Thursday, 1 December 2016

1st Sunday of Advent 27 Nov 2016 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 27.11.16  Long vision

When it comes to prophecy (as in predictions) there is a tendency to see one’s own generation as the central point of the prophecy.

Prophecies always seem to imply that certain critical events are just around the corner, but in fact they may be referring to events still a long way off.

Every generation must have felt the same way. There are enough things going wrong in all ages to make it look like it could be the end of the world. So far it has not been, and may not be for us either.

But it is probably good for us, all the same, to stay on our toes, to be fully engaged and alert on these matters. The master might return in the second watch, or the third (Lk12,38).

This is why God does not give us too much information about when things will happen.

We have to leave it to Him to know His own plans. He knows what He is doing, and what He wants done.

It is our role to agree with Him!

We are ready for either of two possibilities: Our world could change drastically at a moment’s notice (eg World War III). Or we might just go on for centuries.

We can take it either way, much as we do in our own lives, where we could die today, or live on for years to come. We can live with a high level of not-knowing what is going to happen.

We can, however, ask the Lord to come. He wants us to ask that, and He can answer that prayer in more than one way.

He can come in ways other than His final glorious return. He can make His presence felt as His kingdom is established among us; as He brings people to a deeper faith in Him, and a clearer recognition of Him, especially in the Eucharist.

In this way people would come to believe in Him, to worship and obey Him; as He is given a greater prominence in what is (after all) His own world!

In that sense He can come, and the more the better, for our purposes. Every generation has the right to make this prayer.

We pray, and we act in obedience to Our Lord, and if we do that consistently enough we will enable His kingdom to be recognisable.

We ask for anything He can send us – be it a miracle, daily sources of grace; a conversion of a sinner; anything that can make it easier for us to progress in holiness, and to convince others to do the same.

Our Lord will sustain us in hope as we battle through various difficulties.

No matter what happens, or does not happen, we will believe that God is still at work.

We may not see the spectacular improvements we would like, but we can sense His presence. It is like a tree growing. We cannot see it happen, but we see that it does happen over time.

God has many ways of advancing His cause. He can even use the rebellion or rejection of some, to draw forth value in the response of others - for example, in martyrdom. The glory of martyrs is made possible by the evil of those who kill them.

God makes good come out of evil.

Likewise we can use anything that comes our way - this suffering becomes a prayer; this disappointment becomes an opportunity for God's grace to go to work. We turn everything to advantage.

In this way, with short steps, and long vision, we are ready in every sense for Our Lord to come among us.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Last Sunday after Pentecost 20 Nov 2016 Sermon

Last Sunday 20.11.16 Happy death

If nothing else in our lives we can at least get the ending right.

Deathbed conversions are possible, though it is not recommended to leave it that late.

We can speak of a ‘happy death’. It means a death which is well-provided for in spiritual terms.

If we die in a state of grace we will be saved. Since we do not know the time of our death the only way to guarantee a favourable judgment is to be always in a state of grace. That takes the sting out of death, or at least the worst of the it.

We can then speak of death as merely falling asleep, which is how the Church speaks of it: falling asleep in the Lord (1 Th 4,14)

To be always in a state of grace means that we are constantly interacting with God, having His grace work in us, inspiring us to do His will, giving us the strength to avoid every kind of sin – and this all day and every day.

We recall the parable of the faithful servants, who are at their posts doing the master’s business at all times, ready for his return. (Lk 12,36) Or the wise bridesmaids who always had enough oil to keep their lamps lit, waiting for the bridegroom (Mt 25,1-13).

Our Lord gives us these images, not to frighten us, but to prepare us; to wake us up and inspire us.

He is not trying to trap us; far from it. He wants us to be saved, more than we want it.

The warnings are there to remind us of how important it is that we get our lives on the right note; and especially at the end.

That is His purpose in keeping these things before our minds; lest we grow complacent or distracted with the passing of time.

Union with Him is the paramount concern at any moment. He is the pivotal point. With Him we are safe; away from Him we are lost.

We return to union with Him, or increase that union, through the sacraments, and keeping the commandments.

We do not let ourselves be distracted from this main point, even if the times are turbulent, or become even more so.

We do not fully understand the prophecies such as in today’s Gospel. The general point of these prophecies is to ensure that we brace ourselves for a certain amount of conflict, and not be too alarmed by anything that happens.

