Thursday, 11 December 2014

Homily 7th December - Second Sunday of Advent


                                               Epistle                            Gospel
                                          Rom. 15:4-13                   Mt. 11:2-10

                                                       By Fr Martin Graham

Saint John the Baptist was the last of all the prophets; 2000 years after Abraham lived the coming of the Messiah was imminent. For the Jewish people the Messiah was to come in majesty and splendour and of course that didn’t happen, He was to come as a baby, He was to wear a crown of thorns, He was to reign from a Cross. To the Hebrews this was far from what they had imagined, this could not possibly be the way God had intended.

When the Year 2000 was approaching the whole notion of the Second Coming was to be found in Hollywood films, books, and a variety of other places. The subject has, for a long time, captivated the human imagination and almost all the poems and prophecies, songs and stories foretell the Second Coming as a wretched day, a day filled with death, a day of disaster and destruction. Shortly after the bloodbath of the First World War and the turmoil that followed it W.B. Yeats wrote a poem called ‘The Second Coming’ and in it he wrote, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold, Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere, The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity. Surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand.”

Like the poem there have been many preachers who, when speaking of the Second Coming, present Our Lord almost as the enemy of humanity, as though we should resist His coming. True, we do not know when the Lord will come again – Saint Paul says that it will be when we least expect it, like a thief in the night. True, there will be no way for anyone to avoid it. True, the Lord will come to judge us in justice. True, unlike His First Coming all humanity will know for certain that He has returned. True, when faced with all these facts then it is only natural that we could look upon that day with fear and dread.

But, and it’s a big but, for all those who look towards God in faith, this should be a day of great hope, not dread. The Liturgy constantly encourages us to look with joy and hope for the coming of our Saviour.  Saint Augustine once wrote, “What sort of love of Christ is it to be afraid of His coming?” Surely it is a contradiction to profess our love for God and our faith in Him, yet, fear His coming. Saint Augustine quotes the First Book of Chronicles, “...all the trees of the wood sing for joy before the Lord for He comes to judge the Earth.” The Second Coming is the day that we, the Children of the Light, will receive the salvation promised us, so with the trees and with all creation we should welcome Him with shouts of joy.

As Children of the Light, the day of judgement should not cause us to fear. Let us remember that, He who comes to judge us has lived among us; He has loved us and walked with us, He is one of us. Let us not give in to panic and chaos, but let us listen out and hear the words of Christ, “It is I, do not be afraid” and rejoice that our salvation is near.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Mass and first Blessing of a newly ordained Priest

This Sunday at 7pm Holy Mass will be offered in St Therese church by Canon Benjamin Coggeshall, a newly ordained priest for the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. Following Mass Canon will give his first blessing and provide a prayer card for everyone who attends. Please share this information and encourage as many friends and family as possible to attend.

Christmas cards featuring beautiful images of the Nativity and published by the Institute will be available for sale, proceeds going to assist in the Institute's work of enhancing the beauty of the Sacred Liturgy. A pack of six cards costs £4 (€5).



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Schola

A new schola is being formed in Belfast. The ambition is that every Mass will be sung if possible. The choir master of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, Canon Lebocq, will offer lessons each second Sunday one hour before the 6pm Mass in St Therese. The next practice will be on Gaudete Sunday (14th December) at 5pm. If interested please contact Cathal Steele for further information (07815302563).

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Homily 2nd November - The Commemoration of the Faithful Departed


                                           Epistle                             Gospel
                                        Eph. 6:10-17                   Mt. 18:23-35

                                                  By Fr Martin Graham

Last month, as many of you know, my mum died. She had been ill for 18 years and this last year was especially rough. Although she would have been only 65 this Tuesday she was just worn out and she wanted God to take her. Over and over at the Wake people said to us that she has it all over her and she is certainly in Heaven, instant canonisation, instantly a Saint. I hope so...but I cannot presume so.

I cannot presume so because mum had her faults, like we all have our faults. Heaven is a place of absolute joy, absolute peace but also a place of absolute perfection; no trace of infirmity exists there but at the same time there can be no trace of sin. And so the Catholic faith has always taught that we must be purified before can enter Heaven, we must be rid of all imperfections on our souls and the place where that all happens is Purgatory.

Contrary to what most people believe Purgatory is not a sort of mini-Hell; the whole essence of Purgatory is that it is not a place of punishment but a place of healing. If you think of a sin like a nail; when we commit a sin we put a nail into the wall, when we go to Confession Our Lord’s forgiveness is like Him taking the nail out of the wall but...there’s still a hole left, a mark. Purgatory fills in all these holes and restores the wall, restores our souls, to a pristine condition.

The Catholic Faith takes praying for the dead so so seriously. In every Mass the dead are prayed for and on All Soul’s Day these Masses are specifically said for them but also to remind us of the need for us to pray for them. They are known as the ‘Poor Souls’ because they rely on us to help them with our prayers, as we would pray for someone here on Earth. We must not instantly canonise someone, if we do that we are in grave danger of not praying for them.

But what happens if we pray for someone we know who has died, but they have gone through Purgatory and are now in Heaven? What happens to those prayers? Catholicism teaches that they are certainly not wasted. Saint Matthew’s Gospel tells us “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on Earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven”. Every time we do something good for God, we “store up treasure in Heaven.” And so there is truly a treasury of good deeds in Heaven, “The Treasury of Merit” – in other words like a bank storing people’s money, this treasury stores the prayers and good deeds of Our Lady and all the Saints, stores our prayers, our good and godly deeds, and when we pray for the Holy Souls those prayers are added to this Treasury and God applies them to people who are not prayed for, the souls in Purgatory that are in most need of them, perhaps some of our own relatives.

