Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27 Dec 2009 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27.12.09 Christ to be born in our time

Sometimes in films or plays the Virgin Mary is portrayed as giving birth to the Christ Child with the normal labour pains associated with birth. This, however, cannot be correct as the Church has always understood that the birth of Jesus was painless to Mary. He passed through her flesh like sunlight through glass, or as He later passed through the wall of the tomb.

Mary was spared this particular suffering but she suffered a great deal later on in her role as Mother of all disciples of Our Lord: Woman, this is your son. To bring children to birth in faith is harder than bringing them to birth in ordinary life, and requires a great deal of sacrifice and suffering.

Mary’s future suffering was foreshadowed by Simeon in today’s Gospel: a sword shall pierce your soul. She would suffer to see her Son suffer. Then she would suffer to see Him rejected and despised even in future generations. She who can see so clearly that He should be honoured suffers all the more when He is dishonoured.

So we think of Mary in these Christmas days, that it was not all joy for her. Certainly in Bethlehem on the night of the birth it was unrestrained joy, but the shadow of suffering lurked close by.

This closeness of joy and suffering we express in the Church’s liturgical calendar where Christmas Day is followed quickly by the feasts of St Stephen and the Holy Innocents, a reminder of the red of suffering staining the pure white of joy.

Christ has been born, but we could say He still is waiting to be born in the hearts of men. He has come to the earth but has not yet penetrated the hearts of the people. Not until they accept Him fully can Our Lord be said to have come to birth fully.

On this line of thought we could say that we, as the Church, suffer the pain of childbirth as we try to bring all our sons and daughters to the fulness of faith. How we suffer when we lose one of our children to worldliness; or when we find it so hard to bring one outside the fold inside. How much resistance of every kind there is to the simple truth that God is our Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour.

What do we mean by penetrating the hearts of people?

At the end of the Second World War people on the allied side were very jubilant, dancing in the streets, hugging complete strangers, so relieved were they that the terrible destruction had stopped.

I do not suppose those people in that moment of joy would have expected that the war just finished was the last war there would ever be. They were just glad for at least a reprieve for a time. Human nature was still the same and there would be always danger of war while people were subject to greed, hate, anger and the like.

There needs to be a change of heart. Christ must be born in each person’s heart so that these sinful qualities can be removed. When we pray for peace it is not just absence of war we seek, but absence of malice. Not just the putting away of weapons but the burying of all grudges. When we reach this extra level of change we can say that Christ has penetrated our hearts.

Mary loved totally and so made herself vulnerable to whatever happened to her Son. If she had been hard and indifferent to Him she would have suffered less, but would be less helpful to us.

Her great love becomes a channel by which her children (including us) can learn love instead of hate. In this she is our Mother. She brings us to birth. The more our hearts are purified of sin the more alive we become; the more Our Lord can be said to be born in our midst.

Mass time for New Year's Day

Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville, will be at 8am on Friday 1st Jan 2010, instead of the usual time of 6.45am. All other times will be as normal.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas times

Christmas Day Mass times for the Traditional Latin Mass in Adelaide:

St Monica's, Walkerville: Christmas Day 8am

Holy Name, St Peters: Midnight, 7am and 9.15am

The weekday Masses at St Monica's will continue as normal:except on Friday 1st January, Mass will be at 8am instead of the usual 6.45am

Happy and Holy Christmas to all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

4th Sunday of Advent 20 Dec 2009 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 20.12.09 Change for Christmas

Keep Christ in Christmas is a common saying we hear; Christmas is about Him. But not just as a passive figure to be admired or adored but to be met, to be engaged with. He comes to meet us and from each of us He asks a response: What do I mean to you? Who do you say I am?

It is so easy to see Christmas in routine terms. Just dinners, parties, socializing, travelling perhaps. This can apply to both the believers and unbelievers, with the only difference being that believers go to church as well!

There may be routines associated with Christmas and that is fine, but we have to go deeper. Christmas is an encounter with Christ. And whenever we encounter Him it means something is likely to change in us, or at least should change.

Am I as fully His disciple as I need to be, and if not what must I change to be so? Am I obeying His commands; am I putting Him first, seeking to do His will in my state of life?
Or am I trying to keep my own ways with just the trappings of religion?

What do I need to change? If we were out robbing banks it would be easy to identify. But if there is nothing obviously wrong what is there to change?
There are lots of less obvious things: we might be jealous of someone, resentful, vain, lazy about prayer, or many other things, not obvious to the world or even oneself but which indicate a lack of passion for Christ. We can only work on these things with daily application and bouncing back stronger each time we fail. Refine the finer points.

John the Baptist: make straight His ways. This is the only show in town. Everything else is either preparation for it or distraction from it. Christ is everything and our response to Him is everything.

He was ignored enough the first time without our providing an encore in our time.

