Wednesday, 31 December 2008

New Year times

There will be two hours of prayer to ask God's blessings on the new year on Wednesday 31st Dec at Holy Name Church, Stepney: from 10pm to 12 midnight. We will end with Benediction and also pray the Te Deum and the Veni Creator.

Mass at St Monica's Walkerville at 8am on New Year's Day.

Every blessing for the New Year to all!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 28 Dec 2008 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 28.12.08 Identifying with Christ

Today we mark the feast of the Holy Innocents. Recalling also St Stephen from just two days ago, we have a reminder of the blood that has been shed in relation to our salvation.

In the Christmas octave we celebrate the joyful news of Christ’s coming but we are reminded of the great quantity of blood which has been shed to get that good news through to the human race.

It is good that there are people who love God enough to die for Him, but tragic there are people on hand ready to kill them.

It just shows how far we have to go before salvation takes complete hold of the world.

Christ came to live with us and to die for us.

It was necessary that He die to show the extent of His love and also because there were those willing to kill Him.

Good that He came; good that He had enough love to overcome the evil.

Celebrating Christmas for us becomes:
on the one hand we thank Him for coming. A straightforward Alleluia for joy.

On the other hand, and much harder, we need to reach a point where we would be willing to die for Him.

How did you celebrate Christmas means not where did you have dinner, what did you do, but to what extent did you die to self this Christmas? To what extent did you take on the intent of the Christ child who came to die for us?

St Stephen identified fully with Christ, shown by his willingness to die, and in forgiving his killers.

The Holy Innocents were killed for their identification with Christ. They were mistaken for Him. Could anyone mistake you or me for Christ? If not we are not doing our job!

Tragic that so many do not know Him, that He came as Saviour and people do not even want to be saved. The people that lived in darkness are largely still in it!

It just shows how deep-rooted evil is, and how hard to dislodge. But Christ is stronger and will prevail. He needs serious disciples to help.

Part of the victory process is that He works on individuals like you and me and transforms us to be able to understand what He has done.

If we can be grateful for His coming, and then willing to find out what we can do to help, then He has established serious and useful disciples whom He can use in His service.

Gazing at Him in the crib and then at Him on the cross really becomes part of the same process. We are identifying with Him in His willingness to be with us and to die for us.

We find Him in His birth and death, and find Him not just like a picture on the wall that we can look at, but something that moves us to participate.

As to those who reject the message, Salvation becomes a process of shifting the would-be killers to would-be victims. Are we willing to die or willing to kill? There is a big difference between the two.

It is easier to kill the messenger than to heed the message, but it leads to a lot more trouble.

It is necessary for a complete evangelisation that we stress the sacrificial nature of Christ’s coming. He was not just a do-gooder as many seem to maintain. He did not come just to ‘help’ people, or to give nice teachings. He came to lay down His life, and this was to shift the mountain of evil which had become established.

Christmas is joyful but it is joy mixed in with sorrow and hard work. Sorrow for the evil that still remains; hard work to shift that evil. It can be done if we are prepared to die with Christ.

Christmas 2008 Sermon

Christmas Day 2008

We sometimes receive a shock – normally we would think of a shock as a bad thing, such as an accident, or a piece of bad news.

On the other hand we can receive a shock of joy, for example the Resurrection. Imagine how downcast the disciples were and then how suddenly and joyfully surprised to find Jesus risen again.

Christmas is another shock along those lines.

Consider the shepherds. What were they doing when the angels appeared? Just minding their sheep, minding their own business.

Suddenly angels appear. That would be enough of a shock in itself, let alone the message -
Over there in the town the saviour is born.

We tend to sink back into mundane, low expectations. We could say that Christmas forces us to rejoice.

It is possible to reduce Christmas to routine procedures and practices. We go to Midnight Mass, and then to lunch at such-and-such a place.

We can do those things, but we should search for the deeper meaning of it all.

We are often warned about impending crises in the world: lack of food, water, oil, air etc.
And we should do something about said pending disaster. We can put things off. Yeh, yeh, I must do something about that one day.

Christmas is the opposite in a way. We are being told about something wonderfully good. Again ‘we should do something about it’. And again we might put it off year after year.

