Thursday, 17 January 2019

Feast of the Holy Family 13 Jan 2019 Sermon

Holy Family 13.1.19 Blessing for curse 

The Holy Family sets a high standard to imitate, but this is not meant to discourage us, rather to help us rise to better things.

There were no raised voices in that family, no insults, no snide remarks.

So we think: my house is not like that! Can we become so? Can we reach that level of concord and charity?

God wants us to be like the Holy Family. The New Testament is full of references to mutual charity, forgiving each other, inspiring each other to the best behaviour. Such as today’s epistle: forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Col 3, 13-14)
Perhaps best summarised with this: Love one another as I have love you. (Jn 15, 12)

This love is to be complete on our side even if it does not come back in the same form.
We repay evil with a blessing ( 1 P 3,9).

This part we find really hard. It is easy to love those who love us, but what if they do not love; or if they even hate us?

We look to where Love originates – God Himself, the Blessed Trinity, another model of Family.

There is no discord there, either. Total unanimity, total harmony.

We may not know how to live in peace in our families, but we know we should be doing so. This is some progress at least. To know where we are heading is a major step in getting there.

My peace I give to you, says Our Lord (Jn 14,27). He will enable us to overcome whatever obstacles there are to family unity.

The basis of it all is to be united with Him. We have a much better chance of loving our neighbour if we also love God.

We derive our values, our desires, our aspirations from Him. We want to be like Our Lord.
(Or like Our Lady, or St Joseph. It would come to the same thing in practice.)

We want what God wants. Thus we understand that God loves each other person, and how can I not love those whom He loves?

How to do this? How do we love when not loved in return?

We learn bit by bit, piece by piece, to be less preoccupied with self; more able to be concerned for the other person, particularly as regards his spiritual needs, such as the salvation of the soul.

It is Christ’s way replacing the world’s way. We start with His perspective rather than our own. It is all about Him rather than all about me.

Christians under provocation will often simply throw off their Christian beliefs like an outer garment and act like anyone else.

Then we are sorry for that, and we put the garment back on. And then it happens again!

We have to go deeper into Christ, into the Blessed Trinity, into deep unity with the source of Unity. Unity, deep enough that we will not be alternating with worldly mentality, but always habitually doing things Christ’s way.

We plant ourselves deeply in the right soil, to draw heavenly grace deep inside.

The heavenly wisdom will permeate and take hold. Angry thoughts will evaporate; charity taking its place.

Local and universal family will benefit; the Church will benefit; societies will benefit.

Till it be so, and to make it so, Lord have mercy on us; Mary and Joseph, pray for us.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Epiphany 6 Jan 2019 Sermon

Epiphany 6.1.19 Response

Epiphany can be understood as our response to God’s initiative in coming to us at Christmas.

God started something when He took on human nature and dwelt with us.

Now it is up to us how to respond.

Our response can come in two parts: the first is we must believe in these events. The second is we must take that belief out to the whole world, all the nations.

His coming has meant so much – enabling us to be saved from our sins, to reach Heaven; and many blessings for this life as well.

But being essentially an offer, the Incarnation has to be accepted to take full effect.

Each one of us is asked: will you be My disciple, or Will you walk away?

It is easy to reject Christ through denial, or indifference, or delay.

We want to say Yes to Him; we want to mean it, and to stay with that answer till the end.

He entered the process fully; so must we.

He committed to us in becoming Man, and going even as far as the Cross.

He has put action where his words went. Love songs say that we would climb any mountain, swim any ocean etc. Maybe we would but we know we are never going to have to put those ideals into practice.

God says He would do that kind of thing for us; He would even die for our sins – and He does exactly that.

He was not just words, impressive as they were. He practised what He preached without any loss in translation.

He wants to give us a chance to prove our love for Him, so that we are not just words or theory.

We say we would be prepared to suffer for Him, so He lets us prove that.

That is one reason why so many things go wrong for us. We are being tested; not in a cruel way but to help us to fulfil our potential, to grow to the stature which God intends us to have.

If we can get through these difficulties it will bring us to a deeper love for Him.

It is easy to be a part-time or  half-baked disciple. We can say all the right things, as they are written into our prayers, such as: I will not sin again.

He will put steel in to us, enable us to make genuine change in our lives.

Whatever He gives us to do, He will enable, by giving our humanity a share of His, which is perfect.

If we give Him our attention, give Him time; let Him work on us, we will get better at this.

The second part of our response is to take it to the nations. (The wise men from foreign parts represent the rest of humanity, besides the Jews.)

