If we live our baptism wholeheartedly the day will come when we will see God the Father and He will say to us “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Sunday, January 6, 2019

WHAT GIFT WILL YOU BRING HIM?: a homily for the Feast of the Epiphany (Matthew 2:1–12)

I remember one Christmas day as we were having breakfast my mother heard a child crying and when she went outside there was a young traveler boy just outside our front door.  He had hurt his ankle and could not walk.  It was bitterly cold and he had only a thin jacket and shorts on while on his feet were a pair of wellies.   My mother brought him in and sat him down at our table.  She took the boot off the injured foot and checked it for any injury.  Once she had made sure he was ok, that it was only a sprain and she had strapped it up, she gave him breakfast.  I wasn’t too happy having a traveler sit at our breakfast table but the memory has stayed with me and its lesson: charity comes first and one never turns away a human being in need.   It was also a lesson in the real meaning of what it is to be a Christian.

Three events are celebrated today in this one feast:  the visit of the wise men to Jesus in Bethlehem,  our Lord's Baptism in the Jordan and his turning the water into wine at Cana.  Each of these events is a revelation of the glory of God's presence in our Lord.  The wise come to Bethlehem lead by a star.  People back then did not view the sky as we do.  The stars belonged to a level next to God.  Their movements reflected God’s plan for the world.  That this star appears and disappears shows us it was no ordinary heavenly event but a spiritual one.  These men used their reason to navigate by the stars and that reason has brought them to Bethlehem to meet our Lord the source of all reason and of creation itself.  They rightly bring Him Kingly gifts in tribute, gifts that point to who He is and what He will suffer.

At Cana our Lord, prompted by His Mother, took on the role of bridegroom and, turning water into the best wine, provided a sign that He is the true Bridegroom of Israel come to wed mankind to Himself.  He is the one to liberate us from our useless way of life and give us the truth, the best wine of the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth. He revealed His glory in the meekness with which He listened to His Mother and responded to her.  Their lack of wine is a symbol of the lack of real love and the best wine is a symbol of the joy that comes only from communion with God.

At His baptism he showed publicly for the first time the depth of His humility when He who needed no purification, indeed is the source of all purification, chose to identify with sinners.  By His descent into the waters of Jordan He sanctified all water.  In response to His humility the Father and the Spirit affirmed His Sonship, a Sonship we share in through baptism.  He immersed Himself in the Jordan so that we could be immersed into His death and His resurrection.  John’s baptism was a mere sign that our Lord has made a Sacrament for it truly gives what it signifies: it cleanses of sin and refreshes the soul with eternal life. 

Our Lord came to transform our lives and our world and He deserves our worship and love.  He came to immerse Himself in our human nature so that we could, through Him, be immersed into His Divine Nature.  He came to turn the stale water of human love into the living water of God's love.
He did not come with armies and the force of His will but with gentleness and merciful love.  He did not come with power to dominate us into being holy.  He did not come to violate our freedom but to make it possible for it to flourish into holiness.

Our Lord reveals His glory in His humility.  He has made Himself vulnerable for us in the crib and on the cross.  In this He reveals His gentleness and His power.  It is through giving Himself away, through sacrifice,  that He conquers.   He revealed His glory in His humility by accepting baptism from John, a symbolic baptism, but one for repentance.  In identifying with sinners, the sinless one has offered us hope.  He comes not to condemn but to justify, to set us free and make us holy.

So today and in this season we celebrate the glorious humility of God who has become fully human for us.  We celebrate His love, His self-sacrifice, and His mercy.  If we do not experience the joy of these truths it is not His fault.  They are available to us in the Sacraments.  They are available to us in stillness and prayer.  They are available to us for the asking.

Since He is so good to us, since He loves us so much how then ought we to respond?  What thanks, what gifts can we offer the One who saves us from eternal death?   He has given us the answer: to believe in Him, to love Him and to love our neighbour, to avoid evil and to do good.  These are the simple steps that mean we are following Christ.  These are the steps to holiness, to eternal life.

