Thursday, 15 November 2018

Third Last Sunday after Pentecost 11 Nov 2018 Sermon

Third Last Sunday after Pentecost 11.11.18 Providence (5th after Epiphany)

Today is Remembrance Day for the end of World War I, one hundred years ago.

We pray for an end of wars, for true peace among nations, realizing that such can never happen unless Man declares peace with Almighty God!

It is the rebellion in the human heart which leads to all the conflict; not only wars but every kind of discord between people.

To make peace with God means that we accept His holy will, that we express gratitude for His providence, that we live in partnership with Him on all points.

He wills above all else that we come to understand the special role He has for us.

Most of God's creation has no choice but to obey Him. The inanimate objects, such as the sun and the stars – they are impressive, and in their way they give glory to God; but they have no knowledge of what they do. The sun had to rise this morning; we had a choice!

We are blessed with the ability to reason, to decide what we are going to do; in short, we have free will. We can obey or disobey, build up or tear down.

This gives us the opportunity and the obligation to give full honour to God in our hearts, minds, bodies.

We are stewards of creation, but this means more than looking after the environment. It extends to every matter where there is an element of right and wrong involved, where good and evil are opposed, and good must be chosen.

When we choose the good we are sharing in the creative and saving will of God.

We talk of God's providence. This goes further than sending us rain and sunshine etc. His providence includes that He enables us to take our place with Him, as sharers in His authority over the universe.

It would be easier if God simply did everything for us, but it is to our glory that He entrusts us with a more difficult role. It is clearly God's will that we bring ourselves, brains and all, into union with Him.

Which gets back to the War, and we are reminded of how poorly the human race has taken up the special role entrusted to it.

Logically, each generation should be wiser and better than the one before. Every generation of children thinks it knows better than their parents, and also better than their children; yet there is a depressing sameness about human history, always plagued by wars and other forms of hatred.

They could actually be better by calling on the grace of God; it is just that not enough people are requesting it.

God provides this grace, and provides also that we would understand our need for it. He wants us to wake up to this.

We can be strong, confident, trusting children of the Father, and disciples of Our Lord.

If we face difficulties - and there are many – they also can be provided for. Divine grace will make us bold, and selfless, once we have enough of it.

God's ways can be mysterious to us. We wonder, as in today’s Gospel, how He lets evildoers do so much evil.

We come to see that it is mainly to give those same evildoers the chance to repent.

When a sinner repents the angels rejoice (Lk 15,10). In terms of God's providence this is the best thing yet. This is what He wants, above all else. This is what He ‘provides’ for.

When will they ever learn? As we contemplate a hundred years of not-learning-much, we can resolve to do better with the next hundred years. We take our place as sharers in God's creative and saving plans.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Fourth Last Sunday after Pentecost 4 Nov 2018 Sermon

4th Last Sunday after Pentecost 4.11.18 All Saints

How does one become a saint? By the mercy of God obtained through the saving death of Our Lord.

He loved us first. If we manage to love Him in return it is because we have responded to His grace.

This the saints have done. Sinners like us, they have asked for and received the mercy of God; and they have been purified of all trace of sin

It sounds so easy - why is not everyone a saint? Not everyone recognizes their sin or their need for correcting their lives.

In each person a battle is being fought for correct spiritual sight. If we can see that life lived in Christ is better than life in the world alone, then we are a long way towards becoming a saint.

On All Saints Day we acknowledge the ‘ordinary’ saints, people like our own parents or family or parishioners.

We hope that all the people we love and pray for either have reached, or will reach Heaven.

What they lacked in merit may the mercy of God supply.

Sainthood can be achieved by indirect means. It is better of course to grasp the nettle, to pitch in fully and be a zealous disciple of the Lord. But if we are hesitant, fearful, habitual sinners – it is still possible to be a saint, by sincere sorrow for what is lacking. We can at least achieve that much; to be sorry for all that we should have done or should have been, but did not achieve.

His mercy purifies us so that we are actually changed by the experience. We become perfect by receiving the cleansing grace of Christ (washed in His Blood). We are then able to put into practice the charity that comes from God.