Everyone needs to know the scope of what is being offered to them.

The Christian faith is not just theory; it is the way to live. It takes in every aspect of life.

To possess this faith and to live by it is the happiest we can be in this life.

We are privileged to know what we know; we share in the great commission to make Him known to the ends of the world

There is much resistance but His ‘word does not return empty’ (Is 55,11).

We can do ourselves and everyone else a favour by picking up our share of the Cross, and proving (in practice) that our words of love are not empty.

Lord, make us strong enough for this!

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 30 Dec 2018 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 30.12.18 The Incarnation

We unfold the Christmas mystery. The word was made flesh and dwelt among us.

We try to deepen our understanding of this mystery.

If we had been born before Christ became man, and someone said this is going to happen – that God will become man, we would probably have ridiculed the idea. Gods do not do that sort of thing.

But the real God did do exactly that. And then would die for us.

Some say that God is unfeeling and cruel, but look what He has done. He made us out of nothing to  share in His infinite glory; and in doing that is giving us a privilege beyond anything we could possibly deserve, or even dream of asking for.

We would have been happy just with ‘give us our daily bread’, and then leave us alone – like contented slaves or employees.

That He would come down that far, and dwell with us, to teach us what we can be, what we are called to be; to help us to do that by His grace and mercy, to inspire us with vision far beyond the everyday, the mundane. All this He has done.

We walk about in a world where God has become one of us. This is such a dramatic claim in itself; it takes a lot of absorbing.

But also amazing is that most of the human race either does not believe that truth, or does not think it is important.

People anxious not to know the truth have regressed into pre-Christian beliefs: there is some sort of deity out there somewhere, about whom we can know almost nothing.

They completely ignore that the same God has come all the way in from ‘out there’, has taught and showed us, and done all these things that have been recorded.

So how can we say we don’t know anything about Him? We have much information, which we can draw on anytime.

When we suffer – which is the most challenging time – we can make contact with Him, calling on His grace to help us cope, and overcome. We may not understand why He permits certain sufferings, but we come to trust Him for His own sake. This is Someone who has joined Himself to my nature. He must be interested in what happens to me. I cannot think He is unfeeling.

We go about our daily tasks, and we might look the same as the unbelievers as far as appearance goes, but we are lit up by an interior joy that all of this does lead somewhere.

We are not just like insects following each other until we fall over dead.

We are called to so much more than that, to eternal life, to be better, to respond to God and give Him that infinite yearning we have within us; and really be lifted up out of ourselves as the flesh shares in the Word.

Being human we have a choice which way we look – up or down. Towards Christ or away from Him – that is the question.

He came to His own and they knew him not. We will rewrite that part of history. We shall know Him.

We never think that God can be tied down to our definitions. We let Him lift us to His world rather than try to fit Him into our world.

The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. Come, let us adore Him.

Christmas Day 2018 Sermon

Christmas Day 2018 Dawn Mass    Gratitude

We are saved not by our own merits but by God's generous mercy.

We have to be grateful to Him for creating us in the first place, and then further that He would save us; that having defied Him many times He would still be prepared to offer us more chances to reconcile with Him.

That requires a double dose of gratitude – for being born and for being saved.

That is the one thing we can give back to God – gratitude.

We do not have to climb a mountain or swim an ocean; only humbly admit that we could not be saved but for His mercy and grace.

This admission will only come if we are humble. We take a humble stand before God, express gratitude, and from there we are more likely to serve Him in our daily lives

We will have a general desire to please Him and have goodwill to our neighbours.

Christmas is a time to get back to the beginnings, to reconfirm all these basic truths.

We could be otherwise than grateful. Many people are angry with God, or indifferent to Him.
What has God got to do with it, they will say.

They do not see that their lives, and this whole world come from Him, and are kept in being only by His will.

If we begin with ourselves we might leave God out of the picture. So we begin with Him instead, and then we see more clearly where we fit in.

We are children of a loving Father, disciples of a loving Saviour – this is the reference point for everything else in our lives.

We will be tempted to doubt God's closeness to us; instead we constantly re-affirm our trust in Him. The trust will increase with being expressed. This is one reason why the Church has these feasts, such as Christmas, to reaffirm what has always been true, but we might otherwise forget.

The right attitude is personified in Mary, Mother of God. She was the best person ever but was also the humblest.

She knew that it all came from God. She had a place for Him in her heart, such that it never would have occurred to her to go against His will, or offend Him in any way.