So each of us decides here and now that we are going to give Our Lord the greatest welcome ever. What about the others? All those people out there - so few will see Christmas in this light, nor for that matter any other part of the year. How can we reach them? By the fulness of our conviction.

If the non-churchgoers see that the churchgoers are just like them, with only church attendance being the difference, then they have a point. We must show them something better.

We must take up our cross; this is what it means to be transformed as His disciples.

When we do meet Him really full-on this is what will happen to us. We will be made like Him. We will be like Him in wanting to give our lives for others.

Giving life requires death. The seed must die to become wheat; a mother sometimes dies in giving birth; Christ dies to give us life; disciples die to make other disciples.

Taking Christmas seriously means we would be willing to give of ourselves for the salvation of others, whatever that might mean in actual detail.

Usually it will mean just everyday patience and kindness, not getting easily upset, not holding grudges, just being humble and generous in all directions.

Every person must make his own path to this conclusion. It is a long way from a worldly lifestyle to true discipleship. If too worldly one will not see the need to change, let alone want to. But the wanting and the achieving are in the power of Christ Himself to give – to any who are prepared to meet Him as He really is.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent 13 Dec 2009 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 13.12.09 Find the time

One of the difficulties of the Advent season is that we are surrounded by Christmas celebrations. From a liturgical point of view Christmas comes too soon by far in the world around us. We really should celebrate Christmas after 25th December, not before.

If we can abstract from all the busy-ness and focus on what really counts then the Advent time should be for us a chance to appreciate the true wonder of Christmas.

This wonder comes in two main statements: that God became man and dwelt among us; and that He did this because of His great mercy whereby He wants to forgive all our sins despite our unworthiness.

These are two well-known and much-repeated facts and we may be somewhat dulled in our appreciation of them because we have heard them so often.

But just pretend you are hearing them for the first time. God is becoming Man. We would never believe this if it were a future event instead of a past one, but there it is; it has happened already.

Consider that the same God who made the universe and holds it in being, the greatest of all kings or emperors, far more important than any earthly celebrity – that same God is willing to take a personal interest in someone like you or me.

Earthly rulers do not do that. Presidents, and Prime Ministers are not likely to ring me up to ask how I am going! But God, King of heaven and earth, far more important than any other king or queen is following my every move with interest.

Can we believe that? We should: it is no more than part of our everyday faith, yet if we allow ourselves to be impressed by it as a fresh revelation we discover some of the wonder of Christmas.

And as for the Mercy: imagine any other person allowing us to offend him again and again, even every day; how long would such a person remain on friendly terms? Yet here is God, willing to take us back no matter how many times we offend Him. This is astounding; we need to take time out to realize how fortunate we are that He is like that.

He could wipe us all out if He wanted to, and strictly speaking that is what we deserve. But we get something far better than we deserve.

So He dwells among us and He forgives us - two impressive facts to wrestle with in the Advent season.

Unless we find time and space to reflect on these things we will not appreciate Christmas. It will be just a round of drinking and eating and socializing; pleasant enough as far as it goes, but not getting to the heart of the matter.

We must seek the Child, like the wise men. We must make an effort to find Him, and when found, to keep Him.

How do we find Him when, as mentioned, there is so much bustle around us, making prayer the least likely thing to be happening?

We must pray as much as we can, depending on each one’s circumstances. Force time for it; give up something else, anything else. Whatever it is it cannot be as important as prayer.

Then also, find God in the world. He makes Himself known in many different ways. We can see His beauty in His creation and His will in the unfolding of our lives.

St Paul exhorts us to joy. When we give enough time to the matter we see he is right. We do have much to be joyful about - eternal life to come; His providential guidance in this life; His glory all around.

We will experience this joy only if we let it sink in; only if we give it enough time to become a part of our lives. Can we find the time?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

2nd Sunday of Advent 6 Dec 2009 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 6.12.09

‘What did you go out to see’, Our Lord asks the people. It was not someone soft and comfortable who would make you feel good.

John the Baptist is an awe-inspiring figure for his absolute commitment to the task. He is not the most popular saint because of his severity, yet there is something very admirable about him for his refusal to yield to anyone in any direction, in life or death.

We admire people like that and wish we were like them, or maybe we don’t wish it, but we should!

To be uncompromising with evil. We compromise with a lot of things that go on in the world. There is so much evil around, and we are powerless to stop a lot of it from happening. If we look deeper we may have more power than we realized.

Always people will be telling us not to worry, to relax. The temptation to compromise is very strong but sometimes we have to make a stand even if we die in the effort. (St John Baptist, St Thomas More, all the martyrs, and of course Our Lord Himself... just about every martyr has probably had someone say at some point: Is your cause sufficient to give up your life? Would it not be better to save your life and fight another day? Yet the sacrifices they made have changed history).

Granted we cannot take on the whole world all at once. There are so many fronts on which the battle can be fought and no one person could deal with all of them. But progress is possible.

