Thursday, 20 September 2018

17th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Sep 2018 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 16.9.18 Love from the heart

We are to love God with our whole heart, and soul, and mind. This is the greatest commandment encompassing all the others. Any breach of any commandment must be a failure to love God.

We can have various problems with loving God.

We might see love as simply a matter of obedience. If we keep God's commands should that not satisfy Him? Certainly we should obey Him, but He wants more than that.

He does not want us to serve Him as slaves or servants, but as sons (Ga 4,7), or friends (Jn 15,15).

He does not want us to keep Him at arm’s length, or regard Him as a business partner with whom we do transactions.

He does not want us to fear Him. There is ‘Fear of the Lord’ but that means reverence and awe. Certainly we should be reverent before Almighty God, but He does not want us to be quaking with fear. He wishes only to bless us, not harm us.

It has to be love from the heart – something we actually want to do. As we do for the people we love, so we want to please God, for His sake.

It has to be love in action; so that it is not just a matter of theory, or a concept.

God can seem remote. We are so busy just keeping our heads above water, we may think we cannot give much time to contemplation. We cannot simply click into higher levels of prayer, but God can lift us to higher things, to a deeper communion with Him.

As we draw closer to Him we grow in trust and understanding. We no longer want to argue with Him, or complain about His treatment of us. We no longer think He is remote, beyond the clouds, impersonally watching us.

We can do certain things to become more familiar with Him, to make our way towards Him. There is always prayer, the Mass, the Sacraments, good spiritual reading/viewing; and of course good works, acts of charity.

But the real momentum comes from God. The way for us to love Him is to let Him love us.

We do not resist. Like a flower opening up to the sun, we let God's love work on us.

Our hearts are changed as we are exposed to the love of God. We lose the rough edges, the hardness of heart, any and all of the negative qualities we may have accumulated so far.
If we stand in the sun long enough there has to be an effect.

Some are called further than others, according to how God has designed each person.

We still obey Him in the practical everyday things. This is where we can find whether we really love God or not.

But it should get easier to obey and to trust. That would indicate our hearts are developing in the right direction.

I want to be whatever God wants me to be. I don’t care if I am higher or lower than others, as long as I am in the right place with Him.

For each one of us: Be as good as you can be; love as much as you can; and, for others, pray that each of them find where he is supposed to be.

It is much easier to deal with obligations if we have an overall sense of how it all holds together. Our faith is not just an arbitrary collection of rules, outdated ones at that!

Everything that comes from God is perfectly coordinated and harmonious, including His commands. It is all designed to purify us of sin and bind us to Him in everlasting joy.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

16th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Sep 2018 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 9.9.18 Humility

St Paul prays that people grasp the greatness of Christ, the full extent of His goodness and glory (epistle); and in doing that they will find everything else fall into place.

For many, even to acknowledge Christ as having any importance at all would be a step forward. How much ignored, denied, blasphemed against He is. And this is the Saviour of the world. It is a strange way to treat someone who has come to rescue us!

How should we regard Him? In the Gospel image today, we should take the lowest place before Him. This will mean that we do not ‘exalt’ ourselves to tell Him what to do; but rather humble ourselves to listen to Him; to trust Him; to obey without question whatever He asks of us.

Then He can call us up higher, as in the parable. Only if we are truly humble before Him can we make progress.

We are tempted to seek our security in the things of this world. Christ is too far away, it might seem.

But all earthly things are fragile and can disappear in a moment: money, friends, success, status…

We can find security only in Jesus Christ, the one true God. This is what St Paul is always telling us.

We will find security in Him, and also great happiness.

It is happiness to be healed of sickness, to be free of demons, to be raised from the dead.
Would you kill someone who can do all that?

They did already. But our present generation would do it again.

He has total goodwill towards us; He wants to heal, bless, save, guide us. He can provide everything we could ever dream of (more than we can desire or understand – today’s epistle Ep 3,20).

All we have to do is receive what He is giving; humble ourselves to the point of letting Him do what He wants. We concede defeat as far as any battle of wills is concerned.

Thus we are ‘exalted’. We find, if we are silent before the Lord, no longer complaining or arguing, we will actually get more of a say. The Holy Spirit will fill us with His gifts, and we will be able to speak, to rule, to be creative – all in due proportion.

This is how it is meant to work.

We are admitted into a share of Christ’s authority if we have first learned to obey.

In the world people grasp power, and often kill, lie and cheat to get there.

They are not obeying Christ first; they are bypassing Him completely.

What does frail mortal man think he is doing, trying to take over the whole world?

The devil has tricked us into turning things upside down.

