Archive for November, 2014


Homily for Mass – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am, 5:00pm)

23 November 2014

(Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 22; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46)

There are some who would scoff at today’s feast day. They would claim that it is a late addition to the liturgical calendar, and that its ‘ideological origins’ are all too plain to see. It is true that the introduction of the feast of Christ the King in the early twentieth century certainly was a response to the secularization that had swept European society, in a similar way to what happened after the Enlightenment and after the French Revolution.
Political liberalism, like Communism and Fascism, denies the public relevance of Christ to so-called secular society. Christ is banished, and we are told that questions must be argued only along secular lines. Religion is made out to be a quaint private practice (or to some, indeed a dangerous private practice), and we are told to keep our “religious views” to ourselves. The only acceptable “religious” view is the secular one. The great irony of people who say these things is that they fail to see that their secular ideology is as much a religion as anyone else’s, and yet it is somehow more acceptable for them to espouse their “religious” views simply because they don’t consider them to be religious views.
Whilst the liturgical feast of Christ the King may be new, and may have been introduced in the 1920s as a counter-claim hurled at the secularist viewpoint, what this feast celebrates is ancient in Christian terms. The Christian East has long placed the image of Christ, the All-Ruler, in solitary majesty in the mosaics in the apses of their Churches. In the Christian West, Christ has been shown as the Judge of all, surrounded by human figures, in the stone friezes frequently placed over the western door of the church – which you see in most of the great cathedrals and churches of Europe.
So whilst the feast may be knew, what it celebrates is what the Church has always believed about Christ, based obviously in what He said about Himself. Today’s celebration of the kingship of Christ is an extension of the feast of the Ascension, when we remember the exaltation of the risen Christ as Lord. At the Ascension, the disciples, who have just seen Christ lifted up into God’s glory, are told that he will return in the same way – that is, in the glory of his Second Coming. And so today’s celebration is also turned towards his second Advent, and this feast which closes our liturgical year points us to the season of Advent beginning next Sunday, when we will prepare for the celebration of his first coming, and think in hope about his second coming and all its implications.
The words of Christ himself in today’s Gospel show him to be the Lord and Judge of all people in all of history. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory … All the nations will be assembled before him.” There is no qualification to “all the nations.” That means everyone: from the first person to the last, from Adam and Eve through to the last person born. Perhaps some people will be surprised when they end up before Christ! Buddhists and Hindus, Jews and Muslims; Scientologists, New Age devotees, humanists, athiests, heretics, apostates and schismatics – they will all stand before Christ, the Lord and Judge of all. Every person who ever lived will stand before Christ. His will be the last face we see before we enter our eternity, of heaven or hell.
As we ponder that thought, we can see how evanglization truly is a work of mercy, as we say to our contemporaries, “Look, before you appear before Jesus seated on his throne of glory as Lord and Judge of all, and before he separates the sheep from the goats, sending the goats to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” we just want to give you a little heads-up about some of the things Jesus is hoping to find in our lives!” This is another way of saying that our primary business is the salvation of souls, the “supreme law in the church” as the last canon of our Code of Canon Law says. And what are we saving souls from if not that fire that Jesus says is prepared for the devil and his angels, and the goats who either did wrong to him, or neglected to do good to him.
When we’re at school or university we always want to know what’s on the exam! Well, Jesus has told us what’s on the final exam in today’s Gospel. He says, what you did and what you did not do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me. When Jesus speaks of his people, he means the Church. We cannot separate Christ from His Church. Jesus identified himself with his Church. The great example of this is at the conversion of St Paul. When the risen Jesus confronts Saul, who had been persecuting the Church, Jesus says, “Why are you persecuting ME?”
The Church is the concrete presence of Christ in every age. Our fidelity or indifference to the Church is fidelity or indifference to Christ himself. Of course, for those who have never known the Church, the test for them is how they respond to any person in need.
The parable of today’s Gospel is the last parable that Jesus tells in St Matthew’s gospel. Its at once majestic and confronting. It speaks first of Jesus Christ, the judge of history: all of history and of each person’s history. It is about our responsibility for others in body and spirit, and how our performance in this regard is the most reliable thermometer of our loyalty to Christ. It contains the stark reality that we will be separated from God not just for doing wrong, but also for doing nothing when we should have acted.
Some might say that it is hard to see Christ in others. When that’s the case, we can at the very least be Christ to others.
The Entrance chant of today’s Mass sings that Christ the Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, wisdom, strength and honour. Through this eucharist, in which we bow down in homage before the Lamb who is worthy, may we be given the grace to honour and glorify Christ as we serve Him in all our actions.

