Catching Hold of Jesus

Homily at St Philip Evans, for the 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A – Catholic Bible Sunday.

One day a little girl asked her Mum: “Is it true that God is everywhere?”
A hand placed over a drinking glass.

“Yes, darling,” said Mum. “God is everywhere.”

“OK Mum,” said the girl. “Does that mean that God is in this room?”

Mum wasn’t a Bible expert, so she thought hard for a moment. It was logical, so she said: “Yes, darling, if God is everywhere then God must be in this room.”

The girl had one more question. “OK Mum, if God is everywhere, and God is in this room –” she picked up a glass – “then is God in this glass?”

Now Mum was trapped. There was only one logical answer. “Well, darling,” she said, hesitantly, “If God is everywhere and God is in this room, I suppose God must be in that glass.”

“Goody!” cried the girl, and clapped her hand over the top of the glass. “I’ve got him!”

It’s Advent. It’s the time when we are looking out for God in a special way. Where might we catch Him?

St Paul has given us some clues. His letter today says that we can learn a lot from what is written in the Bible. In another letter, he told us that all the words of the Bible are “breathed by God”. And at Christmas we will hear the words of St John remind us that Jesus is the Living Word of God.

When we put these clues together, we make a discovery. Jesus is in the Bible! Not frozen in ink fixed to a page, though. First we must bring the words of the Bible to life – we must speak them aloud! When someone proclaims the words of the Bible to us, Jesus is speaking to us!

This Gospel Book is beautiful. It contains the words spoken by the human lips of Jesus – these make the Gospels the most important part of the Bible. But after our last Sunday Mass, this book will be put back on the bookshelf in the back room until next weekend. It is only when we are ready to read it aloud that we have servers stand next to it with candles and incense. What is truly important is not the book – it is what is being read from the book. When we receive the message of this book, Jesus is speaking to us. So here is a question: If Jesus is speaking to us, does that mean that Jesus is HERE when the Gospel is being read? YES!

What was proclaimed from this book today? John the Baptist said that Jesus would come and baptise us with the Holy Spirit. That means, if we have been baptised, we have been connected with the Holy Spirit. It means that God’s spirit lives inside us! Unless, that us… we have asked Him to go away! If we choose to commit sins which we know are serious and offensive to God, the Holy Spirit flees from us until we repent. But when we make our peace with God through Confession, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, we are restored to friendship with God, and the Holy Spirit returns, with all the gifts we had from God before we sinned.

Now for something else St Paul mentioned. He said God’s plan was that “the pagans” should sing and praise God. He’s talking about us! A pagan is anyone who is not Jewish. I don’t know if any member of our congregation comes from a Jewish family, but most of us don’t. That means we are pagans – people from many nations – who have become Christians. Every time we gather in this church and sing God’s praises, we are doing one of the things the Bible said would happen.

In one of the Psalms, it says: “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.” Now here is another puzzle. Who is the person speaking? Is the Bible God’s Word? Yes! Is Jesus “the Word of God”? Yes! So does that mean that when a psalm says something, Jesus is speaking? Yes! Jesus is going to sing praises to God-His-Father among all the nations on Earth.

He’s already done it this morning! We sang a hymn at the start of Mass. We are the people filled by the Holy Spirit; the Bible says that we are members of the Body of Christ. Does that mean when we gather as a church to sing God’s praises, Jesus is singing to His Father? Yes!

Exactly 50 years ago, the bishops of the Catholic Church were gathered in Rome for the Second Vatican Council. On the 4th of December, issued a document called Sacrosanctum Concilium. Its 7th paragraph said this:

Christ is always present in His Church, especially in her liturgical celebrations. He is present in the sacrifice of the Mass, not only in the person of His minister, “the same now offering, through the ministry of priests, who formerly offered himself on the cross, but especially under the Eucharistic species. By His power He is present in the sacraments, so that when a man baptizes it is really Christ Himself who baptizes. He is present in His word, since it is He Himself who speaks when the holy scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, lastly, when the Church prays and sings, for He promised: “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” 

In more complicated language, the bishops are saying the same things that we have worked out this morning. When we receive the words of the Bible being read to us, Jesus is here! When we sing and praise God the Father, Jesus is here! When I stand at the altar, praying the words of Jesus as a priest, Jesus is here! And we haven’t even talked about Jesus being present in Holy Communion!

Yes, the most special presence of all is what happens when bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. If that little girl came into this church and said “Mummy, show me Jesus!” then Mummy would point to the tabernacle – or at Mass, would point to the priest lifting up the Host and then the Chalice – and say, “look, darling – THERE’s Jesus!”

But if that little girl came in to Mass and said, “Mummy, WHERE is Jesus?”, Mummy could also say: He is here! He is all around us! He is in the praises of His people! He is in the proclaiming of His Word! So let us be careful not only to show our love and respect for Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by bending our knee, or at least doing what our bodies will permit us to do. Let us also recognise that there are many other ways Jesus comes to us each time we gather for Mass.

Have you got Him yet? He is nearer than you think!

The “God in the Glass” story is not original; the author is not known but it has been quoted elsewhere as God in a cup or glass.