Palm Sunday (C) 2019

As we now read the Gospel account of the arrest, torture, crucifixion and death of Jesus of Nazareth I want you to advance beyond the traditional view of these events as a sacrificial offering to God The Father to apologise to and appease Him for the insult to Him by the Fall of Adam and Eve, Original sin and the individual sins of each one of us.
This is a very narrow, one strand view of Redemption and Salvation.
Far better to look on the events recounted in today’s Gospel reading as something integral to God’s original act of creation. It was always God’s plan as part of His ongoing revelation of Himself. It is the final great act, the final great symbol of God’s total involvement in every aspect of our lives, from birth to death. It is the ultimate Symbol, the ultimate act of God’s love for you and I. Listening to today’s Gospel reading I must ask myself; What more could My God do to convince me of his love and care for me?

5th Sunday of Lent (C) 2019

Today’s sermon should be the companion of last Sunday’s sermon.

One of the most important ways we are created in God’s image and likeness is that we are created free. We have been given Freedom of choice.
Freedom of choice is a great gift but also a great responsibility.
As is nicely illustrated in the Book of Genesis by the story of Adam and Eve and the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They freely chose to eat this fruit and opened a can of worms. They now had to live with the consequences of their choice.
It is a well worth exercise for me to look back on my life at the choices I made and the resulting consequences. It is a well worth exercise to take the latter into account when making my everyday little and big choices.
To quote Shakespeare – ‘To be, or not to be; that is the question.’
It is these little everyday free choices that make me a good or a bad person. – To get angry or hold my temper, to say something nasty or something kind, to lie or stick to the truth, to act with greed or with consideration for others, to push my way forward or give way to another, to boast or to keep my mouth shut, to think just about myself or take others into consideration, to be patient or openly impatient etc.
Little free choices; but they mould the sort of person I am and will be in he future. All the above has to do with using the gifts my God has given me in the right way – I have the freedom of choice, just like Adam and Eve.
For the rest of my life I will live with the fruit of these choices. To quote the Book of Proverbs; ‘As you sow, so shall you reap.’
So by and large I am directly responsible for the sort of person I am.

On the other hand, to quote Nelson Mandela “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.”
Unfortunately many human beings learn to hate rather than love, learn to abuse rather than respect, to steal rather than live honestly, to lie rather than speak truth etc. This learning can come from parents, grandparents, family, friends, tribe, nationality etc.
With all this in mind we can see why some of the last words of Jesus on the cross were; ‘Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.’

It is only in recent years that we have begun to discover many of the emotional, psychological, mental and physical disabilities which burden many of us. Understanding, treating and curing many of these conditions is still in the distant future.
In short I am in almost complete ignorance as to why people do or say bad things.
To some extent the same can be said as regards my own motivation.
Why people are motivated or compelled to speak or act in the way they do, is known, in its entirety, to God alone. For me the words of Jesus in Luke 6; 36 – 37 must be my guide; ‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.’

4th Sunday of Lent (C) 2019

St Paul. ’So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.’
St John. ‘There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love. We love because God first loved us.’
There is no room for fear in my response to God. I fear someone I do not like, someone I do not trust, someone I do not believe. I fear someone who is unpredictable, someone who is volatile, someone who is undependable. I fear someone who is selfish, greedy, self-centred.
How insulting it is to fear God!!!
Luke. ‘Coming to his senses he thought, How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.’
Is this true repentance or mere self-interest?
And then we read; ‘While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.’
The father does not look for words of repentance or explanations. Obviously the Father has forgiven him long before it occurred to the son to return.
So the message of the Gospel is that God has made the first move. God has loved me first. God has forgiven me first even before I have known God or repented.
Luke; ‘So I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little.’ She loved greatly because she realised that her God had already forgiven her and already loved her. God made the first move and her response was to love greatly.
The big question is how do I respond to God?
A bigger question is why do I not realise how totally and unreservedly good my God is?
Religion is my response of gratitude to God for the great things God has done for me.
I am forgiven by my God long before I repent, long before I go to confession.
I am a child of God long before I am Baptised. I am one with Christ long before I receive Holy Communion. Receiving the Sacraments is the official acknowledgment and celebration of, and thanksgiving for, what already exists.
God always makes the first move. I respond.
To quote St Paul in Ephesians; “God, who is rich in mercy, because of the great love he had for us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, brought us to life with Christ (by grace you have been saved) raised us up with him, and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.”
I have been created by My God with the gift of free will. I can accept the gifts of God – salvation, resurrection and Eternal Life with God with a heart full of gratitude or I can refuse the gifts of God and live my life simply as a rational animal.
So where do good works come in? Good works – being forgiving, being tolerant, being generous, being helpful, being compassionate, being loving, joining the parish community in its acts of worship, spending time in prayer etc. flow from, are the offspring of, result from my gratitude and joy for having received God’s free gifts. As well as wanting to continually thank my God I also want my family, relatives, friends and neighbours to share in this great sense of peace, joy and gratitude to God.