We can ignore Christmas like we ignore the warnings; sink back into the lifestyle we know. We can say to the angels: Not today, thank you. Don’t interrupt me; I am busy doing what I always do.

Christ has entered the world; has He entered your world? What are you celebrating?

If there had been a grumpy shepherd among the others he might have said, I don’t want to go to Bethlehem, I will just stay here with my flock. He would have to be talked into going.

People can be like that. Inertia ... Just leave me alone.

Christmas can be shrunk into the familiar pattern of the rest of the year. More of the same.

It can easily be divested of any religious significance. Or even if one is religiously inclined it is still easy to avoid personal commitment. But the Saviour demands a response.

So the message confronts us: this night a Saviour has been born for you.

What must we do?
The first thing is just to believe that such good news is possible.
The second thing is to respond to it.
The third thing is to keep responding to it the rest of our lives.

The Saviour can save us only if we are agreeable to being saved; only if we give Him some space to get inside us and change things.

So we let ourselves be shocked with good news. We have enough of nasty shocks. This burst of joy is enough to counteract all bad news and even to make bad news disappear altogether.

And the angel said to them: Fear not; for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, that shall be to all the people: For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord, in the city of David.

The angel is talking to us: the Saviour is ours.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Happy Christmas

I wish all readers a Happy and Holy Christmas. I will be taking part in the Midnight Mass at Holy Name and then offering Mass at St Monica's Walkerville at 8am on Christmas morning.
May the joy of the feast give us all a sense of new life!

4th Sunday of Advent 21 Dec 2008 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 21.12.08 Sharing God’s nature

We are often told one way or another that we should behave well, that we should be good and do good.

Fine, but then we can feel discouraged by the difficulty of being good all the time, as it is an all-the-time proposition. The obligation to be good is always present. The commandments apply always and in every place.

So we can sink into a kind of resignation that we are never going to be good enough and settle for a mediocre rate of return on the spiritual life. This is clearly not what God intended for us.

What He intended is very different. When God took on human nature He joined divinity with humanity. He was bridging the gap between the two natures, not so much to lower Himself to our level as to raise us to His own.

He became human so we could become divine. We are not God; we are not gods; but we do share in the nature of God; we participate in His divine nature.

New age religion talks of the god within each of us and encourages us to reach our full potential. The trouble is that kind of ‘god’ is largely egotistical and could lead to monstrous self-absorption.

The ‘God’ within us is the Blessed Trinity. We claim He is within us but He is also in a lot of other places, so we do not think we have a monopoly on Him.

We are ‘godlike’ in so far as we maintain humility and due balance between all our rights and obligations.

False gods often have the faults of the human race attributed to them – such as jealousy, desire for revenge, lust.

The true God has no weakness or blemish. His most clearly defining characteristic is Love. With that go humility, generosity, ability to sacrifice Himself for the good of others.

If we are to be like Him, to share His nature, we must also show forth these qualities.

This gets back to the obligation to be good at all times and places, which we find so difficult. Is there a way forward?

Yes, the key is that when divinity was joined to humanity then it worked the other way as well and humanity was joined to divinity.

This means that we have received extra strength to fulfil the demands of the moral law. We are being told to be good, not as a kind of impossible task way beyond our strength, but as something we can take in our stride given that we can think and act like God Himself.

Did Jesus commit sins all day long? No, never, not even one sin. How did He do it? Because He was divine He did not feel inclined to sin. Sin was alien to Him and He rejected it totally.

The more we share in Jesus’ nature, the more fully He dwells in us, the less inclined we will be to sin, or the more inclined to do good at all times.

It is ‘second nature’ we could say. And to demonstrate how it works, we have the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was fully possessed of God from the moment of her conception and so always did good and was good.

She did not sin because she did not want to, and was immune to the devil’s normal methods.

She helps us as we prepare for Christmas to be more like she was. There is a way forward for us and we should take it.

It is itself a deception of the devil that we cannot keep God’s commandments. He wants to keep us at a very low level of expectation, so we do not aim high.

