Category Archives: St Michael's Homily's

Love Our Enemies

7th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
CYCLE A
19th FEBRUARY 2017
Matthew 5: 38-48
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

We are naturally inclined to resent those who do us wrong. But hatred, if we nurture it, can come between us and our loving God, who wants us to be loving, kind and forgiving.

In today’s Gospel passage taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus condemns even the mild form of the “Law of the Talion, (Lex Talionis),” the Babylonian tribal law which prescribes a retaliation in kind. In other words it sets limits on punishment; the punishment not to exceed the crime.

In its place, Jesus gives his new law of love, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation and no retaliation. For Jesus; retaliation, or even limited vengeance, has no place in the Christian life, even though graceful acceptance of an offense requires great strength, discipline of character as well as strengthening by God’s grace.

The second part of today’s Gospel passage is perhaps the central and the most famous section of the Sermon on the Mount. It gives us the Christian ethic of personal relationships: love one’s neighbors and forgive one’s enemies. Above all, it tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they treat others with loving kindness and mercy, even if they don’t deserve it.

The Old Law never actually said to hate enemies, but that was the way some Jews understood it. Jesus commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us to demonstrate that we are children of a merciful heavenly Father.
We are commanded to love our enemies as Jesus loves us.

The Greek word used for loving enemies is agápe, which is the invincible benevolence or good will for another’s highest good. Since agápe is not natural, practicing it is possible only with God’s help. Agápe love is a choice, an act of will, more than a feeling.

We choose to love, not because our enemies deserve our love, but because Jesus loves them so much that he died for them as He did for us. When Jesus talks about “the enemy” he is not necessarily referring to an enemy as in war. He is talking about someone who is possibly close to me —to you; someone in our family; in our community, our neighbourhood, in our workplace; someone who is making life difficult for us.

Who are the people we try to avoid at all costs, whom we find hard to forgive, who awaken in us feelings of unease, fear and anger, which can easily turn into hatred? Hatred is a very dangerous thing. It burns up a hundred times more energy than love. It can drive out everything else and will corrode and warp our mind and soul; creating a legacy of bitterness, hostility and resentment.

Christ’s way is a better way. To be able to forgive and turn the other cheek is not a soft way. It’s a hard way that calls for great strength and toughness and sacrifice. A perfect example of this of course is our witness to Christ during his trial and crucifixion “Love your enemies!” –this is one of the most revolutionary things ever said. Love our enemies? Most of us find it hard enough to love our friends and family all of the time.

How can we be expected to love our enemies? To love’ in the Gospel context means to ‘wish the well being of’. It is a unilateral, unconditional desire for the deepest wellbeing of another person. It does not ask any of us ‘to be in love with’, to have warm fuzzy feelings for someone who is doing us serious harm. But we can sincerely wish the well being of those who harm or persecute us.

We pray that they may change, not just for our sake but also for their own. We pray that from hating, hurting people they become loving and caring people. Further, Jesus tells us that the basic reason for doing this is to manifest God’s love towards us. He points to the fact that the action of God is unconquerable benevolence.

He is the one who makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and when the rain finally arrives here it will fall on the good and on the bad.
The Gospel passage concludes with Jesus saying, “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” On the face of it that sounds like a commandment which cannot possibly have anything to do with us. Surely no one of us can even faintly connect ourselves with perfection.

(Except maybe when we fill in our CV’s) But seriously though this obviously is an ideal, a goal to be aimed at. The perfection intended is not total perfection for us, but rather to pray for ourselves for that total impartiality of a God who extends his providential care and love equally to all; good and bad, and he does not love the bad less than the good people. So, if we want to identify with Him, we have no right whatever to withdraw our love, that is, our desire for wholeness, from a single person.

Whether a person returns our love or God’s love is not important. If we reflect on it, we will begin to see that this is the only reasonable way for us to deal with people both for our own personal growth and fulfillment and as contributing also to that of others. Jesus is not asking us to do something impossible and unreasonable.

He tells us to open our eyes and see the reality and discover the most sensible way of relating ourselves with the people around us. Our faith assures us that in our relationship with God we will be able to do as he did and now instructs us: to be generous to those in need; not retaliate when offended; pray for our persecutors and even, with God’s grace, love our enemies.

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St Joseph

Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt 2017
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

One of the things that struck me when I looked at the First reading and the Gospel was that a central figure in the events recalled in both readings was a man with the name Joseph; and interestingly that both of their fathers shared the name Jacob.

