Twentieth Sunday of the Year 2019, C

Dear Friends in Christ,

20th sunday of the year 2019

It is an amazing reality of the Christian faith that Jesus of Nazareth whom we worship and adore as God made man, lived, breathed, and moved in an age without television, radio, the Internet or even the motor car. He was born into an ancient world without the printing press or means of communication which can reach, in an instant, millions of people. And yet, his words, the most holy, sacred and loving ever spoken, resound through history, speaking to every person, person to person, heart to heart, one to one.

His sweet words speak of those who are blessed; they speak of kindness, mercy, turning the other cheek and forgiving from the heart. His bitter words speak of judgement, punishment, millstones, hell and division. The things is that with Jesus, as much as one might want to pick and mix, select this teaching over that one, or prefer his sweet to his bitter words, we cannot: we have to study and pray on all of Jesus’ words.

Today we encounter an especially bitter teaching. It’s hard, isn’t it; to think that the Prince of Peace, whose first words after he had risen were ‘Peace be with you’, says also firetoearth‘Do you think I came to bring Peace to earth? No, I tell you, but division’. The trust is the name of Jesus divides as much as it unites. There are many in our world who despise the name of Jesus. Indeed, his name is used by many as a word of cursing. Try mentioning Jesus’ name in polite company. Sometimes even in Church circles, to mention the name of Jesus creates a hostile reaction. Why is this? It is because Jesus is God. His is the name above all other names and before him all things, in heaven and on earth, will bow down. Jesus did come to bring peace on earth but this peace was secures through the bloody suffering of his cross. First came division, hatred and violence, and then came the peace that only Jesus the Prince of Peace, can pour out, the peace of Christ in our hearts.

Nineteenth Sunday of the Year 2019, C

Dear Friends in Christ, 

19th Sunday of the year, 2019, C

watchwaitAstonishingly, today in the gospel Jesus compares himself to a thief who unpredictably burgles a house. In this and other ways, Jesus teaches graphically that he will return, and that his return will always be a surprise. Yet his return must not catch us unawares: ‘Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning.’

Our lives of faith can become flat and lack any sense of excitement or urgency. What can inspire us? We need an element of tension to move us from apathy to zeal. God gives us the spur we need – the return of the Lord. He will come back – and when we least expect it! To create that sense of tension we must reject all unbelief that would convince us that whilst the Lord may be coming back, it will certainly not be in our lifetime. Such an assumption sets itself against Jesus’ own words. It is also foolish, for his return could occur as soon as tomorrow or it may delay until sometime after our death.

People are often afraid of dealing with their fears. The Late Pope John Paul II said: ‘Christians are exhorted to prepare for the Great Jubilee of the beginning of the Third Millennium by renewing their hope in the definitive coming of the Kingdom of God, preparing for it daily in their hearts, in the Christian community to which they belong, in their particular social context, and in world history itself.’ The surest way to prepare our hearts for the second coming is to ask the Holy Spirit to give us a hunger, thirst and longing for it.

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year 2019, Year C

Dear Friends in Christ, 

Eighteenth Sunday of the year 2019, C

The man in the crowd asking Jesus to settle a family dispute wants him to act like a rabbi. Jesus however, is instantly aware that his request stems from greed and envy. He chooses to expose the motives of the man’s heart rather than settle his grievance. The Lord teaches that the purpose and meaning of life is making oneself ‘rich towards God.’

house

Greed and envy focus a person on self. Those who pursue wealth seek security and safety. They use their riches to shield themselves from life’s vicissitudes and to find comfort and confidence in material things. In the pursuit of wealth they lose sight of the real meaning of life because they are seduced by the illusion that with their fortune they can control their lives. Yet one day everyone will die – possessions cannot protect against that day.

Furthermore the pursuit of affluence and pleasure eliminates both God and neighbour from sight since the focus is exclusively on obtaining possessions in order to feel secure: ‘I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.’ Finally wealth creates the desire for greater wealth, making the circle of illusion complete.

Being rich in the sight of God brings into sharp focus the purpose of life and allows us to live according to truth. The real meaning of life is that we depend on God for everything; God is the source of all good, and we are created for a relationship with him. Our security is to be found in God alone; we can live with confidence that is directing our lives, and will provide for all our needs.

17th Sunday of the Year 2019, C

abbafatherDear Friends in Christ 

17th Sunday of the Year 2019

Today we encounter Jesus’ teaching on prayer, which is more radical, challenging and life-changing than we may at first realise because it encourages an approach or attitude to prayer which we might not share or even appreciate. The Lord Jesus positively and unambiguously encourages a bold, confident, even brazen attitude towards approaching God in prayer. The Lord wants us to cultivate a way of praying that is hopeful, expectant and sure of God’s goodness and generosity.

No prayer captures this more beautifully than the Our Father, which the Lord himself taught us to pray. The Our Father is the Magna Carta, the blueprint for all prayer. Despite being so short and compact is encapsulates the essence of prayer and the very heart of our relationship with God. St. Augustine said of the Our Father: ‘If you run through the petitions of all holy prayers, I believe you will find nothing that is not summed up and contained in the Lord’s Prayer.’

Jesus uses the story of a persistent neighbour, who will take not take for an answer to reveal that neighbourGod the Father is not like the unwilling neighbour, but is generous, kind and benevolent provider for his children’s needs. We discover who God is more through prayer, than any other spiritual exercise, for it is in prayer that the Spirit woks in us to expand not just our minds but our hearts, our imagination and our horizons.

