The Most Holy Trinity

Cycle C
16th June 2019
Romans: 5:1-5
Tony van Vuuren

I am not given to telling stories in my sermons, but I was reminded that I was due to preach on the Holy Trinity when I read David Biggs’ Last Laugh column in the Argus last week.

Three farmers were sitting in the local agricultural co-op chatting about this and that, and the talk turned to religion and the merits of various faiths. The oldest was very quiet so he was asked, “so what do you think Oom Hennie?’
“Well there are three roads leading to the grain elevator,” he said, “and when you arrive there, they are not going to ask you which road you came by. They’ll only be interested in the quality of your grain.”

Moving through the three special feasts culminating in the Holy Trinity this weekend we might review what the impact of this period has been on the quality of our faith? On the Ascension we celebrated Jesus’ return to his Father’s side.

Pentecost fulfilled Jesus’ promise that he would not leave us on our own to struggle in a contrary world of rejection and indifference. Today we celebrate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity, our belief that God is One and yet Three Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One in Three and Three in One.

This is something so wonderful and sublime that the human mind cannot pretend to comprehend the full meaning of the mystery, which nonetheless is the cause of our hope as followers of Jesus Christ. Even St Augustine once stated that it is impossible to fill the human mind with the immensity of the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

Paul’s letter to the Roman Christians begins with a double reassurance. Paul wants to make sure that, as we undergo the daily trials that test our faith, we can be confident that we don’t have to go through them on our own. Jesus is the lens through which Paul interprets the Trinity.

Paul writes; “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s where it begins for us, doesn’t it? It is not about what we did to please God; but that God has first been pleased with us. This love of God; it is not “our love of God” but rather, “God’s love of us.” Paul tells us that through sufferings, endurance, the forming of character and hope, God’s love is poured into our hearts through the indwelling Holy Spirit.
God, in Jesus, has “justified” us. The term “justification” is the Bible’s assurance that we have been put in a right relationship with God. The first effect of justification is the Christian experience of peace. This is a peace that anxieties cannot upset, a hope that knows no disappointment, and a confidence of salvation of which any Christian can truly boast.

So how do we get this “righteousness,” or “justification”? Well, we can never earn it according to Paul. Instead, as he has often said, we are set right with God through faith. But it does not end there, in complacency. Instead, the faith we have received urges us to respond to our neighbour as Jesus did.

God, our Creator, has in Jesus shone the divine face of love and forgiveness on us. He has revealed His unsurpassing, unlimiting and unearned love for us. He has also gifted us with the Spirit, the life force within us, that moves us to accept Jesus into our lives by faith and to respond to the Spirit’s urging to be as Christ was in the world.
All the gifts that we receive from God, be it His grace, faith, hope, peace, justification, they are bestowed upon us through the Blessed Trinity. It is by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit in the Name of Jesus that God manifests His love in us, with us and through us. God’s love for us gives us courage in all the difficulties of life.

We are each being invited to engage more than the mind as we ponder the mystery of our living under the watchful care of the Holy Trinity. St Benedict expressed it beautifully when he said that we are invited to open “the ears of our heart,” in order to comprehend, to the degree that we can, the greatness of our God.
While living this life, we will never understand fully the God who saves us, but that is no reason to give up in our search for God, and our ardent pursuit of God’s will for our life, as well as our proclamation of the Gospel by the life we live.

The Gospel reassures us that God is Love, and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in the one who loves. Let us put God in the centre of our existence and go to Him frequently in prayer, in praise, as well as adoration, supplication, and thanksgiving for giving nourishment and encouragement for our daily existence.

We form a family with God. As the Trinity dwells in unity, we are called to do likewise. May we never cease to thank our God for the gifts we have received and may we remain today and always united to the Holy Trinity, our One God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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The Fruits of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost

Year C 2019

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Last Sunday afternoon, I was relaxing in my study reading when my 6 year old Grandson Joshua came bouncing in and out of the blue with very serious intent asked “Papa, where is the Holy Spirit?”

Indeed a pertinent question on today’s feast of Pentecost which brings our Easter celebrations to a close; a grand finale.