God, however, wants us to aim very high, not as something beyond us, but to realize that He has lifted us up, and we are capable of much more than we thought.

Still humble, we claim a share in divinity and we live accordingly.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

3rd Sunday of Advent 14 Dec 2008 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 14.12.08 Order in the house

We all want to be happy. The US Declaration of Independence puts the pursuit of happiness down as a basic right.

C.S. Lewis says on the other hand that we have no right to be happy. If happiness comes it is a by-product of other things, such as doing our duty, but it is not a right as such. He is right.

It might sound very stodgy on our part and the Church is often accused of being a killjoy, yet we indeed want people to be happy. It’s just a matter of how one pursues it.

Right or not everyone does try to be happy, even if we are being faithful to our duty.

The wrong way to try to be happy is to disobey God. Look at Adam and Eve. The forbidden fruit. The oldest story in the world. The fruit looked good to eat, so they ate it. And regretted it very quickly.

Sin is snatching at something, trying to get happiness but it always brings grief. Sweet in the mouth but leads to stomach ache. Not everything that looks appealing is a sin, fortunately, but we do have to look beyond appearances.

Take the long view. Sights set on eternity. Not stop anywhere short of that.

The temptation is always there to lurch along from one short term pleasure to another. Many seem to do that. ‘Take each day as it comes’ can be a good philosophy but if there is no overall purpose it will mean we just do whatever presents itself, and will commit all sorts of excesses and sins. Like driving a car without a steering wheel.

But if we are regulated by God’s law we avoid excesses and keep the overall balance between everything.

This is the recipe for happiness. It might sound boring but we are like the tree by the water’s edge (cf Ps 1; Jer 15) whose leaves are green all year round.

And there is still a lot of room for spontaneity. (Then was I beside him as his craftsman, and I was his delight day by day, Playing before him all the while, playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men. (Prov 8,30-31)) If within the bounds we can do all sorts of creative and happy things. If we are in union with God we are truly happy, joyful. There is a general sense of wellbeing and we do a lot of good. Seek first the kingdom of God.

But the snatch and grab approach is a disaster – short term happiness but long term misery. Look at all the disorder in our world. It all comes from snatching and grabbing. Pursuing happiness down blind alleys.

Today we reflect on the reasons for our joy. In Advent time the main reason is that Christ is coming. His presence must increase our level of happiness, provided we are in union with Him.

We look to the long term. We see that in the short term nothing this world has to offer can make us perfectly happy. (Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.
Yet the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever. 1 Jn 2,15-17) They can keep us going for a while, and make life less tedious, but we see that these things are never going to be enough.

It is not just that life must end, and time runs out. That is one factor. But the problem lies deeper than that. Even if we lived for ever in this earthly life we would not possess the fulness of joy that is promised us in heaven.

Pleasurable things and experiences give short term happiness but only God can fill the void that is in us – purposely put there by Him.

We look at the long term. Leave the forbidden fruit on the tree and you win the whole garden!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

2nd Sunday of Advent 7 Dec 2008 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 7.12.08 Signs of salvation

‘Go and tell John what you have seen and heard’. What they had seen and heard were signs of salvation, reminders of God’s goodness. Do you believe in God, someone asked me during the week? Well, I could have answered that many ways, but one answer is there are too many signs of His presence not to believe. Look at the beauty of the world. Beauty must come from somewhere – there has to be a source.

One only needs to hear the first drop of rain to know the drought is over; the first rays of dawn to know the day is coming; the whistle to know the train is coming.

Salvation is more complicated. Yet it must come; it is coming insofar as the first signs have been evident around us. Not only what Jesus did, but the saints, and what happens at Lourdes etc.

Read the signs. We often say that by way of warning, as in ‘Get ready for the end’.
There is another side to reading the signs: the certainty that from one blessing there are other blessings to follow.

Many are of a gloomy disposition, sobered by disappointment, finding it hard to hope for anything much better than we have now.

We notice good things happening and are grateful for them but fail to put two and two together.

If we had time to write a book we could compile all healing miracles on record and it would be a very large book. We hear about healings but they seem so isolated we do not get really excited about it.

But even if one miracle happens it is like the train whistle – there must be a Source of miracle behind it, and other miracles to come. Even one miracle proves this.

