Homily – 2011 Remembrance Sunday- 33rd Sunday Year A

Homily – 2011 Remembrance Sunday- 33rd Sunday Year A

Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31
Psalm 127:1-5
1 Thessalonians 5:1-6
Matthew 25:14-30

Here dead lie we because we did not choose
To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
Life, to be sure, is nothing much to lose;
But young men think it is, and we were young.

This poem is called “For the War Dead” and it's by A.E. Housman. He wrote it for the dead of world war 1, but it could so easily have been written for the soldiers of any war, in any time. I read it on the Underground this time last year and it has kind of stayed with me. It speaks of loss, loss of life, loss of youth and loss of shame. It honours those who choose to fight, while painting a bleak picture of war. Today we remember those who have lost their lives in war and the families they didn't return to.

By buying a poppy we give money to help those returning from war and the families of those who haven't returned. And by wearing the poppy we remember. As we remember, think why did they do this for us? Their lives were lost, so ours may be lived. That's worth remembering every day of your life. What will you do with your life today, tomorrow, this week, this year. How will you use your God given talents?

Talent is a word we have already heard today, do you know where it came from?

Interestingly, the way we use the word talent today, to mean the gifts and skills we possess, came from today's gospel reading. Back in the days of Jesus a talent was a unit of measure, it was the volume of an amphora. One of the Greek clay jars you see in museums and biblical drama. About this tall, and about this wide. If you filled it with silver it would hold about 32kilos of silver. That's about £25,000 worth of silver. So in today's gospel when the man gave his servants five talents, two talents and one talent of silver he was in fact trusting them with a very large sum indeed.

This gospel reading, if you just think about people making money, is confusing. But if you start to ignore the large sums of money start to think of what you do with the talent God gives you it makes much more sense.

Are you like the first servant. Are you blessed with many talents? Are you a musician, an accountant, a teacher, an artist, an athlete, a carer? Do you use your talents well? Do you practice, do you strive to get better?

Are you like the second servant? Blessed with a couple of talents? Maybe you are a doctor, a builder, a carpenter, a reporter, a parent? Do you work hard making the most of your skill, challenge yourself daily?

Or are you like the third servant? You have one gift, one talent, one something special that you can do. Can you sing, can you bake or cook, can you programme a computer, can you kick a football? Do you use this talent for others? Do you use this talent at all? Do you hide it where no one can see it?
We all have talents. This parable teaches us we are supposed to use them. Take risks with them, improve the lives of those around us with them. When we use them they will grow, practice makes perfect. When we use them, more talents will be given us.

Can you play an instrument? Can you sing, why not join a group or choir, find others who are musical, go carol singing, teach singing, volunteer to play at church, spread the joy your talent inspires. Your talents will grow, who knows the next step could be X-Factor.

Maybe your talent is parenting? Is the Lord saying to you, good and faithful servant, look how well you bring up your children. I give you another talent to teach, or to lead, or to coach. Should you now look to use your new talents at school or in children liturgy, maybe scouts or guides, or the football team. Think about your calling, your talents, your vocation.

The interesting thing about our talents according to today's gospel is that they must be used. If they are used they will grow. If they grow you will be rewarded. The reward is more talents, more work. Our life in Christ is a life of service to others. It's not a life of luxury and riches, not for us anyway. It's a life where we provide the luxury and riches, not in money but in love, care and service. Our reward my fellow, good and faithful servants, is in our Lords delight in our service, and in an eternal life with Him after this one.

Today, wear you poppy with pride. Remember the lost talents of those who died. Be thankful for their service. Now think about your talents, think about how to use them, talk to God and ask him if you are using all the talents you have been given.

Don't bury your talent as the third servant did, get out there and use it.

Thank You Tom & Fiona

It was a wonderful evening at a beautiful location, and it was so nice to see old freinds from the last ten years of formation there. For me it was an honour to Deacon the Mass, and the current students did us all proud with a lovely presentation afterwards. The speaches can be seen above.