We look in the wrong places for security, for happiness, and all the while there stands God Himself, waiting for a response.

We respond in humility and so we are exalted. Exalted through having greater security, greater happiness, and share more fully in Christ’s own saving work.

Thus we come to know the breadth and the length etc, of His greatness; or at least more than we knew before; enough to know there is more to know.

Faith in Christ is central, not peripheral, not optional, not a matter of minor importance. He is the All.

Believing this will not make us religious fanatics. It just means we become well-balanced people, able to deal with any sort of reality.

May Christ Himself forgive us all our past neglect, exalting us as high as Heaven.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

15th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Sep 2018 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 2.9.18 Conversion of sinners

There are parallels between the widow of Naim, and the Church, both having lost children.

Not many families are free of the sadness of losing members to the world. Look at a First Communion photo, and see how many of those faces would not be receiving Holy Communion now.

Some will return, but it is not something that happens automatically with the passing of time.

Conversion can take two senses - From error to the truth; from false religion to Catholic, where one’s beliefs were wrong, and now they are right.

Then there is conversion from bad to good - behaving badly to behaving well.

Conversion therefore encompasses belief and practice. One will help the other.

The clearer our thoughts are the more likely the behaviour will correspond. The better the behaviour the more chance the light has to get through to the intellect.

Existing Catholics need converting too. Many have false or mistaken beliefs. And everyone still commits sin of one kind or another, meaning that our behaviour needs to change.

It becomes clear that we all need mercy, and need it all the time - to be cleansed from past sins, to strengthen present resolve, and to make right choices for future action.

We never give up hope of conversion of any or every person; never write someone off. God can work miracles to the last, miracles of grace

And we do not want the devil to win.

So we keep the drum beating, in terms of maintaining awareness of this crucial matter of Conversion.

We hope that all will answer the promptings that God sends them.

God's mercy never runs dry but the time for receiving it might run out – we might die first.

Then there is the danger that one habitually living in sin could become too hard of heart to be able to convert; too much in darkness to climb out.

Conversion has to come from within, in the sense that each of us has a conscience and only I can operate my own conscience. I cannot be saved unless I want to be.

The young man had no say about being brought back to life. But we all have a say about being forgiven.

Do you want to be forgiven? Everyone would want that if it is free, and no strings attached.

But we need to have true contrition, and firm purpose of amendment. These are not so easy to come by. They will come, by the grace of God, but only by the sinner’s consent, which God will never force. He works only by the force of persuasion.

The Church as Mother, in the aggregate faith and charity of all her members will make a ceaseless prayer for conversion of sinners.

We surround the wavering sinners with our prayer, calling on the subtlety of the Holy Spirit to exploit some weakness in their resistance, leading them to conversion.

And for ourselves, we know we still have a lot to do, to cement the permanence of our own conversion, and to chip away at remaining areas of sin.

We never declare ourselves to be ‘good enough’, to be saved already. We have a cunning and vicious enemy and we have to be vigilant, as we are warned constantly in the New Testament (eg the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 P 5,8)

At the same time we develop a concern for other sinners. It affects us personally whether or not another person accepts the mercy of God. We share the joy of Mother Church when a son is restored

We come to see others as Our Lord sees them, lost children needing rescue; dead, needing to be brought back to life.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

14th Sunday after Pentecost 26 Aug 2018 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 26.8.18 Covenant of Trust

God asks us to trust in Him, and we are not very good at doing that generally. We like to control our own destiny, to make sure we have enough of everything; and become extremely anxious when something is out of place.

Rather than focus on a particular need which might distress us, we learn to take a wider view, reflecting on the goodness of God - which never changes, nor can change.

Our trust is in Him rather than this or that situation.

We know He can work things to their proper conclusion, having much greater power and insight than we have.

For our part we negotiate the path as we go. If I need something I can mention it in prayer, and He will grant it or not, according to a host of factors.

He sums it all up by saying: Seek first the kingdom of God. This means seeking that absolute sense of trust in Him; such that we no more doubt His desire for our good than our own desire.

It is better if we let Him decide what happens to us, rather than decide for ourselves. This is the level of trust which can be reached, and needs to be.

It will not come all at once. It is the end result of a lot of prayer, reflection, and experience.

God asks this of us: He will provide what we need, but we have to let Him be in charge.

He wants a covenant relationship with us, where we are the junior partners.

He wants us to see prayer as not just when we have a special need, but part of a continuous relationship. We do not do drive thru prayer.

We communicate constantly with Him. There will be much we may not understand, but seeing our whole lives as in His keeping makes it all simpler.

