23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Lk 14:25-33
1. “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.” These appear to be harsh words. At a recent day of ongoing formation for priests, one of the speakers – herself a mother of four as well as a respected theologian and writer – was addressing the theme of the day: Home is a Holy Place. She asked: is it? Is the home, of its very nature, a holy place? Or does it need to be made holy? Whilst for many (hopefully most), home is truly a holy or at least happy, place, home can also be a place which destroys people, where there is cruelty and abuse. Even if this is not the case, it is less common than it used to be in families for prayers to be said together or for children to beencouraged to seek a vocation of total commitment to Christ. It is possible for home and family to be exalted to such a degree as to come between the individual and God.
2. The Jesus who says we must “hate” our nearest and dearest is the same who condemns the pharisaical neglect of family under the pretext of declaring whatever parents would have gained from their son to be Corban (i.e. given to God) so that he no longer has to do anything for his father or mother cf. Mk 7:11. St Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer comments on these words as follows: “These words indicate simply that we cannot be half-hearted when it comes
to loving God. Christ’s words could be translated as ‘love more, love better,’ in the sense that a selfish or partial love is not enough – we have to love others with the love of God.” (Christ is Passing By, 97)
3. Great saints and martyrs showed true love for their closest relatives by putting eternal life with Christ first. St Thomas More, despite being entreated by his family, refused to accept the Act of Succession, preferring to prove himself God’s servant first. St Francis of Assisi was prepared to lose the favour of his father in order to follow Christ in poverty. St Paul Miki, one twenty six Japanese martyrs who were executed in 1597, was from an aristocratic Japanese family but embraced the Jesuit vocation which eventually led him to crucifixion. Many a young man or woman has known the pain of misunderstanding and disinheritance when they have converted to the Faith, or embraced a priestly or religious vocation. Jesus knows that his journey through this life isheading towards the Cross. Anyone who follows him must know the cost involved if they are to persevere.
22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Lk 14:1.7-14
1. “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take your seat in the place of honour... No; when you are a guest, make your way to the lowest place and sit there...” I think it is safe to assume that the Lord is giving more than a lesson in wedding reception etiquette. There is a tendency in certain quarters to see the teachings of Jesus as nothing more than moral or ethical maxims to be observed to ensure harmonious relationships between each members of the human race. Yet this would be to empty him of his messianic character and divine nature. No, Jesus is getting to the heart of what it is to be capable of receiving the Divine Mercy when he says that “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”
2. In her canticle of praise of the Almighty, uniquely given to us in the Gospel of Luke, Mary proclaims: “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.” (Lk 1:46-49) Humility is an essential virtue for any disciple of Christ who wishes to rise to the heights of union with him, to be summoned to a higher place at the table. It is not wrong to desire to be at a higher place. As it is a privilege and an honour to be seated close to the bride and groom
at a wedding reception, so each of us yearns in our hearts to be close to the action at and keen participants in the wedding feast of the Lamb.
3. And surely this is the wedding feast the Lord is referring to in his lesson – the holy sacrifice of the Mass, during which Christ and the Church are timelessly wedded to one another. At Mass, we are invited as “the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind” – the Church – who are incapable of repaying the bridegroom for the immense privilege of being invited to the Lamb’s Supper. During the Mass, the Lord has regard for our low estate. We come hungry, and he fills us with good things. (Cf. Lk 1:53) Those, on the other hand, who come not in poverty but rich leave empty handed. If one may be permitted to adapt slightly the invitation that the priest makes before Holy Communion: Beati (pauperi) qui ad coenam Agni vocati sunt. – Blessed are (the poor) who have been calledto the supper of the Lamb.
21st Sunday Year C
Lk 13: 22-30
1. The key to understanding this strange passage in Luke is the first verse we read (v.22) where we are told that Jesus was “making His way to Jerusalem.” In Luke Jerusalem is the place of suffering and death and also the point from which the Gospel of salvation will be spread through the whole world. The person in the crowd asks. “Will only a few be saved’?” Jesus with His face looking to Jerusalem concentrates not on numbers but on the means to salvation. Salvation begins in Jerusalem and so it begins with the cross. Where the Saviour has gone those wishing to be saved must follow. Many of us try to avoid the cross but still want salvation, like wanting to go for a swim but not wanting to get wet. This is the narrow door.
2. Because of the reality of sin the cross is an essential part of who Christ is. It must also be an essential part of who a Christian is. In the rite of baptism the sign of the cross is made on the person’s forehead at the doors of the Church. before they enter. It is as if the cross is the key to the door which opens the way to the Eucharistic banquet. If we try to avoid the cross we throw away’ the key’. The fact we have to knock on the door and request to be let in betrays that we have denied an essential part of what it is to be Christian. Of course Christ will not recognise us in such a changed state and so different to Him. The Eucharistic banquet itself is founded on the cross and is a sacrificial meal.
3. Jerusalem is not just the place of the cross but the beginning of salvation for the whole world. It is from here that all people from cast and west, from north and south are called. When Jesus looked to Jerusalem then. He not only saw the cross but also what it would achieve. The arms of the cross stretch out from Jerusalem to embrace the whole world. It is strange that a Gospel passage which began with a question of whether only a few will be saved now embraces every nation and every generation. The narrow door is summed up in the name Jerusalem. It is a door open to everyone, but it is a door opened only by the key of the cross.
20th Sunday Year C
Lk 12, 49-53
1. Luke’s gospel is the gospel of the Holy Spirit, whose inspiration is characterized by joy and a universal message of salvation starting from Jerusalem. (cf. Lk 4, 14; 24,32; 24, 45-47) It is also the gospel with the hardest sayings and most uncompromising attitudes. (Lk 13, 5; 11,37-52). Jesus’ fire consumes complacency and shatters natural boundaries with a supernatural call to action for salvation. No revolutionary was half as radical as Christ, no fire-brand more shatteringly eloquent and to the point. The Good News burns hearts and divides families, but it also lights up the way through darkness. Faltering footsteps find no path to Christ. There is no going back. 2. But Jesus does not wish us to travel
any road that he has not already hallowed by his presence. The baptism of fire that he must undergo upon the Cross smoulders already in anticipation within his soul, not out of some weird craving for the atrocious pain of execution but because of the universal salvation that his Passion will effect in the world. Our Lord’s distress and natural revulsion from the agony of Calvary will later be intensified in Gethsemane.(Lk 22,39-46). For now his face is set like flint for Jerusalem (cf. Lk 9, 5-11) the city from which his salvation will ignite the world.
3. English history has seen all too literal an application of this hard saying in the sufferings of the Catholic martyrs of the Reformation period. It is true that many of every Christian denomination died for their conscience during this time and all are rightly commemorated in their various churches and ecclesial communions each year. But the preeminence of the Mass and loyalty to the successor of Peter are sublime truths so important for the mission of Christ and the integrity of the Church that those who were willing to give their lives to uphold them are worthy of special veneration.
19th Sunday Year C
1. In this Gospel we hear instructions on selling possessions, being always vigilant and receiving punishment. These are generally considered in a negative context. But this Gospel passage begins with encouraging words. Christ calls His disciples His “little flock”, a term of endearment. He also states that the Father is pleased to give them the Kingdom. In this light we see that renouncing possessions is necessary so that our hands and hearts are free to be able to take hold of the kingdom already’ offered. If we already’ have our ‘hands full’ with the things of this world there will be no room for the things of the next.
2. To watch and be vigilant is also a positive thing. When we are excitedly awaiting the arrival of someone or something which will give us joy and pleasure we cannot take our eyes off the road which will bring them. If we really do hold the Kingdom of God as our greatest treasure then a watchful attentiveness is natural. Our God is so ready to invite us to His table that He has offered to serve us Himself. Indeed, in the parable Christ describes how the master will put on an apron, the garment of a servant. He has in fact already done much more than this. He put on the nature of His creatures. And He did it in such a way that He will never put it off as we might take off an apron.
3. Even punishment in this context has a positive side. God has freely chosen to associate ordinary human beings in 1-lis work. We all of us have some responsibility to respond to God’s offer of the Kingdom. Some have been given even more so that they can share in the work of making known God’s great gift. When we abuse this responsibility’ the justice of God punishes. This is not a vindictive punishment but rather a proof that He takes us seriously. Our decisions and actions have consequences which touch eternity itself. No other creature is given such dignity.
18th Sunday Year C
Lk 12: 13-21
1. A man shouts from the crowd. Whoever he was, he made no attempt to enter into any personal relationship with Jesus yet he wished to use Jesus’ authority for his own ends. The man in the Gospel called on the justice of God, or at least wished to turn the justice of God towards his own desires. Among many today the trend is to call on the love of God or at least to turn the love and mercy of God to their own desires. It is usually called upon to excuse any manner of behaviour and life-style, even that which is clearly’ in opposition to the words of Jesus in the Gospels. Again, an unwillingness to enter into a personal relationship with God usually accompanies this attitude. When we meet Jesus face to face we usually seek to turn our lives towards His demands not vice versa.
2. The rich man in the parable is certainly not lazy. He has worked for a good harvest, reacts swiftly to consolidate and preserve his gains and plans for the future. Who can begrudge a few years rest to a hard-working self-made man? He is not lazy, but he is a fool. There is no gift from God which cannot be used profitably in His service. So often we put these gifts at the service of other gods. usually money and sometimes ourselves. Most of us will give God part. but not the whole, of our lives. This too is foolish. If we put all our gifts at His service then it will be God who says to us. “Eat. drink, have a good time!” Better to hear these words from His lips than the one word in the parable which summed up the rich man’s life: “Fool!”
3. Much of our daily news and most of our political energy centres upon the economic welfare of the citizens of our land. It is easy to be led into thinking that this is indeed the most important aspect of our lives. Such an attitude can easily take over. We may not reject God outright, but our quiet disregard for Him is just as devastating. The fact that it is quiet and unnoticed makes it all the more dangerous for us. In the end, our financial well-being is no more permanent than castles in the sand, washed away by the ebb and flow of the tide. When faced with death even mighty rulers would readily swap ‘their kingdom for a horse’. Let us not leave our reckoning to such a late stage. since eternal happiness can begin here in time when we hoard up treasure with God.
17th Sunday Year C
1. The ‘Our Father’ only appears in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. The version in Matthew is longer and is taught in the context of the Sermon on the Mount. Here in Luke it comes about because the disciples see Jesus praying and want to do the same. Jesus Christ shows what every man could be and in fact should be. It is not surprising that this impulse to imitate occurs when they see Jesus in prayer. Prayer. communication with our God, is what makes us truly human, As the Old Catechism said. God made us to know Him, love Him and serve Him. This requires that we be in communication with Him. Prayer fulfils the very’ reason we were created. The disciples sense this: so do we.
2. Holding God’s name as Holy is the attitude of being a creature towards our creator. It sums up our whole existence. Yet the ‘Our Father’ focuses in on one particular aspect of our lives: forgiveness of others. This is the only part of the prayer which demands a commitment and pledge from the one praying. When we forgive we are not finding excuses for the one who has wronged us. Nor are we being asked to consider the hurt caused to us as insignificant or petty. No-one can buy or earn forgiveness. Many wrongs can never really be righted. To forgive, then, is to give an absolutely free gift. This makes the forgiver God-like. In prayer we enter communion with God and become more like Him. Forgiveness is an active instance of a deep prayer life.
