Author Archives: stmikeshomily

Christian love & family divisions

Our Lady Of The Flight Into Egypt
Cycle C February 2019
Colossians 3:12-21;
Matthew: 2:13-15; 19-23.
Rev Tony van Vuuren

One of the noticeable things about the opening chapters of the gospels is that Mary and Joseph say so little. Neither of them spoke a word, for example, in the passage from Matthew that we have just heard. Both Matthew and Luke prefer to show us what they were like through their actions: their search for a safe place for Jesus to be born, their efforts to protect their child, fleeing into Egypt while King Herod is looking for him to kill him; their efforts, later on, to bring Jesus up with a deep and sincere devotion to God.

Traditionally, Mary and Joseph have been seen as prime example of parental care and love, But at the same time it has to be said that the bonds of love that derive from marriage and family-membership, are things which belong to every time and every culture.

So for Christ; our ties to each other as individuals devoted to God have a priority over our family relations – and this is all the more true if perhaps our faith in God comes into conflict with our membership of our family.

What we have to remember, I think, is that the kind of love Jesus preached about, and revealed in his own life and ministry, wasn’t identical with the ordinary bonds of affection and care and so on that we have for the members of our own family, or for our friends and the people we like.

The kind of love which was the heart of Christ’s message was the love he showed when he was prepared to go to his death for the sake of mankind, and when he turned round and asked for forgiveness for those who had plotted to kill him.

And what St Paul is recommending to the people he’s writing to, is that they should imitate that love which Christ showed, in their relationships with everyone.                                                                                  “You should be clothed in sincere compassion,” says St Paul, “in kindness, and humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; forgive each other as soon as the quarrel begins. And over all those things, to keep them together, put on love”.

In a Christian perspective, the family – he says is the place where we should learn to bear with each other’s failings, not where we should expect to experience perfection. It’s the place where we should learn mutual tolerance and patience, not where we’re served up with a seamlessly happy life.

It’s a sad fact, but I think it’s a fact of life just the same – perhaps even more so at the present time – that very often, for all sorts of complicated reasons, the people whom we end up seeing as our enemies, the people with whom we have the most bitter disagreements and who stir up the most violent emotions, are the members of our own family.

When divisions occur in families, they usually run deep. But when these divisions arise, or when there’s a breakdown in the relationships between members of a family, it’s in those circumstances most of all that we need to appeal – not to conventional ideas of family bonds and affection – but to those aspects of Christian love that St Paul is talking about.

Very often in a situation of conflict we can’t be responsible for other people’s decisions and other people’s behaviour. We can only be responsible for our own. And while we shouldn’t feel obliged to allow ourselves to be treated as a doormat, or to remain totally passive in the face of unjust treatment or manipulation, what we often have to do is at least to keep a careful guard over our own motives and our own actions. So that if we are caught up in a bitter dispute, especially in our family, we’re not reacting out of hatred and a desire to win at all costs.

It may turn out that it’s precisely in situations of great stress or breakdown in our families that we come up against the challenge to respond with the values that we profess as Christians. And we’re always doing the right thing if we try to look at the situation in a Christian perspective and try to act out of these motives of gentleness, patience, kindness, and love as far as we possibly can – regardless of the behaviour of the others who are involved, even though it might be very difficult and demand a lot of us.

That is the reflection I would like to offer on the Pauline reading for today’s feast. I don’t think it’s any good conjuring up a trite or sentimental picture of the Holy Family. We have to think of what it means to apply the idea of real holiness to the circumstances and reality of family life in our own time, which is often also very fraught. We have to try and see how the different aspects of Christian love that St Paul talks about are even more relevant to us if we’re caught up in some argument or division with individuals who, in an ideal world, are the people we would be closest to.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Pope Francis once asked us “to remember the 3 key phrases for a life of peace and joy in the family: excuse me, thank you, and I’m sorry.

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How Blessed We Are!