We do not arrow in too much on particular requests, which may or not be granted, but it is more a case of saying I put my life in God's hands, and remembering His fidelity over the years. Fidelity in my life, and in the whole history of His people.

We pray at all times and in all weathers. We give thanks even when things are going against us. Why? Because God is still working for us at those times. So we still need to thank Him.

We keep the communication going, and it all runs much more smoothly.

The discipline of regular prayer helps us to get into a spiritual way of thinking.

Most people have not much time for religion; they are serving the wrong master (Gospel).

God allows people a lot of freedom to decide their course in life. This means a lot of sins are committed, and this in turn makes everyone’s life more difficult.

We suffer from that, but can work back in the other direction by simple trust.

We never turn our back on God as if to blame Him. We express our trust, routinely, every day of our lives.

The good fruits referred to in the epistle have a harmony about them, going beyond instant gratification. They give us a sense of order and peace; we start to feel we are coming back to life.

People say God failed them. It is highly likely they were taking short cuts with Him. We have to get to know Him.

We are in an everlasting covenant. If we obey Him He will bless us. If we disobey the result will be one or other form of chaos.

We serve one Master only; everything else will sort itself accordingly.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

13th Sunday after Pentecost 19 Aug 2018 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 19.8.18 Assumption of Our Lady

During the week we celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady. This is a major event in our understanding of our faith.

The Assumption demonstrates the close link between obedience and blessing.

Our Lady obeyed God always and to the fullest degree. As a result she helped the human race recover Eden, not the natural beauty of Eden before the Fall, but even better - this time through human responsiveness, the original sinless state is restored.

Where sin is absent, life abounds. All it needs for the human race to break through into a better era is more obedience and compliance in our response.

Our Lady’s response is so perfect that it opens doors previously jammed shut.

She is one person who has given the perfect response to God at all times. Over all her life this has led to a profusion of blessings, most of all the Incarnation of Christ.

Her being assumed body and soul into Heaven is her own homecoming to her ‘true home’ (Ph 3,20)

It paves the way for the rest of us to follow. Heaven is our true home also.

How we should long for it; work and strive for it; and how we should have the confidence that it is the fulfilment of all our hopes.

With the benefit of faith we pursue a precise goal (the attaining of Heaven) as opposed to random drifting, which is the only alternative.

However, even if we have faith, we can still be so caught up in earthly matters as to forget the glorious destiny that is promised us.

Mary stands before us, to keep us on track.

She beckons us to come to her. She is the end, and the means to the end. It is our destiny and hope to dwell with her forever; she is the means to make this happen, the Mediatrix of all graces.

She encourages us to be more like herself, living our lives in more complete union with the will of God.

In this world there is so much sadness and anguish, so much of which is unnecessary, given that it is only sin which has brought all this trouble upon us; and sin is the most unnecessary thing ever invented!

We are caught up in the turbulent after-effects of sin, even if we did not sin ourselves.

We regret our own sin and that of the world. We would do anything to remove it, and so rediscover Eden.

If we could just attach ourselves to Our Lady we will be introduced into this new world, this place where there is no hurt or harm on all God's holy mountain. (Is 11,9)

It may seem distant at the moment but the more people join in the wider the entrance becomes, and the more relief there is from all the suffering.

For this we strive, and we help it to happen.

We will feel peace immediately as we establish order in our lives; we will have mastery over our own passions and desires - a big breakthrough.

We enter heaven in two stages: by living in a state of grace in this earthly life; and then by actually entering heaven at the end of our lives.

We have Heaven upon earth insofar as we do live in God's will. This is Eden rediscovered.

At both stages we have the help of Mary, inspiring and helping us to live this life well; and then being there in Heaven to welcome us when the journey is done.

We cannot do this on our own (cf epistle); we need grace. Our Lady is ‘full of grace’ and distributes it to those who ask her… Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners…

Thursday, 16 August 2018

12th Sunday after Pentecost 12 Aug 2018 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 12.8.18 Good Samaritans

People are all around us. We could dismiss whole sections of humanity as not of great importance to us. But Our Lord gives us a very different example to follow.

He took a great deal of interest in us, going as far as to die for our sins – our sins, not His.

He is the Good Samaritan, picking up - not just one person by the side of the road - but millions of them, the whole of broken humanity.

Then He tells us that we should follow His example. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (Jn 13,14)

We are picked up ourselves from whatever darkness of sin; then we become co-Samaritans, anxious to help others have the same experience. There is a flow-on effect. Freely you have received; freely give. (Mt 10,8).

Material help is very important but spiritual help even more so.

In spiritual terms, how many people are there lying on the side of the road? Probably more than there are standing up!

