Sunday, 30 April 2017

Footprints, 3rd Sunday of Easter

Lk 24:13-35
I want to say a few words this morning about about how The Lord accompanies us in our difficulties.

Often when we are finding life most difficult, it can be at those moments that we fail to see The Lord, fail to recognise that He is with us. When things seem tough, we feel like we're alone.
Maybe when we feel that our work, our labours, our talents, whatever we're doing -we feel like we not appreciated.
Maybe when we feel the physical pains of life -burdens that seem like they just won't go away.
Maybe when we feel cut off and alone in other ways.
Being in difficulty can be a very LONELY experience, and, ironically, it can be something that prevents us seeing the presence of the very ones who might be trying to support and accompany us.

If we think of the resurrection appearance to the two men on the road to Emmaus we see a similar pattern: their absorption in their difficulties, in "all that has been happening in Jerusalem these last few days" (Lk 24:18); about how their hopes that Jesus was the Messiah had been crushed by His arrest and crucifixion. -it seems that they were so absorbed in their pain that they didn't recognise that The Lord Himself was there by their side.
There is one other resurrection appearance when we see the same pattern, when Mary Magdalene is so caught up in her grief and weeping by the tomb that she fails to recognise The Lord Himself until He calls her by name, "Mary"(Jn 20:16).

We don't really know why they didn't recognise Him at first, it's quite unlike the other resurrection appearances in this regard, all we have is this obscure phrase, "something prevented them from recognising Him"(Lk 24:16). My own thought is that it might be linked with the all-too-common human phenomenon of being unable to recognise good things, and recognise The Lord, when we're wrapped up in our problems instead -or, at the very least, I think we can interpret it as being symbolic of this human phenomenon:

In both cases The Lord was there, the Risen Lord was there to console them, but it took some time for them to recognise Him.
Let me note further: it's not just that He was there, but He was there in His RISEN form -I.e. He was there to support and console them. And yet, despite the fact that the very reason He was there was to console them, they didn't see Him.
The point, for ourselves, is this:
We too have our problems, our pains, our experiences of isolation.
We too have these moments when it seems like the very times when we most need The Lord, it seems He isn't there.
But, for us, as for the men on the road to Emmaus, despite what we FEEL like, He is walking by our side. Even more, by grace He is within us, He is strengthening us, He is the One who is enabling us to go forward at all.
This, as I'm sure you've all heard before, is expressed in the old poem, 'Footprints', a version of which is on the sheet in the newsletter and we'll be singing later in the Mass.

But to conclude by bringing this to the Mass:
Those two men "recognised Him in the breaking of the Bread"(Lk 24:35).
We too, if we bring our problems to Jesus in the Mass, when we see Him here before us in the Eucharistic species, this is what enables us to see that this same Lord and God has been with us through everything else. Even when we feel alone, He is by our side.


Footprints in the Sand
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.
In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord,
“You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”

Mary Stevenson, 1936


Footprints Hymn
to the tune 'Londonderry Air/O Danny Boy' by Dr Robert Atkins, 2004

Upon the shore, I walked with Him at even
And I looked back upon the path we’d trod
And in the sand I traced our way at even
And I was glad I’d walked through life with God:
For side by side we’d journeyed through together
All through the world’s wide wilderness of care
And side by side we’d journeyed through to even:
Safe at His side the Lord my God had brought me here.

But in my joy I caught a strain of sadness
To give me pause when thinking of my way
For on the shore I saw He’d left me lonely
When I had most the need of Him to stay:
When I was tired He’d left me worn and wandering,
He’d left me lone when I was fighting fears,
He’d let me tread the steepest slopes in solitude
Before He came back to my side to dry my tears.

But then the Lord drew near to me in comfort
And in His tenderness He made it plain
That in the times when dread and darkness threatened
He was my shield and shelter from the pain:
For on His shoulders He was gently bearing
And on His shoulders I from harm was free:
The single trace of footprints of the Master,
The single trace of footprints shows He carried me.

