We celebrated another wonderful mass together last Wednesday with Fr Andrew Garden, the prolife cause. Below is his sermon.
Please join us next month on Wednesday 19th March at Our Lady of Consolation Church at 7pm.
In tonight’s first reading we hear St James describing the beautiful, intricate, living relationship between faith and good works, the relationship between our religion, our prayers and the way we live our lives. For our actions to bear fruit they must be rooted in the word of God – at the service of the goodness, the righteousness of God. God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger, we’re told and I think the sort of anger that’s meant is the anger that blocks out God – that doesn’t leave space for God, doesn’t leave room in our hearts for the breath of God, for his light. So our actions need to be inspired by God’s light, transfigured by his light, if they’re to bear fruit. And we’re also told that if our religion is genuine, if our faith is genuine it will be expressed and lived out in our service of others, coming to the help of orphans and widows, St James says – clearly meaning all those who are vulnerable and defenceless, in need of protection and care. When these two things work together in our lives – faith and good works, our openness to God and his light, and our living out of that light in our care, our protection of those in need – then, St James tells us, the result is a life that’s lived with real happiness. Whoever lives like this, St James says, will be happy in all that they do.
So there’s real encouragement in these words as we gather to celebrate Mass this evening. I know that so many of you here have experienced the sort of happiness that St James is talking about, in quite extraordinary ways. In the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, in apparently bleak situations, lives of the defenceless have been protected, help has been brought to many who are vulnerable, in ways which can only be accounted for by the active, living presence of God and genuine openness, real cooperation with that living presence. This is what St James calls pure, unspoilt religion.
But how has this cooperation with God’s light, with his righteousness been possible? How, day by day, can we allow God’s light to transfigure our lives? How does this whole process that St James has described become a reality for us? I think that the encounter with Jesus at Bethsaida in tonight’s gospel opens up for us different ways of entering into the mystery of God’s life – the life that we are all called to share and to live.
Like the paralytic who is brought to Jesus by his friends, who is lowered through the roof into the presence of Jesus, the blind man in tonight’s gospel is also brought to Jesus by others. Not carried on a stretcher probably, but led by the hand. And they beg Jesus to touch the man. Jesus takes the man by the hand and leads him outside the village, away from the crowds. The whole process is gradual, respectful, gentle. Jesus having taken him by the hand, then puts spittle on his eyes and lays his hands on him. He speaks to the man, asks him if he can see anything. The man begins to be able to see and Jesus lays his hands on him again. Now he sees clearly, he’s cured and can see everything, plainly and distinctly.
Like all the gospel stories of people who are healed by Jesus, these words don’t only relate for us something that happened 2,000 years ago. They do that, but as we listen we need to remember that the healing presence of Jesus is a living presence for us today. The evangelists knew that and had experience of that – that’s why they continued to tell these stories; in telling them they knew the power of the word, they knew that those who listened were drawn in and encountered Jesus, experienced his healing.
Like those who brought the blind man to Jesus, tonight we have come to this Mass bringing others. Begging Jesus to touch them. We bring people in our prayers, people we know, people we know about and others. Unborn children, their mothers, all those who are defenceless and vulnerable, all those who are in need of protection or healing. We bring them, we lead them by the hand, we present them to Jesus. And we bring those who cannot see; those who cannot see the wonder of human life, the precious gift from God that human life is, in all its stages. Remember how this man comes to a clear vision – from not seeing, he then sees people who at first look to him like trees, walking about, and then he comes to see clearly. We bring people we know, and our society in general, begging Jesus to lay his hands on them, to help them to see more clearly that vision of the wonder of human life. To see life as God’s gift is itself a gift, a revelation, and we know that a miracle of healing is needed for that vision to be granted to those who seem to be blind.
As well as bringing others tonight, we ourselves have been brought. The influence of so many people, so many prayers, ones we know about and ones we don’t, have brought us, have led us here into God’s presence. And Jesus takes us by the hand, he leads us away from the crowds, gently, a step at a time and speaks to us, lays his hands on us, gradually opens our eyes. He gives us that gift of light, to see him, and in his presence to discover the gift of our own lives, to know that each one of us is a gift of God, known and loved by him. It’s that closeness to Jesus that gives us the space in our hearts for the breath of God, that opens our hearts to his light, so that we can live lives transfigured by his presence – coming to the help of all who are in need, serving not our own selfish impulses, but, inspired by God’s light, serving his righteousness, his goodness, and so being happy in all that we do.
So tonight we bring others, we allow ourselves to be brought and we trust in the living, healing presence of Christ, the light which shines in the darkness, which the darkness cannot overcome.