Sacred Heart - Homily

Posted on the 11th June 2021 in the category Resources


As given at St Giles Reading

11 June 2021

 

‘We do not lose heart.’  Those words of St Paul come from a part of a letter (2 Cor 4.16) where he is exploring for fellow Christians the most testing moments of Christian faith. Amidst any number of difficulties Christians are, he says, able to understand that ‘light momentary afflictions’ – however intense they might be – are ‘preparing for us an eternal weight of glory’ because we ‘look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen’ (v.17).

 

It flowed out of his deep conviction, based on experience, that God’s love, expressed in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, will endure and prevail. ‘We do not lose heart’, are words of gratitude and joy.

 

That said, there are – and will be – times for most of us when faith falters, when our faith, or we ourselves, seem to be very fragile; we’re knocked off course by the trials and failures and sufferings that life brings to us. When that happens, when faith ebbs and God’s love in Christ appears to fade, we feel diminished, cut down, something seems lost. That is why we need each other; and we need to remember that we are not alone. There are times when all we can do is to rest in the shared faith of the Christian community; be somehow ‘carried’ for a while by the prayer and faith of brothers and sisters; be supported and encouraged by the Church.

 

At its root however, the deep reason why we do not loose heart is because God’s Sacred Heart calls to our hearts.  Indeed, any love we receive through our brothers and sisters, and through our priests, is the love of His heart reaching out to us through them – inviting us to come out of ourselves, to forsake our uncertainties, to trust in Him and, by following His example, to make of our hearts a gift of unlimited love like His.

 

On this feast we gaze into the heart of Jesus expired on the cross: His heart opened by the thrust of the soldier’s spear. Jesus’ heart was opened: that is, God’s heart was opened. Nothing about God is now held back. God’s rich gifts of mercy gush forth from it like a fountain. All that God is flows from that heart: the shepherd and teacher of mankind, our priest and redeemer, our journey and our journey’s end. All God’s manifold wisdom, says St Paul many times, wisdom which was hidden for ages in His heart, has now been lifted up and opened up for everyone to see and know and embrace (Eph 3.9; cf Col 1.26; Rom 8.29).  Now, as the prophet Zechariah says, ‘we look on Him whom we have pierced’ (Zech 12.10), and only a few verses later he adds ‘a fountain shall be opened … to cleanse [mankind] from sin and impurity’(13.1).  This is why we do not loose heart.

 

Every year on this day I am reminded of a beautiful image in one of St Bernard’s sermons (61 on the Song of Songs). He likens the open heart of Jesus Christ, and the wounds in His hands and feet, to cracks and crevices in a rock face. ‘Through those wounds’, he says, ‘the inner secrets of His heart are laid open.’

 

Where more clearly than in your wounds, Lord, does the evidence shine out that you ‘are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love’? No one shows greater mercy than He who lays down His life for those who are judged and condemned.

 

Dear Friends, this feast openly assures us that not only are we loved with Eternal Love, but that it flows from a pierced human heart filled with all the fullness of God.  Such a heart will never let us down, and never let us go.  Close to sinners such a heart knows the deepest point of human need; close to the Father such a heart knows the heights of human joy.

 

Throughout the Christian centuries this chorus of gratitude and joy has sounded, ‘we do not loose heart!’ Let us ask the prayers of all the saints who have ever given their hearts to God’s, so that in the power of the Gospel may we continue to build everywhere the civilization of God’s Sacred and open Heart.


Sacred Heart - Homily


Trinity Sunday - Gospel and Homily

Posted on the 30th May 2021 in the category Resources


Mass with Confirmation

As given at Pusey House, Oxford

 

30 May 2021

 

Gospel

John 3.1—17

 

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I said to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’

 

Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’

 

 

Homily

 

‘If I have told you about earthly things’, Jesus said to Nicodemus, ‘and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?’ John 3.12

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Dear Friends, today’s liturgy invites us to praise God not for the wonders He has worked, but simply for the beauty and goodness of His Being from which His actions flow. We are invited to contemplate the sacred heart of God – love and life in communion. It is an astonishing day in the Church’s celebration on which to be confirmed, because what the Church contemplates in its worship today makes every conceivable difference to our daily lives. The challenge to the preacher is not to make too much of an idiot of himself, and to sit down quickly. I’ll try to do both.