First, of course, one has to avoid joining in with the sin of the world. If we cannot stop others sinning we can at least not sin ourselves. This alone is a major task. Only with an abundance of prayer and sacraments, and studied application, can we be strong enough to avoid sin, at least in its worst forms.

Second, we can consider our own individual place in God’s scheme of things. Each of us has a different place in the Body of Christ; different gifts; different limitations. If we could harness the power of the Holy Spirit and let His gifts develop in us then we can be powerful contributors to the good of the Church, and thus the world.

We may not be John the Baptists but there is a lot of power in aggregates, all of us putting in our ‘five loaves and two fish’.

Third, there is the importance of being zealous: coming to love what is right and good for its own sake, for God’s sake. The saints had this in abundance. It was nurtured through their communion with God. They were zealous for the Lord, jealous for His honour.

Fourth, if all else fails at the very least we will be atoning for the sin that is going on. There is value in reparation for sins committed. Sometimes we can do no more, but it is something in itself. In reparation we express the love for God that the sinner has failed to show. God is consoled by that, and spiritual power is obtained. (This is the main point of the death of Christ)

We don’t always know what to do in the fight against evil. Even in one’s own family there are likely to be people doing something wrong. Do you tell them, or let them go and just pray? Or a bit of both? It is hard to say, but the closer we come to God the more likely we are to come up with the right answer. Live the truth, speak the truth, act the truth and good effects must follow.

Many people don’t even try to be holy, or do not go far enough. So the Church is very lukewarm in many places and the evils run riot.

Consider that a quarter of all Australians are Catholic but how little we influence the surrounding culture. In other countries the great majority of the population is Catholic but you would never know it.

How far can we go? We don’t know, but further is needed.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

1st Sunday of Advent 29 Nov 2009 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 29.11.09 Recognition of God

He came to His own and they knew Him not... sad words from the beginning of St John’s Gospel. In the beginning was the word and the word was God. One would think that if God came to the world He would be recognized, but apparently not.

Stranger still, if He came again after the first time He is still not recognized!

Our Lord comes to the world every day in the Eucharist and also in others ways, acting in response to prayer, absolving sin, seeking out the lost sheep – yet in all these activities He is largely ignored or denied by the human race.

The season of Advent is a time for us to Recognize Christ, to give Him due attention, to ensure that at least those of us who call ourselves His disciples will give the honour, worship, obedience and trust that should be given by everyone in the world.

Why is He so little regarded? Because the first time He came it was in humility, and humility is not the world’s favourite quality. If He had come as a great warrior, or miracle-worker it would have been different.

As it was when He worked miracles people would flock to Him but they cooled off when He gave hard teachings, or when He claimed to be God, which was seen as going beyond reasonable limits (even though true).

In the face of this general rejection we have the promise/threat of His second coming, which unlike the first will be very spectacular and obvious, and will leave no possibility of being ignored.

But by then it will be too late for repentance, and evildoers can expect only punishment at that stage.

God does not want to catch people unawares. He wants everyone to come to recognition of Him and repentance of sins before that final stage.

This is why so much of His word is directed towards eliciting repentance and warning us of what will happen if we do not.

Sometimes we wonder why God does not make Himself more obvious to the world. Given that many people do not believe in Him and many others who believe do not take Him very seriously, why can we not have more miracles, more obvious signs of His presence?

Our Lord, when He was on earth, pointed out that certain people wanted only signs and wonders, and always needed proof. As He said to St Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

If God made Himself too ‘obvious’ it would take away the element of free will which is so much at the basis of our human nature.

Thus He ‘hides’ Himself to some extent in this earthy pilgrimage. He is found by those who seek; He is recognized by the poor in spirit, by those who can humble themselves. But He is rejected with scorn by the proud and mighty of this world, the Herods and the Pharisees, the false intellectuals and the self-sufficient (or those who think they are sufficient).

God may not work signs and wonders to order, but it is a miracle when a proud person humbles himself to accept the truth – a miracle of conversion.

Our Lord asks us to read the signs of the times. When you see clouds you know it is going to rain. When you see your life falling apart or realize how empty it is then you know you need something else. That ‘something else’ is faith and a life of obedience to God. You will never be happy without it.

So when we realize this we come into voluntary submission to God; we become His disciples, and begin to give Him due recognition.

Advent is a trumpet call to the world: Here He is, Behold Your God; do not ignore Him any longer. Enough damage has been done. Come right with Him before another day goes by.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22 Nov 2009 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22.11.09 What really counts

We have just had a reprieve from euthanasia in our state. This is a great relief as we know that euthanasia is a totally immoral process and is based on a godless understanding of life and death.

One of the arguments put forward for euthanasia is that people cannot bear to watch a loved one die slowly. It seems so cruel to see a person lose more and more of what they had during life and be reduced to almost nothing.

Granted, a strong emotional argument, but is there more to that process of losing everything?

