Thursday, 27 October 2016

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 23 Oct 2016 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 23.10.16 Healing the soul

The Gospels record many occasions when Our Lord healed the sick.

He did this as a favour to those whom He healed, but also to point to an even greater healing – that of the soul.

The physical healing is the more spectacular looking, causing great joy and wonder; but the spiritual healing is actually the more wonderful event; and the one that should attract the greater attention – because it is at a deeper level, and can last for eternity.

If we are sick we can pray for good health. But we cannot guarantee physical healing will be granted. Sometimes miracles happen (for example, as at Lourdes); sometimes not.

The soul, however, will always be healed; at least as regards the first part of the process.

Healing of the soul comes in two parts. First there is forgiveness of the sin.

This is the easy part. Forgiveness means that God will not treat us as our sins deserve – eternal death – but instead will set us free from the guilt, the debt that we owe Him. (cf parable of the debtor, Mt 18,21-35).

He will treat us (and think of us) as though we had never offended Him. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool (Is 1,18). He will turn again, and have mercy on us: he will put away our iniquities: and he will cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea. (Mic 7,19).

The second and much harder part to the healing of the soul is the removal of desire for sin.

I can confess, say, uncharitable remarks about my neighbour, and be absolved. But when I go outside again I might still want to make uncharitable remarks. And most likely I will do the same thing again.

The full healing has not yet happened. We are partly healed – of the guilt – and that is very important. But we are not fully healed unless we are totally cleansed of the inclination towards the sin.

This concerns how we think, the way we form attitudes, the things that are inside us, even if we do not realize it; all the mental and emotional debris we have collected over the length of our lives; the bad habits ingrained.

Some of this is born in us, through original sin. We can see it in children, who before the age of reason, will exhibit possessiveness and anger etc.

Only the miraculous healing power of Christ can get inside us and rearrange the spiritual wiring which makes us do the things we are trying to avoid; but we seem to be programmed wrongly somewhere.

Our Lord can arrange it so that we are as calm on the inside as we can appear on the outside.

Luther is said to have likened a saved person to a dung heap covered with snow. We say it is snow all the way through - the whole person, inside and out.

This is what Purgatory is for, to purge away even the desire for sin.

Through prayer and sacraments we draw the love of Christ into our souls, and this changes us, the way we think, the way we love, the way we react.

When the soul is clear of resentment, envy, desire to hurt others, and anything else out of place – then we are healed, well and truly. This is the complete healing which we seek. We can start now, not leave it till after we die.

‘If I can touch the hem of His cloak’ – the woman said. (Mt 9,21). In the case of spiritual healing it will take longer. We not only touch the hem, we cling to it, for as long as the healing takes!

All Saints, All Souls Mass times

Mass times for

All Saints Day, Tuesday 1st November, 6.45am St Monica's, Walkerville

All Souls Day, Wednesday 2nd November, 6.45am, St Monica's, Walkerville

Holy Name times 1st Nov: All Saints’ Day. Mass 7am & 6.30pm
2nd Nov: All Souls’ Day. Mass 7am, 9.30am, 6.30pm

Thursday, 20 October 2016

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 16 Oct 2016 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 16.10.16 Authority

Give to God what is God’s, says Our Lord.

What is His? Everything. We own certain things, like houses, cars, dogs, money. God owns all those things too, insofar as we are accountable to Him for how we use them.

As when a tenant uses the house, the landlord has an interest in how well the tenant looks after the property. God is the Landlord of the whole creation!

We use the things He give us, but it is all His. We are here only at His pleasure.

This insight makes a lot of human activity look very strange. Lots of people make lots of important decisions without any reference to God.

Political decisions, economic decisions, moral decisions. Some people think they are ruling their nation, but there is only ruler of the whole world.

Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers are exercising only the authority that God has delegated.

We are not allowed to mention God, however, because it might offend those who do not believe in Him!

He is there anyway, whether we mention Him or not.

If we do not give Him due honour, then that is a sin against the First Commandment, and leads to great trouble and chaos.

We cannot run a country, or a world, or even one life, if we do not give due place to God.

The only way we can have order, balance, and happiness, is if we are prepared to obey Almighty God, and give Him what is His.