4th Sunday Of Advent
Cycle C
23rd December 2018
Luke 1: 39-45
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

 

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Words uttered by Elizabeth greeting her young cousin Mary. The same words that are to this day recited by millions of people night and day when praying the Rosary. You could say that the central theme of the Gospel is the blessedness of those who believe.

All of Jesus’ preaching had as its aim to elicit faith in people’s hearts. However, it is not simply a matter of believing, but of believing and acting on that belief. It is a question of hearing the word and doing it—taking risks on it, and making sacrifices because of it. Remind ourselves that; “we should not bother proclaiming that we believe unless we act accordingly.” We sometimes hear people say, “It’s easy for you; you have great faith.” But it’s not like that. Faith doesn’t always make things easy.

In fact, the opposite is more likely to be the case. It’s because one has faith that one refuses to give up. Faith impels us to persevere, to struggle on, often with no guarantee of a happy outcome. A person with faith never gives up.

Mary is blessed because she not only believed, but also acted on her belief. Immediately after the visit from the angel Gabriel, she went with haste to visit Elizabeth. A long and hazardous journey. From this we see that her religion was not a matter of mere sentimentality. It was something she converted into deeds. Mary was the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus. That is why the Church proposes her as a model for us. We too will be blessed if, like Mary, we hear the word of God and act on it.

We are a couple of days away from celebrating Christmas. Christmas can be a great help to our faith. Dare I say that somehow we find it easier to believe that we are in touch with God at Christmas than at any other time, maybe because we feel that God is very close to us and very loving to us at this time. Our celebration of Christmas has many layers. The top layer is the hustle and bustle of the consumer Christmas from which there is no escape even if we don’t go near a shopping centre.

Next is the Charles Dickens layer. The decorations, the laden tables of delicious food. Good will to all men. Gifts given and received. And then everything goes on as before. The third layer is the Nativity scene, which depicts for us what this is all about. The school nativity play; the nativity scene here in church; reminding us of the first Christmas celebration of the birth in the stable. The fourth and deepest layer is the spiritual one. The story of this baby; God’s son, who was born and took our nature upon himself and entered our world in weakness and in love.

There is sometimes a tendency to dismiss or even condemn the first three layers and see the spiritual layer as the only true one when celebrating the birth of Jesus. This is based on the supposition that the spiritual and the material are opposed to one another. But this is not entirely so. Christianity includes matter and spirit.

There can be no such thing as a purely spiritual Christmas. What we have to do is find a connection between the secular market place and the spiritual content of the feast. Much of the buying and selling that occurs at this time results in giving and receiving gifts; good works, joy and affirmation of family ties. An opportunity of sharing the priceless gifts of Love, Gratitude, Honesty, Forgiveness and Reconciliation.

Mary did not withdraw from the world to treasure the gift she had received. We learn from Mary’s meeting with Elizabeth to go out to meet another in need: share with them a gesture of welcome, care and love.

Judging from Mary and Elizabeth’s meeting today such encounters are potential moments of grace, blessing and joy. Before Christmas arrives is there someone we should visit? Is there someone we have been avoiding and need to spend a little time with?
This approach helps us to see the close kinship between the spiritual and the material; between heavenly and earthly things.

We must learn how to integrate the two. The core religious problem is: how to reconcile spirituality and materiality, flesh and spirit, the inward and the outward.

There are those who insist on a clear division between the divine and the human, the sacred and the secular. But we won’t find that in Christmas. At Christmas these are so interwoven that they seem to be one and the same thing.

Now is a time for us to stop focusing on how stressed we are and remind ourselves how Blessed we are. It is when we serve others that we encounter Jesus Christ. It is when we give ourselves in love that we find that we are loved!

