Sunday, 21 June 2020

Fear amidst the Virus, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Mt 10:26-33

Today I want to speak about fear, because fear has become a big thing amidst the current crisis.

And today, in the gospel, we heard the Lord Jesus say some important words about fear.


Our context, for many, is a context of fear:

The media have, it seems to me, often revelled in daily updates of deaths and strategic disasters.

The broader context, even if the media are revelling in disaster-reporting, the broader context is undeniably one of uncertainty on a range of issues:

How does the virus spread? Who is most affected? Why? Can the government, or we, really do much about it?

Uncertainty can easily breed fear.


What does the Lord Jesus say?

“Do not be afraid” (Mt 10:26,28,31) -which he says 3 time sin this short passage!

Let’s start there: He tells us not to fear.

We know, from recent experience and longer experience, that fear is a crippling thing, a thing that makes you shrink in on yourself and do nothing.

Fear destroys us, SPIRITUALLY, even if it’s a reaction to the possibility of  a real PHYSICAL destruction.

The Lord tells is not to fear.


More specifically, He focuses us:

Don’t fear those who can destroy the body, but can not touch the soul.

We need, He is saying, to get our priorities right -and if we do this it TRANSFORMS fear.

We need to think more broadly, more deeply.


The important thing to fear, is, the salvation of our soul.

Our soul lasts for eternity, whereas our body will not -the virus, or food poisoning, or SOMETHING will kill the body.

The soul is what really matters.


In the matter of our soul, as with our body, the remedy to fear is, ultimately, TRUST.

If we have someone we can trust, trust to aid us against what we fear, then we have no need to fear.

And, the key point:

The Lord tells us that there IS someone we can trust:

Trust in the ultimate issue of our soul, 

and trust, in another way, for the body.

God knows us, and He cares.

“Every hair on your head has been counted.  There is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Mt 10:31).

Regarding the soul:

We need to live in humility, in trust, in seeking forgiveness -even if we have lived badly, we can die well if we die calling out to God for forgiveness, like the thief who hung by the Lord in the Cross.

Regarding the body:

God doesn’t promise a life free of problems.  In fact, He warns us elsewhere, “In the world you WILL have tribulation”.

But He also tells us that He has conquered.

He also tells us He cares,

that He directs and guides and strengthens us, even amidst the tribulations.


And fear?

Well, yes, fear is a real thing.

Most us fear, at least at times, and many of us have feared at different times in recent months.

But, to repeat and conclude, the remedy for fear is trust.

His teaching TELLS us to trust;

His own life in earth has SHOWN us reason to trust.

God cares for the lilies of the fear and the birds in the sky,

“So there is no need to be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Mt 10:31)




Sunday, 14 June 2020

Absence from the Lord making our love grow stronger? Corpus Christi, Year A

Deut 8:2-3,14-16; Jn 6:51-58
We all know the saying, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”.
Today, I’d like to consider the saying with respect to the Holy Eucharist, because for almost all of us, we’ve been deprived of the Eucharist for 3 months now.
In that time, has our Eucharistic Lord GROWN in importance in our lives, or diminished?
Because there is also another saying, "Out of sight, out of mind".

I want to start by acknowledging the hard reality, namely, that it would be easy for Our Lord to have diminished in our minds:
If you’ve not been as physically close to Him,
If you’ve not been able to attend Holy Mass,
If you’ve not been able to receive Holy Communion
It would be easy for Him to drift out of your mind, your life, your soul.
Sadly, there will be some Catholics who will never come back.

In contrast, I am aware, there are many for whom being deprived of our Eucharistic Lord has done the reverse:
It’s made you realise what a treasure His Presence is;
It made you yearn for Him MORE.
But, I would suggest to you, that even if you THINK that you’re in this second category, it might be worth examining ourselves on this point:
HOW deeply true is it?
Have I enjoyed Sunday mornings without Mass?
Has the comfort and ease of doing less become a habit.

