Saturday, 14 April 2018

Easter 3(B) St Bartholomew, Brighton 15.4.18

Christ is risen from the dead! He has crushed death by his death and bestowed life upon those who lay in the tomb!
Words from the Orthodox Easter service. Since I last stood here at the Easter Vigil I’ve celebrated Easter again in Greece with fireworks and all!
We can’t get enough of Easter. It’s the Queen of the Church’s year. The Paschal Candle standing proud in the sanctuary, alleluias galore and an especially joyful repertory from the choir over these great 40 days - for we read in Acts 1:3 how after Christ’s suffering he presented himself alive to his disciples by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days speaking about the kingdom of God.
As some of you know I spent Lent preparing 40 pointers to Christ’s resurrection to release in Easter Season via a daily blog on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, address on the back of the readings sheet.
People get intrigued into church as much as they get persuaded by good fellowship, intelligent preaching and sound liturgy - and there’s nothing more intriguing than resurrection - and social media is one way to intrigue people on this, especially as I’ve attempted using 40 or so paintings of the risen Lord each with a 100 word caption setting forth evidence for the truth of Easter.  As former Lord Chief Justice of the United Kingdom, Lord Darling, observed about Christ's Resurrection: In its favour there exists such overwhelming evidence, positive and negative, factual and circumstantial, that no intelligent jury in the world could fail to bring in a verdict that the Resurrection story is true.
Let’s go back to the readings for this third Sunday of Eastertide. First the passage from Acts 3. It follows on from the apostles’ healing of a lame man who went leaping and bounding into the Temple. How intriguing that must have been! Something worth following – someone worth following!  Let’s read what’s actually v16 on our sheet: we are witnesses… faith in the name of Jesus hath made this man strong, whom you see and know; yea, the faith which is is by him hath given him this perfect soundness in the presence of all of you.
When God is at work people get drawn in - and God’s at work here at St Bart’s! People are talking of him being with them, sometimes through their trials, as they live with health or relationship or employment challenges, other times as they go leaping and bounding forward into a new future.
It’s always heartening to me as a priest to hear of resurrection occurring, of the risen Christ coming to bear on the lives of parishioners, very often uplifting them and carrying them through suffering and humiliation into God’s best future.
Moving on to today’s Gospel reading from St Luke’s Gospel Chapter 24.  Our Lord provides here an an intriguing demonstration of the physicality of the resurrection, showing his wounded yet glorified hands and feet and eating a piece of broiled fish.
Those who were at the Easter Vigil two weeks ago will recall that when we blessed the Pascal Candle we placed four nails in its side to represent the crucifixion. As we read in today’s Gospel Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. The point Our Lord makes is the same point St Peter makes in the first reading: it is written, that the Christ is to suffer.
The atheist writer Albert Camus once debated the resurrection with French Dominicans. He complained that the resurrection was an unreal and unsatisfactory happy ending. They answered by pointing to this text. God came to share our suffering which served to expiate the sin of the world. No suffering we have to endure is now strange to God. As one of Wesley’s hymns puts it: Those dear tokens of his passion still his dazzling body bears. Cause of endless exultation to his ransomed worshippers. With what rapture gaze we on those glorious scars.
Thus is written, and thus it beloved the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name.
This morning the risen Christ invites us once more to repent, to turn to him for forgiveness, so that his light may shine in us and through us.
St Barts as a light house? Maybe, if you and I become lighthouses, little candles lit from the Easter Candle? Lit with this faith – that the most meaningful thing in life is what conquers death.
In Jesus Christ we gain not ideas, doctrines, rules but Life - and where that life is to be found – as I believe it is here at St Bart’s – people who possess it will intrigue and infect others who’ve yet to find it!
The source of false religion is the inability to rejoice, or rather, the refusal of joy, whereas joy is absolutely essential because it is without any doubt the fruit of God’s presence. So wrote Orthodox priest Alexander Schmemann.  
So then - let our focus this Sunday in Easter season be on rejoicing for eucharist and Christian life itself means no less than thanks and praise.
Christ is risen! ‘In his, in God’s presence is the fullness of joy and at his right hand there are pleasures for evermore’ says the Psalmist.
Alleluia Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Easter vigil at St Bartholomew, Brighton 31st March 2018

Joy isn’t a component of Christianity it’s the key!