So on the shore I walk with Him at even;
I face the latter days of life secure,
For if my pilgrimage reserves me sorrow
The footprints show that He is strong and sure:
If I am near the gates of heaven weary,
No longer strong enough to stride alone
The footprints show that He is there to carry me:
The footprints show the Lord my God will bear me home.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Proof of the Resurrection, Easter Sunday

We’re gathered here today because of an event that happened 2000 years ago: the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
As we know, there are some people who think that the Resurrection never happened. I want to say a few words this morning about why the Gospel accounts of His Resurrection are worthy of having us acknowledge them as recording facts and not recording fables.

There are 3 points to make about the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ:
First, there is the fact that His tomb was empty. As the newsletter sheet insert from Josh McDowell summarises, there are no other convincing explanations as to how His tomb became empty: it is a fact calling for an explanation.
Second, there is the fact of the existence of the Church as body of people who claim Jesus rose from the dead. That Christians claim this is a fact, but WHY do they claim it? Where did the idea come from? This is another fact calling for an explanation.
The only explanation that coherently fits these 2 facts is that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead.
The third point I wish to make concerns the credibility of thinking this, in particular, concerns the credibility of believing the witnesses.

There were, as the Gospels record, certain witnesses who claimed that they saw Jesus after He rose of the dead. Now, as we all know, not everything someone says is to be believed –we need to test the reliability of a witness. And, about that issue, I want to point out that the first Christians were no fools, they knew it was a most remarkable thing these witness were claiming; they tested the claims to see if they were true.

There are 2 points we might test about a witness: was he actually there to see the event he claims to have witnessed? And, is the manner of his recounting straightforward or is it fanciful?
As you all know, we have 4 official ‘canonical’ gospels, 4 approved records of what Our Lord did and said, and of His resurrection appearances.
You are probably less familiar with the fact that there were other texts that claimed to be records, claimed to be ‘gospels’, but the Church tested them and found them unworthy of belief.
Some were dismissed on the simple grounds that they were not recorded by people who were actually there, being written much later.
Others were dismissed because the manner and style of their accounts was fanciful, claiming that Jesus acted more like a magician doing parlour tricks than a Messiah working miracles. So the alleged ‘gospel’ of Thomas has the boy Jesus showing off in front of other boys: they made clay birds, so he made his clay bird come to life![1] Similarly, the alleged ‘gospel’ of Peter alleges a triumphal procession coming out of the tomb, with cross in the procession.[2] While the alleged ‘gospel’ of Bartholomew describes “angels, fiery chariots, and God, descended to earth”[3] as part of the resurrection.

Now, my point is this, the type of description we find in the true Gospels are very different. They are simple, undramatic, matter of fact, the sort of descriptions made by reliable witnesses who were actually there.
It is characteristic of true witnesses that they do not feel a need to embellish their accounts with fanciful details.
So, for example, as we heard in our first reading, St Peter said very simply, “we have eaten and drunk with Him after His resurrection” (Acts 10:41). And, to take another example, the angels who appeared by the tomb are simply described as men “sitting in white”(Jn 20:12) –they are not described as having fancy wings, or fiery radiance. Or, to take a final example, when Jesus showed them the wounds in His hands and His feet, He simply said, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”(Lk 24:37)
–no fake drama, or flashes of lightning.
No need for melodramatics because they were describing what was true, what they had “seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3).

This is why we are here today. We are not here because we think people normally rise from the dead, but because we recognise the unusual nature of this unique event. An unusual event, but the only explanation that fits the facts:
The tomb WAS empty,
the early Christians DID claim He had risen,
and their testimony is reliable.
And those 3 facts give us reason to put our faith in Christ, and to believe that the many things He promised them He promises us too, including what we proclaim in the creed: “the resurrection of dead”.