Christ’s Passover celebrated 50 days ago is fulfilled in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; the full revelation of the Holy Trinity; the birth of the Church.

In the first reading’s account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, Luke is trying to describe an event that is completely outside his experience and frame of reference and he uses strong imagery that helps make the event somewhat comprehensible to his audience and to us. We are familiar with the elements of wind and fire.

Quoting Fr Francis Fernandez, a contemporary Spanish priest and author: “The rushing wind on the day of Pentecost expresses the new force with which divine love invades the church and souls.”

 We cannot see the wind but we can see it’s effect and feel its presence; invisible, sometimes gently and other times extraordinary powerful.

The tongues of fire gave the apostles in the upper room the power to preach and proclaim the news of the Risen Christ in every language “from every nation under heaven”. And the Word spread like wildfire – uncontainable.

In our world today, in our enthusiasm or reluctance to spread the Good News of the Risen Christ, we kindle or kerb the fire of the Holy Spirit.

Coming back to Josh’s question: Where is the Holy Spirit?

We find the Holy Spirit in ourselves and in each other in our actions; in the fruits of the Spirit that we offer to the world and to God.

St Paul writing to the Galatians in chapter 5 (v22, 23) lists nine fruits of the Holy Spirit. Where we find these fruits, we find the tangible presence of the Holy Spirit.

And so we could look at our lives and ask whether we are witnesses to the power of Pentecost in the ways in which we behaviour, think and treat others.

The first and most obvious fruit is love.

Do we love all of God’s people and creation or do we pick and choose and love only those whom we consider worthy of our love? Perhaps only love those who speak our language or are the same colour or creed? Perhaps we only love those whose lifestyle resembles our own or those who meet our standards of moral behaviour?

Love is a choice, not a feeling.

Where we find unconditional love, we find the Holy Spirit.

The second fruit is joy.

Joy isn’t the same as happiness which comes and goes depending on whether things are going well or not.

Joy is the always present certainty in our hearts that we are God’s beloved and that there’s a place waiting for us in his kingdom when this pilgrimage is over.

Where we find that joy, we find the Holy Spirit.

Then we come to peace.

This isn’t the peace that suggests the lack of war or violence. This is the inner peace amid the turmoil, cruelty, violence and corruption that we find in the world around us; a peace in response to God’s ever present grace in our lives in the certainty of salvation.

Where we find this peace, we find the Holy Spirit.

The next fruit is kindness.

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (Eph 4:31) he writes “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each another, just as God in Christ forgave you” 

Where we find a kind heart and a compassionate, caring tongue, we find the Holy Spirit.

Goodness, the next fruit, is the opposite of badness or evil.

Paul suggests that goodness doesn’t come to us naturally.  In other words, we find it easier to yield to our human nature in our sexual behaviour, jealousy, envy, selfishness, over indulgence, etc. than we do to emulate the goodness of God.

Where we absence of evil, we find the Holy Spirit.

Faithfulness is another fruit that seriously tests our human nature; particularly in our relationships; with God, our spouses, families, friends, colleagues, neighbour.

Very simply, faithfulness is holding true to our promises.

In Baptism and Confirmation we promise to reject Satan and all his works and empty promises; and yet we are so easily seduced by a world driven by the illusion that when we get just a little more than we have, we’ll find happiness; that our personal pleasure, needs and desires are paramount; and in the process our promises to God and each other are compromised.

Where we find faithfulness, we find the Holy Spirit.

Humility is also a tough fruit to produce.

Saint Teresa of Calcutta once said “If you are humble nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”

Here are a few pointers:

Humility is:

  • Accepting humiliations
  • Obeying legitimate authority
  • Physically kneeling in prayer
  • Thinking of others before ourselves
  • Not looking for recognition for our good deeds
  • Seeking forgiveness and saying I’m sorry to those we have hurt
  • Admitting our mistakes and weaknesses before God in the Sacrament of Confession

 Patience, another fruit, is more than keeping our cool when we are frustrated.

There’s a lovely verse in Psalm 37 that reads “Be still before the Lord; wait for him.”

When we learn to be still we are not controlled by impatience which feeds anger, irritation and annoyance. We often lose our patience because we want to control the situation; we want things to be done our way.