In the Bible we often find that people have things taken from them, and it is usually to teach them to have more dependence on God. The Israelites lost Jerusalem and were taken into exile because of persistent disobedience to God. At other times they lost their crops through lack of rain, or through punishing hordes of insects. God, at such times, was not rejecting them but calling them back to faith in Himself.

Put not your trust in money, food, other people, having big walls around your city. It can all be taken away from you in an instant and it is not where to look for help. Only in God do we find the security we crave for.

So the process of dying is another way that God reminds us of the futility of clinging to earthly things. He forces us to give back to Him what He has given us. The power of sight, hearing, taste, mobility, memory. We are stripped of everything eventually. It is not pleasant to think about, but if we put it in terms of going back to the One who created us it makes a lot more sense.

Into Thy hands I commend my spirit. The words of submission of Our Lord become our words also.

And like the holy man, Job, everything will be restored to us in greater quantity, though not in this life.

Such sentiments are important for us on this the Last Sunday of the Church year when faced with another ‘end’ we consider also the end of our lives, the end of our world as we know it.

These things must come and will not be improved by trying to ignore them.

So how do we get ready for death and/or the end of the world?

By making a habit of giving everything back to God in acts of thanksgiving and trust. By reminding ourselves constantly of our dependence on Him; reminding ourselves that it is His world and only He can bring it to its proper conclusion.

When something is taken from us we face a critical choice. Do we allow ourselves to become bitter with God and turn away from Him? Or do we take the lesson and give thanks for whatever it was that has gone, and then say: but I still possess God and that is far more important.

It is not easy to be deprived of things but we can train ourselves to see that God and His kingdom is all that really matters.
As he came forth naked from his mother's womb, so shall he return, and shall take nothing away with him of his labour.(Ecclesiastes 5,15) We cannot take these other things with us.

At the end of our lives only one thing matters: are we or are we not in union with God (in a state of grace)?

If yes, then we have everything; if no, then we have nothing.

Are you with God or against Him? All our preaching and praying and striving are for the purpose of attaining union with God, and increasing that union.

We do not count what we lose when we stand to gain so much.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

24th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Nov 2009 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost 15.11.09 The Church (Readings: 6th Sunday after Epiphany)

When Our Lord established the Church He never meant that the Church would just blend in with the surrounding society, becoming a part of it only, even less a part which people would be free to reject or ignore.

What He meant was that the Church would take over the whole world, and that everyone in the world would be in the Church.

In practice because people largely ignore or reject the truth of the Gospel, the Church is seen as an option and even a despised option. Even the people who choose the Church are deceived by what happens. They come to accept as normal the view that the church is just part of the world. One even hears prayers asking that the Church would take its place as part of the world community and work with all other people of good will to establish peace, justice and the like...Lord, hear us!

In this view we are just one little group that does things while a lot of other people do other things and we pitch in with them. We can indeed work with others sometimes, for example on relieving poverty. But it is unthinkable that we can let people see the Church as a sort of club which you might or might not join.

In fact the Church permeates the whole of reality, like the leaven in the bread, or like the tree that is so big its branches cover the whole world Or like Mount Zion the tallest mountain, to which the smaller mountains look and to which all people hasten.

As Christ is King of all, so His kingdom, embodied in the Church, stretches to all corners of the earth – not only geographically, but culturally, morally, in authority and practice.

In advertising the line is always: there is no other hotel you would stay, no other car you would drive, no other drink you would drink... besides this one.
We say this too: there is no other body you could dream of belonging to in preference to the Church. We are not just the best but the only. There is no real choice.

This is the Body of Christ; there is no other place you will find Him like here. You will find aspects of Him elsewhere but even those things will only lead you back here.

(We are not saying the people are better but the place is better, so we are not guilty of arrogance here.)

Think of the apostles and how they preached. They did not preach that they had come to listen, or dialogue, but to offer something they possessed – faith in Jesus Christ. Only in this name can you be healed and saved. There is no other Name.

At times we can cooperate with ‘people of goodwill’. But many times we are right against the public opinion on abortion, euthanasia, homosexual ‘marriage’, sexual morality, the reality of hell and judgment, the need to confess sins etc. It is up to them to agree with us. It takes a lot of courage for a minority to say to the majority, You are wrong. They will laugh at us and even kill us. They have already.

It is tempting to say instead, Isn’t it wonderful to live in a country that allows everyone to have different views?

We must be against the tide, unapologetic. Christ cannot be put under a bushel, cannot be diluted, and must not be.

We proclaim Him to the world but first to ourselves. Many Catholics do not believe more than a fraction of the content of our faith nor have any intention of spreading the faith to others. A huge amount of catechising and evangelising in our own Church is needed, let alone the whole world.

Despite the considerable limitations of Catholics as people, the Church has grown to great size and endured. That is the miraculous element at work. We must live up to the privilege of being in this special place and not disgrace Our Lord by selling Him short to the world.