For the rest of us, besides Mary, there is the need to repent of our sin. As gratitude awakens so we become aware of the times when we have gone our own way. Never again. He forgives freely; He will never turn away the contrite sinner.

We are as humble as slaves but as free as children. In His mercy He lets us walk about freely, when in strict justice He could punish us with great vigour.

He wants us to have our heads held high, not in pride or conceit, but in the realization of His mercy towards us - like the prodigal son must have felt while eating the banquet put on for him.

We have had 2000 years to think this over. Does the human race get any humbler? It does not look like it. Sin continues to abound with all its evil effects.

God has been patient with us, taking so much abuse from the very people He is trying to save.

This is love at its fullest, when it is offered to someone who hates in response. Mercy is love at its fullest extension.

We can be transformed by such love and that is just what we pray for today, especially today.

God humbled Himself before us; as a Baby, and later, as one Crucified. Now we must do the same before Him.

God will work though whose who do humble themselves before Him, who show themselves receptive to His love.

The word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us. O come let us adore Him.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

4th Sunday of Advent 23 Dec 2018 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 23.12.18 Fighting for life

We have images of Christmas which evoke peace, such as the Crib scene, the general feeling of goodwill that goes with Christmas, the carols.

Unfortunately, however, there is a more violent aspect to Christmas. There are the wars, and acts of terrorism, and crime in general; but another kind of violence as well, that which results when good meets evil. That sets off at least a spiritual violence, which has been going on since Lucifer was cast out of heaven.

We, as Christians, are caught up in this battle. We are battling for the Truth and the Light, to prevail against the deceptions of the evil one

It is a life-and-death struggle, not always physical, but always spiritual. Victory means eternal life; defeat means mortal, death-dealing sin.

We fight over moral matters, things which concern whether or not we obey Almighty God, or we think we can do better ourselves – things to do with marriage, and family, and life; beliefs which have been in place for millennia, are now being challenged and in danger of being overturned.

So a fairly average person now thinks it is alright to have an abortion, to end life through assisted suicide, to marry someone of the same sex, to say that gender has no meaning, to create babies outside of the womb, to blaspheme God in works of ‘art’, to restrict the Church from being allowed to proclaim or operate on its own beliefs, claiming we ‘discriminate’.

We can feel the rug being pulled from under us. Many of our own number have lost confidence and direction, and gone over to the other side. They have adopted secular views in place of the Christian position, allowing themselves to be deceived by cunning falsehood.

The Church’s authority comes directly from God, so an attack on the Church is an attack on God Himself. This is how serious it is.

We need to reaffirm our identity and mission. We are here to serve God and to save as many souls as we can.

The truth does not change as God does not change. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. (Ep 6,14-17)

You might find yourself the only person in your family or workplace that still believes these things, but they are still true. It is harder when one is in the minority but, Lord, to whom shall we go? (Jn 6, 68)

If there are fewer standing with us, it is all the more necessary that we stand and fight. There is work to be done.

We fight, but not as the other side does. We bless when they curse (Rm 12,14); we seek to win them over rather than kill them. This is the way of Christ Himself. He does not use force; He seeks to persuade.

Today’s Gospel: Make straight the way of the Lord. We are giving His own world back to Him.

If we had obeyed Him from the start we would not be in all this trouble. We are re-establishing the foundation of truth on which to rebuild.

We will win eventually insofar as Our Lord will come again in glory, and all His enemies will be under His feet.

But we want a happier ending than that. We want Him to be welcomed as Saviour and not feared as Judge.

We want everyone to be saved, as He Himself does.

But for now the battle rages on. We will have some peace over Christmas in terms of relaxing, but the urgency of the overall battle will soon press in on us again. The fight will not last forever, but the result will.

Save us, [Lord], from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven…

Thursday, 20 December 2018

3rd Sunday of Advent 16 Dec 2018 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 16.12.18 Christ within or Spiritual strength.

We are told to rejoice always, but we immediately wonder: how can I rejoice if there is so much wrong in the world?

From a prayer attributed to St Patrick: Christ be with me, Christ be before me, Christ be behind me, Christ be in me, Christ be beneath me, Christ be above me, Christ be on my right, Christ be on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I arise

All these different places Christ can be, and all very close to me.

Here I am thinking I am all alone in an impersonal universe, and then I find the Creator of that universe is next to me wherever I go! Suddenly life looks a lot better.

He is close, and always has been, only it is not the way we normally think.

We think too much according to our physical senses. If we can see something it is there; if we cannot see it is not there, or so we let ourselves think.