A verse from Ecclesiastes (Ecc7:9) says:   Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools.

And finally, self-control.

In 1 Corinthians (9:25), Paul plays on the idea of self-control by remarking that, if athletes can exercise discipline—or self-control —in order to win a wreath that will wither, Christians should be able to exercise the self-control required to win the greatest prize of all; eternal life.

We could ask ourselves how we let our lack of self-control influence our lives. Do we eat or drink more than we should? Are we addicted to cigarettes, or alcohol or drugs or pornography or social media, video games, etc.?

Self-control is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and a gift from God, not something we figure out or achieve by ourselves.

Self-control isn’t always saying ‘ No!”

It also means saying ‘Yes!”

Yes – I will pray more

Yes – I will love more

Yes – I will produce more fruits born of the Holy Spirit.

——————

“Love one another even as I have loved you”

5th SUNDAY OF EASTER
CYCLE C
19TH MAY 2019
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

Carrying out this new commandment is the centre of Christian life; the standard and pattern of Jesus’ life has to be the standard and pattern of our lives as well. Love is one of the great preoccupations of life.

Personal relationships, and the warmth and security they provide, are a refuge from an outside world which is in many aspects uncaring and devoid of love. There’s a hint of desperation in the efforts of some people to avoid being left “on their own”, which suggests that there’s an element in our culture which generates loneliness or fails to meet the human need for meaningful companionship and communication with each other.

There are many TV reality shows that illustrate this sad need. The way the Christian gospel understands love, and the way that our society in general understands it, are often two different things. One basic distinction between our Christian outlook and the outlook of non-believers is that along with Christ, and along with all the authors of the Bible, we see God as being the original source of love. Saint John says elsewhere in his Gospel; “God is love, and whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him”.

Love is not something we create out of the resources of our own human nature. Human nature can be pretty brutal and unloving. The world news is always full of stories that show the depths of loveless behaviour that human beings are capable of sinking to. For us, as believers, love is the spark of divine life in each of us that permeates our whole character and personality and our behaviour more and more deeply. We don’t keep God’s commandments so that he will love us; we do so because He loves us!
To become less self-centred, and to direct ourselves more towards other people and their concerns, is really the main sign of genuine conversion, in our Christian understanding. The main impact God has on us, and the main way that he draws us into his own life, is by way of this conversion. And the person who is genuinely trying to seek God and to be open to God’s influence in their life recognises this.
The second big difference between Christ’s notion of love, and the way our culture understands it, is that for Christ it’s mainly a matter of will, not a matter of feelings or emotions.

Christian love is more to do with a kind of reverence for others as fellow sons and daughters of God and a practical dedication to their welfare as spiritual beings. The ethos of Christian community life takes shape when every individual takes this attitude to everyone else: when each serves the others.

But this takes place in our wills, not in our feelings. Christian love doesn’t mean getting deeply emotionally involved with everyone that we meet. That’s not humanly possible. It’s not what Christ did himself and it’s not what he asks us to do. The effort we make to show concern and to give comfort to people when they’re vulnerable is certainly a way of showing genuine Christian love – but it’s not necessary to link up our own personal emotions with people’s anxiety or their grief. We can identify with people when they’ve suffered a loss, but that’s not the same as actually feeling the loss ourselves.
When people are distressed it’s far more helpful to express sympathy in a down-to-earth way. They don’t need to be bombarded with a lot of gushy stuff about how we’re totally devastated and won’t be able to sleep and how we’ll be worrying about them all week. The main fault of that is that it’s really a form of self-indulgence. It’s not actually directed to the welfare of the other person at all. And as Christians we’re supposed to root out self-indulgent tendencies, not cultivate them.

So if that’s not what Christ’s new commandment is about, may I suggest two simple ways that we can carry out this instruction that Jesus gives us in the gospel today. The first way is to surrender some of our own demands and ambitions about what we want out of life, and attend more to serving other people – not in grand gestures of self-sacrifice, but in small and manageable ways instead.
Maybe being more generous to people with our time and attention. When we do that, all our small actions build up into a habit, and we begin to assume the overall pattern of love and service that Christ puts to his followers as the way of living in communion with God.

