Monday 16 December 2013

Homily 3rd Advent - Br. Simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 15th December 2013,

Gospel:  Mt 11:2-11

“A Crisis of Faith”.

A couple had two little mischievous boys, ages 8 and 10. They were always getting into trouble, and their parents knew that if any mischief occurred in their town, their sons would get the blame.   The boys' mother heard that a clergyman in town had been successful in disciplining children, so she asked if he would speak with her boys. The clergyman agreed and asked to see them individually.  So, the mother sent her 8-year-old first, in the morning, with the older boy to see the clergyman in the afternoon.   The clergyman, a huge man with a booming voice, sat the younger boy down and asked him sternly, "Where is God?"  The boy's mouth dropped open, but he made no response, sitting there with his mouth hanging open.  The clergyman repeated the question. "Where is God?"  Again, the boy made no attempt to answer.
So, the clergyman raised his voice some more and shook his finger in the boy's face and bellowed, "Where is God!?"  The boy screamed and bolted from the room. He ran directly home and dove into his cupboard, slamming the door behind him.  When his older brother found him in the cupboard, he asked, "What happened?"
The younger brother, gasping for breath, replied: "We are in real BIG trouble this time! God is missing, and they think we did it!"

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight O Lord my strength and my Redeemer. Amen.

There seems to have been the slightest hint of confusion among John the Baptist and his followers as to who Jesus really was. John, whose only home since childhood had been the open desert, was languishing in captivity in Herod’s dungeon cell and that was not an altogether nice place to be. John the Baptist, who had never known doubt, was puzzled and was having second thoughts about the identity of the Messiah because Jesus seemed different from what he had expected. Walled up in prison and waiting for a brutal and senseless death, he was wondering about Jesus because the truth and worth of his life’s work depended on an answer.

The tone of Jesus’ message, indeed his lifestyle, differed so much from his own that it raised some doubts and misgivings. Was Jesus really the Messiah or had he made a mistake in pointing him out? A stern and committed man, John had his own idea of how the Messiah would appear and expected his arrival with fire and whirlwind to crush the foes of God, shake off the rule of Rome and rid Israel of the Scribes and Pharisees. To his distress John was getting reports that Jesus was making no move in this direction.

Instead Jesus had embarked on a different style of mission and was turning out to be a substantially different Messiah than was expected. Unlike his recluse cousin, Jesus was mixing freely with his fellow Israelites and socialising with life’s losers, the down and outs of Jewish society. He was spending his days journeying through the towns and villages of Galilee, preaching not the wrath of God but mercy, healing, reconciliation, forgiveness and love. Great prophet though he was, John was experiencing a crisis of faith and could not grasp the true nature of the Messiah’s mission. Small wonder that he sent messengers to Jesus to enquire and find out who the Messiah was and why all these things were happening. Even though he was honoured with the task of announcing the coming of the Messiah, John was in the dark and couldn’t grasp the true identity of Jesus.

We can almost sense the exasperation and the frustration of John’s mind in the blunt question his followers put to Jesus. ‘Are you the one who is to come or have we got to wait for someone else?’ In his reply Jesus hearkens back to Isaiah who spoke of comfort, healing and love. ‘Just tell John that the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear’ and let him decide for himself and draw his own conclusions. Jesus is saying: ‘See what I have done, put your trust in me and don’t lose heart.’ The messengers return to John with joy and excitement at the good news that the Messianic age has dawned. The Messiah and Redeemer is in the world proclaiming that humankind can be saved and healed only by the power of God’s love.

Like John we experience moments of darkness, doubt, despair and anxious expectation as events in our own lives, or perhaps in the life of one of our children, do not work out the way we had planned. When our hopes are dashed and our dreams shattered, we lose heart and the feeling that we are living in a wasteland with a bleak future may tempt us to look elsewhere for meaning. When we have doubt God does not get angry with us but rather he wants to find a way to help us understand.  He wants us to find consolation.  The lesson for us is simple… It’s ok to doubt.

 At these critical times we need reassurance to continue believing that our individual path in life is a walk with God, that our future is in his hands and is perfectly safe in his presence. No matter how hard and rocky the road, once we let God into our lives we experience his strength and are surprisingly filled with peace, freedom and joy. Every challenge undergone, every test passed, every cross carried makes us stronger.

The message of Advent is that we should wait patiently for the Lord to come into our lives. Everything has its moment and being patient is part of the process of life. In a world filled with instant answers and quick fix solutions, it’s hard to be patient. However, you can’t rush nature and you can’t hurry God. He works in our lives in his own time and takes nature’s gifts and builds on them with grace.

With our co-operation he can heal our wounds, free us from anxiety and give us a peace that the world cannot give. Just as Jesus invited John to trust in him, so does he call on us to be faithful in our life’s work, and to trust in him. 


Homily 1st Advent - by Br. simeon

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 15th December 2013, 2nd Sunday in Advent, delivered by Br Simeon EFO.

Gospel:  Mt 24:37-44


 O Lord, open our eyes

To behold your presence. 

O Lord, open our ears 

To hear your voice. 

O Lord, open our hearts 
To receive your love. 

