FAITH AND FIDELITY
by Anthony Meredith SJ
(Gracewing, 2000, 202pp, $22.00. Available from Freedom Publishing)
There is a temptation in the television age to equate a dearth of published sermons with a lack of quality. This anthology challenges such an assumption. Although the individual sermons are much shorter than those of preachers such as Newman, primarily because of the pastoral needs and expectations of worshippers, they are filled with a depth of understanding of theological truths and contain interesting insights.
The author is a Jesuit priest, a Patristics scholar who lectures at Heythrop College and is on the staff at the Jesuit Church in Farm Street, London, where he preached most of these sermons.
In them he concisely yet acutely presents the mysteries of the Christian faith, not only to make them accessible to worshippers, but in such a way that he demonstrates their relevance and application to contemporary believers, a strength of the anthology noted by Dr Ian Ker in his foreword.
The material is divided into five sections: Incarnation, Faith and Reason, Death and Resurrection, The Gift of the Holy Spirit, and Morality and Belief. While it may be said that this loosely follows the Church's liturgical year, sermons for Remembrance Day (November 11) are placed under the theme of Death and Resurrection.
Throughout Fr Meredith draws on his extensive knowledge of Scripture, the writings of the Church Fathers, key theologians and other Church documents.
While an analysis of each sermon is not possible here, the quality of Meredith's insights is revealed, for example, in his sermon on doubting Thomas whose doubt, Meredith argues, reflected a gloomy realism. However, this trait, marked by the resolution that he would not believe in the resurrection until such time as he could touch the risen Christ, ironically provided future generations of believers with one of the clearest proofs of the resurrection.
Fr Meredith cites Augustine who in The City of God argues that one of the God's greatest strengths is his ability to bring good (Thomas' belief in the resurrection) out of evil. Meredith notes that Thomas teaches us one does not have to be an optimist or credulous to reach belief and then offers the interesting insight into how Jesus dealt with Thomas, revealing his patience and understanding for those who struggle to believe.
Whilst it is unreasonable to compare the sermons in Faith and Fidelity with those of Newman, reviewed recently by this writer, most readers would find Meredith's more accessible, given their brevity and contemporary prose. They would form an excellent basis for prayer and reflection, both for individuals and groups and for clergy seeking insights for sermons and reflective pieces.
Michael Daniel is a secondary school teacher in Melbourne.