Friday, November 25, 2011

Advent Sunday (B): Homily / Sermon

“Be on our guard, stay awake, because you never know when the time will come” (Mark 13:33)

The prayer of the first Christians, the final word of the Bible are about the coming of Christ: Maranatha, they prayed, Come, Lord Jesus. The first Christians would meet together on Saturday evening not for a short mass, but for a long vigil throughout the night, as they waited expectantly for the coming of Christ with dawn. Every Saturday-Sunday vigil remembered not only the resurrection of Jesus, but also looked forward to the coming of Christ at the end of time.

We have lost something of that excitement, that anticipation. December is an exciting time for us because of the pressures of preparing for Christmas, and sadly not because in Advent we are keenly looking forward to the coming of Christ.

Let us try to recover something of the wonder and awe which those first Christians had. They read scripture and prayed through the night, so that with the new day, as they shared the Eucharist, they knew that Christ was already with them in the sacrament – not yet clearly seen, maybe, not yet known by all people, perhaps,  and yet really and truly present in the Sacrament of the Altar.

So we should prepare ourselves for Christ this Advent, and renew once more our devotion to him in the Mass.

Let us renew ourselves in prayer: before we come to Mass – in quite times spent at home – on the journey to the Church – in a real sense of expectation that we will meet Christ here.

Let us also deepen our knowledge of Christ in scripture – by reading in advance the readings for Sunday Mass – by spending each day reading part of the Gospels, or of the Psalms, or using one of the many guides to the reading of Scripture which are available.

We can see Christ in the Sacrament, and truly meet him – if we prepare our hearts for this beautiful encounter.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Feast of Christ the King (C) : Homily / Sermon

"In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me". (Matthew 25:39)

NewImageWe celebrate today the Feast of Christ our King. It is the culmination of the Church year as we celebrate Christ gathering all things to himself and ruling as Lord of all creation.

But the images presented to us in the readings speak very little of kingship directly. The word "King" appears a couple of times in the Gospel, though in fact we have are presented rather with other images of Christ, images which explain what kind of King he is.

Firstly, he is a Shepherd. We see this especially in the reading from the prophet Ezekiel and in the Psalm. These are familiar and comforting words: The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want, the Psalm says. He looks after the lost one, brings back the stray, bandages the wounded and keeps the weak strong, Ezekiel tells us. His care is especially for the weak and the wounded, the vulnerable, those who are poor, not simply in monetary terms, but those whose spirit needs lifting and sustaining, whose hearts are heavy, who reach out for the embrace of his love. He revives our drooping Spirit.

But there is another image, too. The Shepherd is also a Judge. The Shepherd may present a comforting image, but that he is also a Judge may be discomforting. He separates the sheep from the goats. He assigns the just punishment to those on his left hand. He distinguishes between the virtuous, who have carried out the works of mercy, and those who have not, and dispatches them to their fate.

When this Gospel is read, often the reading ends with the reward of the virtuous. It may be for reasons of length, but it may also be because we have a slight apprehension that our place amongst the sheep might not be as secure as we would hope. The gentle shepherd may seem a little too demanding for us.

But the message is not different, but the same. Just as we may be poor in needing his compassion to lift up our drooping spirit, so we are rich in being able to offer that compassion to others. He calls on us too to clothe the naked, visit the sick, feed the hungry, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded, make the weak strong.

This is not a fierce and painful judgment, but no more than a challenge to share what we have been given, to forgive others as we are forgiven ourselves, to show mercy to others as his mercy has been given to us, to love as we are loved.

Friday, November 11, 2011

33rd Sunday of the Year A : Homily / Sermon

‘His master said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.” (Matthew 25)


Sometimes we may doubt whether this parable is really for us. Do I have a talent?

And of course, on one level it is a fair point. Not many of us are international swimmers, X factor singers, or skilled sculptors. Oh yes, we are good at some things more than others, but is that a talent?

Take care over the details in the story. It is money which the man gives to his servant to invest, and the currency is called ‘talents’. It might just as well have been pounds, or euros or dollars (in their thousands of course). The connection with great skill is an interesting one, but it isn’t exactly there in the original story.

You see the story is for us. We all do have gifts, gifts from God. We have all been given something by him, a vocation, an aptitude, an ability. It may not be prizewinning, but it is no less valuable for all that. 
You may include being a mother, or grandmother. You could be a teacher. Or a listener. You may be good at odd jobs, DIY, and can use that gift to help family, friends and neighbours. You may have a good singing or reading voice. Or a good sense of humour. You may be good at writing letters, or understanding complex documents or ideas. Or perhaps you just know how to get the DVD recorder to work. Any or all of these may be gifts, talents, granted by God.

Thank him for them. And don’t bury them. Put them to good use, and they will double, they will grow, and they will be to your credit and to the praise of God.

This is the warning here. Do not hide your light under a bushel, but rejoice in your blessings and put them to proper and frequent use. Glorify him in using the things with which he has blessed you, for to do so is not to take pride in yourself, but is to rejoice in making repayment to the Master, from whom come such blessings.