The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Cycle B
24th June 2018
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

The narrative of the birth of John the Baptist is more about the parents than the child. It’s a story about God’s grace and human faith overcoming doubt. Earlier in Luke’s gospel we read that Zechariah and the Virgin Mary reacted similarly when the angel Gabriel announced what was going to happen. They both asked, “How can this be?” But they asked with different attitudes.

Mary was a young girl and her question was sincere. She wanted to understand the mind of God.

Zechariah’s question was more of a challenge, arising from doubt. After all he and Elizabeth had been praying for years for a child. It’s as if he told the angel, “It just isn’t going to happen; my wife is now too old.” Of course he was struck dumb because of his disbelief.

But that’s not the end of the story. Zechariah’s encounter with the angel Gabriel was a life-changing moment for him. It is easy to assume that God was punishing Zechariah for his lack of faith. In reality, God’s love for Zechariah was so immense that he sought to ensure that Zechariah grew in inner humility and peace as he sought the Lord in prayer during the nine months of his silence. Zechariah recovered his speech when he insisted that the child be named John; meaning God is gracious. Giving thanks he compiled a canticle of praise, the Benedictus that is read as part of the daily morning breviary.

Thomas ‘a Kempis, in his book The Imitation of Christ, wrote, “If you know how to suffer in silence, you will surely receive God’s help.” There are times in our lives when God allows us to go through trials and challenges. Dare I suggest that God often allows these circumstances in order to humble us and teach us that even in the darkest of moments, he never stops loving us? Such knowledge can bring us to understand our deep and constant need for His presence in our lives.

The readings today show how God calls particular individuals to cooperate with his plan of salvation, and in particular we commemorate the unique part that John was called to play in the events leading up to the coming of the Messiah.

People like Abraham and Moses and the prophets were all individuals who, in the period of the Old Covenant, responded to an intuition that God was calling them to carry out some special service on his behalf.

Later, at the outset of the New Covenant, it was Mary and Joseph, Elizabeth and Zechariah, and their son John, who learned, in different ways, that they were being called by God to play a particular part in the working-out of his overall plan. Today’s feast highlights the particular vocation of John, Jesus’ cousin, and that, even before he was born, John was someone whom God had marked out for a unique mission in life, as herald of the Messiah. The hinge prophet; the greatest and last of the Old Testament prophets and is recognised as the first witness to the New Testament.

John fulfilled his unique vocation in two ways. First, as Saint Luke writes, “he lived out in the wilderness as the archetypal desert monk until the day he appeared openly”.

The second way that John fulfilled his God-given mission was, as Saint Paul alludes to in the second reading; John emerged from the depths of his own prayer and meditation to castigate his fellow-believers for their lukewarmness; their pursuit of ambitions in life that brought them no nearer to God; and their habit of living in a spiritual darkness as though God didn’t exist.

As someone for whom the love of God was the only reason for existing; John addressed the community with a genuine sense of amazement and indignation and exasperation that anyone should pass his or her life oblivious of the needs of their own souls.
His indignation and amazement were so obviously genuine, and so obviously rooted in his own deep knowledge of God, that many people were moved by his words and came to receive baptism from him as a way of symbolising their decision to turn their lives from that moment in the direction of God.

In his preaching John was very resolute in pointing away from himself and towards Christ: “there is one coming after me, and I am not fit to undo his sandal”. But the arrival of Christ on the scene didn’t mean that John became irrelevant. He did at one point say that as He (Jesus) increases, I must decrease, but John remains relevant to us because as long as we continue to commemorate John in the Church’s public prayer, as we do on several dates in the Church’s calendar, John continues to exercise his prophetic ministry, raising our consciousness of God and reminding us of the need for silence and prayer and contemplation in order to deepen our consciousness of God, and also castigating us as he did the people of his own day for giving all sorts of inferior things more importance than God and effectively living as though God doesn’t exist.

