Thursday, 12 January 2017

The Holy Family 8 Jan 2017 Sermon

Holy Family 8.1.17 School of Love

God tells us to love one another, and to love our neighbour. Our neighbour is anyone with whom we come in contact, whether regularly or once only.

He knew we would find that command difficult so He gave us the family as a kind of training ground for growth in charity!

We can practise on those we see every day; learn to love them despite their faults; and try to make ourselves more agreeable to them despite our faults.

It is not so easy to love others as it sounds. Other things we try to be good at require practice. Cricketers practise in the nets and work on their technique. Musicians practise all the time. Every profession requires study and application.

Loving our neighbour requires practice too. We learn from where we went wrong… I shouldn’t have said that… I should have been more considerate… I should not have ignored that person etc etc.

These things are every day challenges and we all face them whether we live in a family or not, but the family setting is more intense because the members are thrust together.

If we are learning from all this - both the successes and the failures - we are on the way to becoming better Christians, growing in holiness.

Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Holy Family. It could seem to us that their holiness is way out of our reach.

Two members of the family never committed a single sin, and it is unlikely the third member committed many.

There never would have been an argument in that family. Is that a realistic model?

Well, to compare again with other things we do, we can gain crumbs from the table of the masters.

We will never play tennis like Federer or sing like Pavarotti, but we can learn at least some tips from them, and improve our performance.

This also works for the Holy Family. If every husband spoke to his wife like he was Joseph and she was Mary, how many arguments would that cut down? He will not be as good as Joseph but he will be better than he was.

And the same can be said for every other relationship: parent-child, child-parent, brother-sister, in laws as well.

We are in the business of improving, growing in holiness. We learn as we go.

Children are raised in families (ideally, according to God’s plan) so that they can mature spiritually as they mature physically and mentally.

They learn to give way to others (siblings especially); to share their possessions, to forgive injuries. They learn that the whole universe does not revolve around them; that they are part of a much larger family of people, God’s people in fact.

They also learn to obey lawful authority, beginning with their parents.

Family life - when it works - is the best formation, and this is why God established it.

All things should be done in love and in proper order, as the epistles of the New Testament will constantly teach.

Again, ideals are not usually reached, but we can gain crumbs from the table. We learn to make the best of whatever we have.

Many people are refined by the fire of unhappy family life and still turn out alright.

Many will repent afterwards for the damage they did in earlier life.

Lost ground can be made up.

If all else fails we must learn, as individuals, to love even if not loved in return. We have to pray for the conversion and salvation of every person, however unlikely we might feel it to be.

And, always looking to ourselves, removing the plank from our own eye first. Always self-reflection is required.

The family teaches us when it works, and when it does not. We can see what should have happened even if it did not. We will get it more right each time - with the grace of God and the prayer of Mary and Joseph.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Octave Day of Christmas 1 Jan 2017 Sermon

Octave Day of Christmas 1.1.17 Remembering

Last night, New Year’s Eve, many people would have spent the time in drinking and general dissipation, trying to forget their sorrows.

It is one way to approach reality - trying to forget it, or avoid it.

There is a better way, however. Instead of trying to forget, or drugging ourselves against reality, why not take it head on, armed with the grace of God, and subdue it, make it work for us?

This is what the Church is doing through the liturgical year – claiming all time for God, and reminding us of how He has used it for His purposes. He is the Alpha and the Omega.

We don't need to forget; we need to remember - remember His mercies to us so far, and His future promises. We need to fill all time - every hour, every day - with the grace of God; so that whatever happens will be according to His will, and His kingdom be more fully present in the world.

Time is sometimes seen as an impersonal thing that rolls on regardless, and takes us in its course, like it or not. It is true that it will advance without our consent, but it is also true that we can get the better of it, by claiming it for God’s purposes.

It is not so much how long we have as how well we use it. Think of the many saints in our Church history. A lot of them died young, either through martyrdom or sickness. Yet they achieved so much in their short time on earth.

The intensity of their love was the key. They used the short time they had for God’s purposes.

And Mary - whose role we especially honour at this time - she gave every moment to God.

