Homily 28th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B – A Sad Story

Homily (Sermon) - A Sad Story

The Readings for Sunday 14th October 2012  or the twenty-eighth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Wisdom 7:7-11
Psalm 89:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-13
Mark 10:17-30
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

I think this is one of the saddest stories we hear in all the bible. It's a story of what might have been, it's a story of the earthly wealth denying heavenly riches, it's the story of a man called by Christ. “Come, follow me”, Christ said to him, just like He had called Peter, Andrew, James and John on the shore of the sea of Galilee. Yet we don't know this man’s name, because this potential apostle said 'No' and turned away. If he had said 'Yes', what might he have achieved for God's Kingdom.

This man wasn't a bad man, in fact we can assume he was eager to hear Gods word as he ran up to Christ and knelt before Him. We also know him to be a faithful Jew as he kept the commandments. He did not steal, lie or defraud. He did not kill or commit adultery. He honoured his family. So we know he did nothing wrong. He was also rich, which according to Jewish tradition must have meant that God was pleased with him and had granted him wealth.

Jesus looked at him, loved him and called him to do something different, something more, something he hadn't been doing. Jesus asked this man who did nothing bad, to do something good. Jesus asked him to put into practice the greatest commands, to love God and to love his neighbour as himself. It was not enough for the man to do no wrong, he had to do right as well, had to love and put love into practice.

The man was unable to accept Christ call, for him the price was to high, he  turned down Christ's offer to follow Him, he kept his worldly riches, turned and walked away from Christ.

As Christ, his heart still full of love for the man, watched him walk away he contradicted Jew tradition as he said, “How hard it is for those that have riches to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were astonished as they believed that to have wealth was a sign that you were in good standing with God, and here was Jesus telling them that riches were a stumbling block to entering the kingdom of God.

How often do we repeat the mistake of this man today. We live good lives, we do nothing bad, we don't steal, we don't lie, we don't kill. Yet do we Love? Do we give? Do we follow?

Riches can be our stumbling block today. In the UK we live in one of the richest countries in the world. Our personal wealth typically puts us in the top 1% of the richest people in the world. We can easily get side tracked by money and comfort, we can worry about losing what we have. Without being bad people we can all to easily forget the millions of people worse off than we are. Like the man who ran to Christ today, we can all to easily say I want to follow but then when it comes to action, to actually following, we choose comfort, worldly trappings, gold and credit cards.

Our salvation however is a gift from God, because everything is possible for Him. Christ's death on the cross paid the price, the heavenly price, for our salvation. God found a way to offer us entry into His Kingdom. The door to His kingdom will never be closed, we are all offered entry. The only question is do we choose to enter.

If we choose to follow Christ, we can expect to have to make sacrifices, we are not promised an easy life, if we follow, we are not promised riches if we follow, we are not promised comfort if we follow. We are however promised the kingdom of heaven, and it's in that kingdom that we will understand what real wealth and riches are.

It takes real wisdom, wisdom granted by God, to realise that wealth and riches in this world are nothing compared to the Love of God and an eternity spent with Him in his kingdom. Our first reading tells us we can find wisdom like this through prayer.
“I prayed, and understanding was given me;
I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me.
I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones;
compared with her, I held riches as nothing.”
In fact our psalm today is a prayer for wisdom, a crying out for Gods love and grace. With God's wisdom, love and grace you will be able to hear Christ calling you to follow Him. Christ is constantly asking you to follow him. Constantly offering you a new opportunity to say yes. To not only do no wrong, but to actively do good, to be part of his Church, to be part of it's mission.

In a few moments time, as we celebrate the Eucharist, you will have the opportunity to stand before Christ. Are you ready to ask Him, as the man did today, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and when He tells you what to do, will you like the man sadly turn away, or are you ready to follow?

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Homily 27th Sunday Ordinary Time Year B - Marriage

Homily (Sermon) - Marriage

The Readings for Sunday 7th October 2012  or the twenty-seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B:
Genesis 2:18-24
Psalm 127:1-5
Hebrews 2:9-11
Mark 10:2-16
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

We find out today that controversy about divorce is not a new thing, and that the permanency of marriage is even older.

When Jesus walked the world 2000 years ago divorce was common place, it took little for a man to divorce his wife. He only had to find a fault with his wife and the potential faults ranged in severity from adultery, through not cooking what he liked, being aggressive which was defined as speaking loud enough to be heard next door, and to my amazement the most ridiculous fault of not being the prettiest girl he looked at. Yes, a man could legally divorce his wife if he saw someone he desired more.

In return a wife could only divorce a man in severe conditions like adultery or if he got a disreputable job like becoming a tanner. Tanning in those days meant spending your working day washing animal skins in urine and excrement.

Men were coming up with any and every reason for divorce just to enable them to indulge their lustful hearts. Women and Children were being treated like possessions. How far was this from the picture described in our Genesis reading.

In Genesis we are told that man and woman are made for each other. Woman is made from Adams flesh and bone, made from Adams rib. The word rib in Hebrew is Tsēlā which could also mean side or a quarter of the heavens or a part or division. The story we hear in Genesis is poetic, rather than a scientific report or newspaper story. It teaches us that men and women are created from the same stuff, designed to be together, both physically and emotionally. Adam was pleased he had a friend, a companion and ally. Someone he could spend his life with, someone who was so much like him that when they came together they became one.

That should be our model for marriage, the coming together of a man and woman, the making of one out of two, creating something new, something better, something stronger. But you don't have to give up yourself in marriage, marriage is about adding your hopes and dreams together. The married couple face life together, stand as one, support, love and challenge each other.

