A thought for the Day

It is one of the paradoxes of Christianity that the only things that are really our own when we die is what we give away in His name. What we leave in our wills is snatched from us by death; but what we give away is recorded by God to our eternal credit, for only our works follow us. It is not what is given that profits unto salvation; it is why it is given.

Fulton J Sheen The Seven Virtues 1953:72-73

A thought for the day

Be watchful of time and how you spend it. Nothing is more precious than time. In the twinkling of an eye heaven may be won or lost.

Time is made for man, not man for time.

I hear you say sadly, ‘How shall I fare? And if what you say is true, how shall I give account of each moment of time? – I, who am now twenty four, and until now have never paid heed to time … Help me now for the love of Jesus.’

That is indeed well said: ‘For the love of Jesus.’ For in the love of Jesus you shall find your help.

So then love Jesus, and all that he has is yours. Knit yourself to him by love and faith.

from The Cloud of Unknowing Chapter 4

Homily for the 25th Sunday of Year C


True generosity never looks to reciprocity; it gives neither because it expects a gift in return, nor because there is a duty or an obligation to give. Charity lies beyond obligation; its essence is the ‘adorable extra.’ Its reward is in the joy of giving.

Fulton Sheen Way to Inner Peace, 1955: 108

‘What shall I do?’ (Lk 16:3) As Christians we are charged with nothing more than the transformation of the entire world and its conversion to Christ. In this we do the will of him ‘who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’ (1Tim 2:4) It is something which is rooted in prayer, which should characterise our lives, which fills our hearts with love so that we may lift ‘holy hands without anger or quarrelling’ (1Tim 2:8). We live such lives so that our faith is lived out, and that it may be attractive, inviting and so that it may convert the world.

            The world around us is cruel, selfish, and unfair. Profit is everything. The behaviour criticised by the prophet Amos is still widespread. It is something which we have to combat as we live out our faith. In Amos’ prophesy we hear ‘we will buy the helpless man for silver’ (Amos 8:6) and we know that he was bought for thirty pieces of silver. This was his price; he was bought and suffered for us, to take away our sins, to transform the world, giving Himself out of love so that humanity might share His Divinity.

           

            Such is the generous love that redeems the world, giving ‘Himself as a ransom for all’ (1Tim 2:6). This too is the generosity which we see in this morning’s Gospel. It’s something of a shock to the system to see Our Lord condoning unjust or immoral behaviour. He has been charged with wasting his master’s possessions, so he goes to the people who are in debt to his master and writes the debts off. He shows a generosity and love which is reckless, which does not count the cost. At one level he does what he is accused of doing and is commended by his master. We’re expecting him to be condemned for acting like this, and yet he is praised. It reminds us that we are called to be generous, even to the point of being reckless, sitting lightly to the things of this world, and holding no store by wealth, or position, or influence, but instead giving it away, sharing it with others. If we cannot serve God and money, then as Christians we are to serve God. In this we can show that we are faithful in small things and hope to receive a place in the eternal dwellings.
 
            This sort of behaviour looks completely mad in the eyes of the world, but we are not to conform ourselves to the ways of the world, but rather to those of the Kingdom of God. This is how we can transform the world around us, and conform it to God in Christ. It starts with our baptism; it continues with prayer, with reading Scripture and receiving Holy Communion, so that God’s grace may be poured out on us, to transform our human nature, so that His Kingdom may be a reality, so that the world may believe and be saved. So let us live out our faith, practising the same generosity which God poured out on us, shedding His Blood to take away our sins. Let us transform the world so that it may turn away from the ways of greed and selfishness and put its trust in the true riches of the Kingdom. If ‘no servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money’ (Lk 16:13) we have to choose between money and God. We cannot take it with us when we go, we cannot put pockets in our shrouds; money is no use once you’re dead, other than for buying you a fancier coffin or a grander funeral. Let us rather love God, and fashion our lives after the generosity which God shows to us, sparing not even His only Son, who died for our sake, so that we might live, and have eternal life in Him.
It is this generous God who comes to us today in Word and Sacrament, to heal us and restore us, to give us life in him. He entrusts to us the true riches of the Kingdom so that we may share them recklessly, generously with 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.

