The Most Holy Body And Blood Of Christ 'Year ‘A’ - (11th June 2023) Gospel:- John 6:51-58
Today we celebrate the second of the great solemnities of the Lord in ordinary time...The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, also known as Corpus Christi. This great feast is very special as we celebrate the Eucharist, the point of the mass when we receive Christ in the form of the Eucharistic Host and the Precious Blood.
To be able to receive Holy Communion at mass shouldn’t be seen as a ‘right’ or a ‘given’ just because we are present. It should be seen as a privilege, we are being honoured by the Lord to receive him into our bodies, into our souls. To do so, we must prepare ourselves in mind, body and soul. When you come forward to receive Holy Communion, the priest or deacon will say, ‘The Body Of Christ’ but of course we could use Latin and say, ‘Corpus Christi.’ Either way, at that point, we are acknowledging that the Eucharist is the ‘source and summit of of the Christian life.’
That process of preparation was evident a few weeks ago when our schoolchildren were here on a Saturday morning to receive Holy Communion for the very first time. They had been well prepared by their parents, their teachers and their catechists. It was a wonderful experience to be a part of. Now we all know that communion hosts have no taste to them and that we can’t actually see Jesus when we receive Holy Communion, but it didn’t stop the children from singing a beautiful hymn – ‘Taste and See’ the chorus of which is ‘Taste and see, the goodness of the Lord.’ It was beautiful to see and listen to them, especially as they didn’t just sing it, they ‘performed’ it by doing all the hand movements, signs and gestures. I don’t mind admitting, it brought a lump to my throat and a tear to my eye. Yes, if only we could all come to receive communion as well prepared as the children did that day, but I’m sure we all did on the day we made our first Holy Communion...if you can remember that far back.
When someone is very ill and may be close to death, they may receive Holy Communion, and in these circumstances it may be referred to as Viaticum. This is a Latin word which means ‘provision for a journey’ or ‘food for the journey.’ When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ, we too are taking in food for the journey, our journey through life. Receiving Jesus in the form of Holy Communion is a very personal thing, but it should also be a sharing thing and will influence how we live our lives and treat others.
After mass, when we go back into the sacristy, we say a prayer, ‘Bless O Lord, our hearts and minds, and grant that as we leave your house, we may aware of your presence through Christ Our Lord. Amen.’ That prayer reminds me that I am going out into the community with Jesus in me to help and guide me and all those I come into contact with. Like Mary visiting Elizabeth, I too must carry Jesus within me to the people I meet on the road of life.
Three years ago, on the corresponding Sunday of year ‘A’ we were still in the first lockdown and couldn’t be at church for this great feast. Most of us were live streaming mass from various churches all over the world, which meant that we couldn’t receive Holy Communion in it’s physical form. We received it sacramentally instead, which I found meaningful, but not the same. When our church opened up again in July of that year, the first time I was able to receive the Body and Blood of Christ at mass, was a very special day for me. I truly felt that I was experiencing something so special, that I have tried to maintain that feeling each time I receive Holy Communion.
The Most Holy Trinity Year ‘A’ - (4th June 2023) Gospel:- John 3:16-18
“In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Those are the words that Father Mark says at the beginning of each mass. They are not just words of welcome to signify that the mass has started, they are an affirmation of the Most Holy Trinity. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity, the first of the three great solemnities of the Lord in Ordinary Time. The other two will be celebrated within the next twelve days: The Solemnity of The Most Holy Body and Blood Of Christ (Corpus Christi) next Sunday, and the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus on Friday 16th June. These three great solemnities are the very essence of our faith.
A few years ago, on this great feast day, I attended the ordination a group of men who were being ordained into the Ministry of the Permanent Diaconate at Liverpool Cathedral. I must admit, when I read today’s Gospel, I thought it was very fitting to their situation. I couldn’t help making a comparison between their journey of faith and that of the Apostles. Here were a group of men who have shown their commitment to their faith in God and followed their calling over a period of three years, the same length of time as Our Lord’s mission here on earth. At the end of that time, they are called to gather before Jesus in a place special to Him and them. The Apostles to a mountain in Galilee, the men to the Cathedral. The Gospel tells us that when the Apostles saw Jesus, they fell down before him, though some hesitated. The men prostrated themselves before the Archbishop, one of God’s representatives on earth, and I am sure there wasan element of hesitancy and doubt among the group as to whether they were ready and worthy to take on their ministry.