There are many prayers we can offer for the dead but at this time the best way this is done is by gaining the Plenary Indulgence; when we say the prayers to gain a Plenary Indulgence not just is the time a soul in Purgatory lessened but by being flooded by God’s grace that soul is restored to perfection and admitted into Paradise. The Plenary Indulgence can be gained every day between the 1st and 8th November but this whole month is the Month of the Holy Souls; it is so important for us to pray for the dead and if our loved ones have already arrived in Heaven then it is worthwhile remembering that the prayer is not wasted; God will redirect it to some other soul who has no one to pray for them, some other soul whose relatives do not see the need to pray for them. Now they have passed beyond our care it is the only thing, but also the best thing, we can possibly do for them.

Blessed are they who have died in the Lord, may their good deeds, and our prayers, go with them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Friday, 31 October 2014

New Feature - Homily 12th October - 18th Sunday after Pentecost


                                            Epistle                             Gospel
                                         1 Cor. 1:4-8                      Mt. 9:1-8

                                                By Canon Wulfran Lebocq

Saint Matthew’s gospel today relates the miracle of a man stricken with palsy.  He could not walk, but Our Lord healed him.

The numerous miracles performed by Jesus have always impressed the Christian community throughout the ages.  They constitute what we call a motive of credibility.  This means that Jesus’ claim to be God is rendered more believable in our eyes due to the fact that he performed acts that are impossible or unknown to man.  His miracles lend credence to all his other claims.

Very often though, our contemplation of the various miracles related by Holy Scripture stops at the physical healings.  We are mesmerized by the paralyzed people who walk…the blind that were made to see…and even the dead that were called back to life.  This gives us hope many times for the healing of our own physical or psychological defects - and this hope is not a bad thing.  The healings shown in Holy Scripture give us every reason to expect that the power of Christ heal us and those that we love.

However, today’s Gospel invites us to consider more profoundly Jesus Christ’s mission to Humankind.  His actions here reveal that his primary mission is spiritual.

We will notice this by the first thing that Jesus does when he beholds the sick man lying on the stretcher.  He says: “Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”…Thy sins are forgiven thee…Upon seeing the wretched state of this man, His first action is not to heal his physical infirmity, but to heal his spiritual infirmity…that is his SINS! And Our Lord indicates that the sick man’s primary joy should be that his sins are forgiven when he says “Be of good heart son.”  He is telling him to be glad, to be happy, for God is here to heal you of your most profound ailment, that which is the root of all bad things in your life - that of sin.

It is only after the incredulous Pharisees thought Him blasphemous to claim to forgive this man’s sins that Jesus heals the physical malady. This he does to indicate to them that he indeed has the power to forgive sins, a power that is reserved to God alone and infinitely more valuable than bodily health!

So, what does this mean for us? This means that we are to first search out spiritual healing from God before insisting on other petitions.  Remember what our Lord said elsewhere in Holy Scripture, namely: “seek ye first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Luke 12:31).  This explains Jesus’ actions towards the paralyzed young man.  He first administers to him a healing that will save him from spiritual damnation, which is a permanent and irrevocable damnation.  This is what the Kingdom of God is about:  Surrendering ourselves to God, asking his pardon for our offenses - our sins - and praying for perseverance that will make us happy, noble, joyful and acceptable in His eyes.  Once this is done, He sees to his physical wounds and pains provided that such a cure would be beneficial to our salvation.  Our physical healing is only important to God if it provokes our conversion to him.

Most of us are, in fact, in constant search of remedies for temporal ills that we experience personally or that we see in the surrounding society. We may experience a chronic illness, one of our friends experiences a similar illness, we think of the poor people who live on the street, the people addicted to drugs wandering around ever in search of a new high, the people without jobs and on and on. However, we often neglect our spiritual healing.

Does this mean that Jesus is indifferent to our physical suffering, to that of our neighbour, or to that of society?...NO!  He is trying to tell us, my dear Faithful, that he is here to save our souls from eternal ruin!  Remember what He says to Pontius Pilate while being interrogated in the Praetorium, “My Kingdom is not of this World.”  Therefore, If his kingdom is not of this world, his primary work will not consist in making us comfortable or content here on Earth, on making us wealthy or in giving us the robust health of a Roman Gladiator,  but in preparing us for the eternal peace and the eternal bliss of Heaven.  This means renouncing sin and amending our lives!

This involves humbly avowing our sins and our unworthiness before His infinite majesty.  This means telling Jesus: ”I’m wrong…I’ve done some stupid things…I’m   a mess, but I want to do better. I want to be perfect as you have asked me to be.”  Please help me!  This is what he wants.  The Psalms tell us, “a contrite and humbled heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Ps. 50:19)
If you are suffering from a physical ailment or if you know of someone else who does, by all means, pray for healing, God wants us to tell him about everything that is bothering us, but remember first to petition the Lord for spiritual welfare, for spiritual healing and holiness.  This is far more important for it concerns one’s eternal salvation.  For, what would a man profit if he had the best health in this life, the best work situation…if in the end it only made him physically comfortable and his soul lukewarm, forgetful of his need for God?

So, my dear Faithful let us renew or resolution to do virtuous acts this week and to avoid those sins that we habitually commit. Pray to the Blessed Mother, Saint Joseph, Saint Michael and the saints for their assistance.  Ask him to purify and heal our souls as he did to the young man in today’s Gospel.