Friday, April 27, 2012

Easter 4: Homily / Sermon (The Good Shepherd)


The hired man, since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees a wolf coming. (John 10:12)

If you pay peanuts, as they say, you get monkeys.

It is a cynical view, but one with a lot of truth in it. If you are employed by someone else, then you expect a proper reward. When the situation is not so good, then commitment falls considerably. When you work for someone else, you may take pride in your work, but fundamentally, at the end of the day you can walk away.

On the other hand, if it is your own business, your own idea, your own vision, you are highly motivated. You want it to succeed. You work long hours. You will even work for peanuts. Your commitment is entirely different.

In this parable, Jesus hits on this very point. You could say it is the parable of self-employment, or the small business. But it is also the parable of vocation.

Because there are times when in a job our commitment is not like that of the hired man. When we are doing something which gives us a sense of vision and purpose, When we are caring for others, When we are sharing our skills or our knowledge: in all these situations we may work outside hours, for little or no pay, because we are committed to what we do. It is no longer a job given by someone else, but a job owned by us. And it is owned by us because it is an answer to the call of God within in. It fulfils us not so much because we have chosen it, but because it has chosen us.

And this is what Vocation is all about.

A job may be given to us by another human being, but a vocation is given us by God. And the trouble is we follow our own desires and needs, rather than listening to God.

Today on what we call Good Shepherd Sunday, we pray for Vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life. We pray that our hearts may be open to the voice of God, and that men and women may respond to God’s call to service. Pray for vocations. Pray for priests. Pray that men and women may hear the voice of God, and respond to it

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Easter 2 (Divine Mercy) : Homily / Sermon

Those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. (John 20:23)

NewImageToday is Divine Mercy Sunday. This name was given to the Sunday after Easter by Pope John Paul II.

You may be familiar with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which has become increasingly popular. This day stands at the end of a novena to the Divine Mercy and one of the practices on this day is the practice of individual sacramental confession.

We associate the sacrament of reconciliation, confession, penance, especially with Lent, don’t we? Lent is the time, surely for us to creep to confession, queue in the church, sneak into the dark box for a few minutes of awkwardness, the mention of a few routine sins and a lot of what-I-cannot-now-remembers. It’s an important duty, but an uncomfortable one.

But today’s Gospel reminds us of something that we should always have known, that the forgiveness of sins is first and foremost an Easter blessing. Before the resurrection, it is Christ who dispenses the forgiveness of God - here in this Gospel as we are clearly told - gives this wonderful gift to the Church.

So when we fall from grace, when we say the harsh word, omit the important duty, are thoughtless or greedy or dishonest or unloving, and when we acknowledge our guilt and our failings, the Church can free us from our sins in the power of Christ. This is what is meant by salvation and redemption. This is what is meant by the victory of the cross and the power of the resurrection.

Yet too often - like Thomas - we think we know better. We hide or excuse our sins. We shrink from recognising our need of God. We hesitate in approaching the Church, and if we are reluctant in this way, we remain in the narrowness of vision, and the hardness of hard and the coldness of faith which sin brings.

Rejoice and praise God. Raise your hearts. Utter with Thomas, My Lord and My God - because through his resurrection, Christ has given the Church the power to release us from our sins.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Easter Vigil: Homily / Sermon


About 1,630 years ago a woman from Spain or possibly France went on holiday to the holy land. She was a Christian, and she went to Jerusalem to witness the famous ceremonies of the week before Easter. Her diary, travelogue, is said to be the oldest signficant written work by a European woman. It is also the first account we have of the ceremonies of Holy Week.

Egeria describes the procession of palms on the Sunday before Easter, a Mass to celebrate the Last Supper on the Thursday before Easter, a ceremony of veneration of a wooden cross on the Friday before Easter Day. She describes them in enthusiastic detail as great novelties, remarkable, unknown, amongst her readers at home. She describes elaborate and detailed ceremonies, the like of which those at home would never have seen. It is thought by historians of such things that her writing did much to spread and establish ceremonies which are now very familiar to us and which are the basis of holy week all over the world.

And then she comes to the Easter Vigil, the most colourful, the most dramatic, the most elaborate of all the ceremonies. Her description here is all the more remarkable - "and on Easter night", she says, "they do exactly the same as us". Little detail. Bare description. "They do just the same as we do". [these are not literal quotations!]

For Egeria, the Holy Week ceremonies were worth writing home about.They were so different, so unusual, so dramatic. But the Vigil was the same everywhere.

This travelogue tells us something we might have worked out for ourselves. The Vigil is so different. The other days, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday in a sense dramatise the story of the passion. They take us into the footsteps of Jesus. They place us amongst the crowd. We voice the words and carry out the actions of those days. They are drama.

Yet in this vigil there is no drama, at least not in that sense. We do not gather round a tomb. We do not roll away a stone. We do not converse with angels, not even in a theatrical manner.

We gather in the dark. We listen to Old Testament prophecies, about creation, about salvation through water of the Red Sea, about the water which will be poured over us and give us a new heart and a new spirit. Our symbols are a candle and water, neither of which feature - at least not directly - in any story of the Resurrection.

In this night we do not recreate a story. In this night we do commemorate an event, but we celebrate our salvation which is represented by our Baptism which is our own dying and rising with Christ.

And in doing this we are doing something far more ancient than the retelling of the story, something more fundamental than reliving history.

We are not stepping back into history, but striding forward to eternity.

This is not drama, this is spectacle, this is mystery, this is sacrament.


[This picture is found in one or two places implying it is a portrait of Egeria, though I can't find the source. I think it is very unlikely to be from her time]