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"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch

BENEDICTUS MOMENTS

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Saturday, 27 October 2012

SERMON FOR THE 30th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR



One of my favourite books of the Bible is the Letter to the Hebrews which has given us the second lesson.   It is really about the Mass.   Let me give you an understanding of the Mass which is based on this.

In the Mass, we approach Mount Sion, just as Moses approached Mount Sinai, and we are brought into the company of the risen Christ, together with countless ranks of angels and saints. Christ the Teacher speaks to us through the readings, as God spoke to Moses; and Christ the Priest accompanies us in the liturgy of the Eucharist; and he leads us through the veil which is his own flesh into the presence of God the Father in the inner sanctuary or Holy of Holies. We are able to enter safely because of the sprinkling of Jesus' blood in the Father's presence , in contrast to the Jews who could not even touch the mountain on which Moses conversed with God without dying. We are brought up into heaven. We rub shoulders with Our Lady and the saints. We sing and pray with angels. We become one body with Christ. We are showered with God's love which is the Holy Spirit. 

Yet we look at our watches!! We think about the cooking of Sunday lunch. We long to be out and about!   Anything but this! Why is there such a contrast between what we believe is happening, and our attitude towards it? Why to we think of other things only moments after receiving the body and blood of the Christ? Why does being more closely united to Christ than the apostles were in Christ's life time on earth, because we live in him and he in us, make so little difference to our lives? Why are we not simply gobsmacked by the experience of sharing in the Mass?

The reason is that we are blind, just as Bartimaeus was blind. The Father had invited all kinds of wonderful people to his Son's wedding feast, but they made their excuses and stayed away. So the Father told his servants to go into the highways and byways and round up the sick, the lame, the deaf and the blind, and to bring them into the marriage feast of his Son; and that is us. 

St John Chrysostom tells us that, during Mass, the church is filled with cherubim and seraphim, bowed down in adoration; but we don't see it. In the Mass, we are as near to Our Lady as St Bernadette ever was at Lourdes, because Mary is always with her Son; but we are unaware of it. In each single host is contained all the sanctity of all the saints everywhere, from the beginning of the world to its end,, enough holiness to turn each one of us into the greatest saint in history; and the event hardly makes an impression. There is no better place than Mass to discover how blind we are.

However, we are not just blind at Mass. Our faith reveals to us that, in every moment of our existence, our life is intense with meaning. We meet Christ in every circumstance, in every person, in every duty, in every moment of rest. As de Caussade wrote, each moment is a sacrament which God has packed full of grace, and all we need to do is to do is tap it by going beneath the surface to find Christ's Presence. “ Raise the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and there I am." (says Jesus in the Gospel of St Thomas) But we are blind and do not notice.

In a way, we are lucky that we are blind because, if we were not, we would not have received the invitation to the wedding feast. The important thing is to know what to do about it; and we learn the answer in this passage from St Mark's Gospel about St Bartimaeus. What does he do? Where lies his secret? because he is us.

The first thing we notice about Bartimaeus is that he doesn't simply accept his blindness as normal. He is desperate to be cured; and , once he knows that Christ can cure him, he calls out again and again.  He is not discouraged by the fact that Christ passes by without apparently paying attention to him, nor by the attitude of those around him.

The next thing we notice is that his prayer is a prayer of faith. He calls out, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” We have already had Peter's confession of faith, which flesh and blood had not revealed to him, and now we have a similar confession of faith in the cries of this blind begger. Bartimaeus is calling Jesus the Messiah. Therefore we can say that the depth of his desperation is matched by the depth of his faith. Like Bartimaeus, our prayer should be persistent and it should express our faith.

Of course, we are unlike Bartimaeus in one important way: this is not the first time we have encountered Jesus. In fact, for many of us, Jesus scooped us up in his arms at Baptism as children, and we have had at least an intermittent relationship with him ever since. Therefore we are not completely blind. We have our moments of illumination. Nevertheless, until we meet him face to face in heaven, at best, we see through a glass darkly. There are also the ravages of sin, the sins of the society of which we are part and our own sins, so that God and the things of God cease to be as real to us as Sunday dinner and our other occupations; and there are times, too often, when we don't see at all.

In this situation, we become accustomed to darkness we do not realise how blind we are, how weak we are, how utterly dependent we are on Christ. We are tempted to rely on our own powers; but, in the end, it will only lead to darkness.

 Christian life begins when we begin to say, with Christ himself, "Not my will, but yours be done;" and, with Our Lady, " Behold the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your Word." As St Paul says in Galatians, " I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." To live a Christian life, we need Our Lord to take over; we need to accomplish the Father's will and live in harmony with the Holy Spirit ,so that people will see in what we do the face of Christ. THAT is our vocation, and nothing less. But our blind, or at least, myopic condition needs the continuous mercy. forgiveness and pity of Christ before we can become channels of his grace. My weak little soul needs to cry out with Bartimaeus, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me," before it can employ Christ's own strength to fulfil its Christian mission. We will not be able to help other people in a fully Christian way if we fail to recognise our own radical need for Christ. If we forget our need for God's mercy, we will forget how to be Christians, and people will not see Christ in us. Lowliness was the only qualification that the Blessed Virgin gave for why she had been chosen for her exalted position as Mother of God. Lowliness is the only qualification for living a Christian life.

If we are constantly and humbly seeking Christ's mercy, we will become more and more conscious of meeting him in the Eucharist, together with Our Lady, the angels and the saints as we share in the Liturgy of heaven by taking part in the Mass. We should be able to exit from Mass with a sparkle in our eyes, with a spring in our step and love in our hearts. It should be clear to all that we have been to Mass.

At Mass, in holy communion,we receive Christ into the centre of our being, just as we are received into the very centre of his being as members of his body. Thus our heart will become a temple, a place where heaven and earth meet, a place where, with Bartimaeus, we can continue to call out to him, "Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!" With Christ in our heart, we shall become more and more conscious of how he continues to meet us in every person and situation. Finally, the more we see Christ in others, the more will people see Christ in us, even if we don't know it.

How can we bring this about?

Persistence and faith, We need a proper campaign of prayer. In Medjugorje, Our Lady started the children off with seven Our Fathers, seven Hail Marys and seven Glory Be's. They then were moved on to the whole rosary of fifteen mysteries. Finally, Our Blessed Lady urges the ideal of constant prayer, so that their conscious relationship with God  would become an essential dimension of their very being.

 We pray as we can, not as we can't. The rosary, the Jesus Prayer, a campaign of short, sharp prayers, having a room or a corner of a room dedicated exclusively for prayer, as peasants in Peru and as Orthodox do, anything that can give space during the day for God. In difficulty, choose a spiritual director. Have a regime of prayer that you stick to, with all the determination of Bartimaeus.
   
"Jesus, Son of David, Have pity on us all!" 

THE LIFE OF POPE JOHN PAUL II (over 3 hours)


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