If we are not seeking to be holy then we are not really Catholic.  By holy I do not mean ‘pious’ or ‘devout’; those are good things but not necessarily signs of holiness.  Holiness is being right with God and our neighbour.  To be holy is to seek the will of God in everything and the will of God is not hard to know – just do the duties of your state of life while seeking to avoid evil, that is, sin and do good.  That’s it in a nutshell.  The greatest gift we can offer the Lord is to seek to do the will of His Father.  

We have been given an infinite gift in Christ.  Like all gifts it must be unwrapped.  If we really know Christ then we cannot keep Him to ourselves but must share Him with others above all in the way we behave.  We will want to share Him with everyone, even the traveler, the immigrant, or the homeless at our door.  So in this Christmas season do your best to share the good news that God has become man for us by how you treat those around you: point your anger away from others, try to be patient, kind and generous, forgive others and show them the mercy God has shown you.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

THE HOME IS A SCHOOL OF HOLINESS: A Homily for the Feast of the Holy Family, Yeasr C (Luke 2:41-52)

You who are parents want more than anything to keep your children safe and happy.  I know that from my sister with my niece and from the twelve years I pent in a secondary school as well as what parents have told me. Our Lady and St Joseph had the same concern.  They too wanted to keep our Lord safe.  But this was the time of Passover and Jerusalem and its surrounding villages were full of pilgrims, upwards of a million people.  Imagine our Lady and Joseph’s reaction when they discovered they had mislaid not only their son but the Son of God?  How could they lose him some might ask?  Well anyone who has cared for children knows how quickly they can move when your back is turned.  In that society there was no such thing as the ‘nuclear family;’ families were more than Mum, Dad and the kids.  It was easier to assume a child was with cousins or other relatives. In addition Jesus had reached the age of the Jewish Bar-Mitzvah when he legally became a Jewish man obliged to keep the sacred Law of Israel. Technically he was an adult.

How do you find a boy among a million people, in those narrow and winding streets?  The name ‘Jesus’ or ‘Yehoshua’ was a common name so calling it out would not help much, like calling our ‘Pat,’ ‘Mike,’ or ‘Joe’ down on High Street.
Three day they searched for them.  Three days.  Here we have a prophecy of the three days He will spend in the tomb.  Our Lady will knew where He is then but when He was twelve she had to search.  Can you imagine the heartache and worry? The do not give up (what parents would ever give up?), they search and search and they finally find Him in the Temple, the heart of the Jewish faith and culture, the centre of their world.  Our Lord has become legally a a Jewish man and subject to the full weight of the Law so He is there debating the Law with the experts and those very experts are amazed at His answers and His questions.

They are immediately both relieved and exasperated! They are filled with joy and they could throttle him!  Three days they have been searching! Interestingly it is His Mother who questions Him.  St Joseph never says a word in Scripture.  He is a man of silence. Perhaps that’s a message for husbands. Our Lord’s reaction is both that of someone young, and surprisingly beyond His years.  He does not grasp their concern but He already feels the call of His mission, His vocation.  
Our Lord refers to His “Father’s affairs.” The original is difficult to translate and so different bibles will give different translations. Some even have ‘house’ but ‘business’ or ‘concerns’ might be just as good as affairs.  He knows who He is and that He has something to do in life.  Notice that he indirectly corrects His Mother.  She has spoken of St Joseph as our Lord’s Father (which in Jewish law he was) but our Lord’s response has pointed to His true Father in Heaven.  It is the mission that His Father has given Him that He must complete.
But He goes back with them to Nazareth.  In this He shows His obedience and humility.  He continues to grow as any child grows but He does so in wisdom and favour as well.  He shows both normal growth into manhood and the flowering of His perfect human nature.  We are told that His mother kept all these things in her heart, that is, like any mother she treasured them and meditated on them, drawing from them their significance and meaning.  Your children are a word from God to you! Pay attention and discern what He is saying to you.

