Category Archives: 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.


11th FEBRUARY 2018
Mark 1:40-45
Deacon Tony van Vuuren.

February 11th is observed in the Catholic calendar as World Day of Prayer for the Sick, an observation introduced by Pope John Paul II and first celebrated in 1993 as a way for believers to offer prayers for those suffering from illnesses. The day coincides with the commemoration of Our Lady of Lourdes.
An important opportunity for those who are faced with caring for loved ones to reflect and pray for those who are sick as well as for those who work so very hard to alleviate the sufferings of the sick.
How comforting it is, and what a relief we feel when a loved one, or a friend tells us “I’m here”. What consolation do we feel when these words become part of our lived experience, a firm inner belief that somebody is there for us.
The World Day of Prayer for the Sick is an invitation to show solidarity with the sick and suffering; reminding us of the dignity of all persons.
This year 2018, the day coincides with the Sunday Gospel reading of one of Jesus’ first healing miracles; cleansing a leper, which ironically brought the leper back into community life, but resulted in Jesus now been placed as an outcast having touched the leper.

When we see Jesus in all kinds of encounters with different people, and see how He deals with them, we are seeing, expressed in a human way so that we can understand it easily, the way in which God deals with us personally. And because the words of Jesus, and the actions of Jesus, enable us to catch a glimpse of His mind and heart – because they reveal what is really important to Him – then we are being given a glimpse into the mind and heart of God and are being helped to understand what is really important to God.

Something I think, for all of us to keep in mind each time we pick up and read the Gospels or hear them read at Mass. A good question we might ask of ourselves is this: what kind of man must Jesus have been to be able to speak like, this, or act like this? And, as we reflect on these questions and think about them more deeply, we are not just discovering what kind of man Jesus was, and is – we are discovering what kind of God we believe in.
This is what it means to say that Jesus was both true God and true man – in His humanity, His human characteristics; we are being drawn into the profound mystery of God, and especially of how God sees us, and loves us.
As we reflect on today’s Gospel, then, we see that Jesus is a man moved very deeply by compassion for people who suffer. When the man with leprosy says to Him, “Lord, if you want to, you can cure me”, Jesus responds immediately from the heart: “Of course I want to – be cured”. There is no doubt, no putting things off, no finding excuses: Jesus just responds – and responds with great compassion. We see both the divine power and the divine compassion of Jesus in this act of healing.

The divine power is necessary in all instantaneous cures. Even in the case of curable diseases nature takes its own time to bring about a healing. In this incurable illness the healing is immediate with the supernatural power placed in the healer. His compassion for the suffering person is also divine.

It is out of compassion for the whole of humanity that Jesus became incarnate and came to earth. It is out of compassion for humanity that he died on the cross.

Compassion means to suffer with, and Jesus suffers with the person who is unwell and heals him. This attitude of his makes him touch the person and accept him as he is. This is shown in his life whenever he preaches and works any miracle.
We may not be suffering the disease of leprosy but each one of us also carries wounds and scars. We may be suffering the disease of anger, or of bitterness, or of forgiveness, or of greed. What today’s Gospel assures us of, is this: if we can find within ourselves the courage to bring our frailty, our brokenness and our failure to the Lord, He will welcome us with the same compassion, the same understanding, and the same generous love with which He welcomed the leper.

In him, we will meet the God who calls to us and who offers us forgiveness, life and hope. He will help us, and heal us, in the ways that He knows are best for us – and these may be different from the ways we are looking for. But we can be sure that God who, in Jesus, revels Himself as a God of endless compassion and love, will not walk away from us, or leave us to our own devices.

All we have to do is come to Him – with honesty, with humility and with hope – just as the leper did in today’s Gospel. The question for each of us today is: am I ready to do this?

An extract from Pope Francis’ letter with reference to the 26TH World Day of Prayer for the Sick.

“The care given within families is an extraordinary witness of love for the human person; it needs to be fittingly acknowledged and supported by suitable policies. Doctors and nurses, priests, consecrated men and women, volunteers, families and all those who care for the sick, take part in this ecclesial mission. It is a shared responsibility that enriches the value of the daily service given by each.
We turn to Mary, Mother of tender love, we wish to entrust all those who are ill in body and soul, that she may sustain them in hope. We ask her also to help us to be welcoming to our sick brothers and sisters. The Church knows that she requires a special grace to live up to her evangelical task of serving the sick.

May our prayers to the Mother of God see us united in an incessant plea that every member of the Church may live with love the vocation to serve life and health.