Monday, 9 November 2009

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 8 Nov 2009

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 8.11.09 Faith

The woman touches the hem of Our Lord’s garment and is instantly healed. Not all prayer is so successful or answered so quickly. What can we learn from this?

We can discern that there is a kind of inverse proportion between the level of faith of the one praying and the number of words used. If our faith is strong enough the lightest touch is enough to reach Almighty God and receive whatever He is willing to give.

The more we believe the less song and dance we need.
It is not how many words we use or how many gestures we make but the depth of our faith.

Our Lord did say, Do not use many words when you pray, and then proceeded to teach us the Our Father, a prayer which is very succinct but also very deep.

Using very few words is not to be confused with making very little prayer, whereby a person with little or no faith makes little or no prayer. Indeed they do not use many words but that is because they do not expect anything to come from the prayer.

If we should pray with few words then what are we to make of such lengthy prayers as the Rosary or of events such as prayer vigils when many words are said? And even the Mass contains many words.

Our Lord once referred to a particular demon as being more difficult than usual to remove. He said that for such a kind much prayer and fasting is required.

Sometimes longer prayer is required, not because we lack faith, but because the mountain that needs to be moved is bigger. It takes more prayer to convert a sinner, for example, than to produce fine weather for the parish picnic.

Our Lord Himself found it necessary to pray all night sometimes.

We do not repeat ourselves out of doubt but for emphasis! If we say the same words over and over again, as in the Rosary, it is not because we doubt their truth but because we want to emphasize them. Like a lover saying, I love you, again and again. We are making a triumphal expression of the goodness of God. Hallowed be Thy name, Hail Mary full of grace, Glory to the Blessed Trinity... in affirming these things to be true our faith grows stronger.

We want to fill every moment with the confidence that comes from our knowledge of God’s goodness.

And we want to make His love cover as far across the world as we can make it go. Every time we repeat the affirmations of His goodness His power goes out to someone somewhere.

The best of both worlds – strong faith (like the woman who touched His garment) combined with a desire to make that faith cover every possible need.

The key to both the short and the long of it is closeness to God. The closer we are to Him the more effortlessly we can express the substance of our prayer; also the more we perdure in a state of prayer, not just a moment here or there. Our prayer is constant rather than episodic.

We need to be strong in faith to the point that our prayer flows smoothly. We do not pray only when the brakes fail or we feel the earth trembling and think there might be an earthquake! We nurture a closeness to Almighty God such that we are able to speak to Him without fuss and panic. We do not approach Him as strangers but as His children.

Re Mass times

There will be no Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville this coming Wednesday 11th Nov and Thursday 12th Nov. All other times will be as normal.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Feast of All Saints 1 Nov 2009 Sermon

Feast of All Saints 1.11.09 Beatitude – good and happy

There are two very common statements we make about Heaven:
One is, You will be very happy in heaven. The other is, You have to be good to get to heaven.

Goodness and happiness are connected; they eventually converge on the same point.

We are happy in heaven because we will be dwelling with God, and thus drawing in the fullness of life, as alive as we can possibly be; as much as possible being what we are meant to be. Fulfilment.

But to get to heaven, we have to be good. Meaning that we have to be in union with God, living in such a way that we have the life of God operating in us.

The way to get to heaven is to live like you are already there!

We are not as happy here as there, but everything else is the same. The only difference is that here we have suffering, various distractions and purifications. These things are preparing us to go there forever.

Those in heaven worship God, thank Him, trust Him, submit to Him, love one another, and pray for those in need.

These are all things we are supposed to do on earth and the more we do them the happier we are; and furthermore these things give us the surest way of getting to heaven.

On earth we have a foretaste of heaven. The best way to enjoy yourself on earth is not to sin, as some would suggest, but to obey God in all things.

Beatitudes: Blessed are those... ‘Blessed’ means both happy and good.

They are happy because they are good. Good because they are happy (insofar as in union with God).

The closer one is to God the happier and the more likely to behave in the right way.

All saints: Saints come in different degrees of holiness. Most are not canonized. They were just ordinary, average - like us.

You can get to heaven without being the best; you just have to be good (enough). But we should strive for excellence.

Today we are celebrating ordinariness (rightly understood).

At the very least we seek union with God, to be in a state of grace, so that we will be there on the last day, among the blessed.

Reflect that a lot of the ‘All Saints’ are people just like you. They have battled through the same sort of things as you are going through. Maybe they had a difficult marriage; maybe they had very little money; maybe they had trouble passing exams; maybe they struggled with depression; maybe they were bullied by someone; maybe they had doubts about their faith...

Think about the day you die and then 50 years later still. People will read your tombstone and see some basic information, but they will not understand all you went through. Just as we do not understand what they went through – those who have gone before us.

It is comforting to know we are all in the same boat. We can encourage each other to get at least the minimum right. Just hold on till you die... not much to ask. Of course you can do more, but at least do that much.