What happened in Zechariah can happen in us when we open our hearts to God’s plan. When John cried, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” He was asking people to change direction. He is pleading with us to change our minds about what pleases God. Even those of us who believe in Christ can be tempted sometimes to find solutions to our problems in our own power, determination, talent and intelligence.
God is gracious. He wants to save us, to lift us up into his presence. He will share all things with us if we will just believe.

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Treasure – Covenant of One June 2018

 

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Since the launch of the Covenant of 1 in April, we have covered the concept of Time (the spiritual component focused on the time we invest in our relationship with God) and Talent (the service component, focused on using our gifts and talents in the service of the parish and the outreach projects in which the parish is involved).

This weekend we launch the third component which is Treasure, the financial contribution we make to support the parish and the ministries of the parish.

Our lives, our families, our health, our education, our unique talents and skills, our job and our income are all blessings from God, entrusted into our care for the good of all.

We are accountable to God for how we use our treasure.

We tend to keep our financial matters separate from our faith, rather than looking at our treasure, our money, as a gift to be used within the wrapping that is our faith.

Jesus says in Luke’s Gospel (12:33-34,48), “Where your treasure is, there also your heart will be …….Much is asked of the person who is entrusted with much, and even more is expected of the person who has been entrusted with more.”

We should all want to give.

Motivated by love – our love for God, love for each other and love of the Church and our parish – we should want to give as generously as we are able. There is no other source of funding for the parish. If we aren’t giving then we are just taking and surely that’s not right; that contradicts the very premise of our faith. So, whether we are children, students, working or retired, we should all want to contribute to the upkeep and development of our parish.

Here are 4 simple principles about Christian giving:
1. We give as a response to what God has given to us. In creation, through Jesus, and through the Holy Spirit, God has given us everything that we have, and all that we are. Our giving is a response to this.

2. We give in grace, and not through law. The Old Testament tithe was required by law. Many Evangelical churches use the OT laws to justify the call on their members to tithe 10% of their gross income to the church. The New Testament commends giving generously of our treasure, in grace; each to our own capability. In scripture we have the example of the woman donating all she had and Zacchaeus, the tax collector, giving away 50% of his treasure. For some a generous amount will not represent any real sacrifice; while for others a much lesser amount represents a tremendous sacrifice.

3. Our giving to the parish is a moral obligation well founded in Scripture and in the life of the early Church and is an essential part of the management of all our treasure. Apply the same measures of generosity and integrity in giving to the parish as we do in other areas of our lives.

4. It feels good to give generously – it really does. We best understand that heart-warming joy of giving generously when we have experienced it.

We have a wonderful parish of which we can and should be very proud; proud because we are able to offer so many ministries and opportunities to enrich our faith and our experience of God. Our relationship with God is realized in the mystical Body of Christ; the faith community of the parish and the Church. The parish is only able to fulfil its mission through the generosity of the parishioners. The parishioners are the only source of income. Without our willingness to give of our treasure, the parish as we know it would not and could not exist.

This is our pastoral home.
This is where we encounter Christ personally in the Mass and where we come for support, comfort and spiritual nourishment to sustain us through life’s hard journey.

This is where we experience the Body of Christ as a living presence through each other and through the discipleship of service within and outside of the parish.
This is where we baptise our babies and bring them into our Christian family.
This is where we teach our children, teens and young adults about the love of God; teach them that they are each God’s beloved and bring them into communion with our faith and their faith family through the sacraments.

This is where we declare our love and commitment to love in marriage and where we bid farewell to the bodies of our loved ones when their life journey is over; and where we bury their ashes and honour their memory on the wall of remembrance.

We have a precious and splendid legacy to pass on to our children and to their children’s children.

But the parish is struggling financially.

In the financial year ending June 2018, our expenses will have exceeded our income by about R325,000. If our contributions stay the same in the year ahead, with the effect of inflation on our expenses, the deficit is likely to be close to R500,000 by June next year. This is obviously not sustainable and unless contributions increase, we will be forced to make some drastic cuts in our expenses. Sadly, this is likely to most affect some of our ministries.

The finance committee are meticulously scrutinising the budgeted expenses for the year ahead and in consultation with the Parish Pastoral Council, reducing costs where ever possible. They will also be keeping us updated monthly in the weekend bulletin, providing data of our income and expenses.

