Thursday, 20 July 2017

6th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Jul 2017 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 16.7.17 Multiplication

There are so many things to pray for. We could not even list all the situations that need prayer, let alone make the prayer. Even just one person, picked at random, would provide us many things to pray for, as every life has its dramas and crises.

Accordingly we can feel overwhelmed by the size and number of the problems we face, and give up before we start, as far as praying goes.

We feel with the apostles: How can we feed so many? And as to five loaves and two fish, what use is such a small amount of food?

Our own helplessness can work in our favour by forcing us to look elsewhere for solutions.
We look to God because only He can supply the power needed.

How much prayer is not made because of discouragement, or lack of faith? If that prayer had been made, who knows what would have been achieved? There is nothing to lose, at least.

When we pray for a person or situation we are handing over the five loaves of our faith and trusting in Our Lord to multiply that offering, making it abundant in its results.

Every prayer we make has implied in it another prayer: that what we pray will be taken to God by Our Mother Mary and the saints, and so made pleasing to Him.

Our prayer becomes more credible and our small offering becomes more formidable. Multiplied in its intensity the prayer will be more likely to make things happen.

Five loaves become thousands of loaves, enough to feed thousands - an image of the abundance of God, and His ability to make more from less, or something from nothing.

We should never allow discouragement to hinder our prayer. Rather we keep that prayer coming, day and night.

We bring what we have. There is much in the world we cannot control, but we can control our own attitude, our generosity of heart, our expectancy of God's help. These are things we can increase.

A lot of the situations we pray for involve the free will of other people, and that is a very hard thing to harness (even God finds that difficult!)  But I can at least bring my own free will to comply with God’s will, and that is the recipe for success.

Our prayer has to be constant, filled with faith and hope, and made from a pure and generous heart – all things which themselves need prayer. If we are serious, God will help us at all levels at once - our own personal disposition, and the actual things we pray for.

We pray for everything at once - large and small, spiritual and material. Simply that God’s goodness be evident everywhere.

We pray for big things, like salvation of souls – the dead, the dying, all who most need the mercy of God; conversion of sinners.
For physical needs, like freedom from war and disaster.
For everyday things, like finding the car keys, safe travel.

It is hard work, but life is short and in the context of eternity who can object to a little bit of exertion.

The scene of the Gospel is repeated a thousand times in our lives: we see a big problem and we do not see the solution.

We bring forth what we have (faith, hope, trust) and we let God work the miracle that is needed.

We remember to thank Him and make sure that each miracle goes into the stock of our memory for the next time we need faith.

With the apostles, we say: Lord, teach us to pray (Lk 11,1). And then, hear our prayer.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

5th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Jul 2017 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 9.7.17 Generosity

There is a general tone set in today’s readings, and many similar passages, that we (as disciples of Christ) should put in more than we take out; give more than we receive.

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  (Lk 6,32-34)

This is the whole nature of God Himself, in creating us; and then further, in saving us. He is giving more than He could ever receive from us.

To be His disciple we have to adopt the same pattern: we lend without expecting to receive back, we bless those who curse us (Rm 12,14); we go the extra mile for the sake of the other person (Mt 5,41). Above all, we forgive those who offend us (Mt 6,12).

This was the way Christ lived on earth, and the constant lesson He gives us who seek to follow Him. He came to serve, not to be served (Mk 10,45).

We are tempted to say that all this is too hard; and it is not fair either. If someone comes and robs me, and bashes me up, I am supposed to bless him?

Too hard it may seem at first, and many simply dismiss these teachings as poetic ideals.

But God does not command the impossible. The difficult maybe, but not the impossible

We can find our way into this by drawing upon the much greater love that God has given us. cf parable of unforgiving debtor (Mt 18,21-35).

I can forgive because God has forgiven me a lot more. I can love because God has loved me a lot more.

We draw the extra ‘fuel’ from Christ Himself, as we receive from Him in the sacraments, and through prayer. This is our daily nutrition. This is how we become strong enough to find such seemingly unlikely qualities.

At the same time we nourish our minds also. We keep at the forefront of our minds the teaching of Our Lord. We do not dismiss it as an impossible ideal. Nor do we just drift away from it, following worldly wisdom instead.

