Tag Archives: kingdom of God

Catholics are called to pure goodness.

Homily Notes

Sixth Sunday Year A. Shorter Gospel – Matt 5:20-22,27-28,33-34,37

If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the Scribes and Pharisees you’ll never enter the kingdom of Heaven.

Ouch!

Let’s hope the Scribes and Pharisees were very corrupt!

Jesus calls us to a higher – perhaps deeper – standard. It’s not just, thou shalt not kill; it’s thou shalt not be angry.

It’s not just, thou shalt not commit adultery; it’s thou shalt not lust.

Neither anger nor lust can be considered harmless; both can lead to serious spiritual bondage, to diminished freedom and to acts that are gravely sinful and sometimes criminal.

Thus Jesus calls us to purify our hearts – to remove all that leads to sinful and sometimes criminal behaviour.

A pure heart is nothing more than a heart – a person – who loves God.

Jesus’ final point about swearing and oaths calls us to the same goodness.

It’s not just, don’t break your oath; it’s be a person of such integrity that your ‘no’ means ‘no’ and your ‘yes’ means ‘yes’ and swearing or oath-taking is no longer necessary.

This is a breath-taking window-view opening out to show us the sheer goodness, the purity of heart to which we’re called and on which Catholicism is founded.

Indeed elsewhere in the Gospel Jesus tells us to be “as harmless as doves …”

Engaging with last weeks Gospel:

If last week Jesus called us to witness like “a city built on a hill-top” this week he reminds us that such witness flows from a heart that’s like a store full of goodness (a store full of goodness is how Jesus described a good heart)

If last week Jesus called us to be salt of the earth, this week we get a glimpse of how salt becomes tasteless – when we draw out from our hearts, not goodness but anger, lust, jealousy …

The Presentation of the Lord

Luke 2:22-32

Homily Notes

Today I’d like to draw your attention to a detail that I find fascinating and indeed instructive for us on this February day in 2014.

When God became man He inserted himself in a particular religion; Judaism.

Thus we see Mary and Joseph bringing the child Jesus to the Temple to fulfil the requirements of Judaism. They were a religious family.

Indeed, Luke tells us that at the age of twelve years Jesus went missing and when Mary and Joseph found him, they found him in the Temple – where else? – “sitting among the doctors, listening to them, and asking them questions” Luke 2:41-46

IMG_0695Judaism and the Temple played a significant role in Jesus’ life. The Gospels reveal him moving between on the one hand, the Synagogues and the Temple and on the other hand, the sinners, the outsiders, calling all to himself as the fulfilment of Judaism – and nothing less than the light whom God has prepared for all the nations to see!

Although Jesus challenges the Jewish leaders, at times using very strong words, and although the Gospels reveal corruption within Judaism (take such corruption out and there’d be nothing of the Bible left!) Jesus never abandons Judaism but rather calls the Jewish people to fulfil their religion.

He affirms Judaism saying he has come not to abolish Judaism but to fulfil, to bring to completion, and with those who follow him he brings to birth out of Judaism the Christian religion which is historically Catholic.

Now I’d like you to see what I see – there’s an order to God inserting Himself in human affairs, it’s clearly bounded, and it’s far from perfect. In fact it’s imperfect, but God inserts Himself into it, and although there are clear boundaries, there’s a line through history, a particular people moving through history to this day – the People of God which is the Church, the baptized – there’s an open invitation to all people to enter in, to be a part of it, and to find Jesus Christ there, who doesn’t wait for perfection, doesn’t run away from corruption, but places himself in the middle of it and calls us to our proper fulfilment.

Remember, He is the light and a light is at its best in the darkness!

Gospel (shorter version) Matthew 4:12-17 The people that lived in darkness and who dwell in the shadow of death has seen a great light.

If I’m not mistaken Zebulun and Naphtali were the extremities of Israel at the time of Jesus.

So the light reaches to the extremities. It reaches out, which is what it’s doing right here, right now.

The point of Catholicism is that Jesus Christ is already our light. He’s not meant to be outside us, he’s meant to be in here (inside). This is the critically important journey that every Catholic must make.