3rd Sunday of Lent (C) 2019

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus rejects the traditional Jewish belief that disasters, accidents, sickness and misfortune are a punishment from God for our sinfulness and disobedience.
We still find this attitude today among many Christians.
It is totally wrong as it portrays God, our loving Father, as an intolerant, irascible ogre who delights in punishing his ‘beloved’ children. This attitude is highly insulting to God just as accusing you of treating your grandchildren in the same way would be highly insulting to you.
We ourselves, as a result of our words or actions, will often bring trouble upon ourselves. If I get drunk and assault someone I will end up in court and be sued for compensation. If I steal I will end up in Jail. If I abuse and insult people I will end up being unpopular and isolated.
These are misfortunes I bring upon myself and have nothing to do with God.
The correct Christian response to disasters, conflicts, misfortunes and grief is not to ask why? but to get involved in the many ways open to me to alleviate the suffering, loss and grief resulting from the disaster or misfortune.
I can ask ‘why’ as loudly as I want and as persistently as I like but will get no adequate answer in this life.
Much better and Christlike to help out as best I can and share what I have with the victims.
On the other hand consider that the people who have themselves suffered loss, those who have had to endure sickness themselves, those who have been victims themselves are most likely and best qualified to help others in the same situation. They, through their suffering, have received the gift of being able to best emphatise with others who have suffered in a similar manner. This gift, granted to those who have bravely borne and survived great loss and hardship, is not to be ignored but utilised for the sake of others who are similarly burdened.

2nd Sunday of Lent (C) 2019

Todays reading is about the transfiguration.
The focus is on Jesus of Nazareth being transfigured or changed before the eyes of Peter, James and John.
We are inclined to ignore the two people who appeared talking to Jesus. They were Moses (representing the Law of the Old Testament) and Elijah (representing the prophets of the Old Testament).
They too were transfigured. They too were changed. We are told that ‘behold, two men were conversing with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glorious splendour.’
Scripture tells us that when the risen Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalen on Easter Sunday morning she did not recognise him until he called her name.
The two disciples on the road to Emmaus walked with the risen Jesus and talked with Him for some hours but did not recognise him until he ‘broke bread’ with them.
St. Paul tells us; ’For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?’
Today’s Gospel reading shows us two ordinary human beings who have died and received a sharing in the life of God (or the Kingdom of God). Their perishable bodies have received imperishability, their mortal bodies have received immortality. They can now thumb their noses at death and death’s handmaids, sickness and pain. ‘Death, for them, has been swallowed up in victory.’
This is my destiny. This is my great hope. This is my certain belief. I too look forward to standing side by side with the risen Jesus and Moses and Elijah in the presence of my God.
Isn’t that something to look forward to??
Isn’t that a good reason to regard one another with the utmost respect and consideration??

7th Sunday of the Year (C) 2019

The first few verses of today’s Gospel reading would demand heroic virtue which you and I would find very difficult to emulate on any regular basis. Not impossible but difficult.
The rest of the Gospel reading is just common sense even from a humanist point of view.
It is well known – though not widely practised – that as I tend to treat others so will I be treated by them. If I am generous, tolerant, forgiving, kind, helpful towards others they will tend to treat me in the same way. If I am selfish, greedy, intolerant, unforgiving, litigious, unkind, then when I am in trouble people will tend to think, ‘serves him right’ and show little concern.

But then we come to Christianity. Then, even the heroic becomes possible. Believing we are all created in God’s (the Creator’s) image and likeness and that if we live in this way ‘we will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.’ We do it, not just because it is the right and best way to live together but because it is also pleasing to our God in whom we live and move and have our being. From whom everything we are and have is a free gift (grace).