As I have said parents want their children to be safe and happy.  Ultimately lasting safety and happiness can only be found in Heaven.  What a tragedy to be safe and happy in this world and to lose eternal safety and happiness in the process.  The only thing worse than that is to be miserable in this world and to be miserable in the next!
Everything we think, do and say ought to ordered to ensuring our safety and happiness in Heaven with God.  We need to choose eternal life by our faith in Christ and our behaviour, by how we love those around us.  That’s the most important lesson that anyone can learn in childhood.  My parents had very little in life but they at least shared with me their Faith and their love.  They believed in Jesus Christ and in the Catholic Faith and they loved me and they loved others.   They were concerned for my salvation.
We seem to have lost that in our era.  Too many assume that Heaven is easy to get into or even that it’s automatic.  Our Lord made no such promise.  He has warned us to make every effort in order to save ourselves and our loved ones.  If we do that He will look after the rest.  Our priority should be becoming truly holy.
It’s no accident that our Lord chose to have a Mother and a foster-Father.  He wanted to show us how important family life is for this world and the next.  It also points to the importance of the roles that a Mother and Father play in the family.  You are the models what it is to be not just a good mother or father, nor what it is to be a good woman and a good man but what it means to truly love and respect another in Christ. You lay down the foundations of their future relationships and life not only in this life but the next. 
So parents you aren’t just there to provide protection and comfort.  You are the primary educators, formators, of your children. It’s your foremost task.  Your task to nurture your children not only to thrive in this life but even more so in the next.  Through you your children learn what is really important.  Teachers can provide background information and skills but parents are the primary educators of their children.  From you they learn the value and beauty of being human, male and female and the unique gifts of each, as well as the gifs of reason, freedom and conscience, and how to nurture and form them.  From you they learn the value of humility and obedience.
Your children are your work of art, your highest achievement.  It is God who has empowered you to do this.  He has brought them into existence through you and He gave them to you so that you could help Him get them into Heaven.  You are co-workers with God, co-creators with Him. That mission outweighs all others.  
All the other things that we must do in life should be ordered to that goal of getting to Heaven.  That is what concerns our Father in Heaven: that through His Son Jesus, and with the help of those around us, each and every one of us gets to the safety and happiness of Heaven.  We are, all of us, meant to be about our Father’s concerns.

Monday, December 24, 2018

WE OWE HER EVERYTHING: A homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year C (Luke 1:39–45)

Some people were will tell you that Our Lady was an unmarried mother.  That was based on ignorance of Jewish marital practices back then.  Our Lady was a legally  married woman from the time of her betrothal and if you had called her an ‘unmarried mother’ back then she and St Joseph would‘ve given you a hiding to remember.  Just because it has become socially acceptable now, to some extent, doesn’t mean it was back then; not at all.   By the way if anyone ever says to you that Our Lady was an ‘unmarried mother’ you have my permission to wash out their mouths with soap.

In Luke’s Gospel just before the passage we have just heard our Lady has just been told that God wants her to be the Mother of His Son.  She has said ‘yes.’  Having got this extraordinary news and having committed herself to God’s plan she heads off to Ain Karem, the traditional home of John the Baptist, near Jerusalem.  That’s a journey of between 95 to 100 miles, a good bit further than a hike to Dublin or Cork from here, and she did it on foot unless she got a lift on a donkey.  That’s a journey made on rough roads too with the danger of robbers, thieves and other evil men.  Why did a young woman make such a journey?
Our Lady was compelled by charity for Christ her son was already working in and through her.  He had already begun His mission and she was ever the perfect instrument of His will.  St Francis calls Our Lady the “Virgin-made-Church” and as both the Mother of Christ and His Body, and part of the people of God the Church, she reaches out in care and concern to Elizabeth in her need.
Elizabeth was Zechariah’s wife.  Zechariah was a priest who served in the Temple in Jerusalem.  Elizabeth is the Greek version of the Hebrew name Elisheba.  The original Elisheba who was Aaron’s wife and therefore sister-in-law to Moses, and her name means ‘God is my abundance’.  Her name may  also be a sign that she, and her cousin Mary, are themselves of priestly descent.  This is a priestly home.  One did not merely enter such a house but had to be careful not to breach any of the purity laws.  Mary marches in because she is the purest of human beings and now home to the Purest, the Holiest of all, God Himself made man.  She has through her ‘yes’ to God become holier than the Temple.  She has become the Holy of Holies.

