Saturday, July 31, 2010

Homily for the 18th Sunday of the Year

‘So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.’ (Luke 12:21)

There are plenty of adverts on the telly about becoming rich. If its not the lottery its a draw for some newspaper.

And for ordinary people - all of us - the thought of becoming suddenly wealthy is very attractive. Most people would give up work- for life if its really enough money - go and live in a villa in Spain, or the Caribbean, or somewhere else that is hot and where the pace of live slow. Most would want the win to remove the pressure and stress from their lives, take away the need for toil and give them years of comfort and leisure.

But the odd thing is that people who are really rich - really really rich - don’t see things in this way. Like the man in the Gospel, the really rich don’t give up work and rest back on their wealth, but want to acquire more, more than they can ever use of spend. The really rich - who let’s face it, one way or another have worked to get where they are - they are not satisfied with their wealth. It can never, ever, be enough.

And here we hit on the message of Jesus. Remember the rich young man who came to see hi? He asked “What must I do to get eternal life?” In riches and wealth and material things there is some pleasure and enjoyment, but it is never adequate.

Whatever our musings and dreamings, the question each one of us must ask ourselves is simple yet demanding: What do I really want? What is my treasure?

Is it luxury and leisure? Is it fine things, material goods?

Or is it friends and family? Honesty and loyalty? Companionship and commitment? Truth and self-respect? This life - or the next?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Homily / Sermon for the 17th Sunday of the Year (C)

Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)

So does God always answer prayer?

It is a fair question. When we are facing a difficult operation, or a worrying procedure; when a family member is undergoing tests or treatment; when there are disputes at work and someone is being bullied or treated unfairly: we might wonder.
We pray earnestly for world peace, for health and happiness; we offer masses and rosaries and novenas for our children, our grand-children; we pray for vocations, for the poor, for those who suffer from natural disasters: does God hear?
Sometimes it seems that the greedy do best, that dishonesty pays, that the good suffer. Is it really true that God hears and answers all our prayers?
There is of course a simple response to this difficult question: that God’s answers are not our answers, that his will is not our will: “Your will, not mine be done” said Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. And his answer may be Yes - of course. It may be No - this is not my will for you. It may be Not Yet - be patient. All this is certainly true, but perhaps a bit too simple
Perhaps, instead, we are making the wrong petition, or asking the wrong question.
Rather than ask - does God answer prayers, perhaps we should ask, Why do people pray in the first place?
You see, if you think God isn’t there - or it he is he can’t help - you really have to explain why so many people still pray. If prayers don’t get answered, then why do so many people still pray. And why do those who suffer most pray most - and those whose life is most comfortable, pray least?
This question we can answer.
God is not Santa Claus, to whom we send our requests. He is not one of the old deities of the Ancient World, who might be bribed by sacrifice or flattery.
Our petitions come from a much deeper need than just selfish concerns - remember that Jesus said to James and John, “Do you know what you are asking for”
Our yearning to pray comes not so much from our desire for this and that, the shopping list of prayers or petitions, but because we want to bring our whole life to him, our joys and our anxieties, or wishes for ourselves and our cares for others.
It is because we do not feel whole that we come to him for wholeness.
When we pray, we are praying with Jesus on the cross. We are joined with his suffering and his saving. And being in communion with him gives us a deeper satisfaction than the answering of any individual petition.
His love is strength and comfort and courage. His sacrifice is our hope and our salvation. In this life and the next.
That is what we really are asking for, that is what we truly seek: and he opens the door for us.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Homily for 16th Sunday of the Year

Mary has chosen the better part

Whose side do you take - Martha’s or Mary’s?
It’s hard not to sympathise with Martha.
There she is doing all the work. Serving at table, washing the dishes, brushing the floor, soaking the pans, filling the glasses - while Mary just sits there doing nothing, listening and chatting.
And the more she does, the more frustrated she gets. She bangs a few plates loudly into the sick. Pushes a door to a little more firmly than usual. Huffs and puffs with a bit more force and volume.
She is annoyed. She is furious with her ... idle ... sister. Livid.
But Jesus is right.
What is more important, chores or conversation? the worry of work, or the joy of companionship? The task list or the guest?
It’s not that the work doesn’t matter. It does. Talbe will be cleared. The floor will have to be swept. The dishes must be cleaned.
But people must always come first. Love, Devotion, Companionship, Prayer can never be second best.
We live a workaholic world where people rush from place to place, work long hours, go on time management courses rather than spend time with their families. We put the kids in front of DVD rather than spend quality time together ... if we are not careful.
No - we might sympathise with Martha - but Mary has got it right.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Homily for the 15th Sunday of the Year

Go and do the same (Luke 10:37)

Here’s the odd and interesting thing about what must be the most famous parable - perhaps even the most famous story - in the whole of Scripture.
I think when we hear the story we understand that Jesus is saying to us we should help everyone, even those we might not be disposed to like. Samaritans and Jews are, well, like Black and White, Catholics and Protestants, Israeli and Palestinian - all the Montagues and Capulets of the world. So, this parable says just the same as “Love your enemy”.
But it says a lot more. Remember, Jesus is speaking to a Jewish audience. So what does he tell them to do? To help others, even Samaritans?
Look again. He says to the Jews - “Go and do as he did”. He doesn’t tell them to help Samaritans - he tells them to imagine themselves as Samaritans.
And its the only way.
Helping those in need is good. But it can be self-serving, patronising. We feel good because we have helped those less fortunate than ourselves.
No, Jesus says. Don’t just help them. Be them. Put yourselves in their place. Imagine yourselves in their situation. See things with their eyes.
If not, however kind we are, it will always be US and THEM.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Homily for the 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time

I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.(Luke 10:3)
Images of Christians, and especially clergy, in the media, are rarely very complimentary. We are rarely nasty people, but usually very funny ones. Remember the bumbling Vicar in Dad’s Army? Or the foolish Vicar played by Dick Emery? And Catholic priests are often portrayed as Irish - a joke in itself, of course - and often taking a bit too much pleasure in their liquid refreshment. They never say “More Tea, Vicar?” to a priest, do they?
Christians are seen to be remote from real life, unrealistic about the stresses and strains of real living, naïve and gullible - easily taken in by those who want to take advantage of them.
Perhaps it suits society to see believers in this way - harmless, but well, not really with it. Innocents. Lambs. Perhaps, most of the time, this is how persecution works ... not the violent persecution of the past, but the silent persecution of smug smiles and smirks.
But of course, things are very different. Ordinary Christians know all the pains of life that everyone else does. Family arguments and breakdown. The suffering of sickness and disability. Bereavement and loneliness. Disappointments in life, and in people. Do people really think we do not know these things?
And priests work in prisons and hospitals. They meet murderers and the terminally ill - far more often than most people ever come across these people or situations. They counsel the distressed and the anxious. They support those who struggle with life - the refugee, the accused, the deserted. They know about the routine habitually sins of daily life, and they guard the secrets of those who would otherwise hang their heads in shame.
These Lambs, these innocent Lambs, are very aware of the wolves around them. These Lambs face up to the Wolves of ridicule. Wolves of indifference.
These Lambs of God.