I thought I’d explore the role of the two Josephs in our faith.
Joseph is not actually mentioned in the first reading which tells us about the arrival of his father Jacob in Egypt with the whole family and all their belongings, escaping from a devastating famine in Canaan. But it is Joseph who had instigated and made possible their migration.

You’ll remember that Joseph had been sold into slavery in Egypt as a teenager by his jealous brothers and that they had deceived their father Jacob telling him that his favourite son Joseph had been killed by wild animals producing his multi-coloured coat stained with blood as evidence. In the ensuing years Joseph had risen to a very powerful position of authority in Egypt and was able to offer and provide a new home, food and shelter for his elderly father, brothers and their families who were on the brink of starvation in the Promised Land.

They prospered and multiplied abundantly in Egypt over the next 400 odd years until their number was so great that Pharaoh feared that they might side with his enemies in time of war and so he enslaved them to build cities and roads. And that of courses sets the scene for Moses, the Passover and significantly the return of the Jewish people from Egypt to the Promised Land.

In the Gospel reading, Joseph is the central figure. Three times while sleeping he hears the voice of God through an angel and each time he reacts swiftly, decisively and faithfully.

A few weeks ago I did a short course at the UCT Summer School on two great Renaissance painters: Leonardo Da Vinci and Piero Della Francesca. The Church at that time was a major patron of the arts and many works of Renaissance art depicted religious images painted as altarpieces or as devotional objects. In many of the paintings featuring the Holy Family (the Nativity, Presentation at the Temple, Arrival of the Magi and the Flight into Egypt), Joseph is depicted as a comparatively marginal figure alongside Mary and Jesus if not entirely in the background; sometimes looking half asleep or bored or disinterested or disengaged. And we might assume I suppose that that is how his role in God’s plan for our redemption was viewed at that time; very much a secondary role.
But that has changed.

Today St Joseph is highly revered and his essential role as Mary’s husband and protector and Jesus’ human father, guardian and teacher are universally recognised. In 1870 Pope Pius IX proclaimed Saint Joseph as the patron of the Universal Church.

Saint Joseph is also the patron saint of families, fathers, expectant mothers, immigrants and working people in general. The 1st of May, internationally celebrated as Labour Day is celebrated in the Church as the Feast of St Joseph the Worker.
And Joseph is the patron saint of the dying. We believe that Joseph died with Mary and Jesus close to him and that’s the way we all should like to leave this life.

Matthew’s account of the Flight into Egypt reaffirms a lot that we already know about Joseph from earlier references in Scripture. We know that though he came from a royal lineage, a direct descendent of King David, he was poor. When he presented the infant Jesus in the Temple 40 days after his birth, Joseph was only able to offer the sacrifice of two turtledoves or pigeons; allowed only for those who could not afford to buy a lamb.

We know that he was a compassionate, pious and righteous man. In extreme faith he took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant with a child that was not his. The social ramifications of that decision would have been humiliating but he believed what the angel had told him about Mary’s pregnancy and acted accordingly. Perhaps even saving Mary’s life.
It takes a strong man or woman to put the will of God before the will of society. There’s a lesson there for each one of us.
Joseph had a remarkable relationship with God and Mary trusted him completely and I think it would be fair to assume the same of Jesus when he was growing up as a boy and then as a young adult with Joseph as his adoring father.

When Joseph woke from the dream telling him to get up and leave immediately and flee to Egypt he must have been very anxious and fearful. The journey would be roughly the equivalent of walking from Cape Town to Jeffrey’s Bay. And that section along the way that we know as the Garden Route would have been harsh desert. Not a journey for the faint hearted. Not a desirable journey for a Mother with an infant. An extremely challenging journey probably taking them 30 days or more. They had little money and only heaven knows how they managed.
Mary put her trust in Joseph and committed her safety and that of her baby boy into Joseph’s hands as they fled to Egypt and then some years later journeyed back to Israel.

God revealed his will to Joseph while he was at rest; while he slept.

Pope Francis has a great love for St Joseph and on his desk in his study he has a large image of Saint Joseph ….sleeping. As it happens, the inaugural Mass for the Pontificate of Pope Francis took place on March 19, Saint Joseph’s Day and one of the first things Pope Francis did after his inauguration was include Joseph, Mary’s spouse, in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Mass..