 

Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus, which we’ve just heard as our gospel, shows us precisely the God we are talking about. ‘God so loved the world that He gave his only Son … so that through Him the world might be saved (Jn 3.16—17)’. This Son was sent—sent as the Son of Man, that is as one destined to suffer and die, so that when He was lifted up He could bring us to heaven, to the Father. The Son’s journey is a unique journey: only He has come from God and returned to God. But what does it immediately tell us? but that the God of the Bible is not closed in on Himself, a single person, a solitary ego, loving Himself alone. Instead the One who sent the Son wants to communicate itself; He is openness and relationship itself. He is not a unit; but a unity of love and life!

 

Throughout Scripture, words like ‘merciful’, ‘compassionate’, ‘faithful’, ‘rich in grace’ all speak to us of a relationship with an essential Being who constantly creates, who offers Himself, fills every gap, wants to give and to forgive, to make a marriage bond, a lasting covenant. This is the God whom Jesus revealed, whose face shines from every page of the new testament. And today we say that this relationship is His nature!’ He is like this towards us because he is like this in Himself. ‘Just as I am, and know, and love and yet am one being; … just as the heat, power, and light of the sun do not make three suns, but one;  just as water, air, and steam are all manifestations of the one substance;  just as the form, color, and perfume of the rose do not make three roses, but one; … just as one times one times one times one, does not equal three, but one:  so too, in some much more mysterious way, there are three Persons in God and yet only one God.’ (Fulton Sheen, Divine Romance).

 

The Good News is that this communion of love is the One who comes in search of us, His lost children.  We tend to see our lives as our journey in search of God. And in some sense they are.  Our restless hearts want to find Him, find rest in Him.  That we have confirmation candidates treading the same path that all the saints have trodden before is proof.

 

But the truth that the scriptures reveal is that God seeks us first; God draws us to Himself.

 

As our Blessed Lord Himself said, ‘No one can come to me … unless the Father who sent me, draws him.’ (Jn 6.44)  He is the one who calls to us, who touches us with His nature: who gives Himself to our incomplete and searching hearts, that long for His goodness and peace.

 

Actually unless God draws us, we’re doomed.  When we search for love and identity and fulfilment on our own, we end up disappointed and frustrated.  Our fantasies fail to remove our emptiness; and our bondage, and anger, and misery tighten their grip.  Like a desperate man on a desert island we try to quench our thirst with sea water, not knowing (may be not caring) that its saltiness overwhelms us, poisons us, and only makes us even more insanely thirsty. Material possessions, ideologies and ambitions, and all the human loves that trap our desires, poison us; make us even more thirsty for life and love.  We need the pure water that we long to drink:  we need, as Jesus says, to be re-born, in God.

 

In his lectures on St John’s gospel [Tract 26], St Augustine asks ‘What does it mean to be drawn by desire? … His answer is, ‘There’s a saying “Everyone is drawn by what he desires”, not by necessity, not by compulsion, but by the pleasure in it. Surely then we can say that anyone who finds pleasure in truth, in happiness, in justice, in everlasting life, is drawn to Christ, for Christ is all these things.’ Our desire for God – our restless, sometimes obscure and always stretching search for Him – happens because He has already found us.  And when we realise that our search for God is only ever a response to His having found us in Christ, and having put the Spirit of Truth in our hearts to cry ‘Abba Father!’ will we be able to take up the cross and follow every step of the way where our desire and longing for God will lead.