In the letter prepared by James Collett, the chairman of the finance committee, which is in the planned giving envelopes in the foyer, he uses an example of how an extra R100 can make a significant difference to balance the books but this is only by way of illustration.

In keeping with the concept of the Covenant of 1, we are asked to consider making a minimum contribution to our parish of one hour’s income per week; roughly one fortieth of our monthly income.

Putting this into numbers:

A family or individual with an income of R5,000/month, would commit to giving R125/month.
R10,000/month, contribute R250/month;

On an income of R20,000/month, the minimum contribution should be R500/month
Etc

If that amount isn’t possible at this time, then commit to working towards reaching that level of generosity over the next few years.

If you don’t earn yet, give a percentage of your pocket money (think in terms of the value of one movie, one beer, one pizza).

Treasure: Am I giving fairly of my treasure to my pastoral home?

We should pray about it and ask the Holy Spirit to guide our hearts in deciding what to give. The work of the parish is God’s work and the Holy spirit will prompt our hearts; let’s pray also that we have the courage in faith to respond.

HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY

CYCLE B
27th MAY 2018
Rev Tony van Vuuren

The feast of The Holy Trinity encourages us to reflect on the mystery of God’s own life, as he has revealed it to us, and to reflect on how our ultimate vocation is to share his life.

The doctrine of the Trinity though reminds us that there’s always a part of God that remains mysterious and incomprehensible to us. Discussing this perplexing mystery with Maeve this morning, she reminded me that she wears a Russian wedding band everyday, which happens to be a symbol of the Holy Trinity. (Show & tell!!) One ring made up of three linked separate gold bands, red, yellow and white. The three bands have the same intrinsic value individually, but once back on the finger it appears as one ring woven together. Just one example of a number of ways we can use to try and explain the Trinity.

Often, our thoughts tend to focus on the question of logistics: how can there be one God in three Persons? Rather than a mathematical mystery to be solved though, the Trinity is a spiritual mystery to be savoured.

It is God revealing himself to us and convincing us of his love and care for us in so many ways. As Father. We learn through our experience who our God is. The Scriptures guide and nourish that relationship which we are constantly discovering anew. They help us know about our God and God’s will for humanity, indeed for all creation. So, we turn to the word of God for insight and power to guide us, we who are made in God’s image and likeness.

Revealing himself as our heavenly Father; He is a God for whom family is everything. Like a father, he wants to be close to us. He promises to care of us and look after us. He wants nothing but good for us. He has gone so far as to name us his heirs! As Son. When God came to earth, he didn’t come in power and majesty. Rather, he “emptied himself” and became one like us (Philippians 2:7). We are disciples of Jesus. So, the power Jesus had for those whom he first commissioned, he also has for us. Through all the stages of our life, from childhood into adulthood and then into old age, we are called to witness to the new life Jesus has given us and to trust that, at each stage, as we face new and unique challenges to our faith, Jesus’ words are true and reliable, “I am with you always until the end of the age.”

As Holy Spirit. God didn’t disappear when Jesus ascended to heaven. Quite the opposite: he became even closer. God dwells in our hearts! He remains with us in his Spirit, the personal representative of Christ, who makes him present to each of us in every age. He is always with us, always ready to pour out his love and to make us more like him. What we see and experience of God here on earth, through the Spirit, is the same God who is “in heaven.”

He is always with the Church, feeding us with word and sacrament. He is always in the world, forming us into one family in Christ.

This is the true mystery of the Trinity: that our God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—loves us deeply and treats us with great tenderness and mercy. God is One in Three and Three in One.

This is the source of our faith. God is forever with us individually and collectively. This is the source of our hope in good times and bad.

This is the source of the energy needed to love others as much as we love ourselves. So how can we apply what the liturgy of the Word this Sunday teaches us? In each reading God is always One.

Christians do not worship three gods. We worship One God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We recognize God as a community of persons. This divine community is One because of the Love that is the relationship among them. Let us turn to the unity of the Trinity as our source of inspiration for how we relate to others and let God’s love become our love.

