Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sunday, 14 June 2015

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Mk 4:26-34; 2 Cor 5:6-10
At the 9am Mass we just celebrated our First Holy Communion Mass, with ten children making their FHC this year.
As I was looking at the readings for today, and also thinking about the FHCs, a similarity occurred to me:
Our readings speak about things we don’t see, but nonetheless know to be true, know to be true because God has said so.
Holy Communion is likewise a reality we only know because God has said so.

In the Gospel we heard the Lord Jesus speak about how the Kingdom of God is like a seed that grows unseen in the soil. It is growing under the ground long before its springs forth its first shoot, long before the farmer sees it. In the same way, the Lord is at work in many things in our lives even we cannot see Him.
How do we KNOW that He is at work, and not just abandoning us?
Because He has said so.
The Lord speaks repeatedly of how He watches over us. I saw a flock of birds recently, and thought of the Lord’s words, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”(Mt 6:26)

In our second reading we heard St Paul; speak about how, in this life on earth, we live “exiled from the Lord”(2 Cor 5:6). He then adds, almost casually, a hugely important point: “we walk by faith and not by sight”(2 Cor 5:7).
To walk by faith rather than by sight means that we do not SEE where we are going. And yet, St Paul says repeatedly in this passage that we should walk “full of confidence”(2 Cor 5:6).
How can we have confidence if we do not see?
Because we have the words of the Lord, the promises of the Lord.
And these promises enable me to keep pressing onwards, trusting that He is by my side, trusting that He is guiding me, trusting that He is strengthening me.

Let me turn again to Holy Communion.
Holy Communion is definitely not something known by “sight”.
It is known by “faith”, by which is mean, known by believing the words Jesus said about it: “This is my Body, This is my Blood”.
By “sight” it looks like just bread, and tastes like just bread.
But the Lord has said otherwise, empathically.
And like the seed growing unseen, Holy Communion is not seen. But it is real, just like the unseen growing seed under ground is real.

So, to sum up today’s simple point:
God works in many unseen ways, but He works truly.
He has told us this is how He works.
And, even if He WANTED to show us how He works we would be able to grasp it because, as he Himself said, “My ways are not your ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts”(Isa 55:8-9).
But thoughts He has, and ways He has, and He works even when we do not see it.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Corpus Christi

Mk 14:12-16.22-26; Ex 24:3-8; Heb 9:11-15
This evening, I’d like to consider our feast of Corpus Christi from a slightly tangential angle, by noting something that we can see in both our first reading and Gospel text, namely:
The PREPARATIONS that went into the First Mass, and before it, into the ritual of the Old Covenant.

There is a popular notion that the Last Supper, the meal at which the Lord instituted the First Mass, was a cozy family-style gathering. Such a concept focuses on the word, ‘supper’.
However, as a matter of history, this coziness is not well-founded as an image, because actually the Passover meal was not just an ordinary meal:
It had ritual and structure, with a series of 4 ritual questions and answers that governed and patterned the meal so that it became not just a meal but a remembrance of the first Passover when the Jews were rescued from Egypt.
It also had dignity, so it wouldn’t have been any common cup that the Lord used for the First Mass, but rather something like the precious metals we use in a chalice for Mass still today.

We see an indication of this in the narrative we heard read in our Gospel text. In that account we can note that:
(1) the meal was not just spontaneous, but was prepared, and the Lord sent two disciples ahead of the group to “make the preparations”(Mk 14:15);
(2) it was prepared with fine and noble things , not just common ordinary things, so the Lord referred to it being “furnished with couches”(Mk 14:15).

We might also note the comparison that it given to us in our first reading, with the ceremonial institution of the (old) Covenant, that we can similarly note, was:
(1) precisely prepared, with the commands of the Covenant laid out in writings,
(2) done with dignified material things: an altar built, and 12 standing-stones;

Now, obviously, the particulars of those two rituals are not the same as the Mass, but they point to what we also need to do in the Mass:
(1) We need to prepare;
(2) We need to use fine things, as we do with vestments, chalices of precious metals, and carefully planned ritual and prayers.
But the real preparation, and the real “fine things” that we need for this Mass and every Mass, are the “fine things” of a purified soul and attentive mind.

What is available to us is the Mass, in the sacrifice of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, vastly supersedes the gift of the Old Covenant. As we heard St Paul say in our second reading, it is not the blood of goats or heifers but of Christ Himself that makes the New Covenant. And what we are fed with is not the passing Manna that fed the Israelites in the desert but the true “Bread of Life” that it the Lord Himself.

At the end of Mass today we’ll worship the Lord, exposed for Adoration on the altar.
We’ll then be blessed by the Lord, in the Benediction of His Eucharistic presence.
Let’s make sure that we prepare for that by (1) attentive and (2) contrite hearts, hearts open to Him, hearts aware if the greatness of the gift He gives us, the gift of Himself.