Our religion works better if you pitch in, not just dabbling around the edges, keeping God at arm’s length.

Our Lord is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the reward and the way to the reward.

He makes us happy and He makes us good – with all the chorus of the saints we rejoice in Him.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Feast of Christ the King 25 Oct 2009 Sermon

Feast of Christ the King 25.10.09

The most recognizable symbol of Our Lord’s life is the Crucifix. It may seem strange to call someone hanging on a Cross the King of the whole universe. It is not just that He rose again from the dead. We could say, Sure He was crucified but that was only a temporary setback. No, we go out of our way to emphasize the Cross; we make it the centre of our whole religion.

On the Cross Our Lord demonstrates His self-giving love. It is this love which defines in what way He is the King. My kingdom is not of this world, Our Lord told Pilate. In allowing Himself to be crucified He acted unlike other kings, who usually assert their power by putting other people to death, but not themselves.

He sets the tone for the rest of us, who would be His disciples. If we are to belong to this Kingdom we also must be prepared to serve others, even to the point of laying down our lives.

The Kingdom of God is not so much a place as a way of life. When we pray Thy Kingdom come, we are praying that we and others live in the way of humility and service. The Kingdom ‘comes’ when I and a lot of other people take God seriously enough to obey and worship Him.

By His life and death Our Lord was teaching us something, but He was also establishing a new way of life. He was not just ‘giving a lecture’ about how humanity should operate. He put it into practice and led the way. He changed the condition of the human race, repaired what Adam had lost.

Adam had dominion over everything. He was king. He forfeited his authority through sin. Creation then started to work against man. From then on animals might eat you; plants might not grow; the body would rebel against the soul; and men would kill one another.

The second Adam was also King and He regained dominance of the whole world by complete obedience to His Father.

If we obey God creation will obey us! It is as simple as that. Our Lord, in His humanity, gave complete obedience to God, and this restored humanity to peace with creation, including other humanity.

(This is why saints are able to work miracles. They are invoking their own exceptional obedience to God and the powers of nature will obey them in turn.)

Most of us do not have much power on this basis, because we are still rebellious against the will of God.

We must learn to obey the King and the more we do that the more order and concord will come back into our world; and the further we take it the better it gets. Even just as individuals we can do a lot of good.

We cannot predict exactly what will happen but all of it will be for the good. There might still be suffering because that is the way of Christ, but will be towards a good result.

The key for us is to be humble enough to fit in with God’s plan. If we assert ourselves we create rebellion and a lot of trouble. If we humble ourselves before Him and obey we become channels of His peace and the Kingdom takes hold.

The Kingdom can flourish only when people are and remain humble. So why make trouble where there is none? The devil will be trying to stir the waters all the time and he often succeeds, but we learn to see him coming.

Our Lord does not force His kingdom on us. We retain the right to choose, but we cannot choose the outcomes of our choice. If we reject Him we will have the roof fall on us in all sorts of ways.

So, come on board and taste real freedom, even your own power to make things happen. Our own share of creativity is waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

20th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Oct 2009 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 18.10.09 Faith

The nobleman did the right thing in approaching Our Lord and placing his request. Our Lord took the occasion to give us all a demonstration of His power, in this case healing from a distance. All things are possible to God.

Our Lord often appealed to us to have more faith. He wanted us to believe in Him without hesitation, that no matter what the problem or how improbable it looked of solution to our resources we should not doubt Him for a second.

There are different ways of asking. We can have assurance in our manner or we can have panic or doubt. He wants us to have assurance. Son, they have no wine.

Once that is established He wants us to ask for all that we need; to pray vigorously and constantly for anything and everything (not frivolous things, but anything good).

Why does He make us ask when He could give us the desired thing anyway? One of His main objectives is to lead us to a love of Him. By forcing us to communicate with Him it brings us to a better understanding of Him and makes us participants in our own salvation. If the prayer is left unsaid the power and love of God are still there but they remain as potential. It needs our request to activate His love, to apply it in the current situation.

It is like food, for example, that will only help us if we eat it. So faith will only work if we use it. Distance is no barrier as the Gospel today indicates. We can pray for anyone anywhere.

By our prayer we stir up an avalanche of graces. And we do not only ‘ask’ for things, but with increasing knowledge of Him praise and thanksgiving will emerge.

All the while we are drawing closer to God. We can pray for rain, or for a safe trip or the healing of an illness, but none of those things can compare with the need to be united with God.

We can pray at different levels. We can pray for the current crisis while at a deeper level we are expressing trust in God, and acceptance of His will.

It is hard for us to achieve this kind of trust in practice.

We tend to say, if a prayer is answered favourably, that God is good.

But, does this mean that He is not good if we do not get what we want?

This cannot be right. God is just as good whether the particular prayer request is achieved or not. He does not increase and diminish in goodness. He is eternally perfect.

