Thursday, 23 May 2019

4th Sunday after Easter 19 May 2018 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 19.5.19 Obedience

The world usually thinks it can do without God and generation after generation falls into the same traps, committing sins and creating disorder.

If we would simply follow the way God sets down it would go much better for us.

The Israelites took forty years to cross the desert because of their sins, and very few made it across.

If they had obeyed from the start and been humble and compliant they would have shot across that desert, but they had to make it hard for themselves. And we have been doing the same ever since.

We do this when we turn God's commands on their head and declare they no longer apply, refusing to bow down before any authority higher than ourselves.

For all this God does not turn away. He still extends Mercy even though we have done  everything possible to remove Him.

He give us the chance to regroup. If today you hear his voice harden not your hearts (Ps 94(95) – a psalm that begins every Lauds, a daily reminder that this day is a new start.

This can apply to a nation as well as individuals.

We have just had an election (in Australia). We pray for good government. People elected to govern should first honour God. This has not been the case in the last few centuries. Man has decided he can rule himself. We can see from history how successful this has been!!

We must let God be Lord; it is His world after all. Everything comes from Him and is under His authority. He is literally the Author.

The Holy Spirit will make all necessary things clear. His light will penetrate the spiritual fog and some at least will see. In the light from Heaven we can see the clear path again, the path across the desert.

We look forward to the time when Brother has no need to teach brother, Learn to know the Lord. (Jer 31,34)

If we cannot heal the world we can at least heal the Church

If we cannot heal the Church we can at least heal ourselves.

God will work through certain individuals to achieve certain effects, as with salvation history – people such as Abraham, Moses, David, St Joseph…

We put our bit into the mix and trust the God will multiply our efforts, like the boy who brought the five loaves.

The solution is not difficult - at least to understand; it may be difficult to reverse all our sins, but at least we know which way we are pointing.

It is Back to Basics. Behold your God. Here He is and here you are. Obey is the key word.

Whatever He says, just do it.

If we do obey then all else falls into place; if not, read today’s News! The News is what we get if we do not obey.

Christian beliefs are being attacked at present, re-named as hate speech.

And it might get worse.

We must not dilute our beliefs to fit in with others.

Not only will we not change but we will seek to change those who would change us.

And the many who have lost faith or hope through being confused or demoralized - to them we offer the sure path to happiness. Obedience to the Lord.

A few can help many.  We can help bring order where there has been chaos.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

3rd Sunday after Easter 12 May 2019 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 12.5.19 Reward

People talk fairly freely of heavenly reward, pronouncing that this or that person has now gone to Heaven.

Heaven is a place we greatly desire yet we do not know much detail about it. Some have had visions; and we can use a little logic and a little imagination.

The consensus of all the spiritually wise is that Heaven is not just a place of earthly pleasures extended forever.

There will be much pleasure very likely, but the main point of Heaven, the main source of happiness is the possession of God, to be able to see Him.

To worship God is not a burden, as many would see it, but a delight, once we come to know Him as the Source of all love and goodness.

Many would see the pinnacle of earthly happiness as discovering union with another person.

That is to stop too soon. It is union with God that we need to seek. He is greater and more desirable than any merely human person.

Union with God is the reward that awaits us.

In today’s Gospel: you shall be made sorrowful but your sorrow shall turn to joy. We will be rewarded for all our trouble. One part of that reward is to go to Heaven. That is no small thing.

The other part of the reward is here and now, and follows from the same reasoning; that the greatest happiness we can have is to be close to God in all our doings.

If we seek God, we will experience in increasing amounts the joy of knowing and dealing with Him.

Anyone who gives up father mother etc… will receive a hundredfold in this life (Mt 19,29).

What does it mean? Not a hundred times what we gave up but a hundred times more happiness, at being that much closer to God, the source of all joy; at knowing what our lives are for, having a sense of purpose and direction.

It is often observed that a person can be surrounded by riches and yet be very unhappy; conversely someone can be poor economically speaking but rich in happiness.

While on our way to the eternal reward we gain mastery of our various desires and appetites, and find ourselves able to keep balance between them all.

As to other people we will love them more if we love God first. Loving God first gives us the right starting point. Then, any other love, of people or things, will be in the right proportion -
even to the most difficult neighbour.

We are drawing charity from the furnace; we then have enough to be able to disperse to others.