If we are not perfected in this life, it will happen in Purgatory. No one can enter Heaven unless cleansed of every sort of blemish. This means that everyone in Heaven is perfect (each to his respective capacity).

It is not as though God simply overlooks our faults and lets us into Heaven anyway; He removes the faults – either before or after death. As long as we can at least be sorry for our sins and willing to make amends.

But we can at least reduce the sin we commit and transform vices to virtues. We don't just sit back and say, Well, I am a sinner so here goes. We make every possible effort to cooperate with the mercy of God and let Him transform us.

It is better of course to be purified of sin before we die rather than after. This, because it is easier to do while still alive; and more importantly because it gives greater honour to God.

Why waste another day before we resolve to belong to Him entirely?

We know what it is to regret lost opportunity. We do not want to face a great sadness at the end of our lives. Rather we strive to be like the good and faithful servants who were found at their work when the Master returned (Mt 24,46).

His mercy forgives, primarily, but has other good effects too: such as motivating us to good; to being merciful ourselves; to evangelising, helping others to see the way forward.

We hope to be part of the ‘All’ in All Saints. It is not so hard to reach Heaven if we observe the basic requirements. But we will not give any room to complacency or idling. Let us do good while we have the chance (Ga 6,10).

Friday, 2 November 2018

Christ the King 28 Oct 2018 Sermon

Christ the King 28.10.18 Imitating the King

We can think of Our Lord as King in two different ways.

He is King in the sense of glory. He is seated at the right hand of the Father; He will come again to judge the living and the dead. He has been exalted far above all else: God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow —in heaven and on earth and under the earth— and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Ph 2,9-11)

He is worthy of all praise and adoration. No words we can say would ever be enough.

Yet this is the same Person who is seen kneeling down to wash the feet of His disciples at the Last Supper.

He is the same who is gentle with the poor and disadvantaged, the sick, and sinners.

He has all authority as God, but holds back on the use of His power. He seeks to persuade by love, to lead people rather than impose upon them.

He shows great humility, especially on the way to Calvary and on the Cross.

This is not what we would normally expect of kings; they are not usually so humble.

What king would be born in a stable? Or allow himself to be crucified, if he had the means of getting away? What king would be generous enough to give his life for his subjects?

Our Lord did all these things, thus showing another kind of power.

In His glory He can make universes, create great wonders with just a word.

In His humility He can show great capacity to love and to give.

In both ways He shows great strength - the strength of glorious power with the strength of perfect self-control, every thought word and deed in perfect harmony.

Either way He deserves to be worshipped – Worthy is the Lamb (Rev 5,12).

If we worshipped with the angels all day we would never reach the end. All His perfections are infinite, therefore unending.

We honour heroes. A hero could be someone who saved one life once. What about someone who saves billions and is saving all the time?

On this feast we honour Him in both lights - Glory and Humility.

The praise that we can give is just a drop in the ocean, but valuable to Him all the same.

We praise Him and we imitate Him, at least on the humility side.

We can wash each other’s feet, taking that to mean mutual service, and humility as regards each other; always happy to take the lowest place (Lk 14,10); forgiving one another (Ep 4,32); to lay down our lives if required (1 Jn 3,16).

We hope by this imitation to be glorified by Him, sharing in His glorification as Man.

We hope also to give Him a Kingdom on earth, as He has in Heaven.

He is King anyway, but if we let Him be King over us (instead of resisting at every turn) this will serve to give Him glory.

We glorify Him in our prayer, but better still in our obedience and trust.

If we let His royal power work in and through us we then we will see better days.

It is in our power to live in imitation of Him, and to make that way of living the norm, insofar as we can.

When people forget God they do a great deal of damage. When they kneel before Him there will be peace. When people realize they belong to the same King they lose the desire to fight. Swords are turned into ploughshares (Is 2,4).

Better still, they lose the desire to sin. Sin is rebellion against the perfect King, and perfect society. Why do we want to do that?

Far better if we learn from His humanity how to manage our own.
If we humble ourselves as He did, we will be exalted as He was.

