Category Archives: St Michael's Homily's

JESUS HIMSELF IS OUR SPIRITUAL FOOD

18th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
CYCLE B
5th AUGUST 2018.
(John 6:24-35)
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

The First reading telling how God fed His people in the desert with manna is regarded as the classic example of God’s care for His people.

Jesus too fed people who were hungry as we heard about last Sunday. But the Gospel makes it clear that the Son of Man did not come down from above merely to satisfy physical hunger. He came to give heavenly bread that people will eat and never become hungry. The bread in question at this time is primarily the teaching given by Jesus. Only at a later point does it refer to the Eucharist.

Often in his preaching Christ uses images of food, particularly bread, to emphasise our need for spiritual as well as physical nourishment. He warned his listeners about having too much of a preoccupation with their material needs – or what they imagined to be their needs – and he criticised them for not being attentive enough to their more crucial need to be well-fed spiritually.

“Do not work for food that cannot last,” he says here, “but work for food that endures to eternal life – the kind of food the Son of Man is offering you”.
He spoke in a similar way at the outset of his ministry when he rejected the devil’s temptations and said that man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

There are two conclusions that I would like to draw from these kinds of statements made by Jesus.

Firstly; not to exaggerate what he said. Jesus never made out that our ordinary physical or material needs are irrelevant, or that they’re not real needs.
It’s not being unspiritual to acknowledge that we all need to eat. And it’s not being selfish to try to gain a certain minimum of security and stability in our material circumstances.

For most of us, if we’re caught up in great anxiety or upheaval in the outward circumstances of our lives, it’s much more difficult to pray and to concentrate on God in any sense, and at those times we often have to be content with whatever brief, distracted prayers we can manage.

What Jesus tended to warn his listeners against wasn’t the idea of maintaining a certain minimum level of stability in their material circumstances. More often he warned against the temptation to make the material side of life the whole of life; making it an end in itself; getting over-concerned about money, possessions, or about the level of comfort that we have; hankering after a luxurious style of living; that might exclude any time or thought for our spiritual needs.

According to Christ’s way of seeing things those sorts of total preoccupation alienate us from God. They stifle the spiritual side of our nature and they erode the bonds of care and compassion that we’re supposed to have towards other people and their needs.

And then there’s a second aspect of this Sunday’s gospel reading we can look at, because Jesus does more here than stick up for spirituality in some vague sense. When they ask him how they can get this bread that he’s talking about; bread that endures to eternal life, Jesus answers: I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never be hungry; he who believes in me will never thirst.

To enter into friendship with Christ, to grow in knowledge of Christ, is like a path we have to walk along if we want to come to a full, truthful knowledge of God.

Finding God – the way we understand it – isn’t just a product of our human imagination or capacity for creativity. We find the true God revealed in the person of Christ, and faith is the attitude of acceptance of what’s revealed by Christ.
And it’s through this attitude of acceptance towards the person and work of Christ – acknowledging him for who he says he is – that we’re led into a life of closer communion with God. Without Christ’s ministry and preaching, without his Passion and death, we would know a certain amount about God, but we would still be waiting for the most important facets of God’s nature to be revealed to us.

We must distinguish between faith and trust. Though they are closely linked they are not the same thing. The person, who firmly believes with strong faith, trusts completely. But if one does not have perfect trust in God, their faith will be faint as well.
Faith and trust in God will nourish us at all times, but especially during times of trial. It’s not we who keep the faith; it’s the faith that keeps us.

John wrote his gospel in the first place because he was convinced that in Jesus, God has been revealed to us in a final, full and unsurpassable way. He wrote in the hope that as many of his readers as possible would be led to the same conclusion.

So these are just a couple of the lessons we can draw from this part of Jesus’ discussion with the people who are questioning him about the “bread of life”.
Jesus repeats what is a frequent theme of his, trying to persuade people not to become mired in the preoccupations of material life. And at the same time he goes further, insisting on his own unique vocation to lead humanity towards knowledge of, and communion with, the true God.

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We are called to bring healing into our broken world

15th Sunday Year B 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

The prophet Amos lived close on 2800 years ago in a village about 10km south of Bethlehem in the southern Hebrew kingdom of Judah but when called by God to be his prophet he moved across the border to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel; a travel distance of about 40km.