3. From the ‘Our Father’ we see that prayer is not just asking for things from God. But we should not feel bad that we spend much of our prayer in petition. Behind the selfish motives in petitioner prayer is a deep recognition that God is the source and the only source, of everything which can bring our happiness and wellbeing. This brings practical consequences. We must persevere, since perseverance proves our trust that only God has the power and wants to make us happy’. Also, only He knows fully what good things we need for our well-being and happiness. Many of our prayers crash on the rocks of our plans and selfish motives. We must have the trust to leave the finer details to ‘Our Father.
16th Sunday Year C
1. It was Martha who invited Jesus and welcomed Him into her home. Her worries about the preparations for the meal are really only a manifestation of her whole life of fretting “about so many things”. It is a good and noble thing to work, but work can sometimes be used as a way to avoid facing more important aspects of life. In this case it becomes an escape from the one thing necessary which is our relationship with God. Perhaps Martha has not got the courage to sit and listen for fear of what she might hear about herself. 2. Another aspect of the ‘work-filled’
lifestyle should be considered – especially by priests. It betrays a lack of trust in God’s capacity to work. Activism is not only an escape from deeper realities but an attitude which puts more faith in the endeavours of men than in the movement of the Spirit. It is a statement that prayer cannot really achieve what human effort can. The creation story of Genesis I is perhaps the best lesson. God fixed the universe with the simple command of His word. Finally, on the last day He did absolutely nothing!
3. Mary’s attitude is described by the word ‘listening’. This is the human being at the height of its dignity. God made us so that we might know Him, love Him and serve Him in this world. We can only do that if we are open to His self-communication. Human beings were created to listen to the voice of God. Mary, sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, hanging on His every word, sums up what it is to be human.
15th Sunday Year C
1. A lawyer will seek the course of action which will prove just sufficient, no more no less. The Law of Moses cannot be treated in this way since it contains the word ‘love’ which does not admit of a course of action which is only’ sufficient. Seeking still to restrict the prescription, the lawyer wants Jesus to define His terms. Ever since Cain asked God if he was his brother’s keeper (Gen 4.9) we have been trying to restrict God’s definition of neighbour. With this parable and His own death Jesus settled the dispute. He shed His blood for everyone and asks us to do the same.
2.We usually use the word ‘neighbour’ to refer to someone who lives nearby. Jesus takes a man from Jerusalem and one from Samaria as part of His parable, two places which hated each other, They meet on the road which indicates neutral territory. The only’ thing which separates them is the history of hatred from their different places of birth. The Samaritan saw not a Jew but a helpless person. His actions cost him time and money. It must have cost the Jew his prejudice and hatred. They must have finished by seeing each other simply as brothers. If so, then the fulfilment of the Law was within the grasp of both of them. Heaven seems cheaply bought on these terms!
3. Christ uses the image of a heretic Northerner to teach the Jews the meaning of the Law. The Jews hated the Samaritans because they abandoned the Law of Moses. The Priest and the Levite were thought to be followers of the Law but on this occasion they’ chose “the other side” in more ways than one. The Law of God is not like the Highway Code which we bend as far as we can get away with (and curse our luck when we are caught out). It is the expression of God’s will for us and the way to live which is truly human. We inherit eternal life if we live by it, not as a reward, but because through the Law and God’s grace we already begin to share in God’s life.
14th Sunday Year C
1. The disciples were sent out in pairs: the servant of the Kingdom cannot work in isolation. God’s Kingdom must be preached not the servant’s. In this case there would never be a disagreement as regards the con¬tents, purpose and motivation for their preaching. However, no Christian is self-sufficient. We are members of a Body and cannot cut ourselves away from the Body otherwise we perish. Also, no one servant can presume to be universally acceptable. This is when the servant begins to think he is more important than the Kingdom. It was wisely done to send them in pairs.
2. The urgency of their work is communicated in many ways. Harvest time is short and requires immediate action. They carry no baggage and do not stop to chatter on the road so that they will not be slowed down. We have lost this urgency in our work blam¬ing our falling numbers and lack of response on the state of our society. We rarely pray specifically for vocations to the priesthood; we act as though we can manage very well without. Meanwhile the harvest is in danger of being lost. If we are to take seriously God’s will to associate us in His work then we should be more concerned and active.
3. The seventy-two return rejoicing from their mission. It would not always be so successful and the earlier comment by Jesus about being like lambs among wolves is ominous. They were also instructed to leave behind even the dirt from their feet in those towns which rejected His Kingdom. The Kingdom cannot be compromised and not even a handful of dust would be allowed to enter until it acknowledged Christ as King. Opposition soon arose and continues today. The devils will indeed submit but not without first taking their toll. Sometimes we must rejoice not in success but in the fact we have been chosen for the work and we gave our lives to it.
13th Sunday Year C
Lk 9. 51 – 62
1. “Jesus resolutely took the road to Jerusalem,” Jesus has just experienced the moment of the Transfiguration. Strengthened by his time on the mountain top with Moses and Elijah, he now sets his face, with resolution to follow the Father’s will, despite all opposition. His journey leads him now to Jerusalem, the city that shows the continuity of the old and new covenants in God’s plan. In Jerusalem Jesus will complete his exodus to God and from Jerusalem the call to discipleship will reach to the ends of the earth.
2. The disciples react badly to opposition: “do you want us to call down fire from heaven?” The disciples lack Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s will and wish to act as Elijah the prophet had done to his enemies. Jesus however refuses to act with violence and lives out his early teaching of non-retaliation. His face is set like flint. This sacrificial approach must then, normally, be the best way to overcome opposition. It will have the ‘best’ results, in the truest sense of the word.
3.We have three different responses to the call to discipleship. “I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus wishes to trick noone into discipleship and shows that there is a cost to being his follower. He seeks for a whole-hearted gift of self. This might be seen as a risky strategy, even though it must be the best one. The costs seems too much for some who are invited to follow. “Let me go and bury my Father first.” Christ’s call is challenging and goes deep. But his sacrifice is making it easy for us, if we will only accept the challenge.
Corpus Christi Year C
Lk 9: 11-17
1. We cannot fail to hear the Eucharistic overtones in the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, particularly as we hear it proclaimed on this feast day. We acknowledge the Eucharistic celebration as the source and the summit of our Catholic lives: Here we are nourished not with bread and fish but with Jesus Christ himself, veiled beneath the outward appearances of bread and wine. Not food for the health of the body but a remedy for the whole of our being. Words, gestures, signs and symbols: a ritual that draws us into the very life of God. Jesus Christ is the only one who is able to satisfy the deepest hungers of the human heart, to bring us life to the full, both here on earth and in the life to come and he has chosen to do this mostprofoundly through the celebration of the Mass.
2. “We have no more than five loaves and two fish”. When we gather to celebrate the Eucharist, to offer praise and thanksgiving to God Our Father, we too are aware of our inadequacy, of the imperfections and failings in our lives. Yet like the Twelve in today’s gospel, we bring to Jesus all that we have; all that we are and place it in his hands. At the offertory of the Mass Jesus in the person of the priest receives this our offering, the bread and the wine. The humble offering of our lives is united to the one perfect offering of Jesus to his Father. In the Mass we offer the divine victim to God, and offer ourselves with him: “Through him, with him, in him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, almighty Father, for ever and ever. AMEN”.
3. We see in Jesus’ actions a concern and compassion for all of the people who sought him out. Putting his own needs and intentions to one side, he sets about addressing the needs of the crowd: spiritual and physical. He welcomes them, teaches them about the kingdom of God, cures those in need of healing and provides them with enough food to satisfy them. This remains Christ’s mission through the Church in the world today: To provide for humanity all that we require to have life in its fullest sense. As his disciples we give ourselves in some small way to cooperate in his mission. “Go in peace to love and serve the Lord”.
The Holy Trinity Year C
3 June, Jn16: 12-15
1. When we think about God, we can sometimes speak of him generically as if there were no Trinity. In our prayer we may be careless, despite perhaps beginning with the Sign of the Cross. Today’s feast reminds us that God reveals himself as three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit and that in our life of faith we are called into relationship with the one God who is three persons. In our prayer, let us always be attentive to this remembering that we always live and love in the presence of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
2. “Everything the Father has is mine; that is why I said: All he tells you will be taken from what is mine”. The Holy Spirit is sent to lead the community of Christ’s followers, the Church. In the person of Jesus, God fully reveals himself to humanity. Jesus tells his disciples that the Holy Spirit is not coming to speak something new on his own. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He comes to “glorify” Jesus by revealing to the Church all that the Father has given to Jesus. There is a perfect knowledge and love expressed between the persons of the Trinity, a single mission that the Holy Spirit continues to unfold and communicate to the Church in every age.
3. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our relationship with him is a fundamental aspect of our salvation and our hope of eternal life. Yet we can no longer see Jesus and the gospel accounts are written in a language that he never spoke. It is the Holy Spirit who guides us and makes Christ truly present to us through the life of the Church. In this way we enter into the mystery of the Holy Trinity through the ordinary events of our lives, led by the Spirit of truth into the fullness of truth.
27 May, Jn 20:19-23
1. “He breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’”. We are reminded of that first divine breath given at the creation of man out of the dust of the earth. That breath which infused man with a living soul now invests the disciples with the Spirit that makes them a New Creation. It is this life giving Spirit that will fill the hearts of the faithful and renew the face of the earth.
2. “As the Father sent me, so am I sending you”. Filled with the Holy Spirit the disciples are commissioned to go out into the world carrying the Word spoken by the Father: The Word who teaches truth, who forgives sins and heals, who loves perfectly and calls to unity. But these great men are such frail vessels, these eleven who have been entrusted with so much. Still fresh in our memories are the arguments about who is the greatest; the weakness of character exposed on that recent dreadful night and their slow wit in so many situations. Yet these are the men chosen by Jesus to bring the gospel to the ends of the earth. Jesus has chosen us too and he assures us that he will be with us his Church always, even though we muck up, even until the end of the world.3. Through Jesus’ life, passion, death and resurrection he has won victory over sin and death opening up for us the promise of life eternal. In baptism we receive the same Holy Spirit that animated Jesus throughout his life and mission. It is the same Holy Spirit which Jesus breathed upon his disciples in the upper room and which enables Christ’s mission to continue through the life of the Church. The pattern of Christ’s living , suffering, dying and rising becomes the pattern for our lives, as we are members of his living body. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. Our salvation is worked out through the details of our daily lives as the Holy Spirit dwelling within us allows us to die to our self-centredness and to live lives centred upon Christ.
Lk 24: 46-53
1. On this feast we celebrate the joyful return of Jesus to his Father in heaven. The Word that took flesh now returns, taking our humanity – victorious over death, gloriously Risen, making our way to heaven possible. Therefore his disappearing from our sight is not a source of sadness but of hope for us who seek to follow him. In baptism we have become a member of Christ’s body, in faith each day we endeavour to live out the baptism we have received. Where he, the head has gone, we, the body, hope to follow.
2. In the post resurrection gospel narratives describing Jesus’ appearance to his disciples we notice again and again that the accounts speak of him in terms of the solid bodily form of Jesus: He eats with them, invites Thomas to place his hand in his wounds, he breaks bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he eats breakfast by the lakeside. For the Jewish people, in contrast to the Greek mindset, reality was to be identified with the material and the particular. Jesus, now raised from the dead, is not a phantom. His physical ascension into heaven underlines for us that it is the same Jesus of Nazareth, truly God and truly man who now returns to his Father – and because of this each of us, body and soul, can follow.
3. After Jesus had been carried up to heaven the disciples worshipped him and on returning to Jerusalem they continued to praise God in the Temple. Their joy and praise echoes that surrounding the infancy narratives. They are to be witnesses to all that Jesus has accomplished; the salvation that was heralded by the angels has now been won for all nations.
