The proclamation of the Good News demands a response. The question is: is Jesus truly who he said he was? Is so, what is your reaction? Are you going to change your life like so many of the figures in the Gospel who follow Jesus on "the Way" or are you going to carry on with your life as if nothing has happened. Simply knowing about Jesus is insufficient: "Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But the Lord will say, 'I do not know where you come from; go away from me you evildoers!' " (Lk 13: 26-27) The journey of salvation is not an easy one, A sense of entitlement cuts no ice with the living God. Nominal religion that bears no fruit for the Kingdom and attributes magical qualities for the sacraments to make up for our deficiencies is futile. The danger is that we will find ourselves exclude from the glory which we professed with our lips but failed to witness to in our deeds. Others who we have disregarded or snubbed will enter the Kingdom ahead of us and eat at God's heavenly banquet: "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God." (Lk 13: 28-29)
Thursday, 11 July 2019
In the Second Reading for today St Paul states: "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died." (1 Cor 15: 20) For many people in contemporary society distinctions of this sort are noxious. The demand is for equal pay, marriage equality and equality in other areas of life. That Christ and his Mother should have priority in the resurrection, when we are glorified in body and soul, seems to be unfair. Yet, St Paul clearly states: "But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ." (1 Cor 15: 23) Our Lady, above all others, belonged to Christ as the first and greatest of his disciples. It is fitting, therefore, that she should share first in the fullness of the life that God offers us in the resurrection. We need to be mindful that the complete experience of what God wants for us is still yet to be revealed. We still need to overcome the obstacles of our own encounter with the cross since: "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Cor 15: 26) We are not left alone, however, because the sacraments give us a foretaste of the heavenly banquet to which we are called and will enjoy in the presence of Our Lady and all the saints.
Thursday, 4 July 2019
When we gather for Mass on Sunday we do not do so as an isolated group of people. We are in communion with the Universal Church. Around the globe thousands of congregations from the jungle to the desert to the Arctic to remote islands are offering up the sacrifice of the Mass. Not only that: "Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us." (Heb 12: 1) Throughout the liturgical year we can see the feasts of the saints and martyrs who are emblematic of the entire Church which has handed on the Catholic faith we rejoice in today. Those witnesses cheer us on so that might, in our turn, hand on the faith intact and join them ultimately in glory. We are heartened in our daily struggles when we are mindful of the destination that God has in store for us and the whole human race: "Established in the present era of time, the Church was made manifest by the outpouring of the Spirit. At the end of time she will achieve her glorious fulfillment. Then, as may be read in the holy Fathers, all just men from the time of Adam, 'from Abel, the just one, to the last of the elect,' will be gathered together with the Father in the universal Church." (Lumen gentium, 2) This destiny does not separate us from the world rather it involves us intimately with its own struggles: "The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those of the poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the followers of Christ." (Gaudium et spes, 1)
Jesus said to his disciples: 'Do not be afraid little flock, for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom'." (Lk 12: 32) It is true, we often feel like a "little flock" even though the world wide Catholic population is often listed as being over one billion people. We are, also, often afflicted by fear as we see our society changing in ways we do not understand and seem to threaten our beliefs. We feel threatened by wolves who prey on the defenseless. Just as for the first disciples, so for us now, it is comforting to hear that the Father protects us and cares for us so graciously. The Kingdom does not have to be earned by our efforts or conquered using our blood and suffering. No, it is a gift he is pleased to give to us his flock. As we attend Mass this day may our hearts be consoled by this promise and filled with gratitude that we are the heirs, joined with Christ, to so great a mystery.
"Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity." (Eccl. 1: 2) Contemporary culture tends to think of vanity as excessive self regard. A culture obsessed with appearances can be tempted to think that things are what they appear to be and ignore the deeper truth. In the context we are given today "vanity" means more than that. It has a sense of "futility" or "in vain." St Paul writes: "... for creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope..." (Rom 8: 20) It is not just my good looks that are destined to fade! The tangible and material are destined to pass away. Christians, therefore, live contrary to their faith if they are fixated on money, social status and possessions: "... because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal." (2 Cor 4: 18) We need to be convinced, in this materialistic age more than ever, that our work for the Kingdom is what constitutes true and everlasting value: "Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain." (1 Cor 15: 58)
Wednesday, 3 July 2019
The conclusion of the Gospel passage today is one which has been on my mind as I look to embark on a parish strategy of evangelization. I have heard many testimonies recently from people about their experience of the Holy Spirit. Jesus says: "If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Lk 11: 13) The key phrase to my mind is not what God is for we know from the Lord's Prayer that he is our Father. What is most striking is that we need to ask him! God does not force the Holy Spirit upon us. We need to make space in our lives and our prayer for the Holy Spirit and explicitly, trustingly and humbly ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is that God will respond and so many people can testify to that. I challenge all parishioners to open their heart and indeed the whole of the being to the Holy Spirit and to make an act of faith in the same Spirit that descended upon the disciples at Pentecost.
The story of Mary and Martha, I propose, should not be over spiritualized. Martha welcomes Jesus into her house (Lk 10: 38) but is then: "distracted by her many tasks." (Lk 10: 40) Instead of listening to Jesus and being responsive to his needs she acts out her compulsion to "get things done." Even worse, she wants the Lord to rebuke her sister for not following her example: "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me." (Lk 10: 40) Jesus does not tell Martha not to do her work but he does identify Mary's desire to be an attentive disciple as being the better part for she: "... sat at the Lord's feet and listened to what he was saying." (Lk (10: 39) How many of us, as lifelong Catholics would long to sit at the Lord's feet in person and listen to him! That is what you would think. Yet, how many of us Catholics find ourselves so overwhelmed with taking children to sport, visiting ageing parents, cleaning the house, doing the shopping, cooking Sunday lunch, etc that we fail to attend to the Lord's Word at Mass or, even worse, do not get to Mass at all. Sunday Mass is the source and summit of the liturgy and the foundation of our life of faith. It is the pledge of divine help in the present and of a share in God's life in the future. It is, indeed, the better part.