My Homily for 11th Sunday of the Year

11th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

Have you ever seen a mustard seed? It’s so small, So small you can hardly see it.

Christ compares us to such a seed. It’s interesting to see how accurate he is. We start off in life as a tiny microscopic cell: much smaller than a mustard seed: it’s so small you can only see it under a microscope. To think that we were that size once. But then we began to grow: our cells multiplied till eventually we began to take shape. When we’d grown sufficiently it was time to get out of the womb. But our growth didn’t stop there.

I was a big baby, about ten and a half pounds; but after some years I was ten and a half stone. Our growth from a tiny microscopic cell into a fully grown man or woman is incredible: it’s one of the miracles of nature that we can so easily take for granted. And all we have to do is to eat and exercise, and we grow. We don’t contribute in anyway to our growth. And in truth we don’t even have to exercise, and we still grow: but then in all the wrong places.

But there is another growth which is perhaps less obvious, less tangible. That is our growth in faith. And again we don’t have to do much. Not really. We don’t have to be exceptionally good for this kind of growth to take place. We don’t have to be going to the church all the time. We don’t even have to be good all the time. All we need to do is acknowledge our faith and the Lord does the rest. It’s easy. It’s so easy. We lie back, as it were, put our feet on the table and our faith grows. Of course, we need to feed ourselves with spiritual food: above all prayer, then the sacraments and the word of God.

Like most growth you don’t notice it at first. It’s so slow. It normally takes many year for us to become aware of it. It’s rare for a teenager to be fully aware of God’s love working in him or her. And even as a young adults: how many of us were conscious of God’s love in us. No, it’s something we become more and more aware of as time goes by. That’s because it’s something we learn through experience. Gradually over the years you realise that God loves you; and more than that, that you love him. And when this happens you begin to notice how big your world is; how great your desires are. Religion is so mysteriously wonderfully enormous.

Religion is about life. And life is about growth. Growth in love. Love of God, love of neighbour, and not forgetting, love of ourselves. We are called to grow and grow beyond all recognition. We should be able to look back down over the years and say I didn’t think it was possible to have such deep faith; to know God. And to know God is to love him. But this is what life is for. We are called to love God with every fibre of our being.

I suspect that some of us feel just a little inadequate here. All this seems to apply to my pious next door neighbour; but I’m a different kettle of fish. No, this growth is meant for us all, and it happens whether we’re aware of it or not. Remember it’s not really down to us; it’s all God’s work. The smaller and the more insignificant you feel the better, because then the growth is greater. Remember the mustard seed. Remember the first human cell. So also our faith was so small but now it had grown beyound recognition. God in his own mysterious way has brought about this growth; it’s all God’s doing.

Homily for the 9th Sunday of the Year

8th Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, have a lot to answer for. Today many question whether they actually existed. But, for a friend of mine, there is doubt about Adam and Eve’s existence. He says that when he dies and eventually gets into Heaven, he’s going to punch Adam on the nose!

Yes, he blames Adam for all that has gone wrong. But notice in the story from Genesis, Adam blames Eve: “It was the woman you put with me; she gave me the fruit and I ate”. And when God asks Eve why she did it, she blames the serpent, “the serpent tempted me and I ate”. They’re all blaming each other. It sounds familiar. But God doesn’t blame Adam nor Eve, instead he blames the serpent; “because you have done this, be accursed beyond all cattle..” etc. And if you listen closely enough you can hear Adam whispering to Eve: “phew, that was a close one. I thought he’s blames us”!

My friend, who wants to punch Adam on the nose, wouldn’t have let Adam or Eve off so lightly. No, to his way of thinking, they did wrong, therefore they deserved to punished. But fortunately for our first parents and for us my friend isn’t God. God is so different from us. Don’t we develop a sense of right and wrong very early. Good parents teach their children right from wrong. And so when someone does wrong we have a strong sense of justice: they should be punished. I remember often thinking my parents should have punished my younger brother; he was always naughty.

When Adam did wrong he ran away and hid. Many a child has done that, kicked a football through someone’s window then ran off and hid. How many of us have run away when we’ve done wrong. Adam knew he was in trouble because he’d disobeyed God so he ran away. But God found him hiding behind some bushes. We can do the same: we run away for fear of punishment: we know we’ve done wrong, we know that we deserve to be punished. This we learned from our earliest days.

