Thursday, 12 December 2019

Immaculate Conception 8 Dec 2019 Sermon

Immaculate Conception 8.12.19 Second chance

It was a good day for us when Mary was conceived. Whether there was any sign in nature that something remarkable was happening that day, I do not know; but the event was worthy of some wonder from surrounding creation.

The conception of one baby, one particular baby turned human history on its head.

It was like a new creation of the human race. Adam and Eve had forfeited the perfect union with Almighty God, and from then on we laboured under original sin.

Mary was conceived without sin, giving the human race another chance.

Adam and Eve failed to grasp the privilege extended to them. Mary succeeded, and gave perfect return to God at every point of her life.

Into a diseased and disordered world a new stream of purity and holiness was released.

We can become cynical as we see the world around us, riddled with sin of every kind.

There is a purer world, not visible, but active all the same, calling us each and all to share in the fruits of a holy life, a life without sin.

We have tasted of this life and can tell that it is much better than the life of sin; but we find we have to break free from the ties of falsehood and vice.

It is like walking into a cobweb and having to fight our way through.

Salvation is an ongoing work. What we celebrate today was a major advance in God's plans for the world.

Mary had always been in His mind as an ideal. Now, she was here in reality.

Soon after would come the Saviour Himself, God made Man, saving us from within the human condition, by living as one of us.

The salvation and retrieval of the human race is at stake. The entry of Mary is a major event in pursuit of that objective.

God surrounded her with His love and she responded. She saw the better way.

Mary did not sin; did not want to sin. By not sinning she grew in love of God and that made any other sin even less likely.

She makes it look easy. People who are ‘best in the world’ at something make that thing look natural, even easy.

So Mary makes it look easy to be holy. It is simply looking at the glory of God.

The devil could not touch her with the normal tricks that worked with everyone else.

This made her a very powerful person, having direct and complete access to the power of God. Innocence is often portrayed as weakness, as in a kind of naivete.

Not with Mary. She was powerful because of her innocence. She could make miracles happen, and still can.

Now it is our turn to step up and take our part in the great Salvation story. It is a great story and still being written. Each of us has at least a paragraph to contribute!

Salvation for us is more complicated than for Mary, because we have to be extricated from sin, from false ideas, disordered passions etc.

We are far from immaculate, at least to start with. We can reach that state, slowly and surely, as we take on more and more God's view of things.

All our lives, and all of human history, we have been trying to subvert God's plan and make it our plan instead. Very Luciferian - I will be my own god.

If we can just accept that there is One greater than us. This should not be so hard when it is so obvious. We are created beings, and must never forget that.

We have a second chance in Mary. We will not allow ourselves to be deceived again.

Thursday, 5 December 2019

1st Sunday of Advent 1 Dec 2019 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 1.12.19 Recognizing the Saviour

We are often reminded we should repent of our sins; and that we should avoid sin.

Sin is anytime we offend God by breaking one of His commands. There are the Ten Commandments, and then there are sub-clauses that go with them. For example, Thou shalt not kill takes in hating or insulting as well.

It is difficult not to fall into one sin or another. To have to keep all the rules could sound like an impossible burden.

If we put the same thing another way, however, it all seems easier.

We can avoid sin simply by recognizing with sufficient clarity our Saviour Jesus Christ.

The more we come to know and love Him the easier it will be for us to align ourselves with His will.

And this will mean we no longer commit sin, because we have lost all desire for it. It will be no great effort, either, because it will come naturally.

There are already some sins we would not dream of committing, such as rob the local bank. We can come to the point where we would not dream of speaking unnecessarily about our neighbour’s faults, or having jealous thoughts.

The moral law comes from God and expresses His nature. The more we understand Him the more natural His laws appear. He has not just thrown us a rule book and said, Here, keep these!

Instead He has come among us and patiently shown us what He is like, what God is like, what Man is like when brought into union with God.

Jesus came to show us the Father (Jn 14,9).  He never sinned in His human nature, never rebelled against God;  because He had perfect union with God, perfect understanding of what was what, and why it was so.

This is where we need to be, or at least steadily pressing in that direction.

The rules still matter; and He does want us to keep them; only that it come from the heart; that it be an expression of the union we have achieved with God up to the present time.

And this is meant to catch on; so that the whole population will come to the same understanding; no longer resenting being told what to do.

God is not denying our natural desires, but rather purifying those desires, making us much happier than we would have been, if left to ourselves.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (Ep 5,8).

We have been liberated, at least in principle, and there is more to come.

It may hurt a little to re-orientate our desires; but the joy will be far greater than the pain.

In Advent we are reminded that our time is limited. We do not have forever to decide whether we will accept God's offer of liberating us.