Speaking about St Joseph a couple of years ago while on a visit to the Philippines Pope Francis said: “Even when he is asleep, he is taking care of the Church! Joseph’s rest revealed God’s will to him. In our moment of rest in the Lord, as we pause from our many daily obligations and activities, God is also speaking to us. But like Saint Joseph, once we have heard God’s voice, we must rise from our slumber; we must get up and act.”
Our Lady of the Flight into Egypt, pray for us.

People of Inner Unrest

Epiphany of the Lord
Cycle A
8th January 2017
Matthew 2. 1-12
Rev Tony van Vuuren

Those of us of a certain age will remember the TV detective Columbo, the guy wearing the shabby raincoat, who was the master of the parting question. He would finish questioning someone and, as he was going out of the door and their guard was down, he would turn back with a ‘Oh, just one other thing.’ and ask that crucial question.

The Magi are like that final question. Christmas has been well and truly celebrated, the Boney M CD has been packed away together with the decorations, and the New Year is here, life is getting back to its normal routine; but then at the last minute Christmas turns back and throws us one last question, throws us the story of the Magi. The Magi are like that final question.

It seems to us like the Magi just appear at the end of the Christmas story, but for these foreign travellers the journey has been a long one. We don’t really know exactly where they come from, probably Persia, in which case they have travelled a great distance to get to Bethlehem.

We are misled by the fact that they appear, stay briefly, then depart, into thinking that this journey of theirs is a brief one, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is a long journey of extortionate cost, fraught with danger. Whatever possessed them to set out on such a mission, just to spend a few moments in Bethlehem?

This question brings us to the heart of the Epiphany Feast. If we can understand why the Magi travel all this way, we will be able to see what this feast is really about. We are rather misled by the romance of the three exotic gifts.

Our focus tends to be on the Gold and Frankincense and Myrrh, so that we come to think of the Magi as little more than gift bearers to transmit these beautiful gifts into the presence of Christ.

But this is not what they themselves say they are doing. Addressing Herod they ask ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews…we have come to worship him?’ and then when they arrive in Bethlehem they first throw themselves to the ground in homage before the Christ child; and only then do they reach into their bags and bring out the gifts. The wise men have not travelled all this way just to bring Jesus gifts; they have travelled all this way to worship him.

If we lose sight of that, we lose sight of the real spiritual significance of this feast. The giving of gifts is very potent; it is a prophetic act, because as we know, these are gifts with a spiritual significance, but this is nothing like as important as the Epiphany as a moment of worship.

The wise men have come all this way, have faced all that danger and discomfort, in order to worship the divine Son of God.

Still, though, we are left asking ‘why?’ Why would they travel so far in search of a God who is outside their culture, outside their territory, outside their experience? Pope Emeritus Benedict, in his book (Jesus of Nazareth Vol 3.
The Infancy Narratives p.95), has a beautiful expression that he uses to describe the Magi. He says that they would never have set out on such a journey unless they were people of “inner unrest”, that is “people of hope, people on the lookout for the true star of salvation” They travel all that way, they take all those risks including the great risk of entering Herod’s presence, because they are people of “inner unrest”.

They are not satisfied with their lives, they are driven to seek some deeper meaning, some sense of truths beyond their grasp, some sense that there is a world outside their control which they cannot master, but which they can begin to comprehend. Their minds, their souls, are restless and unable to settle, and this translates into the need to travel, to journey in search of something that will draw them upwards, up towards the truth. They are in a sense disturbed souls, but they feel very at home with that sense of incompleteness, of challenge, because for them it is the doorway to growth.

Contrast them, in this, with Herod. By the time the Magi arrive he is very definitely disturbed.
But whereas the Wise Men are at home with this inner unrest, and are able to feed off the spiritual energy that it brings, Herod does not cope with disturbance. It is at about this time that Herod has three of his sons murdered because he fears they may be a threat to his security, so he is clearly not a man who thrives on challenge and the unknown. The Magi arrive in serenity and ask their questions, throwing Jerusalem into turmoil.

Herod doesn’t just ask about where the Christ is to be born, his enquiries are frantic with evil intent. So he stands as a contrast to the Magi. They are men of inner unrest, certain that there is much they do not know, nor understand, and are anxious to open themselves to a new and deeper vision of reality; Herod already has his own vision of the World, with him firmly at the centre, and he will do anything he can to protect that set up, to make sure it is preserved at all costs.