We can love anyone, once having taken a draught from the springs of salvation (Is 12,3).

It is no longer a burden to love others; we become people who can love, through our union with God. It comes naturally.

The reward ‘now’ is that we are on the team; we are part of God's family, doing His bidding, making His kingdom appear wherever we happen to be.

He will work through us to achieve His kingdom. There is suffering, but we do not focus on that. Just as the joy of a birth exceeds the pain of bringing it about, love does not count the cost.

All the while we are preparing for Heaven. We will be ready for it by the time we get there.

And we are at least improving the state of the world around us.

We are not just chasing the peripheral aspects of happiness, as worldly people do, but the central meaning of it all.

We are content to rest like a child, trusting in God's providence… Ps 130 (131). We do not seek to overrule Him, or improve on what He can do, but let Him work through us.

This is our reward – to discover God progressively, in everyday life, till the full possession of Him in eternity.

Thursday, 9 May 2019

2nd Sunday after Easter 5 May 2019 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 5.5.19 The Good Shepherd

The Duke of Orleans in Shakespeare’s Henry V - in the midst of losing the battle of Agincourt - maintains that the French could still win if only some order could be established. (Act 4, Scene 5). The French did not manage to get that order and so lost the battle.

We are still fighting our battle, that of the Church, in seeking to claim the world as our rightful territory, to win people over - without swords and spears - to a joyful union with Christ our Saviour.

Our Lord, among his many titles is called the Good Shepherd. In this role He gathers people around Him, protecting them from evil, forgiving them. Eventually, when enough confidence has been restored, He will send them out again to gather in others.

This process has been repeated ever since His Resurrection.

The lack of order, in our case, means that much of the time the opposite is happening. People are moving away from the Good Shepherd, deserting Him, and His Body, the Church.

The Church, it seems, has a revolving door; people come and go at the same time. We want to keep them coming, but not going!

It is Christ who draws them; When I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself (Jn 12,32),

We are drawn to Him as we come to know Him better. We cultivate an awareness of Him; we want to be near Him.

Those who leave the Church over one or other setback have clearly not come to know Him.

If we know Him well enough we would never leave His side.

My sheep hear My voice… it is a voice that offers every comfort (Jn 10,27).

Images are limited in their effectiveness; we do not really sit on the grass around Jesus; that would be a lot easier than we have it.

In reality we live in a very complicated world, with things happening at a great rate. It is hard to keep one’s balance in a world spinning wildly.

Part of the solution is to stay firmly within the Church as a refuge of truth; here we find all that matters defined for us.

There is much we do not understand; but at least we have the basics set out for us. The Church in this sense can be seen as a refuge, the ‘sheepfold’.

But there is more to come. We do not just stay in the meadow, grazing comfortably. Now we see ourselves under another image: the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few (Mt 9,35-38).

Now we are the labourers in the vineyard, whose work is to bring in the harvest (people); or, we are fishers of men (Mt 4,19).

Christ makes us one by drawing us to Himself; then He sends us out to bring others in as well. The oneness of the flock is meant to take in the whole world.

Christ gives us the power to do as He asks. We lack the strength as individuals to change the way other people think; but we can at least contribute to the process.

It is as if we faced a heavy door, and we were unable to break it down by ourselves; but with the help of hundreds of others we can succeed. Most of our problems are like that.

We can be discouraged; in which case we pray that others will pray with us; then we will be strong enough; then we will have the ‘order’ needed to win the battle.

A small number can achieve much if the power of Heaven is called upon.

God is not deaf, but some things need a lot more than one prayer, or one person praying

We need to gather people in - for their own sake, but also to help with the work.

Christ the Good Shepherd, continue to draw us to Thyself.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

Low Sunday 28 Apr 2019 Sermon

Low Sunday 28.4.19 Faith

The Gospels record several post-Resurrection appearances of Our Lord. As well as these there were many others, over the forty days between His Resurrection and Ascension.

In the Gospel accounts, He is embarrassing the apostles for their lack of belief.

He had told them this would happen. Why did they not believe it? Even being told, and then having Him in front of them - they still doubted.

He was exposing the fragility of faith in the average disciple. It seemed like a dream to them. Things just do not normally go that well. We come to expect trouble just about all the time. Here is something that breaks right out of that and takes us to another dimension.