The invitation is very generous on His part, but if we delay too long we will stay in our sins, and with that will come the penalty of eternal death.

In the end it comes to this: do we love God or Not?

Whether we keep the rules is one measure of that, but as we see that is only a start.

We have a long way to go to reach the full and serene union with the Heart of God, as we would see in Our Lady, for instance.

The time we have left is the time to travel this distance, to reach the required level of union.

We refer back to the time of Our Lord on earth, for constant reassurance and direction.

If we can draw from His humanity - His trust in God, His gentleness, generosity, wisdom, compassion - then we must arrive eventually.

Come, Lord Jesus includes that we come to Him; come in mind and heart; agree with Him; accept all He wants to do for us.

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Last Sunday after Pentecost 24 Nov 2019 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 24.11.19 Security

The word Last conveys a certain sadness, the last farewell etc. the end of things we have valued or known, such as school or work.

Finality is not necessarily a bad thing if we can go to something better instead.

As Christians we definitely believe there is a better place than here; and we do not belong here. Our true home is in Heaven (Ph 3,20).

So we are not overly alarmed when we consider the prospect of this world’s being wrapped up.

We are secure because we believe in something much more substantial that this world.

[The world cannot satisfy us, either in terms of permanent life, or in happiness. The earth itself might disappear, and even if it remains happiness is elusive]

Our true home will last forever and we will have complete happiness there.

We still want to change this world, however, as far as it can be done.

We want to give it back to Our Lord as Lord and Saviour, freed from sin and glorified by His grace.

It is sin that has made things go so crooked as they are; it is repentance that will get things back to the right shape.

We are stewards of creation. Yes we should look after the environment, but even more so the moral environment, seeking to live as Adam and Eve were first directed, and as the Second Adam and Eve have shown us.

God provided the earth for us to live on, to learn how to apply His will to situations that arise, to glorify Him through His creation.

We give thanks for all His gifts as we use them according to His will.

God never wanted to send destruction on this earth. He does, however, want to purify it, and sometimes (because of sin) that requires a certain violence.

He sends chastisements so that people will turn back to Him.

He does not want to punish anymore than is necessary, and we can reduce the need for punishment by hastening our own response of obedience.

The threats of destruction and punishment are conditional upon our response.

If we put the things of this world before God that is what brings the disasters. If we put God first there will be no disasters; everything will run smoothly, as it does in Heaven.

Being reminded of the Last day, the End of our lives, should help us re-affirm our true objectives.

It is simple: God has given us the earth to live on, and each of us a certain role to play. He has allocated us certain talents and will want to know from us how we have exercised those talents (Mt 25,14-30).

If we have served Him, we inherit eternal life; if we have squandered our talents, eternal loss.

We are called to a wise balance of all the factors involved. We prepare for our entry to the next life by working on all the details of this one.

We do not just drift. Nor do we bury ourselves so completely in this life as to forget the next.

The Church gives us this thought every year; one more time around the clock - to see if we have learned anything.

In this last year, or in all our years taken together, what have we become? Has all our activity brought us closer to God, or further away?

We need to re-establish in our minds, and for people generally, that Christ is Lord, King, Judge, Saviour of the world. Somehow the world manages to ignore  Him.

The earthquakes, fires, floods, droughts etc are there to remind us that we cannot afford to do that.

We gladly affirm His importance and ask for every grace and mercy until He comes again.

Friday, 22 November 2019

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 17 Nov 2019 Sermon

 23rd Sunday after Pentecost 17.11.19 Freed from slavery

The woman is healed and the girl is raised. All easy work for Our Lord!

We approach the end of the Church year, at which time we contemplate especially the last things – Heaven, Hell, Death, Judgment. We assess our readiness to meet the Lord.

He is the Judge but also the Advocate. He wants us to be saved more than we want it ourselves.

Our Lord shows His power to heal at every level. He can cure sickness; He can bring someone back to life.

The one that really matter is a third level of healing, that of forgiveness of sin.

Forgiveness of sin restores us to life of grace, soul-life

This is better than just being healthy, or just being alive. It goes to the very centre of our being, bringing us into union with Divine life - a great source of joy when we reach that state.

The idea is that we be not just forgiven of sins but raised to the point that we no longer have any inclination to sin; we are fully alive, like the saints themselves, who dwell in perfect concord with Almighty God.

The way we think, the way we regard one thing as more important than another – these can be set straight as for the sickness and death Our Lord overpowered.

There is more to the spiritual healing because it involves the will of the other person, and that will can be very hard to bend. Still it can be done, as long as the person concerned shows some degree of cooperation.