So this brings our motivation to another level. I treat other people as I want to be treated myself not jus because it is good common sense for my own good but because I believe I was created to live like this and in doing so I become like my Creator in everything I do and say. I can then truly be called a son, a daughter, of the Most High because I treat and respect all others as well loved siblings.

6th Sunday of the Year (C) 2019

Having read what Scripture Scholars say about today’s Gospel reading, I can say that there is wide disagreement as to how to understand it.
I think we must look at it from the point of view of the author; that is Luke.
Elsewhere we are told that Luke was a physician – a medical doctor. As such he could and would be able to make a comfortable living in most circumstances. He wouldn’t be regarded as poor or hungry or rejected in any literal sense of the word. Nevertheless I think he would regard himself as qualifying as blessed, together with the poor, the hungry, the despised etc.
On the other hand, in the eyes of many he would be regarded as rich at least insofar as he wasn’t poor or hungry or insulted.
Consider that Jesus of Nazareth spent his life standing up for, trying to alleviate, and supporting, the poor and the downtrodden. He looked on poverty as unjust and the result of injustice and greed by the rich and powerful. He did not say ‘put up with your poverty now because when you die you will have a great time in the Kingdom of Heaven.’
So how can the poor and the hungry be blessed???
They certainly don’t feel blessed.
And then we read; ‘Woe to you who are rich.’ Woe to you who are well fed.’
In the eyes of most people in poor countries, in the eyes of some people in this country, all of us here in church today qualify as rich and as well fed.

God’s wish, God’s plan for all people, for each and every human being, is a long, healthy and happy life here on earth and then sharing in the Eternal Life and happiness of God the Creator. Is this possible if I am poor and hungry?
Jesus of Nazareth; God made man, proved this over and over again by his miracles of healing, physical and spiritual, his feeding of the hungry, his insistence of sharing donations given to him and his followers with the poor and beggars. His producing over a hundred gallons of good wine when they ran short at a wedding. His delight in attending parties where there was good food and wine. His mixing freely with both rich and poor, with supporters and with those opposing him. His eventual arrest and execution for continually opposing injustice and oppression.

It is in this context that we must read and understand today’s Gospel reading. It is a rejection and a condemnation of the values and priorities of this world. It turns on its head what this world generally regards as success and failure.
Woe to those whose lives are dedicated to rampant ambition and power seeking. To those whose priority is the pursuit of wealth and fame at any cost. Woe to those who ignore and even laugh at the plight of the poor and the needy. Who see no need whatever to fight injustice and oppression but co-operate in this injustice and oppression.
Today’s Gospel reading is a call to me to adjust my priorities. To change my outlook drastically. To be Christlike. To look to the needs of others as I look to my own needs and the needs of my own family.
Many of us today are dumbfounded by the ruthless greed of many of the already super rich. Many of us today are dumbfounded at the near total disregard of governments to the plight of not only the poor and destitute but also to the plight of the less well off who struggle to make ends meet.
That is the message of todays Gospel reading.

5th Sunday of the Year (C) 2019

‘When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him.’
Peter was the ‘alpha male’ of the group.’
Peter had a nice little business going on the sea of Galilee. He was in partnership with at least one other fishing family – Zebedee and his sons James and John. They were quite successful as they also employed others in their business.
Peter was married. Maybe James was also married.
What in the name of God possessed them to leave everything and follow this itinerant preacher/prophet?
If you have ever wondered what Jesus’ words – ‘If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.’ means, now you know.
The word ‘hate’ here does not have the same meaning as we use it today. Here it means not preferring or not regarding as more important.
We have the same meaning in Jesus’ words ; ‘If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire.’ Meaning, if something in your life is an obstacle to your relationship with God then you must consider abandoning it.
It is a case of priorities. What do I consider as more important?
It might mean abandoning something which is in itself good and praiseworthy as in the case of Peter, Andrew, James and John abandoning a successful business, lifestyle and family or as many do today to follow a career or vocation to which they feel called.
I spoke last week about gratitude to God and towards parents as a motivating factor for religion and for caring for parents.
Today we look at trust.
What motivated Peter, Andrew, James and John to leave everything and follow Jesus? They must, against all the odds, have trusted Him completely.
What an awesome character he must have been to inspire such trust.
This does not mean that their trust in him did not sometimes waver. Even Peter wavered when he was walking on the water towards Jesus. And again when fear made him deny knowing Jesus three times.
Just as a well informed gratitude to God is a great motivator, so too a hard headed trust in God is a great motivator.
My trust in God will sometimes waver especially when things go wrong just as happened with the Apostles. But maybe then I consider that if I don’t trust my God who can I trust?
The image I want you to take away with you is that of the child running into the arms of a beloved parent.
To quote the word of God; ‘Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.’