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This homily is adapted, with quotations, from two homilies found in the following books:
• Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour, A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays Through the Year (Balwyn, Victoria: Freedom, 2012); and
• S. Joseph Krempa, Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle A (New York: St Pauls, 2005).

 

purgatory-massHomily for Mass – Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi:  Saturday 6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am)

2 November 2014

(Readings: Is 25:6-9;  Ps 26;  Rom 5:5-11;  Mt 11:25-30)

 

Every Sunday we profess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” In the midst of our busy, earthly lives, we probably don’t linger much on those words each Sunday. However, when we come to a funeral then those ancient words seem to carry new weight and promise. A Christian funeral is not only a vehicle for the expression of emotions of grief. It is also a statement of faith and a time of prayer.

Today, as we celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed – All souls – we remember our beloved dead. As we remember them we hear the words of faith in the scriptures, reminding us of the fact that one day the Lord will destroy death forever, and gather his faithful people to the heavenly banquet. We are reassured by the second reading that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Our sins and weaknesses should not stop us from striving to follow Jesus, always coming back to him when we fall, always throwing ourselves on his mercy.

This commemoration is a day of memory. We recall those people whose lives have deeply touched us, people who have travelled a part of life’s journey with us. We remember them not as perfect beings, but as human people with limitations like ourselves. In the midst of that, we can see their goodness, their dedication and even their heroism. In remembering them, we are reminded that none of us is self-sufficient: as the book of wisdom reminds us, the life and death of each of us has its influence on others. Each of us has been helped, guided and supported in prayer by many others. And so on this day we remember all those people, especially those from our childhood days, who have assisted us in our life, and who have now gone to their eternal rest.

All Souls Day is also a day of faith. In the face of death, we affirm our belief in the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ. This world in which we were conceived and have grown is like the runway to eternal life with God. Death may be the end of our earthly life, but it is not the end of our soul. A great and glorious future awaits all those who are faithful to Christ. When we close our eyes to sleep the sleep of death, we will awaken on the other side, and the first Person we will see is Jesus Christ Who knows the full and deep truth about our life. He knows thoroughly the places of light and shadow in our life about which nobody else is aware. We come to Christ with all we have become in this life. This is a day to affirm our faith in eternal life.

Lastly, All Souls Day is also a day of prayer. When we feel powerless in the face of death, our faith teaches us that through prayer we can assist others in that time of mending and healing that the Lord gives to those, on their way to heaven, after death. This time of final healing and purification is known as purgatory. Prayer for those who have died is a wonderful way that we can remain connected to them. It can be an instrument of reconciliation with those from whom we had become distant or even resentful. It can be a way of showing gratitude to those with whom we have been close.

All Souls Day is a day filled with memory, faith, and prayer. It reminds us that we are part of a great alliance of grace that is stronger than death. We are joined in the communion of saints: those in heaven already, ourselves here living this earthly life, and the souls in purgatory undergoing their final cleansing and purification, freeing them from everything that keeps them from entering the presence of God. This alliance of grace is stronger than death. The example of those who have gone before us can be an inspiration for us. We are reminded that people before us have confronted the dilemmas we face.

If some of those who have died may have failed us, then they are most certainly in need of our prayers. And this can be a healing and reconciling grace.

Far from being morbid, All Souls Day is a wonderful day of remembering, healing and praying. It is a day rich in faith and hope, and a day of reconciliation, something we all need.

So let us pray for our beloved dead:
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.  Amen.
May theirs souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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(Taken from: S. Joseph Krempa, “Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle B.”  With adaptations).