The devil will throw everything at us. But we shall prevail against him, if we read the signs (Gospel), keep calm, and draw strength from Our Lord. Then we have nothing to fear.

At one level we have to find natural disasters scary. But only at one level. The thing that we really have to be afraid of is to be separate from God.

Fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell (Mt 10,28).

We can also go some way to reducing the severity of the threatened disasters by making sincere repentance and reparation. If enough people repented there will be no need for disasters (cf Gen 18,16-33: what if there are five good men in the city?)

We can defuse the threatening prophecies, and bring to fulfilment the more hopeful ones.

To be ready every day, to meet the Lord, in whatever form He might reveal Himself – this is the plan. We do not need to know exactly what He has in mind; just be ready to play our part.

Happy death, happy life. To live and die in union with the Lord!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

2nd Last Sunday after Pentecost 13 Nov 2016 Sermon

6th Sunday after Epiphany (readings) 13.11.16 Evangelisation

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a large tree which has emerged from small beginnings.

This can be interpreted as a reference to the Church, which started with just a handful of disciples, and has grown to be over a billion people.

Bigger, not necessarily better; but the ‘better’ part we are working on.

Our Lord offers the Church as a place of refuge for the birds of the air – the people of the world.

There are seven billion people in the world, so it must be that most people do not belong to the Church. This means that most people are travelling without seat belts, trying to work their way through this life without the benefit of the Church’s teachings (the word of God, properly interpreted); and without the grace available through the sacraments.

Most would say they can get by quite well, thank you; and many would say that the Church is the last thing they would want to be helping them.

It is easy to say we don’t need something if we are not aware of what that thing can do. Someone in a previous century probably would have dismissed the idea of telephones, or cars, or planes, or even learning. But we benefit from all those things once we are introduced to them. All the more can the Church benefit us.

So much of the dismissal of the Church is done through ignorance; people settling for too little too easily.

Then, of course, many people who are members of the Church do not fully appreciate the advantages they enjoy.

So we have a long way to go still, to extend the kingdom of heaven to cover the whole world.

We who do seek to extract the full meaning of belonging to the Church, have an obligation to make known to others the treasure we have discovered.

The whole process of evangelisation is based on this. Our Lord wants every person in the world to belong to His Body, to take refuge in Him. (Come to Me, all ye who labour and are heavily burdened…Mt 11,28)

To evangelise does not mean getting up in the street and giving a sermon. Speeches do come into it; the spoken word is important, also the written word. But most evangelising is done by example.

See how they love one another, was a comment in circulation regarding the early Church.

It is not all our fault that so many do not want to belong to the Church. A lot of it is their own lack of response to the signs God gives them (eg the beauty of nature, the many miracles He works in everyday life, the disorder of lives apart from Him…)

But some of it is our fault – insofar as we are not shining images of Christ; insofar as we commit sin and so impede the progress of the Gospel as a healing remedy for the world.

It is commonly said of churchgoers that they are all hypocrites; that they do not practise what they preach.

We admit the latter point. It is so much harder to do than to say. But ‘do’ we must.

There is no escape from our obligation to display by our lives the beliefs in our hearts.

First we believe; then if we believe enough we will act on those beliefs; and then at least some of the rest of the world will want to join us, by the power of our united witness.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2, 46-47)

Those were the days; but these can be the days too!

We are surrounded by people who do not know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4,11), and we need to offer them the word of life (and the bread).

May that tree continue to grow, offering its protection and fruit.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

3rd Last Sunday after Pentecost 6 Nov 2016 Sermon

Third Last Sunday after Pentecost 6.11.16 Salvation (Readings 5th Sunday after Epiphany)

At this time of the Church year we pray especially for the dead.

We pray for their salvation (a favourable judgment at the point of death); and their sanctification (purification from sin, if required), so they are ready for Heaven.

This prayer is important work. If the final destination for everyone is either Heaven or Hell, it is immensely important to get this right.

With rescue missions people try desperately to save as many as possible, eg from the rubble of an earthquake. This is the same idea, but much more important still.

Salvation (rescue) is necessary because something has gone wrong.

Plenty has gone wrong with this world, and it all goes back to what happened in the Garden of Eden.