Now, at last, we are able to understand what the final ‘Columbo question’ is that the Magi ask of us. It is perfectly timed, coming as it does just as we close off the Christmas season but also at the start of the New Year and Ordinary time.

As Christ is presented to us once again through the Gospels in the coming year, will we react like Herod, or like the Magi? Will we insist on bending and twisting and warping Christ so that he fits in with our way of doing things, with what I want to do, with what I want to be, will we try and force him to fit into our plans for the future?

Or will we allow him to challenge us and to change us; will we allow his words and his actions to disturb and unsettle us, even to make us change course, to turn life around, to do things differently? Will we allow ourselves to be led on a journey far from the place of comfort, so that we can take our place in God’s plan?

The Magi had to travel a long way on their journey, but most of us can make the journey within, because the real journey takes place in our minds, in our souls. It begins with a change of heart, with a decision to allow the Holy Spirit to help us find God’s presence.

If we can face each situation with confidence and with an open heart, fear and doubt will begin to melt away. We will find Jesus in unexpected, unlikely places; just as the Magi did.

RELATIONSHIPS

SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT
CYCLE A
4TH DECEMBER 2016
Matthew: 3: 1-12
Deacon Tony van Vuuren.

How many of us get a sense of peace listening to today’s Gospel? John the Baptist’s preaching is more like a dire warning on this 2nd Sunday of Advent with the theme of Peace.

The language of the ancient prophets was in large part the language of rebuke. It was harsh, condemnatory language, denouncing the community’s lack of faith, condemning any kind of hypocrisy or bogus spirituality, social injustice or economic exploitation. John the Baptist adopted this abrasive and threatening style of preaching.

He just pours out this angry, contemptuous language, doing what the prophet Isaiah said he would do, “Preparing the way of the Lord, making His paths straight.”
Whilst trying to prepare and find a thread of Peace in the Gospel message, it st

ruck me that it is not the Lord’s paths that need to be straightened out, but ours. We can take the opportunity of preparing for the coming of our Lord this Advent by straightening our paths.

So what might these words mean for us? What are the things that need to be straightened out in our lives? Of course, only we can truly answer that for ourselves. What if we just consider the relationships that we have or do not have with family and friends? Relationships that are often twisted and tangled and crooked.

Relationships that have embittered our hearts; the animosities that have set family member against family member or neighbour against neighbour; silly quarrels that are kept alive; the jealousies and misunderstandings; or just stubborn pride!

We let misunderstandings run on from year to year; meaning to clear them up someday. We keep quarrels alive because we cannot quite make up our minds to sacrifice our pride and end them. We avoid someone, not speaking to them out of some silly spite or prejudice, and yet knowing we would be filled with remorse and shame if we heard that that person were dead tomorrow.

Out of jealously we don’t give a word of appreciation or encouragement to a sibling or friend letting them think they had done something wrong by being ignored. And so one can go on quoting about a breakdown in different relationship situations that are allowed to fester and never get resolved.

If only we would realise that “time is short”, and how it would break the spell if we would go instantly and do the right thing which we might never have another chance to do.

For those of us who have had the opportunity of restoring a relationship with someone or even a whole family; we know the feeling of relief, of love, of peace.

The phrase “Peace on Earth” starts with us; with our attitudes towards others. Our words convey the attitude of our hearts and create a culture of peace or hate and anger within our homes. Sometimes it is hard to tell which attitude is being promoted as our words speak of peace but our actions promote discord. If we stop loving our neighbour as ourselves and forget to treat everyone with the same respect and love we would desire for ourselves, there can be no peace on earth.

To write “Peace on Earth” on our Christmas cards or email messages and then refuse to speak to certain family members over the holidays or teach our children not to have anything to do with children of another race stands in the way of true peacemaking. We have the opportunity during this Advent time of reflection to be the peacemakers. We are all given the opportunity to help in some small or big way to bring peace on earth. But it is more than a cute festive season phrase.

It is about the very attitudes of our hearts. Take the time to say St Francis’ prayer; “Make me an instrument of your peace.”

God doesn’t abandon us when we stray from the straight path. He keeps calling us back from our crooked ways to the straight path. Advent is an excellent time to aim ourselves in the right direction and commit ourselves to the right path.