Our Lady greets Elizabeth and on hearing the greeting John the Baptist leaps in his mother’s womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit; God has filled her with His abundance.  Immediately Elizabeth cries out in prophecy for the Holy Spirit has revealed to her who Mary is carrying in her womb. Elizabeth is the first after our Lady to hear the Gospel in its essence.  God has become fully man.  God has fulfilled and over fulfilled His promises.  He had promised a priest to offer a truly perfect sacrifice, a prophet, likes Moses, to teach the people how to live truly holy lives and a king like David to rule God’s people forever.  He has more than kept His promises.  He has come Himself in His Son.  John leaps in his mother womb not because he is a baby and babies kick but because he too hears the gospel in his soul.  He leaps in fulfilment of prophecy for in the Old Testament it was said that the poor in spirit, those who truly put their hope in God would leap with joy at God’s fulfilment of His promises. 
Our Lady is blessed because she believed God’s word and cooperated perfectly with the Holy Spirit.  She actively engaged in the conception of her Son and our salvation.  We are the body of Christ - we were in a sense also in Mary’s womb and she is our mother.  His birthday is our birthday.  We too are called to leap with joy at the message of our salvation and liberation.  We too are called to go out to those in need with the gospel of Jesus, the truth that sets us free.  

If we say yes to God and put His word into practice, take the Gospel and the teachings of the Church seriously and live them, then God will speak and act through us. We were promised this in baptism.  We are each of us members of His Body.  We are each of us priests, prophets and kings.  Each of us can offer up sacrifices pleasing to God, each of us can act and speak on His behalf, and each of us can act with His authority if we do what He commands us.  Our Lady said yes and we were given the greatest gift ever.  Let us also say yes and receive what God has to offer.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