Let’s think Scripturally for a minute.
In our first reading today, Year A in the cycle, we heard words of Moses addresses to the people.
He was speaking to them about their time wandering in the desert.
He told them how the Lord had tested and tried them.
The Lord tested and tried them in order to make them FEEL their need of Him:
“He humbled you, He made you feel hunger”(Deut 8:3).
For many in our society today, this whole crisis has done something similar, has made us revaluate our priorities.
What is the TRUE bread we need?
What are the things that REALLY matter in life?
Is it the money we’ve lost?
Is it the shopping at H&M or M&S that has been denied us these months?
Or, is it the Lord? Is being deprived of Him, in the Eucharist, the most vital thing these past months?

Back to our scripture text:
After Moses referred to the fact the people had been tested, He reminded them that God didn’t just test them, rather, after the testing, in the midst of the testing:
“He fed you
with manna that neither you nor your fathers had known.”(Deut 8:3)
And the conclusion of this testing and feeding?
“To make you understand that man does not live on bread alone but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3).

This has been a hard time for our nation,
and it isn’t over yet.
But, our Faith promises us,
and words from many of you have told me,
The Lord has sustained us though this,
and WILL sustain us through this.
He has fed us in other ways,
though feeding us in a way that will hopefully have had us YEARN for Him even more fully in that COMPLETE Presence and food that is HIM:
“The bread I shall give you is my flesh, for the LIFE of the world”(Jn 6:51).

To conclude, we are slowly emerging from the lockdown.
The church, some churches, will be re-opening for prayer, at least partially this week.
Has our absence made our hearts grow stronger?
Let us resolve that it will be so.

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Lockdown and the Trinity

There are many things that can be said about the Trinity, but there is one that I feel very aware of at the moment:
the issue of community.

During the lockdown, that we’ve lived through these past few months,
we’ve all suffered from a LACK of human CONTACT.
Some of us, totally alone.
Some of us, see people at work, but not our normal SOCIAL circles, and not our normal FAMILY circles.
I’ve experienced that, and I know through many phone calls with you, you’ve all experienced that too.

In point I want to make is twofold:
First, this experience of the LACK of human contact,
has shown us just how DEEPLY human contact is NECESSARY to us.
We, as humans, are built for community, made for love.
As it says in the Creation account, It was not good for man to be alone 9gen 2:18).
There are hermits, alone in caves;
there are celibates, consecrated in the single life, like myself
-but these are exceptions to the norm,
and they exist as a sacrifice, to serve the wider community.
Man is made for community, made for human contact.

My second, point, this Trinity Sunday, is that this shows us something about the nature of God Himself.
The Bible tells us that man is made in “the image of God”(Gen 1:27).

So, let’s think of the Triune God:
He is not alone.
He exists always as three persons:
As our Faith teaches us about Jesus Christ, the one eternal Word, the eternal Son of the Father,
"there was never a time when He [the Son] was not".
And likewise with the Holy Spirit.
And these three persons exist in an ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP of love.
Such that God can never be ALONE in Himself, never be lonely.
Each of those persons is ALWAYS in relationship and HAS ALWAYS BEEN in relationship.

WE are made in that image.
Our lockdown experience of needing human contact, is, in reality, just a TASTE of how deeply the Triune image is imbedded in our nature.

And, maybe, this can be a lasting gift of the lockdown to us:
Our society, for decades, has been increasingly individualistic,
increasing thinking of people as if the community didn’t matter
-the OTHER didn’t matter.
The lockdown has taught us the opposite, in a rather brutal lesson.
Our nation has, during this, witnessed an incredible community spirit:
people getting groceries for neighbours they didn’t even know the names of before;
people willing to accept lockdown restrictions for the sake of the COMMON good.

When the lockdown lifts, the risk is that we go back to before.
Let us, as Christians, resolve that that won’t be true of us.
And, specifically, let’s accept this as a little glimpse of the image of God, the image of the Trinity within us.

