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. +

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OUR FRAGILE FAITH

3rd SUNDAY OF EASTER
CYCLE B
15th APRIL 2018
Deacon Tony van Vuuren

 

When Jesus appears to the disciples in the upper room for the first time after His resurrection they are frightened and alarmed and their first reaction is to think that they’re seeing a ghost. Jesus responds by going out of his way to show that he has very definitely risen from death in his physical body; “flesh and bones” as he says of himself. Then he eats some food to accentuate the point.

St. Luke is emphasising that in his risen body Jesus is the same as before. As the disciples made more sense of the events God had pulled them into, they discovered aspects of faith and reached conclusions about God’s character and God’s plan of salvation which are just as valuable for us today.

On our part, as present-day followers of Christ, we don’t have the proofs that we can produce of Jesus’ Resurrection, scientific studies of what his risen body was like. Someone who insists on that kind of information today is unlikely to become a believer.

What we do have through the scriptures is the testimony of the disciples: their descriptions of their meetings with Christ and the evidence of the transformation these meeting worked in them. Those are the experiences that the Church is founded on; based on Jesus’ resurrection, which is the central reality of the Christian faith.

St. Luke’s message to us in these final lines of his gospel is that although Christ isn’t directly present to us the way he was to his first followers, he is present, and remains present, to us in the “breaking of the bread” – not just in the bread and wine that become his Body and Blood during the Eucharist, but in the whole spirit of prayer and solidarity in Christ that the Eucharist creates in us, if we approach it and take part in it in the right spirit.

I know that God calls people in all kinds of circumstances and make his presence felt in our lives in whatever way he wants. God might be able to work more effectively in an atheist who actually practices the commandment of love in regard to other people than he might be in a person who calls them self a Christian but refuses to dedicate them self in any way to serving the needs of others.

But it’s also true I think, in the context of our own Catholic faith, that when people are earnest about their spiritual life and their whole relationship with Christ and with God, they come to value the Eucharist more and more as a support and a means of progress in holiness, and a source of contact with Christ. St. John’s advice might be particularly valuable to the many people today who find faith in God difficult.

Every Christian, at one point or another, will have an experience of the “absence” of God: the sense that he has somehow departed, is no longer providing support, or simply doesn’t exist. When this happens many believers gradually drift away from faith altogether.

Attending Mass every day or each weekend; we may show up being able to speak of the story of Jesus, but we do not feel that we are part of the story. We are able to simply recount the events, but we do not see how we fit inside the story ourselves.

Our faith can be very fragile. We are presented with readings from Sacred Scripture to which we listen for inspiration, for encouragement, for challenge, for the voice of God speaking to us in intimate ways. Finally, we ask to be intimately united to Jesus in the eating of his body and the drinking of his blood in the Blessed Sacrament. We pray to have our ears and eyes open to what is true and holy.

Perhaps what happened to the disciples is what we want to happen to ourselves. We want to have that burning feeling in our hearts. We want to hear the voice of God speak to us intimately through Sacred Scripture. We want to recognize Jesus in the Eucharist. We want to have the enthusiasm, hope and courage to make an about-face and return to Jesus — to return to a deeper faith.

So I would finish by suggesting that perhaps this Sunday we could pray for the whole Church community, but especially for ourselves here today, that we’ll take Luke’s point and appreciate the Eucharist more as a real meeting-point with Christ and that we’ll be able to “recognise him in the breaking of bread” as readily as his first followers did.

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

Into the second week of Lent

2nd Sunday Lent
Year B
2018 (25 Feb)
Deacon Les Ruhrmund

And so we begin the second week in Lent.

For some of us, we’re now starting to get into the Lenten routine that we’ve set for ourselves over this period of reflection, penance, sacrifice and renewal; and for some of us, we’re still thinking about it. It’s never too late to start. What we believe is not what we say we believe; what we believe is what we do.