THE REAL MEANING OF THIS SEASON a homily for the Second Sunday in Advent Year C

I remember when my niece was born.  She was a month premature and weighed only six and a half pounds. She was so small and vulnerable yet what I remember most was the heat that came off her.  Without her Mam and the nurses she was helpless.  Christ too was helpless when He was born among us.  He was helpless at His birth and He was helpless at His death on the Cross.  We can say that Christ was born in the shadow of the Cross.  He, the All-Holy, All-powerful God made Himself helpless for us who are without help without Him.
It is so easy to bury the wonder of this approaching feast of Christmas under excessive eating and drinking, under presents, (wanted and unwanted), to build ourselves up to expect some perfect event that can never happen in our fleeting and fallen world.  It is because we are fallen that we so easily take our value from the wrong source.  It is because we are fallen that it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of imposing our own will on others, to try to put ourselves at the centre of everything rather than recognise that the only centre that can ever be is God.  From that temptation to put ourselves at the centre flows all our troubles and sins, from squabbles over what's for dinner right up to who controls what valuable resources.  All our moral ills in this world flow from that one source: we take our measure from the wrong template.  
Please bear with me for there is a point to what I am about to say.  While we are made in God's image and likeness, you and I do not matter.  We, each of us, individually and collectively, are of no importance.  One day most of us will be completely forgotten, gone without a trace at least from the perspective of this world.  Even the few who are remembered for some time will be but footnotes, background noise to someone else's life.  To those whose hope is for this world we are not important; we are nothing and of no value in and of ourselves.
The mystery and wonder of this season and the coming feast is that our true value comes not from ourselves, not from what we have nor from our achievements, not from what we have made of ourselves nor from what we leave behind.  Our true value comes from what God has given us.  In choosing to become one of us God has glorified us.  More than this He if offering each one of us access to the very heart of God forever.  
He could've created us and left us in a state of natural bliss but that was not enough for Him.  After our first parents fell He could've simply declared us forgiven but that was not enough for Him.  Nothing was good enough but that He should enter our world and become fully human.  Nothing was good enough but that He should offer the perfect, eternal obedience and love of the Son on the Cross of Calvary to the Father on our behalf.  Nothing was good enough but that He should make us one Body, one Spirit with Him, His Temple, and that He should feed us with Himself, heal our wounds Himself and unite us with the Most Holy Trinity in Himself.  Nothing was good enough but that He should give us Himself, completely and without reserve.  It is He who declares us and makes us valuable.  He gives us His own infinite value. It is from Him that we derive our dignity and worth.  It is a value that we cannot lose because it is founded in Him not in us.   
The true foundation of all our celebrations is not the birth of a baby - they are born all the time - but the birth of a baby who is also God.  If He was not God then His birth is no more worth celebrating that anyone else's and if He is wasn't human then He cannot have been born and He cannot have died and we are not saved. 
All our traditions of this season point to this mystery.  In the ancient world colours were expensive.  Purple came from a sea-snail.  When caught and crushed it gives a small amount of a greenish-yellow substance but expose that substance to the sunlight and it turns purple.  To the ancients it was magical that the divine sunlight could work such a transformation and purple came to symbolise not only luxury but royalty and divinity.  For the Church it came to mean more.  It points to Christ’s action in becoming human.  He has descended into the darkness and chaos of this world and lifted us into the light of His grace, transforming our nature through the Sacraments and giving us a share in His Royal Divinity.
The Christmas tree too points to the Mystery of Christ for it represents the Cross.  The Cross is the true Tree of paradise which bears fruit for our healing and sanctification.  That's why we cover it with baubles and glitter to symbolise the graces and blessings that come to us through Christ’s Passion.  Our Christmas dinner, is meant to be an icon of the Mass in which we already share in the eternal Feast of Heaven.  Therefore if you get the chance to give someone a place at your table you should take it for then Christ will welcome you at His in Heaven.
Everything about this season points beyond itself to Calvary, through and beyond Calvary to Heaven.  Even the presents are not just echoes of the presents given by the Magi still less are they mere signs of affection and appreciation.  We can do that anytime of the year.  The presents are meant to symbolise the gift we are given in Christ.  
The conception and birth of a child is an act of hope and trust in God.  Every life is sacred for each one is made in His image and likeness.  More, each one of us is made for eternal life with God.  The birth of Christ means we are no longer nothing.  We are no longer valueless.  Our value comes not from us but from God who has made us equal to Himself in giving us a place in His Son.  We are, each and every one of us, equal to God because God has made us so.  This is the true magic of Christmas.  God has emptied Himself.  He holds nothing back.  In His birth we are reborn.  We are no longer mere humans, here to strut our stuff for a few years and then fade away.  In Christ we are a new Creation, cracked pots called to become Immortal Diamonds, filled with the treasure that is Christ. Our task in Advent is to clear out of our lives everything that stands in the way of doing His will.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

BE READY FOR THE RETURN OF THE KING a homily for the Thirty-third Sunday, year B (Mark 13:24–32)