Jesus tells the Apostles to baptise the nations ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and to teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.’ The men, once they were ordained as Deacons would also go on to baptise in God’s name asking those being baptised to observe God’s commands through the promises made in baptism. I think we can safely say that the Apostles felt a certain amount of uncertainty in their ministry once they no longer had Jesus physically with them. He had of course assured them that he is always with them to the end of time. I am sure the men also felt that same uncertainty but would have had the comfort of knowing that the support of the entire Diaconate was there for them, and above all else of course, Jesus is always with them in their ministry, just as he was for the Apostles.
One of our tutors, a Deacon of many years, told us of his experience at his ordination. He said that it is difficult to put into words just how he felt when he was being ordained. He truly believes, and could only explain it, as the being taken over by, and being filled by the Holy Spirit. There is no other way he could explain his wonderful experience.
In recent weeks we have heard a lot about the Holy Spirit, especially on Pentecost Sunday, and hopefully we have felt the presence of the Spirit within us. Jesus gave the Apostles the assurance that his spirit would always be with them. I am sure those men who were ordained that day would have known that this applies to them also as they set out in their ministry.
Week 7 (Ordinary Time) Year 'A' - (19th February 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:38-48
‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’, so the saying goes. Surely revenge is just acting in retaliation for a wrong, avenging yourself or someone else. That may seem what the saying ‘An Eye for an Eye, and a Tooth for a Tooth’ could be taken as, but it’s not quite that. It’s actually saying, do more to others than has been done to you. But that’s not justice, that’s just about getting your own back on someone who has wronged you. Where’s the Mercy, Forgiveness and the Compassion in that?
In the Gospel today, Jesus is trying to get his point across that we need to be better than that, we need to show others that we are the better person. If we only do the same as others then we are no better than the tax collectors and the Pagans. As Christians, much more is expected of us, we should be all about Mercy, Forgiveness and Compassion. With the help of the Christian way of doing things, people can be shown how to make up for the error of their ways and do good for others instead in many different ways. They can become the better person.
Showing Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness can not only affect the one you are showing it too, but it can have a ripple affect on those around them. Some of us here may have skeletons in our cupboards that we have kept secret from our loved ones for many many years. We may think it would be too painful to reveal all, but if we know our loved ones as well as we think we do, then we can be sure that we will be shown Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness. We can be that better person and live that better life. Trust me, I know!
And now it’s confession time. I have been struggling with a moral dilemma. I have a situation coming soon where I need to face someone who wronged me a long time ago, and to my shame, I still bear a grudge towards this person. I know it is wrong of me to feel the way I do. I’m not seeking revenge or anything like that, but that ill feeling is still lurking within me. I have spoken to Selena about this and she said exactly what I knew she would say. She said, “You need to be the bigger man!” She’s right. Today’s Gospel has actually helped me realise that I do need to turn the other cheek in this situation.
Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness, are not just words. They are actions which at times may be hard to deal with, but this is the message we should take from today’s Gospel. This is the way that Jesus wants us to live our lives It is the Christian way of life, it needs to be our way of life, difficult as that can be at times.
So please, if you are struggling with a similar dilemma, find it within yourself to ‘Be the bigger man, or woman.’
Week 6 (Ordinary Time) Year ‘A’ - (12th February 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:17-37
In today’s Gospel, Jesus says to His disciples, “Do not imagine that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have not come to abolish them but to complete them.” This is what I was referring to a couple of weeks ago with regards to the Gospel of the Beatitudes. I said then that the Beatitudes were not Jesus’ alternative to Moses’ ten commandments, they were to compliment them, to complete them. This is what Jesus is explaining to His disciples.
Next week will see us complete chapter 5 of Matthew’s Gospel, which has been dealing with the sermon on the mount. If we take the sermon on the mount as a whole lesson, we can see it as a manifesto – a vision – a mission statement for Jesus’ life and ministry.
In today’s Gospel, we are reminded of the law of Christ. Jesus repeats the original ten commandments, but He adds the necessity of serving God from the heart. It is not enough to just avoid evil actions, we need to regret our many faults in thought and desire. Indeed, in a speech on the 9th May 2016, Pope Francis said, “It is not enough to just respect the commandments and do nothing more. Christian life is not just an ethical life: it is an encounter with Jesus Christ.”