6th Sunday of Easter Year C
1. “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him”. For many people today, it seems that God is very distant. These words of Jesus speak of an intimacy with himself and the Father that will be made possible for the believer, once the Holy Spirit is sent. There is no longer to be separation between God and man but a deep personal communion. The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives allows us to know Jesus, to love him and to keep his word. Let us hope and pray to know this reality more deeply and so become more attentive to the closeness of God.
2. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you”. There were so many things that Jesus said and did during his public life and ministry on earth, but so many more things that he was not able to speak of within the limits of that time and place. Jesus promises his disciples the gift of the advocate. It is through the Holy Spirit that this community of followers, the Church, gradually remembers all that Jesus did and said. It is through the Holy Spirit that the Church gradually understands these things in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit animates the Church so that her Tradition is able to mature as she reflects upon the Gospel message. It means that theChurch is able to speak with the confidence and authority of Christ as she encounters new situations that challenge humanity.
3. “My own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give”. We live in a world that strives for peace: peace in our world, peace in our communities, peace in our homes and peace in our hearts. Is it possible for us to have true peace when our hearts and minds remain closed to God? It is Jesus who is the Prince of Peace. During this Easter season we sing “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth”: The message of the angels to the shepherds at Christ’s birth reminds us that it is only in giving glory to God that humanity can come to know true peace on earth.
5th Sunday of Easter Year C
Jn 13:31-33a. 34-35
1. As Jesus celebrates the Last Supper with his disciples he gives them a New Commandment, “love one another, just as I have loved you”. This is not an option for the disciple: Love can be demanded because it has first been given by Jesus through his incarnation, his teaching, his healing, his preaching and all other aspects of his public ministry. This complete self-giving love is fulfilled in his passion and death upon the cross. “Man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”.
2. Through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper, Jesus anticipates his death and resurrection by giving himself to his disciples under the form of bread and wine. “This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, poured out for you”. Jesus continues to give himself to us his disciples when we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. His perfect love for us is made manifest body, blood, soul and divinity as real food that we may be able to love others “as (He) has loved” us.
3. In the parable of the Last Judgement Jesus identifies himself absolutely with those who are in need. “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me”. Our lives will be judged according to how we have loved. This means our communion with Christ in the Eucharist, where we encounter the full depth of his love, should lead to the practice of loving others and accepting their love for us. When this happens we are more readily able to recognise God’s presence and love in our lives.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER: C
29 April Jn 10.27-30
I. This passage comes in the middle of a dispute with those Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus. What sets Christ’s sheep aside from others is that they listen to His voice. This is not a popular disposition. A sign of the true Christian is that humility which gives a person an open ear to the voice of Christ. They are willing to be guided and taught and they submit their own will to the will of the Shepherd who leads them. This is the obedience of the true followers of Christ.
2. The shepherd cares for the sheep and knows what is best for them. In Palestine the shepherd eats, sleeps and lives among his sheep. This is the best way to provide protection and lead them to good pastures. Christ our Good Shepherd came to eat, sleep and live among us and thus knows our needs better than we do ourselves. He knows that the pasture every human being, without exception, craves for and seeks is eternal life and this is where He wishes to lead us. This pasture can only be found by those sheep that listen to the Shepherd and follow Him.
3. Christ’s authority to be such a shepherd is based on His union with the Father. When he pronounced the words, “The Father and I are one”, the Jews were ready to stone Him (Jn 10.31) They perceived the full force of this phrase and understood it to be blasphemy. The man from Nazareth claimed to be God. This is the foundation for our disposition to accept Him as our Shepherd since the words He speaks and the path He offers are not based on human authority but God’s. We who believe He is God and obey His voice “will never be lost”
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER: C
22 April Jn 21.1-19
In the absence of Jesus Peter decides to go fishing. It seems to be a decision to revert to that old way of life before Jesus came on the scene. As soon as Peter realises Jesus is on the shore he leaves everything again. This time it is for good. The boat is left on the water and the fish in the net. Peter knows Jesus will never leave them again. He is soon to find out that it is Peter himself who receives the mission to feed and tend the sheep. Christ the Good Shepherd remains present to His flock in Peter and his successors until the end of time.
2. The bread and fish on the shore of Galilee remind us of the meal for the 5000. Again there is overabundance, 153 big fish, and Jesus distributes the food. This time, however, it is breakfast. The disciples do not ask, “Who are you?” because they know full well who is on the shore just as those on the emmaus road knew who broke the bread. Neither do we ask who is on our altars, who is in our tabernacles, because we know full well “it is the Lord.” Christ continues His presence among us in the eucharist. tt is a presence which points to God’s superabundant generosity and a breakfast banquet which marks the beginning of a neverending day.
3. Peter is told that he will stretch out his hands and be taken where he would rather not go. This will be a far cry from the young man who denied Jesus, frightened by a maid in Caiphas’ house. As an old man his death will give glory to God. In John’s Gospel it is the cross which most reveals God’s glory. Peter will share in this. Christ continues to be present in all those who, like Peter, stretch out their hands and are led where they would rather not go that their lives may give glory to God.
SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER: C
I. Jesus, risen from the dead, still bears the marks of His earthly life. His thirty three years have not been wiped away or discarded. His wounds have not been removed. The whole of His life on earth has been taken up and transformed. Jesus in turn breathes on the apostles just as God breathed life into the man He had formed from the dust of earth (Gen 2.7) He received new existence and became a living being. So also their lives are taken up and transformed and given a new existence, they become spiritual beings.
2. This passage illustrates how the easter event is brought into the lives of all mankind. The apostles see the Lord. They are rooted in the historical reality. However, as we saw last week, theirs was not simply observation but a ‘vision of faith’. It is now their task to be witnesses of this event and instruments to bring that ‘vision of faith’ to all people. Thomas is not rebuked for seeing. As an apostle it is part of his role to see. But he refused to believe on the basis of their testimony and so he rejected their witness. We who believe accept the witness of those who saw with their own eyes. We are in the line of faith with those who were part of the historical realities. We are blessed because we have not seen but we have received the same ‘vision of faith.’
3. The reason John has written his book (Jn 20.30-31) is so that he can be one of God’s instruments to bring the ‘vision of faith’ to all his readers. For those who receive the ‘vision of faith’ the gifts are the same as those recounted at the beginning of this passage. The community of believers receives the Spirit and is made a new creation which we describe as the Church. Through the wounds of Christ in His hands and side we receive forgiveness and are given the same authority to forgive and retain as was given to the apostles. Christ’s words of peace are spoken to the Church in every age as surely as they were spoken on that first day of the week. All this John sums up as “life in His name.
I. John uses three different verbs in this passage to describe what, (or rather ‘how’), Mary of Magdala and the two disciples ‘see’ at the tomb. Mary ‘notices’ that the stone is rolled away and ‘the other disciple’ ‘notices’ the linen cloths. Peter goes into the tomb and ‘looks attentively’ (a different verb is used) at the cloths. Finally ‘the other disciple’ goes in; he sees (yet another verb is used) and he believes. In this way John uses the story of the discovery of the empty tomb to show how the easter faith of the disciples develops. It is not enough only to behold the sign. Complete sight is the vision of faith. We, whose eyes are fully open celebrate that vision today.
2. It is part of the irony common in John that he emphasises the darkness when Mary arrives at the tomb. Furthermore, the central object of attention is a tomb which is empty. In such circumstances it would seem there is nothing to see. Indeed, all that is seen is a rock and some linen cloths. But such darkness and emptiness proclaim the greatest of messages. The resting place and the garments of the dead are forever discarded. He is risen and has left them behind. From today, for those who believe, they will be only a temporary abode and apparel.
3. Until this moment they had failed to understand the teaching of scripture. The scriptures, so familiar to the disciples, take on a fuller meaning when seen in the new light of easter morning. It is not only the scriptures which are different in this light. Without the resurrection our world is like a tomb because there is nothing beyond it but dust and ashes. This familiar world takes on a new aspect in the easter light. As believers we see it as it really is. This must give us different priorities and different commitments to those who do not believe. Christians are different because they live in the light of easter.
PALM SUNDAY MASS
I. Jesus is arrested and dragged from Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives along the same route where his path was cheered just a few days earlier. The whole passage tells of such turnarounds. A kiss is used to betray the Christ. A strong fisherman is frightened by a servant-girl. Jesus is accused of inciting a revolt. Herod clothes Him in a rich cloak. Pilate and Herod forge a friendship. A rioter and murderer is exchanged for the One who said, “Blessed are the meek.” The greatest turn-around of all is only hinted at in this passage. A condemned criminal saw through the contradictions and gazed upon the reality of His God hanging on the cross next to Him. From that day he becomes known as ‘the good thief. The complete turnaround will happen three days later. The deadman rises from the tomb.
2. Only Luke in his description of the Passion tells how the Lord turns to look at Simon immediately the cock crows. Did Simon feel that look as a dagger piercing him to the heart and the crowing of the cock as an accusing cry of condemnation? Perhaps not. Condemnations like daggers bring only death. The cock heralds the dawn and Christ’s glance, while bringing a sorrow unbearable in its pain, was an invitation already to turn back. When Simon was able to open his eyes and wipe away the tears that clouded his sight the sun was already rising. On that day the Lord would die for Simon and Peter would begin again to live for the Lord.
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT: C
1. The woman was caught in the “very act” of committing adultery. The passage seems to suggest that she was placed semi-naked in full view of the people. Certainly, as regards them knowing her sins she was completely exposed. Christ too would be stripped and paraded before the people as a sinner. Though innocent, His solidarity with sinners is unbounded. So too is His power to forgive. In private, when all the others have left, Christ judges without condemnation and exhorts the sinner without discouraging. In the Sacrament of Confession we are all given the same liberating opportunity.
2. We hear that Jesus is sitting in the Temple area teaching. This was the recognised posture and place for the great teachers among the Rabbis. Perhaps the Scribes and Pharisees recognised this and wished to confront Him with their greatest teacher, Moses. In the prologue to John’s Gospel we read, “The Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (Jn 1.17) Here we have a practical example of what this verse means. This woman is given the possibility of living according to the law because of the freedom she receives in forgiveness. Christ upholds the Law and completes it by the gift of His grace, without which the Law is impossible for us.
3. Through Moses God wrote in stone. But the teaching of Moses, so steadfastly carved, was not fully grasped by those who wanted to take up stones. He who could have thrown the stone contented Himself with dust. But He succeeded in writing His teaching more surely in their hearts than Moses ever did. The eldest and wisest saw it first. How long will it take us to drop the stone and grasp the more steadfast teaching which comes from Him who scribbled in the dust?
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT: C
Lk 15.1-3, 11-32
I. The younger son asks for the inheritance before his father has even died. In a sense he is anticipating his father’s death. In a strange sense he could be said to be wanting his father’s death. When we sin we do not think of it in terms of wishing God dead but in reality we want neither God’s will nor His presence. If we do not want Him present to us at that moment to where do we hope to banish Him? We are not far from the youngest son’s disposition in wanting his inheritance before his father has died.
2. The youngest son hits rock bottom. It is not only that he must feed the swine which were considered unclean. He knows that the swine are of more value than he is. They at least are being fattened for the market. He returns to his father having pronounced sentence on himself: “Treat me as one of your paid servants.” The father, however, does not allow the son to pass such a sentence. The boy will always be a son to his father. We are sometimes frightened of going to confession or even admitting our guilt because in our minds the sentence we would pass is severe. Our Father is never so severe and will never allow us to cease to be His children. The confessional should faithfully reflect such mercy.