Words

 

33rd Sunday
Ordinary Time
Cycle B
18th November 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

When biblical writers want to get our attention, shake us out of our lethargy and give us hope, they write in the apocalyptic literary genre. We see evidence of this literature in today’s readings from the book of Daniel and from Mark’s gospel. The word “Apocalypse” comes from the Greek and means “to lift the veil.”

Apocalyptic literature suggests what we think we see as true and as reality, in fact, may be obscured by veils. We think we see — we don’t. We think we know the truth and the
way things are — but we don’t. We need vision; we need the veil over our own eyes lifted so we can clearly perceive God’s presence and God’s future coming into our world.

This literature has often been misunderstood by fundamentalist interpreters and preachers. Its startling images of the passing away of the present world were not intended to describe how the end will come; its essential message was an assurance that God’s designs will be fulfilled, despite all appearances to the contrary.

Jesus preached on the coming of the final reign of God; so it’s not surprising, therefore, that He used some of the images and expression of this literature – as He does in today’s Gospel; the final section of a long passage that gathers together recollections of this teaching of Jesus.

Thanks to the writers of the Gospels, the words of our Lord remain with us to this very day. Still with us to teach us, to guide us, to inspire us, to comfort us and to challenge us. It is up to each one of us as to how well we listen to His words; and how hard we try to practice them in our lives.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Words of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel.

In the course of a lifetime we hear a lot of words, and also speak a lot of words. Though we may forget most of the words we hear, some do remain with us. In fact, certain words can burn themselves into our memory, so much so that we will probably remember them to our dying day.

We will hear words that comfort us, and remain to inspire us.

Unfortunately words are said that can be very hurtful and inflict deep and lasting wounds. However, sometimes it’s not the words themselves, but the way that they are said that does the damage.

Words are very important and very powerful. Once uttered, they can take on a life of their own, for good or for bad! They can bring a blessing or a curse, healing or wounding, life or death. Words can continue to harm us or help us for many years after they have been spoken. Hence, we should be careful how we use words.

I am sure you are all familiar with the saying, “you cannot put the toothpaste back into the tube once you have squeezed it out.”

When we are angry, it is better to remain silent. Words spoken in anger can cause deep hurt and make reconciliation very difficult. Choosing a blessing instead of a curse often starts by choosing to remain silent, or being careful to choose words that open the way to healing. Sometimes loving someone means keeping quiet and letting them be! Adopt the philosophy of the salesman, which is “the customer is always right!”

The world in which we live is a very uncertain one. It seems to lurch from one crisis to another; causing great fear and anxiety. In the midst of this uncertain and changing world we need something solid to rely on. For a Christian that can only mean one thing: faith in God. Today’s psalm simply says: “I keep the Lord before me always; with Him at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” And of course we have the words of Jesus:  “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

This is all we have and all we need; but for all that, they will benefit us little unless we act on them.

In comparison with faith, there is nothing sure or lasting in the world. The Gospel is the handbook of every Christian. Our opinions are rooted in appearances and can change from day to day; but the words of Jesus do not change or pass away.

We would do well to build the house of our life on His words.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door

All Souls
2 Nov 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Catholics throughout the world today are thinking about and praying for their loved ones who have died and are perhaps thinking about their own inevitable death.

Many other Christian denominations also celebrate a Commemoration of the Faithfully Departed today but see it rather as an extension of All Saints’ Day which was yesterday (and which we’ll be celebrating at all the Masses this weekend.)

Most of the other Christian denominations do not believe in Purgatory as a time of purification before we are worthy as holy saints to live in the presence of God.

In the first reading taken from the second book of Maccabees written roughly 100 -150 years before Christ, we have a clear reference to the custom of praying for those who have died but are not yet in a state of perfection with God in heaven. They are on the road to sainthood, as we all are, but are not yet saints.

The writer says that Judas Maccabee, a great Jewish leader of the time, following an epic and bloody battle in which many men had been killed, took up a collection to pay for a sacrifice to be offered in Jerusalem for the dead so that they might be released from their sins.