Her story did not begin at the Annunciation. She had already prepared herself for future glory by being in a constant state of union with God.

She may have been surprised to learn that she was to be the Mother of God, but she was ready for it insofar as she was already totally available to do His will.

And so should we be available. Our time is His time.

We always hope that the new year will be better than the old one, better than all the old ones.

We can go a long way towards making it so.

We can make it better than any previous year by increasing our own personal availability to do the will of God; by asking Him to take control of every moment that awaits us in the future.

What makes a year ‘good’ anyway? We might have better health; more money; more success at various ventures – but, following the example of Mary and the saints – are we doing the will of God or not? That is what makes any period of time ‘good’ – if it was used for what God intended.

‘Years’ are not put there for our own amusement; they are the backdrop of God’s saving plan unfolding in the world. Time is for Salvation. Time enables people who do not know God to come to knowledge of Him; for people who have drifted from Him to come back to Him.

Any use of time that does not fit in with that overall objective is a waste.

This is a long way from the view that time is something to be buried under a kind of unconsciousness.

It is better if we are fully conscious, always alert and aware of the presence of God. Even if we do not know what will happen next, we can make sure we are ready for whatever it is -

by giving every moment of time back to Him.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Christmas Day 2016 Sermon

Christmas Day 2016 Peace

We associate Christmas with Peace, a time of good wishes, of rest from the usual toil and trouble, hopefully of reconciliation where there has been any sort of enmity.

While we have this peaceful and pleasant image on one side, we brace ourselves for the ‘negative’ side of Christmas, the violence, the discord which is with us all the time, but seems worse at Christmas.

We can be tempted to lose hope that any improvement in the state of this world is possible; to say that Christmas enables us to want peace, but not to have it.

We must not give up. It is all real, and true. It just takes a certain amount of work to translate what we see at Bethlehem to the rest of life.

It begins with contemplation. We contemplate the crib scene. This is a major point of meeting between Heaven and earth; this is the beginning of peace. Everyone needs to visit the Crib, at least in spirit, to let the peace of Christ begin its work.

His peace will come over us gradually. Do we not hear at every Mass - the peace of the Lord be with you (Pax domini sit semper vobiscum)? And ‘Agnus Dei… dona nobis pacem’?

These are prayers that the presence of Christ will take hold of our lives.

We do not lose our individuality, but discover it all the more, as we shed all that is false, and come to our true identity in Christ.

We can hear the words distractedly, without realizing their magnitude. It is quite a business to be transformed by the Peace of Christ, involving a lot of re-thinking, changing of attitudes, replacing pride with humility, selfishness with generosity, self-pity with forgiveness etc etc.

These faults and defects have accumulated over the years. It takes more than one Christmas or one ‘Peace of the Lord’ to fix it. There has to be a constant application of prayer and sacrament to get the full effect.

Christmas can at least get us started. It awakens in us a sense that we really ought to get this right.

We can envisage a much better world than the one we have, and it is not so far out of our reach as we might think.

At Christmas we express our highest ideals, and we are likely to be on our best behaviour.

From this point we can move on: we have two paths – of cynicism, with no change, or a real hope to achieve genuine holiness.

We can control our own response. We cannot stop other people fighting and massacring each other.

But we can let the Peace of Christ take root in our own lives, and this will make it more likely that others will follow.

Our combined prayer with the whole Church, including in Heaven and Purgatory, can help bring about change for the better, at least with individual conversions. If enough people change, the structures of evil will change too.

Generally the world still does not see the relevance of Christ’s coming, and all that could mean for them.

So they deny and ignore, and even supress it, much to their own cost. They are like Herod trying to protect what they have, when they would do far better to trade in for what they could have.

We, for our part, do the opposite. We welcome the Christ Child; we contemplate Him; we pray to Him, we learn from Him, we seek His influence in every part of our lives. So His Peace (and all related qualities) will be in us.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas and Octave Mass times

Mass times over Christmas

Times for Latin Masses over the Christmas period are the same as they normally are; but just to make sure here is each day listed: 

Sun 25 Dec 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh
Mon 26 Dec 8am St Monica's
Tue 27 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 28 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Thu 29 Dec 8am St Monica's
Fri 30 Dec St Monica's
Sat 31 Dec 8am St Monica's
Sun 1 Jan 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh

Christmas greetings and blessings to all!