O Lord, help us to behold, to hear and to receive you in Word and Sacrament
That our mouths may proclaim your praise. Amen. ( adapted from a prayer by David Adam )

Today we begin the beloved season of Advent. During this time the Church, in her liturgy, gives us for our meditation an abundance of beautiful images about the coming of the Lord. We tend to see Advent as a past event, recalling the birth of Christ but if we fail to move forward from this starting point to Christ coming in glory, our Christmas celebration will be out of focus.

 A proper celebration of Advent recalls the past, celebrates the present, and yet looks to the future coming of Christ with joyful hope and confidence.  In the first part of Advent, the images are mostly about the second and glorious coming of the Lord on the last day, and they teach us the necessity of preparing ourselves now for that great day. In the final part of Advent, we meditate on the incarnation of God on earth in his birth in Bethlehem, so that we might be born anew as persons of the light.   Perched on the edge of another New Year we are invited to look at our world with the eyes of faith and realise that God has a plan and a vision for all of us.

The readings present us with a challenge, to look at life and to begin living with a new perspective. In keeping with the season’s note of expectation, they rivet our attention on the breaking of God into human history. Isaiah’s vision of a new future echoes in all our hearts as he looks forward with hope and expectation to glorious times ahead. He dreams of swords being cast into ploughshares, of unity among nations and of all peoples walking together in the peace of the Lord, who is calling us back home. It is an invitation addressed to each and every one of us. Paul encourages us to lead good and upright lives as the dawn of salvation is upon us.

In the gospel passage,Matthew is referring to the final coming of Jesus in glory and sets his call on perpetual watchfulness, to be ready for that moment on which our eternal destiny will depend. Since there is no precise forewarning as to when that event will take place, it is important to get ready here and now and not be caught idly napping in careless disregard for God, as were the people in Noah’s day who were swept away in the great flood.

Things happen when we least expect. The main thrust of the message is to be vigilant, to rectify our way of life, to admit the need to make a Christian contribution and have a proper lifestyle. A useful reminder of something we would rather forget, is that part of the gospel tradition which tells us that each one of us after death comes face to face in judgement with our God. On that occasion we will be alone and held

personally accountable for our life. Busy as we are with our daily activity, we tend to put the thought of that encounter at the back of our minds, giving it scant attention instead of using it as a benchmark and a horizon against which to measure our lives. The gospel warns us against being lulled into a false sense of security, living with only the minimal concern for how our actions appear in God’s eyes.

 Advent is a joyful celebration of the condition we find ourselves in as Christians. It announces that God is always moving towards us. He is at work in the world and in our lives, ever creative and ever renewing. The Lord comes to us every day if we are properly disposed, in prayer, in events and in other people. The good news is that we are pilgrims on the move and are going home to God’s house. The only worthwhile baggage to carry on that journey is good works and acts of loving service performed for Christ. The liturgy invites us to allow this future hope to shape our present lives. It’s an invitation to see our life as a preparation for the great call home. We have the assurance that in Christ God has opened up for us a future hope in a life beyond our time.

This seasonal call, proposing a deep change in values, beckons us to look forward to Christ’s return in glory. We need to find the time and space to stop, reflect and recognise the hope we have been given in Jesus Christ. Without repentance, forgiveness and renewal there can be no real Christmas Joy.


Thursday 12 December 2013

Homily, 2nd Advent by Br Luke EFO.

St- Andre-Rublev's Saviour
Holy Redeemer

In the care of the Ecumenical Franciscan Order

Homily, 8th December 2013, 2nd Sunday in Advent, delivered by Br Luke EFO.

There are times, aren’t there, when what we read in the Scriptures just seems to shout at us? They just seem to confirm that the task we have before us is the right one. Today I think is one of these times. The Gospel reading today is about John baptising people. He is giving them a new start in the faith journey.
For us Christian’s baptism, is the start of our faith journey as followers of Christ. For Pentecostals, it is the full immersion in the water of baptism that signifies their being “born again”; and is the necessary precursor for them to receive the Holy Spirit. For the traditionalists, baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity is enough. But in either, or both scenarios the act of baptism is an act of faith and results from, and leads to, commitment. And it is from that act of faith that a journey starts. So today we are staring something new. We have stepped out in faith, much like a baptism and we are starting to walk a path we believe Christ set before us. And like the faith journey that stars with baptism, so too must this new beginning today be a start not an end.
John warns those coming to be baptised that the simple act of baptism is/was not enough. The act must be followed by commitment. If we are simply baptised and then do nothing to walk as a Christian, then we may as well not have been baptised in the first place. Jesus tells us there are two great commandments: The first, is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your strength and with all your soul”. That is hard enough, but then he adds the second. “Love your neighbour and yourself”. For some of us it is hard enough to love ourselves let alone the persons next door, or the person we know to be our neighbour. Yet this is exactly what Jesus asks of us. That act of love, starts with our faith journey and doesn’t stop.
Now, you know, I have no doubt that the next time we read this passage of scripture the Holy Spirit will focus us on a different part of the passage. Or perhaps give us a different perspective on the same words we have just heard. For some of us this may be uncomfortable, but I think this should not alarm nor surprise us. This is the nature and purpose of the Scriptures. They are there to inspire, guide, encourage and challenge, confront and shock us and that won’t happen if every time we read them, we have the same response.
So while we start something new today, it is not enough for us just to be here today. We need to ensure we walk the path we have been shown and so we need to be here each week. To show both the commitment and the love that Jesus asks and calls us to. It won’t be easy, but then nothing of real worth ever is.