How can you believe in God without sensing joy?

Tonight we see God writ large, God to the dimensions of God and not to ours, showing his grandeur as taking human form he breaks through death and reveals eternal life to us and for us.

On the third day he rose again in accordance with the scriptures.

We gain joy as we gain God and that’s in the present moment. This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

What the resurrection effects is twofold. It delivers us from the prison of our mental constructs of past and future.

To know Christ is risen is to know God’s unalterable newness, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – to know it and live in it is joy. This is eternal life, to know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. John 17:3

In the knowledge of what God in Christ has done we gain two benefits.

First we’re freed by forgiving both wrongs we’ve suffered from others and by welcoming forgiveness for the wrongs we ourselves have done.

Second we’re freed of fear for the future. Tomorrow also is God’s and his love is stronger than the worst power we’ll ever encounter including death. You will be with me always, he says, nothing can separate us, enter my joy, as the Psalmist writes: You show me the path of life. In your presence there is fullness of joy; in your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11

Absence of joy links to self-sufficiency and pride, imprisonment in past regrets, future anxiety - all of which cut us off from the living God.

Tonight we affirm God for who he is, and his opening to our intuition of death’s diminishment.

The only meaningful thing in life is what conquers death, not what but who, Jesus Christ, true God and true Man.

Since April 33AD, or maybe 27AD with a six year slippage, humanity has the full picture of God in his grandeur and humans in their immense potential as those in his image destined for the glorious liberty of the children of God (Romans 8:21).

The hope of this glory is further cause of our joy.

Our intellects balk at death and wrestle with its reality 20 centuries on from Easter.  There’s no knockdown argument for the resurrection but many pointers to its truth. I commend my 40 pointers to Christ’s Resurrection blog.

We are joyful in spirit tonight knowing deep down God is God and he always will be God and we’ve got friendship with him that’ll never end.

Joy isn’t just a component of Christianity it’s the key. We can’t believe in God as he truly is without sensing joy and tonight we see him as he really is, God writ large, God to the dimensions of God, showing his grandeur, taking human form, breaking through death, revealing eternal life to us and for us.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  May the unalterable newness of Jesus be our joy today, tomorrow, to the last syllable of recorded time, and beyond that to eternal ages! Alleluia!

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Lent 5 St Bartholomew, Brighton 18 March 2018

Some Greeks…came to Philip…and said to him, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

That phrase, ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’ is written around many a pulpit. In Holy Cross Church by Kings Cross Station there is a pulpit crucifix which unlike ours, facing the people, faces the preacher.

In my old parish of St Giles, Horsted Keynes there’s a carved figure of Our Saviour on the pulpit flanked by four saints. Each figure took 90 hours to carve we read in the parish history.

Carving a figure of Jesus to present to people is the preacher’s labour of love especially in Passiontide.

It is as if the literal veiling of the Cross calls urgent attention to the central mystery of the faith.

Today’s reading from Hebrews Chapter 5 speaks of God’s choice of his Son to take high priesthood on behalf of humanity so as to be able to become the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. That choice is proved, according to the author of Hebrews, by Christ’s own evident reluctance shown in the Garden of Gethsemane. In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Our Lord did not want honour for himself but made submission to his Father, dedicating his whole life and humanity unreservedly to the will of God.

That renunciation of will in Gethesemane is summarised in the Gospel passage from St John Chapter 12 Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—“Father, save me from this hour”? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.

Self-offering that wins glory is built into the life of God himself.

The great French priest scientist Teilhard de Chardin speaks of how that principle applies to our best development as the human race: To allow God, when it so pleases him, to grow within us, and, by death, to substitute himself for us: that is now our duty; that, if one may use the word, is our opportunity; and that is the only attitude that can finally bring salvation. 

Teilhard is struck by the liturgical repetition in Passiontide of the refrain from Philippians ‘Christus factus est’ – Christ was obedient unto death.

Commenting on this refrain he writes: That is obviously the exact and profound significance of the cross: obedience, submission to the law of life – and to accept everything, in a spirit of love, including death, there you have the essence of Christianity.

