Friday, October 21, 2011

30th Sunday of the Year: Homily / Sermon


A couple of years ago, the famous atheist, Professor Richard Dawkins, supported a plan to promote atheism by putting advertisements on London buses. They tried to copy some religious groups by using the kind of slogan you might find on a wayside pulpit - except one that rejected belief rather than promoted it. The adverts read: “There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

I find it fascinating, and amusing, for three good reasons.

Firstly, they said that “There's probably no God”. Ah - not certainly. They’re not quite sure…

Secondly, they said “stop worrying”. They obviously think that belief in God makes people worry. Well, the idea that God exists might worry them, but for most of us, to believe in God is far from worrying.

Thirdly, they say “enjoy your life”. They clearly believe that a religious believer does not enjoy life, but is miserable and unhappy.

Today’s Gospel presents us with the commandment to love. Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment, and he gives not one but two, though the two are really one: Love God and love your neighbour.

If we believe in God, then we must live by these commandments. But does this make us worry? Do they make us unhappy?

Quite the opposite. To know that God is love, and that we should respond to him in love is a source not of anxiety, but of great comfort, great hope, great consolation. To love God is to acknowledge the source of meaning and purpose. To love God is to embrace the truth. To love God is to glory and wonder at all that he has made.

Believing in God does make us anxious or unhappy. He encourages us in our lives. He guides us in the decisions we must take. He challenges us to love one another so that not only is my life happy but the lives of our neighbours may be happy too. He gives us comfort when we are sad. Hope when trouble confronts us. He gives us joy and blessings in our lives. He makes sense out of confusion and hope out of despair. He provides us with far more than enjoyment - he gives us happiness, the happiness of living in the Truth.

To be told “enjoy your life” might at first seem attractive, but what it really means is you are on your own, there is nothing else - no hope, no purpose - and no one else - no sacrifice, no commitment - other people are only there for what I can get out of them.

“Stop worrying. Enjoy your life.” Does not only mean that there is ‘probably no God’ but also that there is ‘probably no Love’.

We know better.

Friday, October 07, 2011

28th Sunday of the Year: Homily / Sermon


October is not, perhaps the most obvious month for a wedding, yet this year I have three weddings, on three different Saturdays, this month. Last weekend the bride and groom were blessed with the hottest October day on record!

Yet, as I guess all of us know, planning a wedding celebration and attending to all the details can be a very exacting and very stressful task.

One such difficulty is the guest list. Who do you invite or not invite? Who do you sit next to whom? And what do you do about the people who are likely to come, but just can't be bothered to reply to the invitation?

Well, the King in the parable seems to have similar problems, and there seems go a simple message: if some of those invited can't be bothered to give the courtesy offs reply, then invite those who WILL be grateful.

But, of course, wise advice though this may be, that isn't really what the parable is about. The banquet, the Wedding Feast, is a reminder of the Eucharist, and an image of heaven, eternal life with God.

And the parable gives us a simple yet challenging message.

Firstly, God calls everyone into his Kingdom. The self-important, the self-righteous, the holier-than-thous had better beware. The rich, the wealthy, the influential, the clever, the successful - they are in danger of thinking themselves too good. The invitation is for them, but also the poor, the destitute, the weak, the uneducated, the failures of life, the sinners and the despised. They are invited too.

And there is a second point, which at first may seem to jar. It's to do with this strange detail of the man without a wedding garment. You see, while the invitation is open to everyone, this does not mean it us without conditions. Christ invites sinners, but they must be repentant sinners.

He invited all to his Wedding Feast, but accepting the invitation means accepting a faith and a way of life which changes and transforms us. In entering the Feast we become a new person - the Wedding Garment is the robe of our baptism, which symbolizes a new life in faith and trust and honesty and compassion and love. We must love as we are loved.

We must forgive as we are forgiven. We must give as we have received. As we have been invited, we must invite others.

As we enter the Feast, so we put on a wedding garment, leaving behind pettiness, and ingratitude and self-interest.