There was a scene in “Faulty Towers” where Basil Fawlty is arguing with his wife. I think she has doubled booked some guests, or something. Anyway, they are having this row about it. And she tells him that it’s his fault. He doesn’t believe this for one minute. But in his own manic way he accepts that it’s his fault. Not only that but he says: “oh, so it’s my fault, well then I deserve to be punished”! And with that he sets about beating himself with a stick.

Now we’re not all Basil Fawlty, but I think we recognise something of him in ourselves. At least, that when we do wrong we deserve to be punished. And almost inevitably we apply this to God. That God will punish us for the wrong we do. But the God we believe in isn’t like us. He is a God of mercy and fogiveness. Isn’t that what the psalmist tells us: “If you, O Lord, should mark our guilt, Lord, who would survive? But with you is found forgiveness: for this we revereyou. And doesn’t Jesus say the same in the gospel; “I tell you solemnly, all men’s sins will be forgiven…”.

No, God doesn’t condemn us for our sins. He is soft of on sin and soft on us. It’s because he knows of what we are made. Instead He is merciful and forgiving. Not just once or twice but all the time. And the lesson he wants us to learn is to do likewise. Forgive others the wrong they do to you. ‘The child is us may cry out: “why should I?” But the Christian, like his Lord and Master, will always forgive. You see we are called to imitate Christ, not a child.

Homily for Feast of Corpus Christi

The Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (2018)

One of the most memorable days of my childhood, was the day of my first holy communion. It is something I have never forgotten. I still have the photo of myself in my short trousers, white shirt and tie and gold sash over my shoulder. I am sure many other people also remember their first holy communion. We knew that something very special was happening; that it was a big and important day in our lives, that from then on we could receive holy communion like our parents and all the adults. Then some weeks later we got all dressed up again for the Corpus Christi procession.

Shortly afterwards my brother and I became an altar boys, serving at mass and benediction. At communion time we used to hold a metal paten under people’s chins, everyone received on the tongue in those days. The mass was all in latin and was spoken of with reverence as the ‘holy sacrifice of the mass.’

Many years later I studied for the priesthood and for the first time I studied about ‘the holy sacrifice of the mass.’ It was all very interesting. Our professors taught us what it was like when Jesus celebrated the first mass in Jerusalem, and how he would have used unleavened bread and not hosts. From the sound of it, there were many differences to the practise today. I learned that for the first 1000 years Christians always drank the consecrated wine, the precious blood of Christ. But then that changed around the 12th century, and from then on people were only given the host. Then 60 years ago the Vatican Council reintroduced the earlier pratice.

In seminary I learned to call the mass ‘the eucharist’; and that we should call the mass ‘the Lord’s supper’, as well as ‘the holy sacrifice’. We were taught why modern churches were no longer long and narrow but were built in a more round shape; like Liverpool cathedral, so that people could be closer to the altar. In the seminary we brought back unleavened bread for communion and of course, we had communion under both kinds, in other words, we ate Christ’s body and drank his blood as he asked us to.

The readings today stress the significance of the body and blood of Christ as food. Our life can be compared to a journey, a journey in faith to reach our promised home. And if we are to reach our destination safely then we too need food for our journey, the kind that only God can give us. And so when we come to mass we are fed at God’s table and we are strengthened in holiness.

You will hear it said today, in this our food and health conscious society, that we are what we eat. Well, this could not be truer of the Eucharist, when we eat the body and blood of Christ, we become more like him. You may not notice this, probably won’t, but for that reason it doesn’t mean its not true.

For many years I saw Holy Communion as a sacred object. Of course, I will still venerate and adore Christ’s presence in the host. But its so much more than a sacred object. Christ wants to come to us and fill us with himself. He gives his very self to us as food to eat; to help us grow in faith and love. He gives himself to us to give us the courage to live the Gospel values, in a world that doesn’t always appreciate them. I have learned a lot from my studies at seminary, but far more have I learned from the experience of receiving Christ in the Eucharist; that He gives himself to us in love. Why? Because he loves us and wants us to know that we are loved.