Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Last Sunday after Pentecost 23.11.08 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 23.11.08 Taking the sting out of death.

The last Sunday. Everything has an end. Endings can be sad, sometimes glad, like a bad film or speech. Or school.

Either way things must end. Fortunately people do not end entirely, just change addresses – from earth to Heaven, preferably.

Death is a great separator of people, but does not have the final word. Life is changed not ended.

We are familiar with death insofar as we know it must happen; and we have experienced the death of others.

For all that it is an extraordinary adventure we are not familiar with. We say, Prepare for it, but we do not know the first thing about it in many ways. So we need lots of encouragement and reassurance. Is there a way to overcome the fear of death?

What is it we fear? Several things.
The pain of dying
Facing judgment
Leaving behind those we love
The general unknown of the whole thing.

What is the remedy for all these fears? Well, the sting of death is sin.

It is sin which makes death as frightening as it is.

If we could get rid of the sin death would have no sting and we would approach it without fear.

Or to put it another way – Getting rid of sin is the same as coming into closer union with Christ.

Sin is whatever divides us from Christ. As we draw closer to Him the sin evaporates. He forgives it, removes it, and gives us grace not to sin again.

Thus we do not fear pain because we do that only when we are too preoccupied with ourselves. Union with Christ frees us to think about others not just self.
We do not fear judgment because we are close to Him and in a state of grace. Thus our salvation is assured.

We do not fear leaving people and things behind because we entrust everyone and everything to Him.
Develop the spiritual instinct and we do not cling so much to the material. The only reason we cling to this life is that we have not familiarised ourselves enough with the spiritual dimension. It is all very shadowy and distant to us, but it need not be.

We do not fear the unknown because it is known to Him and we trust Him to carry us through as He has done in every other part of our lives.

The crucial thing at all times is get rid of the sin. Confess it, repent it, stamp it out, break the bad habits, and in its place will come a new peace and serenity.

Some prefer not to talk about death. That is their way of coping.

Others cope by stressing the certainty of heaven, and they do mean certain. Everyone goes there!

We cope by making sure we are in union with Jesus Christ, the one essential quality which will carry us to Heaven.

And we can look forward to Heaven. We cannot imagine Heaven clearly but it is no less real for that. It is one happy ending that can be guaranteed. There is a lot to be looked forward to in death if we get it right.

In any case it is inevitable so we have to face it somehow. Why not with the full light of faith and hope?

One more fear: Is it a lonely thing to die? In one sense, yes, because each dies alone. No one can go with us. But people from Heaven can accompany us, and they do. Not least Our Lord Himself; the One who is to judge us is already with us.

The Last Sunday, but not the end of us. No Last Sunday for us because we will live forever!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Mass times

Presently I am offering Holy Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville (Adelaide)at the following times:

Sun 8am
Mon 8am
Tue 6.45am
Wed 8am
Thu 8am
Fri 6.45am
Sat 8am

Any changes will be notified through this blogsite.

Thanks for support

Thanks to all who have expressed support for me in these recent weeks. It has been very encouraging to receive the prayers and good wishes of so many. The important thing is I am still celebrating the TLM every day. Deo Gratias.
Keeping all of you in my prayers.

Monday, 17 November 2008

27th Sunday after Pentecost 16.11.08 Sermon

27th Sunday after Pentecost (Readings from 6th Sunday after Epiphany) 16.11.08 Slow growth

Trees are not the only things that grow slowly. People grow slowly too. A baby starts out very small and might end up over 6 feet tall. It takes a long time and if we stared hard at the person we would not see him getting taller. Yet it happens. And so with the Church which the tree in the parable represents. It grows somehow despite the tremendous opposition it has faced ever since the beginning.

Only by the miraculous intervention of God’s grace can this have happened. Despite all the empires and regimes trying to suppress us; despite huge internal tensions; despite the dullness of the average member of the Church – yet through all that we still exist and we have every hope of getting bigger and better.

We do not see this steady growth; we can only compare one time with another and see the difference.

However, while it is nice to be able to talk about a billion Catholics, and we can really turn out a crowd sometimes we know there is another kind of growth that needs to happen. - a growth in holiness.

This is something that does not happen automatically like physical growth. We grow in holiness only if we want to do that and are prepared to work towards it.
Holiness does not grow on trees we might say.

Most people who go to Confession would find they confess the same sins each time. This is natural insofar as we tend to fall in the areas where we are weakest.

But it is also frustrating that we cannot shake off these persistent sins and bad habits.
We would love to be free of sin altogether and often say that we will not sin again; yet sin we do.

How can we grasp this elusive holiness and make real and lasting progress, once and for all clearing the weeds from our souls and turning them into beautiful gardens?

We can work on two fronts – the general and the particular.

The general front is that we renounce sin in principle whenever and as often as we can – such as in Acts of Contrition, Acts of Consecration, every time we receive Holy Communion (at least implicitly we renounce sin). ‘I will not sin again’, with Your help, we hastily add.

But the principle is clear. If we could avoid all sin just by saying so, we would. It is important to make this affirmation to keep the proper focus in view. In this way we come to mean those words a little more fervently each time we say them.

The particular front is that we take each bad habit we have and work on it to reduce its hold on us.
If we lose our temper six times a day, then cut that down to five. It is progress. One sin less is a great thing. If every one in the world committed one less sin a day that would be six billion sins a day, and 2190 billion sins a year!

We might be weak but we do not have to be hopeless. Our hope is in Christ and He is the source of all holiness. If we come to Him for mercy we must also expect strength. He does not forgive us just to go and do the same thing again. He fortifies us with grace; He makes us stronger and better people, so we do not fall into the same traps.

This takes time, but first we have to understand what is happening. Combining the general detestation of sin with the particular measures to avoid this or that sin, we will make progress and we will grow spiritually to great heights. As invididuals grow so does the Church.