Homily - 11th Sep 2011

24th Sunday of Ordinary Time - Year A

Ecclesiasticus 27:30 – 28:7
Psalm  102
Romans 14:7-9
Matthew 18:21-35
These readings can be found at  Mass Readings from Universalis

Do you remember where you were 10 years ago? The day was Tuesday the 11th of September 2001. Can you remember how you felt watching the pictures from New York? Did you know people who might be in Manhattan? Were you shocked, hurt, angry, confused, frightened?

When in the last ten years did you forgive the people that carried out the attack, that planned the attack, that paid for the attack? Have you in fact forgiven them at all? And if you have how do feel about them now?

How did you feel in 2002 when the bombs went of in Bali? Did you forgive them again? What about the train bombing in Madrid in 2004? Did you forgive them again? And then the London Bombings of 7th July 2005? Did you forgive them again? How many times would you forgive them? Would you forgiven three times which was the teaching at the time of Jesus. Or would you double and add one as Peter did, and forgive them 7 times? Or would you always forgive as Christ teaches?

I wanted steer away from using 9/11 as an example today. It's a huge subject that is emotional and painful for us all to think about. But when I started to think about today's readings and the hard challenge we face as Christians called to forgive, forgive even the worst of crimes, I can't ignore the example that will be all around us this weekend. But forgiveness isn't about forgetting, so it's right this weekend that we pray for those that lost their lives, were injured or who lost friends and family. But as we pray, think on today's readings about forgiveness, re-read them, and seriously think about how you can forgive.

Jesus tells us a story today about a servant who owed 10,000 talents to his master, and of a man who owed 100 denarii to that servant. Now I always get interested at details like 10,000 talents and 100 denarii. You guess that 10,000 talents is bigger than 100 denarii, but do you know how much bigger. Well 100 denarii is probably about £100 in today's money. You can understand someone wanting it back, but how much is 10,000 talents. It's actually about £500 million pounds, that's more than the £479M annual budget of South Gloucester County Council. And considerably more than the 300 talents that Rome took in taxes from the areas around Galilee where Jesus was teaching. The sum is huge, why would Jesus name a figure this high. He wanted to make the point that God will forgives us anything, He will forgive us everything. But he also taught that as we are forgiven we have to forgive. The injustices we have to forgive may be smaller but we still have to forgive.

If we don't forgive we allow anger and resentment to grow in our hearts.

Our first reading today called these emotions foul. They can lead to vengeance and certainly to sin. Think how you act when you are angry? How kind are you to a person you resent? This is difficult teaching, on the surface it seems simple, but in practice it's hard.

When I looked honestly at my life over the last few weeks I realised I have had a very difficult time at work. Many of the people around me didn't do things that I needed done. As a result my team have had a difficult time. I resented this and have been been quite angry about it. Then I come to prepare this homily and I realise how poisonous that anger has been. If I want to help my team I need to forgive those who are letting us down and find ways to explain to them what's happening and to work with them to improve things. I will probably find I have been lettering them down as well. Anger doesn't let me do Christ's work in this world, forgiveness clears the anger away, lets Christ back into my life, and allows me again to do his work.

As Christian's we are called not just to church on a Sunday but to do Christ's work in the world. In a few moments, to strengthen us for that work,  we will celebrate the Eucharist. In preparation for that gift we offer each other the sign of peace.  That gesture is symbolic of the forgiveness you are offering your sisters and brothers for any offence they have caused. By forgiving them you have cleared away the anger and resentment and started doing Christ's work, a work that the Eucharist will strengthen you to do. A work that you will take out into the world after Mass.

As you go about your busy lives this week, can I ask you to find a little time to re-read today's first reading and  gospel reading, and to think about who you need to forgive. It doesn't matter if it is your boss at work or the terrorist behind 9/11. Today's teaching is simple. If someone does you wrong, forgive them. God promises forgiveness of our sins, the things you have done wrong, and He expects you to forgive others.

Audio Homily from Corpus Christi - 9th June 2012

For those that prefer to listen to the homily here is the recording from Sunday Morning at Yate.

Love - audio recording of the homily

For those that prefer to listen to the homily here the recording from Saturday Evening at St Augustine's.

All Saints Day


First: Rev 7:2-4,9-14
Psalm: Ps 23:1-6 r.6
Second: 1 John 3:1-3
Gospel: Matt 5:1-12

I was leaving the office on Friday, and wishing a couple of friends a good weekend. One ask me if I had anything special planned for the weekend so I told him I was going to be preaching on All Saints. For a second he looked surprised and then said, “What the band?”