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Mass times All Saints and All Souls

Mass times All Saints and All Souls Days

St Monica's Walkerville: Thursday 1st November   8am
                                         Friday 2nd November  6.45am

At Holy Name, Stepney,  both days there is a solemn Mass at 6.30pm

Thursday, 25 October 2018

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 21 October 2018 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 21.10.18 Relevance of religion

Give to God what is God's. And that turns out to be everything.

Is our religion something that is just on the edge of our lives, only for Sundays, with fish on Fridays… no, but even that has gone. As has the restful sabbath, now much like any other day, maybe even busier; and not used for its primary intention: to give glory and thanks to the Creator and Saviour.

In fact God claims all seven days, and every minute of them; as He claims also all the other places besides churches. He claims the shops the squares, the ovals, the workplaces - everywhere.

Of course He gives a large amount of autonomy to our activities. He does not normally intervene in every detail. He lets us decide what we are going to do and will normally let things follow their logical course (which is why we are in so much trouble!)

For example:  Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonouring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen. (Rm 1,24-25)

He has the last say. He expects us to understand that it is all from Him. We have to refer back constantly, in thanksgiving, in sorrow, in petition, always orientating ourselves to His abiding and overall will.

He is not an oppressive ruler by any means, being ready to give us more than we dare to ask (Ep 3,20).

If we keep our religion in a separate compartment we will find ourselves living exactly like non-religious people – making money, seeking a good time, with no thought for an eternal tomorrow.

This is why Our Lord came to save us – to save us from our own folly; to reinforce for us the relevance of our faith; of true religion.

We can help get the message out by being faithful and persevering in all weathers; keeping the lights on so that people can see there are still some believers about.

We keep the spiritual perspective foremost. We still do all the necessary mundane things, but never to the point of forgetting the spiritual.

Part of our prayer needs to be atonement for the fact that God is so widely ignored and denied.

Father, forgive them, they know not what they do (Lk 23,34). They are a stiff-necked people. (Ex 32,9)

As regards worldly attitudes we are often sold out by our own side, that is, Catholics who are so keen to embrace the world they surrender their own beliefs. They uncritically adopt popular causes, and then expect the Church to fit in with them.

It is a fight to the death between light and dark; a battle for relevance. Our opponents want us to be irrelevant, and they will use any sort of attack against us, honest or not.

We have the same message as Isaiah and Jeremiah, as Elijah and Ezekiel: Behold your God!  Come to terms with Him, or reap the consequences. In short, Repent.

The people either laughed at the prophets, or tried to kill them. It is much the same today.

It becomes a bit draughty for the faithful disciples. We can spend a lot of time standing apart from the majority. This has to be done until better times come. We stand with a crucified Saviour.

Today the Church prays for Propagation of the Faith. Through teaching, convincing, persuading, we seek to bring people to see the absolute blinding importance of God, of His relevance, His centrality, His uniqueness. One God, one Saviour, one Hope.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

21st Sunday after Pentecost 14 Oct 2018 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 14.10.18 Spiritual war

St Paul refers to the spiritual battle in which we are all engaged. We are fighting against demons and their influence; helped all the while by angels.

It is hard to imagine, as we go through or daily lives, where most of the time there is no visible drama – that these powerful beings are concerned with us.

We do not see them, nor the battle that is raging, but we can feel the effects.

We feel it in the form of thoughts, attitudes, moods, and contrasting inclinations at different times, towards both good and evil.

We are tempted to sin in various ways; and we are also inspired towards good. Go, and help that person, be honest, be humble etc.

Both these things will happen many times each day. We are not sure ourselves which way we will react. We do know, however, that we have a choice each time we are confronted with good or evil; and we are further encouraged that we are never tempted beyond our strength (1 Co 10,13). There will always be enough grace for any good that we need to do.

Like soldiers in a battle we have to do certain things which go against our first inclination. To get up early to pray, or go to an extra Mass, or to do spiritual reading, or visit the sick, or anything that is a bit harder. Or to avoid watching immoral entertainment, or to suppress an irritable comment, and a hundred other things.

Just as in a war we face battle on many fronts at the same time - the army, the navy and the air force are all involved.

We have to deal with matters both personal and communal, involving the Church and the wider society. We address everything from irritable thoughts to genocide.

