Thought for the Day

‘even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.‘ (Mt 20:28)
True Christian greatness is not measured by superiority, but by service: ‘And he that will be first among you, shall be your servant.’ (Mt 20:27) The greatest race on earth is the race that renders the most service to others in the name of God.
Fulton Sheen Love One Another (New York, 1944), 159

A Thought for the Day from Fulton Sheen

As a reflection upon today’s Gospel at Mass:

Clothing therefore tells the story of inner and outer worth. It is a symbol of lost innocence, a memento of former glory. There are therefore two fashions: the passing fashion of the world and the enduring fashion of the spiritual. In the final reckoning it will not matter how we are dressed on the outside; one can go into the Kingdom of Heaven in rags; but it makes an eternity of difference as to how we are dressed on the inside

Fulton J Sheen Life is Worth Living 5th series (1957), 240

A Thought for the Day from Fulton Sheen

[As a commentary on this morning’s Gospel:]

There are three different ways in which we may judge others: with our passions, our reason, and our faith. Our passions induce us to love those who love us; our reason makes us love all people within certain limits; our faith makes us love everyone, including those who do us harm and are our enemies.

Way to Inner Peace, 110

A thought for the Day: Latin’s a Wonderful Thing

In John 18:38 Pontius Pilate asks (in the Vulgate)  ‘quid est veritas‘ (what is truth) and does not stay around for an answer. The answer can be stated as an anagram of the question: ‘est vir qui adest‘ (it is the man who is here). He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. May our Lenten Journey lead us to contemplate the mystery of God’s saving love on the Cross, and may we take up our crosses and follow Him.

Homily for Lent II – Listen to Him

Divinity is so profound that it can be grasped only by the extremes of simplicity and wisdom. There is something in common between the wise and the simple, and that is humility

Fulton J. Sheen, The Eternal Galilean, 21–22
In this morning’s first reading we hear the account of the covenant between God and Abraham: an agreement between the human and the divine in which a promise is made and a relationship is strengthened. The promise is fulfilled in the land of Israel and the offspring of Abraham. It shows us something of what God is and God does – God is faithful, generous, and loving towards us his children, he keeps his promises.
            As men and women it is all too easy to get caught up in questions of national identity, I for one am more than guilty of this, especially during the Six Nations Rugby Championship. We all then need to be reminded of S. Paul’s words in our second reading: ‘Our citizenship is in heaven’. It’s where we really belong, and where we gain our true identity. It is where we can have hope that he will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body – we can dare to hope to share in the fullness of the divine life of love for all eternity. It’s something which should affect our lives here and now. Just like the Christians of Philippi addressed by S. Paul, we too need to ‘stand firm thus in the Lord’: we need to stand firm against the ways of the world, against those who would re-fashion the church after the ways of the world, for we are to be in the world, but not of it – for our citizenship is in heaven, this is where we belong, and what really matters.
            If we turn to this morning’s Gospel we hear an account of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. In it we catch a glimpse of the glory of God, we see things as they really are, and for a moment Jesus’ divinity shines forth. He appears talking with Moses and Elijah, he ‘spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem’. In appearing with Moses and Elijah we see Jesus as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Just before going up the mountain Jesus has spoken to the disciples, telling them that he will suffer, be rejected, be killed, and raised from the dead. He tells his disciples that if they wish to follow him they have to deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. This then is what Lent is all about: denying ourselves and taking up our cross and following Christ. We are to prepare ourselves to follow our Lord and Saviour by imitating him and losing our life for his sake. We pray and we fast to follow his footsteps, to turn away from the things of this world and to remind ourselves that our citizenship is in heaven.
            The glory of God, prefigured by the shining white appearance of Jesus in the Transfiguration points to the moment when the world will see the glory of God displayed most fully upon the Cross, where naked and bloody, scourged, despised, and rejected, Christ is crucified as a blasphemer, an enemy of the people. God will enter into a new covenant with his people, cut in his own flesh, with a sacrifice of himself, for our sins and those of the whole world. This is the fullness of glory and the love of God for humanity. It turns our understanding of glory, and power, and kingship, on their head.
            We too can say like Peter that ‘it is good that we are here’. We come to be fed by God and with God, with word and sacrament, where the sacrifice of Calvary is made present so that we, the people of God, may be fed with his body and blood. We, here, this morning, can behold something of the glory of God in the Mass where Christ gives himself for the life of the world. This is the manna in the wilderness, the bread for the journey of the people of God in the desert of repentance.
            At the moment of Transfiguration a voice comes from a cloud saying ‘This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!’ God tells us to listen to Jesus, so that we may be like him. We are to take up our Cross, and in that to learn humility, our need for and reliance upon God and God alone, to glimpse his love and glory on the Cross and to fashion our lives after him, and live out our faith in the world, so that it may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