 

It is Christ, who has been set before us by the Father, who succeeds in drawing us because it is our nature to hunger and thirst for nothing more than for love and truth. ‘We are hungry’, to quote Augustine again, ‘to eat and drink wisdom, justice, truth, eternal life’. God’s grace gives us confidence and freedom to step forward, in prayer and worship, in penitence and single-minded dedication, in lives of sacrifice and costly service of others, including strangers and enemies, undeterred by difficulties or obstacles that come from our sin, knowing that nothing can deflect or weaken God’s will and grace at work within us.

 

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Trinity Sunday 2021 - Gospel and Homily


Pentecost 2021 - Gospel and Homily

Posted on the 23rd May 2021 in the category Resources


As given at St Francis, Friar Park

 

Gospel

St John 15.26-27, 16.12–15

 

Jesus said to this disciples, ‘But when the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you.’

   

Homily

 

“The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”. It is a line we all know, instinctively almost from hundreds of courtroom dramas, and even perhaps from our own experience. It has been rattling around our court system since about the 13th century. But “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” is also the message of this day, a day of great rejoicing for all Christians as we celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit whom Christ has sent on His Church as He promised.

 

When Jesus talked of His departure from the disciples – first because His death, and then because of His ascension into heaven – He spoke of being with them in a new way. He would, He said, have a new body. And indeed after His resurrection and after His ascension He was, each time, with them in a new and a different way. His mysteriously free resurrection body after His death, was the pledge of even greater power and freedom of the Body of His Spirit after He ascended to the Father. To be part to it you would have to be born into it. No disciple, not a single one of us, is born Christian, even if we’re born into a Christian family: we, every one of us, become Christian, by a second birth, we become Christian. We are born through the waters of baptism, and Christ enters us by His Spirit in confirmation and communion. This new body of His, Jesus said, would not be visible to the world until after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. And from that moment, says Jesus, "The Spirit will be my witness. And you too will be my witnesses" (John 15:26). Just as the Holy Spirit was Jesus’s ‘inseparable companion’ (Basil of Caesarea) He is the inseparable companion of every Christian. This is the decisive thing about the Holy Spirit.

 

That is why Jesus calls the Spirit a para-kletos, an along-sider, a companion, to help us to give our witness and to advocate our cause. That is the idea that lies behind the word (one which is rather strange to our ears). To return to the courtroom, if you are giving your testimony before a court, even more so if you are sure of your innocence, you want the truth to come out; and for that you need a counsellor, someone who is at your side to speak up for you—to plead—on your behalf before the court.

 

But there is more: because this ‘along-sider’ would not be as Jesus was in the days of His physical life, a distinct person limited by the physical boundaries of His own body, even His resurrection body. Now, when the Spirit is given, He is given to dwell in us. His presence is not attached to us, from the outside. The Spirit dwells and grows from the inside of a person, like a living embryo grows and develops in the heart and the womb of a mother.

 

2

If we want to understand all that is said of the Holy Spirit, there is no more effective way than to read, one after another, all the statements that are made by St John about the Paraclete in His gospel. And one phrase in particular keeps recurring: the Spirit of Truth, the Truth-bearing Spirit. ‘I will ask the Father’, says Jesus, ‘He will give you another Helper, the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it can’t see Him  or know Him . But you do! for He lives with you and will be in you.’ (14.17). A little later He says the Spirit of Truth is the Advocate, the constant witness to all Jesus has said and done (15.26). And then, just before the conclusion of our reading, explains that 'When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth’ (16:13).

 

Two things stand out clearly from this teaching by Jesus, which are reflected in all the authors of the New Testament: the Paraclete ‘tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’; and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus, and His task is to illuminate and expand in all His followers the Truth of Christ, of His life, sacrifice and resurrection. All the various activities attributed to the Paraclete – teaching, reminding, witnessing, convincing, leading to the truth, announcing the truth – are to do with instructing and forming the new Body of the Lord. Like any teacher, His task is to build up and to give confidence, to help us understand; but not just to understand ideas and gain new abilities of witness; the Spirit teaches us to accept, to interiorize, and really to live the Truth and to advance in holiness – the Truth that is Jesus, because Jesus is the perfect reflection and image of God Himself.