3. The eldest son feels no such mercy for the youngest son and subtly disowns him: “This son of yours.” The father reminds him that all the father possesses is his; he should not be jealous. He also reminds him that while he shares in all the material riches, he also shares in the relationship with his brother and should share in the father’s joy now that he is back. It is perhaps a proof of our union with God, beyond our righteous actions, that we share in such joy celebrated in heaven. Any feelings of resentment or jealousy among the ‘good’ people should be warning signs that their own relationship to the Father is not as close as it could be.
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT: C
I. During Pilate’s brutal governorship of Judaea he took some of the Temple funds to finance aqueducts for Jerusalem. It could be that the Galileans were killed during the resulting riots. It seems that Jesus is told about the Galileans among the many dead because He is a Galilean Himself. The insinuation is that because they died so violently they must have been sinners. Jesus insists that the manner of death tells nothing of the guilt of a person, but in this case it can point to a more important lesson. Death does await the hardened sinner. God is life itself and to reject God is to reject life. The resulting death is far worse than any brutal earthly governor could inflict.
2.The Jews considered untimely death to be a punishment for sin. This understanding is prevalent in various forms even today. It betrays a completely wrong impression of God. God is seen as one who has the power to judge and to take life. This is true, but it is one aspect of His being, blown out of proportion. In the parable He is represented by the man who plants a vineyard. Such a figure shows our God as a life-giver and cultivator. He only wishes to be rid of the fig tree because it is taking room where fruitful life could grow. Our God is a God of life. Only that which brings death is excluded from Him. It is sin which bears death as its fruit and must be pruned away from any tree in the vineyard of life.
3. A fruit tree is planted for a reason. If it does not bear fruit it is more than useless because it takes up precious ground. We are created for a reason: to know, love and serve God and to be happy with Him forever in heaven. We are given all the time and graces we need to bear this fruit. Lent is a time to take stock of the kind of fruit we bear. It is an opportunity to examine the reasons for living which guide our choices and lifestyle. The results of our examination may show that we need the manure of repentance and conversion. If it means we bear fruit the hard work will be well worth while.
07.03.04 Lk 9, 28-36
Mountains were places associated with divinity. Mysterious and isolated, often wreathed in cloud, majestic and permanent, the high places evoked in ancient religions those aspects and attributes they wanted to claim for their gods. But faith in the one God, the God of holiness, caused Israel to react against the squalid fertility rites of pagan worship on the mountains, which corrupted and diminished the transcendence of God. “Ÿes, the people of Judah have done what displeases me, Yahweh declares. They have set up their horrors in the Temple that bears my name, to defile it, and have built the high places of Topheth” ( Jer 7, 30 ).
Jesus claims the high places for true divinity. He seeks to pray to the Father, to be on the mountain alone with God, offering perfect humanity back to the source of all. Jesus is preparing for the Cross, for what must be in Jerusalem. He is gaining strength in his humanity, and giving strength through the power of his divinity. Peter, James and John are led up Mount Tabor to see Jesus as he really is, that they might not be broken by the scandal of the cross, but know him as the Messiah, rightfully acknowledged by Moses and Elijah.
“When we told you about the power and the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not slavishly repeating cleverly invented myths; no, we had seen his majesty with our own eyes. He was honoured and glorified by God the Father, when a voice came to him from the transcendent Glory, ‘this is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour’. We ourselves heard this voice from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain” ( 2Pet 1, 16-18 ). Peter’s betrayal of the Lord brought disaster. Who knows if it was not the memory of Tabor that inspired him to repent?
1st Sunday of Lent Year C
25 February, Lk 4, 1-13
Before Jesus starts his preaching, he goes into the desert and imitates the people of Israel who left the slavery of Egypt and wandered in the wilderness. While in the wilderness, the people received the commandments, were sustained by God with water from the rock and manna from the dust, and finally brought to the promised land. In order that we might leave slavery to sin, we must enter into the desert through fasting and abstinence and discover how Jesus gives Himself as our water of life and bread from heaven, how He is the way to eternal life.
The three temptations some up the temptations we face as we go through life. When young we are tempted to give way to our inordinate desires. When middle-aged we crave for power. When old we seek notoriety and attention. Lent is a time of special effort and grace when we deny ourselves: we try to go hungry, to act with humility, to put others first. Christ answered the Devil with words from Scripture. We must give more time and effort to prayer if we too are to succeed.
The Devil left Christ to return at
the appointed hour; The hour (of the cross). Christ has initiated the war against the Devil and we are called to join that struggle by avoiding sin and making up for past failures. Christ has already won the victory when the conflict came to a climax on the Cross. This gives us the guarantee and encouragement we need to
18 February, Lk 6, 17-38
1. Jesus addresses these instructions to “you who are listening”. Only those willing to learn from Jesus will begin to understand. These teachings are so opposed to our natural inclinations. We often use the excuse “I’m only human” or “I can’t help it, it’s my character”. In fact fallen human nature is ‘sub-human’ and it is our ‘lack of character’ which causes our failings. What our Lord asks is that we reverse this inclinations, and by cooperating with His grace and listening to His teachings that we rise above the ‘sub-human’ and reform our character.
2. Often we do good to others out of personal interest, expecting something in return. To love an enemy and give without hope of repayment is to sacrifice something of oneself. Sacrifice is at the heart of Christianity and is an essential ingredient. Sin entered the world through grasping at something which is not ours: “to be like God” (Gen3,5). Sin will only be banished from our lives if we give - give of our very selves.
3. All through the Bible the mercy of God is constantly told. Christ’s whole life was one of compassion and mercy. He asks us to be merciful to. If we are honest we recognize that the justice of God is bound to condemn us for our many sins - but God’s mercy gives us hope. The phrase “Do not judge and you will not be judged yourselves” should be constantly in our minds: perhaps it is the only chance many of us have of reaching heaven.
Lk 6,17. 20-26
1. There are great crowds from all parts following Jesus, but He “fixes His eyes on His disciples”. This teaching is for His true followers - those who will have to stand apart from the crowd and be counted…and persecuted.
2. The world says: blessed the rich, the satisfied, the happy and the famous. Yet all these things are open to the rust and moths of corruption; to think they will last forever is a terrible mistake. When they fade away only tears and emptiness areleft for those who built their lives on them. Instead, those who suffer in this world, especially those who suffer for Christ, build their lives on an eternal foundation. The truth and love of God never fade and are the essence of His kingdom.
3. The prophets are presented as the examples to follow. They gave their lives to bringing God’s word to the people. We like them, must listen for God’s Word in prayer and the Gospels, and carry His word in our life-style. We must show courage and expect the same treatment they received - but we too can hope for the same reward.
4. If we want proof that these promises will come true we need only look at Christ. He was poor, went hungry, wept, and was denounced as a criminal. After three days in the tomb He inherited the kingdom of God. We too will be heirs if we show ourselves to be His brothers by imitating His life.
Lk 5, 1-11
1. Jesus used Simon’s boat in order better to preach to the crowds. We see how Christ wants our cooperation in His work. He is happy to ask for your help, or even, not ask but take out help. No matter what we do in life, there is always something God can use. The first duty and ministry of a lay-person is to bring Christ into the home and place of work. No action, however small, is useless or insignificant - when offered to God everything can be a prayer, and no occasion is lost quietly to witness to Christ. He depends on us to be His hands, His mouth, His smile and His word of compassion and encouragement.
2. Peter could easily have said “I know best”. But he obeys Christ: “If you say so, I will…” This is true faith and trust, and is a great example to us in the twentieth century who have become so arrogant and self-assured. Peter is greatly rewarded with a tremendous catch. James and John are also called onto the scene. Service and enthusiasm in our faith is infectious. Never underestimate your silent influence on others through your open love and joy in your faith.
3. Peter’s reaction to Christ coming close to him is natural: he is overwhelmed by a feeling of unworthiness. Christ heals the sin and encourages us. When we are persuaded not to serve Christ because we feel unfit for His Work we must recognise this is the Devil speaking. Of course we are not worthy - but Christ calls us and by His grace of forgiveness transforms us into His instruments.
Sunday 30th January 2022, 4th Sunday Year C
Lk 4, 21-30
1. Following immediately on last week’s Gospel, we hear today of the reaction of the listeners. We can see the irony in their question: “This isJoseph’s son, surely?” Luke himself in 1, 34-35 tells us otherwise. Jesus’ words and actions are readily received by the crowds, but they cannot accept the claims He makes about Himself. Most of Christ’s teachings are accepted as ‘values and ideals’, as He is recognised as a ‘good and holy man’. But, unless we believe in Him as the Son of God and strive to follow His ‘message of eternal life’, then our rejection of Him is the same as the crowds’ who wished to stone Him and Pilot who crucified him.
2. The woman from Sidon shared her last meal with Elijah and was rewarded with food until the famine ended. Naaman the leper obeyed Elisha’s order to wash in the Jordan and was rewarded with healing., Neither was a Jew. None of us can make claims on God’s favour by calling on our family background or membership of a race, nation or Church. Brothers and sisters of Christ are those who hear His word and put it into practice. Love of God, shown in our obedience to His commands, and love of neighbour, shown in our service and generosity, are the greatest commandments.
3. We cannot accept Christ on our terms. Some parts of the Gospel accuse and condemn us. Either we recognise our fault and try to change or we put ourselves above Christ and are ‘enraged’ by His words. To change is hard; but to live without Him is impossible.
Sunday 23rd January 2022, 3rd Sunday Year C
LK 1, 1-4; 4 14-21
1. In the verses 1, 1-4 we find the reason this Gospel was written: to present an ordered account of what happened, as seen by the eye-witnesses. It is important to know that our fait in Jesus’ life and works is based on fact. We do not call upon fables and fairy-tales, stories conjured up to give cult status to a man from Nazareth. Our faith is in one who lived a truly human life and, through that life, communicated the fact that He was God in person. This is the foundation of the teaching we have received and believe.
2. Jesus reads the prophecy of Isaiah. In every line we recognize the prophecy is being fulfilled in His life. He is God’s chosen, anointed one, who brings hope to the poor, freedom to the slaves of sin, enlightenment through His teaching and example, and raises those weighed down by the cares and difficulties of the world. Jesus clearly claims to be the Messiah and the one who brings God’s favour. The rest of Luke’s Gospel bears this out in concrete events and experiences.
3. “This text is being fulfilled today…” The Lord’s Year of favour has not ended. The Church, as Christ’s body, continues His work through all the centuries. She brings freedom, comfort and strength in the sacraments and ‘good news’ and enlightenment in Her teachings. Christ’s reputation spread through the country-side as people heard Him teach and experienced His healing. We must spread this reputation today as His teaching and healing can still be received.