We need to be willing to listen to the words of Jesus and act upon them. One way of helping us to do this is by taking on board today’s Gospel Acclamation: ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening: you have the message of eternal life.’ Look carefully at the first six words...‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening’ there is a huge difference between that statement and a very similar one we may be guilty of thinking should be the case...‘Listen, Lord, your servant is speaking.’ Almost identical words in a different sequence, but with a totally different meaning!
God wants us to have a clean heart, a pure heart, a faithful, gentle and humble heart. To achieve this, we must first examine our conscience and be prepared to repent and free ourselves of the burden of sin. This will help us to cleanse our hearts and minds. Maybe we could look upon this as having a ‘spring cleaning’ of ourselves. Just as we would throw open all the windows in our house, let out the stale air and let in fresh air, dust and polish everywhere to make the house clean, and feel better about where we live. Let’s do the same with our hearts and minds to feel better about how we live. If we can do this, we will have taken onboard the message Jesus was trying to get across during His sermon on the mount.
While I have been writing this homily, a childhood memory has come to my mind. My mother always used to say of someone who used foul language, “He needs his mouth washing out with soap and water.” Well, maybe our hearts need a good cleansing, a good washing out, and the Spirit Himself will be the soap!
Week 5 of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (5th February 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:13-16
When you walk into our school hall, the first thing that catches your eye is the scripture quote at the top of the wall. It’s the ‘take away’ headline from today’s Gospel: “Let Your Light Shine.” It reflects the whole ethos of our school. It’s the message that our headteacher, Mrs Helen Lea and all her staff, not only promote, but instil in the children.
Today’s Gospel is about Christian witness, and that Gospel message is implanted by the very presence of our Christian living. This Gospel passage follows on from last week and is another part of the Sermon On The Mount.
Jesus does not say that His disciples were to become: ‘salt of the earth, or a light of the world, or a city on a hill top’. They already were all of these things by virtue of the fact that Jesus called them and they responded. He was instructing them to show by their deeds, that they can lead others by the light which shines from them. The good work of the disciples point away from themselves to the grace of God, and that His grace is there for all of us. By living the Christian life, we are that light of the world, and this is what our children are taught in our school.
We are all called to be witnesses and we can respond to that call in many different ways. I’ve mentioned before that every parish relies on a team of volunteers to help run it, and our parish is no exception. Some are more visible, more ‘high profile’ than others, not because they are any better than anyone else, only because what they do is more visible than the things that some others do ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. Those whose contributions you don’t see, and probably aren’t even aware of, doesn’t mean that those people are ‘hiding their lamp under a tub’ it’s just that their form of witness is different to some others, but no less important.
Responding to the call of Christian witness is not reserved for the few, but is open to the many. We should be that ‘city on a hill top’ that’s there for all to see. We shouldn’t ‘hide our lamp under a tub’ we should let Christ’s light shine out through us.
I’m now going to use this opportunity to ‘plug’ the Diaconate. If there any men in the parish who feel they may be being called to witness Christ by becoming a Deacon, please let me know. There is an information evening for enquirers next Wednesday (8th Feb) at St. George’s in Maghull. So guys, if you do feel you are being called to witness in that way, please don’t hide your light under a tub, come and talk to me.
You can all see part of what I do as a Deacon and may have an idea of the qualities required to fulfil that role. I’m not going to go into all of that here, what I would do is ask you to have a look at the noticeboard in the porch. Recently, the children in Year 4 at our school were asked to consider the role of a Deacon and the qualities required of that person. I have put a few copies of what they came up with on view in the porch.
Now I’m not saying that I consider myself to have all the qualities that the children may think I have. If I did, I may start thinking of myself as some sort of saint, which I’m not. I’m a sinner just like everyone else, but then, Christ called sinners to serve, well He called me didn’t He.
Week 4 of Ordinary Time Year 'A' - (29th January 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 5:1-12
Today’s Gospel is commonly known as ‘The Beatitudes’ and is also referred to as ‘The Sermon On The Mount’. Some people see it as Jesus’ alternative to Moses’ Ten Commandments. It wasn’t. It was never meant to replace the commandments, but to compliment them. It could be said that Jesus was laying out a form of road map to heaven. In other words, if you live your life by these standards, the way to heaven will be easier for you, this is what God will do for you.
The last time I proclaimed this Gospel was almost three months ago at Father Gildea’s funeral, and the next time I will proclaim it will be on Friday at Selena’s dad’s funeral. Each time I read this Gospel passage I get something different from it. Recently it has made me think about whether Jesus actually rhymed of the list of Beatitudes all in one go, or whether they were mentioned bit by bit throughout the day as part of His teachings. We will never really know, but it really doesn’t matter I suppose. The important thing, as always, is the message itself.