 

3

Pentecost was not the descent of a book, but of living tongues of fire. Today is for you candidates for confirmation your own personal Pentecost. Perhaps not with the same drama as that Pentecost morning, but the same effects nonetheless. Confirmation proves how wrong are those who say that ‘the sermon on the mount is enough for them’. Through the Spirit of Truth our Lord’s teaching, as the apostles recorded it in the Gospels, was implemented, amplified, and revealed in its deepest meaning in His Church. But the whole truth about Christ, the Truth we are called to live out and be witnesses of, is not available as written records. It is written in our bodies, our words, our relationships, our actions and our sacrifices. Of course we know Christ by reading the Gospels, but we see the deeper meaning of His words and actions, and we know Christ more completely, when we have His Spirit. It is only through the Spirit that we know He is the divine Son of God and Redeemer of humanity, and only in our flesh and blood that others can see and believe it is true.

 

Many people in our day believe that truth has only a personal and individual meaning—your truth and my truth; many truths, contradictory truths competing for attention, creating division; truths favoured by romantics, idealogues and even dictators. Dear friends, so very much more might be said. But we Christians must live according to the Spirit of unity and truth, and this is why we must pray for the Spirit to enlighten and guide us to overcome the temptation to follow our own truths, and to welcome the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church. The secret of a truly vibrant Christianity, which has no reason to fear the present, the future, the ideas or obsessions of the age, or its own weaknesses or sins, is one that returns continually to the source—to Jesus Christ and the Spirit of Truth He pours into our hearts.


Pentecost 2021 - Gospel and Homily


Seventh Sunday of Easter - Gospel and Homily

Posted on the 16th May 2021 in the category Resources


Seventh Sunday of Easter, 16 May 2021

as given at St Peter’s, Plymouth

 

Gospel

St John 17:11-19

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:  “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

 

Homily

We have just listened to Jesus, at the Last Supper, with his disciples gathered about him, just a few short hours before his arrest.  You remember, he also mentioned ‘those who will believe in me through their word’ (Jn 17:20). That’s you, and me! At the Last Supper Jesus prayed for us! the community of His disciples down the centuries.

 

St John, who gave us these words, listened intently at that Supper; his head resting next to the heart of Jesus (just as Jesus, says St John in one of his letters, rests next to the heart of God himself). The beloved disciple listened. And what did he hear?

 

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. I ask not for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me’  (17.17ff).

 

This then is Jesus talking to his Father about himself, and praying for us, his Church. As we pray for the Church’s renewal in the Spirit of Pentecost, at a time when the Church is under increasing pressure from our contemporaries, I want to draw from those words this morning what seem to me to be two very important insights into the real nature of the Church.

 

2   First, there is one particular word which captures our attention, perhaps because it is difficult to understand. Jesus says: “For their sake I consecrate myself”. What does that mean? Did not Peter call him ‘the Holy One of God’? (cf. Jn 6:69)? How, then, can he consecrate himself now?

 

To understand, we need first to clarify what the Bible means by the words ‘holy’ and ‘consecrate’. Holiness is a description of God’s own nature.  God’s way of being, his nature, is unique to him, and it is holy. He alone is Holy One. All other holiness comes from him, and is a sharing in his way of being – light without darkness, truth without falsehood, good without any evil. When something or someone is ‘consecrated’, that thing or person is given to God as his property. It’s taken out of our context and inserted into his. It no longer belongs to human affairs, but to God’s will. To consecrate is to take something from the world and give it over to the living God.

 

Such a ‘giving up’ of something and ‘giving over’ to God we also call a ‘sacrifice’.  It’s my property no longer, but his property. It is a transfer of ownership – taken out of the world: given to God. So being made holy consecration is in fact a two-way process. A thing or a person is set apart for God. But for that precise reason it doesn’t become isolated, taken out of use as it were. Quite the opposite! To be given over to God means being made available for others, indeed available for the greatest number of others.  A priest for example is removed from worldly commitments and habits and given over to God, and therefore starting with God, he must be available for the greatest number of other people.

