Saturday, May 20, 2017

Easter 6 (A) : Homily / Sermon

If you love me, you will keep my commandments
(John 14:15)

There are many words we may say without really meaning them.

We say “Sorry” just to get us out of a situation.
We say “Thank you” when we are not really grateful.
We say we love someone out of routine or habit or to get what they want.

Yet the person who is truly sorry not only says so, but shows that sorrow by their attitude, their anguish, their desire to make amends.
The person who is really grateful shows their gratitude by their generosity of spirit and their joy in receiving.
And the one who truly loves does so not routinely or selfishly, but with caring and compassion.

Words are powerful, but deeds are more so.


We may say we are sorry to God for our sins, but it is true contrition, real regret which deserves from him the fulness of forgiveness.
We may thank God in prayer and song, but it is the gratitude which comes from the heart which really fills us with joy.
And we may say that we love God as he loves us - but it is the heart that loves God in the neighbour, that truly dwells in him.

‘Keep my commandments’ does not mean follow all the rules, but open your hearts to him, be filled with his grace, receive the gifts of the Spirit, the Spirit of truth who is with us for ever.

It means that if we love him, we will love our neighbour, and love his commandments, because they are the gift we make of our lives to him.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Easter 5 : Homily / Sermon

Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still, and trust in me. (John 14:1)

 

There’s been a little fuss in the press recently about the reporting of Stephen Fry to the authorities in Ireland, alleging that he may have broken the law against blasphemy. What he said was over two years ago, in response to a question on television. The interviewer Gay Byrne asked him what he would say to God if he were to meet him at the pearly gates. He said he would tell him that he must be a monster to allow the world to be full of suffering: the example he gave was of children suffering with bone cancer. 

 

These are hard questions, of course, and he puts them in a way which might seem hard, angry and even arrogant. No doubt, some people may be offended. 

 

But actually, it would be very mistaken for any law to make such comments illegal. Not because we call have a right to free speech - important though that it is. Not even because some people might be upset to read them - as may be the case. No - it would be mistaken because to make these words illegal, is to ignore what is written in scripture itself. 

 

Time and time again we hear voices in Scripture questioning and challenging God. 

The Hebrews cry out to God in the wilderness 

Jeremiah 12:1 Why does the way of the wicked prosper?

Why do all who are treacherous thrive?

Job 3:11 Why did I not die at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?

Ecclesiasticus 7:15 

I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doing.

And Psalm 22 begins with the words “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”  - words which Jesus himself shouts out from the cross. 

 

No - where Fry is wrong, really wrong, is in supposing that comments like this are new or unusual, as if we had never heard them or thought of them before - and if we are offended by them, then we play into the hands of those who attack our faith. 

 

It is not that belief in God is undermined, or weakened by words like that. On the contrary, it is the sorrow of the world which is the reason why people believe - why we believe. 

 

Look at the lives of the martyrs, who in courage and faith are willing to surrender their lives, praying for their persecutors and submitting to death. Look at the lives of other saints, good and faithful servants of God, who give themselves in service of others and approach death not with fear but with hope and joy. And look at the words of Christ, who invites us to cast fear and doubt aside and embrace the love of God: “Do not let your hearts be troubled”, he says. “Trust in God still, and trust in me”.

 

The questions we and other raise are hard, and painful, and take us to a dark place. Yet challenges inspire faith, far more often than they destroy it. 

 

When there are atrocities or natural disasters - what do people do - well first they pray, visit churches, light candles. We may not understand why things have happened, but we seek meaning … we don’t reject it. 

 

And next, in the response to tragedy, faithful people act - to help and console the afflicted, to come to the assistance of those wounded, physically, materially and emotional. So many charities are Christian or religiously inspired and they come to those in need. 

 

And I am reminded that this Gospel reading is read so often at Funeral Masses and Funeral Services. It is a time when, as a priest, I see most clearly how people deal with grief, loss, and the reality of death. 

Faith helps at times like this. Times when we are troubled. Times when we walk through the valleys of darkness. Times when we fear. It motivates and gives hope. 

We may walk through a dark tunnel - but through the darkness we can glimpse the bright light of Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

3rd Sunday in Eastertide : Homily / Sermon

They set out that instant and returned to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven assembled together with their companions, who said to them, ‘Yes, it is true. The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.’ (Luke 24:33-34)

 

Today’s Gospel is a story of two journeys. The first - perhaps the more familiar one - is the journey of the two disciples away from the City of Jerusalem to the small town of Emmaus. It is a journey travelled in the full light of day - but one clouded by confusion and a lack of understanding. It is only as darkness falls on the day, that a light shines into the minds of the two disciples. 

The second journey in travelled in the opposite direction, from Emmaus to Jerusalem. It is rushed, brief, travelled in the darkness of night - yet it is purposeful, immediate and direct, driven by the light of revelation, of knowledge, of rejoicing in the truth. 

This may lead us to reflect upon our lives. Everyone knows their lives are a journey, and that we will meet many turns in the road, many changes in the landscape, many obstacles in the way. There are highs and lows, times for haste and times for a slow and deliberate pace - - times which are purposeful and times which seem aimless. 

And the journey of life begins with wonder and excitement as we stride into the brightness of the day. Everything seems clear, so many options and opportunities. So much can be achieved. Almost anything is possible to those who dwell in the brightness of day. In its vitality and its youthfulness, humanity, society, has supreme confidence in its own power, its own vision, its own ability. 

And yet, this ambitious journey of life is one which advances towards an approaching sunset. The clock turns, the day darkens, and life begins to slow.  Optimism is dashed, hopes are unfulfilled, and loves are lost. The more we learn, the less we know. Whichever way we turn that is what is ahead of us - a twilight which casts long shadows, a darkness which will conclude everything. As the years advance we sense that life becomes dimmer, slower, harder to understand, until darkness covers all. 

So it seems. Yet by contrast, the Christian life is not a life walked in the light of day, but through the darkness of night. It is the journey not to Emmaus, but to Jerusalem. The Christian hope is not blind to suffering and disappointment, but it one which is borne of pain and suffering. Yes, life has its with perils. Yes, the journey is fraught with doubts and uncertainties. Yes, there are anxieties. It is a journey in which we carry the Cross. Yet it is a journey which is also guided by the light of the Easter candle, the light of the risen Christ and what we approach is not a final darkness, but an eternal dawn, a sunrise to new life, a light which conquers darkness for ever.