When St Antony was praying in his cell, a voice spoke to him, saying ‘Antony, you have not yet come to the measure of the tanner who is in Alexandria.’ When he heard this, the old man arose and took his stick and hurried to the city. When he had found the tanner …. he said to him, ‘Tell me about your work, for today I have left the desert and come here to see you.’
He replied, ‘I am not aware that I have done anything good. When I get up in the morning, before I sit down to work, I say that the whole of the city, small and great, will go into the Kingdom of God because of their good deeds while I will go into eternal punishment because of my evil deeds. Every evening I repeat the same words and believe them in my heart.’
When St Antony heard this he said, ‘My son, you sit in your own house and work well, and you have the peace of the Kingdom of God; but I spend all my time in solitude with no distractions, and I have not come near to the measure of such words.’
It is a very human failure, for far too often we make things far too complicated when all we need to do is to keep things simple. In the story from the Desert Fathers, which we have just heard, St Antony, the founder of monasticism, a great and a holy man, is put to shame by a man who spends his days treating animal skins. The key to it all is the tanner’s humility, his complete absence of pride, and his complete and utter trust in God – his reliance upon him alone.
In this morning’s Gospel we see Our Lord going into the desert for forty days. He goes to be alone with God, to pray and to fast, to prepare himself for the public ministry of the Proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel.
As he comes out of this he is tempted by the devil: he faces temptation just like every human being, but unlike us, he resists. The devil tempts him to turn stones into bread. It is understandable – he is hungry, but it is a temptation to be relevant, which the church seems to have given into completely: unless we what we are and what we do and say is relevant to people, they will ignore us.
There is the temptation to have power, symbolised by worshipping the devil. It leads to the misuse of power. The church stands condemned for the mistakes of the past, but in recognising this there is the possibility of a more humble church in the future – reliant upon God and not on the exercise of power.
There is the temptation to put God to the test – to be spectacular and self-seeking. Whenever we say ‘look at me’ we’re not saying ‘look at God’.
Jesus resists these temptations because he is humble, because he has faith, and because he trusts in God. It certainly isn’t easy, but it is possible. It’s far easier when we do this together, as a community, which is why Lent matters for all of us. It’s a chance to become more obedient, and through that obedience to discover true freedom in God. It’s an obedience which is made manifest on the Cross – in laying down his life Jesus can give new life to the whole world. He isn’t spectacular – he dies like a common criminal. He has no power, he does not try to be relevant, he is loving and obedient and that is good enough.
It was enough for him, and it should be for us. As Christians we have Scripture and the teaching of the Church, filled with his Spirit, to guide us. We can use this time of prayer and fasting to deepen our faith, our trust, our understanding, and our obedience, to become more like Jesus, fed by his word and sacraments – to become more humble, more loving, living lives of service of God and each other, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever

Homily for Ash Wednesday Mt 6:1-6, 16-18 ‘Rend your Hearts and not your Garments’

Today the Church celebrates Ash Wednesday, ‘the beginning of her Lenten journey towards Easter. The entire Christian community is invited to live this period of forty days as a pilgrimage of repentance, conversion and renewal. In the Bible, the number forty is rich in symbolism. It recalls Israel’s journey in the desert: a time of expectation, purification and closeness to the Lord, but also a time of temptation and testing. It also evokes Jesus’ own sojourn in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry, a time of profound closeness to the Father in prayer, but also of confrontation with the mystery of evil. The Church’s Lenten discipline is meant to help deepen our life of faith and our imitation of Christ in his paschal mystery. In these forty days may we draw nearer to the Lord by meditating on his word and example, and conquer the desert of our spiritual aridity, selfishness and materialism. For the whole Church may this Lent be a time of grace in which God leads us, in union with the crucified and risen Lord, through the experience of the desert to the joy and hope brought by Easter.’[1]

Fasting, repentance, prayer, and the imposition of ashes were not unknown to Jews; that is why we as Christians carry on the tradition.  The advice given by the prophet Joel in today’s first reading is both wise and salutary as we enter the desert of Lent. It reminds us that, first and foremost, we are to recognise our own brokenness, our own sinfulness, our own turning away from a God of Love and Mercy. While we may recognise this, any outward sign is not good enough. There is nothing that we can do in a solely exterior fashion – ripping our clothes, placing ashes upon our foreheads, which will, in itself, make a blind bit of difference. What matters, where it really counts, is on the inside. To rend one’s heart, is to lay ourselves open, to make ourselves vulnerable, and in this openness and vulnerability, to let God do his work.