We will have new desires, purer and stronger, well-ordered; linked to the will of God. We will be free from all addictions, compulsions, and bad habits. We control our desires; not they control us!

This is what we should ask for when we call out to the Lord to heal us. We will gladly take any degree of healing or blessing, but the recovery of our own soul is the big prize.

To realize that we need such a change; and to believe it is possible to happen – Our Lord assures us that it is so.

When we cry, Lord have mercy, or any similar prayer, we are asking for all this.

Many would regard their sins as too firmly lodged to be movable. You can't change a leopard’s spots etc. Anyway everyone does what I do, so I don’t need to be better than they are.

This is false captivity. We do not have to settle for that.

It may be a process, not all at once, but we can get there eventually.

We cannot heal ourselves, or raise ourselves from the dead, or absolve ourselves from sin.

It has to be an external power that can do these things, and this power is from Christ; and we come to Him, asking Him to direct His merciful gaze upon us and just one fraction of His infinite power and goodness to revive us, and bring us back to life in the soul.

We ask Him to heal us in any way and any degree He chooses, but at least we give Him full access and understanding that we must be prepared to be His disciples if we are to ask His favours.

We can ask for freedom even if we feel bound. It may be beyond our strength but not beyond Him.

The captives are set free. From sickness, from death, from sin.

As we prepare for the end this freedom is what we seek. We will have no fear of judgment if we have established a continuous relationship with Our Lord, calling upon His healing.

And this we pray for each other, including the dead.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 10 Nov 2019 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 10.11.19 Battle of wills

Give to God what is His. That comes to everything.

Even what we call our own, like cars or houses; but also, closer to home, even our minds and hearts, our plans, ambitions, desires…

The objects we ‘own’ are really His more than they are ours. He has a greater claim to our cars and houses than we have, and we should use them in accord with His will rather than our own. This would mean, for example, that we would drive safely, or be generous with using our money or resources.

But the hardest part is the interior. We have a way of thinking that we run our own lives., forgetting that we owe our existence to Almighty God, and must serve Him first.

Many would say they have complete dominion over their own bodies and their own lives.

Yet our bodies are not our own; we have been bought and paid for. (cf 1 Cor 6,19-20)

And we cannot control external circumstances, cf James 4,13-14. We do not know even what tomorrow will bring, let alone planning the rest of our lives.

And then there is the question of will. My will or God's will – which shall prevail?

I have certain plans that suit me; He has other ideas for my life. Should I submit to Him?

Yes, because He has absolute authority anyway, as above; but also because He knows far better what is best for us.

It is not as though we become robots or puppets. We have a fairly high degree of autonomy and freedom of initiative. God wants us to think for ourselves and make decisions, only to make those decisions in union with His will for us.

He wants us to be habitually attuned to His will, as Our Lady was, and thus be regularly and automatically making the right decisions.

Once we get close enough to Him, we recognize His will and come to love it as our own.

Not My will but Thine (Lk 22,42).

We can make plans but they have to be flexible.  Man proposes, God disposes (cf Prov 19.21-23). And at a moment’s notice. We must be ready to part with anyone, anything, and even our own lives, or the world itself.

We are allowed to have our own preference for one thing over another, but always be willing to submit to God's greater wisdom.

This is all by way of giving to God what is His. The course of history is His. The course of our own lives is His. It is all subject to His will – either what He directly wills, or at least permits.

Every breath we take, or every step - there is no escaping His rule. Go to the bottom of the sea; or into outer space – no place or time is outside His knowledge and authority (cf Ps 138, 1-15).

Nor can we escape the inevitability that we must face God in judgment one day; or that this world as we know it will come to an end.

But then we have the possibility, probability, even certainty of eternal life to console us.

We are fortunately placed, if only we can keep the balance and not think we can somehow bypass all this and just live ‘normal’ lives.

We give to God our own wills, our devotion, our commitment. This will please Him, at the same time being beneficial to ourselves and to the surrounding society.

If everyone bowed down before the true God it would be a perfect world, and even Caesar would be happy with what comes his way!

Thursday, 7 November 2019

21st Sunday after Pentecost 3 Nov 2019 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 3.11.19 Mercy for others

A notorious serial killer died recently in Australia. People were saying, as they usually do,  that he can rot in hell.

It is understandable to be angry with someone who does so much evil. But how we respond is important.

We cannot just give way to hatred and revenge. When people say, ‘rot in hell’, it means they want the person to suffer; this is clearly not the way. It is really just revenge, an unbridled passion.

We learn to love - not hate - those who hurt us.

We see the soul in need. Just as we would help someone in physical need – would feed a hungry man, would free a man who was trapped …  the spiritual domain operates the same way.