The path of truth, honesty and peace of mind. So if there is some crooked or twisted attitude, or some crooked way of behaving, or some crooked relationship that needs to be straightened out; let’s straighten it out now. We will truly be preparing a way for the Lord to come to us.

An invitation from the King

Christ the King
Year C
20 Nov 2016
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

Today, the Church celebrates with great joy the Feast of Christ the King. It is the last Sunday of the liturgical year and, in many ways, the culmination of all the feasts of the past year – the intent of Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter, Pentecost and Corpus Christi, and all the Sundays and feasts. They have all pointed toward this reality, that Christ is the King of the Universe, the Lord of all. All of time, all of history is heading toward this climax when Christ will be proclaimed as the universal King of Kings.

We also celebrate today the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy and the Jubilee Doors of Mercy that were opened on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in December last year are being closed in cathedrals and shrines throughout the world this weekend.

The introduction of the Feast of Christ the King is a relatively recent addition to the liturgical calendar. It was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925.

Some weeks ago I spoke about how our human experience and understanding of the role and behaviour of a ‘Father’ in our own lives and in society can often be an obstacle in our relationship with God, the Father because we project the picture that we have in our heads of a father onto the persona of God who is far beyond the scope of our experience and imagination.

The same could be said for our understanding or misunderstanding of Christ the King. We normally associate kingship with political and economic influence, majesty and pomp, wealth and elevated status, privilege and prestige; words that are quite contrary to the kingship of Christ. In the Gospel reading we are presented with the king of the universe nailed to a cross; condemned and humiliated; naked and powerless; dying. He dies that we may enjoy eternal life. He rescues us from a kingdom of darkness and opens the door to his kingdom of light.

The values that best describe the kingdom that Jesus proclaims would include humility and love, service, sacrifice, charity, mercy and forgiveness. And so it’s no surprise that the kingdom of God and our secular world are at extreme odds with each other. It was this vast gulf between the two and the ever consuming power of materialism and greed, a turning away from God, that motivated Pope Pius XI to introduce this feast seven year after the end of what is referred to as the Great War; WW1. It was a bleak time in the history of the world when the dark clouds of dictatorship and communism cast their shadows over a world desperate forpeace.

Pope Pius wrote at that time  “As long as individuals and states refuse to submit to the rule of our Saviour, there can be no really hopeful prospect of a lasting peace among nations” Those words are as frighteningly true and prophetic today and they were in 1925.

We celebrate today a king who reigns from the cross. The rulers of the people at that time and the roman soldiers insult him with the title ‘King of the Jews.” It’s a picture of a man whose life has ended in disgrace. The only one who does recognise Jesus’ kingship is the so called ‘good thief.’ Hanging next to Jesus, this man knows himself and he accepts that his crime has brought him to crucifixion. He knows that Jesus is innocent and makes a profound cry for mercy which becomes an act of faith “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

From this gospel portrait we can take away a simple truth about Christ our King. The world will not always recognise him. His kind of kingship is revealed in the midst of suffering and death and those that do recognise him do so when they understand that truth.

As we prepare to start a new year in the life of the Church, we each today could think about our personal history; our mistakes, our sins, our fears and joys, our successes and failures in our relationships with God and with each other. We know that we are truly not worth of the love of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross; not one of us has cleans hands and a pure heart. But we also know with absolute certainty that we’ll find forgiveness and redemption through God’s infinite mercy if we seek it with a contrite heart. The repentant thief, crucified at Jesus’ side, accompanied him into paradise.

We should not allow ourselves to be held captive by the past!

Even if we wanted to, we can never rewrite the past. But the history that starts today, and looks to the future, has yet to be written. It will be written by the grace of God and by the choices we make from this day on. By learning from past mistakes, we can open a new chapter of your lives. Let us never yield to the temptation of thinking that we cannot be forgiven. Whatever our weaknesses and failings, great or small, whatever accusations we level at ourselves in our hearts, God’s love and grace is greater and knows no limit.

We need but entrust ourselves to his mercy; to allow him to rule over our hearts as our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.So long as our hearts continue to beat, the invitation of Christ to join him in paradise, still stands.

——–

Deacon Les 19 November 2016

The battle for our souls

Feast of the Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael
2 October 2016
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

St Michael is mentioned by name five times in Scripture: three times in the Book of Daniel in the OT and twice in the NT in the Letter from Jude and the Book of Revelation to John.