 

We can now perhaps understand what happens when Jesus says: ‘I consecrate myself for them’. This is the priestly act by which Jesus gives himself over to the Father, and, being God’s property is consequently given over to the whole world.

 

I consecrate – I sacrifice – myself, he says. It is a word that enables us to glimpse deep into the heart of Jesus Christ, his motivations and his commitments; and it is proof – yet again – that the Last Supper really is joined to the Crucifixion, it’s not just a sentimental farewell meal.  At the Last Supper Jesus sacrificed himself, handing himself over to God and his disciples; on the Cross he was sacrificed by others, and handed over to the will of his enemies.

 

And now we can perhaps more clearly understand the prayer which the Lord prayed for his disciples and for us, ‘Sanctify them in the truth’ – ‘O Lord, draw them towards your self, your holiness. Take them away from themselves and make them your property, so that, living in you, they will spend their lives for the world.’ The disciples and we are to be immersed in God’s word, that creative power which unites our ordinary human lives to God’s mind and heart. And because we’ve been transferred to God’s world, our life becomes God’s mission.  To be given to God, means to exist ‘for’ all those to whom God gives himself. The disciples’ the task will be to continue Jesus’ mission, to be given to God and thereby to be on mission to all.

 

3   That brings me to the second thing I want, in briefer words, to draw out of our Blessed Lord’s extraordinary prayer on the brink of his death. 

 

As we listen to Jesus describing his sacrifice to God, we can hear emerging through these few words, all four of the distinctive marks of the Church.

 

Meditate on those few verses and you’ll see how in them the whole nature not only of Jesus but of the Church is expressed.

  • Jesus prays that we will be holy because he consecrates himself.
  • Jesus says that he is sending us into the world and the word in Greek is indeed apostele, from which we have the word apostolic.
  • Jesus prays for those throughout the world, of all conditions and all backgrounds, who will believe because of the disciples – a catholic community;
  • and he prays that they will be one as he and the Father are one.

 

In those few verses, prayed in the white-hot centre of Jesus’s moment self-sacrifice, we hear the foundation charter of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and remember that Church is one not because we are one but because Jesus Christ is one; the Church is holy not because we are, but because Jesus Christ is holy; the Church is catholic not because we embrace all differences, but because Jesus Christ is the saviour of all; the Church is apostolic not because of our initiatives but because, as the Father has sent Jesus, so Jesus sends us.

 

This tells us that the more we are focussed on Jesus, and drawn into the mystery of his nature, the more that our concerns for the Church will cease to be matters we passionately struggle to decide about and master for ourselves.  They will flow directly from our relationship with Jesus, ‘to whom be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, on earth as it is in heaven, before all time and now and forever. Amen.’ (Jude 1.25).


Sermon for 7th Sunday of Easter - 16 May 2021


Ascension Day - Homily

Posted on the 13th May 2021 in the category Resources


Mass of the Ascension with Baptism and Confirmation

13th May 2021

As given at St Gabriel's Fulbrook

 

St Paul wasn’t the only one to write a famous letter to the Romans.  St Ignatius of Antioch (who as a youth had known St John) wrote to them as well.  He was trying to get a message to them before he arrived in Rome under guard destined to be killed.  In that letter he wrote these startling words, ‘Now that Christ has ascended to the Father, he’s even more visible to the whole world now than when He lived in obscurity.’ (Romans 3)

 

Even more visible? How? surely with His ascension Jesus’s life on earth has come to a close? Even during the forty mysterious and disorienting days after His resurrection, when as St Luke tells us (Acts 1.3) ‘he had continued to appear to [the disciples]’, He was more visible than after the awesome mystery we celebrate today.