[1] accessed 5/4/12
[2] An excerpt from the apocryphal Gospel of Peter:
“And in the night in which the Lord's day was drawing on, as the soldiers kept guard two by two in a watch, there was a great voice in the heaven; and they saw the heavens opened, and two men descend with a great light and approach the tomb. And the stone that was put at the door rolled of itself and made way in part; and the tomb was opened, and both the young men entered in. When therefore those soldiers saw it, they awakened the centurion and the elders, for they too were close by keeping guard. And as they declared what things they had seen, again they saw three men come forth from the tomb, and two of them supporting one, and a cross following them. And the heads of the two reached to heaven, but the head of him who was led by them overpassed the heavens. And they heard a voice from the heavens, saying, You have preached to them that sleep. And a response was heard from the cross, Yes” accessed 5/4/12
[3] “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ (by Bartholomew) is not to be confused with the Questions of Bartholomew, although either text may be the missing Gospel of Bartholomew (or neither may be), a lost work from the New Testament apocrypha. Subsequently, the text describes Jesus descending into hell, and, finding Judas there, preaching to him. Jesus rescues everyone from hell, except Judas, Cain, and Herod the Great. This is followed by a flashback described by a gardener to the night when angels, fiery chariots, and God, descended to earth, and resurrected Jesus.” accessed 5/4/12

The Empty Tomb -Josh McDowell Summary

In the following Josh McDowell examines 5 mistaken attempts to explain-away the Empty Tomb. He concludes that the only reasonable explanation is that Jesus had risen, as the witnesses claimed. Buy his book here

1. The Wrong Tomb?
A theory propounded by Kirsopp Lake assumes that the women who reported that the body was missing had mistakenly gone to the wrong tomb. If so, then the disciples who went to check up on the women's statement must have also gone to the wrong tomb. We may be certain, however, that Jewish authorities, who asked for a Roman guard to be stationed at the tomb to prevent Jesus' body from being stolen, would not have been mistaken about the location. Nor would the Roman guards, for they were there!
If the resurrection-claim was merely because of a geographical mistake, the Jewish authorities would have lost no time in producing the body from the proper tomb, thus effectively quenching for all time any rumor resurrection.

2. Hallucinations?
Another attempted explanation claims that the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection were either illusions or hallucinations. Unsupported by the psychological principles governing the appearances of hallucinations, this theory also does not coincide with the historical situation. Again, where was the actual body, and why wasn't it produced?

3. The Swoon Theory
Popularized by Venturini several centuries ago and often quoted today, the swoon theory says that Jesus didn’t really die; he merely fainted from exhaustion and loss of blood. Everyone thought him dead, but later he was resuscitated and the disciples thought it to be a resurrection.

The skeptic David Friedrich Strauss – himself no believer in the resurrection – gave the deathblow to any thought that Jesus merely revived from a swoon: “It is impossible that a being who had stolen half-dead out of the sepulcher, who crept about weak and ill, wanting medical treatment, who required bandaging, strengthening and indulgence, and who still at last yielded to his sufferings, could have given the disciples the impression that he was a Conqueror over death and the grave, the Prince of Life, an impression which lay at the bottom of their future ministry. Such a resuscitation could only have weakened the impression which He had made upon them in life and in death, at the most could only have given it an elegiac voice, but could by no possibility have changed their sorrow into enthusiasm, have elevated their reverence into worship.”

4. The Disciples Stole the Body?
Another theory maintains that the body was stolen by the disciples while the guards slept (Matthew 28:1-15). The depression and cowardice of the disciples provide a hard-hitting argument against their suddenly becoming so brave and daring as to face a detachment of soldiers at the tomb and steal the body. They were in no mood to attempt anything like that.

J.N.D. Anderson has been dean of the faculty of law and director of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies at the University of London. Commenting on the proposition that the disciples stole Christ’s body, he says: “This would run totally contrary to all we know of them: their ethical teaching, the quality of their lives, their steadfastness in suffering and persecution. Nor would it begin to explain their dramatic transformation from dejected and dispirited escapists into witnesses whom no opposition could muzzle.”
Dr. John Warwick Montgomery comments: “It passes the bounds of credibility that the early Christians could have manufactured such a tale and then preached it among those who might easily have refuted it simply by producing the body of Jesus.”