I’m deeply relieved that there is the option of Purgatory; the option to come to terms with my sinfulness and past transgressions with the blissful promise of heaven a certainty.

If I was to die today – perhaps better I suggest ‘ had I died yesterday’ – there is no way that I could possibly share in the perfection of heaven with God and the saints; my very presence there would render heaven imperfect because I am so far from being perfect, from being spotlessly holy.

Pope Benedict in his second encyclical “Saved in Hope” (Spe Salvi) published in 2007 writes
“The belief that love can reach into the afterlife, that reciprocal giving and receiving is possible, in which our affection for one another continues beyond the limits of death – this has been a fundamental conviction of Christianity throughout the ages and it remains a source of comfort today. Who would not feel the need to convey to their departed loved ones a sign of kindness, a gesture of gratitude or even a request for pardon?”

There is ample evidence of the custom of praying for the dead in the inscriptions in the ancient catacombs and in the writings of the early Church Fathers in the first centuries of Christianity. In fact, not praying for the dead is a relatively new practise originating in the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century.

Perhaps on this All Souls Day, we could reflect on the “Four Last Things” – death, judgement, heaven and hell.

We will all die and only die once – there is no such thing as reincarnation. In the NT in Hebrews 9:27 we are told “Everyone must die once, and after that be judged by God.”
When we die will meet our Lord face to face and receive judgement.

If we die in faith having lived a life trying our best to be true to the great commandments to love God and our neighbour we will be welcomed into the kingdom of God which we call heaven – though we may have to pass through purgatory first.

If we die having lived largely selfish lives, neglecting our baptismal promises and rejecting the sovereignty of God, our choices in this life will be reflected and respected in the next. We will not be forced to change our minds about God and we will live for eternity outside of God’s kingdom; that’s hell.

After death, there is no opportunity to bargain or appeal for a different outcome. Our choices in this life will determine the outcome for our eternal life.

Weekly attendance at Mass is not a guaranteed ticket to heaven. We’ll also have to account for the other 167 hours in each week.

We don’t like to talk much about death but, I don’t know about you, I certainly have thought about it throughout my life.

When I was in my teens I was sure I wouldn’t live much past the age of twenty-five. When I was twenty-five I believed that I’d probably live to about forty and I’d decided that I’d not marry and didn’t want to be a father. By the time I was forty I was happily married with two wonderful school-going children and I had just come through a cancer scare ….. and I hoped to live another thirty years or so.

Well twenty-seven of those thirty years have passed very quickly.

I know now that I wasn’t really ready spiritually to die at twenty-five or forty and I’m thankful to have had the time to better prepare for this eventuality.

I may live many years yet … or by this time next year, my ashes may well be buried in the garden of remembrance. None of us know whether we or which of our loved ones will be alive this time next year; or even be with us to share this coming Christmas.

Our hope, our purpose, our mission in this life is not old age; It’s sainthood.

In the extract we heard from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians he writes
“For we know that when the tent that we live in on earth is folded up, there is a house built by God for us, an everlasting home not made by human hands, in the heavens.”
That’s our hope.

And Jesus says in the Gospel reading “Whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life.”
That’s God’s promise.

We know neither the hour nor day when that promise will be fulfilled.

We pray today for those who have died.

In our prayers we could ask them too, to pray for us that we will be adequately prepared when the time comes for us to join them.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.
Amen.

Salvation By God’s Grace

30th Sunday Ordinary Time
Cycle B
28th October 2018
Mark 10: 46-52
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

The author of the letter to the Hebrews is comparing Jesus’ work of reconciling mankind with God to the action of the high priest offering ceremonial sacrifices to God to express the community’s devotion to God, to atone for their sinfulness, to restore as far as possible the damaged relationship between God and man. We may often choose other goals and purposes in our lives apart from God ; what the Bible calls idolatry. But even when we feel that we want to establish contact with God and to live in accordance with God’s values, we’re powerless to achieve this purely by means of our own abilities and efforts.

