Thursday, 24 May 2018

Pentecost Sunday 20 May 2018 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 20.5.18 Renewal

Mary leads us in prayer as she led the first disciples.

She was open to the Holy Spirit far more than they were, and receiving Him already, it was easier for her to help them.

She must have been a great source of strength to them; now, invisibly she can influence us as well.

We turn to her and ask her - ‘full of grace’ - to send some of that grace our way.

Grace means the love of God working in us, establishing a oneness with Him; helping us to correct sinful and false ways, gradually coming to see things in a different light; then to grow in virtue.

This can work for an individual and for large numbers.

There is enormous untapped potential, so many sleeping lizards who could be fierce lions.
So much to unlock on our part. She helps to create atmosphere of expectancy and we join in with that.

We are too easily discouraged, and ease off on the prayer when we should be intensifying it.

It is all there if we have hands to take it. Between people not wanting it, and not believing it is there, and not thinking they can have it - there is a lot of nothing-happening!

As the Church we have to get two things right at the same time: the internal and the external. Internal – we have to live as one, loving one another. External - that we can bring those presently outside the Church to accept the gift of the Holy Spirit, with all that follows from that.

The Holy Spirit can help us on both fronts. Whatever is wrong can be reversed: Cleanse our souls from sinful stain, Lave our dryness with Your rain, Heal our wounds and mend our way. Bend the stubborn heart and will, Melt the frozen, warm the chill, Guide the steps that go astray. 

What is wrong with us? Many will say Nothing, but that is itself a blindness, caused by sin.

If we compare ourselves with Jesus Christ we will very quickly find things wrong.

There is always need for improvement; and it is always possible for everyone to advance from wherever one is on the holiness spectrum.

People operate at a much-reduced level if they do not see the need to remove sin.

The Holy Spirit, being God, and essentially kind, does not want to hurt us anymore than necessary. Like a good doctor: this may sting a little… but then you will be much happier.

A lot of this is just realizing we can be better than up till now. People sign off too early in the quest for holiness. This is as good as you are going to get - but they do that too soon.

We can find all sorts of ways of improving, with a little initiative. Such as less pursuit of pleasure, better reading/viewing habits, volunteer work, praying more etc etc. Our spiritual sensitivity will increase, thus leading to deeper contrition, and then stronger virtue.

We just need a bit of a shake-up, like a rushing wind blowing upon us.

Not everyone has to be doing big things, like the apostles. Most of it is just attention to daily duty.

We believe that the Holy Spirit can make a difference, and we pray with more fervour. Any lack of faith or hope on our part is itself part of the prayer.

Come, Holy Ghost!

Monday, 21 May 2018

Changes to Weekday Mass at St Monica's

Due to renovations, St Monica’s will be unavailable for weekday Mass from:

Monday 28 May to Saturday 16 June inclusive.

During this time Mass will be at 7am Monday to Friday, 8am Saturday, at Hindmarsh.

Sunday Mass will be as normal: 8am St Monica’s, and 5pm Sacred Heart Hindmarsh.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Sunday after Ascension 13 May 2018 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 13.5.18 Oneness

At the Last Supper Our Lord prayed especially for His disciples. He did not wish to exclude others, but He could see that to get His disciples into the right state, they would then go out to bring others into the light.

They would be the leaven in the bread, the light on the hill, the flock where the sheep are gathered. And this would in turn attract people to join.

The Church has to look inwards first, and then outwards. Inwards to make sure we have the right beliefs and behaviour. Outwards to share the reality of salvation with the rest of the world.

The ‘inwards’ part requires constant prayer and reflection. The ‘outwards’ part will succeed only if we have the inwards right.

The Church offers people eternal life; it is a precious possession, but not usually valued by those to whom it is offered. It is a gift that takes a certain amount of absorbing before we appreciate it fully.

We offer the gift on two fronts: true teaching, and charity in action. The right theory and the right practice.

The teaching is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, who makes known to us all the essential points of faith and morals.

The Church alone has the authority to teach in God's name, a useful thing to know in a world of so much confusion and falsehood.