18.01.04 Jn 2, 1-11
1. There is a three-fold dynamic in John’s sacramental theology. He works signs for all to see, so that seeing we may believe, and that believing we may have life within us. This is eternal life - a light shining in the dark “that darkness could not overpower” ( Jn 1, 5 ). Thus, salvation for John is not ‘pie in the sky when you die’. It is a power in the heart of the believer here and now - the essence and attraction of Jesus ( cf. Jn 4, 1-42 ) as pure gift to those who will accept him. It is also the driving force behind the fourth Evangelist’s contemplative vision.2. “He let his glory be seen, and his disciples believed in him” ( Jn 2, 11 ). At this most homely and every-day type of occasion, salvation begins to seep into the fabric of this world. He who through whom all things were made ( cf. Jn 1, 2 ), and in whom all things are sustained, began to draw his last and dearest creation - man - into the very life of the godhead. It is a staggering claim. Either Jesus is a total madman or he is God. Yet the very sobriety of John’s simple statement that the disciples believed in him gently insists - the Word has indeed been made flesh ( cf. Jn 1, 14 ).3. Mary is the principal guest at the Wedding Feast of Cana, with Jesus and his disciples invited in a secondary capacity. If this were the launch of a new product like a computer programme or a fizzy drink, the marketing directors would be tearing their hair out. This would not be thought the way to force the product into the forefront of the consumer mind, which needs to be manipulated by every trick of an all-powerful media. But God’s way is not man’s way ( cf. 1Sam 16, 7 ). Salvation is of God, a truth deeper and a life fuller than any adman dare contemplate.
11.01.04 Lk 3, 15-16.21-22
1. Luke’s account is very much the gospel of Jesus at prayer ( cf. Lk 4, 42; 9, 18; 11, 1 ). The baptism of John was only a type of baptism, of which the baptism of Jesus is the archetype. Image gave way to reality, and Luke is concerned to make a clear distinction between John’s baptism of water and that of John’s divine cousin, Jesus, with the Holy Spirit and fire. Only after the baptism of John does the Holy Spirit descend on the Messiah, and then as the fruit of Jesus’ own prayerful communion with the Father ( Lk 3, 21 ), and not as a direct result of the baptism of John.2. John’s baptism signifies a desire for repentance and conversion of life. Jesus’ baptism makes that desire a reality through forgiveness of sins and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Only God can forgive sins, so only the baptism of Jesus eradicates sin and heals our fallen human nature from within. The baptism of fire spoken of by Luke is surely the purifying action of the Spirit throughout our lives, making effective in every day things those baptismal graces won for us by Jesus. By fire we are made light and warm, but also purified and tempered in the Christian life.3. Cleansing from the stain of Original Sin in those who accept Jesus through baptism makes salvation possible for us. It draws us to follow in the footsteps of the Master, even to accepting crosses God’s will allows us in this life. Grace must evoke a response for good or ill, because no-one can be neutral to God. To have received baptism is to have received the grace of faith. This must be nurtured through instruction and example, lest rejection of God in the lifestyle of the baptized set up an internal dichotomy that is the opposite to communion with God.
06.01.04 Mt 2, 1-12
1. Gold denotes a king, frankincense the presence of God, and myrrh the need for burial. Right from the birth and first ‘shining forth’ of the Christ child to the Three Kings, there is a forewarning of the Passion and death of Jesus. The oldest accounts in all four gospels are the Passion narratives, even in the briefer version preferred by Mark ( Mk 14-15 ). Matthew and Luke both witness to the earliest teachings of the Church, seeing an intrinsic link between the birth and death of the Messiah ( cf. Mt 2, 11; Lk 2, 34 ). There can be no salvation without redemption, no resurrection without the cross.2. Herod broods like a dark shadow ( Mt 2, 3 ) amidst the light of the shining star and the delight of the three Wise Men ( Mt 2, 10-11 ). He represents the forces of evil and damaged human nature within our world. Providence allowed the travellers from the East to stop at Herod’s palace - for Our Lord has come that sinners may repent. Even Herod is given the chance to turn from evil and welcome the new-born king. His cunning is matched only by his savagery when thwarted of his ambition to destroy this rival from Bethlehem ( Mt 2, 16-18 ). In this also is the shadow of Cross for Jesus.3. But God’s plan of salvation cannot be withstood or challenged, even by one such as Herod. Nothing can dim the joy of the Wise Men, nor dim the bright shining of the star. All can see this cosmic annunciation of the coming of the Messiah, just as salvation in Jesus will reach to the four corners of the earth and every second of recorded time. This feast is about the arrival of the Heir of all Ages among his own. It is a Mystery both sublime and humble, which embraces the whole universe in the arms of a tiny child.
04.01.04 Jn 1,1-18
1. The evangelist’s magnificent vision of the ‘Word made Flesh’ ( Jn 1, 14 ) comes through contemplation of the Divine Mystery, who is Jesus. Having made a home for Mary in his own house (cf. Jn 19, 27 ), it is hardly surprising that the cosmic significance of the Virgin birth achieves its full impact in the Prologue to John’s own gospel. Christ Jesus, who is eternally begotten of the Father, is begotten in time of the Holy Spirit, and takes on our own flesh and blood “not out of human stock, or urge of the flesh, or will of man, but of God” ( Jn 1, 13 ). Salvation is born of Mary’s co-operation.2. Heaven meets earth in the ‘fiat’ of the Virgin of Nazereth. Because she has dared to say ‘yes’ to God, the heir of the Ages can enter his inheritance, and we can be saved. St Bernard captures the drama of that moment of decision: “ Answer, O Virgin, answer the angel speedily; rather, through the angel, answer your Lord. Speak the word and receive the Word; offer what is yours, and conceive what is of God; give what is temporal, and embrace what is eternal ” ( Bernard of Clairvaux, Homilies in Praise of the Virgin Mother, no. 4 ). Mary’s assent enables John to see the glory of the Word, ‘full of grace and truth’ ( Jn 1, 14 ).3. Our Lady brings to birth Jesus in the hearts of all believers, even that of St. John. In obedience to the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word is made flesh in the lives of all faithful Christians as Mary intercedes for the Church. It was impossible for us to know God fully without Our Lady’s co-operation in helping bring about the Incarnation. So it is impossible for us to know God fully now without honouring the Divine Mother. She is not an optional extra because the flesh of Jesus is not an optional extra.
29.12.03 Lk 2, 41-52
1. This account of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is unique to Luke’s gospel. It delights us because it offers the rarest of glimpses into the hidden life of Our Lord - those thirty years of quiet before John baptized Jesus in the River Jordan ( cf. Lk 3, 21ff ). The story is unusual, but accessible and easy to imagine. Jesus’ reply to his mother still astounds us, no matter how well we think we can explain his attitude. The truth is that, for all its telling, the hidden quality of this story remains. There are mysteries here that we struggle to fathom.2. “ My child, why have you done this to us?” ( Lk 2,48 ). All Mary’s worry and concern pour out in this gentle, but direct challenge to her child. Jesus’ reply has all the matter-of-fact attitude of precociouspre-adolescent boys. He must have learnt his directness from his mother, for he gives as good as he gets. But there is a higher quality to his words, evidence of the mystical union that he always enjoys with the Father in heaven. As a human being, Jesus would have deepened in his awareness of his relationship with the Father as he developed in his humanity.3. Family life nurtures us all, and is the proper environment for human living and loving. Those who have no family need to be welcomed and allowed to grow in the family of the Church. Yet, given the fact of sin, families can also be places of breakdown and distortion. Divorce and the wholesale rejection of marriage as an unbreakable life-long union, for better or worse, mean that our present society becomes sick from within. Weneed to strive to let the Christ child be born again in our hearts today. As individuals and as a society, only he can restore brokenness.
25.12.03 Jn 1, 1-18
1. Who is this Jesus, that I might know him? John gives a majestic meditation on the person of the Word made flesh ( Jn 1, 14 ). Pre-existence permeates these verses as a theme and preparation for the words and works of Jesus in the gospel. Our Lord exists for time and eternity in the bosom of the Father, whom he took flesh to reveal. There never was a time when the Son was not. The evangelist stresses, “the Word was with God and the Word was God” ( Jn 1, 1 ). This Jesus is God, seeking relationship with his creature so that his life might be in us ( cf. Jn 1, 4-5 ).2. The wonder of the Incarnation is that God should dain to become a vulnerable and struggling child in the manger at Bethlehem. He is a king, but it will be a kingship of Christ crucified, not of this world with allits vanity and power to corrupt. Faith and trust are needed to fathom such an outrageously bizarre claim. And yet it is true, whether we believe it or not. John adds, “to all who did accept him he gave power to become children of God” ( Jn 1, 12 ). We need to get a life - a life that will last eternally.3. That life is the person of God, who seeks to meet us in Jesus. Christ is encountered in the tradition and life of the Church, in the Scriptures and in the sacraments (especially Holy Communion). It is the selfsame Lord who walked the earth two thousand years ago; who strove, suffered and died for us. His presence among us in the Eucharist is as physical and real now as it was then, but under the outward appearance of sacramental signs. His love, too, is as real now as it was then.He calls us to believe and taste his life.
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT: C
21.12.03 Lk 1, 39-45
1. None made a better preparation for Christmas than Mary: “ Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled” ( Lk 1, 45 ). Each of these holy women ministers to the other first, in the joy of the Holy Spirit, before any thought of themselves or the precariousness of their respective positions. Elizabeth was pregnant in old age in primitive conditions, and Mary herself was pregnant before she had come to live with her husband - an offense punishable by stoning in Jewish Law. As the child grows in the Virgin Mother, so she and her cousin grow spiritually.2. The exaltation of the mothers is an outward expression of the joy and communion between the children in their wombs. Elizabeth’s words to Mary burst forth in utter conviction of soul, asshe prophesies and comes to know through the Holy Spirit what would have been known only to Mary and Joseph: “Why should I be honoured with a visit from the mother of my Lord?” ( Lk 1, 43 ). John greets the Messiah, whose presence he is to announce, with his whole being as he leaps in Elizabeth’s womb. Thus he communicates the grace he has received to the mother who bears him.3. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta was fond of emphasizing after the solemn profession of her sisters that the first one to recognize Jesus was the unborn child. The scourge of abortion filled her with horror, and she never ceased to do all she could in her simple and direct way to challenge the false notion that an embryo was not a child. Her influence was profound and direct. We need to learn from her to stand upto lies that kill. Pro-life work is for all, if we are to welcome the Christ child into our lives and back into our society.
14.12.03 Lk 3, 10-18
Two Lucan themes arise immediately in this gospel: care for the poor and the powerful influence of the Holy Spirit. Various types of people come to John asking him how they can show their repentance in concrete ways. Each group receives a specific direction, but all the people are required to clothe the naked and feed the poor ( Lk 3, 11 ). This is not an optional extra in the Christian life, for, if we cannot love the neighbour whom we do see, how can we claim to love the God whom we do not? John’s own poverty would have reinforced his message.2. Only the Son can bequeath the Holy Spirit as the proper inheritance of those who accept the preaching and person of the Messiah. The fire of this Holy Spirit convicting the believer of faith in Jesus through a new and supernaturalbaptism is contrasted in no uncertain terms with the unquenchable fires of hell. No-one can be neutral to God, and none can resist the winnowing fan of our Saviour and Redeemer. If the starkness of choices laid down by the Baptist frightens us, we must realize that it is meant to. John preached a real repentance from the heart.3. Like the Master who followed after him, John associates with the sinners and degenerates of society. Tax Collectors were hated as Jewish collaborators with foreign overlords. Supplementing their income through extortion and sharp practice made them even more reviled. Luke highlights the profound reaction that John’s words had on Jewish society by reporting the repentance of this hardened group. Soldiers too were for the most part avoided, and not just fortheir brutality. They would have been Syrian mercenaries conscripted into the Roman army to serve in Israel - a traditional enemy to the Jews and much loathed.