We have to develop a more spiritual understanding of reality. We are surrounded by heavenly beings - angels, saints, and God Himself

We might feel lonely and unloved if there are no other people around. There are always heavenly people.

In moments of anguish and anxiety we can call on their help. Any angel or saint, any one of the Three Divine Persons – we will be heard.

Nothing can happen to us unknown to God. Every problem we ever had, have, or will have, He will be there close by.

This is our faith, though it may be very fragile. We can nurture it by constant reaffirming and renewal; to the point that what we perceive spiritually really is central to our life and daily behaviour.

God wants us to be strong in our confidence in Him. He will teach us on the job. It is like an apprentice relationship. We have to start acting like true disciples and then we find the faith will come. The faith emerges as we go along.

It takes practice and discipline to overturn bad habits we have developed (such as complaining, panicking…)

If we keep up all the recommended practices we will see progress: daily prayer, weekly Mass, frequent Confession; penance, good works, etc

At any moment we will act in the best way, according to His will – this is the goal.
Never again self-pity, and thinking we are all alone and washed up.

He leads us to a deeper faith. We are told to be child-like, insofar as we trust in Him. We also need to be mature in that we are able to take a few blows without losing balance.

We are in one sense like sheep that He comes looking for; in another sense we are like the bride in the Song of Songs, who goes looking for her Beloved (Song 3,1-2).

We look for Him in the sense that we are seeking this deeper grasp of His closeness to us.

It is good for us to have to work towards this deeper faith. We reach a point that Christ acts through us, instead of simply solving the problem Himself.

We would prefer it if He just dealt with everything, but this way benefits us more; we become better people, conformed to Christ, not just admiring Him but living out His presence in us, letting His grace bring forth the best in us.

The more this happens, the less we worry. Perfect love casts out fear (I Jn 4,18).

Thursday, 13 December 2018

2nd Sunday of Advent 9 Dec 2018 Sermon

Second Sunday of Advent 9.12.18 Repent

If St John the Baptist were to stand before us today, what would he say?

Our Lord makes reference to John’s clothing: did you expect to see a man dressed in soft clothing (Mt 11,8)?

John’s clothing was not soft, nor was his preaching. He spoke the hard truth, that his listeners were sinners and needed to repent.

Much of present-day language is softened: people today make ‘inappropriate choices’ or ‘mistakes’ or ‘errors of judgment’ (these are all euphemisms for plain old sin!)  The use of such terms can make the sin seem less serious and therefore not as urgent a matter as it really is.

John addressed some Pharisees present at one of his talks - You brood of vipers (Mt 3,7).

Not very nice, many would say today. Yet his words were true, and spoken without malice. He cared for the wellbeing of others, and that is why he served up truth – necessary for them to know, so they could make the necessary changes in their lives.

So the Church has ever since been preaching, Repent, Repent.

That is what John would be telling us today. In any century, in any country, the same tune, the same words, the same urgency.

Having absorbed the hard language, repentance is hard in another sense insofar as it requires us to give up certain things, to which we may be attached, or even addicted.

But it leads to joy as we feel the weight of sin lifted from us. The Lamb of God takes that sin on Himself. We feel liberated. The pain is worth it.

We cannot cling to our sin and still expect to be admitted into the kingdom of God. Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers (1 Co 6,9).

Many would argue today that God will admit them to Heaven because He loves them. But do they love Him? That part is also necessary. We must have genuine contrition for our sins, not just rely on God's love to carry the day.

He will help us to reach the required state, if we let Him go to work on us. We approach Him in sacraments and prayer, and we gradually improve.

Ancient Israel was always learning the painful lesson that if they disobeyed God they would pay for it in other ways. They would lose their battles, suffer plagues and diseases, be divided from each other.

Sound familiar? The same problem applies now. The human race as a whole suffers all these things, because people do not come to terms with God.

And many within the Church have abandoned confessing their sins, preferring to be more ‘positive’ in their outlook, emphasising their achievements rather than their failures.

We must, whoever we are, confess our sins and, like the Publican, begin with asking for mercy (Lk 18,13). This we do in every Mass, and should do every day, at least once, an Act of Contrition.

We have to do all the other things: go out and evangelise the world, relieve poverty, and contribute to the social and moral welfare of our societies.

We cannot wait until we are perfect before we embark on these courses, otherwise we would never be able to do anything.

But implicit in all our projects is an acknowledgment that we are always in need of God's mercy.

If we are humble before Him He will bless our undertakings and there will be much good fruit.

St John the Baptist and all holy prophets will tell us so, in plain language. May we hear the truth and live by it.