As to charity, this is always the most important quality to get right. We get along together, as in today’s epistle: But before all things have a constant mutual charity among yourselves: for charity covereth a multitude of sins. (1 P 4,8).

This is necessary for its own sake, that we should love one another regardless of any other circumstance, because God loved us first. If we refuse to love someone we are disagreeing with God, who does love that person. (Love does not mean sentimental attachment, but a desire for the other person to receive whatever God wants them to have.)

And charity is necessary if we are going to attract people to the Church. They must see in the life of the Church something they do not see anywhere else. If they see us fighting it will make it harder for them to be convinced that they should join us.

The early Church did show a strong face to the world and won many converts. People wanted to get in, as they always do when they can perceive an improvement in their situation.

United in faith and charity, belief and action. This is what we need and what we seek.

People will say I believe in Jesus but not the Church… this does not work.
We cannot have the head without the body. We must accept all that the Church believes and teaches.

If we are separate from the Church it must mean there is something in one’s thinking or behaviour which is not submissive to the Holy Spirit; to that extent the person needs correction, healing and purifying. They are not necessarily bad people but they are not yet fully arrived at where they need to be.

So the word goes out. Individuals will come, or not, as they respond to the graces offered them. We have to help them to make the right choice, by our prayer and example.

Our prayer in this Pentecost week is that people everywhere will become disciples of Christ, and join us in the one Church.

May the Holy Spirit make us truly one, and effective in helping all those outside find their way inside.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

5th Sunday after Easter 6 May 2018 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 6.5.18 God became Man

In a noisy and busy world there are many claims on our attention.

We gather here each week and affirm that the most important reality in the world for us is God. Or if He is not the most important we know that He should be!

Our Lord tells us today of His exalted status with God the Father. To pray in Jesus’ name is as acceptable as asking the Father directly.

This is the same Lord who was dismissed by some as the ‘carpenter’s son’, or one who comes from ‘Nazareth’. What could he know? How does he come to have this authority he claims?

We believe what He Himself tells us, that He is God. How can a mere man be God? He is not a mere man. He is the Word made Flesh, God made Man. He was God first, then took on human nature as well, without ceasing to be God.

There are men who act like they are God, but that is just arrogance. This Man really is God, and is worth knowing, beyond any other person or thing in our lives.

So, as to being busy we must always find time for Him. (As we can see, from the way people treat the Sabbath, most people do not get this point.) We must bring ourselves into union with Him. If we do that all else will fall into place; if not then chaos reigns.

By refusing to acknowledge the divinity of Christ people reduce Him to just a philosopher, or a do-gooder, just one among many others that have tried to change the world.

To worship Him as God is another dimension altogether. Every knee shall bow before Him, every tongue confess (Ph 2, 10-11) There are qualities about Him that no other figure can equal. Others have some of His characteristics, but He has everything.

It is to worship we are called. We ask Him for what we need, but this presumes that we are prepared to give Him total obedience and allegiance.

We can dare to ask Him only if we are on proper terms to be able to do that. We cannot ask for things if we are not prepared to acknowledge His divinity.

It is up to us to give Him due attention, to fill the gaps that others have left.

Our asking really comes to how can we serve Him better.

In no way do we assert ourselves to be apart from Him, or reserving our obedience on some points.

He can save only those who are united with Him. As in a rescue operation we cannot pull people out of the sea if they are not within reach, or if they resist.

Salvation is like that. People have to want to be saved, then to let whatever process is necessary take effect.

So we converge on Him, plead with Him to save us, gather us, keep us close.

We cling to Him like branches to the vine, sheep to the shepherd.

We express gratitude for saving us; we seek to please Him; to fit in totally with His plans for us.

To achieve all this we need to pray very often, and meditate on the absolute importance of Jesus Christ; lest we fall into thinking He has somehow become remote.

He took our humanity so that we could share in His divinity. We are called to greatness here; may we have the grace to see it.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

4th Sunday after Easter 29 Apr 2018 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 29.4.18 Recognition

The Holy Spirit will make all things clear, Our Lord promises, especially on matters of right and wrong.

