Sermon 3rd Sunday of Easter

The resurrection and its connection to morality.

In the epistle today, Peter continues to spell out the consequence of the resurrection. 

It is in the light of the profound hope of the resurrection, that he has been encouraging the faithful to build their lives. It is the means to understand their present experiences. 

Everything is in flux; the chaos of sin and death are all around them. They are being persecuted for not complying with the cultural world, within which they live; a world which they have rejected as corrupt and meaningless. 

They have also rejected Caesar as the ultimate authority and proclaimed the One who has power over death itself, by raising Jesus from the dead. This God, the father of the Lord Jesus, is the one who has the ultimate authority and judgement over the living and the dead. The Lord’s judgement is not confined, as Caesar’s is, to this realm but is played out on the canvass of eternity. 

The call to participate in the death and resurrection of Christ is an invitation to leave behind the realm that has been corrupted by the fall, in which we are subject to sin and death reigning in our bodies. We are called then to die to the corrupt fallen world and rise to new life in the new creation. In this new creation we are born in the Spirit into the Kingdom of God. This kingdom is eternal. 

Our place in this new kingdom has be ransomed by the ‘precious blood of the Lamb without spot or blemish’ and has been prepared before the foundation of the world. The prophets looked forward to these events and the angels longed to see them. This is Our Lord’s triumph over death by entering death and rising to new life. Death can claim no place in this new creation or power over those born to new life in it. 

If death cannot claim any dominion in the heavenly kingdom then neither can anything that belongs to the fallen world. The citizens of heaven are to live the morality of life, as revealed by God, and not to conform to the culture of death. In the earlier part of this epistle (1 Pe 1:14-16) Peter states: ‘As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”’

The morality of the resurrection then is a call to life in God; the life God has longed for us to have and know. As we have said, baptism is the entry into this new life. However, we experience as the Church militant this conversion as an ongoing process; the ‘already but not yet’ experience as citizens of this eternal kingdom. 

The stage on which we play out this journey of transformation means a continuous dying and rising with Christ. Our discipleship thus seeks to shake off the old Adam that ties us to the fallen world as we long for the fullness of the heavenly kingdom. 

How often, without always knowing it, have we assumed the values of the culture within which we live our lives? How often once we have heard the teaching of the Church, the morality of life in Christ, have we been shocked and struggled to accept it? How often have we even rejected it, as it confronts received assumptions? The wisdom of the world is so often presented to us as self evident, and as compassionate wisdom.

The Gospel confronts many of these received assumptions. Thus begins the struggle of acceptance and conversion of the manner in which we live our lives as citizens of heaven.

Paul again puts this well in his letter to the Philippians:

‘Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.’

Therefore we cannot see the resurrection as the happy ending, in which we can all breathe a sigh of relief, sit back, relax and say thank goodness that’s all over. The resurrection demands us to embrace, with utter desire, the path of transformation into the likeness of Christ. It is the path of holiness and life in God which makes us, in our transformed lives, witnesses to the good news of Christ’s triumphant resurrection.  

Divine Mercy Sunday – Homily

Divine Mercy Sunday

This Sunday the Church, in her wisdom, has shifted the focus of our readings at mass. Obviously the Gospels reflect the resurrection accounts. However that which, through the rest of the year, are readings from the Old Testament, give way through the 50 days of Easter to the account of the early church in the Acts of the Apostle. Our second readings also move from the letters of Paul to those of both Peter and John.

Acts of the Apostles is not surprising as we follow the emergence of the Church with its trials, tribulations and triumphs, post the resurrection and ascension of our Lord. 

Peter and John are central players during Holy Week and the resurrection accounts of the Lord. In their epistles we get an insight to their reflections of what they heard, saw and gave their lives too. 

Today we hear from Peter’s opening words of his first Epistle. Peter wastes no time in getting straight to the point. The resurrection of Our Lord has given us a new birth and entry into a new creation that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading. This new creation is eternal as opposed to the corrupted, temporal world that will come to an end. 

This is not to despise the temporal world, which is given by God. However, one mark of the Fall is the great temptation to see worldly things as a means and end in themselves,ignoring the hand from which they came. Those who invest their sense of meaning and hope in that which comes to an end will have their hopes die with it. 

How often have we seen humanity define the worth, meaning and value of themselves and others by their ancestry, social status, wealth, poverty, popularity and honour? How often have we lifted upon a pedestal or dehumanised because of these false values? Human history is littered with the terrible consequences of such tragic folly. 

