Category Archives: St Michael's Homily's

AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS

GOOD FRIDAY
19TH APRIL 2019
Rev Tony van Vuuren

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

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

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

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

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PALM SUNDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What darkness holds us back?

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

How can we be instrumental in changing our future?

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

Listen to Him

2nd Sunday of Lent Cycle C
17 March 2019
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

And so we start the second week of Lent; our spiritual preparation for the glorious celebration of the Easter Triduum.

For some of us the first week of Lent has passed without much notice, for others it’s been rewarding and for some it’s been a struggle. I’ve struggled.

I’m a fervent reader often reading two or three books at the same time and while I enjoy reading Christian spirituality, I also love a fast paced thriller or a beautifully written novel or a thought provoking biography.

One of my Lenten disciples is to read only scripture and religious books during these six weeks – and after one week, I’m suffering withdrawal systems, longing to get my teeth into an exciting page-turner.

But that’s surely one of the objectives of Lent.

Through our conscious, disciplined denials of pleasure we await the end of Lent with eagerness and yearning; counting down the days to Easter with hungry anticipation.

If we don’t make Lent meaningful, Easter too will have little meaning and pass us by as just another long weekend. And we’ll be no closer to our Lord at Easter than we were when Lent began in the desert.

The Gospel reading describes the Transfiguration of the Lord; a mysterious event in the life of Jesus and I imagine, an exhilarating but terrifying experience for Peter, James and John; a crucial turning point in all their lives.

At the time, his pending death was very much on Jesus’ mind. He had taken the decision to go to Jerusalem and knew an awful destiny awaited him there. In the Transfiguration on the mountain, Jesus was given the assurance that he was on the right road and he was given a glimpse of the glory that would follow the horror of Calvary.

Jesus’ death would also have been on the minds of the disciples because he had told them just the week before that he would be killed in Jerusalem. What Peter, James and John experienced in the transfiguration would give them something to hold on to in the dark days ahead. The voice of the Father confirms for them that Jesus is who he says he is: the Son of God.

This reading has a precious significance in my life

It was while reflecting on the transfiguration that I came to understand and accept my calling to the deaconate.

I had completed three years of theology studies not with a view to becoming a deacon but rather driven by a critical need to sustain my fragile faith. A date had been set for the ordination of nine deacons which included me but I advised the Archbishop that I’d not be part of that group. I was busy building a business and raising a family and wasn’t prepared to take on further responsibilities. I told the Archbishop that I’d consider it later in my life.

A few days after I’d written this letter I went on retreat for the weekend and we were given this reading of the transfiguration as a meditation.

Sitting at the window in my small room at Schoenstatt, on a cold misty Saturday afternoon, not feeling particularly motivated by the reading, I was overcome by a real awareness of God and the Father’s voice “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to him” and putting my trust into God’s hands, I was ordained to the deaconate with the rest of the group a few weeks later.

I share this experience because I feel sure that God is talking to all of us in our hearts and Lent is a good time to stop and listen; open our hearts to the gentle voice inside.

Fr Ron Rolheiser in his book “Wrestling with God” writes: ‘Simply put, God lies within us, deep inside, but in a way that’s almost non-existent, almost unfelt, largely unnoticed, and easily ignored.

“However, while that presence is never overpowering, it has within it a gentle, unremitting imperative, a compulsion toward something higher, which invites us to draw upon it. And, if we draw upon it, it gushes up in us in an infinite stream that instructs us, nurtures us, and fills us with endless energy.”

Within each of us is a gentle, insistent voice, a nudge, urging us to listen and respond.

What are we being called to do in these weeks of Lent?

What actions are we being prompted to take?

Perhaps it’s just a nudge to be more generous with the time we give to our relationship with God.

Perhaps there are words that we need to say to someone who is hurting; or a relationship that we need to heal.

Perhaps we have habits we need to temper, thoughts we need to banish, emotions we need to express or control.

Maybe there are acts of charity that we need to embrace: the Archbishop’s Lenten Appeal or clothes, shoes, food supplies that we have in excess to our needs that we could give to people who have so much less than we do.

Lent encourages us to look deeper into our hearts and believe absolutely that within our brokenness, we are nevertheless God’s beloved.

We all struggle. In the words of Ron Rolheiser again:

“We are just normal, complicated human beings walking around in human skin. That’s what real life is all about! The scriptures are filled with stories of persons finding God and helping bring about God’s kingdom, even as their own lives are often fraught with mess, confusion, frustration, betrayal, infidelity, and sin.