The world keeps religion for just a few ceremonial occasions, and then goes back to pursuing its own goals, without a thought for God.

It is our job, not only to live like this, but to show it to the world; to be a light on the hilltop (Mt 5,14).

We have become accustomed to the idea that the disciples of Christ are very different from Christ Himself. The disciples of Christ are a kind of mixture of the spiritual and the worldly, good and bad at different times.

This is what it has become, but not what is supposed to be.

We have to raise the standard; keep the vision where Christ Himself put it.

And then draw upon the grace and power of God to lift us to the required level. This will maintain in us the constant willingness to give rather than to receive.

As to our enemies, those who do not love us: we hope that the love of God will act on them and transform them. So enemies become friends.

We are ready to disperse God’s blessings generously. How can we be stingy with His gifts?
Why be envious because I am generous? (Mt 20,15)

Even if others do not change, there is great benefit for us to have these attitudes, to draw from the wellsprings of Christ. His charity nourishes and sanctifies us.

The blessings from Heaven are like rain - which falls anyway, not because of our efforts, but for our benefit. Grace is like that, with the difference that we can guarantee receiving it on request - which may not happen with rain.

May His blessings fall upon us now, as we call upon Him.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

4th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Jul 2017 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 2.7.17 Conversion

Peter is overawed. He sinks to the ground before the Lord. He is doing what we should all do. In every Mass we say Domine, non sum dignus.

It is true. None of us is worthy, even if we were sinless, because we are still so inferior to God.

We humble ourselves, primarily to glorify God. It is His goodness we are acknowledging, and how far He is above us.

As to us: we will never be worthy but we can go some way to be less unworthy, to give God the best we can give.

Grasping the goodness of God, we are more likely to behave according to His will; to behave not only in external compliance, but with an internal desire to please Him. Because we are so caught up in wonder, we do not, or would not, seek to overrule Him,

Some sort of revelation is required - a ‘Peter’ moment. Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man.
This is a moment of clearer than usual insight into the state of things. I have been doing the wrong thing, or been on the wrong track for a long time. Maybe I can come back.

This could happen in various ways. God has the whole universe and all its forces and processes at His disposal. He is an artist with many brushes and paints to call upon.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity. Wis 7, 25

A bad conscience is hard to live with, but it can be buried under a lot of transient experiences, and false gods.

The noise of our present society is partly to drown out the voice of conscience, and the voice of God. All the noise in the world, however, cannot avoid coming to terms with God at some point.

It is better to listen to Him than to try to hide from Him. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made. (Ps 145,9)

When we pray for conversion of sinners this is what we mean – that each person will have a moment of truth, a realization of his own nothingness, and the infinite goodness of God.

Then, when humbled enough, they will be ready to be filled with His grace and live a new life.

Post-conversion brings other problems. If we have been converted we have to keep working on our level of holiness.

We need to be always in a state of readiness, like a well-maintained vehicle that can be used at any moment.

There are so many points to consider, so many moral demands, and situations we meet.

There are so many ways to go wrong; but also so many opportunities for growth.

We may be going well in one area of our lives, not so well in another one.

We need to maintain an intensity of commitment, not giving way to discouragement.

Whenever we need encouragement we go back to the basics such as in today’s Gospel.

We recall God's power to do anything.

We recall His willingness to engage with us; indeed it is all for us in the first place.

Note that Peter requested Our Lord to leave, but He did not leave. Nor does He leave us.

He is prepared to stay, and work on the sinners! He hopes that each sinner can be turned into a saint. This was the whole idea of His coming in the first place.

We are continuously converted towards Him, growing in holiness; thus being more likely to draw others into the Church – fishers of men.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 25 Jun 2017 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 25.6.17 Mercy

The mercy of God is our foundation and security. We do not like having to ask for mercy all the time, but still we are glad it is there – like a safety net for the trapeze artists.

Even if we fall many times, He will forgive us ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18,22).

It is amazing that He perseveres with us. But this is His Sacred Heart, which burns like a furnace with love for man.