4th Sunday of Advent 18 Dec 2016 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 18.12.16 Humanity of Christ

We are about to celebrate another Christmas. It could come and go without much thought.
But let us give it some thought, and connect with the real meaning of the feast.

It will give due honour to God, and be of great spiritual benefit to ourselves if we do explore further.

Christmas is the celebration of God-becoming-Man, no less than that! And in a world of surprising things, nothing could be more surprising than for that to happen.

Our Lord could have come down from Heaven, as an adult, fully formed, and ready for action. He could have gone straight to work in saving the world, performing miracles, teaching the way of holiness, forgiving sin, and finally dying and rising.

Instead He chose a much longer and slower way of achieving His ultimate goal.

He really did take on human nature. Some heretics have suggested that He only appeared to be human. The Gospel makes clear that He came from the line of His ancestors, and was born of the Virgin Mary, taking flesh from her.

He went through conception, birth, boyhood, thus showing deep identification with our human condition. He showed by this that He was healing humanity in all its stages.

He is human, in fact more human than we are, as in stronger and better.

We use ‘human’ as a synonym for weakness (I’m only human), but it can be seen as strength, as it was in His case.

We may be weak but we should not use that as a convenient excuse for wrongdoing. With a little more backbone, and with the help of divine grace, we could actually be much stronger, spiritually speaking.

The humanity of Jesus was perfect in every way, and thus becomes the inspiration for us to imitate.

Having become human He raises the standard, and then conveys whatever we are willing to receive from His perfect humanity.

He teaches, inspires, empowers us to act as He would act – if not in working miracles, at least in holiness of living.

Things will never be the same once He has come. Sadly they have been the same for many, because they have not absorbed the lesson. This is what happens to people who think Christmas is only eating and drinking!

It is no small thing that God would join us on such terms. We should never take it for granted.

Sin has blinded us; the devil has deceived us. We have another chance, another Christmas to break into the light. We have a way out of the valley of darkness, as we soar to higher things.

We declare ourselves willing to be lifted to higher things, no longer using our humanity as an excuse, but rather as a stepping stone to progress.

Each generation has to work this out and make it their own. Can we get it more right than previous generations?

There is no reason why we cannot. It just takes focus, and the graces will come. We are not condemned to stay the same as we always have been.

In the making of a film the same scene can be done again and again until it comes right. It would be handy to have that in real life. If we say the wrong thing, for example, we can cut that scene and start again!

We do have something of this effect in the cyclical nature of the year. We can get this Christmas more right than any previous one – by getting to the heart of the feast, joining our humanity to that of Christ.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

3rd Sunday of Advent 11 Dec 2016 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 11.12.16 Joy

We hear of people who have won the lottery but they do not know it. They have the ticket but they have not checked the result. Everyone has to go looking for them.

These people, we could say, are happy, but they do not know their good fortune. They are rich but they do not know how rich they are.

We could say a similar thing in regard to those who have the faith, who possess God – it may be they also do not know how rich they are.

This is more complicated than the lottery situation because there it is just a matter of telling people they have won, but with faith there are many more factors involved.

We see how difficult it is to convert people to belief in God; and even when people do have faith it is hard to interest them to go deeper into the matter.

The winner of the lottery is happy, but why is he happy?  Well, now he hopes to have an easier life, less work, more fun, security, even power.

What can the knowledge of Christ give in comparison to that? HOW to live! Money will open doors to us, but will not impart any wisdom. Knowledge of Christ will teach us what our life is for; its purpose; the way towards attaining that purpose. It will teach us how to rise above merely materialistic and short-term goals, and how to be anchored in a more spiritual view of life.

The happiness of belonging to Christ – because it is so deep – usually comes upon us more gradually. It permeates our whole life, enabling us to bring all our thoughts, words, deeds, attitudes, ambitions under the same objective – to grow in love of God and achieve eternal life.

