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.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Divine Mercy : Homily / Sermon

Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe. John 20:29

 

It seems that we live in a society without belief. People either just don't know - or we find that faith is rejected, more and more people claim to be of "no religion", and sincerely held beliefs are frequently ridiculed. 

 

And yet, by contrast, the same people often believe in strange and fantastic things. 

 

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We have heard a lot in recent times about “Fake News (or “False News”) - stories put on to the internet which people avidly believe and consume, especially if they fit in with some prejudices or preconceived ideas, however fanciful. Facebook - where so many of these strange stories seem to dwell, have even set out a help page - “10 Ways to spot False News” https://www.facebook.com/help/188118808357379

 

Now there is nothing new about this at all - though the internet makes the spreading of false news so much easier. And it is not just false news which catches peoples imaginations, but also crazy, off-the-wall ideas.

 

People believe in astrology and tarot, and take part in séances. They will embrace unconventional medical practices, such as homeopathic medicine, chiropractics and acupuncture. They will have strong, yet imaginative ideas about religion itself, and tell you that God is an astronaut, that Leonardo Da Vinci was part of some historic conspiracy, that Jesus married Mary Magdalen, had a large family and retired to Spain, and, of course, that he was gay. They will tell you that the earth is flat or hollow, that man never landed on the moon, that Kennedy was assassinated by ... Martians ... and goodness knows what else. Some people will even believe what they read on the internet! The more shocking the idea, the more likely it is to be believed. They take some thin threads of fact and weave them into a complex and fantastical web.

 

“When people cease to believe in something, they will believe in anything,” so the writer GK Chesterton is reputed to have said. 

 

Indeed, we live in a world and a society where there is no lack of belief at all - for people will believe in almost anything provided it is different or novel or unusual, and especially if it fits in with some prejudice or other. It is good to have an open mind, provided it isn’t open at the bottom. 

 

No, we do not live in an unbelieving world, at all, but we do live in a credulous one. 

 

But Faith is not the same as credulity. It is very different from the fashions and fancies so popular today.  

 

Faith is not without foundation in fact, or in history. Far from being a fancy idea - it is a life giving power, that gives hope, and purpose and carries the message of love and forgiveness. 

The facts speak for themselves: 

The tomb was really empty. 

The disciples were really transformed from being fearful to being courageous. 

They proclaimed their story, their faith, even to the point of giving their lives for it.

 

Thomas and the Apostles see the risen Christ not so that we can believe blindly, but so that we can be witnesses to the truth - so that we can hear the message they preached, the truth which they taught, the vision they received. Faith is about our the opening of eyes, and hearts and mouths, not about the closing of them. 

 

And it is not a tale set in the past either, but a living power. 

As Jesus said in another context: “By their fruits shall you know them”. In other words, to test the ideas, look at the results of these ideas. 

Faith’s firm foundation is the Good News, the amazing message of what really happened, and the power of Life and Love which continues to dwell amongst us, full of grace and truth.

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Easter Vigil (Lamb of God) : Homily / Sermon

Easter Vigil

Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sins of the world.

 

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The Lamb and Flag is a familiar name which has been given to so many pubs. There is a famous pub by that name in Oxford, for example where CS Lewis and JR Tolkien used to drink. Morse and Lewis have been spotted there as well. There is another famous Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden in London. There even used to be one here in Cannock, though not quite so famous. But have you ever wondered what the name means? 

 

The Lamb of course is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world - the Lamb sacrificed at passover, to save the Hebrews from death, Christ, the Lamb who gives his life for us in Holy Week. 

 

But the pub sign uses an ancient representation seen in Churches throughout the world, which bears an image not of a dead Lamb, but of a living one. One moving forward, one depicted - albeit awkwardly - carrying the Flag which bears the imprint of the cross. And the flag is open, flying int the rush of air, which indicates to us forward movement. 

 

This is the symbol of the resurrection, the symbol of victory. It is the sign for the refreshment of the traveller, the sustenance of the pilgrim. It is the strength and the power of the grace of God, which gives us life, which inspires us and drives us on. The cross on the flag is a reminder of the struggle, the unavoidable sorrows, the pains, betrayals and failures, which are endured before the victory. But now the living, risen, victorious Lamb, parades the cross behind him, because it is over this which he is triumphant. 

 

This is the night of the Lamb, when Christ our Passover is sacrificed, when darkness vanishes for ever!

May Christ who came back from the dead, shed his peaceful light on all mankind.