We so often fail in our efforts by falling back into selfish habits. And so part of the picture which the author of the letter is trying to put across is that to release us from the prison of our fallen nature, to bring us back into harmony with God, in other words to bring about our salvation, something needs to be done for us. It requires some action on God’s part, a work of grace. We are reminded that we are not capable of bringing about our own salvation.

The blind beggar, Bartimaeus, is an example of someone who can’t, by his own efforts, bring about the healing and restoration of his lost sight. But just as important, he is an example of someone who candidly admits his own inability to heal himself. He is free from any illusions of self-sufficiency. “Son of David, have pity on me”. He freely admits his indigence and his dependence on outside help.

This attitude of Bartimaeus – admitting his own powerlessness to heal himself and throwing himself at Jesus’ feet – makes him a sort of prototype of Christian sanctity or holiness.
When we look at the lives of the saints, or anyone who is obviously very holy or spiritually advanced our tendency possibly is to see individuals with enormous strength of will-power, huge single-mindedness in their dedication to God; heroic perseverance in spite of all kinds of difficulties.

They seem to be people with superhuman qualities of patience, compassion, love for others, men and women who have absolutely no thought for their own interests. In other words, we tend to attribute their holiness to their own strength of character and we conclude that they’re people who are completely different from ourselves! But when we read what these genuinely holy people say about themselves, it usually turns out that they insist vehemently on their own weakness and sinfulness.

They’re quick to deny that they have done anything except respond to God’s grace, and they express a strong sense of having been redeemed by God’s actions, not their own. They take no credit themselves for anything they achieve. They put everything down to God’s influence and direction.

If we turn to the first reading this Sunday we find the prophet Jeremiah suggesting that this is the basic quality that’s needed at the heart of the community of believers in God. And at the core of this renewed community, again, are people like Bartimaeus, who admit their dependence on outside help, their inability to save and comfort themselves.

The truth is, God can’t do much with individuals who have a high opinion of themselves, or with people who pride themselves on having made it in life – perhaps acquiring great wealth, power and status, – by being tough and determined at the expense of others. So taken together the readings this Sunday point to an important element of Christian faith; an important reality in the life of faith of each believer; something which marks us off from unbelievers or atheist humanists: we don’t and can’t save ourselves.

Only God brings about our healing, the removal of our spiritual blindness, our salvation.
Obviously there’s always a balance to be struck between the idea of depending on God’s grace and responding to God by our own free-will and by freely chosen decisions. In our spiritual life it’s always possible to exaggerate in one or other direction, either overstressing God’s influence and giving no role to our own will-power and intelligence, or else exaggerating human capacities for moral goodness and virtually denying that God’s grace has any role to play.

Keeping a proper balance is something we have to do almost daily as we try to fathom the mystery of God and enter into his life more closely. But certainly the emphasis in today’s readings seems to be on warning us against our fallen tendency towards pride and self-sufficiency, and on acknowledging that the starting-point in our relationship with God is to surrender any such notions and instead admit our blindness and our weakness – to recognise that salvation is a gift from God, not something we create or bring about for ourselves.

Marriage

27th Sunday
Year B
7 October 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The focus of the readings this weekend is marriage and specifically the marriage covenant according to God’s plan.

In the society in which Jesus lived, divorce was common and the question put to Jesus about divorce by the Pharisees was not only trying to trip him up but was actually addressing a burning issue of the day.

There were two schools of thought in Jewish culture at that time.

The first was the school of Shammai which was very strict and only allowed divorce in the case of adultery (and the women had virtually no rights in these matters – it was always the man’s call).

The other was the school of Hillel which allowed a man to divorce his wife on virtually any grounds; if she spoilt the food, or spoke to a strange man in the street, was argumentative or raised her voice, or if he simply no longer considered her attractive.  And again, the woman was at the mercy of her husband’s whims.