We fail to follow the logic through because a lot of bad things happen too. and when that happens we say, Where is God, and start beating that drum. But one miracle is enough to prove that God means well towards us and has the power to carry it through.

No doubt we would see a lot more miracles if there were a greater obedience in the world.
Jesus directs, Go back and tell, to prove there is Salvation in the world. A lot of work to be done, but the principle is established.

Let’s make more miracles happen by concerted belief, no more doubt, no more arguing.
The bad is only what comes in when we don’t take advantage of the good. Let the good overwhelm the bad.

Those who do read the signs have an obligation to announce the coming of the better reality to everyone else.

This is our position in the Church. They laugh at us for believing these things, but we must tell them anyway.

It is harder to work miracles in an unbelieving world. Perhaps the first miracle is to keep our own faith! To be able to believe the day is coming when we have seen the dawn – of course it must be coming – but harder to believe if most others do not.

So we learn to hold on to the signs that come from heaven and not the scorn that comes from man.

Scorn costs the human race a lot, leaving it oblivious both to the wrath and the bounty of God, and losing out in both directions.

For our part we return to simplicity – simply read the signs. See all the goodness around and deduce from that the goodness of the Lord. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
This is not demanding on the intelligence; only on the will.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

1st Sunday of Advent 30 Nov 08 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 30.11.08 When will these things happen?

People sometimes scoff at the apparent inaction of heaven on delivering some of the prophesied events. This scoffing effect was predicted by St Peter: ‘Know this first of all, that in the last days scoffers will come (to) scoff, living according to their own desires and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? From the time when our ancestors fell asleep, everything has remained as it was from the beginning of creation." (2 P 3:3-4)
He then offers the well-known reminder ‘that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day. The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard "delay," but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2P 2:8-9)

And the crowd scoffed at Our Lord as He hung upon the Cross because He appeared to be unable to respond. The quieter He was the more bold they became in their taunts. He could have demolished them with a look but He chose to remain inactive at that point.

People gain confidence when their sins go unpunished, and they commit bigger and better sins.

But history shows that God can store up His punishments and other communications. Both reward and punishment are delayed as we act out the human drama.

Just because He does not send lightning every time someone sins does not mean He is not offended.

Just because He lets evil have an apparent free hand for a time does not mean He is powerless to intervene.

The same applies to rewards, and to the righting of injustices in general.

People do good deeds without any apparent reward and they might wonder why they bother.
But here also God can wait, and Our Lord speaks of storing up treasure in heaven. The less reward we receive here the more there.

The same for punishment; it is stored up. No lightning yet, but watch out when the day of reckoning comes.

The same principle gives us heart in relation to injustices committed. In the movies the villain is either caught or killed and the innocent are set right in this life, all in the space of two hours.

In real life the resolution may not come so speedily. The good are often killed, their bodies dumped somewhere, and the evildoers seem to get away with it for a time. How many millions have been massacred, or enslaved or generally mistreated? Where is God, the cry goes up.

He is in Heaven, well aware of what is going on, and He misses nothing. He hears the cry of the poor, the widow and orphan. He will set things right, but it may not be in this life. He never said it would be, and we should not demand it.

We see that our limited perspective on time is a problem for us with regards to good, evil, and justice in general. We want quick answers otherwise we start to lose faith and wander off course.

The call of Advent is to put us back in the right time perspective. Think in centuries not days. Think in eternity, which is beyond time. Think of God who is all just, good, wise and is not likely to be defeated by demonic or human cunning.

We make the same mistake as the people taunting Our Lord when we conclude that God is inactive or uninterested.

We do not know exactly what He will do, or how, or when, but we do know He will redress every sin and injustice ever committed; He will reward the good and punish the bad. He will have the last laugh, we could say.

So we must be patient, and we must be good. Patient with God to fulfil His plans, good in storing up treasure for ourselves, atoning for injustices as far as we can.

There is some good news for evildoers: there is an escape route. We don’t have to wait around to be clobbered for our sins; we can simply confess them and we will be free. Advent is also a call to repentance. Use the time while there still is time.