Something else we can do, as an act of Christian love, is: we can pray for people. God wants us to turn to him with our own needs as well as with other people’s needs, because he wants us to communicate with him constantly about the plans and activities that we’re involved in.

If we can get into the habit of praying for other people – asking God in ordinary language to make himself present in their lives and help them in whatever way they need – then he also makes himself more present to us, and changes us, at the same time. He makes us gradually more detached from our own wants and desires, he changes our priorities and our sense of what’s important, and he reinforces this whole attitude of concern and service to others.

When we refuse to love, we build a wall around ourselves. But we ourselves are the first to suffer. We condemn ourselves to a winter of loneliness and unhappiness But when we love, the wall falls down. We open ourselves to others. And we ourselves are the first to benefit. We experience a springtime of friendship, goodwill, peace and joy.

“Love one another even as I have loved you.” That sums it all up.

Divine Mercy

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

28 April 2019

Its 19 years since Pope John Paul II – now St John Paul II – canonised the Polish nun, St Faustina Kowalska and on that occasion in 2000 proclaimed that the Second Sunday of Easter would in future be celebrated as Divine Mercy Sunday. It seems fitting that he died on the night of the vigil before Divine Mercy Sunday, in 2005.

Quoting from St Faustina’s diaries written between 1934-1937, she writes that she heard Jesus say:

My daughter, tell the whole world about my Inconceivable mercy. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of my most tender mercy. It is my desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of my mercy. 

Let no soul fear to draw near to me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity.

In her diary, St. Faustina described an image revealed to her of the risen Lord, with two rays shining from his heart: red representing blood and white symbolizing water, with the words “Jesus, I trust in you” underneath.

As beautiful as is the artist’s rendition of the image that she described, apparently on seeing the painting she wept and exclaimed, “Who would paint You as beautiful as You are?” Jesus replied, “Not in the beauty of the colour, nor of the brush lies the greatness of this image, but in My grace.”

The Feast has become increasingly popular and it’s not uncommon today to see the image of Divine Mercy displayed permanently and prominently in churches and cathedrals around the world.

The devotion to divine mercy is not something new but rather serves to further highlight and animate the virtue of trust in God’s love and mercy that finds its fulfillment in the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.

Faustina was born into a poor peasant family in a remote village in Poland in 1905; the third eldest of ten children. She only had a very basic education and started working as a housemaid in her early teens to help support her family.

She had a calling to a religious life from a very young age and following a vision she had of a suffering Jesus when she was 19 she caught a train and traveled to Warsaw (about 85kms) to join a convent without telling her parents and taking with her nothing but the dress she was wearing.

She approached several convents in Warsaw, but was turned down every time. In one case being told that “we do not accept maids here.”

A kindly parish priest found her accommodation with a parishioner while she searched for a convent that would accept her.

After many weeks, she was accepted into a convent but only on condition that she could pay for her religious habit.

She worked for a year as a housemaid to save money, making regular deposits at the convent towards the cost of her religious clothing until she was finally admitted at the age of 20. She took her first vows when she was 22 and when she took her final vows at the age of 26, her health was already deteriorating (probably tuberculosis).

Faustina spent most of her convent life in the kitchen working as a cook or in the garden growing vegetables. She was 33 years old when she died.

Before her death in 1938 Faustina predicted that “there will be a war, a terrible, terrible war” and asked the nuns to pray for Poland. A year later Poland was invaded by Hitler’s troops marking the beginning of WWII.

The focus of the Divine Mercy image is the Risen Christ’s wounded body; the source of the rays of light being his heart pierced on the cross.  And we find a similar emphasis in our reading from John’s Gospel.

The disciples were only glad to see Jesus on Easter Sunday after he had shown them his wounded hands and side and a week later, Thomas says “Unless I place my fingers in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.”

Can we blame Thomas for his disbelief? The horror and disillusionment of Good Friday had not yet been transformed in his life by the light of Easter.

The mercy of God comes to Thomas as it comes to us through Christ’s wounds.

We are all wounded. We may not necessarily carry visible scars on our bodies but we have been wounded in many ways.