But often, even for Catholics, particularly cradle Catholics, the light inside us is someone or worse still something else, someone or something other than Jesus Christ.

We have our idols! Money is the obvious idol, education can become an idol (note the recent comments by the Minister for Education), even our children can become idols! There are endless possibilities.

IMG_0794

Where God is not loved, idols are loved instead. It’s a basic spiritual truth. These idols or ‘lights’ are the real driving force within Irish life today.

Every person has such a light or lights. The light of my life is what gives meaning to my life.

So ask yourself what it is, what’s the light that you’re living for, that keeps you going?

Then ask; will that light ever go out?

Jesus Christ once remarked; what if the light inside you is actually darkness? What darkness that will be!

There’s only one light that never goes out – Jesus Christ.

Thus Jesus begins his preaching with a call to ‘repent’ – why? – because the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Get the connection!

In other words, repent, which means turn away from sin, from idols, and turn towards God, so that you may enter the life of God and find what humankind is really looking for in our idols.

Homily Notes

The Baptism of the Lord

When Jesus entered the waters of the Jordan to be baptized by John He was setting the tone for all that would follow.

John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance for sinners.

So by choosing to be baptised by John, by sharing in the baptism of sinners, Jesus deliberately put Himself among sinners as a brother – but He was (is) a brother who was (is) also the Divine Physician, the Saviour; a voice spoke from Heaven, this is my Son, the beloved.

Jesus put Himself among sinners, not to judge, not to condemn (this got him into difficulty), but to love, to attract to a better way of life, a new life, the life of God which every person can reach through repentance and conversion.

In many ways Pope Francis has chosen to walk on to the world stage in this way.

It’s amazing how many people accept the first part – the liberal left are all for Jesus as our brother – but choose to ignore the call to repentance and a new way of life!

True to form, the liberal left are misunderstanding Francis (because they misunderstand Jesus) and we’re witnessing the most amazing unfounded psychological projection of the liberal lefts desires on to Pope Francis.

Meanwhile, many traditionalists are a little confused.

It’s like being back in the days of Jesus!

 

Be the star that leads to Jesus! The Epiphany.

A star guides the three wise men, the three kings, to the infant-King.

A star no less! This is a cosmic event. This child is significant, to say the least. The psalm captures it well: “All nations shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.”

This child is the Saviour of all – all nations. Get that; all. Mind-blowing!

Pope Francis says there’s no middle ground in this – “it’s either light or dark, haughtiness or humility, the truth or the lie. We either open the door to Jesus who comes to save us, or close it in (our belief in) self-sufficiency and the pride of self-salvation.”

I once considered politics, but it was just too much of a compromise. He’s either the Saviour or he’s not, there is no middle ground!

That’s the meaning of the Epiphany – but God will never force the matter. Neither can we.

Instead, be the star that leads to Him!

Have a happy Feast of the Epiphany.

‘Enter Christmas through the door of the Eucharist’ (Benedict XVI)

Homily Notes

Second Sunday of Christmas.

John 1:1-5,9-14

If I may begin with a preliminary remark.

John’s Gospel is a little different to the others – the author has begun to theologize about the historical events. In fact, in the first few lines, the writer summarizes the whole Gospel.

So, let’s get to the real business of today’s homily.

if Christmas is a past event how does God enter our world today?

Firstly, it’s not a past event.

Secondly, God enters our world in many ways but the way he enters par excellence is through the Mass.

Mass perpetuates the incarnation by God’s design. Mass is Jesus Christ continuing his incarnation in our time until his second coming.

This is the wonder of Catholicism, the joy of being a Catholic; that Christmas is not a past event but God is as near as the Mass and the Tabernacle.

In fact, God’s presence in the Mass is more powerful than his presence two thousand years ago – because the Mass is God’s gift of himself, inclusive of his life, death and resurrection in Jesus Christ, it’s therefore not just the person of God, but also the whole work of God, packaged and delivered to your door.

Are you at home?

In the gift of the Mass whereby God continues his incarnation among men and women the same dynamic of acceptance and non-acceptance, belief and unbelief is evident.