        It would be all too easy when faced with today’s Gospel to argue that outward displays of fasting, piety, and penitence, are criticised, that they do notmatter. But this is not what Jesus is getting at. What he criticises are deeds which are done to comply with the letter but not the spirit of the law. This mechanised approach to piety, a clinging to the external nature of religion, without any concern for its inward spiritual aspect, is where the fault lies. When things are done for show, when our piety is paraded as performance, so that the world may see how good and religious we are, then we are nothing but an empty shell, a whitened sepulchre. The reward which such people receive is likewise an empty one.
        Instead, Jesus upholds the standard practice of Jewish cult, but what matters is that what is done outwardly is completely in accordance with our interior life, it is an outward manifestation of our relationship with God and with one another. So Lent is to be a time when we as Christians are to seek to be reconciled, to be in full communion with God and his church. Our outward acts of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving need to be done in tandem with, rather than instead of, paying attention to our interior life: otherwise our efforts are doomed to failure. The God whom we worship is one of infinite love and mercy, which will be demonstrated most fully and perfectly on Good Friday, when we see what that love means, when for our sake God made him who was without sin into sin, so that we in him might become the goodness of God. Or as St Isaac puts it ‘as a handful of sand thrown into the ocean, so are the sins of all flesh as compared with the mind of God.’ As dreadful as we might be, as utterly undeserving of the father’s love, nonetheless, as the parable of the prodigal son shows us, there are no lengths to which God will not go. The love and mercy which flows from Jesus’ stricken side upon the cross at Calvary are still being poured out over the world, and will continue to be so until all is reconciled in him. In his commission of Peter after his resurrection, Jesus entrusts to his church the power to forgive sins, to reconcile us to one another and to God. This reconciliation is manifested by our restoration to communion with God and his Church.
It is not the most comfortable or pleasant thing to see ourselves as we really are. To stand naked in front of a full length mirror is for most of us, I suspect, not the most pleasant experience. And yet, such a self-examination is as nothing when compared with us baring our heart and soul. It is not a pleasant task, but given that God will judge us in love and mercy, having taken away our sins upon the cross, despite our apprehension we have nothing to fear. All that awaits us is the embrace of a loving father. No matter how many times we fail, how many times we would run away or reject his love, his arms, like those of his son upon the cross, remain open to embrace the world, to heal the wounds of sin and division.
If there are any of you determined to live a more Christian life, there is one resolution you need to make which is, out of all proportion, more important than the rest. Resolve to pray, to receive the sacraments, to shun besetting sins, to do good works – all excellent resolutions; but more important than any of these is the resolution to repent. The more resolutions you make, the more you will break. But it does not matter how many you break so long as you are resolute not to put off repentance when you break them, but to give yourself up to the mercy which will not despise a broken and a contrite heart. Converted or unconverted, it remains true of you that in you, that is, in your natural being, there dwells no good thing. Saints are not people who store goodness in themselves, they are just a people who do not delay to repent, and whose repentances are honourable.[2]
So then, may this Lent be for us all a time of repentance, a time for us to turn away from all which separates us from God and neighbour, a time for reconciliation, for healing and growth, that the faith which we profess may grow in our souls and be shown forth in our lives to give Glory to God the Father, to whom with God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, be ascribed as is most right and just all might, majesty, glory, dominion, and power, now and forever


[1]H.H. Pope Bendict XVI Catechesis at the General Audience 22.ii.12: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-conquering-our-spiritual-desert
[2]Farrer (1976) The Brink of Mystery (ed. C. Conti), 17, quoted in Harries, R. (ed.) (1987) The One Genius: Readings through the year with Austin Farrer, London: SPCK, 60.

