Thursday, 12 July 2018

7th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Jul 2018 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 8.7.18 Pursuit of happiness

We make decisions all the time about what is the best option to take. If we are buying something we weigh up the various factors. It comes to this: what will give me the greatest satisfaction? It is not always easy to decide.

The same principle holds for life itself. How should I live my life for the greatest possible happiness?

We know that the answer must involve reference to Almighty God, and His will.

If I walk in His way, I will bear fruit, like the tree planted by the water’s edge (Ps 1,3).

Happiness, contentment, peace, will all be found with that approach; at least insofar as having a serene conscience, whatever else may be happening.

What is the alternative? To seek the happiness of this world only, without reference to God's will or His commands, is the way to chaos.

The wages of sin are death as St Paul puts it (Rm 6,23).

Sin is taking the forbidden fruit. It looks good to eat, but then it turns sour. We may feel good for a while, but then comes bitterness.

Even legitimate pleasures will exhaust themselves if we do not bring all our lives under God's providence.

We have to make wise decisions, to plan the direction of our lives. We plan everything else, like our finances, organising a party, planning a holiday, or the extension on the house.

When it comes to the conduct of life itself, somehow that can be left to chance, or just how we feel at the time.

More than any other topic we need to plan what we do with our lives.

So where do we look for guidance? To the Church, appointed by God to speak for Him until He comes again.

Many are leaving the Church at this time, due to disappointment at the behaviour of some of its members.

We may share that disappointment but we cannot leave the Church because ‘to whom else can we go?’ (Jn 6,68)

But there is another reason it can be hard to stay in the Church – it requires discipline to avoid sin and choose always the good; to turn away from worldly pleasures for the sake of higher and later rewards.

Well, they say you don’t have to get drunk to have a good time. Likewise you don’t have to sin to have a good time.

Such negatives as there are in our teaching are to enhance the happiness of the person, not to restrict or deny it. If we don’t steal, lie, commit adultery etc, we will be happier than if we do. So the negative becomes a positive source of happiness.

The best way to get to Heaven is to live in a heavenly way on earth, observing purity, kindness, gentleness etc.

Breaking the laws of God will always tend towards chaos.

So we resolve to be good from now on. It will mean giving up whatever leads to sin. It could be painful but will bring greater rewards, even in this life.

We will discover new joys that come from a closeness to God, new depths and dimensions we did not know were there. And still Heaven to come.

It takes constant renewal otherwise we will fall away through neglect, and will surely sink into a worldly life.

It takes effort, but then people do not mind making an effort if they believe in the cause. Look at what people do for physical fitness, getting up early, running and swimming. But when it comes to something religious, like early morning Mass: Oh no, I couldn’t do that!

May God give us all the wisdom and the courage to decide rightly what to do with the rest of our lives.

Everlasting life awaits us if we choose rightly.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Most Precious Blood 1 Jul 2018 Sermon

Most Precious Blood 1.7.18 Sacrifice

Christ replaces the animals of the old testament. The animal sacrifices did not take away sin of themselves, only indicating a desire of the people to be forgiven.

Our Lord makes Himself the Lamb of sacrifice, a sacrifice exceeding all others because His Blood has infinite value. His blood really cleanses from sin.

He offers Himself. He is both Priest and Victim.

But He did not kill Himself. We (the whole human race) killed Him, by our sin. Some did the physical tasks of killing Him but all of us contributed.

This is not to our credit, yet it works in our favour. We shed His blood and that blood saves us!

It should have increased our punishment but it actually makes us better off; it opens the way for us to be forgiven for all our sins, and finally to enter Heaven.

God blesses us further by giving us the Mass, wherein we can be present at Our Lord’s saving sacrifice, and benefit from it.

This is the cup of My blood… it will be shed for you and for many so that sins may be forgiven.

At Mass we unite ourselves with Our Lord as He offers himself to God the Father, in atonement for sin. He offers Himself; and we join with His sacrifice to make it our own as well. We ask Our Lord to take us before the throne of mercy, so we can be forgiven. The Father will accept us in the fragrance of His Son’s offering.

(We need to go to Confession to gain full forgiveness, but the Mass serves to establish a general climate of Mercy, whereby God is willing to forgive all who approach Him).

It all hinges on our response to God's generosity, the human response to the divine initiative.

Each person is invited to apply for this Mercy, to seek the Precious Blood of Christ to take effect, purifying from sin, enriching in virtue.

How many people will do this, we do not know. We hope the ‘many’ will be very many.

For all sorts of reasons people today may not connect with this saving sacrifice.

Some do not believe in God at all. Some think they have no sin to be forgiven. Some think forgiveness is automatic, not requiring repentance. Some think they can be forgiven in their own way and do not need Sacraments. Some might want to be forgiven but are too attached to their sins.