5. The Authorities Removed the Body?
The theory that the Jewish or Roman authorities moved Christ’s body is no more reasonable an explanation for the empty tomb than theft by the disciples. If the authorities had the body in their possession or knew where it was, why didn’t they just produce the body when the disciples began preaching the resurrection in Jerusalem? Why didn’t they recover the corpse, put it on a cart, and wheel it through the centre of Jerusalem? Such an action would certainly have destroyed Christianity.

Conclusions: The Resurrection is Factual History
Professor Thomas Arnold, for 14 years a headmaster of Rugby, author of the famous, History of Rome, and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford, was well acquainted with the value of evidence in determining historical facts. This great scholar said: "I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God bath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." Brooke Foss Westcott, an English scholar, said: "raking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ. Nothing but the antecedent assumption that it must be false could have suggested the idea of deficiency in the proof of it."
But the most telling testimony of all must be the lives of those early Christians. We must ask ourselves: What caused them to go everywhere telling the message of the risen Christ? Had there been any visible benefits accrued to them from their efforts--prestige, wealth, increased social status or material benefits--we might logically attempt to account for their actions, for their whole-hearted and total allegiance to this "risen Christ ."
Christianity requires an historic cause. It did not exist until about A.D. 30, when it suddenly burst to life, spread like wildfire, and changed the world. What could have started this if not the resurrection, as the early Christians claimed? The Church was founded on the resurrection, and disproving it would have destroyed the whole Christian movement. However, instead of any such disproof, through the 1st century, Christians were threatened, beaten, flogged and killed because of their faith." It would have been much simpler to silence Christianity by putting forth evidence disproving the resurrection, but this could not be done.
As a reward for their efforts, however, those early Christians were beaten, stoned to death, thrown to the lions, tortured and crucified. Every conceivable method was used to stop them from talking. Yet, they laid down their lives as the ultimate proof of their complete confidence in the truth of their message.
So convincing and life changing was the resurrection, that the first Jewish disciples began meeting to worship God together on the first day of the week, the Sunday, and not the traditional Jewish Sabbath, the Saturday.

Where do you stand?
How do you evaluate this overwhelming historical evidence? On the basis of all the evidence for Christ's resurrection, and considering the fact that Jesus offers forgiveness of sin and an eternal relationship with God, who would be so foolhardy as to reject Him? Christ is alive! He is living today. accessed 4/4/12

Saturday, 15 April 2017

Light, Easter Vigil

Gen 1:1-2:2; Baruch 3:9-15.32-4:4
Tonight I wish to speak about the significance of the resurrected Christ as our LIGHT.
Our ritual, our prayers, and our Scripture readings all speak of light.

Let me start by speaking of the opposite of light, namely, darkness.
The fear of the dark is one of the most basic of human fears. We fear the dark for many reasons: it leaves us unable to see the things that we need, it leaves us unable to function, it hides things, and, as psychologists note, we fear the dark because we fear what can lie hidden in it.

If darkness is one of the basic human fears, the reaction of relief that comes when a light is finally turned on is similarly one of the most basic human reactions. Light shows us reality, it enables us to function, it exposes problems, and of course, light gives life to the natural world -plants grow because of it.

What we celebrate tonight is that light triumphed over darkness.
The Gospels record that when Christ died on Calvary darkness covered the earth (Mt 27:45, Mk 15:22, Lk 23:44). We can note that this presence of darkness at His death was symbolic of the triumph of all that causes fear in us.
But the triumph of darkness was only brief.
What was revealed Easter night was the truth that a greater power had been at work throughout, and that the one who allowed Himself to be put to death was indeed, as He had claimed, “the light of the world”(Jn 8:12).

Tonight’s liturgy tells us more than the simple fact that darkness failed to conquer the light.
It tells us, rather, that the brief triumph of darkness over the light was destined to be illusionary, that the light was always going to triumph.