Our Lord lived to die a death for the life of the world. We too are called as Christians to lose our lives, all that is governed by wrong self-interest and self-concern, so that his life may flow in us to bring glory to God.

 ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

Our best response to that request happens many a time unwittingly as people see us being carried along by the Lord as we carry something of a cup of sufferings, cheerfully and obediently, with faith in Jesus who is become the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Passiontide reminds us that no sorrow on earth needs to be wasted.

By being taken up into the mystery of Christ’s love, in his passion and in the eucharist, there is transformation. This comes as we gain grace to accept with serenity the things that can’t be changed or courage to change the things that should be changed in our lives.

‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus.’

I end with Teilhard’s great meditation on the hands of our Saviour that ends with an act of surrender into those same holy and venerable hands:

Into your hands I commend my spirit. To the hands that broke and gave life to the bread, that blessed and caressed, and were pierced – to the hands that are as our hands, of which we can never say what they will do with the objects they hold, whether shatter them or care for them, but whose whims, we may be sure, are full of kindness and will never do more than hold us in a jealous grasp – to the kindly and mighty hands that reach down to the very marrow of the soul – that mould and create – to the hands through which so great a love is transmitted – it is to these that it is good to surrender our soul.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Lent 3 Presentation Church, Haywards Heath 4th March 2018

Lent's a time to get the main things the main things and the scripture set for the third Sunday of Lent is a good starting point for this.

We have the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament reading from Exodus and Our Lord's cleansing of the Temple in the passage from St John's Gospel Chapter 2

Reflecting on these two passages we find a reminder that Christian faith engages both mind and heart.

To receive the word of God we need open hearts as well as open ears.

You can read the Ten Commandments or teach them, memorise what’s right and wrong but the main thing’s to live right. If we read on in the book of Exodus we see the disobedience of the Israelites so that God says in Psalm 95 'for forty years I was wearied of these people and I said 'their hearts are astray, these people do not know my ways'.

Today’s Gospel of the cleansing of the Temple is seen in the spiritual tradition as a pointer to the righting of wayward hearts as in this prayer familiar to some of you maybe as a Saturday night prayer of preparation for Holy Communion: Cleanse our consciences we beseech you, almighty God, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he come to us in the most holy sacrament, may find in our hearts a dwelling place prepared for himself.

Our two readings, first and last this morning, can be seen as reminders that study of God’s word is a matter of applying mind and heart.

I wonder when you last read your Bible devotionally, or took away your pew sheet for further reflection?

Though we can’t be in Church day by day - some come with me and Fr David on Thursday morning - we can receive spiritual nourishment midweek from Bible reading. It’s worth praying for the Holy Spirit to give us an appetite, a hunger for God’s word to make this a more natural discipline.

At her Coronation the Queen was presented with a Bible with these words: ‘Here is the most valuable thing this world affords’. Its value isn’t in itself but in its being ‘read, marked and inwardly digested’.

Christians believe the Bible can’t be mistaken as it presents the good news of Jesus to honest seekers of the truth.  As the Bible says of itself in 1 Timothy 3:15 ‘the sacred writings are able to instruct... for salvation through Jesus Christ’. This witness to God’s salvation is the principal function of the Bible as the truth teller it is.

Reading scripture brings us one to one with God in Jesus if both heart and mind are engaged. Many people’s initial encounter with the Bible are fruitless because they’re dealing with it without repentance and as less than it is - the word of God in human words. They – we – need ongoing cleansing of the temple of our hearts. We also gain from bible reading notes available online as well as from Bible Reading Fellowship (you might not know it but I’m March’s New Daylight author with a series on Jerusalem).

Like the Ethiopian court official whom St Philip helped to understand the Bible in Acts chapter 8, people very often need a human guide to get into scripture. We can also help one another read the Bible one to one, and as a local priest I’m always delighted to help in this.

Study for Christians – of the bible and the lives of the saints - stands alongside prayer and action in forming us up to be more fully what we’re meant to be.

Former US President Theodore Roosevelt claimed that ‘a thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education’. Moving from the fourth, third and second-best courses in our lives to the best forward course links to studying not just how we see ourselves but what others including God have to say about us and taking that into our hearts.

How do you see your sins? Pale gas – pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice, sloth – weaknesses that ruin the world around you including your friendship with God and neighbour?