May the Virgin Mary intercede for this Twenty-sixth World Day of Prayer for the Sick; may she help the sick to experience their suffering in communion with the Lord Jesus; and may she support all those who care for them. To all, the sick, to healthcare workers and to volunteers, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.”

Speak of the devil

4th Sunday Ordinary Time
Year B
28 Jan 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The reading we’ve just heard is taken from the first chapter in Mark’s Gospel and already we have a second encounter between Jesus and the devil; the first being in the wilderness after Jesus was baptised by John.

The story of Christ’s life and ministry simply cannot be told without referring to the devil. The Apostle John, in his First Letter (3:8), sums up Jesus’ mission in these words: “Indeed, the Son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the devil.”

The devil, the power of evil, Satan is not a subject that is discussed often in our modern world but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. Perhaps it just illustrates that we live in a world in which the power of evil is enjoying some success in encouraging our egos to believe that we know what’s best for us and keeping God and God’s commandments at a safe distance from our hearts and conscience.

Perhaps the current state of world disorder, conflict, climate change, poverty and inequality are a reflection of our world’s hell-bent progress.

So what does the Church believe about the devil and evil?

A starting point would be an understanding of the Church as the Communion of Saints.
During his homily at the Confirmation Mass at St Michael’s on the Feast of All Saints in November last year, the Archbishop asked the young adults who were to be Confirmed what they understood about the Communion of Saints.

When we recite the Apostles Creed, we profess that we believe in the Communion of Saints but do we know what that means? The Confirmandee were a little uncertain in their reply and I think their sponsors were grateful and relieved that he didn’t ask them to answer the question.

The Communion of Saints refers to the unity that exists between all the members of the Church:
– The Saints in heaven
– All the believers living on earth and
– The souls in purgatory, preparing for sainthood

This communion of saints is most fully expressed and experienced in the Mass – especially at the Consecration and at Holy Communion. In those moments, heaven and earth are united. The saints, those in purgatory and we the believers are intimately connected and united at Mass because the power of Christ binds us together.

Shortly, when we receive the Blessed Sacrament, we could reflect on how we are, in that splendid moment, in union with the whole church and particularly with those we have loved who have died.

We, the believers on earth, are called the Church Militant. The word militant isn’t used in the sense that we’re at war with other religions or nationalities; we’re at war spiritually against sin and Satan. The spiritual battle is for our souls and our weapons are the grace and the Word of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. We are the warriors against evil; soldiers of Christ.

The fight for our souls is relentless. Victories over temptation and sin are often short lived and the battle soon resumes, frequently with increased intensity. St Peter in his First Letter (5:8) says: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour.”

In my own life I’ve found that often following an experience when I’ve felt really close to God, soon afterwards I’m floundering in spiritual apathy and have had to fight hard to regain the ground I thought I’d won.

Lent is just over 2 weeks away and offers us a concentrated time of renewed discipline and hopefully progress in the battle.
One way to recognise evil is to see it as the direct opposite or lack of everything we know about God and our calling to love God and our neighbour.

So as God is love, evil is hatred and indifference
As God is pure, evil is impure; contaminated
As God is unchangeable, evil is mercurial
As God is righteous, evil is dishonest and corrupt
As God is truth, evil is lies and deceit
As God is wisdom, evil is foolishness; reckless and rash
As God is holy, evil is sinful
As God is generous, evil is greedy and selfish
As God is tolerant, evil is prejudiced and bigoted
As God is compassionate, evil is impervious and uncaring
As God is merciful, etc, etc

A lesson we could take from the Gospel reading is to stay close to Jesus. The objective of evil is to separate us from God. The man possessed by the unclean spirit in the synagogue was set free when the evil spirit encountered Jesus.

We stay close to Jesus through prayer and the Sacraments; the Eucharist and Reconciliation.
There is a long tradition in the Church of praying to our guardian angels every day to protect and guide us; a tradition that goes back over 1000 years.

One modern translation of an ancient prayer goes like this:
Angel sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me,
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life direct me.
Let me finish with a quote from Blessed Cardinal Newman’s poem ‘The Dream of Gerontius’.

The departed soul of Gerontius is met by his guardian angel who greets him with these words:

My work is done
My task is o’er,
And so I come
Taking it home
For the crown is won
For evermore.

My Father gave
In charge to me
This child of earth
E’en from its birth
To serve and save.
And saved is he.

This child of clay
To me was given,
To rear and train
By sorrow and pain
In the narrow way,
From earth to heaven.

As we continue now with this Mass, surrounded by many angels and in communion with the whole church, let’s renew our commitment to being courageous soldiers of Christ, no matter how tough the battle may get.

