Almost 40 days ago we began our Lenten pilgrimage toward the great feast of Easter. We began with the dust and ash of Ash Wednesday, and we shall end with the living water and rebirth of Easter Sunday. This is a journey from death to life; from slavery to sin to true freedom in the perpetual light and beatitude—blessedness—of the heavenly kingdom. In walking this way we have followed the example of the Israelite people, who travelled for forty years through the desert from slavery to the Egyptians in a foreign land, to liberation in the Promised Land. Our journey does not take us from physical place to physical place, but it does bring us out from exile to the true Promised Land—our native land; the kingdom of heaven.
As the Church leads us through the sixth chapter of the gospel of Saint John in these weeks, today we focus once more on the Most Holy Eucharist. Throughout the bread of life discourse the Lord delivers a rich catechesis on the nature of this sublime gift, the freely-given gift of himself, thereby nourishing our faith and strengthening our hope of heaven. As the reality of Christ’s presence in the Most Holy Eucharist and its centrality is revealed to us in the sacred scriptures, we now consider the intrinsic link between the Eucharistic oblation we make here in earth and the banquet prepared for those who are faithful in the kingdom of heaven.
As we come to the end of this long period of ‘green Sundays’ our hearts begin to anticipate the coming feast of Christ the King and the season of Advent. Already the shops speak to us of the ‘holidays’, of Thanksgiving and of Christmas, and Christians are bound to object (at least a little) to the slow encroachment of Christmas earlier and earlier into the year. We have hardly finished our Easter eggs, it seems, when that dreaded herald of ‘the holiday season’ appears in the form of the most egregious and wily of vegetables, the pumpkin. Now, already, the turkeys have met their grizzly end and await us in the refrigerators of our local stores, whilst vendors dress the most unlikely of items in tinsel and baubles to convince us of their worth as gifts for distant relatives. Today, however, it is the Church that bids us look forward to the coming season—at least of Advent—as she presents to us the parable of the talents from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. As the liturgical year begins to turn we are presented with this passage today, as a way of preparing us for what is just around the corner.
SPOILERS. Last night I went to see the latest Matt Damon and Jodie Foster movie, Elysium. The basic plot revolves around Elysium, a futuristic utopian paradise developed on a space station above earth and inhabited by the rich and powerful, whilst the poor suffer the effects of overcrowding and poor conditions on earth. On Elysium nobody is sick or hungry, whilst on earth work is sparse and medical care is severely limited.
Whilst I can hardly recommend the film (great effects, but a lousy script and a really questionable French accent from Jodie Foster), there is an interesting religious theme that seems to run through the otherwise fairly shallow plot line. Max (Damon), for example, is brought up at a Catholic orphanage, and mentored by one sister who tells him that he is special and has some great task to perform during his life. When he suffers radiation poisoning at work he decides to attempt a journey to Elysium, to break into the computer system and to be healed by the technological advances enjoyed by the privileged citizens. That journey is given greater importance when it transpires that he has inadvertently received the information required to open the facilities up to everyone, not just those with a bank account to warrant it. As one character says, ‘You can save everyone’.
Homily given for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord at St Mary, Cadogan Street:
The solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, which we keep today, presents us with three core truths. First, Christ’s ascension ‘marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain’. Secondly, the Lord, as ‘the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever’. Thirdly, the Lord, ‘having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit’ (cf. CCC §665-667).
In the simplest possible terms these truths give us three causes for hope, three reasons to be joyful that we are incorporated into the body of Christ by virtue of the baptism we share with him. In the Lord’s ascension, we are assured of a place set aside for us in heaven, of his abiding presence with us here and now, and of his intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.
On Saturday I was privileged to offer a short homily at A Day with Mary, which is organised under the auspices of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, at St Mary’s, Cadogan Street, Chelsea. Considering the venue, the month and the day, there’s an attempt to include the thought of St Thomas More, the Holy Souls, and the role of our Blessed Lady in their journey – and ours, please God – toward the beatific vision. The Day with Mary team are venturing into the world of YouTube, and so I am able to post the sermon here in the hope that it may be of some interest and use in our thoughts and prayers in this month.