Homily for Shrove Tuesday : Mark 7:1-13


Even when the will is perverse – even when a creature is enthralled and captivated by one great sinful adhesion, which makes one’s days a flight from God towards lust or power – even then some few good and commendable acts contradict one’s general attitude. These isolated acts of virtue are like a clean handle on a dirty bucket; with them, God can lift a soul to his peace.
Fulton J Sheen Lift Up Your Heart

In this evening’s first reading we see God’s Creation in its perfection and its peace: ‘God saw that it was good’. Here we find all that is needed for human flourishing through staying close to Him and listening to what he says to us and doing it. We see the traditional notions of marriage and family as ordained by God, for our good, and with which we meddle at our peril, and that of the whole of society in general. We see the need for rest – it’s something ordained by God, and which the modern world with its 24/7 always on mindset seeks to erode. It’s something against which we need to fight, because it is wrong and it’s not good for us. We need to rest, to have time off, to spend it in rest and relaxation with our nearest and dearest, it helps give our lives value and worth and first and foremost it is holy, it is set apart for rest and refreshment by God – we cannot simply disregard this divine command because it’s inconvenient in the modern world. It shows us that when the world and the Church are in conflict it is the Church which truly values humanity and affords them proper dignity and respect, rather than seeing them as a commodity which is to be exploited.
          As someone who is part of the religious establishment I must admit that I always get more than a bit concerned when I am faced with Our Lord confronting the Pharisees. It is, I would suggest, a good and a healthy thing simply because it reminds me that I am never to ask the people of God to do something which I do not. It forces me to examine who and what I am, and what I say and think and do, which is never a bad thing.
          The Pharisees approach Jesus to point out that his disciples have not been following the letter of the law, and eating with unclean hands. They are, as ever, keen to point out minor outward transgressions, and are themselves unable to see the bigger spiritual picture. Our Lord is right to say to them:

 “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honours me with their lips,
    but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
    teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” Mk 7:6-8

Outward conformity then just will not do; we cannot simply go through the motions and expect everything to be alright in the end. We need to honour God with our lips and with our hearts, so that what we think, what we say, and what we do are all in accord with each other: otherwise we are hypocrites and no better than the Pharisees.
          They saw the law as salvific: if you do the right thing, everything will be fine. Their mechanistic approach to religion is cold, dead and empty, and through the words of Jesus we know that it is not pleasing to God. We cannot and should not fall into the same trap as them.
          We are here tonight to take time to begin our preparations for Lent, to prepare to enter into the desert of repentance, like our Lord spending forty days in the desert before starting his public ministry. We are to give our souls and lives a spiritual spring-clean. We prepare to celebrate Our Lord’s Passion, Death and Resurrection just like those preparing for Baptism did and still do: in prayer, with fasting, with self-denial, and through the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. We prepare by examining our lives and our consciences to confess our sins to God, so that he can heal and restore us. It may sound scary, but take it from me, as someone who does it regularly, it really isn’t: it’s wonderful, it’s a chance to lay down your burden and feel the embrace of a loving Father around one of his prodigal children. It’s why today is called Shrove Tuesday – people were shriven – they confessed their sins as they prepared to enter this solemn time. They faced up to the fact that they were sinners in need of God’s love and mercy, who needed to be healed and restored by him, it wasn’t something they could just do on their own. It is not easy to recognise that we are work in progress, and that we need God to be at work in us; but this is exactly what Jesus came to show us. He came to heal and restore us, to forgive us our sins, suffering and dying for us – weak, foolish sinful humanity that we are. He came to restore the image of God in us, to take us back to the perfection of Creation, to turn us from the disobedience of Adam and Eve to the obedience shown by his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the obedience which her Son lives out even to his death on the Cross for our sake, and beyond.
          So let us prepare to worship him in spirit and in truth, not just with our lips, but with hearts, minds, and souls and lives  cleansed, healed, and restored by the one perfect sacrifice for sin, who gives himself, in his word, in his Body and Blood, in the Sacraments, and the teaching of the Church, his body, filled with his Spirit, so that we may have live in all its fullness and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever

 

Homily for the Fifth Sunday of Year C


We always make the fatal mistake of thinking that it is what we do that matters, when really what matters is what we let God do to us
Fulton J Sheen Seven Words of Jesus and Mary

