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.


Related Posts with Thumbnails