My homily for Feast of Corpus Christi

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) 2017

And as they were eating Jesus took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to his disciples. “Take it” he said “this is my body”. And when we come to receive the body of Christ, the priest will say: ‘the body of Christ’. And you respond by saying ‘Amen’. In other words, yes, I believe that this really is the body of Christ. The Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, is a time to reflect on the significance of this sacrament.

It is impossible to explain in a few words its full significance, but I would like to stress one particular aspect. That is that the eucharist is given to us as food for our journey through life. When we come to read the Preface of the Mass we shall hear the words: “In this great sacrament you feed your people and strengthen them in holiness, so that the family of mankind may come to walk in the light of one faith, in one communion of love.” It may seem a strange kind of food, but it is enough for our journey. It is enough because every host we receive is Christ himself. He comes to us to strengthen and encourage. There can be no more important sacrament for us.

We need the Body of Christ if we are to complete our journey as Christians. It is so easy to get lost or take the wrong road. The values in our society are often misleading; and if we follow them rather than those of the Gospel we will get lost. We live in an increasingly secular age; which makes it difficult to live a good Christian life. It is not impossible, by any means, but it is not easy. Life can be a struggle, at the best of times; but for some one trying to live according to Christian values, it is even more so. Christ asks us to be gentle, to be poor in spirit, to be pure in heart. But there are times when secular society can laugh at such values. And no one likes to be laughed at. It is so much easier to be one of the gang than to stand on your own. Without God’s help it is impossible to do this.

There are times when we come to crossroads and we don’t know which direction to turn. We can be faced with moral dilemmas, to the extent that whatever decision I make seems to be wrong; someone is going to be hurt or disappointed. It is at times like this that we need re-assurance, that the decision we’ve made is a right one. Christ’s gives us that reasurrance in the Eucharist. But don’t always expect clarity; sometimes we have to learn to live with confusion. There is nothing wrong with being confused.

I remember being confused for many years in my early twenties, wondering what to do with my life. Eventually my prayers were answered, and I realised that all that waiting, that confusion, was worthwhile; but at the time it was not pleasant. I know many good people who are going through what might be called a period of confusion: where they want to do more for God, but they don’t know what to do. The Eucharist helps us at these times not to despair but rather to keep going, trusting in God that eventually, in His good time, the confusion will be replaced by clarity.

So on our journey we face difficulties and confusion; we encounter crossroads with no signposts, and we’re tempted to take paths that we know we shouldn’t take. No one goes through life without getting lost in one way or another. And where is our God when we need him most. There can be times when we just seem to be going through the motions: we go to Church out of habit; we receive communion because we would never think of not receiving it. But all the time God in Christ is guiding us. He lets us have our freedom, so much does he love us. He lets us get lost, or go astray. But like the Good Shepherd he is, he comes after us. We may abandon him but he will never abandon us.

The Body and Blood of Christ is food then for our journey through life. Christ guides, he re-assures, he encourages. When we are confused and don’t know which way to turn he will help us. When we stray down the wrong path he will follow. He never condemns, nor criticises; he doesn’t tell us off for getting lost, for being so slow to see the way ahead. No, He is infinitely patient and understanding. We could have no greater friend along the way.

My homily for Pentecost

Image result for paintings of pentecost

Pentecost Sunday 2017

When I was looking at the Readings last night, I noticed something new. A prayer we say a lot was actually a psalm. Psalm 103. And the prayer is to the Holy Spirit: ‘Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and enkindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth’. Not that it makes much difference to learn this but it’s just interesting to know where it comes from. The actual psalm says: ‘You send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth’.

The cynical person can say that the world has not been renewed very much. They will ask the question: ‘what has the Holy Spirit done’? It’s two thousand years after the sending of the Spirit, and yet the world is not a good place to live in. Two thirds of the world do not believe in Jesus Christ; many have never heard of him. More people have heard of Mohammed Ali than Jesus Christ.

One can challenge this and say that there is much good in our world; that peace has broken out in places where there was injustice and war: in South Africa and in Northern Ireland to name but two. These are signs that the Spirit is working to renew the face of the earth. There are other signs too. But this doesn’t convince. The work of the Spirit will not make headlines. Usually it is not earth shattering. Instead the Spirit touches ordinary peoples’ lives in ordinary ways. So ordinary that many people don’t notice.

The question we have to ask is: how has the Spirit touched our lives. The cynic in us might suggest: that not a lot has changed: that we are still difficult and impatient; that we are far from being models of Christianity. He might go on to say: that we’re not going to change the face of the earth: change a lightbulb is about all we’re capable of. Our cynic isn’t very nice. He hasn’t much good to say about us. And yet we listen to him or her. Sometimes the cynic in us stops us from doing good things: the cynic suggests that you’re not worthy, that you’re a sinner, that you’re a coward; that you’ll never really do anything that’s of any consequence. Notice this is our own cynic telling us these things: not other people. Some of them can be worse.

No doubt this is how the Apostles felt before Pentecost. We have read that they we frightened people: so much so that they locked themselves into a room. Any knock at the door they would have been petrified: this is why Jesus didn’t come through the door: had he knocked, they wouldn’t have let him in! They would have felt guilty for letting their friend down. After all their promises: that they would stand by him; that they would rather die than let him see him taken; hadn’t they said let’s go up to Jerusalem to die with him….? So much for friendship, so much for loyalty. Peter wasn’t the only one who felt as low as you can get.

Did they believe at that time that they could renew the face of the earth? I doubt it. You can imagine what their cynic would be saying to them: ‘you change the earth?!’ You couldn’t change a nappy. Why you haven’t even got the guts to step outside the room; you’re frightened of your own shadow. Do me a favour, and do yourself one too and stick to fishing! That’s the only thing you’re good at: and even then you’re not so hot.

But then, what happens: the Holy Spirit comes upon this groups of frightened men and women and they are transformed. They unlock the door and go out into the streets. They forget about their fear of the Jews and start preaching to them. They are the same people as before, only now, the Holy Spirit has transformed their lives. No longer do they rely on themselves: from now on they will depend upon the Spirit to help and guide and enthuse.

As for the Apostles, so also for us. The Holy Spirit wants to renew us too. The Spirit has a job for us to do: to renew the face of the earth. And, yes, our cynic tells us we can’t, we’re dreaming, we’re deluded. But the Spirit can convince us that all things are possible if we believe; if we trust the Spirit; if we allow the Spirit to enter our lives and help, guide and enthuse us as he did the Apostles.

Inevitably the cynic in us will not just take this lying down; but we can overcome the cynic by not listening to him or her. But rather we should listen to the word of God who touches the depths of our being, and makes us believe that with faith and love we can, in our own little way, ‘renew the face of the earth’.