Let it move us to forgive those who have hurt us. Let it move us to speak a kind word, offer a blessing, and care for those in need. Let it move us to put aside divisions, if necessary, in our family or with friends. Let it move us to become a brighter light shining the love of God in a world darkened by sin and division.

No matter how we feel, no matter what we are experiencing, we are wrapped in the love of almighty God. Our Father loves us and is watching over us. His Son has laid down his life for us and opened heaven’s gate to us. And the Holy Spirit lives in our hearts, constantly filling us with divine grace and power. In the name of The Father, and The Son and The Holy Spirit. +

OUR FRAGILE FAITH

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER
CYCLE B
15th APRIL 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

 

When Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room for the first time after His resurrection they are frightened and alarmed and their first reaction is to think that they’re seeing a ghost. Jesus responds by going out of his way to show that he has very definitely risen from death in his physical body; “flesh and bones” as he says of himself. Then he eats some food to accentuate the point.

St. Luke is emphasising that in his risen body Jesus is the same as before. As the disciples made more sense of the events God had pulled them into, they discovered aspects of faith and reached conclusions about God’s character and God’s plan of salvation which are just as valuable for us today.

On our part, as present-day followers of Christ, we don’t have the proofs that we can produce of Jesus’ Resurrection, scientific studies of what his risen body was like. Someone who insists on that kind of information today is unlikely to become a believer.

What we do have through the scriptures is the testimony of the disciples: their descriptions of their meetings with Christ and the evidence of the transformation these meeting worked in them. Those are the experiences that the Church is founded on; based on Jesus’ resurrection, which is the central reality of the Christian faith.

St. Luke’s message to us in these final lines of his gospel is that although Christ isn’t directly present to us the way he was to his first followers, he is present, and remains present, to us in the “breaking of the bread” – not just in the bread and wine that become his Body and Blood during the Eucharist, but in the whole spirit of prayer and solidarity in Christ that the Eucharist creates in us, if we approach it and take part in it in the right spirit.

I know that God calls people in all kinds of circumstances and make his presence felt in our lives in whatever way he wants. God might be able to work more effectively in an atheist who actually practices the commandment of love in regard to other people than he might be in a person who calls them self a Christian but refuses to dedicate them self in any way to serving the needs of others.

But it’s also true I think, in the context of our own Catholic faith, that when people are earnest about their spiritual life and their whole relationship with Christ and with God, they come to value the Eucharist more and more as a support and a means of progress in holiness, and a source of contact with Christ. St. John’s advice might be particularly valuable to the many people today who find faith in God difficult.

Every Christian, at one point or another, will have an experience of the “absence” of God: the sense that he has somehow departed, is no longer providing support, or simply doesn’t exist. When this happens many believers gradually drift away from faith altogether.

Attending Mass every day or each weekend; we may show up being able to speak of the story of Jesus, but we do not feel that we are part of the story. We are able to simply recount the events, but we do not see how we fit inside the story ourselves.

Our faith can be very fragile. We are presented with readings from Sacred Scripture to which we listen for inspiration, for encouragement, for challenge, for the voice of God speaking to us in intimate ways. Finally, we ask to be intimately united to Jesus in the eating of his body and the drinking of his blood in the Blessed Sacrament. We pray to have our ears and eyes open to what is true and holy.

Perhaps what happened to the disciples is what we want to happen to ourselves. We want to have that burning feeling in our hearts. We want to hear the voice of God speak to us intimately through Sacred Scripture. We want to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. We want to have the enthusiasm, hope and courage to make an about-face and return to Jesus — to return to a deeper faith.

So I would finish by suggesting that perhaps this Sunday we could pray for the whole Church community, but especially for ourselves here today, that we’ll take Luke’s point and appreciate the Eucharist more as a real meeting-point with Christ and that we’ll be able to “recognise him in the breaking of bread” as readily as his first followers did.

God so loved the world …….

