Archive for January, 2014


Generosity & Happiness

AMDG

Todays Homily 

If you want to be happy in life then be generous – generous with God and generous with your neighbour……  There are phenomenal examples of generosity in today’s readings.

GenerosityFirstly we have the generosity of Jesus.  We are told today how he is informed about John the Baptists arrest and later his death. We remember that John was Jesus’s cousin – so this is not only the death of someone who Jesus esteems as the greatest of all prophets – this is also family. Jesus – fully human and fully divine – would have felt this like we would react to a close member of our family. Let us remind ourselves how John was killed.  After being imprisoned by King Herod – he was beheaded and his head was presented on a plate to Salome….  This is a particularly cruel and grotesque death – very public – humiliating….. How would you feel if your cousin died in such a manner?  How did the family of Lee Rigby feel when he was butchered to death on a London street and his crazed attackers.   Jesus doesn’t lick his wounds, he doesn’t harbour bitterness in his heart for Herod – he throws himself into his public mission – calling for repentance and calling his first disciples to follow him.  This is the generosity of Jesus –  Giving himself fully to his mission

Call-of-Simon-PeterSecondly let us look at the generosity of his first disciples Simon and Andrew, James and John.  We are told that they respond to Jesus invitation – I will make you fishers of men – immediately, they dropped their nets and followed him.  There is no haggling with Jesus – there is no …. Let me think about it …. Can I get back to you.  These are hearts open to God – and generous with their responses ….. in other Gospels we are told that James and John were with their boats , father and hired men, so it is clear they have a little fishing business going – if they can afford to hire others to work from them.  So their generous response is against the backdrop of this comfortable life.

Why are generous people happy – because it is in generosity that we imitate God.  The creation of the world and of life is understood by the Church as a free act of creative love – the generous creativity of the divine.  God will not be outdone in generosity – and in some ways our being generous triggers God’s blessings.  It is not like some pastors will have you believe that you will become materially rich – it is a different type of wealth – you will become rich in your spirit.   Gods blessings are already there – it as though being generous makes your heart grow, and it can contain Gods more and more of Gods blessings.

ST Ignatius Loyola – wrote a beautiful prayer about generosity – many of the pupils in our Jesuit schools have to learn this off by heart – it goes like this –

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

Lets sit quietly for a moment and think – in which areas of my life can I become more generous?

AMDG

Today’s Homily 

cute-old-cuoples-6Occasionally you meet these wonderful older married couples who have been together for many years and still seem to be in love each other.  They have a spark in their eyes, or a gentle touch between them, a concern for each other – and it makes you think – they are still as in love with other as they were those first days they met.  Sure, their love has changed – it may be more like a deep slow flowing river than those earlier years when it had all the energy of a waterfall.  But they still love each other – totally. And it is marvelous to behold – it gives us hope!  Even if we are in difficult relationships – or have a history of broken relationships – even if we feel a bit battered and bruised because of our experience of love…. We may feel a pang of jealousy… but if we are honest we are filled with admiration and hope.  This is in parallel with our faith – we are called to be in love with God our creator – we are called to return that love that he has for us – a love that never grows stale – a love that is eternally creative. And so at the beginning of this new year that is our challenge for us – how do we make sure that our Love for God isn’t growing stale – how do we make sure that we are always wishing to renew it – that we are not just here in this beautiful church out of habit or because it is a routine and we feel guilty if we miss Sunday mass.

Because our faith can be so much more than that.   Even if it feels like we are clinging on by our fingernails – we are still being called deeper and deeper into love. Those couples that stay in love – do not take each other for granted. It is as though they have this capacity to see each other with fresh eyes each day – with fresh wonder.   Can we do this when we look at Jesus?  John the Baptist introduces Jesus to us today saying four remarkable things about him – so in case we have got too used to him – let’s listen again.

John Says this

  1. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world
  2. He is the Chosen one of God
  3. He is the one who will baptise with the Holy Spirit
  4. “ A man who is coming after me who ranks before me because he existed before me”

logos-300x225Let’s think about this last one. Jesus existed before John – well we know from Marys visit to Elizabeth when John leapt in the womb, that he’s not speaking biologically –  So we remember that electric opening to John’s Gospel – ‘ In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.’  This is called the pre-existence of Christ – the word, the logos – that we believe Jesus, the son of God, existed from the beginning of time.  Jesus who we hear about in the Liturgy of the Word, Jesus who is with us in a unique way in the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  This pre-existence of God, that John proclaims in the Gospel is important as it touches on the power of God’s love for us. Why ?  because in order to become man, a historical man, Jesus son of Mary – son of God – step son of Joseph, – and also in order to be present to us in blessed sacrament every day as we celebrate the mystery of mass in this church and the chapel next door – God is emptying himself to be with us in a supreme act of Love.