What about our position? We come so much later on the scene and have so much more evidence, miracles, wisdom… yet we still doubt.

It seems that it is easier to believe in the general than the particular. In general it is easy to say that God is in control, but when it comes down to specifics we doubt that this great God could think of ‘me’ in the midst of such a vast universe.

When we have a particular problem which requires help we can be consumed with doubt all over again - as though Jesus had never come, never died, never rose.

He can attend to each one of us at the same time with full attention. He is not limited as we are to our own little world.

If we believe in God who made the whole universe, we can believe in all His attributes, and His power to work miracles.

If He can make the whole universe He can raise from the dead.

He has complete authority over everything and everyone.

We bow down before him (like Thomas) - that is the way to strong faith and strong loyalty.

We are willing to receive whatever He wants to give us, or wants to do with us.

If we do this repeatedly, habitually, our faith should become stronger, so that we can see reality not just physically, but in its need for God to operate freely.

The Resurrection gives us a clearer way of seeing things.

What should the apostles have done instead?

They should have stayed with Him when arrested. They should have stayed by the Cross while He was being crucified. And they should have stood outside the tomb waiting for Him to come out.

They could and should have done these things.

And when He arose it should not have needed so many times to believe it was really He.

They missed out on all those points. But because He is so merciful, if we still don’t believe after so many chances He still loves us, and still enables us to get on board.

In 2000 years of the Church’s life many have come and many have gone.

This matches the vacillating nature of faith, that it can rise and fall with circumstances.

We need to take the high point of our faith, when we believed most strongly, and make that the reference point - that is the normal way to be.

For all their twists and turns the apostles did come to faith and they did grow in that faith.

This is what we must do – else the demons come back and our bad habits return (cf Lk 11,26).

With the Risen Lord to sustain us, may we have the same faith every day of the week, and in every circumstance.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Easter Sunday 21 Apr 2019 Sermon

Easter Sunday 21.4.19 Double consolation

The Resurrection of Jesus is an actual historical event, which had witnesses and has been recorded for all future generations. It was a physical resurrection, not just an illusion or image. Our Lord could be seen and touched. A ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have (Lk 24,39).

It is an event that offers us  consolation and hope on two levels.

1) It give us the prospect of living in happiness forever – simply, going to Heaven.

Nobody would mind that as an outcome, even if Heaven is hard to imagine or picture.

We should not let that worry us. Things which are bigger than we are will always be difficult to imagine. That does not stop them from existing.

We cannot fathom the size of the universe, for example; but we still believe it is there! So with Heaven. We have barely started as far as our experience of God's goodness is concerned.

We believe that the infinite Creator can produce more things than we have seen so far, or can imagine.

The prospect of going to Heaven may not console us much at certain times because it can seem so far off in the future. Still, it is a lot better than Nothing, or Hell!

2) The Resurrection offers us another consolation closer to the present. It is not only when we die that we feel better, but right now.

We hear certain things on the news, and we might think most of it has no great bearing on our lives.

The news of the Resurrection, however, is as relevant a piece of news as there could possibly be.

This is because Our Lord has done this for our sake as well as His. It was not just His body coming back to life, as one person. Due to His divine status, and His role as Second Adam, He is re-creating the human race. If He comes to life, everyone else comes to life with Him, or at least has that possibility.

When we pray to Him, or receive one of the sacraments, we are drawing on His life to activate our own lives. He can, simply, make us good.

The life of grace, that mysterious power which God can exercise on us, moves our wills to be more in tune with His own will, seeing things as He does.

This is what being alive comes to; we are fully in union with the life of God.

His life is not just biological but spiritual. It transforms us within, makes us joyful; glad to be alive, full of hope and purpose; no longer drifting aimlessly, or living in despair.

There are many reasons why a person might not receive this message, or apply it fully.

We can be weighed down by the negativity around us.

Our Lord is saying: Over here, look at Me. Draw life from Me.

It is not only today that He is Risen. We choose one day to emphasize the point, but the reality lasts all year.

On any day at any time we can claim an infusion of life from the Risen Christ.

He will give us that infusion which will express itself as some form of help to us – protection from evil, courage to do good, generosity to forgive, hope for the future – whatever it may be.

Between these two consolations we have to be happy: we will rise again at some future date to eternal happiness; but even now we rise above sin and darkness, calling on the life of Christ.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Palm Sunday 14 Apr 2019 Sermon

Palm Sunday 14.4.19 Continuity

The palms we held today can be seen as having two meanings.