07.12.03 Lk 3, 1-6
Luke’s gospel is characterized by its concern to write history, evoking the style of ancient Greek writers like Thucydides. In a highly dramatic opening to the account of Jesus’ public ministry, Luke orientates and defines his narrative within a specific political and religious context. We are talking about historical events occurring whilst Herod held sway in Galilee during the time of the Emperor Tiberias, when the Jewish High Priesthood was exercised by Annas and Caiaphas. The contemporary readers of Luke, who was himself a Greek doctor, would have been non-Jewish gentile converts to Christianity, eager for accurate instruction.2. The voice of John, son of Zechariah, erupts suddenly into a world governed by powerful people of great decadence. Yet it is a world ripe for thesowing of the seed of the kingdom of God. No time is ever convenient for those who would be deaf to the truth, and John’s cry to prepare a way for the Lord jars discordantly with the comfortable and the self-satisfied among whom he is named. Like the voice of any Israelite prophet , John’s words attack the root of sin in society and preach a salvation in God that will not wait.3. Advent means listening to the call of John the Baptist once more, whether the time is right for us or not. We need to get under the material gloss that so dominates our contemporary build-up to Christmas, and we need to challenge our own sinful ways and attitudes by acknowledging the plain truth of our need for God’s forgiveness. Confession is the sacrament proper to this season of expectation. Unless we canfind it in our hearts to repent and be converted, then there will be no room in the Inn of our souls for the Christ child to be born.
Lk 21, 25-28.34-36
“Watch yourselves, or your hearts will be coarsened with debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life” (Lk 21,34). We must all be prepared for the Day of Judgement. There is no other wisdom worth listening to. If our souls are not heaven centred through prayer, the sacraments and the life of grace, then we are diminished as human beings. All our actions, no matter how glitzy and thrilling, merely mask the emptiness within. Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. This conversion begins now and is fulfilled in the joy and peace of heaven. Advent is all about taking stock of our lives. It is the season of joy awaiting the birth of the Messiah, and of assessing what impact that event will have on our lives. Will we let the Christ child be born in us again this year, making astable for him in our hearts, or will we lose ourselves in the soul-destroying commercial mess of a secular Christmas? Christmas without religion is like swimming without water, so we need to get wise and let the Holy Spirit master us, leading us more deeply into the stillness of the season.
Our attitude to the first coming of Christ is in many ways determined by our attitude to his second coming. Is our liberation at hand at Christmas, or are we indifferent? The second coming of Christ will be in power - we will recognize him then, like it or not (cf. Lk 21,27). By looking to the future, accepting what Our Lord has told us in prophecy, let us stay awake and pray for the grace to stand with confidence before the Son of Man (Lk 21, 36), whether that coming be at Christmas or the end of time.
Jn 18, 33-37
“All who are on the side of truth listen to my voice” (Jn 18,37). Jesus is either God or a madman. This is not the language of compromise. These are either the most sublime words ever spoken, or the ravings of a megalomaniac intent on world domination. Pilate is caught between anvil and hammer, with no escape. He has no competence to judge on these matters, yet his career as governor of Judaea is on the line. No wonder Matthew should report the words of Pilate’s wife: “Have nothing to do with that man” (Mt 27,19). Who is in charge of this interrogation? The supreme irony here is that Pilate shows his poverty and powerlessness before Jesus, despite having the decision of life or death over the condemned man who stands before him. He is used to having men quaking before him, begging fortheir lives. But not this one. Jesus only talks to Pilate to draw him into the truth, not to save his own life. There is no fear in Jesus, despite the pain he has endured and the malice of the crowd. Despite his bravado, Pilate cannot cope with the sublime doctrine he hears.
The kingship of Christ lies in saving the world from sin and death, not in any vain parade of armies. His trial is a triumphal progress. As he mounts the wood of the cross, Jesus ascends the throne of his glory and exalts the kingship of Christ crucified. On earth they crowned him with thorns, but in heaven his crown will be all the souls of the virtuous who have gained entrance into paradise through his cross. Sin and death no longer obtain, and only through taking up our cross and following the Master do we gain everlasting happiness.
Mk 13, 24-32
This text of the eschatological discourse in Mark’s gospel is problematic. Indeed, it was much favoured by the Catholic modernists, Loisy and Tyrrell, as proof of the so-called dubious historicity of the gospels. “I tell you solemnly, before this generation has passed away all these things will have taken place” (Mk 13,30) is a clear prophecy about events that have still yet to happen. Indeed, the comment in verse 32
seems to be a gloss that attempts to deal with this problem: “But as for that day or hour, nobody knows it” (Mk 13,32).
Difficulties in Scripture need to be lived with, but there is less need to be alarmed than some might claim. Two events make up the eschatological discourses in the synoptic Gospels: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Second Coming of Christ. Mark’s Gospel is often dated before the destruction of the Temple (70AD)
because it contains no account of the destruction itself, unlike Matthew or Luke (Mt 24-25, Lk 21). The
unfulfilled prophecy could well refer to the impending Fall of Jerusalem a few years after Mark was writing. The text is difficult, not impossible. If the events Jesus describes here are an appalling prospect, so too was the situation of the early Church. By tradition Mark was close to Peter, who was martyred in 64AD, and if he wrote his gospel to preserve apostolic witness before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, then the period of composition was one of the bloodiest and least stable imaginable. The Jewish Rebellion from 66AD
saw wholesale slaughter in Palestine, as Zealots provoked a bloodbath by withholding taxes from Caesar. Christians needed to hear Mark’s words, “Know that he is near, at the very gates” (Mk 13,29).
Mk 12, 38-44
Of all the sects in Judaism in the early first century AD, Jesus had most in common with the Pharisees. They predominated in the Judean and Galilean provinces, gathering disciples and a reputation for strict observance of the Jewish Law. They believed in spiritual reality and angels, life after death and resurrection, sacrifices offered on behalf of the dead and the power of prayer. They instilled reverence for the Law into their disciples, were learned and often hard working. Their commentaries on the Law were long and painstaking, and they taught the Torah by referring to each other's teaching.
It would have been their tradition that Jesus inherited from the synagogue in Nazareth, although it was also these same Nazarene brothers and sisters who first tried to kill him (cf. Lk 4,28-30). Jesus, who was the fulfilment of the Law himself, saw too the spiritual and moral compromises they allowed in their seemingly virtuous conduct, whilst clinging to man-made traditions which had grown up around the Law like barnacles that weigh down a ship. The Pharisees went to ingenious lengths to maintain a strict outward observance, whilst the demands of justice often went unheeded (cf. Mk 12,38ff).
The juxtaposition of brash outward observance and pride in the Pharisees with the humility, inner devotion and heroic self-sacrifice of the poor widow could not be more striking. Jesus’ attitude recalls the words of God to the prophet Samuel, “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but Yahweh looks at the heart” (1Sam 16,7). Our Lord looks beyond the small pennies of the widow to the fact that she has put everything she possessed into the Treasury. It is her love and generosity that shine through. She thinks not of herself, only of God.
Mk 12, 28-34
Our Lord adds a phrase to the ‘Shema’ (ie. Dt 6,4-5), which is the holiest text in Judaism and is quoted here to answer the admiring scribe (cf. Mk 12, 28ff). “With all your mind” (Mk 12, 30) does not appear in the original text of the Torah or Pentateuch, and the fact that Jesus should change this is daring and radical in the extreme. Even the Rabbis scrupulously avoided correcting a corrupt text out of reverence for the Word of God (eg. Judg 18,30). Only the God of Israel had authority over the Law of Moses.
Perhaps Jesus wants to take into account the advances of Greek culture, and the consequent influence of Hellenism on Semitic thinking with this addition. Mind and intellect are very much the province of Greek philosophy, and Our Lord is clearly saying that our ability to think and reason should be put at the service of God, along with every other human faculty and talent. He is not detracting from the Law or embellishing it. Rather, he is bringing out its full meaning, using his own authority that both stimulates and repels his audience, according to their pre-disposition towards him.
How we need to see this intimate connection between faith and reason in our own day! The Pope has spoken out bravely against every form of totalitarian fundamentalism, be it religious or secular. Any religion that tends to link religion with violence, denying the God-given necessity of reason in dialogue and thus the ability to accept differences and live in peace, condemns itself as inhuman. Similarly, any use of reason that sees no recourse to the divine, or even any dialogue with religion as necessary, sets itself up as its own god, enslaving the human spirit that seeks God.
Mk 10, 46-52
• “Master, let me see again” (Mk 10, 51). How many times have we repented of our sins, only to fall back into them again through weakness, habit, or sheer hardness of heart? Cardinal Newman once remarked that the English are possessed of a profound self-contemplation, which leads them to be wretched over their sins and not repentant. We are the heirs of Pelagius when we kick ourselves and say, ‘How could I have let myself down so?’ Rather, we should be like blind Bartimaeus and brook no delay or opposition in throwing ourselves at the feet of Our Lord.
• Repentance is a gift, the heart of which lies in grief at the offence done to Jesus by our bad behaviour and contempt for his person and teaching. It involves guilt at the violation of our conscience, but does not rest there. We must journey back to the one we have offended and apologise, overcoming a proud reluctance to humble ourselves and admit our need of forgiveness. This can be a slow process, requiring grace. Our contrition is rarely perfect, though it should be. Only when we admit our creatureliness do we find our true place within the universe. • Confession is the greatest mercy God has ever provided for us, given the fallen state of human nature. In essence very simple, requiring confession, contrition and satisfaction on behalf of the penitent before a Catholic priest withfaculties from his bishop, confession is the practical difference between heaven and hell. None of us gains heaven by our own efforts; only submission to the loving embrace of Jesus crucified and risen fits us for so unmerited a glory. Our own efforts lead us to hell, where ignorance will be no excuse. May the courage of Bartimaeus live in our hearts.
Mk 10, 35-45
• We should never pray if we do not want God to answer us. James and John want God to acquiesce to their extravagant demands, but Jesus uses their enquiry to make clear that the road to paradise is hard. Ironically, they are guaranteed the martyr’s crown from the lips of Our Lord, but at the expense of all the vainglory they no doubt entertained when trying to establish their claim: “Anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all” (Mk 10, 44).
• Jesus is about to be immersed in suffering through his passion and death. James and John have no idea what they are talking about, but the Lord does ask them to be baptized in the same way (‘baptizein’ is Greek for ‘immerse’). They accept his challenge, but their minds are only fixed on a vainglorious prize and not on the means of achieving it. They do not realise what they have agreed to. James will be the first apostle to die for the Lord, John the last. The sons of thunder must submit to executioners for Jesus’ sake before they gain paradise.
• The apostles’ reaction to the brothers shows how similar they are to their colleagues (Mk 10, 41), and how far from the demands of the Gospel. With his Passion looming, one wonders how Jesus ever put up with them. They are about as much comfort as a woollen overcoat in the desert! Yet he does love them, and opens their eyes to the radical demands of humility (Mk 10, 44).
Only the joy in store for humanity at being ransomed from sin and death spurs on the exhausted Messiah.
15.10.06, Mk 10, 17-30
• Avarice is a sin that grows by stealth. Like gradually heating a frog in water, it does feel the danger until the water boils and it dies. Our Lord wages constant war on those who would substitute or tone down the demands of the Kingdom for the sake of bodily comforts or social prestige. Most shocking of all is his flat rejection of any necessary link between the possession of riches and the blessing of God. For Jews, wealth appeared a self-evident blessing from God, and even the disciples are appalled by what Jesus has to say. But Jesus goes further.
• Not only are riches not a sign of blessing, they are also a substantial hindrance to entering the Kingdom of God. Part of Our Lord’s argument with the Pharisees was that they loved wealth at the expense of righteousness, and made void the spirit of the Law with a welter of manmade traditions (Mk 7, 7ff; Lk 11, 37ff). There can be no real power in one’s love for God or neighbour if our real treasure is not the Kingdom of God and its righteousness. Riches will choke the word of God in us. Only in God is life.