This does not mean we are indifferent to what happens. We can still have preferences, and even passionately so.

God would not expect us to be indifferent to things like whether a missing child is found dead or alive.

But without losing any of our legitimate concern for earthly matters, we can increase our concern for the true recognition of God.

If we begin with glorifying God we come to trust that His will is perfect and is working itself out in every situation.

This makes us not indifferent, but peaceful.

A new sense of serenity encompasses us and enables us to deal with the worst, or the best, that can happen.

We will not panic but will act with assurance and accuracy.

Our prayer will always help to improve some aspect of the situation.

We have to pray first and foremost that we come to know God more completely.

That is our main prayer, and the main purpose of prayer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

19th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Oct 2009 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 11.10.09 No short cuts

He who is a thief must be a thief no longer but work his way honestly. So St Paul tells us in today’s epistle. It is time to do things God’s way not our way. This is a struggle for us. It seems like taking the long way round when we could just cut across here...

Reflecting on Our Lord’s life: He worked many miracles but could have worked a lot more. He could have healed every sickness, raised every dead person... and in every place and time.

He once walked on water but we understand that He normally walked the full distance and probably had aching bones. He could have worked a miracle every time. (What would we do if we had that power to work miracles?)

We don’t have the same power but we do have the ‘power’ to take some short cuts.
For example, to steal - There is something I want, so I take it. Why bother to work to make money to buy something when I can just go into someone else’s house and take it?

St Paul is saying: This, my good man, is not the way anymore. That is what you used to do, now you must be like Christ. You must do things differently now.

So with all the commandments and the teachings of the Church: what a business. Why would you give up the direct route and take the long way round? For example, with marriage. Why wait to express love sexually? Why stay with my wife when I can find a prettier younger girl?
Why have a baby if I can stop it from being conceived or born? Why bother to speak nicely or carefully when it is easier to shoot my mouth off? Why bother to work hard when I know others will do it if I don’t? Why bother to be good when other people are not?

It is the way of Christ. Jesus could have said to Himself, Why come to earth and be put to death? He shows us the hard way, the narrow way, the way of the Cross. In many ways unappealing compared with seduction, forbidden fruit, the path of least resistance. How can we come to accept it?

The natural law is one answer. If we were all thieves no property would be safe, no boundaries respected. If there were no fidelity in marriage no family would be intact. If there were no road rules we would all be crashing every day.

A higher motive, however, is to learn to trust and obey God, keeping His laws in His honour and at the same time benefiting from His providential love. Obey Him and He will bless: He will make water come from the rock, bread fall from heaven. He will work the miracles for us if we are in union with Him.

But don’t try to work your own miracles, or rearrange the commandments to suit yourself.
The short cut always leads to a dead end.

Go with Him and it will become clear. This is the challenge before us. Can we put our lives on the line like that?

We always like things to be easier than they are. The greatest blessedness is to be doing things His way. Even if you are the only honest person in the street it will bear fruit.

People don’t want to join the Church because it has restrictions... the Church is out of date they will say; it should change its teachings to allow all human frailties free reign. OK let’s try this out; abolish all commandments as from tomorrow, and see if the world improves!?

No, we must go the more sober way, as St Paul directs. No more thieving, lying, adultery... now we are re-formed in the image of Christ, like putting on a new set of clothes. (cf the wedding garment of the Gospel). It seems strange at first, but opens up a whole new world.

Ironic that people think that in throwing off the yoke of Christ they will find happiness; it is exactly the opposite. Take up My yoke... and you will find rest for your souls (Mt11, 28).

Thursday, 8 October 2009

18th Sunday after Pentecost 4 Oct 2009 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 4.10.09 Spiritual battle

We have just celebrated the feast of St Michael and also of the Guardian Angels, reminders of the spiritual world by which we are surrounded; and of the invisible spiritual battle that goes on around us all the time.

Spiritual battles are mysterious to us because invisible and often at a level of subtlety beyond our perception.

They generally concern interior matters, the battle for the ‘inside’ of us, the possession of our hearts and minds. Do our hearts and minds belong to God or to the evil one?

There was a story during the week of a man who was going to be a seminarian many years ago but presently is organizing a national blasphemy day in USA - a painful example of what can go wrong if the battle is lost.

Every one of us is subject to the pull of angels and devils. The devils tempt us to sin and the angels ‘tempt’ us to good. Each side is holding up to us messages why we should go their way.

There is a right and wrong way to look at everything. The more we can grasp the right way the more we will develop good habits (virtues) and shed the bad habits (vices).

The world around us has many wrong ways of looking at things. Not for nothing did Our Lord refer to Satan as the prince of this world. The world tells us that God does not exist, or if He does exist He does not count for much. We might as well go out and have a good time because this is the only life we have.

Your sins are forgiven you, says the Lord, to the man on the stretcher. And He would add, Go and sin no more. He forgives sin and He gives the power not to fall back into the pit.