4th Sunday of the Year (C) 2019

‘If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.’
Let me say the very same thing but using slightly different words;
If I visit my elderly parents regularly. If I bring them gifts. if I make sure that they are aware of what I do for them, all because it is what is expected of me by my relatives and acquaintances and importantly, so that I inherit the lion’s
share of their legacy; I am just a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
If I go to Mass regularly, if I ‘say my prayers’ diligently, if I have received all the sacraments as directed and at the proper times, if I give regularly to my parish, if I help out from time to time when asked but am not motivated by a sense of gratitude to my God and Creator for all I am and have, I gain nothing.
Sobering words, but the message is loud and clear.
In religion, in my relationship with my God, In my relationship with my marriage partner and family, it is not so much about what I do as it is about why I do it. Haven’t we all cherished a gift, which may in itself be useless and even unwanted, because of the spirit in which it was given and the gratitude, respect and love it represents?
God is the same. Did God not make us ‘in His own image and likeness?’
All the things we do in church, the time we spend in prayer and religious affairs, are all good and even necessary, but what gives them life, what gives them meaning for God, what gives them ‘wuumph,’ is the sense of gratitude that underpins them.
The absence of this ‘wuumph’ is why I can find religion so barren. It is why I can find my duty to parents and family so irksome. I treat both as a duty and not as an opportunity to express gratitude.
Gratitude, respect and love do not just naturally appear out of nowhere. They must be sought after and nourished.
Just think of the dedication, self-denial, slavery, which having and nurturing children involves. How fulfilling it is, if and when a son or daughter says thank you.
I must accustom myself to think in the same way about my God.
I must think of religion as saying thank you to my God.
For instance it is very helpful to spend my time preparing to go to Mass and the journey there, reviewing the reasons for thanking God – What has God given me? Existence, being, life, everything I am and have, freedom from the fear of death, guarantee of resurrection from death, salvation and sharing in the Eternal life of God, to mention just a few. If I exercise myself in this manner I will arrive at church with gratitude in my heart and eagerness to express it. Otherwise I arrive cold and unsure as to why I’m there.

3rd Sunday of the Year (C) 2019

A man stopped at a wayside petrol station to fill up. He asked the attendant what the people were like in the next village. In reply the attendant asked him what the people were like in the last village he was in. They were very kind, polite and helpful he said. Well the attendant told him that he would find the people in the next village to be the very same.
A little later another man also stopped for petrol and asked the very same question. How did you find the people in the last village to be like? Asked the attendant. They were surly, rude and unhelpful the man replied. Well then you will find the people in the next village to be the very same said the attendant.
There is a very important truth here.
We are aware that if you want something it is very important to send the right person to ask. If you want to initiate some project or some changes it is very important to send the right person to introduce it.
If I approach a person with respect and kindness I will almost always be received with respect and kindness.
If I approach a person in a truculent, demanding, disrespectful, abrupt way I will almost always be received in a like manner.
We often call this ‘having an attitude.’
In the Seminary we were required to do an examination of conscience for 15 minutes each day.
Examination of conscience from time to time can, over the years, be educational and throw some light on the source of marital, family, neighbourhood and personal problems.
One of the great benefits of frequent examination of conscience (that is self examination as to ones faults, motives and prejudices etc.) is that gradually one begins to understand one’s limitations, prejudices, blind spots, refusal to accept ones proper share of blame etc. One grows in self knowledge and self understanding. Such knowledge can be painful and hard to swallow.
I might find that I carry my problems around with me wherever I go and that can be a heavy burden.
Jesus has said; “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
To do this I must recognise and accept that I do carry a burden around with me. And that is where frequent examination of conscience comes in.
It s recognising truth about myself and my actions and accepting it.
It is also called humility.