We are all familiar with political manifestos. These are statements about what a political party stands for and what’s in it for you if you vote for them, and what they intend to achieve if you elect them. Many people are cynical about politicians and politics in general, because no matter how sincere their promises are, many of them fail to deliver on those promises. Well, today’s Gospel is Jesus’ manifesto. The important thing for us to remember is that, in the words of Jesus, ‘Heaven and earth will pass away before my word passes away.’ In other words, this is a manifesto in which He certainly will keep His side of the bargain.
The ‘Sermon On The Mount’ has great significance for many obvious reasons, not least because it was given on a mountain. Have you noticed that mountains have a religious significance in the drama of salvation history in both the Old and New Testaments? After surviving the great flood, Noah’s ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat; at Mount Horeb “The mountain of God,” an angel of the Lord first appeared to Moses in a burning bush; it was on Mount Sinai that Moses would receive the Ten Commandments. Elijah was commanded to “go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” When Jesus was tempted in the desert , Matthew says, “ The devil took him to a very high mountain.” So when it comes to events of religious significance, mountains have long been a favourite venue, but the true significance is of course the message, not the venue. Jesus was teaching his disciples that by living our lives in a certain way, we will reap the rewards in heaven. He is setting out for them the importance of living by a set of values, morals and ethics. When you think about it, isn’t that what we all should be aiming to achieve?
The Beatitudes can also be interpreted as being ‘auto biographical’ after all, Jesus did lead by example. He was no politician, but unlike the political manifestos we are used to, His stood the test of time. He delivered, and continues to deliver, on His promises. Someone who tells the truth, lives up to His word, looks out for the poor, the needy, the marginalised in society and keeps His promises...that’s Jesus.
He acted like no politician we have seen, but if today’s politicians acted like Him, well the world would be a better place wouldn’t it?
Week 3 of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (22nd January 2023) Gospel:- Matthew 4:12-23
‘The light at the end of the tunnel’ a phrase often used for many different reasons. Selena takes it literally. Whenever we drive through a tunnel, the Mersey tunnel or the Clyde tunnel, or any other tunnel or long underpass; she tenses up and cringes until we are almost at the other side. Until she can see the light at the end of the tunnel, she can’t relax. Maybe it is a fear of enclosed dark spaces, or just the fact that she can’t see what is around her properly that causes her to react that way, I don’t know. The phrase is sometimes used by people when they are going through a difficult time in their lives, when their problems seem too much to cope with and they don’t have hope in the future. They say that they ‘just can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel’.
The word light seems to be used a lot as a positive thing. ‘Out of the darkness into the light’, ‘I finally saw the light’, ‘the light of my life’ etc. … Now and again we may hear of someone who has had a near death experience and saw a bright light before regaining consciousness.
I recently came across a few lines of a song which seem to sum up the importance of light in our lives:
“Ring out the bells that can still ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That is how the light gets in.”
It reminds us that it’s only because of our shortcomings that the Light of Christ came into the world. It’s through our very flaws that He enters our lives. Then it’s up to us to let Him shine out again. This then surely is the message in today’s Gospel. We hear how Jesus settled in Capernaum thus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah who said “The people that lived in darkness has seen a great light; on those who dwell in the land and shadow of death a light has dawned.”
It’s God’s will that we live in light as each new day dawns for us. His son, Jesus came to save us, to lead us out of the darkness into the light. To those around him at that time, he was the light at the end of their tunnel. Jesus truly is, The Light of Our World.
I wonder if Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John ‘saw the light’ when Jesus approached them to follow Him and become fishers of men? Something must have sparked in them.
Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah, part of which is referenced in the Gospel, reminds me of a hymn we quite often sing:
‘The Spirit lives to set us free,
Walk, walk in the light.
He binds us all in unity,
Walk, walk in the light.
Walk in the light,
Walk in the light,
Walk in the light,
Walk in the light of the Lord.’
I feel that this hymn sums up the hope which the light of the Lord brings us all, especially in our darkest moments. I hope it does for you too.
Week 2 of Ordinary Time Year ‘A’ - (15th January 2023) Gospel:- John 1:29-34
Today’s Gospel is a lesson in humility, and when we look for a good example of humility, we need look no further than John the Baptist. Indeed, in today’s Gospel we can see this attribute shining through him in how he describes Jesus to those around him. He tells them that Jesus ranks before him, because he existed before him. He then goes on to say, “Yes, I have seen and I am the witness that he is the Chosen One of God.” In John there is no doubt about whom Jesus was, and that it was now time for him to step aside to make way for the Messiah.