Eden was the prototype of Heaven. Everything was in place and at peace. The inhabitants had everything they needed or ever could need, and most of all they had complete unity with God.

The first sin shattered that unity and took with it many of the other blessings. From then on we have been suffering sickness, pain, death, alienation, loss of direction, and so on.

Salvation means restoring all these things to their original state.

The best thing about this original state was that it was no effort to be good, or do good. It came naturally.

It was the way human nature was created, to live peaceably and comfortably in the presence of God. It was not meant to be the toilsome business it has become.

We reclaim Paradise (or claim Heaven) when we live in union with God, despite the many difficulties of living in this very un-paradise world.

With the grace of God working in us we can discover and express His goodness in every situation no matter how hopeless things may look.

And we discover His grace working in our own selves, enabling us to do things we never could before – such as loving difficult neighbours, overcoming sinful habits…

Salvation is getting to Heaven as a destination, but also overcoming the various obstacles on the way. Salvation is both a destination and a process.

Salvation means being good; or if we are not good, then at least being sorry for that; being sufficiently contrite to receive the saving mercy of God.

We have to work for our salvation, because of the difficult conditions surrounding us.

We work out our salvation in fear and trembling, as St Paul put it (Ph 2,12).

We make it the central question of our lives, using the time we have, to grow in grace and union with God.

The closer we get to God the easier it becomes to serve Him. The closer we come the freer we are to control our own desires and decisions. We are no longer slaves to sin and bad habits; we find being and doing good comes more naturally – as it was always meant to be.

While we go through this we pray the same for everyone else – living and dead.

For various reasons a lot of people do not regard the issue of salvation as important. They might think Heaven is a foregone conclusion, not something to worry about. They might think there is no Heaven. They might think there is a Heaven, but they themselves have no hope of getting there.

For all of these categories we pray. The grace of God can break through in each case.

In terms of today’s Gospel, may the final harvest be a lot of wheat and very few weeds.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Feast of Christ the King 30 Oct 2016 Sermon

Christ the King 30.10.16

Politics is always in the news - current issues, opinion polls, preferred leaders; and just now the American Presidential election is causing a lot of interest. A lot of speculation takes place about who is going to run a country.

If people are upset with the candidates for the top positions it could be said to be their own fault. The candidates in many ways reflect the values of the people.

Imagine a country which was almost entirely Catholic in identity and practice. We would then expect a higher standard of political leaders. We would not have the corruption, internal fighting, and lying we have now.

People lie in politics because they lie everywhere else; if people who seek to rule are greedy and grasping it is for the same reason people in general are greedy and grasping.

It does not have to be so, and is definitely not so in one government at least. This is the government that comes from Heaven itself – the rule of Christ the King.

To get to this position He did not need to win an election. His power comes from His being God, and therefore creating the world and keeping it in being. This would be enough to establish absolute authority, but there is more still.

His power comes also from His human nature, triumphing over sin and death, and earning the right to rule all other humans from this pivotal role that He holds.

He has the keys of life and death in His hands; no other human ruler could stand before Him, much less overrule Him.

Whether we live or die eternally, depends upon the relationship we have with this one Person.

He is Somebody, if anyone ever was!

In this case it is not the ruler being like the people he governs, coming up from the ranks. This ruler sets His own standards, and then offers to lift the people to His level.

We derive our values from Him; not He from us. His rule is one of complete integrity, every virtue overflowing.

If we would heed His authority we would share in those virtues, we would be more like He is: honest, kind, forgiving, loving, generous, etc.

Our whole society would be transformed to look like Heaven. The Kingdom of heaven will have come among us.

It is there for us to discover, to unearth, as we bring our lives into subjection to the true King.

He wants us to discover Him through obedience.

He could show Himself to the world and force obedience, but He wants us to discover it for ourselves.

A light has dawned. As the sun rises to the middle of the sky and increases in heat and light, so Christ becomes more and more prominent as more people give Him allegiance.

We must do our bit to make Him known. Politicians have their volunteers who help with the advertising. We must do some advertising for Jesus Christ, most of all by the way we live.

If we cannot convince others we can at least guarantee our own salvation, and make a little bit of heaven in our own sphere.

The surrounding world may be crazy, but not my house! We can go against the tide.

It is our privilege to know Him; now we must make Him known, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who restores all things in Himself, and brings His kingdom among us.

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