The sins we mourn in Lent are weaknesses indulged, but, let me put it in another more positive yet dreadful way. Sin is not just weakness but the misuse of strength. Money and power are strengths employed both to hurt and to heal. Think of the damage caused by the misuse of strength in the Middle East, money markets or the internet?

When you stand before God for judgement will the use of your strengths be weighed, as hurtful or helpful to the world? The great value of the Christian faith is its challenge to seek God’s guidance in weighing up your gifts and applying them in the best way, which is to God’s praise and the service of others.

You and I have been gifted with time and talents to build God’s future.

This is the day that the Lord has made says the Psalm writer. So is tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.

May God take and use the gifts that abound in this worship gathering and employ them in a manner not fourth-best, or third-best or second-best but in the way he knows best – and may you and I find and keep on that way as we study scripture and the lives of the saints.

We’re approaching the Lord's Table and as we do so we recall that image in the Gospel of the cleansing of the temple applied to our hearts.

If the heart is a well the tongue, for example, is a bucket that draws from that well. Words of affirmation and encouragement are drawn out of a clean well. Words that are dismissive of others come out of the well of an unclean heart.

Conversely, thinking of receiving Jesus in Word and Sacrament into ourselves, that flow deep inside can only be welcomed through holy attentiveness and expectancy upon the Lord.

It is in purity of heart that we become Biblically literate. No amount of reading God’s words in the Bible of whatever translation can lead to application of those words and the transformation of our lives without inner cleansing from the Holy Spirit to dispose us rightly to Scripture.

It is the cleansing of the thoughts of our hearts by the same Spirit that leads us to the eucharist in its fullness as a sacrifice of praise, the offering of our souls and bodies in union with Jesus as a living sacrifice.

It is by the conscious putting aside of pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice and sloth that we make space for the gift of the body, soul and divinity of Jesus in the sacrament of his body and blood.
You don’t put honey into a vinegar jar.

Cleanse our consciences, therefore, almighty God, that our Lord Jesus Christ, when he come to us in the most holy sacrament, may find in our hearts a dwelling place prepared for himself.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Ash Wednesday St Bartholomew, Brighton 14.2.18

Remember, man, that dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.  If Lent’s about deepening the inner life, about life in the Spirit, there’s paradox about the way it starts. The ashing rite is something physical done to our bodies. It's a reminder of bodily frailty and a call to distrust the flesh. In today’s Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer the priest thanks God who by bodily fasting dost overcome vice, dost raise the mind and dost bestow upon us virtue and heavenly reward. 

In these forty days many of us resolve to give up a bodily comfort - sweet things, alcohol or whatever - so our inner life can profit. The Lord who died and rose seeks in this season our own dying and rising, death of self-orientation and rise of Christian service to him and to others. Fasting is a business-like devotion. You know its challenge to self-interest hour by hour All the time it says to us what the Baptist said of the Lord: I must decrease. He must increase.

The increase or prospering of the spiritual life links a lot to what we do with our bodies. As Christians in a rich, materialistic culture we do well to seize opportunities the liturgy provides in Lent, Advent and on Friday’s to assert ourselves over and above material comforts.

By adopting a Lent discipline we further check self-orientation. Recommitment to forms of Christian service is the other side of the coin, a sign of Christ’s resurrection life flowing in and through us. ‘Extras’ we take on in Lent can be transformative of both others and ourselves.

In comments released last month coincident with the World Economic Forum in Davos Bishop Rowan Williams, writing as chair of Christian Aid, said provocatively: ‘We have stopped asking what wealth is for. Lacking a coherent picture of what a good human life looks like, we have filled the gap with quantified measures that tell us little or nothing about how far flesh-and-blood human beings are flourishing in all aspects of their experience. For Christians, in particular, this is a serious failure: we are in danger of not thinking about what is involved in our belief that we are made in God's image, made for creative engagement in the lives of others that will build them up as they build us up. Wealth is instrumental to this, never an end in itself.’