Through the gift of the Eucharist He perpetuates (continues) his incarnation, continues to enter the world that has its being through him, yet so often the world does not recognize Him.

He comes to his own people (Catholics) and his own people do not recognize Him!

Just think of how many Catholics have abandoned the Mass? And what they think they’ve abandoned is missing the point!

As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.

You can’t separate Jesus Christ and the Mass – same reality.

Human suffering is an argument against an imaginary God!

Homily Notes.

Today I’d like to suggest that human suffering is an argument against an imaginary God. It’s certainly not an argument against the God of the incarnation.

I’ll use the Holy Family to illustrate my point.

Firstly, a preliminary point. God doesn’t force us to believe.

Yet, in the Incarnation, in God becoming a human child God is really pushing us to believe.

If God did anything more he’d tip the scales into forcing belief.

Think for a moment about what would convince you to believe? What would clinch the God argument for you?

If that happened would you still be free? I doubt it. God would be doing the work, eroding your freedom.

Undoubtedly one of the greatest obstacles to belief is suffering, particularly human suffering.

Yet the Incarnation (the Holy Family) itself is riddled through with human suffering. Doesn’t that speak loudly?

We must surely accept that such a significant detail is instructive. God is saying something to us.

From the moment Mary conceived, the Incarnation is a series of highs and lows, joys and sorrows, consolation and desolation.

From the high of hearing and seeing an Angel announce her pregnancy to the low of Joseph deciding to leave her, from the high of God’s intervention through a dream convincing Joseph to stay, to the low of finding no room at the Inn, only a stable after an exhausting journey on the back of a donkey!

This is God! At what point did Mary wonder?

From the joy of the birth on Christmas night – the wonder of it – the arrival of the shepherds, nothing less than a star pointing out the child Jesus (a cosmic event) to the rapid descent into terror as Mary and Joseph flee with their infant into Egypt to avoid Herod’s soldiers who were slaughtering every new born male child. Put yourself in Mary’s shoes, Joseph’s shoes.

‘You destroy those who are tiny in body because fear is destroying your heart’

Ultimately the woman who is rightly considered the most blessed of all women rose with her Son to the heights of acclamation as He performed miracle after miracle, but also plunged with him to the ridicule, the condemnation and the suffering of his passion and death.

Talk about a roller coaster!

This is a real woman and a real family.

What are they teaching us?

Faith in the God of the incarnation (as opposed to an imaginary God) is not destroyed by human suffering but overcomes it, transcends it, finally and definitively in the resurrection. Faith is not avoidance but the power to embrace and overcome.

How do we obtain faith like that? That kind of faith is a gift of God, infused supernaturally through grace.

It is what passes between God and an individual soul in hidden hours of prayer while the rest of us are busy, worrying and fretting about so many things. Mostly about trying to make a life!

It’s ridiculous to suggest that God became man but he’s not looking for Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Kenny and you!

Homily Notes, Christmas 2013

Some people get confused about the role of the Church.

Politicians and Governments often do, viewing the Church as if it was a foreign state attempting to interfere in another state’s affairs.

Perhaps the fact that there is a state – the Vatican – fuels such thinking.

But the Church is not interested in the State.

We’re interested in the rule or reign of God in human affairs, in the inculturation of the Gospel (the Gospel becomes our culture), in Jesus Christ becoming Lord. The journey of the Church year, from Christmas (December) to Our Lord Jesus Christ Universal King (November) is an interior journey that the Church wants all to make.

The reign of God in human affairs is human peace, human joy, it is the only guarantee of human well-being.

If God doesn’t rule human affairs, there can be no lasting happiness and without conversion human affairs will tumble. That means human suffering. Therefore Christmas can never be viewed as a purely religious event.

Besides, it’s ridiculous to suggest that God became man and yet it doesn’t have universal significance; to suggest that God became man but he’s not looking for Obama, Merkel, Cameron, Kenny and you!