Palm Sunday
Year B
25 March 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

We have arrived at the last Sunday in Lent and the start of Holy Week. In this coming week we commemorate the most profound mysteries of life and death; of God and humankind; of love and sin. The Triduum starting on Thursday evening and continuing through to Easter Sunday is the most holy celebration in our faith.

This is the very nucleus of our faith. Without the events of the Easter Triduum, Christianity would not exist.

We recall the Passion today and we’re going to hear it again on Good Friday.
In the Passion we relive a most defining moment in human history: the brutal killing of the Son of God and the salvation of the world.

With each hearing we hopefully embrace anew the wonder and profound significance of God’s consummate sacrifice of love for us.

I’ve currently reading a book called Rediscovering Catholicism written in 2010 by Matthew Kelly, an American based author and founder of the Dynamic Catholic Institute. In the prologue to the book he presents an analogy of this sacrifice of love that I’d like to share with you in an abridged version.

He says:
Imagine you hear a report on the radio about a small village in India where at least four people have died, suddenly, strangely, of a flu that has never been seen before. You don’t think too much about it until you hear a week later that the death toll from this, as yet unidentified flu, has risen to thirty thousand in the back hills of India; whole villages have been wiped out.

Within a few days it’s the lead story in all media and the disease is spreading. There are now reports of deaths in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and North Africa. World authorities are scrambling to identify this ‘mystery flu’ and find a vaccine or at least a way to treat those who have been infected. As best they can tell, after contracting the disease, you have it for about a week without any signs of illness, then you have four days of ghastly symptoms, and then you die.

The President of France announces that he is closing the French borders after a man dies from this flu in a hospital in Paris. Panic strikes Europe which soon spreads to the rest of the world.

The British close their borders, but it’s too late; there are reports of people dying in Southampton, Liverpool and London. The United States cancels all flights to and from the USA. But there are already accounts of infected people dying in cities throughout the States and in many more countries around the world.

Scientists in laboratories are working frantically around the clock to find a cure. And then there’s a break through. The code has been broken. A cure has been found. A vaccine can be made. But it’s going to take the blood of someone who hasn’t been infected.

So you and I are asked to do just one thing: Go to the nearest hospital and have our blood tested.

At the hospital there are long lines of people and a constant rush of doctors and nurses taking blood samples. Finally, it’s your turn. You go first, then your spouse and children follow. Once the doctors have taken your blood they tell you to wait in the large car park outside for your name to be called. You stand around with your family and neighbours, scared, waiting, hoping and wondering if this is the end.
Nobody seems to have had their name called.

But then suddenly a young doctor comes running out of the hospital waving a clipboard and yelling a name. You don’t hear him at first but then a whole team of medical staff come out yelling the name and your son tugs at your sleeve and says “Dad, that’s my name they are calling.”
Before you know it they have grabbed your boy and are rushing him back into the hospital.

“Wait a minute. Hold on!” you say, “That’s my son!”
“It’s okay”, they reply “Your son’s blood is perfect and we can use it make a vaccine.”

As the news begins to spread across the car park, people scream and pray and laugh and cry and everyone’s hugging each other.
But there’s a problem. The doctor pulls you aside and tells you “We weren’t expecting it to be a child …….we need you to sign consent.”

“How much of his blood do you need?” you ask.
The doctor looks uncomfortable and after a short pause says quietly “We are going to need it all!”
“What do mean you need it all? I don’t understand! He’s my only son!”

The doctor grabs you by the shoulders and looking straight into your eyes says “We are talking about the whole world here. Do you understand? The whole world! Please sign the form.”

In numb silence you sign the form because you know it’s the only thing to do.
You walk into the hospital room where your son is being prepared for the procedure but are soon asked to leave.

Your son is crying out to you “Mom? Dad? What’s going on? Where are you going? Don’t leave me alone! Why are you abandoning me?”

A few months later, they hold a ceremony to honour your son for his phenomenal contribution to humanity …..but some people sleep through it, others don’t even bother to come, while others sit and fidget and say things like “This is so boring.”
Would you not want to stand up and say “Excuse me! My son died so that you could live. He died for you! Does it mean nothing to you?”