My mother was born in 1927.  I can imagine her telling me “Don’t tell them that!”  She was old enough to remember the kind of sermons that were once given.  She told me she would get a thrill from being told that someone once sat where she sat that was now burning in hell.  Thank God we don’t preach like that anymore.  If you want to read stuff like that you can look up a man called von Cochem, a nineteenth century priest, whose stuff is still in print.  His sermon on Heaven is beautiful but his stuff on Hell - well, he preached on Hell like he was born and bred there.
Somehow though the idea has gotten around that we will all of us, or most of us, get to Heaven.  That’s not Church teaching.  Our Lord never, ever, anywhere gives us that idea.  In fact, in some places He seems to say the opposite.  All we know is that we do not know how may will be saved or how many lost.  Our Lord has left us in suspense and we have to trust to His mercy as long as we sincerely repent and try to love God and our neighbour.
That brings us to this Sunday’s Gospel passage.  But first I must clear up something from the very end of it:  How can the Son not know what the Father knows? Is our Lord not fully God?  He is but the Lord Jesus was truly God and truly man.  He had both a Divine and a human nature, a Divine and a human will, a Divine and a human mind, Divine and human knowledge. In saying that He does not now the hour of the Last Judgment our Lord speaks of His human knowledge. He could know things as God yet not know them as man.  That is a mystery to us because we are not God, we are not even perfect and sometimes we don’t even know our own minds!
But what He does not know as man is only WHEN the Judgment of mankind will come but He knows and He warns us that it will come.  On that day all the powers of the Universe both natural and supernatural will be shaken and disturbed, and He, the God-man, will return, no longer hidden, but brilliant as lightning, and accompanied by the countless angels of His army.

The generation that will not pass away does not refer to the generation alive at that time but to the ‘generation’ of the time between His Ascension back to the Father and His return in glory to judge the living and the end:, that is, US!
What He reveals to us is eternal truth.  We have been warned.  The day of his return and our judgment will come and we ought to prepare for it.   The Church has always taught, based on Scripture, that there is both a particular and a general judgment.  
The particular judgment comes when we die.  Remember those two basic facts, basic certainties in life: death and taxes.  You may avoid or evade paying taxes but you will never avoid or evade death.  Each of us will die.  The older we get the more certain we are of that and with death will come facing God and accounting for every thought, word, and deed and for every good deed not done. We will see our whole lives in the light of God’s generosity and loving mercy.  We will know every opportunity taken or missed.  We will see clearly what we have made of ourselves and whether or not we have sincerely loved God and our neighbour, whether or not we have sincerely repented for each and every wrong done.  It will happen.  ‘When’ we do not know but each moment brings it closer.
Those who die in the state of grace having lived holy lives will enter immediately into the beatific vision -  the blessing of infinite joy and the eternal sight of God, impossible for us to imagine.  Those who die imperfect, repentant but in need of conversion go to purgatory to do there what they should have done here - to learn to sincerely love.  Those who die unrepentant are lost forever in the torments of Hell.  Yes it exists and yes, you and I could go there if we do not repent and learn to love as the Lord has asked of us.  
The general judgment will come at the end of time when He brings everything in the created Universe to an end.  On that day we will all face God together and know the truth. It could be tomorrow or it could be in a billion billion years - we don’t know.   
Some will mock and dismiss such teaching.  Yet at Fatima in 1917 our Lady came to warn us.  At Fatima 50000 people gathered in pouring rain for the final appearance of our Lady.  They saw the Sun pulsate in the sky and seem to rush towards the earth.  Only our Lady’s intervention stopped it.  When it was all over they and the ground around them were all bone dry.  Secularist journalists had been there to mock and saw what happened and to be fair to them it was all reported in the Portugese secular press.  She warned us but who listened?
My father died in September 2011 and my mother in April 2012.  Their home is sold, all their clothes given away, and most of their knick-knacks.  The sets of china that my mother would not let us touch went to a charity shop.  That has been a lesson for me.  When we leave this world we take nothing with us except the good and the evil we have done.  Why worry and fret over what will not last?  

What can we do then to prepare for that judgment?  Take the gospel seriously.  Take our Lady seriously. Seek the conversion of your life and make reparation for all the indifference, lovelessness and sin in the world that so offends God.  Fast, pray, and do penance for yourself and for others.  Do as much good as you can especially to those who cannot thank or reward you.  This is the best remedy for sin after repentance and confession.  While we are in this world let us prepare for our end.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

GOD WANTS OUR TOTAL FAITH NOT OUR COIN A homily for the Thirty-Second Sunday, Year B (Mark 12:38–44)