God is not bound by Our Ideas

Cycle B.
24th December 2017
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

Here we are celebrating the fourth Sunday of Advent and also Christmas Eve on the same day!  I feel like I’m being cheated out of a week’s worth of Advent!

Mary has hardly had time to absorb the news of her pregnancy, and baby Jesus is about to nestle into her loving arms, at least liturgically.  A reminder to us that the mysteries we celebrate and reflect on are interconnected and timeless.

In the first reading we find King David, having overcome his enemies and secured his kingdom, relaxing and dreaming of building a more suitable “dwelling for God”.

It sounded very praiseworthy and to begin with the prophet Nathan was persuaded to give the project his blessing. But David’s real motive was to glorify himself and to bolster the institution of the monarchy. What he was really planning to do, in effect, was to assume control of Israel’s religion, to contain and institutionalise God, so that the royal court could determine the way that people understood God and the way he acted in history. It was an attempt to use God to reinforce his own position as king.

According to the authors of the book of Samuel, God reacted to this by reasserting his freedom. God refuses to play up to David’s man-made image of what God should be like. Instead he reveals what he’s really like and what he wills through the words of the prophet Nathan by dissociating himself from David’s royal religion. It doesn’t matter how many other kings build fancy temples for their gods, he says. Not this God, and therefore not this King.

In the gospel passage we find Luke relating another instance of God acting in history, not in the grandiose and majestic way that we might think is appropriate for the deity, but in his own free and unpredictable way.

It so happened that at the time when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that God had chosen her to bear his Son the Messiah, the latest King; King Herod, was in the middle of building another vast Temple in Jerusalem.

Again, although the ostensible idea was to glorify God, Herod had his own political reasons for building a new Temple. And while all that was going on, God’s greatest revelation of himself was taking place somewhere else, far away from Herod’s inflated schemes, in conditions that were far removed from what conventional religion would have considered appropriate or acceptable.
First of all, God chose to appear, and to become human, not in Jerusalem, in the great capital and religious centre of Israel, but in Nazareth, a tiny, obscure town of about 150 people in Galilee.

From the point of view of respectable religion, the town had a bad name. The people there had a reputation of being lapsed, as we might say, and of being infected with pagan ideas and practices. That was why later on in Jesus’ ministry, people laughed when they heard that he came from Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” was the rhetorical question.

Second, the fact that God chose to communicate his plan of salvation first of all to a woman would have been offensive to pious and respectable Jews of the time. In Jewish society at that time women didn’t have any real rights of citizenship or legal status. Last of all, the idea of the long-awaited Messiah being conceived outside of marriage – which is after all what happened – would also have been an affront to conventional attitudes.

Even in the slack religious atmosphere of Nazareth Mary would have been in danger of being stoned as an adulteress, if Joseph hadn’t promised to marry her so quickly.

So the lesson of these readings, it seems to me, is a lesson about God’s freedom to act in the way that he thinks best. God isn’t compelled to act through channels that we deem appropriate, or appear in the places we dictate.

Whenever God has wanted to communicate something more about himself, he’s never felt that he had to conform to our human expectations of how he should reveal himself. He’s always worked in circumstances, and through the people, that he chose. In doing so he has often overturned self-serving human notions of what the divine character is like.

It’s a warning, in a sense, against every tendency towards becoming a religious bureaucrat or a religious busybody: that so often, while we’re busy constructing our modern versions of David’s temple, or Herod’s temple, trying to control the way that God is presented to people, with the real motive of glorifying ourselves, God is active in another, unexpected place, with a completely different set of people, carrying out his real work of salvation.

Mary had no idea what her “yes” would mean for the future, but she said “yes” because she knew that God’s grace would sustain her through whatever that might be. As we ponder how fully we are able to say “yes” at this point in our lives, let us ask our Blessed Mother to help us be all we are meant to be, relying on God’s grace as she did. Inspired by her example, may we have the grace and courage to respond openly and whole-heartedly to God’s invitation to serve him.

Yes, Mary’s life was difficult, but she was right: God’s grace will sustain us. That is true through the hardest of times as well as when the smallest of things challenge our peacefulness the most.

Stay awake this Advent

1st Sunday Advent
Year B
3 Dec 2017
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

This weekend marks the start of the season of Advent and the start of a new liturgical year; Year B in the three year cycle. Advent is a uniquely special season in the year in which we are encouraged to reflectively re-evaluate our faith and the status of our spiritual relationship with God.

But the reality is that these next few weeks of Advent approaching Christmas are for many of us chaotic, stressful and taxing. Traffic, crowds, busy shopping centres, presents to buy, visiting family, Christmas lunch to plan, holiday arrangements to finalise, stretched budgets and frazzled nerves.