It is tragic when His blood is spilled in vain; when someone persists in sin even to death.
But while there is life, there is hope. Our Lord will forgive any outrage against Himself as long as there is serious contrition on the part of the offender.

How to bring about such contrition is not easy, but it does happen that people do convert, and this is something for us to pursue with all our energy.

For our part we not only have contrition but we try to help the situation along, doing all in our power to assist the workings of the Precious Blood in saving sinners.

We revere the Precious Blood because it is Christ Himself, actually present; and that would be reason enough; but even further, out of gratitude to Him for doing this on our behalf. We make atonement for the sins of indifference and sacrilege towards Our Lord. We worship Him, thank Him, and accept the mercy He offers us.

This, we hope, will reduce the punishments the world is heaping up for itself, and help to save ‘many’ souls.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Sermon 24 Jun 2018 Birth of St John the Baptist

Birth of St John the Baptist 24.6.18

The Church regards John the Baptist as important enough for two feast days, and for taking precedence over the normal Sunday.

This is because of his closeness to Our Lord. He came to announce the coming of Our Lord as the Messiah. He brings the first stirrings of Our Lord’s presence. If Christ is the midday sun, then John is the first light of the dawn.

John’s birth gives us certainty. He does not save us himself, but he assures us salvation is coming, and soon.

God likes to stretch our faith out further than we might regard as comfortable.

Imagine if you were looking at the newborn baby John: Could you believe all that would follow? That, from this baby a sequence of events would come which would change the world. The people around were amazed at some of the circumstances; but they would have had no idea of just how far-reaching this birth would be.

In stretching our faith God likes to act under cover of normality, generally not displaying His full glorious power. He wants us to be able to detect His actions even if not trumpeted forth.

If we love Him enough we will be able to do this. cf Simeon and Anna recognized the Messiah even though to normal appearances He was just another baby (Lk2,21-38).

In the same vein, God likes to work with humble and lowly people, and in little-known surroundings – this, to highlight how different His ways are to worldly ways.

There was no media frenzy to cover the birth of John; yet it was so important.

So we allow our faith to be stretched. For us, the story of John is easier to absorb because we know what happened later.

But we also face in our own time the same God working in hidden and indirect ways, probing us, leading us on, if only we will answer His promptings.

God has brought us this far – can we still doubt Him? A lot of people do doubt Him, for the same reason as every previous age – that they cannot see with their bodily eyes, and therefore will not believe.

John, by his birth, challenged the faith of the people. Then by his life. He was sent to awaken the faith of the people, to rekindle in them the desire and the belief that would make them thirst for God.

People can be so easily discouraged (as we know from our own time). John’s task was to put courage back in them, and call them all onto the right track.

His life was different from other men’s. In this he was signalling that the normal way the world does things is not right.

Men live as though there is no God above. They turn away from Him at every opportunity.

John demonstrated by contrast the absolute fidelity to God’s will that is required.

John was building up the expectation of the people by being such a striking figure himself; so much so that people thought he might himself be the messiah.

He was only the mirror reflecting the light, the bridegroom’s companion making way for the real bridegroom (Jn 3,29). If you think I am good, wait till you see who is coming!

Out of that expectancy faith is nurtured. John was teaching the people how to hope, after centuries of turmoil and disappointment.

Our generation also needs to learn how to hope. We too await the Messiah – to return in glory.

John the Baptist inspires us to look forward as he was able to do. He had faith that all would be fulfilled as it needed to be. May his faith strengthen ours.

If we read the signs and are sensitive to God’s way of operating we will have the necessary degree of faith, and hope.

We can see the dawn, if not yet the full light of day. Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, 21 June 2018

4th Sunday after Pentecost 17 Jun 2018 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 17.6.18 Co-creators with God

Our Lord delegates authority to His apostles. He brings forth a miracle to demonstrate His power. He does this to elicit from them a responsiveness to Him, a pattern which continues to our own time.

Our Lord could just drop food from heaven, ready-made, to save us the trouble of making it or gathering it. He did this for the Israelites, dropping manna from Heaven, but that was only a temporary move, not the norm.

Generally He gives us the way of creating or producing what we need. He provides the motivation and the wisdom; then we do our part. The combination of our labour with His power brings about the desired result.

Our cooperation is essential because unless we do our part, usually the result will not come.
If there is a poor man at my gate: I could pray that God provides the man some food, but clearly God would want me to give him the food myself.

It would be a lot easier for us if everything could be a miracle, but it is part of God's plan that we work with Him; to discover that we are stewards of His creation, or even co-creators with Him.

When it comes to spiritual work, we might protest that it will not succeed if we have to do it - for example, converting large numbers of people to faith. God could do that better than we could.

But He wants us to do it. In doing so we learn much, as we grow into the role.