I have to admit that the one thing I cannot stand watching is a horror movie. I probably have an over-active imagination, or get too drawn into the action, and certainly don’t like feeling scared. As humans we aren’t keen on being afraid: we feel powerless, we’re not in control.
            In this morning’s first reading the prophet Isaiah has an experience of God’s presence in the Temple in Jerusalem. He does not describe his emotional state, other than what he says speaks of human unworthiness in the divine presence. When he is confronted by the majesty of God, the singing of angels, the smoke of incense, all he can say is ‘Woe is me. For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips’ Isaiah is aware of human sinfulness and the gulf between himself and God. Yet his guilt is taken away, and his sin atoned for – the prophet who will tell of the Messiah, who will save humanity, is prepared for this by God, he is set apart. When God asks ‘Whom shall I send, who will go for me?’ Isaiah can respond ‘Here I am, send me’ It’s quite a journey in a few verses.
            Likewise St Paul, ‘the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because [he] persecuted the church of God’ is living proof of the redemptive power of God’s love at work in the world. He preaches Christ crucified and resurrected, to show us that Christ died for us, and that we can have new life in him. God can (and does) take and use surprising people to show us that we are loved.
            In the Gospel, Jesus begins by using a fisherman’s boat, so that the large crowd at the lakeside can see and hear him. When he has finished teaching he tells Simon Peter to ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’. Peter cannot see the point – they’ve not caught anything in the entire night, he’s tired, he doesn’t see the point. And yet he is obedient, he does what Jesus asks him – and they catch so many fish that their boats almost sink under the weight of them, a catch which points forward to another miraculous catch of fish after Jesus’ resurrection (in Jn 21:1–11), it is a sign of the Church, a miraculous number of people given new life in Christ.
            Peter’s response is telling: he falls at Jesus’ knees and says ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord’ it is an authentic human response to the presence and generosity of God – he recognises his own unworthiness and his reliance upon God. Peter is not worthy of his calling, but because he knows he isn’t that’s where God can be at work. The next thing Jesus says to him is ‘Do not be afraid’ – in Christ we do not need to be afraid of anything, if we trust in him, and let his love be at work in us.
            Once they reach the land the disciples leave everything and follow him, they display metanoia: they change their heart, their mind and their life – the response of a sinner to the love of God. It can be all too easy to see such passages as we have this morning as solely of interest to those of a calling to the priesthood. That’s understandable, but it’s also deeply wrong. It applies to each and every one of us, here, and all over the world. As Christians we are all to kneel in the place of Peter, to recognise our reliance upon and trust in God, and be prepared to be ‘fishers of men’. The calling of the disciples is the calling of the entire baptised people of God: a calling not to be afraid, but to respond to the God who loves us and saves us, a calling to live out in our lives by word and deed the saving truths of God, so that the world may believe. So that it may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Year C – Being prophetic


Many people nowadays want God, but on their own terms, not on his. They insist that their wishes shall determine the kind of religion that is true, rather than letting God reveal his truth to them. So their dissatisfaction continues and grows. But God finds us lovable, even in our rebellion against him.
Fulton J. Sheen ­Lift up your heart
Throughout the Scriptures we see that the calling, life and witness of the prophet is a difficult and a costly one. In this morning’s first reading we see Jeremiah being called to proclaim the word of the Lord. He is set apart for this task, he is made holy, and God says ‘I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations’ – in order to do what a prophet does, he has to be what a prophet is, function follows and flows from ontology, what he is, is prior, it is done to him, so that God may work through him.
            It is a difficult and a costly task, and a prophet has to be prepared for rejection: ‘they will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you.’ It is far too easy especially in the current climate for the Church to be downhearted, when we are assailed by secular power, but we have to be like Jeremiah, and trust in God safe in the knowledge that that the one who called is faithful and will not disappoint us. We can trust in God, we can have faith and hope in him, so that we can speak the truth in love.
            The People of Jesus’ home town cannot see what’s going on, they simply see what they want to see, they see a mouthy jumped-up carpenter’s son who has the temerity to challenge their preconceptions and their lack of faith, who tells is like it is, the uncomfortable truth, which they do not want to hear, but which they needto hear.
            Currently we are being told that our understanding of Holy Order and Marriage need to be changed to conform to the ways of the world; it can only be a matter of time before legislation allowing assisted suicide to be made legal will be considered, so that we no longer have to value life either at its beginning, or its end, that the vulnerable and inconvenient can be disposed of by medical means, cast off, in private and away from prying eyes. Against the vision of a secular state which does not truly value life from its conception to a natural death, which does not value marriage as the lifelong and indivisible union of a man and a woman for their mutual benefit and that of society, and for the procreation and education of children, which seeks to tell the church what it should do and how and why it should do it, we have to offer an alternative.
            It may not be popular to stand up and proclaim the ultimate and absolute Truth found in Scripture and the tradition of the Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, but that is what the Church is called to do. It may not be easy, people are not willing to listen, but prefer to mock and to jeer, to remain safe and secure in their liberal secular prejudices, looking down their noses at poor deluded fools who stand up for a truth which they see as only one out of a myriad possible options in this post-modern world. It is easier to persecute the church under the fig leaf of upholding equality and diversity, of protecting religion while undermining it, unless it conforms to the secular viewpoint.
            We believe in saying that certain actions are right and others are wrong, they will harm your soul, and affect your relationship with God and each other, that life is precious and must be valued, and we do this because we are loved by a God who lived among us, who died for us, to heal our wounds, who rose again, to give us the hope of glory. He knew rejection, throughout his earthly life, but he was not afraid to speak the truth in love, regardless of the cost. It’s generous; it’s extravagant, in a way which people just cannot understand – entering into glory by being executed like a common criminal, for the love of us, of you and me – to give us new life in him. He is the Truth, the Way and the Life.
            He knew that in the end the power of God’s love was greater than that of the world, the flesh and the devil – all these were beaten on a hill outside Jerusalem. So confident in his victory, in his strength and his truth, let us continue to proclaim it in word and deed so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever

