Tuesday, December 06, 2022

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Judgement and the Heart of Hosanna

Sermon for the second Sunday in Advent

As we watch the Lord
enter Jerusalem on a donkey,
we hear the shouts of

“Hosanna!”

“Save us!”

“Save us from death!”

“Save us from the judgement to come!”

But if we are innocent,
then we should not fear judgement,
because we shall be judged innocent
and not go to punishment.

If we are innocent
then we have nothing
to be saved from.

Are we innocent?

How do we know?

[PAUSE]

 We think of ourselves
as innocent or guilty
because we think legally,
in terms of crime and punishment.

And because we think legally,
we see judgement in terms of
rewarding the good
and punishing the bad.

We see to it that
the good guys always win
and bad guys always lose.

 That's a judgement but,
 as St James says,
if we are guilty of breaking
one of the commandments,
then we are guilty of breaking them all.

The fact of the matter is,
that we are a race
which has been infected with Sin.

Our first parent Adam
is the one who brought
Death into the world.

He sinned and,
as St Paul tells us,
Death breeds Sin
and Sin breeds Death:
they are two sides of the same coin.

We are not born guilty.

God says very clearly that
He does not
punish the son
for the sins of his father.

But we are affected by
the consequences of
all the sins around us.

We contribute to 
the ripples of sin
by adding in our own.

We cannot see God 
because of Adam's sin.

We are unable to walk with God,
because Adam chose
 his own will over God’s.

We have to bear 
the consequences of that.

So, to see Sin as a matter
only of legal judgement
 is to miss a significant part
of the problem.

God sees that we need salvation,
not through pronouncing
condemnation and sentence.

He see that we need salvation
through putting things right 
– really right.

He sees that we need Salvation
through healing.

God judges, indeed,
but this is not entirely
the judgement of the law court.

There is also the judgement of a doctor.

After all, God creates man 
to be immortal.

Man allows himself to die.

[PAUSE]

It is very easy for us Christians
to be judgmental about sin
and sinners.

If we think of sin as being
something legal,
then we put ourselves
into the position of seeing
in every case
“reward good,
punish bad.”

It makes us ready
 to cry out, “sinner!”

But this is a naive view of sin.

It is a view of sin
that seeks to rob man 
of the dignity he has
- the dignity that,
actually,
can never be taken away.

When Man falls 
from the garden of Eden,
he does not die immediately.

It may come to an end,
but Man still has life.  

And God is life,
actively present in our lives.

And God’s active presence 
is His Grace.

In falling,
we lose the grace to see God,
to walk with Him,
to talk with Him,
and to know and love Him properly.

But, we do not lose
the grace of His image we bear.

That image may be blotched
scratched
and defaced by our sin,
but it is still there.

It is not indelible
because it is 
the image of God.

[PAUSE]

As fallen human beings,
we are not in a position
to make things good.

Our judgement between good and evil
does nothing
to restore good
or take away evil.

We can't make good 
where there is no good.

We cannot undo a murder.

But with God 
all things are possible,
and in Him is life.

St Paul tells us that 
the Holy Scriptures
are given to us 
to give us hope.

They are not there 
for condemning the sinner.

As Christians, then,
we must not judge
 in the manner of a law court,
but we should discern
what is the good thing to do.

We can do nothing about 
other people’s sins,
we can only seek 
to repent of our own.

But we can seek
 the good thing to do
for those who are in need,
who are in pain,
who are in misery.

We are not to judge others,
but we can discern what good
we can do for them.

Holy Scripture and the Church
together provide us
with the opportunity to learn
to discern the will of God.

Discernment is a virtue
that we must ask God for
with prayers,
tears
and fasting.

It stops us from judging
but rather draws us deeper
into the mind of God
Who does not condemn the world
but rather is born to save it.

[PAUSE]

Once we rid ourselves
of the compulsion
to judge each other,
we begin to appreciate 
what is truly good.

The world around us
is becoming
more and more unforgiving
because,
not only has it lost sight 
of the dignity of Man,
it refuses ever to see it.

Tweet the wrong thing,
post the wrong thing 
on Facebook
and you are 
the worst human being imaginable,
never to be forgiven,
never to be forgotten,
never allowed to repent or change
or even be a human being.

But we are Christians,
and we forgive
because our brothers and sisters
need love in order
to heal from whatever 
is causing them to sin.

We cannot heal things
by sinning more through
judging them without all the facts.

[PAUSE]

God will judge 
and His judgement
will make us right,
make us good,
make us better,
but only with our consent.

Love does not demand its own way.

This is why He comes
as a baby in a manger,
not as a conquering general
clad in the garments 
of strength and war.

We need to learn to discern
the life, light and love of that baby
in ourselves
and in others
if we are truly to love them
and the Christ-Child
whose Nativity draws nigh.