He is not oppressive after all. Many human governments are oppressive. We can see why people would not want to pay tax to them, let alone obey them, eg Communist governments.

With God, however, there is nothing to fear. He is all good, all wise, just and kind.

He will actually protect the people and look after them.

It is insanity to turn away from such power, and such goodness.

We are not allowed to ignore Him, but why would anyone want to anyway?

Whatever life, or nation, or world we can have, we will never do better than by obeying God.

We give Him our ‘coin’, which means our whole lives.

We give Him our time, our plans, our ambitions, our desires – all these will work better under His direction.

We live in a very strange world where a vast number of people either deny God's existence or His relevance; or, even if they believe these things they still disobey.

These attitudes are so common that they have become part of the structure of our whole society. It even could seem normal after a while but it is insane.

We, however, will believe; we will give Him first place; we will obey Him. That is the only sane way to live this life.

Our reward, at first anyway, will be to be called an extremist, or similar derogatory term.

Let all the world be ‘extreme’ if it means God can rule His own universe. If it lets God be God, and the laws of the land reflect His laws. If the Lord’s Day be respected, and every knee bow before Him.

It is a wonder we have lasted this long with such persistent denial of God. It is because He wants to give us time to repent.

One of these days it might be too late. Who knows how long we have, but the general standard of society seems to be slipping all the time.

Let’s make sure we don’t take any longer to get ourselves into the right position – giving back what He has given us, undamaged, and multiplied (like the servants returning the talents, Mt 25,14-30).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

21st Sunday after Pentecost 9 Oct 2016 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 9.10.16 Treasury of Mercy

Did you ever wonder where all that mercy comes from?

Imagine if you could go to the automatic teller machine and be able to take out as much money as you like, and as often as you like, and the supply of money would never run dry.

We cannot do that with money, but we can with grace and mercy.

We can go to the ‘bank’, the treasury of mercy, and be forgiven every time, provided there is true sorrow for the sin.

The treasury of mercy never runs dry. God’s mercy is infinite, as are all His attributes.

And also acting in our favour are the infinite merits of the sacrifice of Christ, by which He atones for the sin of the world, and enables any sin to be forgiven.

So we can understand the debtor having his huge debt removed. We owe God a debt of reparation that we could never repay. We have offended His infinite majesty and nothing of our own could set that right.

We have gone over the limit many times over.

The more hopeless it seems the more remarkable that God's treasury of mercy will prevail.
We cannot break this bank.

With a normal person the more often we offend him, the more likely he is to be annoyed.

We can think of God in these terms but it is not actually the case. God does not ‘lose His temper’ or ‘get mad’ at us.

However, if we continue to sin against Him, without appropriate sorrow and intention to amend our ways, we will be receiving less mercy, and the effects of the sin will accumulate.

We receive less mercy because we are not claiming it properly. It is not that God is any less willing to give mercy; we are less willing to take it.

It is called God's anger, but it is the natural consequence of what we do if we do not seriously seek mercy.

This much we must do: form purpose of amendment. I cannot just keep going to ask for mercy without some adjustment to my life. I have to think: what is causing the sin? How can I change what I am doing?

For this also we need God’s help - Grace.

We have Mercy for the sins, and Grace for the ability to break away from sin. Grace is also infinite in supply if only we ask for it.

Although they are in such ready supply it seems that both grace and mercy are neglected in these times.

Many do not see that they have any sin to be forgiven. Others see the sin but do not believe mercy is possible for them.

Others might believe in mercy but not get around to asking for it, or forming any serious intent to change their lives.

Many Catholics do not go to Confession, and thus deprive themselves of important grace.

So it can happen that despite the abundance of mercy one could still fail to benefit from it. It is like starving outside a bakery.

This leads in turn to further sin and general decline of faith and morals, of which we see too much evidence today.

We have to take God seriously – His word and His will. If we make any effort to engage with Him He will hasten to our help, move us to true contrition; remove the debt; and set us up to live properly from then on.

(Including that we will freely forgive anyone who has offended us).

If we are right with Him all else will be right.

It comes to this: we must change our bad habits, or at least be sorry that we have not done so. If it is genuine sorrow we will receive the grace to make the change, and so we are set free.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

20th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Oct 2016 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 2.10.16 Growth in faith

The study of history always helps to shed light on the present.