We fight off temptations affecting our own behaviour, at the same time battling to preserve Christian values: for life, justice, in general establishing God’s kingdom in our world.

Victory at one level will help the other levels. If individuals could be less selfish that would fix social problems (eg drug addiction). If the society would follow God’s ways that would help individuals to live good lives.

We seek to convert people who are presently on the wrong side of the battle - in favour of the wrong things, eg abortion, euthanasia.

This is seeking to establish the Kingdom of God, where all is in order, individually and communally.

We feel all this, and this is our share in the spiritual warfare, alluded to by St Paul.

The angels and demons fight around us. They do not fight with swords or guns, but with the push and pull of ideas, concepts, thoughts and attitudes.

It is helpful when we come together to pray, because we need encouragement. Discouragement is a major player on the side of evil. The devil wins a lot of battles because the people are not sufficiently armed – going into battle without armour, without the defence of being in a state of grace; in many cases not even knowing there is a battle raging.

St Paul is telling us to be aware of all this, but also confident of victory. If Christ is for us, who can be against us? (Rm 8,31)

It is vital that we maintain hope, realizing that being uncomfortable is not the same as losing.

If we stay alert, remembering the nature of the battle, we can make certain that we will achieve the personal victory of salvation, and do much to help others to the same goal.

We will win the battles, and the war.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

20th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Oct 2018 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 7.10.18 The Rosary

Today we acknowledge the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.

There is prayer, and then there is the Rosary.

The Rosary has long occupied a special place in our treasury of prayer. It is likely to be a standard part of any serious Catholic’s prayer. There are all manner of other prayers, but everyone prays the Rosary.

It has so much endorsement from saints, and also so many miracles associated with it.

The essence of the prayer is that we accompany Mary in her relation to Our Lord, as He goes through the various stages of His saving work.

First she longs for Him to come, then He comes, amidst a combination of joys and sorrows.

Then he suffers for the sins of the world. Then He rises in triumph and pours out graces on those who look to Him.

In all these stages, there is found Mary, giving her perfect assent to all that He wishes to achieve.

She is the one, and only one, who is fully in sympathy with Him. Through the Rosary we can join her, expressing such faith as we have, and asking for more.

As we go with her, she like a teacher will say: let us go over the same ground until you know it.

It started with God's promise to save His people; then he came among us. He lived, died and rose, and ascended, and will come again.

Have you got that yet?  It sinks in a little deeper each time, we hope.

We go with Mary as she travels the path from obscurity to Queen of the whole universe.

She loved God perfectly at every moment of her life, but as she took part in these mysteries her love increased. She grew into the role at each stage. First Joy, then Sorrow, then Glory.

She grew ever deeper into love of Him and her role.

The Rosary transforms us as we pray it. One of the prayers implicit in all intercessory prayer is that of the distraught father: I do believe, help my unbelief (Mk 9,24).

With that will come faith, and other virtues, especially the charity to persevere through difficulties.

We are moving a few stones at least, in terms of breaking through strongholds of evil. If nothing else we make reparation for evils done.

We can go as far as we dare in our own pathway from Joyful to Glorious, our own rags-to- riches story.

All the time we try to help others to see the same vision. Most people would have no clue about the Rosary or related matters. We can shed some light where possible.

And we will be helping to make things happen. At certain times in Church history there have been special public and communal praying of the Rosary to avert particular crises. Lepanto 1571, Vienna 1683 (against Muslims); Austria 1950s (against the Soviets). This coming 13th October there will be international public rosaries pleading with Our Lady of Fatima, to address our present-day needs.

Some things take more prayer than others. It takes more prayer to change the mind and will of another person, for instance. That is why our prayer for conversion of sinners does not always have instant success.

But it can be done; just about anything can be done, if enough people are praying as one, and continuously. We should not give up too easily.

Nor should we ever feel we are praying on our own. The Rosary would be in progress somewhere in the world at any given moment. When we start to pray we are joining in with others, with the same general intention that God's will be done.

The chain reaction goes on - obtaining graces for the world, for a host of intentions.
But only if we Pray the Rosary.