The world and our lives are beautiful and a gift from God but not that which we should grasp hold off or invest our everlasting hope in. Faith, our trusting in the promises of God in Christ, made manifest in his resurrection, will be revealed in their fullness at the end of time, Peter assures us. 

In the opening 2 verses of his epistles, Peter reflects that those who have responded to the Gospel have a sense of being called, set apart, of being sanctified in the spirit and sprinkled with Christ’s blood. Peter is making clear that the death and resurrection of the Lord are inseparable. It is also this calling to  participate in Christ’s death and resurrection that redefines the sense of the value of the faithful which provides eternal meaning.

This is fundamentally important to the community his epistle addresses and as a consequence to the Church as a whole. This community were facing persecution, suffering and the knowledge that things of this world can be so easily lost or taken away. Peter writes to remind them of where their ultimate security lies in entering into the death and resurrection of Christ that leads to eternal life.

Isn’t it strange that our modern self confidence and sense of control and knowledge of all things has been shaken and humbled by a tiny virus? Our old certainties have given way to doubt, worry and a real sense of loss. Death which we so often seek to avoid, which we ignore or pretend isn’t there has, in this present crisis, demands to be acknowledge. 

We have been made more aware of the fragility of our lives and that anyone of us could die. The question of what we build our hope on, becomes more urgent and demanding. 

It difficult not to mention Paul who himself states; (1 Cor 15:19) ‘If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.’

Christ has however, been raised from the dead and the gospel in dramatic fashion leaves us in no doubt that this is not a hope based on delusions, fanciful or wishful thinking, but a concrete reality. That concrete reality, in sacramental terms, is made present to us, body, soul and divinity in the celebration of the mass.

It is resting more fully in this promise, and this foretaste of what is to be, that enabled Peter and those he wrote to to “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.” This despite the suffering they were going through. 

It is the very fact that as St Augustine famously put, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song,” that enables us even in this time of crisis to exalt with unutterable joy.

things has been shaken and humbled by a tiny virus? Our old certainties have given way to doubt, worry and a real sense of loss. Death which we so often seek to avoid, which we ignore or pretend isn’t there has, in this present crisis, demands to be acknowledge. 

We have been made more aware of the fragility of our lives and that anyone of us could die. The question of what we build our hope on, becomes more urgent and demanding. 

It difficult not to mention Paul who himself states; (1 Cor 15:19) ‘If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.’

Christ has however, been raised from the dead and the gospel in dramatic fashion leaves us in no doubt that this is not a hope based on delusions, fanciful or wishful thinking, but a concrete reality. That concrete reality, in sacramental terms, is made present to us, body, soul and divinity in the celebration of the mass.

It is resting more fully in this promise, and this foretaste of what is to be, that enabled Peter and those he wrote to to “rejoice with unutterable and exalted joy.” This despite the suffering they were going through. 

It is the very fact that as St Augustine famously put, “we are an Easter people and Alleluia is our song,” that enables us even in this time of crisis to exalt with unutterable joy.

Blessings Fr Neil

Cardinal Nichols Media Programmes

Cardinal Nichols has recorded a special radio programme for the BBC on Easter Sunday. This will be broadcast at 0800 on all 39 BBC local radio stations.

Additionally, over the Triduum, the Cardinal will be giving the following interviews:

 

Good Friday

0745 BBC Radio Berkshire

0830 BBC Radio 4 Today Programme

1030 Sky News – Adam Boulton Easter Sunday

 

Easter Sunday

0710 BBC Radio 4 Sunday Programme

0730 BBC Radio 2

0930 BBC Radio London

1300 BBC Radio 4 The World This Weekend

 

Additionally, the Daily Telegraph is publishing a reflection by the Cardinal on Good Friday. And the BBC will be covering Pope Francis’ Urbi et Orbi on Easter Sunday on its news bulletins.

The Holy Triduum

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Holy Triduum Services

Thursday: 7.30pm, Maundy Thursday Liturgy – Facebook Live – Christ the King

Friday: 3.00pm, Good Friday Liturgy – Facebook Live – Christ the King

Saturday:  8.30pm, Easter Vigil  – Facebook Live – St Joachim’s 

Sunday: 11.30 am, Easter Sunday Morning – Live Stream via YouTube – Our Lady of Ransom

The venues may change without notice depending of technology reliability.