Better to have a thousand saints than a million mediocres, but why not have a million saints?
No reason why not. If trees can do it, so can we. We may not notice the change but we will be better people after one year or any other measure of time.

May the Lord give us growth.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica 9 Nov 08 Sermon

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica 9.11.08

This feast tells us of Unity and Universality.

Unity: if there were only one Catholic church in the whole world we would all be crowding to get into it. Many would have to wait outside but the convergence of so many would be evident. Who are all these people trying to crowd into one place?

Today’s feast of the Cathedral church of Rome reminds us of the centripetal force of Catholicism. We are all drawn to the central identity with Christ, and thus with the Church which He has founded.

If we express allegiance to Christ we must go to where He is found, and this is most fully in His eucharistic presence in any Catholic church, but for symbolic reasons even more so in a cathedral, and the cathedral of Rome more so still.

We might answer the call to follow Christ as individuals but having done so we are automatically and necessarily integrated with each other. We might say at first, well, I don’t need anyone else if I have Christ, but if we have Him we also must have each other.

We gather in the one place. For practical purposes we must be separated by space and time, but all in union with Him are also in union with each other, forming the Body of Christ, the Church.

Centripetal force: how can we resist the call to follow Him, to come to Him, to be healed, forgiven, nourished, formed into all we are meant to be, both individually and communally?

Belonging to and identifying with the Church is just one more stage of our progress towards Him. Curious that people could think they can have union with Him but not with His Body. To have the Head but not the Body of which He is the Head.

So many today say they believe in Jesus but not the Church. Or they make it sound as though Jesus is all love and compassion whereas the Church is harsh and authoritarian. But the Church is simply the presence of Jesus in the world. The Church says or does nothing other than Jesus would say or do.

Granted there are human frailties with the Church and the connection is often blurred, but in principle we cannot separate Christ from His own body. As to the faults of the Church, well, we set about correcting them. The Church is ever in need of purification, but not in need of being closed down.

So we come to Rome. We come to this one church, one Church, and discover as well as express our unity.

Having made the trip the next thing is to be sent back home! Having been nurtured and nourished, what does our Head tell us to do but go out and baptize all nations, to bring all the distant ends of the earth to unity with Him. A centrifugal force going out to bring everyone back in.

This is Universality. The Church is based in Rome but is not meant to be confined there. Sometimes people say ‘Roman Catholics’ as a way of restricting us to one particular group, one denomination, one among many others.

This cannot be. We are simply THE Church, not one among many, not just a listing in the phone book, but the ONLY Church. Every other church or group is in some way an offshoot of the one true Church.

The Church is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic. Catholic meaning Universal, covering the whole world. One meaning there is and can only be one. Apostolic means sent out to convert whoever does not yet know full union with Christ. And Holy meaning the only way we can hope to convert people, as well as being an end in itself.

We come in to go out. We go out to bring in. One God, one People, one flock, one Shepherd. Head and Body together, one Church. May God preserve and increase that which He has begun.

25th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Nov 08 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost (Readings 4th S after Epiphany) 2.11.08 Confirmation

We are all like a boat on the water. Some just setting out, some nearly finished, others somewhere in the middle.

A boat is vulnerable, not only physically but in our case, spiritually. We might succumb to the snares of the devil.

When we pray, Deliver us from evil, it is mostly sin we mean. That is the worst evil, far worse than physical harm.

But we trust that The Lord is in our boat, and He may appear to be asleep but He never is. We trust that He will act on our behalf.

A lot of problems are more complex than just a physical rescue.

We tend to focus on the short term, but we pray also for a whole lifetime. Lord, save me from drowning (ever).

Some medicines or drugs are slow working. We could say the grace of Confirmation is like this. It is a sacrament we receive only once yet its effects are calculated to last a liftetime.

To be 12 year old. What lies ahead? Life is full of surprises, a mixture of joy and sorrow. A fairly sure guarantee there will be turbulence ahead, some surging waves.

But we entrust to the Lord. This sacrament, will be there in the background, making things happen, delivering me from evil.

A lot of people have been confirmed and lost the faith, left the Church. We might say the sacrament was wasted in their case. Not necessarily. The slow acting medicine might still be operating on them, and steering them into better waters.

Our prayer for the current candidates is that they stay on course through all weathers.
No need to wander off and come back; just stay on course. Set sail for eternity.

As we pray for them we can reclaim this sacrament – those who have received it. The seven gifts:
Wisdom and Counsel: to be so close to God we judge actions correctly.
Understanding and Knowledge: to value all things correctly, knowing what to value and discard
Fortitude to hold firm in a very difficult or hostile environment
Piety to live a holy life in an unholy world
Fear of the Lord to know that God is God and is everything and never ceases to be so.

By slow-acting I do not mean to imply there is anything slow on the Holy Spirit’s part. The slowness comes from our sinful condition, and also just from the fact that we live in time. We cannot have all our grace at once. The problems we face at 50 are different from those we face at 15. The same Holy Spirit will be there for us at both ages.

So the distribution of graces is steady over a lifetime. Any slowness caused by our own spiritual dullness can be accelerated by more fervent prayer. A lot of the time we are in low gear as far as spiritual intensity is concerned. We can put our foot down a little bit and simply ask for more grace. It will come.

We can ask to win the lottery and we probably will not. But if we ask for more wisdom, fortitude etc we will receive them. God wants to complete us spiritually. He does not like to leave things half-finished.

So we find ourselves all out there on the water, trying to get to the other side. It is not so hard, but it is not hard to get into trouble either. We pray for each other that God bring each boat home;
that we keep Him there in the boat, and never doubt. Fear the Lord but nothing else.
We keep encouraging each other until we all get there.