We learn about spiritual realities which otherwise we might simply take for granted. We gain insights into God's mind and heart; we learn to see things as He does.

He asks us to act in His name, and to call upon His help. He will help us, but we will have to take some share of the work, and whatever suffering attends it.

We cannot do it on our own; we can and we must do it with His help.

Where does that leave us in the Church today? Faith is generally low, as is morale. Prayers are not made at all; or if they are made, it is often without much conviction.

The Church is supposed to be filled with disciples who are bubbling over with charity, generosity, and a desire to help; to be people of faith who expect their prayers to be heard, not in a demanding sense, but because they trust God's providence.

We pray for everything, large and small - conversion of sinners, forgiveness of sin, food for the hungry, peace for the war-torn. Whatever it is we bring it in prayer. We ask for it with great fervour. And it will come.

At the same time we never evade our responsibility to do what falls within our power to do.
We do not rely on miracles to do everything, but on the power of God to enable us to get things right.

We have to work, plant, build - a thousand different things, always with a recognition of God who makes it all possible, and seeking to please Him.

All this gets better with practice. We learn as we go.

It is part of our salvation to respond to God, and His promptings. We do not take Him for granted, or deny His power over us. We acknowledge totally His goodness, His generosity and our dependence on Him.

We grow in trust of Him. We welcome whatever He wants to tell us. Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening (I Kings (1 Samuel) 3,7-11)

In all things we obey exactly what He tells us to do. This is the formula for how to work a miracle! And how to make ordinary things run smoothly.

Friday, 15 June 2018

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 10 Jun 2018 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 10.6.18 Finding the Lost

Our Lord goes after the one who is lost. We have just celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This Sunday continues the same theme: that God has a burning desire to save the one who is lost.

If a family with several children goes on a picnic they would not leave one of the children behind at the end of the day.

Each child is valued, but on what basis? Not according to looks, or money or talent - simply because they are there, needing care.

So with the whole human race, as God looks upon it.
He will not leave without you; He will gather up all who let themselves be saved.

There are many people in the present world who feel very alone; their lives as meaningless; who have not coped in the race of life. It might be they are poor or homeless; or it might be that even if they are well off economically they lack connection with the society around them.

There is an abundance of suffering; is there any hope?

Yes, it is found in the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who offers to people what they crave for – a sense of purpose, of direction; a reassurance that all their sufferings are noticed and cared for.

He assures each person that they do belong to someone (to Him). And from that they belong to the Church, His Body. Everyone is important to God.

We can think of people as just an anonymous mass. Yet see any crowd of people, and Our Lord knows every one of them.

Everyone has a tale to tell. We know so little about each other’s burdens, yet we know the general idea because we share in the same humanity.

Our Lord challenges us to see past the outer appearance of each person to the great need within. We are to love all our neighbours, whether attractive or not, because (as with the children on the picnic) they simply need care.

Our Lord can do what we cannot. He can come to every person; fill the void.

For ourselves we must not feel as though we are on the scrapheap of life. Whatever our circumstances or status may be, we have this direct relationship with God.

I am a disciple, a child of God. The least are as important as the great as St Paul explains in 1 Co 12, 22-23 (the different parts of the body).

The Sacred Heart can also help those who are dying or have died. There especially is a great need for mercy. So many people die in sudden and violent ways; we entrust them to the infinite mercy of God, that they may find in the next life what they may not have found here.

It is a harsh world certainly, this ‘real world’ as it is called.

The true reality, however, is greatly softened by the mercy of God and His desire to save.

The world itself can be healed of its hurts, as more people turn to God for mercy.

There is a right way for self-esteem; not that of vanity or selfishness, but that which comes from a proper relationship with God. We value ourselves because we are valuable to Him.

Only if people take the spiritual view will they see the true perspective of their lives.

This has to be the right God and the right Saviour. It cannot be what passes for religion today, a vague desire to be nice to others.

To take the picnic example the child has to get on the right bus. We must deal with the same God who creates and sustains us.

Once we know Him we must make a very definite commitment to Him. The sheep that was lost has to allow itself to be found, and then conform to the ways of the flock.

So we make our way carefully and with hope, to our promised home in Heaven.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Thursday, 7 June 2018

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 3 Jun 2018 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 3.6.18 Real Presence

If Our Lord were to come again and walk the streets He would be very popular, at least insofar as people would welcome His healing miracles.

Yet, He tells us that He has not left us. He is with us always until the end of time (Mt 28,20).
And He will not leave us orphans (Jn 14,18). It is just that He is not visible now as He was then.

And visibility counts for a lot with us, as we very much rely on our senses to determine what is true or not; even when there are surer ways of knowing than sense experience.

His primary presence with us is in the Eucharist. There we have Him, body, blood, soul and divinity. He is as fully present in a consecrated host as if He were to walk into the Church.