The first is simply the jubilation we feel at the coming of the Saviour. We welcome Our Lord, whether it be His birth at Bethlehem, His Second Coming in glory; or any stage along the way.

His entry into Jerusalem we welcome because it means the moment of our liberation is coming closer.

There is an irony about His welcome to Jerusalem. He was cheered by the crowds, yet many of those same people would have been calling for His Blood a short time later.

We do the first but not the second. We cheer His coming, but we do not turn against Him.

For us the palms represent a continuity; there is no change of direction for us. No about face, no desertion.

The palm now serves as a mark of identity. We are not afraid to be known as His disciples. We will take any abuse which comes our way because we are His disciples. We will even go to the Cross with Him if required.

In any event we will use every moment of life remaining to us in His service.

The story of His Passion and death is a sad tale of human malice and weakness.

There are points in that story where we can say: I would not do that – such as Peter’s denial, or Judas’ betrayal.

And points where we would do that - such as the women who lamented for Him, or who stood near the Cross.

The Passion story is in one way fixed, and we have heard it many times. In another way it is still happening, insofar as we are the present players on the stage, and it is up to each one of us to determine how the story goes.

We can follow either the good or bad example the story provides for us.

We can always choose for the good, even if we have been on the wrong side previously.

The bad can come right; the good can get better still.

May this coming Holy Week be a time of profound reflection for each of us, leading us to a firmer than ever decision to follow Our Lord and Saviour, keeping that palm as a reminder of our jubilation and loyalty.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Passion Sunday 7 Apr 2019 Sermon

Passion Sunday 7.4.19 Suffering

We prepare to travel the next two weeks culminating in the Easter Triduum.

We hope to learn as we go, growing in our understanding of all that Our Lord went through, receiving His mercy and grace as we do that.

They say a drop of Our Lord’s blood would have been enough to save us - His blood being of infinite value. He wanted to do more than the minimum, however. He gave all His blood for us. He endured unspeakable suffering, from His arrest to the moment of His death.

We speak of His Passion and Death - the Passion meaning His suffering.

Our Lord experienced pain in His humanity. We must never say He does not understand our troubles. He has been through far more than we ever have, or will endure.

Suffering is the index of love. The more we love someone the more we are prepared to put ourselves out for that person.

It can be love for more than one person. What about everyone in the world - past, present and future? This is what Our Lord had - enough love to be willing to suffer for each and every person; including the undeserving and ungrateful. He died for us while we were still sinners (Rm 5,8)

He demonstrates the depths of divine love. He gives us not just words but deeds, as in the miracles He worked. He shows us not just theory but practice, as in putting His words into action.

Love thy neighbour – He says, and He does. Greater love than this has no man than to lay down his life (Jn 15.13)… He does lay down His life. He is leading from the front.

His suffering is even more to be wondered at insofar as it was voluntary, and at any point He could have escaped.

He could have come down from the Cross; or simply switched off the pain – but He allowed Himself to go through the whole thing, pain and all.

This has to make some impression on us – hard-hearted though we may be.

To help us be influenced by this event, the Church gives us two weeks to retrace Our Lord’s steps. We can go through the time with Him, especially from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday.

We express sorrow for contributing to His pain, because of our sin.

We express gratitude for what His suffering has enabled – our forgiveness and eternal life.

We resolve to imitate His example; to take on His way of looking at people, to be willing to suffer with Him in His desire to save them.

Our love becomes more than just words; it becomes real in its application.

We learn with Simon the Cyrenian, and Veronica, and the women of Jerusalem in consoling Our Lord in  His pain. The mob cries out for His blood; all the more do we stand with Him.

He suffered to set us free from sin and death. It is an act of love on His part which will move at least some people to a change of heart - like the Good Thief (Lk 23,39-43), or the Centurion (Mk 15,39).

We hope each Holy Week goes some way to enflaming us into understanding our Lord’s suffering and adopting it. Our Lord knows what each is capable of and will allow it accordingly.

We pray for our capacity to love to increase, so that we can suffer without complaining.

We leave it to Our Lord to know what to ask of each disciple. If we comply with His wishes, and do not resist Him, it will be better for all.

By His holy Cross may He continue to redeem the world.