Jesus in his reply goes back to the Creation story and quotes from the Book of Genesis saying that from the very beginning God intended marriage to be a permanent bond between a man and a woman; a covenant with God in which the two become as one flesh.   In the New Testament, the bond between a man and a woman in marriage is compared to the bond between Christ and his Church; holy and inseparable.

Scripture also tells us that not everyone is called to marry.

Jesus talking to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel says of marriage: “This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.”

Marriage is a calling; it’s a vocation from God and there is no greater vocation. While vocations to serve God outside of marriage – perhaps through the priesthood, religious life or celibacy – are greatly to be admired, they are not any greater than the vocation of marriage.

In the marriage covenant, the spouses are saying to each other: Through my love for you, you are able to be the best person you can be – I complete you – and together we will raise children to know, love and serve God.  That’s the promise, that’s the relationship that Jesus is talking about in the Gospel.

In the Sacrament of Marriage, the spouses when they give their consent, when they make their promises to each other in their marriage vows, are acting as Christ to each other; promising to love each other as Christ loves them; unconditionally, in good times and bad, good health and poor, in poverty and in wealth. This is extraordinarily difficult and there is no greater challenge in life.

I speak as a veteran. Claire and I will celebrate our 39th wedding anniversary in December and I am very conscious and incredibly grateful, and I’m sure I speak also for Claire, in saying that we are very thankful, for the grace of the sacrament of marriage that has sustained and nourished our commitment and love. There are no easy marriages and I can’t imagine trying to uphold the promises made, without the bedrock of God’s grace.

That’s why we get married in Church. Not because it’s a family tradition or motivated by romantic dreams and lovely photographs. We get married in Church because we want God to be included in our union.

We know that marriages fail. That’s a reality in our society. It’s interesting that the trend for couples to live together before they get married has proved to be dismal preparation for a successful marriage. If it was good preparation more marriages would succeed and the divorce rate would drop – but the exact opposite is true.

When a marriage fails, the very validity of the marriage covenant, the validity of the couple’s unconditional consent, can, and I believe should, be questioned and that’s what we know as the process of annulment.

Annulment is not a divorce which is purely a legal process to dissolve a legal contract.  An annulment recognises that there were factors, often unknown to the couple on the day of the wedding, which render the sacrament of marriage as null and void.

That’s why careful and thorough preparation for marriage is essential. I always encourage newly engaged couples to spend at least as much time preparing for marriage as they’ll spent preparing for the wedding which is just a party that lasts for a few hours; marriage is for the rest of their lives.

There is more written in canon law about marriage than about anything else and I couldn’t possible summarise the conditions for a valid marriage in a few minutes. In our humanity, we continue to grapple today with the complexities and difficulties of the marriage covenant as we have throughout time.

Pope Francis in his exhortation ‘The Joy of Love” addresses the pain and suffering endured by families through broken marriages and reminds us all, clergy and lay alike, that Jesus never failed to show compassion and closeness to the frailty of individual’s like the Samaritan woman and the woman caught in adultery. He says we need always to consider that the complexities and circumstances for each couple, for each individual, are different and that we must not put so many conditions on mercy that we empty it of its concrete meaning and real significance. That he says is the worst way of watering down the gospel.

As we continue now with the liturgy of the Eucharist let me finish with another quote from ‘The Joy of Love’: He writes “I would also point out that the Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak”

IS MY FAITH ALIVE?

Mark 8: 27-35
James 2:14-18
24th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
CYCLE B
16TH September 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren.

We face some challenging questions in our readings today, and it forces us to actually ask, “Is my faith alive?” Now for many of us, that’s the reason we come to mass in the first place! We want to make an effort to follow Christ; so we would probably say that our faith is alive and not dead.