Most of us, if we’re taking Lent seriously, will stumble along the way in keeping our Lenten observances and will experience some degree of disappointment and frustration. And sometimes we may feel as though we have let God down; perhaps even putting a strain on our relationship with God rather than improving it. We do at times get this all wrong don’t we?

In adopting new disciplines and making sacrifices during Lent we aren’t bargaining or negotiating with God or trying to influence God’s love for us. Nothing we do changes God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love for each of us.

Our failed attempts to be better disciples while teaching us a little more about our own selfish behaviour and weaknesses in the face of temptation, should also teach us humility and encourage us to embrace our belovedness; that deep inner assurance that we are precious to God and that God’s love does not change and is not influenced by our fickle natures and bad habits.

The readings this weekend are already directing us towards the end of Lent; towards the Triduum – the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord.

I’ve previously spoken about the Triduum but it’s as well that I again emphasis that our Easter celebration is not just the Easter Vigil or Easter Sunday or Good Friday; the Easter Triduum is one event that spans 3 days starting on Holy Thursday night with the Mass of the Last Supper, moving on then into Friday afternoon with the Passion, crucifixion, death and burial of Christ and concluding with the celebration of the Resurrection at the Saturday night Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning Masses.
This is the very crux of our faith. There is no more important celebration in our Catholic faith than the three days of the Easter Triduum.

The first reading is an abridged version of that incredible story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his only son Isaac. Some years ago, I was asked to read this passage from Genesis at the Easter Vigil and while reading, found myself embarrassingly emotional.

My own son at that time was about 12 years old and I could not imagine under any circumstances doing what Abraham was asked and prepared to do, in faith, and kill my precious son.

Remember that Isaac was to born to Sarah and Abraham when they were both elderly and long past childbearing age. He was their only child. What did Abraham feel in his heart when his young son says to him “Father, I see that you have the coals and the wood but where is the lamb for the sacrifice?”

“God will provide” answered Abraham as indeed he did and Isaac was spared.
This story for me, while obviously illustrating Abraham’s astonish faith, gives an insight into the magnitude and depth of God’s love for us. He sacrificed his only son, the Lamb of God, out of love for me and each one of us; a sacrifice beyond my comprehension.

The Gospel reading tells of the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John. Mark tells us that this took place six days after Jesus had spoken to his disciples for the first time about his pending death. He told them that he would be rejected by the elders and authorities and would be put to death; but that on the third day he would rise to life again. Mark says “He made this very clear to them”. For all of that, they would not have been able to get their minds around the idea of someone being killed and then rising from death to full life.

In the Transfiguration, the three disciples got a glimpse of Jesus in his resurrected glory and a glimpse of the eternal glorious life to which they could look forward to sharing with Jesus one day.

But first, there’s the cross.

In our faith, as in the Triduum, the cross and resurrection are inseparable.
Even when we are struggling under the weight and pain of our own crosses and those of our loved ones, it is that hope made visible and tangible in the resurrection that gives us the grace, strength and courage to keep walking.

I preached on the Transfiguration in August last year and I suggested then that we might like to have a personal experience like the Transfiguration in our own lives to affirm our faith. That perhaps if we were to encounter the resurrected Lord personally, we’d find it easier to be loving and faithful disciples.

Is that not why we have gathered here?

The Eucharist is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ in his resurrected glory.
Just as the voice of God the Father was heard on the mountain by Peter, James and John saying “This is my beloved Son”, he is saying the same to us in the Eucharist.

“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” If we listen carefully, we’ll hear that voice in our hearts; guiding and directing us through this Lenten season of repentance towards our joyful celebration of the Easter Triduum.

May this Lent, for each of us, be a time of renewed vitality and love in our relationship with God.

COMPASSION

6th SUNDAY ORDINARY TIME
CYCLE B
11th FEBRUARY 2018
Mark 1:40-45
Deacon Tony van Vuuren.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speak of the devil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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