For the Hebrew kingdoms, this was a time of relative peace and prosperity but beneath its affluence, the nation was rotten: luxury and excess for the rich, exploitation of the poor, loose moral standards, corruption in public life, and religious observance based on ritual rather than piety.

It was against these abuses that God called Amos to preach and he didn’t mince his words. His criticism is fierce and damning and it’s hardly surprising that the authorities disliked him. He was accused of treason and conspiring against the king and as we heard in today’s reading, was told to pack his bags and go home. The voice of truth is seldom welcome in the courtyards of the powerful.

On the world stage today, Pope Francis is a very strong voice speaking out about the abuses of power and wealth at the expense of the poor and we are encouraged to do the same.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus sends the twelve disciples out to be the voice of truth. And he forewarns them that they may not always receive a warm welcome and that where they are rejected they should walk away and “shake off the dust that’s on your feet”; implying that those who will not receive them are unclean and unworthy.

Jesus sent them out on their mission with nothing except his authority; no food, no money, no spare clothes. This stands in stark contrast to some of the prosperity evangelists professing to proclaim God’s message today. A few weeks ago an American televangelist Jesse Duplantis, who claims to have 130m followers worldwide, appealed to his audience to buy him a new private jet worth $54m because God had told him that he needs it and he deserves it. He says the plane gets him closer to God and in his video explained that he needs a private plane because there are demons on airlines, and also because fans come up to him and agitate his spirit. He actuals uses a quote from the prophet Amos to justify his message.

There’s no shortage of charlatans purporting to be messengers of Christ. A pastor in Nigeria at the start of the World Cup urged his followers to pay him $2 000 to unleash a squadron of “prayer warriors” to help the country’s footballers secure a World Cup win. I doubt he’s refunded their money.

The message of the twelve that Jesus sent out is simple: “Repent!”
Repentance means a change of heart and a change of action. It’s painful. It means facing up to the unpleasant reality that the way we are living may be wrong. We may not be committing diabolical sins like theft, murder or adultery but we may be living lives that are centred primarily on ourselves; our comfort, our desires, our bubble of self-contentment. A change to a God-centred life is very difficult and perhaps that’s why so few truly repent.

But the twelve also brought healing; the mercy of God.

Mark tells us that the disciples drove out demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them. The anointing of the sick is still a very powerful and wonderful sacrament available to all of us today through the ministry of the Church and is perhaps the most misunderstood and most underutilised of the seven sacraments often seen as the “last rites”, or Extreme Unction, of the dying. Small wonder that some may want to avoid being on the receiving end. The anointing is a sacrament, not of death, but of life. There is no sacrament that can save us from death.

The healing power of the sacrament is often clouded with the desire for physical healing but the encounter with Christ through the sacrament attends to our spiritual health and well-being as well as our physical sickness.

Often when people are sick, they get discouraged, depressed, angry and afraid. The sacrament offers the grace to calm the soul and strengthen the spirit bringing peace and courage in the face of pain, anxiety and fear. If physical recovery is God’s will, so be it; but our calling and our mission aren’t dependent on good physical health. The intention of the sacrament isn’t the extension of life on earth nor does it negate the need for medical care. The sacrament provides God’s grace and supernatural assistance to coincide with the miracles of modern medicine.

And the anointing brings forgiveness in the absolution of sins; forgiveness and mercy from God and the grace to forgive ourselves for the many ways in which we have failed to love.

We are able to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick as often as we may need it. The elderly, the serious ill, those with life threatening diseases, chronic pain or recurring illness, can and should be anointed regularly.

While the sacrament of healing can only be administered by a priest or bishop, we are all called and able to offer healing. Often suffering and pain is more emotional than physical and we could look into our hearts and perhaps hear there the voice of Jesus sending us out to bring healing into the lives of those we may have hurt with our words or actions, or lack of words and actions.

Let’s pray that the call of the Holy Spirit to bring healing into our broken world will find a secure place in our hearts; if not it will shake off the dust and move on.

The Nativity of Saint John the Baptist

Cycle B
24th June 2018
Rev Tony van Vuuren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Treasure – Covenant of One June 2018

 

Deacon Les Ruhrmund

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

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

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

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

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

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

We should all want to give.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the parish is struggling financially.

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

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

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

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

Putting this into numbers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOLY TRINITY SUNDAY

CYCLE B
27th MAY 2018
Rev Tony van Vuuren

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God so loved the world …….

Palm Sunday
Year B
25 March 2018
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIGHT & DARKNESS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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