Saturday, November 20, 2010

Homily / Sermon for the Feast of Christ the King (34th Sunday of the Year)

‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Luke 23:42

I sometimes think I have a terrible memory. And is some respects I do. I get myself double booked for events and appointments. I go to the shops and come away with bags full of shopping, but not the one item I actually went for. I run upstairs, then when I get to the top I can’t remember why I went there. I carry my keys on a lanyard round my neck, but still somehow manage to lose them.

And as I get older, it seems to get worse.

But there are some things I never forget. I might forget family birthdays and mix up my children’s names, but I never forget how important they are to me. I might forget an appointment, but I do not forget how important people are to me, and what I have to thank them for. We forget details, but we never forget that people can be hurt or inconvenienced by our forgetfulness. We might forget to do - but we don’t forget that we care. We don’t forget the values which matter - we just forget to apply them.

Memory is always strengthened by caring, by compassion, by love. That is why we ask our Lady to remember us “Remember, O most loving Virgin Mary”. That is why our prayer to the Father often asks us to remember us. That is why, at every mass, we remember before God his words at the Last Supper, his sacrifice on the cross, his rising from the dead. And that is why today we hear the thief says these words “Remember me when you come into your kingdom”

Remembering, real remembering is deeper than dates and times, names and places. Remembering, the perfect calling to mind, is an act of love. How impressed we are, and how valued we feel, when someone important remembers us, something about us, perhaps even our name.

And this is why we call Christ our King. Not because he commands armies or rules nations. Not because of wealth or power.

But because he remembers us, and cherishes us, and holds each of us in his heart.

Jesus - remember me, when you come into your kingdom.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Homily for 33rd Sunday of the Year (Remembrance Sunday)

Take care not to be deceived (Luke 21:8)

We live in a very secular, non-religious world, a world which often rejects and makes fun of or rejects religion because it is not scientific - yet it is often so surprising how people latch onto, and get enthralled by all kinds of strange and weird ideas.

People read horoscopes, and use tarot cards. They may visit spiritualists or mediums. Or they buy crystals which are said to have particular properties. Or they rearrange their furniture in a particular way. Or they try yoga, or meditation, or the newest or strangest idea. They read, and believe books like the Da Vinci Code, or ideas that God was an astronaut. They believe in ghosts, and spirits, in reincarnation, previous lives, out of body experiences … it goes on and on.

In this oh so scientific world, so many people - perhaps most people - hold on to unscientific beliefs and strange ideas, which they have collected like magpies, with little thought or consideration whether the ideas fit together, or contradict one another.

And - I will allow - there may be some substance in some parts of some of these ideas. That’s how they work. They have to have some little part that rings true in order to lead people into their fantasies. Science does not have all the answers. The world is spiritual as well as physical. There are unexplained phenomena.

And there is an explanation and an answer to our deepest human longings and our most troubling questions. There is a life beyond this life. A hope of resurrection. A God who loves us. A heavenly host who surrounds him. A guardian angel who accompanies us. There is a faith which is beautiful in both its simplicity and its consistency. It makes sense. It fits together. It stands the test of time. It is taught by an authority given to us by Christ himself.

Ah - but so many overlook this, or reject it. They want novelty. They want pick and mix religion. They want to choose and select, not receive what has been given.

The trouble is that some people will believe almost anything, provided it is different, and strange.

The great writer GK Chesterton got it exactly right: “When people cease to be believe in something, then they will believe in anything”.

Keep the faith. Do not be deceived.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Homily for 32nd Sunday of the Year

They are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God. (Luke 20:34)

When we think or talk of those who have died, those who were close to us, loved ones, parents and children, friends, wives, husbands, those we love, we might often think of them as like the angels in heaven - no longer seen yet still very present. And, when we try to explain such things to children, this is often the language that we use: no longer on earth, they are with the angels.But I wonder if we ever think about what this really means. Are angels the same as the holy souls? And if not, then what?[I notice with surprise that angels seem to be more and popular and talked about. People who are not really religious may refer to angels, have pictures and jewellery of angels. I notice that on the Christmas trees nowadays you hardly ever see a fairy - which is what we had when I was a child - now they are always angels. ]But for those who have gone before us things are not quite like that. In fact, if we think they are become angels, then we are selling them short. The faithful departed, the holy souls will be much  more wonderful like that.When we say we believe in angels we are saying that we know that the created world is far more than just what we see and touch. We are saying that the creation is visible and invisible, seen and unseen, physical and spiritual. And the angels are spiritual beings created by God. We might picture them, in one way or another, but in reality they have no physical form.But we, human beings are very different. We are not and will not be angels, because we are made in the image of God. We are both spiritual and physical. We are part of earth and heaven. We are not exactly the same as the angels (the translation here is not quite right, I think) but we are partly like them, because like them we are spiritual. But when we are fully united to God, we become not angels, but something far more: Children of the Resurrection, Sons of God. That is much greater, much more wonderful than being an angel.

And this is our great hope and our great comfort. For to hope in the Resurrection means to hope in a new creation where both body and soul, physical and spiritual, are united in God’s love. When earth and heaven will be made new there will no longer be any distinction, and no veil between them. This will be no parallel world - as if the angels sit on clouds and look down on earth - but a new world, a new existence, where all are the same and yet everything is changed.It is the perfection of God’s creation: the end of disease and suffering, the end of war and conflict, the end of hatred and envy, the end of sorrow and loss. It is dwellling in Love which lasts for ever.