Today we celebrate all the saints, as Saint John described them today, “an impossible number, from every nation, race, tribe and language”. But we are not here today to honour the saints for their benefit, as St Bernard of Clairvaux pointed out, they already stand before our Lord, what good would our honour and veneration do them. Today is about us, how our lives can benefit from even the smallest encounter with them. How we long to join them in heaven, and how we can learn from the stories they left us of their lives.

About 10 years ago I was sitting at the breakfast table with 8 or 9 friends. Most of the others around the table had important things to do that day, only Normy and I had nothing to do. Now I can't remember exactly how the conversation started but it ended up with Normy and I writing a long list of all the nothing we were going to do that day. Things like:
Feeding the pigeons in the park
Giving flowers to a perfect stranger
Finding out who the patron saint of France is
etcetera, etcetera

So once we had finished a very leisurely breakfast we drove into Bristol, and sat on a park bench in front of the council houses, drinking coffee and feeding the pigeons. After about half an hour we noticed were were sitting opposite Bristol central library, so we thought that would be a good place to find out who the patron saint of France was.

So we walked across the green and into the library. Surrounded by hundreds of shelves and thousands of books, we took the easy route and asked the lady on the information desk where we might find a book about saints. She spent a little time with some cards and microfilm and then took us upstairs to the dusty and interesting books. A couple of shelves in, she stopped and produced an encyclopaedia of saints.

Back then I wasn't a Christian and I must admit to being surprised that such a book existed. It was fascinating, and we spent a good hour reading about patron saints of countries, of professions, we even found that there are two patron saints of eyes, Lucy & Raphael, we jokingly said Lucy must be for the left and Raphael for the right.
After leaving the library we then bought some flowers and went back to the library and gave them to the nice lady on the information desk.

The reason I am sharing this story with you was that this was my first encounter with the saints. As I read about them, and saw a whole book could be filled with their stories, realised that many of the days of the year were dedicated to them, they in a small way touched me. I had spent some time, some very pleasant time, with the holy heroes of God, and now ten years later, like you all I have set my heart on joining them.

So what sort of people are the saints. They are just like us, they have sad days when their spirit is poor, they are gentle, they mourn, they yearn for justice, they show mercy, their hearts are good, they bring calm to conflict and all to often the world doesn't understand them and gives them a hard time. These beatitudes, these blessing, are most profoundly found in the Jesus, they are reflected in the lives of the saints. And now the saints stand before our lord in heaven, rejoicing and glad.

There is a lot we can learn from the saints, from the lives they lead, the choices they made, the writings they have left, the sacrifices they have made. At the start of this homily I referred to Saint Bernard, he was a Frenchman from the 12th century. He lived a monastic life, was a powerful preacher, became an abbot, and influenced the political and religious world of his day founding over 150 monasteries. He has left us a legacy of more than 80 sermons, hundreds of letters and dozens of other documents. I have spent some time this last week with saint Bernard, he came and help me prepare to speak tonight.

Saint Anthony of Padua, is well know to many of us, he always has time to stop and look round the house with us and help us find those lost car keys, or in my wife Gail's case, her lost engagement ring. But have you ever spent time with saint Anthony when you haven't lost something. I spent a little time with him yesterday and this is what I learned. He was born in Lisbon in 1195, he turned his back on a wealthy and royal family be ordained as a Franciscan friar. He travelled to Africa, a when returning got shipwrecked off the coast of Italy, where he got such a reputation for preaching he was sent all over Europe to preach. In the papal court his preaching was called “the jewel case of the bible” and he was specifically tasked with writing homilies for feast days. He died aged 36, and it's said the angels rang the church bells in honour of his death. His sermons still survive today, and I am intending to spend some more time with him soon, so I can ask him more about them.
When I got confirmed, I choose Joseph as my confirmation name, for two saints. St Joseph father of Jesus, and Joseph son of Jacob. I have to admit that while both mean a lot to me, I have spent little time with them recently. Something that this coming week I intend to correct. Which saints name do you take as your confirmation name? Have you spent time with them recently?

