Saturday, July 28, 2012

17th Sunday of the Year (B) : Homily / Sermon

What is that between so many? (John 6:9)

NewImageThere are those who are uncomfortable about the miracles in the Gospels and try and explain them away. Perhaps there is some natural explanation, they say. Perhaps the walking on the water was a trick of the light. Perhaps the stilling of the storm was co-incidence. Perhaps the feeding of the 5000 was not supernatural at all, but an extraordinary act of sharing by the crowd, so that all were fed.

Mm. Perhaps. But perhaps those who try and explain these things away entirely miss the point. Their scepticism makes the account - and Jesus - too ordinary, too banal. Let me try and explain.

There is another occasion when Jesus is asked to perform a miracle with bread. Only on that occasion he refused. It was when he was tempted by the devil in the desert. Now why perform the miracle now, and not then?

Well there are many reasons, but one is certainly this. He refuses to turn a stone to bread to create a spectacle - but he willing makes little bread into much bread to feed the crowd.

Jesus takes what we give him and makes more, much more of it. A little love is multiplied into great love. A little sorrow for our sins becomes an overflowing forgiveness. Our small talents and abilities become great with his help. Our simple prayers are joined to his all embracing will. Drops of olive oil convey his healing power. A little water is made the gateway to eternal life. Our gifts of bread and wine become his Body and Blood.

Christ takes our little offerings and makes them great. God does not destroy nature, but expands it and enhances it and glorifies it. As St Thomas Aquinas says “Grace perfects nature”. The stone is not destroyed but the loaves and fish are much multiplied.

It is like the words of the Christmas carol:

“What can I give him, poor that I am, if I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb. If I were a wise man, I would do my part. What can I give him? Give my heart.”

A small offering: a great reward.


Friday, July 13, 2012

15th Sunday of the Year : Homily / Sermon

So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.


Jesus sent the Twelve out to preach the Good News, the Good News of the Gospel. And that Good News is a call to repentance.

This not what we think of usually as Good News. Good news is the surprise lottery win, the announcement of a birth or a marriage, being given the all clear, the result of the match, the winning of the prize, the success in examinations or a job interview. And in all these, notice, for all our efforts beforehand, Good News is something that happens to us, it is gift, it is grace.

Yet here, in this Gospel the message is one of repentance, contrition, sorrow for sins. It is something we have to do, and something which is painful - to admit our own fault, to confess our sins, to acknowledge our failures, our impatience, our dishonesty, our unkindnesses and cruelties. It might be necessary - but how can this be a message to preach. How can this be Gospel? How can this be Good News?

Well it can - it is - of course it is - because what the Twelve are sent out to preach with such urgency is not the wickedness of the world, but greatest of God’s mercy. They move from house to house and place to place rapidly, wasting no time with those who do not want to here because they are there not to condemn but to give the offer of a Great Gift, the Gift of Forgiveness which is freely given by God to everyone who embraces it, and this gift heals minds and hearts, casts out anxiety and soothes infirmity.

And all we need to do to receive this great gift of God - is to acknowledge that we need it.