When I blessed the Easter Candle, outside, the prayer declared that Christ, the light, is “the Alpha and the Omega” -Greek words taken from the book of Revelation, words that Jesus says of Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end”(Rev 21:17-18; 22:13 c.f.1:8).
Those words declaring Him to be “the beginning” should remind us of the words we heard in the Creation account from Genesis, where God’s first creative words were, “Let there be light”(Gen 1:3).
We can also recall words that we didn’t hear tonight, that the book of Revelation declares that at the end of time, when Christ returns in glory, “There will be no more night… for the Lord God will shine on them”(Rev 22:5).
He was light in the beginning, He will be light at the end, and He triumphed over the darkness in His resurrection.
It is no insignificant fact that the Gospels record that it was during the NIGHT that He burst from the tomb.

In our own lives we all have moments, sometimes prolonged periods, when it feels that we are in darkness, when it seems that we cannot see the way, when the fear that comes with darkness overwhelms us.

What we recall tonight is that the light is greater than the darkness.
Whenever we find ourselves in darkness we have reason to be confident in turning to “the light”: He has shown that He is greater than anything we might fear.
His light exposes our problems, rather than letting them be hidden.
His light exposes that the traps the Evil One lays for us are less frightening than the darkness make them seem.
His light enables us to see the way, “the way” that is Himself.
And, His light, as in the natural world, His light gives life to our souls.
As the priest’s words prayed when lighting the paschal candle from the fire, “May the light of Christ rising in glory dispel the darkness of our hearts and minds”.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Good Friday

on Isa 52:13-53:12; Heb 4:14-5:9; Jn 19:28.

It's a great privilege for me to be able to preach today, because Good Friday is my favourite liturgy of the year. I love seeing the family at Christmas. And I know the importance that the Church places on Easter, and I believe the truth of what St. Paul taught: that if Christ had not been raised from the dead then our faith is in vain. But still, I prefer to linger here on Good Friday, and many of us do.

It’s not for nothing that Catholic Churches down the ages are more full on Good Friday than on the Easter Vigil. It’s not for nothing that the PEOPLE’s devotion down the ages has focused on the suffering and death on Jesus.
Part of the reason why so many of us are here today, and the reason that so many people down the ages have stopped to gaze at their crucifixes, is that when we look at Jesus suffering on the Cross, each one of us can see some part of ourselves in Him. Each one of us can say, "I TOO suffer", just as Christ suffers. Whether it is bereavement, illness, loneliness, or whatever personal suffering we endure. Each us is moved by the sight of Christ on the Cross, because we know, ourselves, what it is to feel pain.

But although I am attracted to the sight of Our Lord on the Cross, I am always left with the question, "Why?". What is it that would lead Him to this? As scripture says, it is indeed "scandal to Jews and folly to the gentiles"(1 Cor 1:23).

Part of the answer is in our first reading from Isaiah (52:13-53:12), which clearly tells us that Christ died on the Cross to atone for our sins: "He was pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins... the Lord burdened him with the sins of all of us". It is central to our faith that we believe that justice is a very large part of the mystery of the Cross. And we all have times in our lives when we are very aware of our own guilt, and we are thankful that Christ died for our sins. And I could easily preach a whole sermon simply on guilt, justice and the Cross.

But this alone is not enough to explain the mystery of the Cross. Christ could have satisfied the demands of justice in a way that would have been much less burdensome to Him. As God, His actions had infinite merit, and as the hymn of Thomas Aquinas sings, one drop of His blood would have been more than enough to ransom the world's entire guilt. And on the cross there was much more than just a drop of blood shed. Justice was satisfied by the Cross, but it was more than justice that was at work here.

The meaning of the cross that I wish to draw our attention to today, is as a sign and an act of LOVE. The REASON that He so wildly exceeded the suffered he needed to undergo, was so that when we look at the cross, we cannot possibly doubt that He loves us.