To engage in Christian service with others builds them up as they build us up. God is no man’s debtor as the joy of giving demonstrates. On Ash Wednesday we’re marked with the Cross and that Cross could be seen as ‘I’ crossed out. The outward ashing rite expresses and assists through this Mass the special time ahead deepening inner devotion and challenging self-interest by more prayer and work for others. Through such action we’re to be taken out of our comfort zone to be reshaped more fully into the image of Christ crucified and risen.

Remember, man, that dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return. That downbeat Genesis verse is matched by an upbeat one from Romans: if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 

A joyful, life-giving Lent lies ahead - let’s seize upon it!

Picture: Carracci’s Christ appearing to Saint Peter on the Appian Way

Saturday, 10 February 2018

St Bartholomew, Brighton Quinquagesima 11.2.18

God has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6b)

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind, warms the heart and energises the will.

Just as dynamite contains within itself potential energy that can be released to give light, heat and a surge of momentum so it is with Jesus Our Lord.

On the cusp of Lent we’re aware of the forward movement in the church calendar, with personal resolutions and the stripping away in the Liturgy present since Septuagesima.

Christianity goes forward by radiant energy as we come again and again before Jesus in word and sacrament and in the hearts of his faithful to see our minds, hearts and wills irradiated.

As Fr. Bull, one of the great Mirfield Fathers put it, the glad tidings of Christianity are in what Jesus Christ did for men and in the abiding energy of that work.

We gather at Mass this morning to be caught up afresh into that energy which shines from today’s Gospel of the Transfiguration when Our Lord’s clothes became dazzling white.

As we prepare to best keep Lent here’s an invitation to seek fresh illumination from the truth that is in Jesus (Ephesians 4:21), fresh warming of our hearts by the Sacred Heart and fresh energising for active service from the working of his great power (Ephesians 1:19b).

All of this will flow from the radiance of Jesus, what the Apostle calls the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6b). As dynamite is ignited releasing potential energy into light, heat and momentum so our devotion can ignite a radiance from Jesus to light up our lives and through us light up a world so in need of that irradiation.

I want to suggest this ignition process has three dimensions – intellectual, devotional and practical and to encourage our preparation for Lent to be shaped accordingly.

First we seek irradiation - light - for the mind. We’re all students in church this morning.

I wonder when you last read a book about the Christian Faith.  Or even the Bible itself?

How can you hope to be a better witness unless you know your faith? If someone asked you why you thought Christianity was true would you be able to argue for the truth of the resurrection?

Our religion above all others is based on historical events we should be able to explain and defend. Have you looked at the trustworthiness of the New Testament resurrection accounts, all slightly different in their detail and so adding a ring of truth to things? How can we obtain the mind of Christ unless our minds are irradiated by the word of God?

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind. It also warms the heart.

To gain the radiance of Jesus you need to be exposed to his radiant love. Christian friends, holy priests all of these help – but nothing can replace our individual business with God.

When did you last sit in church before the Blessed Sacrament? Has anyone ever commended to you the practice of quiet adoration in church of the reserved Sacrament? It’s a sort of extension of the sacred time of Holy Communion. ‘I look at Him and He looks at me’. That light that burns by the Tabernacle signals the radiance of Jesus. As we sit before the Lord present before us in the consecrated Bread there is not just a warming inside but a burning out of evil. I’ve heard it described as ‘spiritual radiotherapy’.

To welcome the radiance of Jesus into our hearts is a life-long struggle because of our fallen nature. We need a regular time of prayer, a discipline of self-examination and confession, a resolve to intercede for others, to give a proportion of our income to God’s work and so on. For all of us as St Bartholomew’s there’s the challenge to pray as best we can concerning the future of our parish.

The radiance of Jesus lightens the mind, warms the heart and then, lastly, it energises the will.

Where would our study and prayer be if it never led us into action, to be part of what Fr. Bull called the abiding energy of the once-for-all work of Jesus Christ?  We are here at Mass to gain that energy.
Just as the potential energy in an explosive is released to give light, heat and a surge of momentum so all Jesus attained through his life, death and resurrection is given to be celebrated and released so as to give power and direction to our lives.

It’s a good question to ask yourself as part of regular self-examination ‘how have I acted to transform my environment to be more as you, Lord, would want it in recent weeks? What have I done in my little way to change the world for good?

