Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Homily / Sermon for All Saints Day

Homily for All Saints Day

What would make you really happy? Now there is a good question. How would you answer it? How would your children answer it?

For the young, and sometimes not so young, happiness is often about what we own, or can afford. It is about pleasure and enjoyment. It is about comfort and choice. It is about freedom.

As we get older, happiness often resides in our wishes for others. It is about the well being of our children. Happiness is in the healing of family rifts. It is about our aspirations for those who will outlive us.

Jesus presents us with a rather shocking idea of happiness. Happy are those who mourn, who are poor, who are persecuted. Happiness, in other words, is not about our own comfort, or even the comfort of others. Happiness is not about what is easy, but about what is hard, not about what is comfortable, but about what is true.

Is this really the same word? Can Jesus really be telling us how to be happy?

Yes. It is, and he is. Because any idea of happiness which is based on our own needs, our own comfort, our pleasure or enjoyment, will be short lived and temporary. The search for pleasure will never be satisfied, because it always yearns for more.

Happiness lies not in desiring what we haven't got - that is called covetousness - but in rejoicing in what we already have: that is called sanctity.

The saints are happy in sorrow or hardship because they were not searching for a passing pleasure, or enjoyment, but instead found a true happinesss in what was already around them.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Homily / Sermon for 30th Sunday of the Year

Son of David, have pity on me. (Mark 10:50)

It is one of those idle speculations people often make - if you had to do without a particular sense, which one would it be? If the question means which sense do you value the most, then I suppose it has some interest. If the question leads us to realise how valuable our senses are, then I suppose it is a really worthwhile question, because I know that while I would hate to lose the enjoyment of music and speech which deafness would bring, I would just as much feel bereft if I could not read or watch television or just get about with ease. If a question like this makes us admire all the more those who cope with the limitation or are a loss of speech or hearing (rather than just pity them) them all the better.

And of course people sometimes say that if you lose one sense, the others become stronger, or more acute. I’m not convinced by that argument. People use the more and so take more notice of them, but I’m not sure whether they are actually better - you may disagree.

But what I do think is this: that we would be very foolish to underestimate or patronise those who do have disability of one kind of another. People used to assume that the deaf were also stupid. People still ask the person pushing the wheelchair about the passenger, rather than speaking to him or directly.

The crowd underestimated poor old blind Bartimaeus. A blind beggar, because that was the only way to live. To be pitied, for sure, but not to be respected. Don’t shout out blind man. Don’t make a scene, poor beggar. But blind Bartimaeus is bold, because although he cannot see Jesus with his eyes, with his heart he makes an act of faith.
Your faith has saved you, Jesus says. While those around may be inquisitive to see what this man looks like, the blind man, unable to see him loudly worships him - much to the embarrassment of those who think they can see.


For Bidding Prayers, click here

Friday, October 16, 2009

Homily / Sermon for 29th Sunday of the Year

The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised (Mark 10:39)

It’s pretty clear in this Gospel reading that Jesus is making it very clear to his apostles that following him will not lead to earthly glory and power and riches. Oh no, though they do not understand it yet, they will have to suffer what he will suffer. And sure enough, as tradition tells us, almost all the apostles were indeed martyrs for their belief in Christ.

But here’s a strange thing. Look at the language Jesus uses: you must drink the cup that I drink and be baptised with the same baptism. It seems odd language. Not you must suffer as I will suffer - but by sharing in the baptism and the eucharist you will not receive power and comfort, but suffering and sacrifice.

How often do we think of the sacraments in this way? Rarely I guess. People see receiving communion as a routine way of taking part in the mass, and we think of baptism as a necessity and a right, not a commitment. People often approach the Church seeking baptism for a good family celebration, or as a matter of course, or even to make sure of a place in a good school. Catholics who never come to mass expect their children to be baptised just as they were, to make their first holy communion and confirmation just as they did - and perhaps we should be thankful.

But how often do we, do they, understand baptism, or the receiving of communion, to be the embracing of a way of life, united with Christ, which is the surrender of one’s self, commitment, and sacrifice?


For Bidding Prayers, click here