John would have been aware of his own importance in the mission he was carrying out, but was always aware also that it was not about him. In that sense, he did not see himself as important at all. He always preached that his mission was not the end in itself, but the beginning of what was to come. His role was to prepare others for the coming of the Messiah. Someone of whom he felt that he wasn’t even worthy to undo the straps of his sandals. John the Baptist, was, and still is, an example of humility for us all. A man who not only knew the meaning of the word, but indeed lived it.
In today’s world, some may look upon John the Baptist as the ‘warm-up’ act before the main attraction. This would be totally wrong, and a view that totally misses the whole point of John’s mission. He was the last of the old testament prophets, and the only one who actually straddles both the old and new testaments. Just as the prophets of old foretold of the coming of the Messiah, John not only did the same, but prepared the way for him. By announcing to the people that Jesus is the ‘Lamb of God’ John has completed his mission. He may also have confused and perhaps even horrified those people because a lamb was seen as the sacrificial animal to atone for wrongdoing. They may not have understood that God sent His Son as the sacrificial lamb to atone for our sins.
Today’s Gospel has made me think more deeply about the Agnus Dei which we recite at mass prior to receiving Holy Communion when we say: Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us. Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, grant us peace. It made me think that this is a prayer which can also be used for occasions other that its mass setting.
Over the last few days I have found myself saying this prayer a lot and thinking of all the occasions where it would have been appropriate to recite it. I felt that one of those occasions would have been a few nights ago. Some of you will be aware that Selena’s dad passed away on Tuesday evening. I said a few prayers over him and gave him a blessing, but now I wish I had thought of saying the Agnus Dei. I had been praying that the Lord would show him mercy and let him slip away peacefully, which he did. I now feel that it would have been appropriate to say this prayer as it sums up the situation the family were in. I’m sure that all you can think of situations in which this would be right for you. Can I please encourage you to do so, it’s a beautiful prayer.
Feast Of The Baptism Of The Lord - (8th January 2023) Gospel: Matthew 3:13-17
We all celebrate our birthday with great joy and we have just celebrated the birthday of Jesus, certainly the greatest birthday of all. Now we are celebrating the feast of His Baptism. How many of us celebrate the anniversary of our own baptisms? How many of us even know when we were baptised? I don’t have a clue when I was baptised. I did have to get a copy of my baptism certificate as proof that I was actually baptised as part of the process of applying for the Diaconate, but unfortunately, it was never returned to me. When I conduct baptisms, I always give the parents a lovely certificate which they can keep safe for their child. I wonder if any of them actually celebrate that day each year with their child, not many I suppose. We all remember and celebrate Jesus’ baptism, which marks the end of the liturgical season of Christmas.
For more than two weeks we have celebrated Jesus as an infant. Now once again, on this first Sunday of Ordinary time, we begin celebrating Jesus as an adult. It’s therefore appropriate we begin with Jesus’ first appearance as an adult, His baptism by John the Baptist in the river Jordan.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus insisted on John baptising Him? John baptised sinners who wanted to repent, yet Jesus was without sin so why would He need John to baptise Him?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells John, “Leave it like this for the time being; it is fitting that we should, in this way, do all that righteousness demands.” This may be difficult to understand as Jesus was already righteous. So how could His baptism by John fulfil all righteousness?
The late Pope Benedict explains it like this in his book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration (pp17-23); ‘Sinless Jesus did not have any sins of His own to take down to the river Jordan, therefore it could only have been our sins that He took down into the river Jordan. Naturally no one would understand this at that time but they would realise this later when they understood that Jesus died on the cross for our sins. So Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan and His dying on the cross go together; He did both for our sins. He took our sins on His shoulders as He went down into the Jordan and as He died on the cross.’
There are many examples in the Scriptures where we can see this close connection between Jesus’ baptism and His death on the cross.
Jesus’ baptism by John was an important step in Jesus making Himself known to the Jewish people. When God the Father spoke and the Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus, this was the first public display of the Holy Trinity for all to see.
The baptisms I conduct aren’t as dramatic as that, but then, I’m no John the Baptist! I do hope that everyone present understands the importance of the sacrament. It is, after all, the legacy of Jesus.