We have been called, as the saints before us were called, to be children of God, to seek the face of the Lord, in the certain hope that we shall all join that “impossible number, from every nation, race, tribe and language”

And finally, who is the Patron saint of France?

Well there is more than one, but that's all I am going to tell you. Why don't you go and look for yourself, I promise you you will enjoy looking, because you'll be spending some time in the company of the saints.

Homily - The Exaltation of the Cross

Sunday 14th September 2008 - The Triumph of the Cross

First: Num 21:4-9
Psalm: Ps 77:1-2. 34-38 r. 7
Second: Phil 2:6-11
Gospel: Jn 3:13-17

"Give heed, my people, to my teaching;
Turn your ear to the word of my mouth.
And I will reveal hidden lessons from the past."

What would it have felt like to be a stonemason, a farmer, cook, or a slave in the lands of Egypt?
If I had left with Moses how would I have felt, wandering, lost in the wilderness?
Would I have expected be to delivered instantly into the land of milk and honey?
Would I have doubted Moses, would I have blamed God?
I am sorry to say, I almost certainly would.

How scarred would I be, feeling the sharp fangs of a serpent, burn with venom as it bit me?
Would I have begged Moses to help me, to apologies to God for me, to save my life?
You can bet I would!

Then what joy would I have felt? Looking up at a brass serpent, held high on a standard, feeling the poison leaving me and life returning. I would marvel at how, that serpent, raised high, could cure the poison of serpent that bit me. But, would I think twice about the sin in my heart and what could possible cure that?

Many years later, Jesus was talking to Nicodemus, about this very question. “The Son of Man must be lifted up, as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” As we know, Jesus was talking about his death, a man raised on a cross, tortured and ridiculed. But, there was no defeat in this, Jesus’ sacrifice, like the serpent in the desert gives life, eternal life, to those who look upon it. The triumph of that day, the triumph on the cross, is still with us today. All we need to be cured, to have eternal life, is faith in Jesus.

But faith isn’t easy. It’s far from easy. At times it seems impossible. Disciples like Thomas and even Peter, sometimes lacked faith. They knew Jesus, saw his miracles, and still doubted. So 2000 years on, in our busy lives, where should we be looking, where can we find faith?

It’s there… right there… that wooden cross on the wall. It has as much power today as it did when Jesus hung upon it. Let me tell you why I know this to be true.

Early last year, the doctors told my Dad he had cancer. That was heart-breaking news for him and for Mum, for our whole family. Gail and I booked flights to Ireland to visit them that weekend, on our way to the airport we stopped off at old abbey, we had a few hours to spend before the flight and an abbey seemed a better place than an airport lounge. In the gift shop we found a sculpted wooded holding cross, it was really beautiful, really simple, designed to fit in your hand while praying. We bought two, one for mum and one for dad. We knew they didn’t believe, but we did and it just seemed right to give something of the belief at that time.

A few days ago, I was on the phone, chatting to mum and dad, I mentioned that I had been preparing this homily and dad was very interested. He asked what it was about and I did my best to explain. I said I would send him a copy and he told me to do that. Then Gail shouted that tea was ready and we said goodbye and hung up. About 20 minutes later mum called back, “Your Dad told me to call you and tell you about our crosses, the ones you gave us, maybe you could use those as an example.”

You see, Dads cross has not left his pocket in almost two years. It has been with him through the good days, and the bad. Mums is under her pillow. Those crosses became a source of strength for them both, and now they are becoming, much to my joy, a source of faith for them both. It’s a small flicker of faith, full of doubt, full of questions, unsure of itself. But it’s there and it wasn't before.

The cross has been the symbol of our faith for 2000 years. Many of you wear a cross around your neck, in our simplest prayer we trace the cross on our bodies, “In the name of the father, son and the holy spirit”, we trace a cross on our forehead, lips and heart before listening to the gospel, the cross is so much a part of our lives we sometimes forget it power.

But remember when you look at that cross, that Jesus, the Son of Man, came down from heaven, humbled himself, accepting death on that cross. So he could be raised up, for us to look upon and be saved. That’s the triumph of the cross, that’s our salvation, that’s how the world was redeemed. Alleluia!

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