Saturday, June 09, 2018

10th Sunday of the Year (B) : Homily / Sermon

“Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.’” (Mark 3:35)

When the new translation of the of mass appeared, some six years ago now, we were perhaps a little surprised by some of the words which appeared. “Consubstantial” for example. “Conciliation” is another. And yet another which we hear from time to time is “Coheirs”. We hear it said that we are “Coheirs with Christ”. 

It is an unfamiliar phrase, and an odd word. When we see it on the page, it may even seem difficult to pronounce. Coheirs is a word which may exist in the dictionary, but which I have to say I have never heard in conversation or even read anywhere else. 

However, it is a word which indicates to us something very important about our faith. 

An heir, of course, is someone who inherits, and more than just this,  is someone who inherits by right of who they are. Usually the Heir is the only one who inherits. It could be a title, or some status or rank, or property. We know the word best when we speak of the heir to the throne, or the heir to a title. And of course there can be only one king, only one Lord Grantham. Sometimes a kingdom may be split up between others - this happens in Shakespeare's King Lear. It happened also to the sons of King Herod the Great. (Notable because they are unusual). But the successors in each case don't share the one Kingdom, no, they are the sole heirs of the parts they do inherit. And when we speak of “heirs and successors” we generally mean not beneficiaries, but those of future generations. 

So “coheirs” are rare things, because heirs generally don't inherit together. So rare, that I can’t think of any actual example, even in history. That's why the word is so unfamiliar. 

Yet we hear that we are coheirs with Christ. What does it mean? And why would the translators wanted to have used such an unusual word? 

It is really about who Christ is, and what he does, and who we become. 

The idea comes from St Paul, “… we are co-heirs with Christ … we share in his sufferings so that we might share in his glory.” (Romans 8:20)

When God became man in Christ, what we call the Incarnation, he didn’t just appear amongst us, like a ghost or a spirit an angel or a hologram. As St John says, he dwelt amongst us. He shared our lives, Our tears, Our sufferings. 

He did not just speak a message to us, but he provided an example and model in his own life. 

He did not just tell us to care for the poor, but he became poor for our sake. 

He did not just sit at our bedsides to console us, but he took up his own bed on the ward. 

His is a way not of sympathy, but of empathy. 

He became one of us. 

The fathers of the early Church, the teachers of the Christian communities of the first centuries, put it this way: God became man, so that we might become God. 

So we are sons in the Son, and kings in the King. 

St Paul says “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). He says that in baptism we die with Christ so that we might also rise with him (Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:12)

When we receive his body and his blood, we become part of his life, his body 

We are coheirs with Christ. 

We are his brothers and his sisters and his mother. 

In faith, in hope, in love, we are one with him. 

Saturday, May 05, 2018

Easter 6 (B) : Homily / Sermon

Love one another, as I have loved you. (John 15:12)

MaryMotherofLoveLove is a word widely used, and widely abused. It refers to a rush of emotion. A stirring of urges. A blinding of reason and a driving passion. Love is powerful, and it is dangerous. It can drive people to madness, or murder. It inspires jealousy. It too often leads to heartache and tears.

Well, so you would think from watching popular dramas, or reading literature. So you would think from reading inside the newspaper where the more interesting human stories are told.

But of course, this is not the love which Jesus speaks of.
Why not? Well it is not because Christian love is unrealistic or idealised. Quite the opposite: it is the idealised, one-sided kind of love which leads to pain and anguish.

The love of God is real, realistic, because it is not one-sided, or deluded, but because it is mutual, it is shared - love one another as I have loved you.
It is not the obsession or infatuation of one person for another, but a sharing of lives, of commitment. It is not about what we might get from it, but about giving and receiving. It is not about choosing, but about being chosen. This is the love that bears fruit - because this is the love that will last.

And in this month of May, we celebrate the one who loved Christ into the world, and in the world.
The one who loved him before the world ever knew him.
The one who fed him and nursed him and hugged him and gave him up, to embrace him again in his death and resurrection.
We celebrate she who in loving him, loves us too, and cares for us, and prays for us as our Mother.

When we sing our praises of Mary, we sing the praises of the Love who chose her, the Love who saved her, the Love who filled her with love to go out and bear fruit, the fruit of her womb, fruit that lasts for ever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Lent 5 (B) The Prophecy of Jeremiah | Homily / Sermon

Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts. (Jeremiah 31:33)

Previously in the Old Testament:

NewImageIn each of the Old Testament readings this Lent we have heard descriptions of God’s dealings with his people. It has been a story of human failings and of God forgiveness. In Noah there is evil doing, followed by the flood followed by the promise of an everlasting love and protection. In Abraham a cruel sacrifice is averted and there is the promise of a shower of blessings. Then we hear of God binding himself to his people by Laws written in stone, and last week we heard how the people who had been defeated and taken into exile would be restored again to their promised land. This pattern, of disobedience, disaster and then deliverance is summed up in a word which we hear repeatedly in today’s words from Jeremiah - covenant.

A covenant is a contract, a pact, a commitment, a promise, a Testament. It is God’s commitment to his people to deliver them, again and again, despite their sins and their disasters. The Covenant is, in effect, the description of God’s love. In personal terms it is promise, it is failure, it is forgiveness … and reconciliation.

And now, at the moment of latest of these disaster, as the people of God have been defeated and are taken into exile, the holy man Jeremiah makes an extraordinary prophecy.

His prophecy is not of yet another covenant, but of an entirely new covenant.
He tells us that God is not proposing yet another fresh start, but instead he is taking the responsibility and the initiative upon himself.

This new covenant, this new Testament is like the old Testament yet also entirely different. I will be their God and they shall be my people, he says. They will all know me, he says. I will forgive their iniquity and never call their sin to mind because Deep within them I will plant my Law, writing it on their hearts.
In the new testament of which Jeremiah speaks, God does not just rescue, but he frees the human heart, by entering into it himself. He embraces the essence of humanity, he makes Sacred the human heart.

Jeremiah’s words are the prophecy of the new law which does not destroy burt which fulfills the old Law. It is a law not to be learnt by heart, but written on the heart and lived from the heart.
These words are a prophecy of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Gifts of the Spirit, the gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge and piety. This prophecy announces the new age of God’s grace, the shower of blessings of his great spiritual gifts, the transformation of the sacraments, the birth of the Church.

And this is all because this prophecy can only be truly fulfilled in Christ, the Word made flesh, the perfection of human nature, the heart entirely given over to love. The Sacred Heart is the perfection of the human heart, by the fullness of Divine Grace. Our human nature is like the grain of which Jesus speaks in today’s Gospel - a single grain, so small, so meagre, yet a grain which has been created by God, and so which already holds the rich harvest within it.

And this harvest can and will emerge, but only through a kind of death, a sacrifice, a self-giving … which will seem so final, and yet which will prove to be just the beginning.