There are moments in life when we have an unpleasant realization that something we have done in the past was in fact wrong, and more wrong than we realized at the time.

So we have a kind of delayed contrition. At such points we feel the need to say sorry to someone, to God certainly, if the action was sinful. In which case we have the reassuring sacrament of Penance, whereby we can clear the decks of past sins, and resume life with a certain freshness.

These moments of realization could refer to just one particular action, or they could refer to the whole direction of one’s life.

Many people, for instance, spend most of their lives in denial of God, His existence, His importance, the fact that they will have to face Him in judgment one day.

What fear and shame will come upon these people when their death approaches, or has already happened?

Or, if they are fortunate, the realization will occur well before death and they will have a chance to correct their course.

One case of people making a major wrong turning was the action of the Jews in demanding the death of Our Lord.

He was their Saviour, their Messiah, and God as well; and they went and had Him crucified.

This is picking the wrong side of the argument if ever there was.

Peter rebukes them at Pentecost, and the people are ‘cut to the heart’. Fortunately there is mercy available to them, and many of them take that chance to get it right from then on.

We cannot smile at the folly of the Jews. We have done the same thing any time we have rejected Christ, going so far as to commit a mortal sin.

Mercy is available to us too; and we take advantage of any moment of shame about past behaviour to set the record straight, and live lives of holiness from now on.

We can do this, availing ourselves of the range of things the Church puts before us.

We are constantly re-setting the compass as we go through life.

God gives us chance after chance. Every single day could be seen as another chance to get back in union with Him, or increase it if already there.

We grasp His mercy right here and now.

Take the shock now; don’t wait till we are dying, or until there is some Fatima-like miracle, and we start crying out ‘Lord, Lord’ (Mt 7,21).

We take a grip on our lives, for life.

Many would have an idea they will straighten out one day. But it is an insult to God to delay repentance, and is risking a severe chastisement by way of warning.

Instead, come now and find out what He wants from you and for you. It will be a j oy.

It will be a relief to be ready, and it will bring much peace in this life as well.

We can also learn from the positive experiences, seeing God’s goodness all around. This will help also. Generally being aware of God is the key.

We just want to take the surprise element out of things, nasty surprises at least.

The Holy Spirit has come, as Our Lord said. He has shown the world how wrong it has been about rejecting Christ. He has told us individually that we need to clean up our desk, get all the loose ends in the proper place, and see our lives as coherent in response to this grand message.

We must not be depressed about the continual rejection of this message. The concerted response of a few will generate graces for the many. We will hold the line until the ‘many’ realize what they have done: crucified the Saviour, again and again.

But no more ‘agains’; from now on we live in union with Him.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

3rd Sunday after Easter 22 Apr 2018 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 22.4.18 Two worlds

In the Gospel today, Our Lord offers encouragement in our time of sorrow: you are crying now, but later you will be laughing. You are sowing in tears, but you will reap with shouts of joy. A woman in childbirth feels pain, but later joy… there are many such images throughout the Scriptures.

Can we allow ourselves to be so encouraged? Or shall we wallow in self-pity and gloom?

While we pick our way through this valley of tears do we look up to the heavens and draw inspiration from there; or do we look down at the mud and slime around us, and generally lean towards despair?

Of course we will look upwards. This is more than just ‘looking on the bright side’, the general advice to be as cheerful as possible.

When we look up to Heaven in prayer we are helping to bring about the final victory.

Suppose our Lord had risen from the dead but not one person believed Him! His triumph would still be real but it would not benefit the human race - if there were no one to receive its fruits.

But when a community of believers emerges then the power of Our Lord’s victory takes hold and transforms things.

It would be easier if a majority of people believed with us, but we can get by with small numbers. The truth remains the same regardless of how many or how few believe it.

The Resurrection is easy enough to believe as a fact of history. Our problem is not so much with the fact, as with connecting it with our own lives.

He is risen, but I am not, we might say! Nor do I have the power or the goodness to break free from my sin and degradation. Nor, in general does the world get any better.