This man is in trouble; you can help him find what he needs, namely salvation.
To be cleansed of sin. Every soul still in transit could be moved to a better state than present.

However good or bad one might be, we all need improvement, and it is always possible.

The closer we look the more we realize everyone needs grace and mercy. Not all sins are as dramatic as murder. There are many others, not so easily detected, which can do their own damage: such as worshipping false gods, corrupting the young, sacrilege, blasphemy, pride, refusal to forgive.

We don’t need to know which sins are worse than which, only that any sin needs to be cleansed, and attachment to that sin needs to be loosened.

Those who know have a duty to help those who know less. We try to do as much as we can to help the whole process.

We do not have to assess each other soul - which we could not do anyway. All we have to do is pray for the salvation of each soul.

And we should not pray like it was a task, against the grain, but we are supposed to want the soul to be saved.

If you get to Heaven and you meet someone there who hurt you a lot… by that stage both he and you will be at one with God, and at peace with each other.

At this time of year, especially, we recall our practice of praying for the dead.

If the person is beyond help and cannot be saved, the prayer will not be wasted; it will help someone. It increases the flow of charity within the whole Body of Christ.

We believe we can help the dead, in two phases: one to be forgiven for their sin, and the other to be purified of all attachment to sin.

We believe we can hasten the time, or lessen the severity of the purification.

If one is contrite enough not so much punishment is needed. We seek to reach perfect contrition. And pray that we all do.

We need continuous cleansing on this point, to be drinking from the spring of Christ’s mercy – which flows like a torrent from His side.

This will change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and make us more yielding and forgiving.

And it will make our prayer more powerful, able to touch the most hardened sinners.

We seek to grasp more fully the mind of God on these matters. It is really necessary that we come to this topic from a spiritual perspective and not the usual earthly way.

So it is not ‘may he rot in hell’ but ‘may he reach the courts of heaven’, however long it may take. And his victims, and the rest of us who struggle with the power of evil.

In any case, and all cases, Lord Have Mercy.

Thursday, 31 October 2019

Christ the King 27 Oct 2019 Sermon

Christ the King 27.10.19 Christ supreme

This feast was instituted in 1925 by Pope Pius XI to reassert that the human race was not doing very well on its own, but if they were to give God His true place they would do much better.

Events at that time, and many other times, show how badly humans run the world when they do not heed God. (Some people think they can do better!)

The Pope’s idea probably has not been successful, insofar as there has been an even further turning away from the one true God, but he was right all the same.

The reaffirmation of Christ as ruling the world can be seen in two aspects, concerning faith and morality – what we believe and how we live; or theory and practice.

Regarding Faith: we acknowledge that there is a God over us who is infinitely good and powerful and who is in possession of every detail.

This is something we should factor in, if only because it makes sense to take account of all angles.

But also we owe it to God in gratitude for creating and saving us; and with that we owe Him worship, as an infinitely superior Being. We praise people when they do well; why not God? We acknowledge beauty when we see it; why not God?

Regarding Morality: If we did let Christ run the world what would it look like? People would be kind and gracious to each other all day long and in every place!

That is so far from our familiar reality that we might dismiss the idea as fantasy. Our Lord said the Kingdom is like a mustard seed: it grows until it becomes a large tree.

Qualities like charity can be in short supply, but like the seed they can increase. The Kingdom grows when individuals and communities take up the Lord’s example, calling upon His grace.

It is not fantasy; just still developing.

It is our role to help the Kingship of Christ take stronger hold in our world.

We must live like Christ even if no one else does. We should learn from Our Lord all that He demonstrated to us, and imitate Him in His kindness, humility, charity, mercy etc. He revealed what God is like.

If we are to have Him as King we must live the way He has set down.

So what does the human race usually do about all this? Act as though God does not exist, and if He does exist then He is wrong about how we should live (He is too ‘strict’!)

They change His laws, declaring them to be out of date. They certainly do not worship Him.

This does not change God's status or viewpoint; it just means the human race is piling up more trouble, and potential punishment.

We cannot control most of what people decide, but we can go some way to reversing the downward slide. We can make Christ present where we are; and we can help atone for the sins of the world.

It has to be a grass-roots movement, coming from below, because it must come from individual hearts and minds. It is not something that can be legislated into existence.

People will ignore laws that they think have nothing to do with them. But if they can be personally convinced of Christ’s importance then they will take notice. Such personal conviction could come in different ways – but every soul is in need of it.

We can help by doing our bit to lift the general tone of human behaviour.

And by reparating some of the damage done by so much sin over so many years.

Let us live in full acknowledgment of Christ the King, and in imitation of Him; that His virtues may be in us, and His kingdom among us.