• It is easy to outdo the Pharisees in self-righteousness by becoming smug about their sins without reflecting on our own. Jesus loved the Pharisees, although he saw through them and disliked much of what they stood for. Jesus loves us too. So what is our excuse for not doing what he asks us? Maybe we do not want to listen when we feel he’s calling us not to buy a new car, book another holiday or upgrade our wardrobe? Riches are morally neutral, but what they do to us is more deadly than we realise. Now is the hour to change. Wisdom lies in generous actions, not in beautiful intentions.
08.10.06, Mk 10, 2-16
• It is interesting that St Mark links the account of Jesus’ teaching outlawing divorce with his love for children: “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the Kingdom of God belongs” (Mk 10, 14). Critics may debate whether these two incidents were originally separate, but the Holy Spirit, using the heart and mind of the evangelist, assures us they should be taken together. For the sanctity of marriage and procreation of children are inextricably linked. The wiliness of the Pharisees contrasts with the innocence of the children. • The ends of marriage are offspring, furthering the Catholic faith and the sacrament itself. Each must be earnestly desired by the couple if a marriage is to come about in the eyes of God. Thus, if a couple have nointention of having children, or despise the Faith, or hold the notion of a sacrament in contempt, then no marriage can possibly take place, no matter how grand and meaningful the wedding. It is the couple who convect the sacrament between themselves, or not. We pray for a great increase in reverence for such a sacred institution. • Our Lord takes his authority for challenging the Law of Moses back to the creation of man. This shows us at the very least that marriage is not external to human nature, but integral to human living together, human happiness and social integration. Male and female are made for each other in a bond before God that gives them the freedom of the Garden of Eden. This is not just an earthly paradise, but a heavenly one too: the place where mankind communes with hisMaker and finds delight in his partner. Sin corrupts this, but Christ restores it.
Mk 9, 38-43.45.47-48
• Bl Marmaduke Bowes of York obeyed the word of God literally, as reported in the gospel here (v
41). He chanced on a gentlemen sitting outside a pub near York, quite exhausted by his travels. Marmaduke fetched him a glass of water, just before he was arrested for being a Catholic priest. Bowes was appalled at this and followed the crowd to court, where he so robustly defended the gentleman before the judge that he himself was condemned for harbouring a priest. The sentence was carried out instantly, and Bowes was still wearing spurs when they strung him up.
• Not all of us aspire to heaven as quickly and completely as that holy man, but Our Lord does insist on the absolute priority of letting nothing come between us and our salvation. Elsewhere Jesus warns of the dangers of over attachment to family (Mt 10, 37ff). Here he leaves no doubt as to the grave consequences of our personal sins (v 43), especially if they cause us to lead others astray (v 42). This last is one of Jesus harshest sayings - our fall will be like the fall of a man with a millstone round his neck.
• Many priests working with mentally ill people dread this gospel. Too many will find in it a divine excuse to self harm, rather than allow for Our Lord’s use of Hebraisms to emphasize the radicality of the requirements of the Kingdom. Sin can play no part in the plan of God, and there can be left no stain of sin in the hearts of any who enjoy the Beatific Vision. But the purgation is God’s, not ours. We must never forget that one injunction in the gospel can never gainsay another. We must always love our neighbour as ourself.
24.09.06, Mk 9, 30-37
• Coping with disability in a child requires heroic levels of patience, perseverance and sheer love. Yet the grace of God can be more visibly present and tangibly felt in such circumstances than in other more benign situations. In many cases, outside agencies often prove unreliable or even downright hostile. In the end, only grace suffices. The only constant is a friendship with Our Lord, which grows all the more as other services fail: “Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me” (Mk 9, 37). We need to pray for families who struggle with disability.
• Many people say that a child should not be baptised until old enough to make its own decisions. This sounds responsible, but is really the exact opposite. True enough, a child must make its own choices in adulthood, but we don’t just feed and clothe babies when they apply for it. We naturally care for our children and make loving decisions on their behalf as part of our duty as parents. Not to do so would amount to neglect. If this is true for the physical needs of the child, how much more for his or her spiritual welfare?
• Children in this gospel symbolize the weaker members of society, whom we tend to overlook. Jesus is not advocating a wholesale return to childhood, but is rather pointing out that the true Christian leader will embrace and serve those who are weak. In doing so, that leader will welcome Christ directly, not indirectly. Jesus goes out of his way to identify himself with the poor and marginalized. We are led to realize that we will be judged on the content and quality of our loving, not the content of our bank accounts or the quality of our superior knowledge.
Mk 8, 27-35
• “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s” (Mk 8, 33). Strong words for the first Pope, and a severe lesson. It was not as an individual that Peter had challenged Our Lord about the cross, but as leader of the disciples: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter” (Mk 8, 33). The force of the Greek word for ‘turning’ makes it quite clear that Jesus rounded on Peter. Bold and impetuous though Peter was, he must never have been so blatantly confronted. Jesus beats him at his own game.
• But Jesus is not playing games. This is the pivot around which the whole of Mark’s gospel swings. For once the disciples have recognized Jesus for who he is, in the person of bold Peter: “You are the Christ” (Mk 8, 29). Up until this time Jesus’ public ministry has been a stunning success in outward terms, with people flocking to him to be cured: “And wherever he went, to village, or town, or farm, they laid down the sick in the open spaces, begging him to let them touch even the fringe of his cloak” (Mk 6, 56).
• Now Jesus tries to begin to reveal his inner mission: how he must suffer and die, and rise again on the third day (Mk 8, 31). Peter is appalled, but Jesus has taken them all completely into his confidence, because Peter has acknowledged his true identity. Peter thinks what Jesus’ says is an affront to all their messianic expectations, but the Lord is in fact paying them the greatest of compliments by revealing the true heart of his work. From now on, Jesus becomes steadily less acceptable to the people as the shadow of the cross begins to loom.
• It is the sacred humanity of Jesus that saves us, insists St Teresa of Avila. In this gospel we see a practical application of an important truth. We are matter as well as souls, physical as well as spiritual. Our bodies are not a mere drag upon our souls, but an integral and irreducible part of who and what we are. After all, we believe in the resurrection of the body at the end of time. As we are now, so we will be then, though in some sense transformed after the model of the physical resurrection of Jesus. • Spittle and fingers are the vehicles for divine grace here. Jesus could have cured without touching the deaf and dumb man and at a distance, as he had done in the healing of the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mk 7, 30). But his sacred humanity is always at the service ofhis divinity, and Jesus delights in a humanity that reaches out to others, touching them so that divine healing may be effected in them. The glory of God is man fully alive, and there is a joy in Jesus’ work that stuns his audience, provoking unbounded admiration.
• Jesus is not the victim of false modesty when he commands the people to be silent over the miracles he has wrought (Mk 7, 36). They only see a leader who will free them from the Romans. Jesus sees the whole picture, and sees his priority as a victory over the spiritual forces of darkness, which enthral mankind in the grip of sin and death. “Then looking up to heaven he sighed” (Mk 7, 35). Jesus’ battle wearies his humanity, and silence would ensure that his kingdom replaces the rule of Satan more effectively in the lives of men.
Mk 7 1-8.14-15.21-23
• For Catholics, the morality of an act lies principally in the object of an action, but also in the intention and the consequences, insofar as they can be known. Thus, it is always wrong to commit adultery or take innocent human life, whatever the circumstances, because such an act is in itself morally wrong. This is not to judge the person who may be caught up in some terrible moral or psychological dilemma, but rather to be utterly clear that such actions can never be justified, even if in some circumstances they can be understood. Compassion only works with moral principles.
• For an act to be moral, all three considerations need to be held in balance - the act itself has to be objectively good, the intention has to be pure, and the consequences not harmful, insofar as they can be known. Intention is an element essential to the moral evaluation of an action. The end is the first goal of the intention and indicates the purpose pursued in the action. The intention is a movement of the will toward the end: it is concerned with the goal of the activity. It aims at the good anticipated from the action undertaken. (cf. CCC 1752ff). • But a bad intention makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (CCC 1753): “This people honours me only with lip service, while their hearts are far from me” (Mk 7, 6 quoting Is 29, 13). Putting aside the commandments of Godto cling to human traditions shows an evil intention, where a self-made human righteousness displaces the righteousness that comes only from God’s grace. The demands of the Law can never be subverted without terrible consequences: “It is from within, from men’s hearts, that evil intentions emerge: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice” (Mk 7, 22).
Jn 6, 60-69
“It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer” (Jn 6, 63). Jesus is trying to help his audience understand the “intolerable language” (Jn 6, 60) he has been using. The key to understanding is not that Jesus offers us any human flesh, but rather that he offers us his own fles – animated and transformed by his divine spirit. The flesh of itself has nothing to offer, but united to his divine person it becomes the vehicle for our salvation.
Jesus’ authority to teach in this way is also established, as he asserts a personal reality which pre-dates and is beyond the reality of flesh: “What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?”
(Jn 6, 62). Only Peter, groping in the dark as all around him are losing faith in the Lord, is given the grace to perceive the reality of who it is that is teaching such shocking doctrine: “You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God” (Jn 6, 68-69).
Clearly, Jesus is either God the Son or he’s mad. There can be no intermediate position, so graphic and all embracing are his claims. Any chink of unbelief or compromise with the Good News in any of his followers is utterly exposed by Jesus’ words. It all becomes too much for Judas, and John clearly locates his fellow apostle’s loss of faith in Jesus from this moment on: “Jesus knew from the outset those who did not believe, and who it was that would betray him” (Jn 6, 64). Such teaching takes no prisoners.
So why does Judas lose faith and Peter not? Were they not both called to sublime intimacy with God in their separate apostolic callings? Those eyewitnesses to the words and works of the Lord do not tell us, and we can never know for sure. Suffice it to say that Peter never took his eyes off Jesus in the midst of this most challenging of all Jesus’ teachings, whereas it seems that Judas did. Perhaps he thought he knew a better way of bringing in the kingdom of God – more political and away from the vagaries of a mad Rabbi. We may speculate, but we shall never know. May God give us all the grace to follow Jesus wherever he may go.
Gospel: Jn 6, 41-51
This is the most shocking saying of Jesus in the whole gospel: “the bread that I shall give is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6, 51). John could have used the more abstract Greek term, ‘soma’, when referring to ‘flesh’, but he pointedly uses the most physical expression available, ‘sarx’. This means flesh and blood reality. Giving human flesh to eat is offensive to practically every human culture, let alone to the Jews, whose concern for ritual purity in the preparation of food occupies much of the Torah (Lv 11, 1-47). If this speech were a mere marketing ploy for a new religion, Jesus could not have said anything more fatal to his own interests. Most of his hearers will stop following him after this, and even the apostles are only clinging on to him by the skin of their teeth(Jn 6, 66; Jn 6, 68).
But Jesus is unrepentant and uncompromising. The manna that will sustain and preserve the new Israel in her desert wanderings from one generation of the Church to the next “is my flesh for the life of the world” (Jn 6, 51). This is not cannibalism, which is the eating of dead human flesh, but rather the consuming of the living flesh of the Lord Jesus. Unlike normal food, which we absorb into our systems and which becomes part of us, this heavenly manna will absorb us and allow us to become living parts of the Body of Christ. Like a mother who feeds her child on her own milk, God feeds his people on his own living flesh, so that through physical means divine life might be communicated to us. Only God could think of this: for man it is too controversial.