 

The Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Let those who think that the Church pays too much attention to Mary give heed to the fact that Our Blessed Lord Himself gave ten times as much of His life to her as He gave to His Apostles.
Fulton J Sheen The World’s First Love 1956: 88

It is a fair thing to say, and I am certainly not embarrassed to admit the fact, and hopefully she is not too embarrassed to hear it, but I love my Mum! I am lucky to be the son of such a lovely lady, and in an ideal world, all of us would like to or are able to say a similar thing. It is a relationship of love, of nurture, and support, which gives rise to human flourishing; it is a building block of human society, it is something fundamental, which should be both valued and celebrated.
As great as human motherhood is, in the Church we celebrate something even greater: the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary is the mother of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour, the world’s Redeemer, who entrusted her to the world, and the world to her care, as He hung on the Cross at Calvary. As such she is the mother of the Church, the Queen of Heaven and Earth and the Queen of Peace. Today the Church celebrates the birth of the one of the Saviour of the World was born. She is one special lady! We cannot praise or honour her enough for the simple reason that her saying Yes to God at the Annunciation undoes the No of Eve in the Garden of Eden. She is obedient,  and likewise her husband, S. Joseph, when he hears the angel’s message, trusts and obeys. In them both we see true love and obedience, a model for humanity in how it relates to itself and to God.
Mary (and Joseph) listen and obey, which brings about the birth of Him who restores humanity’s relationship with God and ourselves, who gives us the hope of heaven,  who gives Himself out of love, sharing our human nature so that we might share His divinity. That is why we have come here this morning, to he nourished by Him, and with Him, with His Word, with His Body and Blood, under the outward forms of bread and wine, so that through grace, the free gift of God, He might transform our nature so that we might share His nature.
It really is the most wonderful news – the good news of the Gospel, that God loves us, dies for us, and rises again, so that we and all who turn to Him can be saved, and have life in its fullness. It is not without its cost, as Our Lady found out, in the prophecy of Simeon a sword would pierce her own soul when she saw her Son dying on the Cross. Yet here too she is obedient, she has been told that he will save His people from their sins. Here too she trusts in God, and through her trust snd obedience we can enkoy the fruits of her Son’s saving work. This is something which we can and should celebrate: the fruits of her obedience and trust. It should encourage us to imitate her and be obedient to God, to trust Him, and fo what He tells us to do. She is the model Christian, living the model Christian life; she receives the reward promised by her Son in her Assumption, sharing His risen life and glory at His right hand in Heaven. She shows the world what it means to be obedient to God and to trust in Him,  and what the rewards of God’s promises are.
It is not easy to be like her, to be obedient to the will of God: more often than not humans are more inclined to follow their own will, their own desires or pleasures, because they want to, and because such self-gratification is all that matters. In our modern capitalist consumer society we are taught want things and to get them, even if we have to borrow to get them. It is enticing,  but where does all this self-gratification lead? Nowhere! Other than death and emptiness: you cannot simply buy your way into heaven. You can pay to have your body frozen, but it cannot save your soul: nothing we can say or think or do can. It’s that simple,  and thanks to the obedience of the woman whose birth we celebrate today, we are given something which money cannot buy: the love of God poured into our hearts, restoring our lives and relationships, forgiving our sins, helping us to become the people God wants us to become,  to prepare us to share the joy of paradise, in God’s presence for ever.
Such a wonderful free gift should have a serious effect upon our lives, who and what we are, and how we live our lives here and now. If we are willing to accept the free gift of God, we have to accept that it has consequences for who and what we are, and yet we know that the service of God is perfect freedom: we are not faced with tyranny or oppression but love and mercy. Do let us live, following the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and aided by her prayers, so that we may transform our lives and the whole world, so that it too 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.