In terms of our faith, there is a long history before we arrived. In fact we go back 4000 years!

That long ago God spoke to Abraham, and set him up to be the father of many nations. He would, God promised, have more children than the grains of sand on the seashore. (Gen 22, 17)

Since that time God has intervened much in human affairs; guided us; forgiven us; many times worked miracles to help us along.

In return He has asked that we trust in Him – that He has good intentions towards us, and knows far better than we do what is best for us.

It helps if we reflect on these past events and let them strengthen our faith.

If God has set His people free from slavery, healed their sickness, forgiven their sin, raised up leaders and prophets, given clear teaching – if He has done all that over four thousand years, He can do it again for us.

And this give us confidence.

It is one purpose of the Mass and other prayers, such as the Divine Office, to recall what God has done. Psalm 135,1: Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.

And all of that rescuing and forgiving was in the midst of constant denial and sin.

Yet we still doubt!

The Gospel story today is of the nobleman who sought healing for his son.

It contrasts with another similar story where the Centurion asks for healing for his servant (Lk 7,1-10).

The nobleman thought it would be necessary for Our Lord to come to the house; the centurion knew that Our Lord could heal from anywhere. He had more faith.

The nobleman’s faith was tentative, needing to be reassured. Only when he heard the time of the miracle did he fully believe.

We have four thousand years of miracles to call upon; but we can still lurch from one event to the other without ever having complete confidence in God.

Our Lord would get frustrated with people who always wanted another miracle before they would believe.

Yesterday’s miracle was no good; we need another one now.

What He wants is that we would believe in Him, without needing miracles to boost that faith.

He wants us to express trust in Him, to the point that, whatever the outcome of our prayers, we still believe in Him, even if we do not get what we ask.

We put our faith in Him, not in changing circumstances.

He is happy to work the odd miracle, but He does not want us to rely only on miracles.

Several other passages record Our Lord’s reproving lack of faith.

The Apostles in the boat (Mt 8,26), Peter on the water (Mt 14,31), the man with a possessed son (Mt 17,17). ‘Men of little faith’; ‘faithless and perverse generation’.

Why do we trust Him so little?

It is partly our sinfulness, which reduces our vision to merely physical and material matters, slowing our spiritual growth.

It is partly that we do not remember the lessons of our very richly blessed history.

We need to build up our relationship with God on every level – prayer, sacraments, good works, constantly seeking His will.

Our faith will grow as we develop at all levels, the whole person being involved.

We can grow in faith, also as a community, which is another reason we gather for Mass; to remind each other of the blessings of the Lord.

Remember the number ‘4000’ next time we go to complain. Four thousand years, God has been proving how reliable He is!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

19th Sunday after Pentecost 25 Sep 2016 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 25.9.16 The Church – charity and clarity

We are invited to the wedding banquet. Some accept, some refuse. Once in the banquet, some conform, some do not.

It is hard to get people in, and hard to keep them once we have them!

The banquet can be taken as an image of the Church. First we must join it; then we must conform to its teachings (wedding garment).

We are called individually by Christ Himself: Come, follow Me.

We answer the call as individuals, but we cannot follow Him only as individuals. He incorporates us in His Body, the Church.

If we are to be in union with Him, we must also be in union with the rest of the Church.

This is His desire - that they may all be one (Jn 17, 21)

The unity, if achieved, will have two aspects. Unity in charity, and unity in clarity (of belief).
We will learn to love one another, and to believe the same essential truths of the faith.

Unity in charity: we treat each other well. We think as well as we can of each other. At the very least there is always goodwill for the other person. Even if we think someone is a major sinner, we still have goodwill for him insofar as we want him to be saved.

Take the symbolism of a large number coming to Holy Communion and the union that expresses; how can we have differences from each other, hold grudges etc (epistle)?

Unity of belief: we look to the Church to teach us what to believe. We have no other way of knowing what is what. We could not work out for ourselves all the intricacies of the creeds and catechisms; all the finer points of faith and morality.

We rely instead on the accumulated wisdom of twenty centuries – the Bible itself, the writings of Councils, of saints and popes. No one person could match that or supersede it, though many think they can!