Following these biblical references Christian tradition believes thatSt.Michael has four responsibilities:

And so it is that in art and sculpture St Michael is usually depicted either killing the dragon representing the defeated figure of Satan or holding a pair of scales in which he weighs the souls of the departed – though this is much less common than St Michael the protector and the leader of the army of God against the forces of evil.

The dichotomy of good and evil has challenged the minds of great thinkers, philosophers, scientists and theologians from the beginning of recorded time and there are many divergent points of view and theories. But on one thing everyone agrees. Evil is real.

In our Christian worldview, evil is any action, thought or attitude that is contrary to the character or will of God. Evil shows itself through deviation from what we believe to be the goodness of God.

St Thomas Aquinas defines evil as the absence of good.

We are engaged continuously in the fight of good against evil;light against the powers of darkness; spiritual warfare.

It’s a difficult and constant struggle. St Paul writes about this in his letter to the Romansin chapters 7& 8.Paraphrasing his words he writes “For even though the desire to do good is in meI do the evil I do not want to do it.….. Who will recue me from this mortal body? ….The answer, thank God, is that Jesus can and does……. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ’s!”

The most potent weapons of war we have against the devil are in easy reach. There’s prayer as a conscious way of rejecting the seduction of temptation to satisfy our anger, frustrations and selfish desires. We have the grace of the Sacraments, and particularly the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist. And we’re armed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we received in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.

I find that reflecting on the seven deadly sins is a good way to check myown battle status.

The first deadly sin is pride which makes us believe that we’re better than other people. Are we not inclined sometimes to judge people of other races or religionsor lifestyles of which we disagree or disapprove?We use derogatory phrases like “you can’t trust the Arabs …or the Chinese ….or the Blacks ….or the Whites ….or homosexuals, or Muslims or Jews, or the French, etc., etc.”

We forget that every human being, of every shape, size and colour, nationality and religion, abled and disabled alike, is a beloved son or daughter of God.We insult God when we berate any one of his beloved.

Envy is another deadly sin. Perhaps there are times when we resent others who have more money, talent, beauty, friends, personalityand so on than we do.May even resent those who are happier or more joyful than we are.

The next is lust which presents enormous challenges throughout our lives. Lust is the abuse of the gift of our sexuality. It’s normal, healthy and essential that we find other people attractive. Without that attraction we’d not be able to enjoy personalrelationships. All relationships are dependent on the gift of our sexuality; that includes parents, siblings, spouses, friends, family and lovers. It’s when we image or treat others, in fantasy or reality, as mere objects to serve our pleasure that we’re playing with fire and courting the deadly sin of lust.

And then there’s anger. I think being a parent teaches us much about the futility of anger. Anger is a normal human response over which we sometimes have little control. But we can control what we do after we’ve become angry. Yearning for revenge or an opportunity to get even or thoughts of hate or a desire to see someone suffer,are all serious sins of anger.

Gluttony is next and most of us have probably fallen victim to this at one time or another. Gluttony is choosing to over-consume; this could be food or drink. Both are good for us in moderation.But over eating or drinking to the point of drunkenness is gluttony. Legitimate eating disorders, such as anorexia or bulimia, aren’t gluttony. They’re medical conditions and require treatment and care.

Greedis the selfish desire for more, more and still more; often prioritising material wealth and possessions ahead of nurturing our relationship with God and our family. I’m reminded of a quote from Warren Buffet, the American multi-billionaire and one of the wealthiest people on earth who when asked how much is enough replied “When I have just a little more than I have now.”

The last deadly sin is sloth which is laziness – particularly when it concerns prayer and spiritual life. Sloth is an aversion to work –physical, mental and spiritual and often breeds indifference which impedesjoy and appreciation in every aspect of our lives.

If we’re not vigilant we easily fall into habits and behaviours that are contrary to God’s commandments of love.

We are engaged in a furious fight for our souls.

Quoting from the First Letter of Peter (1 Peter 5:8) “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

Jesus has won the war but we each need to choose for ourselves to win the daily battle for our souls.

We implore the Holy Archangel Michael “St Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protector against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

THE FEAST OF THE ASSUMPTION

21st AUGUST 2016
Luke 1:39-56
Tony van Vuuren

The feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary has traditionally been celebrated on the 15th August, a holy day of obligation, but now this, the patronal feast of South Africa is celebrated on the Sunday following (not the nearest Sunday); thus giving more Catholics the opportunity to celebrate this important feast when attending weekend mass.