Or the Good Shepherd, who goes out to seek even one lost sheep, when others might write off the loss.

We are grateful to Our Lord for His mercy, and we resolve, with His grace, to amend our lives as needed.

We want also to make positive contributions as part of our atonement - to help save others, which we know is His great desire.

We must want what He wants, that other sheep be saved. The ninety-nine sheep should be rejoicing when the lost sheep returns. As should the older brother have rejoiced in the return of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15, 25-30).

The Sacred Heart burns with love for mankind. When it comes to us, it can be that the only ‘burning’ is that of anger against those who have offended us!

We know we are supposed to forgive others, but we can be very grudging on that point.

Not many would have a burning love for their neighbour, especially the neighbour who has offended us - but that is just where God is different. This is one of His mysteries, and one that really hits home to us, because we find it so difficult.

God is infinitely merciful, but we can be more interested in the claims of justice than mercy. We feel acutely any wrong others do to us, and we share the general rage against wrongdoers – murderers, terrorists, thieves, rapists etc.

God goes so much further and deeper than we do. We need to let more of His way sink in, and it will change us for the good.

We have just been asking (at Pentecost) the Holy Spirit to inflame our hearts. This is part of the process – that our hearts be inflamed with the merciful love of God, giving us a desire to forgive others.

It is easier to understand at the physical level. We are glad to help someone who is in some physical difficulty – trapped in a fire, fallen in the river etc. At such times a common humanity comes in, and we feel compassion for the one in need. We do not stop to consider: is this a good or a bad person? We simply want to help.

We just need to stretch that compassion to the moral sphere as well. We feel sorry for the sinner; sorry that he has taken whatever wrong turnings to get to where he is; anxious to help him back to the right path.

Seen in this light we have goodwill, after all, even for bad people, even those who offend us. We just want to rescue the one in need.

We draw warmth from the Sacred Heart.  Only He can open our hearts to the sort of charity to which He calls us. We are capable of it, because that is how we will be in Heaven. In Heaven no one ever has an uncharitable thought. We will be delighted to see our worst enemy there with us.

If that sounds unlikely just yet, it means we are not ready for Heaven. That is what Purgatory is for, to purify us of all wrong ways of thinking. We can begin the process in this life.

We are made in God's image; and through the sacraments we share His inner life. We cannot keep attitudes which are alien to Him, and still expect to live with Him.

We look for the good in people; we want to see them restored by God's mercy.

Meanwhile He wants it far more than we ever could. And we have to be grateful for that.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Sacred Heart feast

Mass on Friday 23rd June 2017, the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart will be at St Monica's Church 6.45am.
Holy Name Church will have Low Mass at 7am, and 6.30pm Sung Mass.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 18 Jun 2017 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 18.6.17 Eucharistic banquet

Think of some of the best meals you have ever had, and you can probably recall many good ones, with enticing food and drink, and a general feeling of coming away satisfied.

The Mass is often described as a Eucharistic Banquet. Today’s Gospel: God invites everyone. Many think they are too busy – too busy for the One who made the whole universe!

The Eucharist challenges us to believe beyond the power of our senses to detect. Our sense of sight cannot see the divinity within the consecrated Host. Our sense of taste cannot detect the wonder of this special food.

Yet we believe in faith that Holy Communion is a far more enriching meal than any earthly banquet. St Thomas Aquinas refers to it as: … the banquet where [the Father], with [His] Son and Holy Spirit, are true and perfect light, total fulfillment, everlasting joy, gladness without end, and perfect happiness to [His] saints. 

We could say of the earthly banquet that it will not make you a better person, whereas the Heavenly banquet will, if properly undertaken. One banquet will make you feel better; the other will make you actually better, as a person.

The Heavenly food will make us more at peace, and generally able to handle things in a better way. It will have a healing effect, transforming us, enabling us to overcome faults, to grow in virtues, to have a clearer understanding of everything relevant.

People will say: I can do all that from home. I don’t need the Eucharist, the Church etc. I can just think about my life, and decide to be a better person. But without the grace of the Heavenly food the human will power runs dry.