We can believe this, and we do believe, yet we probably still would prefer Him in the other way, where we could touch the hem of His garments, or He could lay hands upon us.

But the sacramental way is what He chooses, and it must be the best way accordingly.

We could infer that He wants us to develop our faith in Him. We need to cultivate faith as a way of arriving at knowledge. To the point that I can say a thing is true, whether or not I can see it or explain it.

What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do (St Thomas Aquinas). We start with the revealed truth and then build our response around that; rather than starting with our feelings, and then checking whether revelation squares with them! People with limited perception and even more limited obedience then announce that they no longer believe.

We will perceive Our Lord if we come in the right way, which is the way of humility, docility, patience, submission and the like. Not too many questions, and no argument.

Thus we grow in faith, and having done that, we are then more likely to see miracles and have our prayers answered.

Perhaps the biggest miracle is when an otherwise doubting fearful complaining disciple can come to faith and take his place quietly in the ranks of believers.

Faith is worth more than physical healing, because it brings us closer to God’s inner life. But we might get the healing as well.

There have been many eucharistic miracles recorded. There would probably be a lot more if we had more faith. But then we would need the miracles less.

Others may go on doubting and mocking. It is up to us who do believe to atone for sins against the Eucharist; and, having been made stronger ourselves, to help others to believe.

Our Lord is challenging us to come to Him, and seek Him out; to submit our lives to Him so that He can do whatever He wants with us.

This is scary for us, but with growing trust it becomes easier.

He wants us to interact with Him. It may look like nothing is happening when a group of people are praying in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Is it nothing, or is it an intense exchange of ideas, of grace, of the motivating power of love, and the wisdom to apply that love in action?

The more people doing this, the more things are going to start moving. It is the same with prayer at Mass. We are not just sitting there, but interacting with God.

We are still so inexperienced at this. There is still so much reliance on the senses and the feelings, to overcome.

We let God be God, and take our places before Him, which is to be in humble worship.

It is all for our good that the Lord has set things up this way. It is a less direct approach than we would at first want, but it is good for us if we work with it.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.

Thursday, 31 May 2018

Trinity Sunday 27 May 2018 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 27.5.18 Knowledge of God

This feast gives us a chance to deepen our knowledge of God, to give Him a more specific focus.

Many are vague about God. They are not sure if God even exists or not, let alone the finer points.

To an extent He hides from us. He does this to induce us to search for Him.

We will not get onto His wavelength unless we are prepared to deal with Him on His terms.

He wants us to learn to be like Him, as in generous, humble, kind, forgiving etc. Meanwhile we are telling Him unless He works this or that miracle we will not believe in Him!

We have to learn absolute humility before God. We put no conditions or demands on Him.

We can ask for things, certainly, but in no sense do we hold Him to ransom.

If we would obey and do it His way we would have a much clearer notion of God than we otherwise have.

Many would believe He exists but would not trouble to find out anything about Him.

They see God more in the deistic sense, just someone out there somewhere… but no detail, nor do they think there needs to be.

This is not how it is meant to work. Yes, He is out there and a long way away, and no amount of distance or numbers can confine Him.

We talk of stars being bigger than another, or further away than another. God is bigger than all of them. He made them all. And the universe itself.

This could leave us with a sense of vagueness. We might be grateful, or admiring, but not feel the personal element.

Yet from another angle we know God is very personal. He cares about us in the most minute degree. He knows when a sparrow falls to the ground (Mt 10,29). He knows all our needs, our moods, our desires and hopes.

There is still a lot we do not know about Him, but it is not the ignorance caused by neglect.

We can keep the awareness of His absolute otherness to us, but at the same time a recognition of His intimacy with us; of His desire to do us good, to save us, to heal us, to bring us to eternal life.

It is an insult to Him if we are vague only through laziness, through never thinking of Him. We treat those we love better than that.

We do not always know what His will is, or what He is going to do next, but we can trust Him in every situation; and that much He expects from us.

We have a workable trusting relationship with Him, where we pray constantly through any sort of difficulty. I do not know how this is going to be solved but somehow He will sort it out.

This works for short and long term, personal and global problems. God is far bigger than any problem or situation.

His grace would work much more smoothly if more people obeyed and trusted.

Sin will obstruct the progress. It could be so easy if only enough would humble themselves.

God is not hiding Himself here; we have created our own darkness by sinning against Him.

The more we humble ourselves the more we will see into the inner nature of God, the three Persons and their mutual love. The beauty that we presently see is just a glimpse of much greater glory. Remove the sin, and the light gets brighter.

We are capable of knowing God, in a way most of His creation cannot. We have the privilege of being able to draw into conscious unity with Him.

Let us adore Him, as we draw closer to Him.

All glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.