This idea of Jesus’s pre-existence as the word is of crucial importance in an age were so many people wish to portray faith as irrational. Pope Emeritus Benedict has said that Christianity must always remember that it is the religion of the “Logos.” ….. according to him is our philosophical strength, that our faith and the created world comes from the rational – not the irrational;  this saves Christianity from becoming distorted by irrationality – prevents us from being sucked into violence.  When we are accused of being bigots – remembering that in the beginning was the word – and through him all things were made – reminds us that to believe in Christ is Rational no matter how unpopular this has become – or how inconvenient the power of this self emptying love is to a world that is so often selfish and only interested in domination.    What’s more, Benedict goes on to say – this ‘logos’ – is infinitely creative  – especially when the crucified God is manifested as love, it is only this that can really show us the way.  Its worth repeating that – The Word is infinitely creative especially when the crucified God is manifested as love.

So when we read the Gospel again – and when we come together like this to represent the Body of Christ, when we receive communion today – we can fall in love again.  Because He never gets tired of us.  Divine love never grows stale

My Homily Given Today on the Feast of the Epiphany 

CHRISTMAS_SHOPPERS1_1AMDG  I am going to let you into a secret – one of the things I like about being a priest at Christmas is that I don’t have to buy a lot of presents.  It’s not that I am means spirited – or stingy …….. honestly …….. but I am very happy that being a priest it allows me to concentrate on what is really important at Christmas.  But even I can’t get totally out of it – I went over to see my sister in Nottingham last week and two of my beautiful nieces, Charlotte and Emily.  Now they are only 4 and 6 so I don’t think they would understand if I turned up without presents – so briefly I had to join the crowds in the Arndale Centre – looking for presents – and it was stressful! Too many people – some very rude people pushing you out the way – and all just to get a couple of presents (they both love Barbie and Moshi Monsters) that I know were made in China – and probably will be forgotten about in a few week and thrown out when my sister decides there are too many toys cluttering up their bedroom.

Does that sound familiar to you?

Let’s contrast that experience with the presents given to Jesus by the wise men at the feast of the Epiphany. Gold, Frankincense and Myrhh – Gold – which represents the Kingship of Christ.  Isn’t it interesting that when there is a period of political or financial instability the price of Gold soars.  People buy Gold when they don’t trust their rulers or their economy – just look at what is happening in India now with such a frustration with corruption.  Gold has a value that lasts – its not another throwaway consumerist trinket.  In this baby in Bethlehem we see that if you invest your hopes and your dreams in his kingship it will bear dividends – not of more money but of peace, of joy, of love.   Frankincense – the gift of priesthood – like the incense that we use at mass to consecrate the altar, which I have just you to consecrate this book of the Gospels.  In this child born into poverty we have what Saint Paul was the ultimate high priest – whose sacrifice on our behalf brings us back into the loving orbit of God our creator.  And in Myrhh – we have an analgesic – a pain killer – something that we still use in dentistry and when we gargle mouthwash. This a prophetic gift which indicates the wise man forsee the suffering that this new king-priest will have to endure suffering to fulfill his Messiahship.

downloadGold, Frankincense and Myrrh – three prophetic, wise gifts laid at the feet of Jesus in the dirt, smell, damp and darkness of the stable in Bethlehem.

Lets compare the vision of the three kings to the that of King Herod.  Herod is the consummate political survivor – even being prepared to kill his own children to maintain his own power. He is ruthless and will do anything to consolidate his power.  That is the extent of his vision – raw power – and anyone or anything that gets in his way will be ruthlessly eliminated. If you read the historians of this time he was notorious for executing three of his own sons – Caesar Augustus even commented ‘It is better to be Herod’s dog rather than one of his sons’   What type of man is that?

We think that the magi came from Persia (Iran), India and Arabia and their exotic caravan would certainly have been noticed even in a bustling Jerusalem,  So Herod assembles his own wise man and discovers the prophecy of the messiah.  The Magi were looking for truth – seeking the star – and their gifts show how deeply they understood the prophecy.  The best gifts we receive come from people who understand us.  Herod – in his ego and his paranoia is seeking for threats to his power and as we will see is ruthless in his reaction.

King-Herod-300x300We all know that we can be like Herod in our lives and relationships – bearing grudges, playing games, manipulating people.  Ok we may not resort to murder or even physical violence – but so many of us like another form of assassination – gossiping, undermining someone’s reputation.  We become so obsessed with maintaining our own comfort that we stop seeking the truth. If you are seeking the truth, if you are seeking Christ, than expect opposition from the Herods of this world.  Expect to be scorned, to be laughed at.  But keep seeking – look for the gifts of the spirit – look for the gifts that will never grow stale – or be thrown away.  Truth, Freedom (and real freedom is spiritual – it is detachment), Peace and Joy.  They are gifts that come from kneeling and adoring – they are gifts that come from following those things that produce wonder in your heart.  You won’t find that Peace and Joy in the Arndale Centre – you may find it at the Holy Name.