Today’s feast expresses our belief that when Jesus’ mother reached the end of her life on earth she was taken into God’s company, body and soul, without the delay or the period of purification that we have to expect in our own case. Mary’s total co-operation with God’s grace was unique in the whole history of salvation, and so her entry into eternity was also unique. The doctrine of the Assumption expresses a very ancient Christian belief about Mary’s unique destiny as the woman who agreed to become the mother of Jesus.

The feast is an opportunity to celebrate Mary and her inspiring faithfulness. We recall that event, years before she was taken body and soul into heaven, when she said “yes” to the angel’s invitation to become the mother of God.

We celebrate that simple, humble yes, which God used to set events in motion that changed our relationship with him, our relationship with each other, and literally the whole of history. But as we recall and celebrate Mary’s yes to God, let’s not forget that today’s feast is really about God’s yes to Mary.

It’s really about the way God rewarded Mary for her surrender to him and his plan. It’s about the way he honored her for saying “yes” every day of her life—even when it meant letting a sword of sorrow and grief pierce her soul as she stood at the foot of the Cross (Luke 2:35). It’s about God lifting Mary up at the end of her life and crowning her with his glory, all in response to her humble, loving faithfulness to him.

It’s very possible that the image of Mary’s Assumption into heaven that most of us have in our heads is drawn from certain pictures, which are the products of popular devotion – pictures of Mary rising up through the clouds surrounded by flocks of angels.

And it’s possible that these are images, which aren’t all that helpful, in the sense that they give too literal an impression of what we mean when we talk about our belief in the Assumption of Our Lady.

God isn’t literally above the earth – that’s only a figurative way of speaking. So Mary didn’t physically fly upwards to join him. That’s also only a figurative way of seeing Mary’s translation into God’s eternal presence.

The actual belief or the doctrine associated with today’s feast is that Our Lady, at the end of her life, was taken into God’s company, body and soul. In our case, when we die, there’s going to be a gap between our entering God’s presence and the final resurrection of our bodies that we profess in the Creed.

With Our Lady there was no gap. She’s already in that state of glory, as we call it, which Christ himself is, and which we hopefully will be at the end of time.

It’s perfectly true that there’s no record of this event in the Bible, and that’s decisive for many of the Protestant churches, whose members don’t agree with this doctrine about Mary. But the belief does go back to the very early years of the Church’s existence, and for us, the presence of a belief among the Christian community from that very early stage is enough to make it part of the tradition of faith.

And in that sense, there are two things that this ancient belief in Mary’s Assumption tells us about God and God’s plan of salvation.

One is about the very special role that Mary had. The gospel passage today commemorates the fact that Mary was asked to be the mother of the Messiah, and said ‘yes’. She goes to see Elizabeth her cousin to share her news and her happiness, and Elizabeth herself, it turns out, is also somebody who has been invited by God to play a very special role.

In fact, we all have a place in the history of salvation. Most of us have a small and relatively unimportant role. Others have a more significant part to play, like Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist.

But Mary’s role wasn’t just significant, it was unique – bringing the saviour to birth, being the mother of the Messiah who was both the Son of Man and God’s Son. It’s in this sense that Mary came to be known as the Mother of the Church – the mother of the whole community of Christ’s brothers and sisters.

The second thing about the Assumption is what it teaches us about ourselves, because Mary – as an ordinary human being – represents all of us. Mary represents every human being who stands before God and says ‘yes’ to his summons.

Today’s feast reminds us that God rejoices every time we say “yes” to him. It reminds us that he honors every single time we decide to follow him. It reminds us that no act of faith, no act of trust, and no act of obedience is too small to escape his notice.

By committing ourselves, by saying yes to God in our day-to-day dealings, whether big or small will help us to stay faithful when the real challenges come along. Mary said yes to whatever God put before her. Every day, she chose to hold on to her commitment, and so can we. We can find strength in these daily challenges as we pray for the heavenly glory that we can share with Mary as a result of our faithfulness.

It reminds us that where Mary has gone, we too can hope to follow! In a very real sense, the doctrine of the Assumption of Mary celebrates the destiny that all the faithful will experience; that is, an existence of risen glory. Mary shared in the destiny of our risen Lord, just as we will. But by virtue of her special role in the history of salvation, Mary experienced the fullness of the risen life immediately upon the conclusion of her earthly existence.