Sunday, 25 January 2015

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 1:14-20; Jonah 3:1-5.10
I’d like us to consider today what were the FIRST recorded words said by the Lord Jesus.
Because in today’s Gospel, St Mark gives us what he portrays as the first PUBLIC words of the Lord, the first words He said to the crowds, the first words indicating His MESSAGE.
In contrast, I looked up what we heard in the Gospel last week, which recorded from St John the start of the Lord’s public life, and had His first words as, “What are you seeking for?”(Jn 1:38) -words that’s that weren’t His message addressed to the crowd, but were words addressed in a personal encounter -words that point out how the Lord Jesus satisfies what people are seeking for. This, in fact, is a point that St John repeatedly notes in the various encounters he records between people meeting Jesus. Time and again: People meet Jesus, they sense something in Him that will satisfy, and so the question from Him, “What are you seeking for?” sums this up.

Back to St Mark, however, and those first PUBLIC words, words to the crowds, encapsulating His message. The Church presents them to us today along with our first reading from the prophet Jonah. In Jonah we heard of how Jonah went to Nineveh and brought a call to repentance, and of how the people responded to that call by “renouncing their evil behaviour”(Jonah 3:10).
And the point is this: the first public words of the Lord Jesus LIKEWISE brought a call to change: “Repent and believe the Good News”(Mk 1:15). More fully: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent…”(Mk 1:15) -this, as St Mark very deliberately portrays it, sums up the whole message of Jesus and His mission.

Let me be emphatic about a point: MEETING JESUS brings an automatic call to REPENT, a call to change my life.
I noted last week that Samuel couldn’t recognize the call of the Lord because he didn’t yet “know” Him (1 Sam 3:7). I noted also that just as the first disciples were prepared for the call to “follow” Him (Jn 1:43) by first being called to “come and see”(Jn 1:39) -to spend time with Him. And I said that you and I need to spend time with Him daily by reading the Gospels and praying.
There is, however, something MORE that happens when I spend time with Jesus, when I get to know Him. And what happens is this: I automatically start to compare His life with mine; to see how I don’t measure up to the love, the compassion, the generosity, the hard work, the perseverance, and so forth, that I see I the Lord’s earthly life.
And so, to spend time with the Lord automatically brings a call to repentance, a call to change.
And I receive that call to change from the same One who empowers me, by His grace, to be forgiven for my past and enabled to live differently for the future.

So, to sum that up with reference to those first public words that St Mark records Our Lord starting His public mission with:
When Christ came He didn’t just come as another prophet. He came as the fulfillment of all that was promised. And so He said, “the time is fulfilled”(Mk 1:15). He came as the living embodiment of God’s reign on earth, and so He said, “the Kingdom of God is at hand”(Mk 1:15). He came calling us to a new way of life, and so He said, “repent”(Mk 1:15).
And so last week’s Gospel with the PERSONAL call to spend time with Him as the foundation of the call to “follow” Him, is actually making the same point as this week’s Gospel with the PUBLIC call to “repent” and enter into a new way a life -a new way of life that is now possible because we have met Him.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Moral Theology 4: The End Doesn't Justify the Means, audio

Lecture to London ordinariate clergy formation

Moral Theology 3: Mortal Sin, audio

Lecture to London ordinariate clergy formation

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Baptism of the Lord

Isa 42:1-4, 6-7; Mk 1:7-11
I’d like to say a few words about the connection between baptism and the Holy Spirit and new beginnings.

In the Gospel text we heard how Christ initiated a new beginning: the new beginning of His public ministry, and He did this in the waters of His baptism.
That event was a new beginning that Christ began for us, not for Himself but FOR US. Christ did not need to be saved, did not need it be baptised, did not need to receive the Holy Spirit. He did this FOR US.
For us, and in us ,baptism works a new beginning: dying and rising with Christ in the baptismal waters. And whenever we do an act that renews our baptism we are renewing that new beginning yet again.

The Gospel account of the Baptism of the Lord reminds us of someone pivotal that is needed for our new beginning: the Holy Spirit.
And we can trace the activity of the Holy Spirit in creation and re-creation throughout salvation history:
The book of Genesis tells us how the Holy Spirit hovered over the face of the waters, at the creation.
And the Holy Spirit was working for the RE-creation too: The gospels tell us how the Holy Spirit came upon the Ever-Virgin Mary when she agreed to the Archangel's request for her to become the mother of God. "And the Word became flesh" -and the RE-creation of our fallen creation was begun.
The prophet Isaiah had foretold, as we heard in our first reading, foretold that the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the deeds of the Messiah would be one of the signs of His having come (Isa 42:1-4, 6-7; c.f. Lk 4:14ff).
Upon the cross, as He died, the Gospel tells us that Jesus "breathed forth His Spirit" (Jn 19:30) upon His embryonic Church as they stood at the foot of the Cross.
The birth of the Church, in that further act of re-creating, was enacted at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came down upon the disciples in the form of flames of fire.
But, before that, was the event in today's Gospel, the Baptism of The Lord, when the Holy Spirit came down upon Him in His humanity, to sanctify our common humanity.

We can similarly trace the activity of the Holy Spirit in our movement from sin:
First, the Holy Spirit CONVICTS us of our sins (Jn 16:8), enabling us to see what we have done wrong, enabling us to see our NEED of a new beginning.
And the coming of the Holy Spirit is initiated in BAPTISM, as was manifested in Jordan River in Christ, for our sake, and was taught by the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”(Acts 2:8).
And it is continued in CONFESSION: The Holy Spirit was given to the Apostles that they might impart the forgiveness of sin (Jn 20:22-23), as their successors (priests) still implore the coming of the Holy Spirit as they utter the words of absolution, saying “…sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins…”
The Holy Spirit enables us to resist future sin, to start again -not by our power, but by His.
The Holy Spirit enables a new beginning, again, and again, and again.

And as we have started the New Year now in January, let us recall with that our new beginning in baptism, in the Holy Spirit.