If we don’t make time to include some spiritual activity in Advent, the season will simply pass us by and before we know it, Easter will be upon us; and then winter and then another spring. Spiritually, we will have slept through it all. In today’s Gospel reading Jesus forewarns us about this very possibility: “Stay awake!” he says because we do not know how many seasons or even days we have available to us in this life to know, love and serve God.

Advent is a time of expectant waiting and spiritual preparation. The season anticipates the coming of Christ from three different perspectives; past, present and future; in the flesh as a baby in Bethlehem, in our hearts every day and the Eucharist, and in glory at the end of time.

Advent is a time of hope.

We renew our hope by remembering that on that first Christmas night, God in the person of the baby Jesus became one of us to reveal God’s love for us and we renew our hope for a future time when Christ will come again. When we participate in the Mass, we give thanks that our hopes for a Messiah have been fulfilled and we profess our faith in our hope that is yet to be fulfilled; “we awaited the blessed hope and the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

It’s a new year.
It’s a time to look back at that which has past and to look to the changes we want to make in the future.

But nothing will change in our hearts this Advent unless we consciously decide to make this season spiritually meaningful and significant.

There are a number of Advent traditions that can help keep us spiritually awake over these next few weeks.

We lit the first candle in the Advent wreath at the beginning of Mass and we could have a wreath at home. A few years ago I spent the week before Christmas in Vienna and I remember well that every shop, hotel and apartment in the city centre had an Advent wreath displayed prominently in a window or in the foyer.
The wreath is shaped in a circle and has no beginning or end – symbolizing the eternity of God’s love for us and eternal life that Christ has promised us.
The green branches remind us that Christ’s love remains fresh and strong even in the face of life’s most difficult challenges.

The candles representing the four Sundays of Advent represent the hope, peace, joy and love we desire as we anticipate Christmas.
We could keep an Advent calendar in our homes perhaps prompting a brief reflection each day on our eager expectation of the joy of Christmas.

From next weekend we’ll have the Nativity crib in the church and we could have a Nativity scene in our homes; perhaps a moment’s reflection on the crib each day will help keep us spiritually awake.

Every week for the next three weeks, we have an Advent activity planned in the church. We can make an effort to fit these services into our diaries:

  • Tuesday evening this week at 6.30pm we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for 30 minutes; only 30 minutes
  • On Wednesday next week at 7pm we have an introduction to the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary after which we’ll pray the Rosary together; probably no longer than 45 minutes
  • On Wednesday 20th at 7pm we have a penitential service. Advent is a time for reflecting on our weaknesses, our temptations and our struggles with sin; a time to place ourselves humbly in the redeeming grace and mercy of Our Lord. A time to let Christ’s light shine into the dark corners of our lives.

Here are a few other ideas for Advent:

  • If there’s an area of spiritual growth with which we are struggling, acknowledge it and pray for the courage and discipline to change.
  • If we find ourselves captive to thoughts, words or deeds that distance us from God, confess them and start again
  • If we’ve become estranged from someone we love (or perhaps loved), ask Our Lord to help us find the path to reconciliation
  • While we are shopping for our ourselves and our families we could remember those who have so much less than we do and buy something also for them
  • Our focus at Christmas is usually very much on our own families, on the people we love, we could remember in our prayers and in our charity those who have no one to love them
  • Is it too much to add just one decade of the Rosary, to our daily schedules? One decade takes about 3 minutes to pray.
  • Or maybe we could include a weekday Mass in our schedule?
    The frenetic rush to Christmas is upon us.

We cannot escape the traffic, the impatient crowds, the shopping frenzy and the piped Christmas Carols. But we do not have to be completely captive to this madness nor should we allow it to blunt our spiritual awareness of this special season.

For a moment or two every day through Advent we can remind ourselves that we are in a time of waiting, watching and hoping; hoping that when Our Lord comes, we will not be found fast asleep.

Always Access to God

Mark 13:24-32
Tony van Vuuren

It is near the end of the liturgical year and the Scripture readings traditionally describe the end times. It may seem like such time is nearer than we would like it to be for us today, especially if we look at the signs around us. Certainly there are many among us who could relate to what the book of Daniel reports will happen: “it shall be a time unsurpassed in distress.” (Old missal)

A glance at the newspaper or TV news is about all many of us can absorb. It seems that we all live in the middle of; or on the edge of psychological “war zones” because of the violence that happens around us. To wake up yesterday morning to the news of the cowardly terrorist attacks in Paris just seems to be the last straw, but we all know that there will be more to come elsewhere in the world. Closer to home, in our own families and work places, there are many other challenges that add to this internal distress. How do we process all of these things? Do we dismiss them? Do we obsess over them?