Chaos results when people try to outdo the Church in wisdom. We are always tempted to take an easier path if we can choose for ourselves.

We learn to think as members of the Church, not just as individuals.

It requires of us that we be humble both in attitude (charity) and belief (faith).

There is discord around us, both in the Church and the wider world. We can find order and peace in Christ Himself.

We go to Him first. We submit our intellect. He knows better than we do, surprise!

And our will. We submit totally to Him, and go along with anything He says, or does, or gives, or withholds.

Then we are in a better place to deal with any difficulties that arise.

If we are unhappy with the way the Church is headed, we draw closer to Our Lord, desiring the best for all, ourselves included.

Those with higher responsibility have a harder task, and need more prayer. Whether we think someone is doing a good job or not, is not the issue. Simply pray for him.

This is why we pray so often for our leaders, the Pope and the Bishops. We pray that everyone, high and low, overcome any deficiencies, and themselves come closer to full unity with Christ.

We do not feel superior if we think we are more right than others on some issue. We remember our own sinfulness and ask for mercy; for us and them.

We pray for the Church to be as pure, holy and wise as she needs to be. Remember we have a commission - to baptise all nations. Or to fill the banquet hall.

To get people in, those already in have to learn to behave. That is our task now. May the Lord who invites us, give us all necessary graces to fulfil His will.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

18th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Sep 2016 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 18.9.16 Sorrow for sin

The sick man has his sins forgiven, and is restored to health.

Once again we see in action the abundant mercy of God, restoring a person to a new beginning.

We are encouraged to trust in God's mercy. The prayers of the Church, prayers of the Mass, and prayers used in private, are constantly asking for that mercy.

We are taught that God is infinitely merciful; that He will forgive any sin, that He goes looking for lost sheep (Lk 15,1-7); that He runs to meet the returning sinner (Lk 15,20). All this would make one think that salvation must be an easy matter.

But on the other hand, the same sources warn us that God will punish sinners, and that punishment might even be eternal (Hell). Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Mt 25,41)

Is He going to forgive us or punish us? The key is how sorry we are for our sins. It is not so much the size of the sin as the size of the sorrow!

Sorrow is not something that can be measured as a quantity. I might think I am sorry, or hope I am, but not really be so. Only God would know the true state of my heart and mind.

It could be just fear that makes me say I am sorry, but I might really be still attached to the sin.

If we go to the Sacrament of Confession, it is a pre-requisite that we have firm purpose of amendment, sincerely intending not to commit the same sin again.

We can build up true sorrow by meditation on the malice of the sin; on the harm that it does; on the goodness of God; on the ingratitude which continuing sin reveals. We can make various devotions and prayers which will help us to see things in a clearer light.

We could, for example, consider the sufferings of Our Lord as He approaches Calvary; the sorrows of Our Lady as she sees all this; we are hurting her as well.

Sin is not something that can be casually dismissed.

The fact that forgiveness is so readily available could lead to its being cheapened – as when a free event might not be taken as seriously as one where we have to pay to be admitted.

We need to realize the largeness of both the sin and the mercy.

All sin (even lesser sin) offends the Infinite Majesty of God; this all the more underlines the immensity of His mercy, which is ready to forgive any sin.

If we grasp that sin is large and mercy is large, we are more likely to reach a sufficient level of sorrow to make us grateful, and determined not to re-offend.

We hope to reach perfect contrition – whereby we are sorry because we have offended God, not just because we are afraid of punishment.

But what of the punishment? Does the merciful God punish sinners? Yes, in two senses.

1) If there is still a chance for repentance, the punishment will be a way of forcing people to re-assess their priorities.

When God deprives people of health, wealth or status, it is a wake-up call to consider how much they value other things above Him.

The same applies to communal punishment, as with natural disasters, diseases, even wars. A whole community of people might re-think their way of life.

Souls in Purgatory see their lives in full clarity, and are aware of their excesses. Their punishment serves to purify them, to be ready for Heaven.

2) For the souls who die impenitent, only Hell remains. The punishment cannot save them; but it does serve to warn us not to make the same mistakes.

There is no contradiction between Mercy and Punishment. Mercy is God's essential position, but Punishment is what we have insofar as we refuse to engage with that Mercy.