10th 11th Nov

posted 20 Nov 2018, 02:47 by Parish Office

Homily for the Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (Remembrance Sunday) – 10 & 11/1/18


This Sunday we celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the end of the First World War.  Finally, after just over four years of bloodshed and wasted human life, the guns fell silent.  On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, the treaty of Versailles was signed and it was all over.


Earlier in the same year, Our Lady had appeared in Fatima, asking for the Rosary to be prayed each day for peace in the world and for the end of the war.  In her final apparition on 13th October, she said that the war was coming to an end, but that if people do not refrain from offending God, another and more terrible war will begin.


After the First World War was over, my secondary school erected a memorial board, inscribed “The Great War 1914-19”, listing pupils from the school that had died in the war.  But by the time I went to that school in the nineties, they had had to change it.  It now read “The Great Wars 1914-45”.  The people of the world had not sufficiently woken up to the call to pray and to change their ways, and so the prediction had come true – a Second World War, claiming more lives than the first, had also taken place.


Underneath the heading of the board ran the following:  “These in the morning of their days, for England’s sake lost all but England’s praise”.


(Here) At Sacred Heart, Hanley, we have our own war memorial – not a board, but a window.  At the very bottom of the window are the images of three men – a soldier, a sailor and (I presume) a pilot.  But they are only small.  The main focus of the window is three larger images, all focusing on Christ.  In the centre is a priest celebrating Mass, holding the host, Jesus, high, immediately after the consecration.  On the left is an image of Christ, together with the words, “Greater love than this no man hath”; in the translation we use today, the full text reads, “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends”.  Then, on the right-hand side, is an image of Christ at His resurrection, together with what looks like the English flag, but is actually the flag of the resurrection and Christ’s victory over sin and death.  The stained glass also includes the words, “I am the resurrection and the life”.  Then at the very top of the window is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.  The vast proportion of the window depicts God – man has just a few small representations at the very bottom of the window.


It’s all very symbolic.  If you were to cover up all the windows showing God, you would just have a very small amount of light coming in from the windows at the bottom.  Without God, there is very little left indeed.  God is the one who brings light and also humanity to the human race.  God became one of us as Jesus.  He showed us how to love and how to live, and it’s His life that nourishes, supports and sustains us, that brings us new life.  And that new life is brought to us in the Mass, because in the Mass, the most beautiful thing this side of heaven, Christ’s death and resurrection are made present.  It’s only in Christ’s sacrifice that human self-sacrifice has any meaning.  We cannot earn our own redemption.  We cannot atone for our own sins.  Christ is the one who does that.  Yes, we can join our sufferings to His and offer them together with His sacrifice on the Cross.  But on our own, we are powerless.


Over the past few weeks, the second reading has been taken from the Letter to the Hebrews, which has been talking about Christ’s sacrifice surpassing all the old sacrifices of the Jewish Law.  The Jewish rituals were a prophesy of what Christ was going to do.  Just as previously, animals were sacrificed in place of the people, in atonement for their sins, so Christ was sacrificed in atonement for our sins.  And just as the high priest used to take the blood from the sacrificed animal into the holiest part of the Temple, called the Holy of Holies, so Christ took Himself, not into a man-made place of worship, but rather heaven itself, to “appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf”.  He now intercedes for us before the Father.  And because He has lived on this earth as a real human being, He understands the limitations of human weakness and is a sympathetic High Priest who is willing and able to plead our cause.  All those who died in the two World Wars and subsequent conflicts may had died in defence of what they considered to be right, but they all need Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and to be able to be admitted to heaven.  Christ was sinless and faultless, and didn’t have any sins of His own to atone for.  But out of the mess of human sinfulness, including the many wars of human history, He is able to sort out the wheat from the chaff and bring to salvation those who are His.


This Remembrance Sunday, then, we remember the sacrifices made by so many.  But even more importantly, we remember that only with God, does life have any real hope and humanity.