The point of the Incarnation is to enable human nature to enter heaven. God becomes everything that we are in order that we may in our turn become everything that he is, as co-sharers of the divine nature (2Pet 1, 4). Thus the flesh of Christ becomes the principle of God’s loving action in the world, fitting us for heaven from within. So we must make every effort to receive Holy Communion reverently, constantly reminding ourselves of a reality vastly deeper than ourselves and our limited human
Not even God can give more than himself. It is therefore the least we can do to give ourselves entirely to him.
Gospel: John 6:24-35
Today, our readings remind us that for those have their basic needs met, food is not God as the Lord reminds us in our Gospel: “do not work for the food that cannot last but work for the food that endures to eternal life”. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the good things of life. Indeed, as Catholics we’re not Puritans and it’s good to do so as Hilaire Belloc said: “Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There's always laughter and good red wine” and thank God for that. We can say ‘yes’ to the world but also need to say ‘no’ to the world. To be fully human, to be fully Christian, we are called to make our higher supernatural needs the focus as it is only these which can make us happy.
Some years ago Queen Elizabeth II visited Ireland for the first time, giving her famous speech in Dublin castle. It was a very historic and much anticipated visit. In her speech she remarked on the relationship between the two countries saying that: “with the benefit of historical hindsight we can all see things which we would have done differently or not at all”. Some thought this was brave, others an understatement. Whatever you think of her comments, these carefully crafted words can easily apply to all people and relate to our readings, particularly our second reading which reminds us to “put aside our old self which gets corrupted by following illusory desires”. We all as sinners can stand here today and say there are things that we could do differently and there are things we shouldn’t be doing at all. This is the ‘spiritual revolution’ St. Paul refers to; it is indeed spiritual progress when we can honestly admit this to the Lord. Of course, the sacrament of confession is something we all need. It gives us the means to bring the things we should not have done at all to the Lord, to seek forgiveness and ask for the grace to start again.
As regards things we could do differently, it is certainly true that we are invited in our Gospel today to prioritise the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus truly present, in our lives. As the Church, in the Second Vatican Council, tells us is the “source and summit of the Christian life”. Only Him who is eternal, only God, can fulfil the innate desire for the eternal which is found in every human heart. A focus on food, sex, power, money etc will only lead us looking for more and to be left wanting. Is the Eucharist, the Lord Jesus, the source and summit of my life- do I believe that the purpose of my life is to move closer to Him? If not, we shouldn’t worry, but rather ask Him for the grace to see this more clearly. As the Lord Jesus reminds us in our Gospel: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst”. May in our Eucharist today we partake in St. Paul’s spiritual revolution and, if things aren’t in the right place, let us have the humility to ask for the Lord to change that
Gospel: Jn 6, 1-15
A desert location with no food, and no human means of finding or even affording any is a desperate situation – though one not unknown in Israelite history. Multiplying loaves in the time of Elisha (2Kgs 4, 4244) was a sign of the divine origin of his gift of prophecy, and Jesus’ repeating and bettering Elisha’s feat would have been instantly recognized by the more devout members of his audience. “This really is the prophet who is to come into the world” (Jn 6, 14) is the cry of one who sees fulfilment of prophecy, but does he see the sign?
The irony here is that Jesus is the prophet who is to come into the world, though he is much more. A human prophet can be a human king, or lead an earth-bound rebellion against the Romans, but Jesus is not just human: he is God the Son. His kingdom is not of this world, and only those who believe through seeing the signs he works can receive the life that he gives (cf. Jn 18, 36; 20, 30-31). The people pointedly misunderstand Jesus, and he slips quietly away from them. His divinity shows also in his escape.
We have the Mass, we have the sacraments, we have the Church and the witness of the saints, but still we miss what the poet Francis Thompson calls “the many-splendour’d thing”, which is the action and life of God in our souls. We look to the furthest ends of the earth and into the most thrilling sensations, but we miss the tender knock of the Master at the doors of our own hearts, craving audience. He will go away if through our sins we tell him to, but he will never give up: “Heap me over from this tremendous Lover!” (Francis Thompson in The Hound of Heaven).
Gospel: Mk 6, 30-34
There is real poignancy in this scene. The joy of the apostles at the first fruits of their ministry is matched by the care and concern of Jesus: “You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest a while” (Mk 6, 31). Yet Jesus must have felt searing grief and heartbreak at the death of John the Baptist, just reported in the gospel (Mk 6, 17-29). The human need of the apostles to rest after their labours is matched by Jesus’ human need to grieve in quiet for his cousin. Prudence dictates a time apart.
But Our Lord and the apostles are victims of their own success. Divine goodness and healing have only highlighted in people’s hearts their aching need of Jesus. They may not understand who he is fully, or even catch every nuance of his teaching, but the poverty of their hard lives has been matched now by a raging spiritual thirst. All concerns are immediately subordinated to the need to be with Jesus, and they guess through their local knowledge where Jesus’ boat will land in the Galilean wilderness. Not just a few, but whole towns waited for him in anticipation (Mk 6, 33).
This is why Jesus takes pity on them, and puts himself out to teach them at some length (Mk 6, 34). Not because they are hungry and thirsty, poor and needy, but because they long to be with him and he longs for them to be with him. He thirsts for their faith, which will transform them into eternal companions, and he teaches them so that their hearts might thrill and be converted to the
truth that will set them free. We need to learn that no time is inconvenient to approach the Lord. Go to him, be refreshed.
First Reading: Amos 7:12-15
Second reading: Ephesians 1:3-14
Gospel: Mk 6, 7-13
Jesus’ principal battle in Mark’s gospel is with the spiritual forces of darkness. In this moment of joyful apostolic activity, only one aspect of it is emphasized: “giving them authority over unclean spirits” (Mk 6, 7). The devil and his angels are active and potent enemies of humanity. Their malice never sleeps and their hatred of humanity knows no bounds. Yet their kingdom is in ruins through the advent of the Messiah who, as a man, breaks their hold over the weakness of men. This divine power can be bequeathed to those apostles chosen for this vital ministry.
It is through apostolic succession that the power to exorcise demons finds its proper place in the Church. Bishops share the fullness of the priestly character of Christ, and it is the Divine Master who conveys this power. Thus, every bishop has the power to exorcise, and is required to appoint a diocesan exorcist to act in his name. Faint faith, sinful lives, structures of sin embedded in society, have all made this ministry more important than ever. Recent studies, especially by Fr Gabriele Amorth, have highlighted a clear, urgent pastoral need for exorcisms in our modern secular culture, as manifested in a wide range of phenomena.
We can make two mistakes about the devil. The first is to believe he does not exist, and the second is to believe he is more powerful than he is. Satan can work much more easily in those who have no strong shield in Jesus Christ. Recourse to soothsaying, tarot cards, new age therapies and the like only use our God-given free will to invite a personal force for evil more powerful than we are to take charge of our lives. But Jesus Christ is in charge of of our lives. In baptism all evil influence was exorcised from us. So if we take our baptismal promises seriously, we need not fear and we do not need any other source of spiritual security.
First Reading: Ezekiel 2:2-5
Second reading: 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
Gospel: Mark 6, 1-6
“He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk 6, 6). Miracles are not magic. Just as a gift given cannot be given unless it is received, so Our Lord’s healing attention cannot be effected if it is not received by faith. This is not to diminish the power of God, who holds both believers and unbelievers in being every moment of their lives, but it does underline humanity’s vital need to accept Jesus as God. Our heavenly Father respects human ways of doing things, and will not compel us to join him in paradise. He awaits our response.
How Jesus must have changed. No account of the hidden years of Christ survives, but this text tells us how utterly normal Jesus would have been. Learning a trade from Joseph (Tiberius Caesar was building the town of Sephoris next to Nazareth at the time, and would have needed carpenters), leading the life of a devout Jew in the midst of an extended family (Mk 6, 3), Jesus would have learnt to know and love his neighbours, and vice-versa. His amazement was the shock of rejection by his nearest and dearest. His honour would have been forged among them.
The Nazarenes had seen Jesus’ miracles and experienced his wisdom, yet they refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes (Mk 6, 2). Jesus is not expecting too much of them, steeped as they were in the Law and the Prophets, but his actions are thrown back in his face. We too, as Catholics called to walk in the true Faith, must not become intimates of the Lord, who then reject him out of hand through faint faith and scandalous lives. It is quite possible to come to Mass regularly and be lapsed. Where does our heart lie?
First Reading: Wisdom 1:13-15,2:23-24
Second reading: 2 Corinthians 8:7,9,13-15
Gospel: Mark 5:21-43
“And he told them to give her something to eat” (Mk 5, 43). This ‘throw away’ remark is one of those unique features of Mark’s gospel that gives his account a true note of authenticity. Only someone present could notice such a detail, and only Mark’s gospel includes Our Lord’s closing command to the parents of the restored child. Accurate reporting is always true to its sources, and Mark here becomes transparent as a writer, as he lets Jesus’ miracle speak for itself. Mark’s style is terse and brief, but in these miracles the words and works of Jesus radiate.
Touch is the most important sense in today’s gospel. Flesh on flesh, as when Jesus takes the dead girl by the hand (Mk 5, 41), or even touching the clothes of Our Lord, as when the woman with a haemorrhage presses though the crowd (Mk 5, 33) communicate divine healing and power. It is a perfect demonstration of the sacramental principle, whereby material things actually effect the grace that they signify. The woman was full of faith and courage, but she needed to reach out and touch the hem of Jesus’ garment to be saved and made well again.
If we accept the reality of the flesh of Christ, then we accept the reality of the Church. Jesus is the sole mediator between God and man, but we need him to communicate to us through the flesh if his salvation is to mean anything to us. No human being could see God face to face and live. Only when God stoops down to us by becoming one like us can we become fitted for heaven. If the body of Christ is a vital part of him for our sakes, then the Church cannot either be an optional extra.
First Reading: Job 38:1,8-11
Second Reading: 2 Corinthians 5:14-17
Gospel: Mk 4, 35-41
All three synoptic gospels contain this incident from the public ministry of Our Lord, but each with a slightly different emphasis. For Mark, unlike Matthew (cf. Mt 8, 23-27), the initiative is with the disciples who take Jesus into the boat, as opposed to being led by him. Their misunderstanding of Jesus and lack of faith comes to the fore in Mark because the Master rebukes the storm first before speaking to the disciples, whereas in Matthew Jesus scolds the disciples first and then performs the miracle to confirm his words. In Mark, it as if no amount of miracle working can penetrate their incredulity.
· The Stilling of the Storm thus shows evidence of editorial adaptation of an historical incident in the life of Jesus to show its relevance and application to the troubled situation of the early Church. Often it is our experience too that the waves of scandal and hatred of God oppress and harry the barque of the Church almost to sinking point. Is the Lord asleep? Does he not care at the mess and dissent that drives holes into the hull of the Church in time of storm? Jesus shows that he is in charge and will not fail us. But will we fail him?
· Power over the elements is invariably a sign of divinity in the bible, especially in the aftermath of the saving events at the Red Sea outlined in the Book of Exodus (Ex 14, 21-30). The disciples are thus filled with awe at the miracle of Jesus, but not with faith. They miss the point of Jesus’ action and teaching and ask the exasperating question, “Who can this be”? (Mk 4, 41). Only at the crucifixion, from the mouth of a pagan centurion, does the truth begin to impinge on the world: “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mk 15, 39). In his death is our life.