16th of the Year, 23 Jul 23
In a number of senses the sermon today, if it is, as is proper, to expound the scriptures, the Holy Scriptures of both Old and New Testament, then Our Lord`s teaching is a very hard one, because there is a directness in the Lord`s teaching that can, in a sense, be very frightening! This is because we Christians, seeing Our Lord to be merciful, are afraid to recognise that we too, individually and collectively, have a responsibility to obey the Lord – both the Lord God of the Old Testament, who is the Heavenly Father of our Saviour and the teaching of Jesus Himself!
St. Paul`s letter to the Christians at Rome, chapter 8 and just two verses 26 and 27 explains how the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. The help being what we refer to as “Grace”. We heard much abut this in the scriptures and sermon of last Sunday which showed us so much of the generosity of God – not least in the self-offering of His Son Jesus Christ upon the Cross for our salvation and, indeed, for the sins of the whole world in all times and places – and in His Divine generosity even for those who have never known the saving work of The Lord Jesus! Our Heavenly Father is, indeed, the Father of us all.
In the complexities of modern life we sometimes forget the purpose of our being brought into being – CREATED! Each one of us has been in the mind of God our Father from before time began. The old PENNY CATECHISM points the way with its earliest questions and answers : “Who made you ?” “ God made me.” “ Why did God make you ?” “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world – and to be happy with Him for ever in the next world.” There are, of course, many more questions and answers in that catechism but a big point is being made in this simple beginning. The essential is that out of love God has made us for a life that is one of love, service and happiness that should be free from sin. However by reason of our human condition, it can only be free from sin by reason of the Father sending His Son Jesus into the world to make that perfect sacrifice upon the cross that we may be redeemed from our sinfulness and selfishness which turns us away from our calling to the idolatry of self-centredness in whatever form that may take. Thus that condition takes us to the place where Jesus, in today`s gospel passage from St. Matthew 13, 41 to 42 where he says, “The Son of Man – Jesus Himself – will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Unfashionable as it is in our own time, there is the reality of HELL at the end of this life which is the result of the final judgement if we do not seek to change from our selfish ways and repent. By our own volition we, frankly, don`t stand a chance of that “being happy with Him forever in the next world.” Such reality only comes about by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus upon the Cross and our acceptance of and reverance for the Holy Sacrifice which we re-live every time we come to Mass and receive the Body and Blood of the Lord, unworthy as we are, into our own lives.
Our call is always to turn towards God through Jesus His Son and by the acceptance of the power of His Holy Spirit. It would be very easy to say, “Well, is there any point, I don`t stand a chance ?” Of course that is exactly what the Devil or Satan wants us to feel – in other words to lose both Faith and Hope.
Our Hope is in the Cross for it is through the Cross, by the love and sacrifice of Jesus the Son of God. Those of us who are priests of the Society of The Holy Cross begin a prayer, daily, in these words: “We should glory in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Chrisr, for he is our salvation, our life and our resurrection, through him we are saved and made free.” And this is true for each one of us who has been united to our Saviour through the waters of Baptism. A few minutes ago I read that short passage from Matthew 13 verses 41 and 42 which sounds more than a touch doom-laden. The verse that follows, 43, puts us on the straight and narrow: “Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!
That last sentence re-emphasises verses 5 and 6 of Psalm 85 where we read or pray: “O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call. Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my voice.” To which we all responded: “O Lord, you are good and forgiving.”. This fact and sentiment, of course, takes us back to the Beatitudes, from the Sermon of the Mount in Matthew chapter 5 when we read: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” This has also been interpreted in a simpler way as, “Blessed are those who know their need of God.” A wise old priest once said, “Once we know that – we are halfway to Heaven”. It is, then, our inner knowledge and faith and need of our total dependence upon the love and mercy of God – and how can we doubt it when we raise our eyes to the Rood above the Chancel Screen to see our Saviour with outstretched arms to greet and welcome the penitent sinner and embrace each one of us in His love. In what other way could he reveal the love of God the Father ?
Saint Paul, in chapter 8 of his Letter to the Romans, sets the scene in verses 26 and 27 when he begins with the words: “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness.”
If I could give each of you a task for this coming week I would ask you to spend time reading, praying and pondering the whole of chapter 8 of St. Paul`s letter to those early Christians in Rome for it is as relevant, and maybe more so, for us today as it was in those early days of the Christian Church