Marriage for me is wonderful, I love my wife Gail and very much believe she completes me. I am a much better person with her, than I was before we met. We like all couples disagree sometimes, we both get a little selfish, but it never lasts long. I can't imagine life without her now.

Marriage is special, it is part of Gods plan. It mustn't be entered into lightly, there shouldn't be clauses about jobs, cooking, shouting or wanting someone else to let you out of a marriage. Marriage is for life, it is for the completeness of us.

I know divorce happens in our world. I have seen the pain and suffering caused as marriages break down. I don't like it, I don't really understand it. Sometimes the couple never really committed to each other, they never really became one. Sometimes there is a betrayal by one person against the other. We are broken people, we sin, we make mistakes and when that brokenness and those mistake break a marriage it is horrible.

Gods rules for marriage are not meant to restrict us. They are there for our good. In marriage a man and woman come together, they become one. They promise each other and God that they will remain as one. If you are married or are intending to marry, I pray that your marriage is happy and prosperous, and you keep your family in the heart of your home.

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There is a something hidden at the back of the cupboard, covered in dust and hardly recognisable for the treasure it really is. This golden treasure has been forgotten, it's meaning lost as time moves forward. I have opened the cupboard and spied the treasure, recognised it for what it might be. I have taken it, cleaned it, gazed in wonder at its meaning, and now I share it....

My treasure is a word. My treasure is the true meaning of a word. The meaning that has been lost, forgotten. My treasure is the real meaning of the word Mystery.

When we think of mystery we think of something confusing, a puzzle, something we can't understand. We might think about an Agatha Christie novel, or an episode of Scooby Doo. If we describe something as a mystery we mean we don't fully understand it, it is something we desire to know but don't. In fact these description of the word Mystery can be found in a modern dictionary, but there is another meaning, an older meaning, a greater meaning. Want to know what it is?

A Mystery is, a truth that is unknowable except by divine revelation. You see we have focused on the first half of the sentence for to long. We must take back the second part “Except by divine revelation.” For Christians 'Mystery' is divine revelation, it is the truth, the answer, not the question.

Christ is Mystery. Christ is divine revelation, God visiting us, introducing Himself to us, teaching us and ultimately giving Himself for us. Christ's life on earth was divine revelation, the revealing of God to us, the revealing of truth. Christ is Mystery not a mystery.

The proverbial cupboard I found my lost treasure in was a 50 year old document describing the Church. It's first chapter is called 'The Mystery of the Church' and I was surprised and inspired by the wonders I found while reading it.
“Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. The Church, or, in other words, the kingdom of Christ now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world.”
The Church as described here combines us all in this earthly life through baptism with the heavenly kingdom. We are the Church, a royal priesthood, a consecrated people, all of us not just the ordained, the people, the laity and ordained together form the body of Christ. “A people made one with the unity of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” But it does not stop there, Christ is the head of His Church, active it in. He sent His Spirit to help, guide, love and console us. His Church spans earth and heaven, exist through all time, “While it slowly grows, strains towards the completed Kingdom and, with all its strength, hopes and desires to be united in glory with its King.”

The Church is Mystery, it is divine revelation, it is God making himself known to the world. If we are the earthly part of the Church, and we are, we need to look at our role and how we live in this world, how we effect this world and how we make Christ present in this world. That's the Mystery we are part of, it not an unanswerable question, but it's the answer to all questions, its Truth.

The document I have been reading and talking about is Lumen Gentium, “Christ the Light of Nations” and was written during the Second Vatican Council. It a beautiful document that I urge you to take a look at, you can find the full text here Vatican Archive - Lumen Gentium

Fifty years ago the council recognised a changing world, a world they briefly described in the open paragraph.
“The present-day conditions of the world add greater urgency to this work of the Church so that all men, joined more closely today by various social, technical and cultural ties, might also attain fuller unity in Christ.”
Reading the description written 50 years on you can't help but feel the document was written for us today in 2012, and that my friends is the Mystery, the truth, the divine revelation of God to our modern world.

More Posts about the Documents of the Second Vatican Council

The journey in faith talks are free to all and held in at 7:30pm on Thursday eveings at:
St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish Hall, Boscombe Crescent, Downend, Bristol, BS16 6QR.
Tel: 0117 983 3939

Sara Groves Delights Fishponds

Last night I had the pleasure of watching Sara Groves perform live in front of a small crowd in an intimate church in Fishponds, Bristol. I have loved her music for over 10 years now and it has been a constant source of inspiration and confirmation of God's love. In a 2 hour set Sara played songs from Invisible Empires her latest album and many songs from her huge back catalogue, although she would have had to play for 5-6 hours to fit in all my favourites. A surprise and delight from last night was hearing her tell the stories behind the songs. Just like Nancy Griffith or Bruce Springsteen she would just chat to the enthralled audience. I now long for a live album (or double album) containing not only the best of her songs but also the enchantingly, moving and spiritually blessed stories behind them.

Sara is the Bruce Springsteen and Nancy Griffith of the gospel world, bring beautiful music, inspiring stories, and most importantly the Holy Spirit, Gods love, to the lives of all her fans.

Sara also talked about the work of IJM, International Justice Mission, and I highly recommend you taking a good look at their website. IJM are working globally to fight injustice and free slaves, while from your history lessons you know about the horrible things people did to slaves and the horror of slavery itself, you also know that slavery was abolished, unfortunately you are wrong. Slavery is still going on, in fact there are more slaves today than at any time in the past.
“Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice.
More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner.
Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry. “
IJM Website
If your quick you can catch Sara at Bath tonight, then Buckinghamshire on the 4th Oct and Belfast on the 6th Oct.

More info on Sara Groves from www.saragroves.com and on twitter @grovesroad
More info on IJM from www.ijm.org and on twitter @IJMHQ and @IJMcampaigns