Saturday, April 16, 2016

Easter 4 : Homily / Sermon

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday - the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.


It is a difficult time for vocations to the priesthood. We know that the numbers of those going forward for the priesthood are much smaller than they ever used to be. We know that the average age of priests is increasing, in some places alarmingly so. We are often told that the great woes of the Church are the fault of the clergy, of clericalism, of celibacy, of the secrecy and privilege which surrounds the priestly life.

”Why would anyone want to be a priest at present”? 

So why am I priest?

Because this gives me the greatest privilege any person can ever have: to share something of people’s lives, and in doing so bringing the grace of God to them.
Every week I sit and talk with those who are bereaved and distressed.
Every week I discuss the struggles of prayer and daily living with those who come to confession.
Every week I am asked for advice by those in difficulty.
Every week I am challenged to justify what I believe in.
Every week I have the joy of sharing what I hold to be true and I try explain it.
Every week I visit homes, schools, hospitals and sometimes prisons and meet the young and the old, the working and the retired, the healthy and the sick, the good and the not so good.
I frequently share with a family the joy of the gift of their child, by celebrating baptism with them. And I am part of the preparations of a family as they approach the joy and excitement of their wedding.
I am called out to anoint the dying and pray with them, to console their relatives, to bring some little comfort in a difficult time. I chat with young children, talk to teenagers and converse with adults.
On occasion I meet the homeless, the desperate, recovering alcoholics, parents separated from their children. I sit on committees and boards and governing bodies and have the responsibility and privilege of sharing in decisions which affect people’s lives.
And most of all, I celebrate, with joy, the sacraments and especially the mass, the supreme sacrifice in which bread and wine become His body and blood, in which grace touches our lives, in which heaven touches earth.
And this is the point - the real point. Because I know there are many things I’m not so good at. I talk a bit too quick and I’m always a bit too busy. I’m late starting mass and sometimes forget appointments. It is often difficult to know what to say to those in distress, and to know how to help those in trouble.
I make decisions which sometimes work out, but sometimes don’t. Sometimes people are upset, or hurt, or overlooked. I forget people’s names ... I’m sure you could add to the this.
But here is the amazing thing. When I have struggled with my words or an answer, or discussed for a long time a difficult problem someone says to me, “Thank you so much Father, I feel so much better” or “your words are really helpful” or even “I enjoyed your homily” or some other extra-ordinary and unexpected words of compliment.
And I know I don’t deserve them. This is not me who has done this. I know that. This is God working within me. This is heaven touching earth. This is the operation of grace. The grace of holy orders.
This is why I am a priest.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Easter Three (C) : Homily / Sermon

There stood Jesus on the shore, though the disciples did not realise that it was Jesus. (John 1:5)



There are a number of accounts of resurrection appearances in the Gospels, and in quite a few of them it seems the disciples do not immediately recognise Jesus. Mary Magdalen does not at first recognise the risen Jesus in the Garden. Neither do the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Nor do the apostles here. They see a figure, but not the Man. 

But then they do see him. And in each case it is his actions which reveal him. For the Magdalen it is his word of tenderness. For the disciples on the road to Emmaus it is the breaking of bread. Today it is in the great haul of fish. 

Nowhere in the Gospels do we have a description of the Jesus’ appearance - short or tall, scrawny or muscular, plain or striking, we are never told. We can surmise that he was certainly not blond haired, white skinned, nor blue eyed (despite what we have often been shown), but we cannot be sure even of this. We are never told. But we do hear time and time again about his words. And about his actions. His works of Mercy. 

Our age, our society is obsessed by appearance - but Christ is made known not by how he looks, but by what he does. He heals the sick, cures the lame, feeds the needy, and shows compassion to sinners. 

And these actions always create a response - the act offered in return. Mary Magdalen and the disciples in Emmaus rush to spread the news. Peter leaps into the water. And we make Christ known, we make Christ present, by doing what he did: celebrating the sacraments, certainly, but even more by caring, loving, sharing. By assisting those who hunger and thirst, or are in acute need, by welcoming the stranger, by visiting the sick, by supporting those in trouble. 

Like the disciples, we may struggle sometimes to see Christ, grapple with faith, and are anxious over unanswered prayers - but when we get on with it, when we practice the Works of Mercy, then Christ himself is visible amongst us.


Pictured below are the volunteers for Compassion Kitchen

at Sacred Heart, Hanley on Easter Day 2016. 

IMG 3549