We carry the wounds of relationships that have hurt us, perhaps physical illness or disease, unfulfilled dreams and broken promises; addictions, frustrations and disappointments; wounded by the harsh realities and hardships of life.

When we bring our wounds to Jesus in the sacrament of confession, instituted by Jesus on Easter Sunday, our very wounds become the entrance, the opening, through which flows his merciful love. And we experience the peace and the joy that Christ offers us; the peace that Jesus offered the disciples when he appeared to them on Easter Sunday.

Acts of terror as we’ve witnessed recently in New Zealand and Sri Lanka, incessant religious wars, violence within our own communities and families, sickness, disease and enduring poverty put our faith to the test.

And yet, Easter reminds us that there is something more powerful than suffering and death: the love of God who, in Christ, has taken upon himself our broken humanity.

This is the mystery we celebrate on this Feast of Divine Mercy.

Pope Benedict XVI speaking in 2007 said: “Thomas has received from the Lord, and has in turn transmitted to the Church, the gift of faith put to the test by the passion and death of Jesus and confirmed by meeting him risen. His faith was almost dead but was born again thanks to his touching the wounds of Christ, those wounds that the Risen One did not hide but showed, and continues to point out to us in the trials and sufferings of every human being.”

In the image revealed to St Faustina, Jesus points to his wounded heart and offers us the grace of his divine mercy.

We would be foolish to ignore it.

——

Holy Thursday: Now do you understand how much I love you?

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

18 April 2019

How is it possible to adequately describe or explain the magnitude, the magnificence, the importance and the impact of the events that we are recalling and celebrating in the Sacred Easter Triduum that has started this evening; the start of these three holiest of all holy days.

This is the very core of our faith; the very essence of Christianity and yet many Catholics still think only of attending Mass on Easter Sunday morning having skipped the events of the previous two days. That’s a little like attending only the prize giving at Wimbledon without having actual watched any of the tennis; without having shared in the drama and  events leading up to the finale.

Without the events of Holy Thursday, there would be no Mass, no Blessed Sacrament and no priesthood. At the Last Supper, Our Lord entrusted the apostles with the task of celebrating the Eucharist, and in this very action he consecrated them priests. The Holy Mass as we know it today emerged from the religious practices of the apostles following the Last Supper.

The earliest written description that we have of the Mass goes back to St Justin Martyr written between 153 and 155 A.D; nearly 1900 years ago.

Jesus promised that he would be with us always, even to the end of time. That promise is made a reality in his real presence in the Eucharist.

Quoting from the Catechism: The Eucharist is the source and summit of the Christian life.  In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.

I’m sure many of us find it almost impossible to even imagine not having the Blessed Sacrament to enrich and nourish our faith and our relationship with God.

Notwithstanding the ugly abuse scandals and shame brought on the Church by some of the clergy that have been highlighted in the media over the past number of years, we should never let this dark shadow dim our appreciation, gratitude and indebtedness to the very vast majority of priests who serve the church faithfully and bring Christ to us in the Eucharist.

We should also pray constantly for new vocations to the priesthood and actively encourage young men to become priests because we need them; without priests to offer the sacrifice of the Mass there is no Blessed Sacrament.

What an extraordinary night that was when Jesus met with his 12 personally chosen disciples to celebrate the Jewish Passover in the Upper Room. His own trial, torture and death was merely hours away. And Jesus does something quite shocking; quite unthinkable. He gets down on his knees and washes their feet.

In ancient Palestine people wore sandals or went barefoot and they walked on dirt roads shared by herdsmen driving their animals to market and traders moving goods by ox and camel. Foot-washing was a sign of hospitality but this was a job reserved for slaves. It was one of the most unpleasant and humiliating tasks.

On the days preceding the Passover, Jerusalem would have been heaving with humanity. Many thousands of Jews (some estimates put the number at a few hundred thousand) from near and far including distant countries would have come to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice and celebrate Pesach.

The streets would have been congested with people, donkeys, horses, camels and the thousands of sheep and goats for sacrifice – littering the streets with their urine and excrement. The dirty feet of the apostles would not have been an appealing sight.