But the interesting thing is, St. James, in the second reading, is speaking to the very same kind of people. He is speaking to people who go to Mass every Sunday, who are in the minority of religious practice in his society. Yet he challenges them to ask that question, “Is my faith alive?”
It presents us with the reality of what it actually means to be a true Christian. Are we being practical Christians as Christ was? St James reminds us that: “Faith without good work is dead or useless”.

Christ proved his love for us by being practical. For three years he cast out demons and healed both Jews and Gentiles. He prayed for his followers and offered his life for us on the cross. This is ultimate practical Christianity that speaks volumes.

St James is pushing us to act out our faith; to completely live the faith that we may have only in our hearts and in our minds. He is convinced that our actions are really important—more important than our words. St James is concerned about proclaiming the Gospel to someone who has nothing without offering them something to sustain and comfort them.
There are so many opportunities to be practical each day; just ask God to be present; ask Jesus to be part of our decisions and our thoughts and use the gifts and fruits of The Holy Spirit.

In the Gospel, we hear Jesus asking that age-old question, “Who do you say that I am?” And as we hear; Peter professes his faith in Jesus, calling him the Christ, the anointed one of God.

It would seem to us that Peter’s faith was strong and alive. But as soon as Jesus starts explaining what his mission as the Christ will entail; spelling out the demands of discipleship – rejection, suffering, sharing in his responsibility for the human family; even if it means sharing His cross; Peter objects.

He is uncomfortable hearing about what the future has to hold. Peter has faith, but maybe it isn’t as alive as he had assumed. What Peter did get right were his words as far as they went. But when he came to acting on his faith, he failed. Mark’s Gospel does not spare Peter in relating his lapses of faith.

Who do you say I am? Is not a question we have to answer just once at a certain period of our lives. As we pass through various stages, our response will vary, depending upon life’s circumstances and our own maturity and faith. Christian life is a rigorous one, a daily challenge.

If we’re not being challenged to do more, we’re not doing it right. Jesus is not only the model who teaches us how to live our lives in accord with God’s will. His life, death and resurrection and his gift of his Spirit, is the very source of the good works or merciful deeds that we do or can do in his name.

We don’t have real fidelity to God unless that faith is producing works of fidelity. We need God’s grace, not only to profess our faith in words, but also to live it, to practise it, and especially if or when we find ourselves under pressure. In fact, in asking us what do we think of him, Jesus also implies that additional question: ‘So, what are you going to do about it?’

That’s the difficult question that our readings offer us today – is my faith alive? Answerable by each one of us here present; A faith that is alive, a faith that deeply impacts the way that I live, a faith that will ultimately lead me to the deeper meaning and happiness that God wants me to experience starting right here and now.

There’s a simple Ignation spiritual exercise that can help us with that. It’s a practice of prayer at the end of the day call the examination of conscience. (We have experts in the parish to tell you more) All it consists of is 5 to 10 minutes of quiet reflection and silence.

One doesn’t even need to do it in church! We can do it from the comfort of our own bed at night. Give thanks for our awareness of God’s presence through the day. Try going through the commandments or the beatitudes step by step to see if you were faithful to each one that day.

It might be tempting to say, “No, I didn’t kill, steal, or commit adultery today! So I’m good!” But look deeper at your life. “Maybe I didn’t kill anyone physically today, but did I do damage to their reputation?”

Examine our key relationships and responsibilities and see if we have lived them with maturity and true Christian purpose. And then at the conclusion, thank God for His grace and blessings of the day, ask pardon for our failures, and make that resolution to live a life of faith relying on God’s presence to keep our faith alive tomorrow.

As we celebrate this Mass today, we’re challenged to look at our lives of faith. Are we alive with Christ? Or have we grown comfortable with a faith that appears real, but actually has no life, no substance to it. Let us turn to the Lord, and invite him into our hearts through the Holy Eucharist, asking him for the gift of faith, asking that our faith will be alive in the way we live and finally we can ask for a deep and abiding sense of God’s personal presence in our lives.