Sixteenth Sunday of the Year 2019

Dear Friends in Christ, 

16th Sunday of the Year 2019

marth.pngIn a story unique to St. Luke’s Gospel, we read of a remarkable and beautiful incident in Jesus’ life. Mary of Magdalene, whose feast we celebrate tomorrow, is traditionally associated with the Mary before us today but scholars think that it is unlikely to be the same person, believing this woman to be Mary of Bethany. What is clear is that, like Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany loved the Lord. In this account, she did not wash his feet with her weeping or anoint his body with expensive nard but she showed that one thing was needed, and that was to sit at the Master’s feet and learn from him

There has always been a tension between the contemplative arm and the apostolic arm of the Church. The contemplatives are accused of being too focused on prayer whereas the apostolics are criticised for being too preoccupied with action and not placing enough emphasis on the interior life. Of course, this is too simplistic juxtaposition but there is an element of truth in it.

It is, however, hard not to feel some sympathy for Marth, who in this understanding embodies the apostolic approach, Mary can come across as a kind of ‘goody two shoes’. Martha on the other hand, has not airs and graces; she is a worker and not a shirker. Clearly both women were serving the Lord, but Mary, in Jesus’ own words, chose what is better. This doesn’t mean what Martha was doing in that moment wasn’t good or noble or worthy, or even right for her to be doing; it simply means that ultimately sitting at the Lord’s feet and learning from him who is humble and gentle or heart is the goal of our faith.

The great saints of the Church did not hesitate to serve others practically. It was aid of St. Catherine of Genoa, for example, that she used to be so preoccupied in prayer that she appeared to be in a trance. Nevertheless, if anyone needed her help, she would stop praying immediately to respond. Pope Francis is calling us all to serve others in a spirit of love and charity, but all service of God must be first rooted in prayer and hearing God speak through his Word.

Fifteenth Sunday of the Year 2019

Dear Friends in Christ, 

15th Sunday of the Year 2019

Catholic Social Teaching has largely owned the parable of the Good Samaritan and in a way rightly so, because it highlights the care and solicitude we owe every human being, but particularly those in dire need physically, emotionally or spiritually. However, ask yourself, if you will, whether there is a deeper meaning to the parable. Are we missing something? Is the parable simply about being good and kind and decent to your neighbour? We can be sure; absolutely sure in fact, that because Scripture is divinely inspired, there are always layers of revelation to uncover and a deeper meaning behind every verse.

goodsamaritan.pngSome of the early Fathers of Scripture scholarship, such as Origin, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas, discerned in the parable of the Good Samaritan a much deeper meaning than helping our neighbour. They approached the parable allegorically – in other words, as a device in which the characters or events represents or symbolise real people and real events and communicate a hidden and profound message. Approaching Scriptures allegorically can open up deeper and deeper layers to its meaning. Some theologians dislike this approach because they fear that we can read into the text significance which the original author did not intend. But they themselves often approach Scripture in the wrong way, studying and discussing it like a Shakespeare play or another ancient text. Scripture is the divine Word of God and by its very nature there are always hidden depths to plumb.

So, for today, let us consider an allegorical understanding of the parable. Jerusalem represents heaven and Jericho the earth or the world. The robbers are the devil and the demons. The priest represents the Torah (the Jewish law) and the Levite the Prophets. The victim beaten, bruised, wounded and left half dead by the roadside is you! The Good Samaritan is Jesus, and the donkey is Christ’s body, which bears the weight of the broken body of the victim or this terrible robbery on the open highway. Finally the inn represents the Church, our place of healing and sanctuary. The Good Samaritan’s promise to return is a reference to Jesus’ coming again in power and glory.

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year 2019

Dear Friends in Christ, 

14th Sunday of the Year 2019

There is an understanding that religion and politics are not discussed in polite society. This is probably because when they are raised, invariably, the conversation gets rather heated. Sex and death used to have the same effect, but nowadays as a society we seem more comfortable at least talking about sex, albeit in a superficial way.

goodnewsNowadays the idea of ‘evangelism’ also carries a certain taboo element. For sure, there are conferences on the subject and books written, and the occasional Sunday homily on our call to spread the gospel, but how seriously the subject is taken is debatable. This call is the theme of our Gospel passage today: the commissioning by Jesus of seventy-two disciples to go and preach the gospel.

The message that we do often hear is that if we are good, kind and loving, then that is evangelisation. St. Francis of Assisi famously said: Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words’, highlighting that witness whether by action or word is crucial. We definitely don’t want to come across as ‘Bible bashers’ or over the top’, and we definitely do not want to impose our faith on anyone. Nevertheless, there is no escaping the fact that sooner or later our faith invites us to pass the Good News on to others.

John Lennon famously said: Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue with that; I’m right and I will be proved right. We are more popular than Jesus now. I don’t know which will go first – rock and roll or Christianity.’ While Lennon had a point, the passing of almost four decades since his death had shed a different perspective on his comment. As Christians we know that the raison d’être of the Church is to grow and spread to the four corners of the earth. Our parishes are meant to grow and flourish, not stagnate and be closed

No one is saying that sharing our faith is easy. It isn’t – it requires effort, creativity, passion, sharegospelenthusiasm and conviction. The key is in the name: the gospel is Good News. If we don’t experience it as Good News, we don’t share it as Good News. The Holy Spirit is the One who creates within us as burning desire to both witness to and share our faith. We pray for this blessing and anointing of faith.