This sign that Jesus gives them by washing their feet, this mandate to love through humble service would have made an indelible impression on them and most surely influenced their future ministry.

The washing of the feet is a vivid illustration to us of the hardship, the struggle and the enormous challenge in loving even when it’s unappealing and we’re hurting.

Imagine for a moment Jesus taking the feet of Judas in his hands and gently washing them clean knowing that Judas had already betrayed him. And kneeling at the feet of Peter knowing that he would within hours vehemently deny that Jesus was even a friend. Washing the feet of the others who, with the exception of young John, would by morning, be in hiding having deserted him and left him to suffer and die alone.

And now let us imagine for a moment that Jesus is kneeling before us, gently holding our feet in his hands. He knows. He knows what’s in our hearts; our fears and disappointments, our questions and our doubts, our struggles and weaknesses, our hurt, our pain and our loneliness. He knows.

Even knowing the deceit, doubt and dishonesty that were in the hearts of his apostles, Jesus loved them. He loved them and entrusted his Church to them.

He loves us and entrusts himself to us in the gift of the Eucharist; the gift of his Real Presence.

Jesus says to us tonight: Now do you understand how much I love you?

Do as I have done.

————–

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

GOOD FRIDAY
19TH APRIL 2019
Rev Tony van Vuuren

From the Annunciation to the Cross, Mary always consented with the same obedience of faith, to all the designs of God. Every moment of Her life was an invitation to act on Her faith; and as a fruit of Her obedience, She in turn, deepened Her faith and understanding of Her role and participation in the plan of salvation. That is why we can truly say that Mary had a pilgrimage of faith from the Annunciation to Her Assumption, and that this pilgrimage climaxed on Golgotha.

In these times, marked by a spirit of unbelief, secularization and materialism, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to give us the same faith of Mary’s Heart, so as to be able to stand with Her at the foot of the Cross in fidelity to Her Son and His teachings
To have faith, to believe, has never been easy, since it implies the renunciation of our own thoughts, ways, and wisdom in order to accept the thoughts, ways and wisdom of God, which are infinitely superior to ours. Our Christian perfection depends, on the virtue of faith; our fidelity in times of tribulation, and our perseverance. Paul says: “we walk by faith not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7)

At the moment of the Annunciation, faith became for Mary the only pillar on which to sustain Her whole life and the only way to embrace, not only Her own mystery, but the mystery of Her Son: a gift of mercy from God the Father, for the salvation of all humanity.

St John writes; “Standing at the foot of the Cross of Jesus were his mother and her companions. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple, whom he loved, he said to his mother: ‘Woman, behold your son.’ John exalts Mary’s faith by presenting two elements in reference to the Passion of our Lord: First, Mary’s presence at the foot of the Cross. It is precisely at this place where the faith of the disciples and, logically, Mary’s faith, is put to the hardest test. Her steadfast presence manifests Her fidelity, Her constant abandonment to the will of God, and a faith that is undiminished, unchanged and unaltered even in the darkest hours.
Secondly, in the words of Jesus, “Behold your son,” Mary is invited to expand the horizon of her faith and the understanding of Her role, since Her motherhood is now moving beyond Her dying son; it is been extended to the reality of a spiritual maternity for all the children of God. This last will of Jesus on the Cross became, for Mary, a new annunciation of a conception and birth: The Church.
Mary’s faith was constant, not only present in the times of “apparent glory” when Her Son was performing miracles and had many disciples that believed in Him; it was just as strong when there was no “apparent glory,” and even when there were not that many disciples to believe – except one, the one that was with Her at the foot of the Cross.
The same faith that Mary had at the birth of her Son was the faith she had at the Cross. It had required much faith to have in her arms that defenceless baby, and to put him in the manger and believe in his divinity. It also now required much faith to see Her Son totally disfigured and defenceless on the Cross, waiting for him to be placed in her arms, to then be put in the sepulchre. Her faith gave her strength to continue standing at the foot of the Cross – where nothing seemed to make sense, where darkness seemed to have overcome light, where death seemed to have overcome life, where the messianic power seemed to have been lost, where goodness seemed to have been overcome by evil. There, at the foot of the Cross, Mary stood, supported by John, expressing the hardest thing that could have been expressed at that moment: faith in Jesus Christ, Savior, Messiah, Redeemer. The Son of God.
Mary’s faith is a model for us; we all have our own itinerary and our own journey to travel. It is Mary’s faith that will teach and guide us on this journey through life; to be faithful, undivided, perseverant and trustful in times of glory and in times of suffering.
The story of Holy Week is not simply one of death and destruction. It is more importantly one of hope and of new life. Good Friday makes no sense without Easter Sunday. Mary knows that hope is stronger than despair, love is stronger than hatred and life is stronger than death; and that nothing is impossible with God.
Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, is our Spiritual Mother; and a mother always understands her children and consoles them in their troubles. Mary has that specific mission to love us, received from Jesus on the Cross; to love us always, so as to save us. Looking to the example of Mary, may we too unite our sufferings to our Lord, facing them with courage, love, and trust!