A lot of people are physically active but many of them would be spiritually in darkness, a state of death caused by sin; thrown down by robbers (demons).

The physical and material needs are easier to fix, certainly easier to see. Call an ambulance, or pitch in with some money etc.

But how do we help people who have spiritual problems, especially if they are set against Christian solutions, as many are.

We can always pray for them. They can't stop that!  When we pray for someone we are directing the mercy and grace of God towards him. Maybe such a force will break down his resistance.

We pool our faith together, becoming a collective Good Samaritan. We can win a lot of people over (or win them back) if we pray and act with true faith and charity.

But whatever we can do, the chief Good Samaritan is always Our Lord Himself.

He knows exactly what every person needs, and He has the power to provide it.
He knows the level of their resistance. Sometimes He will use people as His agents; sometimes He will intervene directly in the lives of people. He can send them signals, put things in their path.

They may or may not respond, but the offer is always there, while life lasts.

We, for our part, continue to offer His mercy to people, putting them on their feet.

Much of what we do will look like nothing is happening, but we do not give up easily and do not stop.

Be it prayer, action, speaking - anything that helps; anything that can be used to influence others, and to assure them that help is still there.

Put out your nets, baptise all nations, proclaim the Kingdom, bring them to the banquet – there are many ways of putting it, but they all amount to saying that every person should be in union with Our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Church testifies to the mercy of God, and His desire to save. Even just the sight of churches dotted around the landscape will give people a reminder that – despite living in such secular times – the Good Samaritan is still looking for wounded people.

We still have something to say to the world, despite being rocked by scandals and loss of numbers. There are setbacks which slow us down, but cannot change our basic orientation – to save lives (for eternity).

We take our place with the Good Samaritan. This human race is badly damaged and needs a lot of stitching up. It can be done.

The Good Samaritan seeks to save as many as possible - especially those who most need His mercy.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

11th Sunday after Pentecost 5 Aug 2018 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 5.8.18 Resurrection

When Our Lord rose from the dead He appeared to a succession of disciples. He did not appear to unbelievers.

Nor does He appear to most of His disciples when it comes to later generations.

Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe (Jn 20,29). He wanted us to be so strong in faith that we would not be always seeking proof. We come to a firm basis of belief, and then build on that.

We ‘perceive’ rather than ‘see’ Him. His resurrection is ingrained in us, enabling us to act in confidence, even to the point of giving up our lives.

Thus we see so many martyrs in our history, cheerfully yielding themselves to death, knowing that they would emerge even more alive in eternity.

Why did Our Lord not appear to everyone, including people like Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas?

If people are not properly disposed they will not benefit from a miracle, even if they see one.

Come down from the Cross and we will believe in you… they said (Mk 15,30). But they probably would not have believed. They would have said it was sorcery, or an illusion etc.

We believe it first, then we see it (or perceive it).

It is a belief which we must keep front and centre of our lives, always on the boil. We live among people of little or no faith. We have to be able to stand apart from the mockers and the cynics, not letting them drag us down.

For St Paul it was the main message. Christ rose from the dead. Think about it: Who can do that? Is it not a proof of divinity? Who holds the keys of life and death like that? It must be the same God who created us and the whole world.

This man was dead beyond question and buried in a tomb, with a large rock across the entrance. Yet He came out of that tomb of His own accord and power. For it was impossible that death could hold Him (Ac 2,24).

And we believe in the resurrection of the body… (Creed) 

Sometimes we are accused of believing in the Resurrection only because we want to believe it. No, we believe it because it is true.

We do not see resurrections every day. If we walk through a cemetery, no one rises before our eyes. Yet God could raise any, or all of them. But such is not His plan. The occasional person has come back to life, but the main plan is that there will be a general resurrection on the Last Day, with the good being raised in bodily glory, and the unrepentant in shame, condemned to Hell.

We can make sure it is Heaven for us.

It is certainly true that we want to believe in the Resurrection; but it is no less true for that.

It is a completely logical belief. The world did not make itself, nor did we make ourselves. A benevolent wise powerful Being made all this. It is not then so much to believe that He would want life to endure over death. It was death before He gave it life! Why would He make us for death? Death was not of his fashioning (Wis 1,13).

If He can make us the first time, it is no more trouble for Him to re-form us a second time.

Even non-religious people believe in life after death, however hazily. They hope that their loved ones are in some state of happiness.

We hope the same, only as Christians we can give the belief more substance.

We can offer hope to those who do not yet believe, or believe only faintly.

Christ’s resurrection gives us hope of eternal life. By the help of His grace we can make that a certain hope.