Perhaps that is what God wants to say.
Perhaps when we hear the Passion read again on Friday we’ll comprehend a little better the great love that our Father has for us.

LIGHT & DARKNESS

4th SUNDAY OF LENT
CYCLE B
11th March 2018
John 3:14-21
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

John’s gospel uses the imagery of light and darkness to point out the choice we have to make between faith and non faith, between truth and lies, between love and self-centredness – not only in our individual lives, but in the values and attitudes that are held in common, in our community at large.

John described Jesus’ appearance in the history of the world as the coming of God’s light into the darkness of human affairs. He writes about the darkness as a way of summing up the net weight, as it were, of human ignorance and evil and lies. Whereas standing in the light, or walking in the light, means opting for the good, for truth, and love, and faith in God.

The conflict between spiritual light and darkness that John talks about takes place on different levels. On one level it takes place in the conscience of every individual person.

The second level is within whole communities and societies that also have a moral character or a moral atmosphere. Goodness and evil aren’t just individual qualities; they also have a communal or a corporate aspect,
Time only allows us to touch on the individual level.

Men and women who’ve gone through a conversion – not necessarily a religious conversion as such, but any realisation that they’re going in the wrong direction followed by a decision to turn their lives around – very often describe their experience as seeing the light, or a “dawning” of the truth. They begin to feel a strong obligation to cultivate integrity and all the wholesome qualities of character.

But it also happens the other way: sometimes people who start out as considerate and compassionate characters override their conscience and allow themselves to act against their better instincts because the right moral values don’t necessarily generate any rewards.

It might be because we’re ambitious or because we want to make plenty of money – or it could be something like bearing a grudge or pursuing a vendetta – but the result is that we allow selfish motives to corrupt our character and, in John’s language, we fall into darkness. Our increasingly ruthless and aggressive “enterprise culture”, for example, can easily drive the qualities of kindliness and selflessness out of our relationships.

Part of the message of John’s gospel is that nobody’s life, morally and spiritually, is static: we’re always confronted with the choice of either moving into greater light, or of sliding back into the dark. Light, for us, means living in communion with Christ: everything else proceeds from that. We can’t take it for granted that we will safely remain in that greater light once we have reached it.

John says to us today, “Whoever does what is true (or good) comes out into the light.” Coming to the light is conditional on doing good. It’s not the one who speculates about what is good, but the one who does the good who comes to the light.

The shortest journey to the light is by doing the good. But we don’t always act like this in practice.

Normally what we do is we try to achieve a state of inner peace, and then do the peaceful deed. We try to attain a state of joy and gratitude, and then do the joyful and grateful thing. But often we have to do the opposite. We have to perform a peaceful act in order to achieve inner peace. We have to do the joyful or grateful deed in order to experience inner joy and gratitude. In the same way, if we are in darkness, and we do the good deed, then most certainly the light will shine for us. When there is attraction to the darkness it can be very real and powerful.

As St. Paul states in his letter to the Romans – “The very things I do not want to do, I do, and the very things I do want to do, I do not.” Most of us can identify with this and the choices to be made are clearly defined between darkness and light.

We have to accept that there is darkness in our lives and in our world. We have to recognize that darkness and learn to live in relationship with it. It is futile to wait for the darkness to go away. We wish it would; but we have to accept that it is here, and will always be here.

What we mustn’t do is call the darkness light! When we do that we get trapped by it. When we recognise it and call it darkness we can learn how to live so that the darkness does not overcome us. When everything is permissible we have failed to distinguish between light and dark.

There is also the complex problem of choice that exists as competing sources of light — or that which appears as light. They are not evil — just lesser goods that can be attractive enough to steal away our attention to the true light of our life — Jesus Christ.

Those of us who have come to know the love and joy of God do not deny the darkness, but we choose not to live in it. We trust in the light that shines in the darkness, and know that a little light can dispel a lot of darkness. The light of Christ is such that no darkness can overpower it.
Light, for us, means living in communion with Christ: everything else proceeds from that; inviting Christ to work in us and through us, so that when we act and speak, it’s Christ who’s acting and speaking

Into the second week of Lent

2nd Sunday Lent
Year B
2018 (25 Feb)
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

And so we begin the second week in Lent.