Sunday, November 27, 2022

Death and the Heart of Hosanna

Sermon for the first Sunday in Advent

We stand gazing upon the Man
riding into Jerusalem
and we hear the crowd shout
in jubilation,
"Hosanna"

Hosanna?

What does it mean?

[PAUSE]

The people of Jerusalem
shout, "Hosanna"
in their native tongue
meaning, "please save us!"

They recognise that 
the Man on the donkey
is the Messiah 
who has come to save 
Jerusalem from oppression.

At the very heart of the word 
Hosanna in Hebrew and Aramaic
is "yesha'"
and you see that word
in the Hebrew name Yeshua,
which we know as Joshua
and its Greek form is
Jesus.

In calling "Hosanna" the crowd
are calling the Name of the Lord.
They recognise 
that Jesus is the Saviour.

But saviour from what?

[PAUSE]

During Advent,
we think upon 
The Four Last Things:
Death
Judgement
Hell and Heaven.

The first of these is Death.

In Advent,
we remember that 
Our Lord comes
to save us from Death.

Death is the end of Life.
In Death we lose the power
to move ourselves,
to feel or express our thoughts.

In Death, we are slaves 
to our inability to control 
any aspect of the world around us.

In Death, we are utterly helpless.

Death enters the world
with the sins of Adam and Eve.

Because of Death, 
we sin,
and because of sin,
we die.

Sin separates us 
from awareness of God.

Death separates us
from the ability
to become aware of God.

Our Salvation
requires God Himself.

[PAUSE]

God is Life.

So He gives us Life
through His Son.

His Incarnation 
is the means for us
to live Eternally,
to be able to move and have our being
in God.

[PAUSE]

Of course,
the Incarnation begins
at the Holy Conception of Our Lord,
the moment Our Lady
said "yes" to God
at the Annunciation.

Once we know that
He's on His way,
we can prepare ourselves to live
we can prepare ourselves
by recognising that 
our ability to affect the world around us
is best lived in Christ.

[PAUSE]

We shout, "Hosanna!" 
with the crowds
because we can be sure that
at the Heart of that Hosanna
is Life itself.


Monday, November 21, 2022

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Branches in the East

Sermon for the Sunday next before Advent

So what happened?

It's fair to say that 
the history of the Middle East
has been far from peaceful.

Even while Our Lord 
walks in Galilee,
the land is oppressed.

After He ascends,
the temple is destroyed
and the Jewish people
are scattered.

The state of Israel
has only had some
stability since the late 1940s
and even then
it has been rocked time and again
by violence, hatred and bloodshed.

But if Israel has been turbulent
even in Our Lord's day,
how can Jeremiah say
that Israel will dwell safely
in the days of the great King?

[PAUSE]

The prophecy is clear:

"Behold, the days come, 
saith the Lord, 
that I will raise unto David 
a righteous Branch, 
and a King shall reign and prosper, 
and shall execute 
judgment and justice in the earth."

If the King is Jesus
then the prophecy has gone wrong,
hasn't it?

And what of this branch?

Ah! The branch may hold the key.

[PAUSE]

What is this branch? 

Branch of what?

As we approach Advent,
we think of the Root of Jesse
and the Line of David,
and we see Jesus born
as a member of 
the ancient royal family.

We think of Jesus' words
"I am the vine 
and ye are the branches."

And we see an image
of something growing.

But there is something else.

The Greek for "branch"
also means "a shoot"
and "sunrise"
the dawning of a new day.

So the branch here,
is budding 
it's just come forth from the stem.

And this is what Jeremiah sees.

When Jesus walks in Galilee,
He is the Branch budding.

Indeed, for all the time we know Him
from His birth to His death 
to His resurrection,
He is just budding.

His day is only dawning.

And it is still dawning.

[PAUSE]

The Day of the Lord
is still coming,
though it is
for the faithful now.

The dark and troubled world
full of hatred and work
won't see this yet,
but we do.

Christians see
the Day of the Lord
when they come to Mass.

[PAUSE]

Christians all over the world
gather together
to meet Our Lord in the Sacrament.

We meet in our here and now
but are gathered to 
the Lord's table in His here and now.

In the Mass, we find peace,
we find stability and joy,
for in the Mass,
the Heavenly Kingdom 
touches our world
and we see beyond 
into the Day of the Lord.

[PAUSE]

We should not expect
to understand Jeremiah's words
with our concept of Time.

The Creation of the World 
took six days
and on the seventh day
God rests from His labours.

But the world is still being created.

New plants, 
new animals,
new stars and planets.

New people are being born
every day.

We have not yet reached the Seventh Day,
but it has begun to dawn,
the branch has begun to grow,
and the promises of God
are met.

Next Sunday begins the new year
as we wait for the coming
of Our Lord.

Let us be patient!