We are too bound-up with sinful patterns of thought and behaviour; too many bad habits and generally suffering from mediocrity in terms of doing God's will. Without much to inspire us we will fall flat.

Not every reception of Holy Communion will necessarily bring about change in the one receiving. A lot will depend on one’s disposition, level of faith, the desire for holiness, the recognition that change is possible. The more we want to benefit, the more likely it is to happen. We cultivate the spiritual hunger.

The satisfaction of a good dinner is immediate, but it wears off quickly. The satisfaction from Holy Communion is less obvious, but lasts a lot longer, insofar as it prepares us for eternity.

The Eucharist unlocks or enables many things. We can be in control of all our various emotions and desires. This is true freedom - not the freedom to do as we like, but freedom from slavery to disordered desires.

We are free to go anywhere or do anything the Lord directs. We can be content with poverty or plenty, full stomach or empty (Ph 4,12).

If we lack faith that can be supplied by the Eucharist. Come and be fed, and let the Lord work on us, and within us. If we are even half-interested He will show what is necessary and possible, and the changes will happen.

We will be cooperating, but most of the energy comes from God Himself.

Faith can be supplied, as can enthusiasm, and the ability to persevere. Just as food restores strength, so with spiritual food. This is why we must come repeatedly to this Banquet.

We come every Sunday (at least), and we come with the preparation to appreciate the more subtle workings of this Heavenly food.

This is the best place to be, offering the best food to be found anywhere!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Trinity Sunday 11 June 2017 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 11.6.17 Praising God

Who made the world? God made the world.

But who made God, the question sometimes follows. No one made God because He had no beginning. He always was.

Or, better to say that He exists outside of time and does not change. It was He who created time, with its past and future. For Himself there is no past or future; only an eternal Now.

This is hard to grasp, but no less true for that. Many falter on belief in God because they cannot understand His infinity, His eternity, and they settle for some view that they find more manageable – like saying there is no God at all; or forming a lesser god, such as an animal or something of one’s own making (eg golden calf, Ex 32).

Dealing with God we have to start with what He tells us, not what we tell Him! We have to deal with reality as it is, not how we might shape it.

So today we acknowledge our belief in God, and all He has revealed to us.

Today is God's own feast day, a day for reflection on His own self. On this day especially we give Him praise and thanks.

Our main purpose for existing is to know love and serve God. This we might find difficult: for one thing we are tempted to ignore God and go our own way. For another thing, even with the right intentions, we find it hard to hold concepts of God in our mind, being creatures who rely so much on what we can see, hear, touch etc.

We can work our way to the mysterious world of God through prayer, sacraments, and holy lives.

We have the liturgical worship of the Church to help us along because the Mass and Office and Adoration are direct praise of God. We do not have to rely only on what we can produce in our own minds.

God the Son, having human nature, helps us greatly because in that human nature He worships God also!

We are very small players here, being lifted to great heights, to which we could never ascend without God’s own help.

We are finite beings and we cannot hope to exhaust Infinity. It is sufficient if we can just get within His range (comparable to getting sunlight, without needing to go to the Sun).

We must avoid the temptation to skip the worship of God, and go straight into asking Him for things. He wants us to ask, but we should position ourselves correctly before we do that.

Yet while we honour Him for His infinite goodness, we can still claim His direct attention in our tiny lives.

He can be micro as well as macro.

We can talk to Him, without even needing a phone! But we must not forget His greatness and take Him for granted. We can be close but never disrespectful.

Our requests will come out of a proper perspective, humble and expectant, able to adapt to whatever He decides.

What He most wants from us is that we learn to love – firstly, to love Him, in awe of His wonders, and in gratitude for His goodness to us.

Then, to love one another, which is the natural consequence of a proper relationship with God.

Considering God as Trinity we gain some insight into His nature: that He is within Himself a community of Love.

We are striving to get everyone to love one another down here, but God does it perfectly.

There has never been a single argument in His own community. The Church on earth should be as harmonious as the life of the Trinity in Heaven. Obviously we have to do a lot more work on that point, but at least we know where we are headed.

It is an insult to God if we introduce discord into His perfect creation – We owe it to Him to get this right.

All glory be to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.