For some of us, we’re now starting to get into the Lenten routine that we’ve set for ourselves over this period of reflection, penance, sacrifice and renewal; and for some of us, we’re still thinking about it. It’s never too late to start. What we believe is not what we say we believe; what we believe is what we do.

Most of us, if we’re taking Lent seriously, will stumble along the way in keeping our Lenten observances and will experience some degree of disappointment and frustration. And sometimes we may feel as though we have let God down; perhaps even putting a strain on our relationship with God rather than improving it. We do at times get this all wrong don’t we?

In adopting new disciplines and making sacrifices during Lent we aren’t bargaining or negotiating with God or trying to influence God’s love for us. Nothing we do changes God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love for each of us.

Our failed attempts to be better disciples while teaching us a little more about our own selfish behaviour and weaknesses in the face of temptation, should also teach us humility and encourage us to embrace our belovedness; that deep inner assurance that we are precious to God and that God’s love does not change and is not influenced by our fickle natures and bad habits.

The readings this weekend are already directing us towards the end of Lent; towards the Triduum – the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord.

I’ve previously spoken about the Triduum but it’s as well that I again emphasis that our Easter celebration is not just the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday or Good Friday; the Easter Triduum is one event that spans 3 days starting on Holy Thursday night with the Mass of the Last Supper, moving on then into Friday afternoon with the Passion, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ and concluding with the celebration of the Resurrection at the Saturday night Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning Masses.
This is the very crux of our faith. There is no more important celebration in our Catholic faith than the three days of the Easter Triduum.

The first reading is an abridged version of that incredible story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Some years ago, I was asked to read this passage from Genesis at the Easter Vigil and while reading, found myself embarrassingly emotional.

My own son at that time was about 12 years old and I could not imagine under any circumstances doing what Abraham was asked and prepared to do, in faith, and kill my precious son.

Remember that Isaac was to born to Sarah and Abraham when they were both elderly and long past childbearing age. He was their only child. What did Abraham feel in his heart when his young son says to him “Father, I see that you have the coals and the wood but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

“God will provide” answered Abraham as indeed he did and Isaac was spared.
This story for me, while obviously illustrating Abraham’s astonish faith, gives an insight into the magnitude and depth of God’s love for us. He sacrificed his only son, the Lamb of God, out of love for me and each one of us; a sacrifice beyond my comprehension.

The Gospel reading tells of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John. Mark tells us that this took place six days after Jesus had spoken to his disciples for the first time about his pending death. He told them that he would be rejected by the elders and authorities and would be put to death; but that on the third day he would rise to life again. Mark says “He made this very clear to them”. For all of that, they would not have been able to get their minds around the idea of someone being killed and then rising from death to full life.

In the Transfiguration, the three disciples got a glimpse of Jesus in his resurrected glory and a glimpse of the eternal glorious life to which they could look forward to sharing with Jesus one day.

But first, there’s the cross.

In our faith, as in the Triduum, the cross and resurrection are inseparable.
Even when we are struggling under the weight and pain of our own crosses and those of our loved ones, it is that hope made visible and tangible in the resurrection that gives us the grace, strength and courage to keep walking.

I preached on the Transfiguration in August last year and I suggested then that we might like to have a personal experience like the Transfiguration in our own lives to affirm our faith. That perhaps if we were to encounter the resurrected Lord personally, we’d find it easier to be loving and faithful disciples.

Is that not why we have gathered here?

The Eucharist is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in his resurrected glory.
Just as the voice of God the Father was heard on the mountain by Peter, James and John saying “This is my beloved Son”, he is saying the same to us in the Eucharist.

“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” If we listen carefully, we’ll hear that voice in our hearts; guiding and directing us through this Lenten season of repentance towards our joyful celebration of the Easter Triduum.

May this Lent, for each of us, be a time of renewed vitality and love in our relationship with God.