If the radiant energy of Jesus is in you, you should find yourself raiding the kingdom of fear with  love, encouraging those who are down, forgiving those who come against you harshly and providing for those in need from your own resources. This energy carries our lives forward to work for the kingdom of this world (to) become the kingdom of our God and of his Christ (Revelation 11:15).

For such energising of will, warming of heart and illumination of mind we lift our hearts to the Father in this Mass. May the Son of God catch us afresh into his radiance as we lift our heart to the Blessed Trinity to whom, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be glory now and for ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Baptism of the Lord (translated) St Bartholomew, Brighton 14.1.18

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers? Acts 19:2

The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord is a shade neglected in the western compared to the eastern Church. Today’s commemoration in the Eastern Orthodox community is the apex of Christmas known in Greek as Theophany, God’s revelation, with outdoor ceremonies literally chilling the blood, folk diving into pools made in the ice and the like. We’ll not go there - but we will go rather this morning to something or Someone who warms the heart: the Holy Spirit.

Today by the Holy Spirit Jesus was revealed as God’s Son, the Christ, the Anointed One so as to share with us Holy Spirit anointing and there’s nothing more warming to the heart than the Holy Spirit for none can guess its grace, till he become the place wherein the Holy Spirit makes his dwelling.

On this Feast of Christ’ Baptism we sing come down, O Love divine, seek thou this soul of mine and visit it with thine own ardour glowing! May we, like those disciples in Ephesus who hadn’t heard of the Holy Spirit gain ardour (Acts 19:6). May we, like our Lord, anointed by the Spirit, hear God’s voice saying to us individually at this Mass, : ‘You are my Son, my daughter, with you I am well pleased’ (Mark 1:11).

What me? You might ask. How could I be worthy of that? Of God filling my life, of the empowerment in love, joy and peace that Our Lord knew? Well he knew it in his flesh so you could know it! He was anointed so you could be anointed as John the Baptist said in the Gospel: I have baptised you with water; but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.

Today we’re talking not just a one-off Theophany, or manifestation of God, but of the choice of and manifestation of God to you and I represented in our Christian allegiance and our sealing by the Spirit at our baptism, confirmation, and our welcoming Christ Sunday by Sunday in Holy Communion that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us.

The Son of God became Son of Man so children of men could be children of God. That’s our good news which though in the providence of God, remains mighty strange!

Both Our Lord’s earthly origins and our own Christian origins thrill with paradox! As the preacher in All Saints, Margaret Street told us the other Sunday Christianity has an ‘extraordinary particularity’. Incidentally I told him afterwards I was helping here and he commented, you’ve got a bigger place to fill than we have! Very true - but the same Catholic religion in London-by-the sea as there at Brighton-in-land!

I’ve distracted you - that phrase ‘extraordinary particularity’ is a good one and is worth examining. Just as the wise men found there own way to Jerusalem but needed special revelation to find Bethlehem so the universal instinct for God needs revelation of where in particular we can find Him.

Christianity’s no man-made religion. It’s nothing made up - its revealed! God so loved the world he revealed - he gave - himself. That revelation unlike that of other faiths is rooted in well evidenced historical events, those we mark at Easter, and in the choice and call the Holy Spirit brings to individuals in every age.

It is as outrageous to logic that you and I welcome the Holy Spirit at this Mass as it is that the Founder of Christianity should appear in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the King. That though is the recipe for salvation planned before the foundation of the world.

On this feast we ponder something given to us that goes beyond but not against reason - the privilege Christ shares with us as his sisters and brothers, children of God, who hear again with him those awesome words: ‘You are my Son, with you I am well pleased’.

The Son of God became Son of Man so children of men could be children of God. 

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers? Yes, you did, but you need to truly believe it! Believe as surely as Our Lord Jesus is the particular Theophany or revelation of God that you in particular are, through the Spirit’s calling, in words spoken of you at your baptism, a child of God and inheritor of the kingdom of heaven.

You have that grace - even if like sugar put in tea it needs stirring to sweeten the drink.
God sweeten our lives by stirring up the Spirit he’s put within us. May he bless us as we welcome his coming afresh by his Spirit into our lives in the most holy Sacrament. This is my body given for you.. this is my blood shed for you…  O Christian, recall your nobility! God has chosen you, made you his child and fills you with his Spirit!