It enables us to grow in understanding of God’s ways, so that we come to want what He wants, and trust His will ahead of our own. This is a lifetime project because we find it very hard to surrender our will, but it is possible.

We no longer hide from God, but instead seek Him out.

We might be envious of the man who has the lottery ticket. But we are just as fortunate as he is - more so if he does not have faith - because we have the treasure worth selling everything else to obtain (Mt 13,44).

Very few people win lotteries, but the joy of knowing Christ is available to everyone.
Everyone has the ‘winning ticket’ somewhere nearby. It is just a matter of finding it – finding the right way to see reality; then to translate that into everyday life.

We are told to rejoice (epistle); now we see why. We must be happy if we possess the source of all happiness.

What about all the things that go wrong?

The same St Paul, who tells us to rejoice in Ph 4, also describes how much he suffers: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Co 4,8-9)

The joy goes deeper than the suffering. The joy is eternal, the sufferings are temporary.
The joy is as permanent as God Himself. The joy links with the whole central purpose of our lives; the sufferings are distractions. The joy is the picnic; the suffering is just the ants at the picnic.

On Gaudete Sunday, we express how happy we are - even if we did not know it - and in expressing we come to know it.

There is enough for everyone in this case. We lose nothing if others have the same prize (knowledge of Christ); in fact we benefit even more in that case.

The joy is always going to win out. The knowledge of Christ makes all else seem small.

Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ (Ph 3,8).

Thursday, 8 December 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent 4 Dec 2016 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 4.12.16 Challenge

The Bad News is… that we have to make a response to the Good News. We have to exert ourselves a little.

The Good News is that we can be set free from our sins, and begin the path to eternal life, where the weight of eternal glory far outweighs anything we suffer in this life (cf 2 Co 4,17).

So anything we suffer is more than worth it, in the long run. In any case we do not mind a little difficulty. We have within us a certain desire to overcome challenges – just look at all the things people do for amusement: climb mountains, swim oceans, run long distances….

This desire for challenge must have been in those people who flocked to hear St John the Baptist in the desert; even though he was going to tell them they were sinners who needed to change their ways.

They knew the message would be a hard one, but something in them made them want to hear it. Even Herod, evil as he was, liked to hear John speak (Mk 6,20).

People today go on pilgrimages, travelling far to get a taste of something beyond the normal daily routine; some contact with the divine, which will lift them to higher things.

We honour those who set a higher standard. We do not put up a statue for someone who always pampered himself. We honour those who make some kind of sacrifice for the good of others – such people as the saints.

We may not at present have the courage or the charity to imitate them, but we know we are at least attracted to what they did.

We can identify two challenges: one to uproot sin from our own lives - no easy matter, after a lifetime of pleasing ourselves!

The other is to overcome whatever obstacles we find when it comes to spreading the faith - the fact that true disciples will always be persecuted, for example.

Some things are true, but dangerous to say, like, Do not commit adultery, or Do not kill babies. This battle between truth and falsehood, light and dark, has been in every place and time.

Can we face these challenges? It is not so different from what we do in every other area of life. Those with extra talent or drive will rise to higher positions – in business, in politics, in sport.

If you are the one of the best tennis players in the world you will play other people who are also the best. There is no point playing someone who is too easy to beat.

Somehow this does not translate to following Christ. People are happy to make sacrifices in other areas of life; but when it comes to the moral law they want it easy.

They clamour for the law to make things easier – even members of the Church can do this, acting very unlike John the Baptist.

They want to lower the bar, instead of training to jump higher.

God is calling us, through John the Baptist, to respond to His invitation to greatness, to rise to the occasion, to personal holiness; and to whatever follows from that.

Thus to make the Church more robust - not like those who wear soft clothes and are found in palaces (Gospel).

The real bad news would be if there were nothing better than this life. Many people think this is the case, and seek all their happiness here. We are very fortunate that it is otherwise, and grateful for it.

That makes it good news, and worth a little trouble to bring to public knowledge!