Thursday, 4 June 2020

Faith Movement: Christ, Eternal High Priest

Today I’ve been asked to offer Mass for the Faith Movement,
as the first of a series of such Faith Masses,
to seek to spiritually hold us together
when the lockdown has been keeping people very physically separated.
Today is the feast of ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Eternal High Priest’,
A feast so new that it’s not in your ‘new’ 2011 Missals.
And as soon as I thought of this feast,
I thought how it seems to parallel MY existence this past months.
And, in another way, teaches an important part of the laity’s role in this lockdown.

The Lord Jesus is our High Priest, away in heaven, offering sacrifice for us.
I, as a priest in the lockdown, have been away from my people for over 2 months.
But I’ve still been praying for my people,
I’ve still been offering the sacrifice of the Mass for my people.
And you, in Faith, are hopefully aware that we are Faith priests
keep you very much in our pastoral focus,
in our concerns, in our prayers, in our offerings.
We’ve been offering sacrifice for you,
even when physically isolated in the lockdown.
It would be EASY TO THINK that that isn’t really very important, b
ut today’s feast reminds us that IT IS.
It’s important that sacrifice is offered for the people.
Sacrifice needs to be offered for a number of reasons.

First, to glorify God.
The world was made to give glory to God (CCC 293).
Man in particular, glorifies Him, in a way the plants and animals cannot:
The glory WE are called to offer Him is that of rational beings,
of beings who can love,
of beings who can CHOOSE to offer themselves back to Him who gave them life.
The worship and glory we offer, sadly, is far from adequate.
But, in Christ, the Word made flesh, there is one who can, as one of us, offer fitting glory to the Father.

Second, to offer sacrifice for sin.
The Lord Jesus, the eternal Word of the Father, has taken flesh and made Himself a sacrifice for sin.
To quote Revelation, He is the sacrificial Lamb who forever stands as if slain, (Rev 5:6),
offering Himself for us.

Third, to intercede for the people.
Again, our intercessory prayers, like our worship and our reparation, are not adequate:
We forget to pray for others,
We are half-hearted when we pray for others.
In today’s feast we recall that there is One who does not forget,
who is not halfhearted,
who is totally committed to the cause of being our priest.

In the Bible, we read of the importance of the role of prayer,
of sacrifice,
of the priest.
When Moses and Aaron interceded for the people, great things happened:
The waters of the Red Sea parted;
The Israelites were victorious in battle against the Amalekites who would have wiped them out;
And, when the anger of God was such that He would have destroyed the people He had rescued from Egypt because of their fickleness and sin, the priestly prayer of Moses spared them.

We know of priesthood in our state of sin and fallenness:
We are weak;
We need someone to speak out FOR us.
As part of the Faith Movement,
we might well speculate that our human nature,
as social beings,
would still have called for us to have a representative,
a ‘priest’ to sacrifice for us
-priesthood isn’t just about sin.

There is one in heaven who intercedes for us continually, Christ our Eternal High Priest.
Today’s feast day ISN”T JUST about Him, alone in heaven.
There are two other aspects:
First, The ministerial priesthood, sharing in His sacrificial role.
As I started by referring to us isolated lockdown priests doing for you.
Second, the common priesthood of the faithful.
The laity also, truly, are called upon to share in this role
of priestly intercession,
for the needs of the world,
Of priestly worship,
being that part of God’s creation that can offer Him rational loving praise.

When you can’t get to Mass,
When you can’t get to confession,
When you can’t join with others in worship, physically,
You CAN unite yourself spiritually.

The image of The Lord Jesus, AWAY from us as our priest in heaven,
Away from us,
yet one we are called to unite ourselves to,
This is an image that can remind us of the value of what we do
-even in the lockdown.
A priestly people,
uniting themselves with Him,
even when He and His sacraments seem far away.