Discouragement can set in – and this when we should be brimming over with paschal joy, radiating faith and love to all around.

How do we get that sort of faith? By doing what we are doing now, praying the Mass, confessing our sins, praying the Rosary, doing good works, and all similar things.

This will help us maintain our strength. We have to be ‘on call’ like emergency workers, ready for anything at any time.

We learn to be sensitive to pick up the signs. We do not need a major miracle every day; we learn to read the signs around us,

To keep ourselves strong we learn to live in two worlds, the earthly and the heavenly.

Living in the heavenly world we maintain the right values and have true wisdom. And the hope of Heaven will sustain us. That is our true home.

Meanwhile we live in the earthly world, the here and now. We deal with whatever befalls us, with practical charity and wisdom, and trust in God to steer us through.

We make things happen by our belief. We are not adding to anything Christ did, but we are bringing His influence into our place and time – and this is what He wants from us.

We evangelise the unbelievers, console the downhearted, strengthen the weak. We may think we are weak, but there are many who are weaker still.

We stay strong ourselves, and this with all the means we have; every day of our lives affirming what remains true, and letting that truth be the strongest influence in our lives.

To see the glory through the mud is not just a fairy story but actual truth. It is what sustains us, and will sustain anyone who is prepared to look ‘upwards’.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

2nd Sunday after Easter 15 Apr 2018 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 15.4.18 Fully known

We might worry about personal data being spread abroad in the internet age. We do not trust what others might do with our personal information.

But long before the Internet there was someone who knew all our history, in far more detail than any computer could record it.

It was God Himself, God the Son, the Good Shepherd: I know My sheep, and Mine know me (today’s Gospel).

When Adam committed the original sin, he hid behind a bush trying to escape God’s sight! (Gn 3,8). Ps 138 (139) reflects that if one were to seek the highest mountain or the deepest part of the sea, God would still be there. There is no place outside the range of His knowledge or interest.

We cannot escape his gaze, but, but then on reflection why should we want to? It is much better for us that He is there. He offers us His friendship, desiring to help, to heal, to save.

Many think the universe a cold dark place. It would be indeed without God. As it is we can find Him, as He seeks to find us. We need not be afraid of being known (by Him). Then we shall know as we are known (1 Co 13,12).

We play games trying to look good for other people, pandering to human approval, missing the main point by a long way.

Instead we could be developing a personal interaction with the Good Shepherd. The ‘sheep’ have no better option than infinite perfection!

Many do not want God to come close. They fear Him (in the wrong sense); they do not want their individual liberty curtailed. They dislike any mention of religion. Yet was I sore adread Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.(Hound of Heaven)

But we have to come to terms with Him eventually, even if it be our final judgment.

We can all feel vexed at times, feeling very negative with life, but we know this is not the final state of things. Our Christian hope enables us to see a much better ending, than whatever we may feel at any given point.

It is best to get in the groove immediately. If we are to be sheep let us play the part, and seek out the Shepherd, save Him the trouble of having to pull us out of some pit or other.

No more tantrums with life. Why was I born? I never asked for it! Maybe not, but we can make it worthwhile with a little humility and patience.

We have a choice in one sense: we do not have to accept God’s mercy and grace; He will not force us.

In another sense there is no choice, as the alternative to dealing with God is one long exercise of self-destruction. It come to Heaven or Hell, which would you rather have?

We are like fish, resigning ourselves to swimming in the ocean because we know no other place.

God is not an oppressive authority. He is a lavish giver, and wants to pour out His goodness on us.

He knows His sheep, even the stubbornness and the particular kind of resistance each person puts up.

He will seek to wear that down, without forcing. We do not have to give up our will to follow Him; only put that will into union with His. We can choose differently at any time, but we will never want to do that.

His sheep know Him? Not very well, so far! We have a long climb out of mistaken notions. We have been hiding like Adam for too long.

If only people would come out of their hiding places, they would be much happier, and so would the world.

May the Good Shepherd continue to be patient with us, but let us not tax that patience.