PALM SUNDAY

PALM SUNDAY
CYCLE C
14 APRIL 2019.
Homily delivered before the reading of the Passion according to Luke
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

During Holy Week we recall Jesus’ last week on earth and so it opens today as we heard from the Gospel account earlier at the point where Jesus goes to Jerusalem for the Passover, welcomed by large crowds of people who have started to identify him as the long-awaited Messiah. But then Luke’s Passion reading will remind us, as Jesus himself warned his disciples, that his mission would not be completed amid popularity and acclaim; the Messiah had to suffer and die in order to reconcile humanity with God.

Palm Sunday isn’t just a commemoration of Jesus’ passion and death: that script belongs particularly to Good Friday, at the end of Holy week.

The Palm Sunday liturgy is more about the movement away from the jubilation and triumph and the popularity Jesus enjoyed among the crowds of ordinary people as he arrived in Jerusalem, to the rejection and hostility he encountered at the end. The character and the message of Palm Sunday is the rapid movement from “Blessings on the King who comes!” to “Away with him! Give us Barabbas! Crucify him!”

Luke describes Jesus’ passion as the ultimate confrontation between the son of God and the forces of evil. It is an opportune time for the devil to attempt to complete the temptation he began in the desert three years ago.

Luke starts his telling of the Passion with an account of the Last Supper which contains some subtle, intimate details. He says, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you.” And as the first Eucharist is celebrated, Jesus uses the words “for you” after the bread and cup are shared, which encourages us to accept Jesus on a personal level.

We will listen as Jesus’ agony in the garden is described in vivid detail, but ultimately we will hear that Jesus accepts his cup of suffering because His one desire is to accomplish His Father’s will and thereby destroy the power of the devil.

In quick succession Luke relates for us how Jesus is arrested, mocked, beaten and questioned, but his messianic strength cannot be overcome. Peter’s denial must be disappointing for Jesus, but when he turns and looks at Peter, we can trust that it is with a look of mercy and forgiveness. Even when he appears to be helpless and defeated Jesus continues to minister powerfully to his disciples.

Jesus is the perfect witness as he testifies to the truth before the chief priests and ultimately before Pilate. He does not refuse the titles “Christ” and “Son of God.” And ultimately seals his own fate by proclaiming that he will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.

Even after he is condemned to death and begins the walk to Golgotha, he stops to comfort some women who are mourning for him. Through unwavering faith and trust in God’s plan, Jesus maintains his union with God and so his ability to still comfort people along the way and despite his agony on the cross comforts and promises eternal life for the repentant criminal.

Jesus begins his passion as he is crucified by uniting himself to the Father in prayer “Father forgive them…”and we hear how he maintains this union to his very last moment. “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

Luke’s account has a whole host of characters and so where will we see ourselves among all these people?

What have our past thoughts and actions been regarding the will of the Father?

When have we known the right thing to do but just didn’t do it?

How will reflecting today on Jesus’ Passion and Death and the people he encounters lead us to be strengthened to embrace His Resurrection next weekend?

What darkness holds us back?

How can we change the path we are on to realign it more closely with the will of the Father?

How can we be instrumental in changing our future?

Many questions for us to reflect on as we stand and listen to the Passion of our Lord!