“There are no simple human beings immune to the spiritual, psychological, sexual, and relational complexities that beset us all.”

Our personal struggles are not the same but we struggle with similar issues: temptation, bad habits, pride, ego, self-pity, anger, bitterness, hypocrisy, hunger for acceptance and doubt.

Our weaknesses and struggles don’t make us any less Christian; they are a reflection of our humanity, a humanity that was lived by Jesus who loves and died for us in our sinful humanity.

If we were all perfect there would not have been a need for Easter.

Peter, James, and John heard God clearly affirm that Jesus was his Son and that they were to listen to him.

God our Father says the same to us as we follow Jesus, our guide through this Lent.

Into Battle

1stSunday Of Lent
Cycle C
10TH March 2019
Dcn Tony van Vuuren

We celebrate this weekend the first Sunday in Lent, the Church’s main penitential season. Jesus withdraws into the desert to fight and conquer his temptations and to place himself completely at the disposal of God his Father. The Gospel account uses images to show how Jesus was challenged to remain faithful to his heavenly Father. We have the same temptations.

The temptations faced by Jesus were real. This was no play acting. But the question arises: Can a good and virtuous person be tempted like the rest of us? The truth is: the good and virtuous person who resists temptation knows more about the power of temptation and evil than the weakling who submits at the very onset of temptation.

Those of us who give in too easily to temptation know little about the struggle involved. Those who struggle with temptation and overcome it know it best. There’s that old adage; If you want to know what victory over temptation costs, don’t ask a sinner; ask a saint.

What did temptation mean for Jesus? It meant the same as it meant for Adam and Eve and it means the same as it means for us. It means choosing between good and evil; between doing God’s will and one’s own will.

The fact that Jesus, “led by the Spirit” Luke  says, deliberately placed himself in an environment where the temptations lurking within himself were brought to the surface and where – by giving himself over totally to God’s guidance and putting his life totally at God’s disposal – they were confronted and defeated.

The temptation Jesus had to face was the temptation to go about his mission, but in the wrong spirit, using the wrong methods or tactics.

It was Jesus’ task, as Messiah, to reveal God and God’s character more completely than ever before. So what the devil tries to do is to persuade Jesus to turn away from the true character of God’s Reign and to conduct his mission with worldly tactics, to impress people with spectacular miracles, to submit to Satan in order to dominate the world politically, to use his spiritual power or his close relationship with God to produce purely earthly commodities – “if you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf”.

And his tempting was not a once-off event. He was tempted right throughout his life; even when on the cross. Jesus’ victory in the desert was not the winning of the war, but merely the winning of a battle.

Since even Jesus and the saints were tempted we can’t hope to escape it. All of us are intrinsically weak and prone to temptation. This may be a disturbing truth, but it is one we ignore at our own peril. The great problem of our time is our failure to know ourselves, to recognise temptation and evil and deal with it within ourselves. We have to struggle against the evil that is in others and in society. But our hardest struggle is against the temptation that originates inside us. We are born with conflicting impulses, so that doing good is always possible, but never easy. The hardest victory of all is over oneself.

This struggle, with its inevitable falls and failures, is not something to be ashamed of. Our struggle is not never to fall, but to fall, to rise, and go on in spite of everything. Temptation is not necessarily a bad thing. By forcing us to choose good over evil makes us strong. Every time one is tempted to do evil, but makes a decision to do good, makes one stronger. Suffering and struggle can make us stronger. (As difficult as that is to accept at the time!)

Furthermore, how could we prove our fidelity if there was no temptation? There wouldn’t be any particular credit in remaining virtuous through lack of temptation. Virtue would become meaningless if there was no evil, no struggle. Virtue involves a choice between good and evil. That choice can sometimes be very difficult, and there is no definite victory. The battle against evil is never over as long as we live. However, each right choice makes the next right choice easier.

But we might still say, “It was easier for Jesus!” As well as a divine nature, he also had a human nature. It wasn’t any easier for him. Besides; temptation in itself is not a sin. He too had to struggle to do the will of God. His victory in the desert was not easy. It was achieved through prayer, fasting, and reflection on and obedience to the word of God. The Holy Spirit was with Jesus during his struggle.

The Holy Spirit is with us too when we find ourselves in the wilderness; in our spiritual desert. It is a great consolation to have the faith to believe and know that God is not outside our struggle, but with us during our struggle.

St Augustine wrote and prayed: “It is through temptation that we come to know ourselves. God grant that I may know you, and grant that I may know myself.”

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.