March 27, 2014

HOMILY for Thu in Week 3 of Lent

Jeremiah 7:23-28; Ps 94; Luke 11:14-23

Jesus reveals Satan’s tactics to us today. The strategy of demons, that is, of those fallen angels who have permanently rebelled against God, is to divide and conquer. For they know, as Jesus affirms, that “every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste” (Lk 11:17). Hence, the Devil is called in Greek diabolos, which comes from the verb diaballo, meaning to divide, to cause confusion, and so, to lie. So, the demons divide and conquer us by lying, as we saw the Serpent do to Eve and Adam. And by sowing confusion and doubt concerning God’s authority and goodness and wisdom, again, as the Serpent did in Eden. 

Only yesterday, we heard how Moses extolled the wisdom and goodness of God revealed in his Law. As such, the Law was a mark of God’s closeness and intimacy to his people, of his loving care for Israel. And yet, as Jeremiah says today, Israel repeatedly doubted the wisdom and goodness of God’s Law, and instead, they “walked in their own counsels… and went backward and not forward” (Jer 7:24). The temptation, then, for each of us to turn from God and distrust him is ever present because the demons are ever watchful to do this, to deceive, to divide us, and so to conquer. 

Hence, so many things – a myriad temptations – distract and divide us; our attention is scattered and unfocussed, and our desires are jumbled and confused. As Pope Francis said in Lumen Fidei, “Those who choose not to put their trust in God must hear the din of countless idols crying out: ‘Put your trust in me!’” (§13). Any good thing, any pleasure, any person becomes an idol if it is preferred over God; if we believe that they promise a happiness, a satisfaction, a peace that can, ultimately, only be found in God. As Pope Benedict said to young Catholics in Scotland in 2010: “There are many temptations placed before you every day - drugs, money, sex, pornography, alcohol - which the world tells you will bring you happiness, yet these things are destructive and divisive”. Hence, these temptations divide us, and conquers us, so that the heart is turned away from God, and becomes stubborn and evil, as Jeremiah says (cf. 7:24). 

Which is why we need this season of grace, this time of Lent, to recollect ourselves. Or rather, we need Jesus to gather that which is scattered (cf Lk 11:23). So, Pope Benedict said: “There is only one thing which lasts: the love of Jesus Christ personally for each one of you. Search for him, know him and love him, and he will set you free from slavery to the glittering but superficial existence frequently proposed by today’s society”. 

During Lent, then, we search for Christ. We want to know him better and love him more, so as to be gathered with him in a pure and undivided, un-scattered, heart. How? The Catechism, citing St Augustine, says: “‘Pure in heart’ refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith. There is a connection between purity of heart, of body, and of faith: The faithful must believe the articles of the Creed “so that by believing they may obey God, by obeying may live well, by living well may purify their hearts, and with pure hearts may understand what they believe.” (CCC 2518). 

As those who are preparing for baptism at Easter typically receive the Creed in this week of Lent it is fitting that we, the Baptised, are reminded of this too so that we may be gathered into the unity of Christ and his Mystical Body the Church.

June 10, 2012

REFLECTIONS ON THE EUCHARIST & THE APOSTLES’ CREED - delivered during the Forty Hours devotion at St Columba’s parish in Glasgow (on 28 May 2012, Whit Monday)

Now, I’m not sure if you used the Apostles’ Creed during the Mass here at St Columba’s, but it is recommended in the Missal as an option during Lent and Eastertide. Why? Because originally this Creed was a baptismal creed summarizing the teachings of the Apostles, and it was given to the catechumens when they were baptized from as early as c.200 AD. And the time of year when catechumens were prepared for baptism and received the sacraments of initiation, of course, was Lent and Eastertide. So, we remember that fact by using the Creed during this liturgical period. But the Apostles’ Creed is also very apt for this period after Pentecost because the tradition was that the Creed, which is divided into twelve articles, is believed to have been dictated by each of the Twelve apostles under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit after Pentecost.

So, what I intend to do is to look at the articles of this Creed, and consider what them in relation to the Eucharist. However, time doesn’t allow me to look at all of the twelve articles, so we’ll just look at the five that follow on from belief in the Holy Spirit, which seems fitting given that we are in this time following on from Pentecost.

I believe in the holy catholic Church…

The classic position of the first millennium of our Christian Faith, especially in the Fathers of the early Church, is that “the Eucharist makes the Church”, as the Catechism says. Because the Eucharist is nothing less than the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ; it is the Lord. And it is from the body of the Lord that the Church is born. Just as Eve was taken from Adam’s side, so the Church is born from the pierced side of Christ on the Cross as blood and water poured forth. Pope Blessed John Paul II put it this way: “The Church draws her life from Christ in the Eucharist”.

But the Eucharist makes the Church in another way. When we receive Holy Communion we are drawn deeper into communion with Christ, the Head of his Body, the Church, and so we are drawn deeper into communion with one another too. As the Catechism says: “Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens [our] incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. The Eucharist fulfills this call”. St Augustine reminds us, then, that when the priest says: “Body of Christ”, and we say “Amen”, we are saying “Yes, this is the Body of Christ, and I am a member of the Body of Christ”. So, we’re making a commitment to one another, a commitment of love, and so, we’re also building up the Church in love and unity.

The communion of saints…

It should be fairly clear, then, how the Eucharist is related to the communion of saints. For we, the baptized, are all called “the saints” by St Paul, and the sacramental grace that comes from the Mass makes us holy. And we have communion, a holy unity with one another through our union with Christ in the Eucharist; this is the great sacrament and sign of our unity.

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