I often think that I'd happily rise from the dead for someone, even someone I didn't much like. After all, if I had the ability to do it, it wouldn't be any harm to me. But I'd be much slower to agree to suffer and die for someone. And as St. Paul teaches us, what REALLY proves that He loves us, is that not only did He die for us, but He did so while we were still sinners. (Rom 5:8-9; 1 Jn 3:16).

There are a number of words that Jesus spoke from the Cross, but two words that we heard today from John's gospel, words directed to each one of us, are "I thirst". The thirst that Jesus calls out for us to satisfy, is more than a simple drink. It is a thirst for love, a love from us to return the love He has poured out for us, a love that He displayed on the Cross.

Christ died on the Cross because He knew that the best way to draw a response from us, was to come and meet us in our suffering. As we know at a human level, it is when someone is united to us in our own suffering that we relate and respond best to them.

Those of us who are bereaved know that Christ too was bereaved and wept with sorrow at the death of his friend Lazarus.
Those of us who are insulted, ridiculed or persecuted, know that Christ too was mocked by the soldiers and the crowds.
Those of us who are lonely or distressed in spirit, know that Christ allowed Himself to feel that same distress in His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, where His anguish was so great that He sweated blood.
We could say the same about those who are beaten, or those ignored or forgotten.
And those of us who feel physical pain, certainly know that Christ was no stranger to that in His crucifixion.

As the prophecy in Isaiah foretold, He was truly "a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief". He bore our sufferings and carried our sorrows. And as the letter to Hebrews makes clear, we have a high priest who is very capable of feeling our weakness.
So that in our pain and agony we no longer suffer alone, but in union with Our Lord and God.

And He didn't do this just out of some general love for an abstract concept of humanity, He did it out of a particular love for each of us as individuals too. As He accepted the cup of suffering in the garden, and as He hung on the Cross, He chose to die for each of us. In the beatific vision –the vision that He always had access to as the Incarnate Word, the true Son of God, He saw each one of us, loved each one of us, and accepted and offered His death for each one of us. So that, as St. Paul says in His letter to the Galatians, He “loved me and gave Himself for me”(Gal 2:20).
So that each one of us can say that He died for me, as certainly as if there was no one else in the world for Him to die for.
He died for ME.

As we stop to venerate the Cross today, let us pause to satisfy His thirst for love. Let us recall that the Cross showed His love for us. Let us recall that no-one else in the world or through history has ever shown such a depth of love, no-one else has ever experienced such a depth of pain and sorrow.
As the prophecy of the book of lamentations calls out: "All you who pass this way, stop and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow"(Lam 1:12),
and we know Christ would be well qualified to add, "is there any love like unto my love".

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Washing Feet, Maundy Thursday

Tonight I will get down on my knees and I will wash the feet of some parishioners.
I don’t do this because I like other people’s feet,
And I think we can presume that Jesus, also, didn’t wash the 12 Apostles feet because He liked feet either.
I say this, because it’s important to remember WHY He did this, and why He did this at THIS moment.

The Lord Jesus was about to die.
He had journeyed far in His 3 years of public ministry: He, the long-awaited Messiah had come: He had cured the sick, He had forgiven sin, He had taught the truth of salvation.
Though they had repeatedly failed to grasp the depth of His teaching, and failed to grasp His meaning when he prophesied that He would die and rise,
That night, He had made His farewell speeches to His chosen few.
And, that night, He had given them the Mass: to be His abiding presence down the centuries;, and to be the means by which His Holy Sacrifice of Calvary would be made present every day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And, then, in the midst of that profundity, He got down on the floor and started washing feet!
And my point to you tonight, is that this sign and gesture on His part was as equally profound as everything else He was about.
Washing feet is not just as act of love, but an act of humility –humility in the sense of that self-forgetfulness that is needed in any TRUE loving. True love needs to be so focussed on the needs of the other person that it puts aside the inconvenience and injustice that is done to us, and just gets on with whatever business love demands of us that moment.