Imagine for a moment a huge stone platform 90 ft high, ten stories or 30 m, stretching all of Ormonde street down to High street to just past Rothe House and from High Street up to a line between the end of De Loughry place and the old Atlantic store on Lower New Street.  All one stone platform, 144,000 sq.meters.  It’s still there in Jerusalem - one huge platform for the Temple and its surrounding plaza.  The most important building, the Temple itself, stood in the middle of one side.  It was about the same size as St Mary’s Cathedral but wider, almost 90 ft. No one ever went in there but the priests.  Along another wall was another building open on one side were people could gather and the other walls had covered walkways.  
The Treasury was in the court of the women, that is, of women Jews.  Apparently there were thirteen wooden boxes with trumpet shaped funnels that rang when coins were dropped in.  Each box collected offerings for different purposes.  Her offering seems to have been a simple gift of two lepta, two small copper coins.  What she gave, all she had to live on as our Lord tells us, was very little.  The denarius was the usual pay for a twelve-hour work day for a labourer.  Those two small coins would equate to only a few minutes work.  In other words the coins were next to worthless, she had nothing to live on.  She was destitute and yet she gave her little away.

This Gospel passage could be used to speak about why and how much we should support the Church and the clergy but that would miss the point.  Those who wonder about what happened to the woman afterwards also miss the point.  Our Lord is pointing to her because she truly believed and truly worshipped. This poor woman could’ve held onto her coins, near worthless though they were, for herself.  There would’ve been nothing wrong in that.  It would’ve been prudent to do so.  Yet her faith was such that she trusted in God’s power to provide for her and to save her and so she gave to help others.  She entrusted herself entirely to God not realising that He was sitting there watching her.  

She is not alone in Scripture.  She stands in a long line of widows and women of faith. There was the widow of Zarephath, again a woman who was not a Jew, who had only a little flour and some oil to feed herself and her child but who listened to the prophet Elijah, trusted in God and God provided for her so that they survived the famine.  There was king David’s great-grandmother Ruth who though not a Jew remained faithful to her mother-in-law and returned to Israel a widow.  Despite her poverty she trusted in God and He provided for her.   God provides for those who entrust themselves to Him and cannot be found wanting in generosity.
The Jewish law commanded that they care for the poor, the widows and the orphans yet this was not done.  In fact the Scriptures tell us that often the externals of the law alone were observed.   The poor and the needy were neglected and the rich took their wealth as a sign of their righteousness, moral worth and superiority.  Things don’t really change do they?  Wealth can easily make us think we are better than those who have nothing.  Real wealth is faith and grace.  Without the grace of God we are indeed poor.
There are times in our lives when our faith is tested. It is easy to believe when times are good and life is easy.  It is much harder when we find the going tough.  It could be the long or serious illness of a loved one, a spouse or a child, or our own suffering.  It could be unemployment, difficult work conditions, relationship difficulties, or any of a long list of troubles that can afflict us. It could be that we are offered an opportunity to sacrifice in order to help someone else. It is at these times that our faith is tested. 
When I say our faith is tested I do not mean that God needs to find out.  God already knows how strong or weak our faith is.  God already knew Abraham’s faith when He asked him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved.  Abraham discovered how deep his faith in God was, indeed how deep Isaac’s faith was, when he actually reached for the knife to kill his own son and was only stopped by God’s intervention.  God, in testing Abraham, led him to a deeper faith and trust in God.
Mark in this Gospel passage presents us with a choice.  We can be like the Pharisees who have faith in our own worth, comparing ourselves to others, keeping up with the Joneses, who give only out of our surplus, only what we have to give, and who trust entirely to our own efforts for our salvation or we can be like the poor woman who entrusts herself entirely to God’s mercy and providence.
If we place our whole hope in God’s power to save us and put ourselves entirely in His care God will not be found  wanting.  I am not recommending that you put your entire weekly income into the collection plate or a charity box but that you put your faith in God and not in your own efforts.  Our good deeds must flow from our faith and trust in God, as a response to His goodness and love.  It was such a faith that built this church and our cathedral.  It is such a faith that makes saints.  God does not need our money.  He wants our faith.


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