While our readings are indeed full of gloom and doom, and perhaps our lives too, the gloom and doom need not overwhelm us. Take some comfort from a line in today’s psalm which reads,” You will show me the path of life, the fullness of joy in your presence.” Our hope in the Lord can still shine through whatever difficulties befall us. We must have the confidence in our faith to ask the Lord to show us “the path to life” and “the fullness of joy in God’s presence”. Be among those who choose to say “my heart is glad and my soul rejoices, my body, too, abides in confidence”. I think we can beat this constant daily stream of gloom and doom by placing our trust in God and professing our faith!

I attended my first Catholic service here at St Michael’s many years ago before we were married and it happened to be the Good Friday service, which as you all know involves a lot of kneeling and standing and sitting. I stood out like a sore thumb, not really knowing what to do at any time. I obviously tried to follow Maeve’s example but my timing was out! The rest as they say is history.

I relate this anecdote because I want us to notice the postures we adopt during mass. When we stand and when we sit, when we kneel to, because these postures, this body language gives out a profession of faith. It says something of what we believe important.

When we stand ready to hear the Gospel proclaimed, we do so because it is not the word of the priest or deacon that we’re about to hear, but the word of Jesus our Saviour speaking to us directly. When we sit to listen to the homily we adopt a posture that says, now talk to me – make me think, give me food for thought to go away with; but don’t take too long doing it!

Standing and sitting have long symbolised the differing responses to what goes on when we publicly worship God. To stand in the presence of the Lord is not so we can stand eyeball to eyeball with him. We stand as a sign of unity with each other, as we stand together before God. When we kneel, especially during the consecration, we adopt a posture long used to show humility, adoration and submission to the one we acknowledge is the highest power.

Throughout the Sacred Scriptures standing, sitting and kneeling have not just been casual postures, done because those doing them couldn’t think of what else to do. The postures of standing and kneeling have something to say to us, they can draw us into a remembrance of why we’re here, what we receive and have to take away.

In the first reading, from the prophet Daniel, the writer spoke of the Archangel Michael standing up to mount guard over God’s people (Dan 12).

He writes about when a time of great distress would come, the people belonging to the Lord would be spared disaster because the archangel would stand on guard, ready to defend them. Had the writer told us the archangel would be sitting about to guard us from disaster we might not feel comfortable.

Guards on duty need to stand if they are to be ready to spring into action. To hear of the archangel Michael standing on guard to defend those who belong to the Lord is to be told of God’s care and protection – a care to cling to when the trials and terrors of life come visiting. To hear of such divine care may inspire us to stand up – stand up for our faith, firm in knowing the Lord cares deeply what happens to us.

In the Gospel this Sunday Jesus is actually sitting whilst saying what he does; not that the reading told us, but if you read back a few verses you discover that Jesus has just sat down on the Mount of Olives (Mk 13:3).

From there he can see across the Kidron valley to a view of the Temple in Jerusalem. He has just visited the Temple and now sitting on the Mount of Olives geographically opposite the Temple Jesus is confronting all that it represents. He sits because his work is almost complete. All that remains is for the curtain in the Temple, the one which marked out the Holy of Holies, to be torn in two at the moment of his death; symbolising our access to God through Jesus’ sacrifice.

By sitting Jesus is teaching his disciples to look beyond what seems permanent and to remember what is of lasting value: “heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not. The Son of Man will gather his elect.”

Jesus wants us to know that at the end of our lives, God is going to ask us to give an account of what we did with our lives; but God’s judgement isn’t something we should be afraid of. That’s why Jesus says today that nobody knows when the world will end; because that’s not what is important. It doesn’t matter when the world will end, or when our lives will end. What’s important is what are we doing with our lives right now? How are we living right now?

Are any of us in a position to answer that question in the way St Francis of Assisi did when asked what he would do if he knew that the end of time was tomorrow? He simply said he would be hoeing in his garden!

As you sit listening to me allow me to ask: what in your life seems permanent, what gives you security in these distressed times? Our jobs may be taken away from us; our health may fail at any time; but not our access to God.

By His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus opened for us a new way to God through his flesh. To receive his body is to receive a pledge of what is eternal and in whom we can trust. Whatever may be going on for each one of us right now, dare to believe in the sign of communion given at this and at every Mass.

Whether we stand or kneel to receive the blessed host, don’t treat it lightly. Receive the body of Christ acknowledging this is how God gives us a pledge of his faithful love. A pledge that His words will not fade away; a love without end; and a love inviting us to go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.