 

It is certainly true that having commissioned His apostles to ‘Go to the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation’, He who now sits at the right hand of the Father has been far more widely and deeply proclaimed and known and followed for two thousand years than He was either before or after His resurrection. Was ever a command so obeyed, in word, in sacrament, in evangelism and service, through the history of the Church? 

 

Our faith seems to depend on Him not being visible. Had Jesus simply remained on earth after rising from the dead, the faith of His followers in every subsequent generation would have still been focused on life in this world rather than on the next. The apostles’ very last question to Him proves the point:  ‘Lord, is now the time you going to restore Israel’s kingdom?’ (Acts 1.6). But with Him gone from their sight, it became part of the spiritual growth of Christians (you and me, and Victoria and Tilly here) to long and desire to be with Christ whom, here and now, we can only see by faith.  No less a person than St Paul said, ‘Be intent on things above rather than on things of earth.’ (Col 3.2). And of course, in heaven there will be no faith because the redeemed will see God;  even better there will be no hope, because they will possess what they hope for.  There will only be love, because God will be all in all (1 Cor 15.28).

 

2

So then, how can we understand Ignatius’s words, ‘even more visible’? 

 

Let me suggest what I think he meant.  Remember he was a man under arrest, being transported across modern day Turkey and Greece, on his way to martyrdom in Rome, and he was writing to the Roman Christians to say, ‘when I arrive please don’t stop my martyrdom’.  ‘Only pray for me’, he wrote, ‘that I’ll not only be called a Christian but really be found to be one, so that when I’m gone my witness will live on’.  A great and courageous saint.

 

But in the case of Jesus it is not simply that a witness living on, a memory of a person of great integrity. When Jesus seems to go from us, it is because He goes deeper in God:  into what we call heaven, and what Jesus himself called the ‘bosom of the Father’ (Jn 1.18).  He took human existence into God's heart.  The Ascension means Jesus belongs entirely to God. And being thus with the Father, who embraces and sustains the entire universe, Christ is for ever inseparable from each one of us.  Each one of us can share the intimacy of which Jesus spoke when He said, ‘[The Father and I] will come to him and make our home in him.’ (Jn 14.23)  

 

Of course, we can draw away from him. We can live with our backs turned on him. But He always abides, and waits for us; He is always close to us. By His Holy Spirit He is always drawing the Church—and the world—deeper into the truth about our Blessed Lord Jesus.

 

You remember that increasingly at the end of His life, Jesus taught and prayed, and in supremely the Eucharist showed, how He would not simply be a memory, but would be a present, living and growing person within His disciples. That is the meaning of the parable of the true vine which Jesus told at the Last Supper:  ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ And with shocking clarity He had said of the Eucharist, ‘Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, will live because of me.’ (Jn 6.56-7)

 

3

People who listen to sermons often want, quite right too, to have the connection made for them between the scriptures and their everyday life, they want the scriptures made relevant for current events. Well, dear friends, [dear Victoria and Tilly,] nothing could possibly be more relevant than this, nothing could affect your every day life more than this:  that God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—lives in the members of Christ’s Body His Church, and makes himself visible in them.  His Spirit is poured into us, lives within us, reminds us of Christ’s teaching, so that our minds and bodies may reveal God in all our words and actions and sacrifices.  Christ is not distant from you: out of our hearing and out of our sight.  He gives himself constantly and visibly in the scriptures, and His Body and Blood, in our fellowship, and in the poor. As St Ignatius said ‘Now that Christ has ascended to the Father he’s even more visible to the whole world now than when He lived in obscurity.’ (Romans 3) 

 

The puzzle of Ascension is not whether all this is true! The puzzle is why we are not more simple and willing, to let it happen in us. What are we so scared of?

 

In these days before Pentecost, let us seek the advice and help of someone who knows about openness to God’s presence and growth in us:  the Virgin Mary … so that Christ’s Ascension into God may be the moment of His Annunciation into us, and that, like her, the whole Church may make Christ even more visible to the whole world now than when He lived in obscurity!

 


Ascension Day Homily - 13 May 2021


 

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