The primary function of the Church is to convince every State, every head of State and every citizen of every State to take Christmas (and Easter) seriously, to treat Christmas –

  • not as a sentimental irrelevance to the real work of daily life
  • not primarily as a time for family and family reunions;
  • not primarily as a commercial event;
  • not as a purely religious event;
  • and certainly not as a time to be reinvented replacing Christ with Season (Happy Holiday Season!) or worse still to replace Christ with X!

– but rather, as a decisive intervention of God in order to direct and order human affairs and bring them to fulfilment. Follow me, he says. Look … I want your attention!

And in particular that we do not narrow our vision so that life becomes nothing more than time between the two points of birth and death.

So open wide the doors …He became man so that we may become divine!

Fourth Sunday of Advent A: Faith is not totally blind.

Homily Notes Fourth Sunday of Advent A

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born … Matt 1:18-24

Here’s a human story. At times it’s a chaotic story. But it’s also God’s story.

Joseph, wanting to spare Mary publicity decided to leave her.

But I doubt it was just about sparing her publicity.

Joseph wasn’t about to tolerate what he believed to be Mary’s unfaithfulness. After all, she was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father!

It seems clear that Mary’s position – single and pregnant – was something of a scandal within society at the time – otherwise why would Joseph want ‘to spare her publicity’?

Reminds me of a friend of mine who married young; she says that for months afterwards people used to say hello to her tummy!

The immediate aftermath of Mary’s discovery that she’s pregnant could be taken straight out of 1950s/60s and 70s Ireland.

“There is no present or future – only the past, happening over and over again – now.” (Eugene O’Neill)

I’d like you to observe one particular detail in God becoming man – the ‘messy’ mix of Divine and human.

Christmas was God’s idea, God’s doing, but it required the co-operation of Mary and Joseph and the taking of huge steps of faith by both.

Nonetheless, they weren’t blind steps, they were steps based on significant encounters with God.

Yes, Joseph took a huge step of faith based on a dream but within the dream no doubt God was persuasive. Still, Joseph had to act in faith.

Yes, Mary was left with the humanly impossible task of ‘explaining’ her pregnancy to Joseph and to face the cultural cruelty of people, but earlier she had seen and heard an Angel announce her pregnancy.

Mary and Joseph teach us that faith is not totally blind, or at least it shouldn’t be, for any of us. Faith is based on real encounter with God, and in the difficult moments on the memory of earlier encounters with God.

Third Sunday of Advent (A): God is Father of victim and ‘perp’!

John was the one chosen by God to prepare the way for the Christ-child.

Actually, he is the last of many.

For hundreds of years holy men and women had been saying a Messiah would come in much the same way that we look to Christ today and indeed to his second coming.

Faith is expectant!

Of course, even back then some people rubbished such claims, rubbished faith, in the same way that faith is rubbished today.

Nonetheless, the expectation of a Messiah, of a decisive intervention of God was fulfilled in the events of the first Christmas.

But Jesus surprised many, he didn’t match their expectations, and indeed many chose to keep their expectations and reject Jesus (the same is happening every day of the week!)

John is not so sure, he is in prison (don’t we love to imprison God!) and he has heard about this Jesus who was causing a stir, no doubt he was aware of the prophecies (First Reading), and could probably recognize something of Jesus’ actions in the words of the prophecies, so he sends messengers to ask Jesus the obvious question.

John (as did so many) expected a severe judgement (last Sunday’s Gospel) but what they got was a saviour. Hence he’s unsure if Jesus could be the One.

Jesus revealed God as a Father. OK, as a parent! One of the most misunderstood phrases inIMG_1017 the Gospels is ‘little ones’. When Jesus uses ‘little ones’ at times he means victims, at other times he means missioners, still at other times he means sinners – ‘perps’! God is the Father of all, we’re all God’s children (some of us may be lost to the Evil One but we belong properly to God – the loss is one of theft). God is the Father of both the victim and the ‘perp’!

This is the difference between the State and the Church. The State wants only good citizens. The Church takes both because she knows a Father who, like any good parent, doesn’t want to lose a single child but desires to restore both to ‘life’.

If we can’t tolerate that, then I doubt we’ll be able to tolerate Jesus Christ, never mind tolerate the Catholic Church!