Previously, the Lord has been self-forgetting when He left His Divine glory and dignity in Heaven, to walk among us, and suffer among us, in Palestine.
The next day, he would be self-forgetting in dying for our sins on the Cross.
That night, He had been self-forgetting in giving us His Real Presence in the Mass, because, though he knew men would be cold and indifferent to His Real Presence, would abuse His Presence, would neglect to genuflect, would receive Him in Holy Communion while thinking of a TV show, nonetheless, He also knew that this was the ONLY means by which He could physically contact each one of them, offer Himself to each one of us, as he does in the Mass.

But in order that it should be clear that all of this was not random, that it was all motivated by His humble and caring love, He, as tonight’s Gospel said, “He showed the depth of love”.

So, as I kneel, with whatever lack or height of grace tonight, to face feet, let us recall that this sign shows us “the depth of His love”.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Why did they Kill Him?, Palm Sunday

We’ve had a long Gospel, so I just want to ponder a simple question,
The question is, WHY did they kill Jesus? WHY did He die?

For people who do not believe in God, at all, the questions ‘WHY did they kill Jesus? WHY did He die?’ are a real problem, because they cannot accept what all four of the Gospels all say about this. Instead, they try and pretend Jesus was something they find more acceptable: that He was just a political troublemaker, that He died for reasons of social injustice, or, that it was because He threatened the Roman Empire.
That’s what BBC programmes, the DaVinci Code, and others, try and claim.

But all four Gospels agree on a very different reason why He died:
He died because of who He is –because He is God
As we just heard, it was when He claimed to be the ‘Christ’, ‘the Son of God’, that the High Priest condemned Him. And all through His ministry it was the same: when He claimed to be God, when His actions claimed an authority for Himself that only God has, like forgiving sin, or changing the Law of Moses:
it was when He claimed to be God that the Jews sought to kill Him.

He came to His own and His own rejected Him. The Jews, His Chosen People, rejected Him.
But, we can’t blame the Jews, or blame the Romans, or blame events long ago. Their rejection is only an example of the rejection we make of God every day.
All our SIN is a rejection of God, a rejection of His love –and this is why He died
All the apparent reasons, whether they are political, jealousy etc, are only examples of this basic underlying reason –sin
They rejected His claim to be God. We, by our sin, reject the fact that He is God.
Why did He die? Because of my sin.
Who killed Him? I crucified Him

It is possible to contemplate that truth and feel glum about it, but it is actually a reason for us to rejoice:
That reason –sin, is what makes this event salvific, is what gives this event MEANING for us today.
If He died for other reasons, like politics, then He didn’t die for our salvation.
But if He died because of our sin,
then He died to undo sin –my sin
to overcome sin –my sin
to forgive sin –my sin

Sin is the reality at work on the Cross. Sin is the cause of the Cross, and sin is what was defeated on the Cross.
It is because it was about sin that it’s a cause for us to rejoice, to be glad and give thanks to God.
For in this He has given us a way to be forgiven, a sign and promise of forgiveness-
for all who call upon our crucified saviour.

The claim that Jesus died for a political reason, not a religious one is a claim made by unbelievers today –but it is not a new claim, it is claim repeatedly offered by those who wish to avoid His claim to be God. As we heard, it was claim the Sadducees brought against Jesus –but note, when they met by themselves their trial and concern was about blasphemy and His claim to be God. But when they brought Him to Pilate the brought another accusation, a false charge, of being a political agitator: Thus he was questioned about being the ‘King of the Jews’. But both Pilate and Herod found Him innocent of the charge of inciting political unrest. It was a false charge brought against Him by the Pharisees, and it is a false charge that is still brought against Him today by unbelievers. The Pharisees charged Him with it because they didn’t want to directly face the fact that He claimed to be God. And His claim to be God is what people who will not believe in God still refuse to accept today.

He died because He is God and sin rejected Him. “He died that we might be forgiven, He died to make us good, that we might go at last to heaven, saved by His precious blood.”