Homily for Sexagesima (BCP ) The Parable of the Sower


Faith lights up all the faculties of a person, as light inside reveals the pattern of a stained-glass window. For faith is far more than the passive acquiescence to a proof; it is a dynamic thing accompanied by an intense desire for the possession of God as author and finisher of our life
Fulton J. Sheen Lift up your Heart
Christianity has, of late, not looked terribly good in the eyes of the world and the media. If we were to believe what is said of us, it would appear that we are obsessed by matters of gender and sex: the ordination of women, clergy in civil partnerships and the proposed redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples. In the eyes of the world we are wrong, we are completely out of touch, and we need to conform ourselves and the Church to the ways of the world. We cannot, I would suggest, allow this to happen; we need instead to stand up and be counted, proclaiming a truth rooted in Scripture and the Tradition of the Church even if it means that we appear foolish in the eyes of the world: for our faith is foolishness and a stumbling block, but the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
            In this morning’s Gospel we have St Luke’s account of the parable of the Sower and its explanation – Jesus is showing us what the Church and the Proclamation of the Gospel look like in practice. He uses an agricultural image which is as clear to us today as it was two thousand years ago. It’s designed to be transparent, it isn’t complicated, but it does not necessarily make for terribly easy reading. The sower casts out a great deal of seed, and not all of it even lands on soil. Even when it does it necessarily lead to much – the plants bolt and die or are choked by weeds. Only a few seeds grow up into healthy plants, which produce a wonderful harvest, even an hundredfold.
            There are people, who are initially very enthusiastic about the Christian Faith, but who quickly lose interest; others find themselves distracted by the cares of the world, by their riches, and the enticements of pleasure. This reminds us of the salutary fact that living the Christian life is not easy: things get in the way, we get distracted, it is a huge struggle and if we were just left to our own devices then we, generally speaking, are not terribly good at resisting. So what do we do? We need to rely upon God as our help and strength, and also to support each other as we grow together in a community of faith and love, helping each other, through God’s grace, to resist the ways of sin and the world.
            Only a few plants produce a great deal of seed – the Church grew from a small but committed community of faith gathered around Our Lord and the Twelve Apostles. Instead of hearts hardened by superficialities or worldly preoccupations, they display hearts which are open, open to the God who loves them, to the God who heals them, and to the God who saves them, who shed his blood on the Cross for their sake and ours, to take away their sin. They are people who trust God, and who live lives which proclaim God’s saving truth regardless of the cost to themselves, gladly laying down their lives to serve the truth which sets them free. They then reap a harvest of billions of souls saved over the past two thousand years; and we are called to be like them, to live lives like theirs, to trust like them, to be fearless in our proclamation of the Gospel, supporting each other in our lives and in spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ in word and in deed, so that the world may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost, to whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory dominion and power, now and forever