Our task is to claim the freedom He has given us; to maintain and nurture it like a plant so that we can hold the progress we have made, and build on it.

It is not so hard as we make it. Evil is powerful but Good is more so. Our greatest asset is the light of Christ which illuminates us; helps us to see what is good, and walk in that. He will help us to recognize the tactics of the devil, who mainly works by deception. When the deception is unmasked he is a lot less powerful.

In ordinary life we learn not to pick up spiders, not to put our hands in the power socket, and other basic safety measures. We can learn from the wrong turnings others take not to end up like them.

We have to work on our salvation. If we do nothing we will probably be lost. Many today operate on the assumption if they don’t do anything obviously wrong they must go to heaven. The Devil can snare us that way too. Just as if we did nothing to secure our house or car we will probably be robbed.

If we do fall then we strengthen the defences. Just as if the house leaked we would fix that part of the roof. We don’t just leave gaps for evil to get in.

It is a battle and must be entered into vigorously if we are to win. The energy we spend on other contests – we could use some of that in the battle for souls. Look at football and how much energy, physical and emotional, is expended on that. If people would be that worried about their salvation!

Both sides are working all the time fighting for our souls. Many people don’t know anything about this battle. They go about as though nothing is wrong when they may be on the brink of hell.

Alertness is the key. Keep watch. Sentry duty. You are set free; go and sin no more and you will rise from your stretcher - and eventually your grave.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

17th Sunday after Pentecost 27 Sep 2009 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 27.9.09 Love of God and Neighbour

What does it mean to love God? The ultimate test of whether we love someone is deeds not words. It is no use writing love poetry if the practical details are not met -if one does not get out of bed to help, or be prepared to rearrange a schedule, or whatever is required.

However the words can be important as sources of inspiration or encouragement, but words by themselves can never be enough.

In relation to God the same principle applies. It is no use saying we love Him if we do not seek to obey Him or consider his will. It is still good to say it, however, because it helps us focus on Him and probably pleases Him. As with other things we say to God it may be more a case of telling ourselves than telling Him.

The deeds that God asks of us are many and varied. It can mean a million different things but it comes down to giving Him first place, never pushing Him to the side. Loving Him means doing whatever He asks from us. There will be different demands at different times.

One time we help an old lady across the street; another time we give money to the poor; another time a courteous reply to a stranger. The seven corporal works of mercy: To convert the sinner To instruct the ignorant To counsel the doubtful To comfort the sorrowful To bear wrongs patiently To forgive injuries To pray for the living and the dead
It can also be what we do not do: don’t eat all the food in the fridge if others might need it. Don’t play loud music after midnight.

God wants us to value the other person as important to Him. You are a child of God (or should be). Thus the epistle: give way to one another, build unity. We do not worry about titles of people or social ranking in this matter. The meanest tramp is important because a child of God.

We show our love of God by the way we treat our neighbour. We treat others as He would treat them; not relaxing His commands but guiding and encouraging others in keeping them. The Church often has to make herself unpopular in this process, but this is real love.

Some say that loving the neighbour only is necessary. God should be pleased with that, they say. The trouble is if we leave God out of the picture our love for Neighbour is going to be distorted. We need Him for moral reference, otherwise we will be condoning and abetting immoral behaviour, which is definitely not loving on our part.

We are wasting our time here (in church), some would say. We should be out mowing lawns, mending fences. Well we can do those things but we can be here as well. It is a matter of balance. We must not omit the ‘God’ part of the command.

From the proper of today’s Mass: God is ‘terrible’, in the old sense of the word, inspiring terror as we contemplate His ‘awful’ power. We need that dimension. Loving Him is having proper respect and a sense of our proper place. We can love Him directly through the liturgy and sacraments and in our private devotions. This is the ‘words’ part of expressing love; by doing this we are more likely to want to follow up the words with deeds.

Putting God at the centre of our lives means taking Him seriously in all His commands. We cannot trade off obligations. For example, if someone say: ‘If I help the poor it means it is OK if I live with a woman who is not my wife’ Any major disrespect to Him is enough to prove that I do not love Him; therefore I must set right whatever is wrong. It helps if I get other things right but I cannot claim to love God if I am deliberately violating some part of His commands.

It is an obligation to love God, but not an unpleasant one. It is, after all, our destiny and our greatest fulfilment.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

16th Sunday after Pentecost 20 Sep 2009 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 20.9.09 Ambition

In the Church we operate on different values than the secular world, or at least we should. One example of this would be the matter of Ambition. In secular terms it is acceptable and even encouraged to be ambitious for high office, for example to try to be Prime Minister. But in Church terms if someone said he was running for Pope at the next election this would be frowned on.

In Church life we are supposed to be humble, meaning that we do not grasp for positions of influence; do not push ourselves forward. Thus today’s Gospel of taking the lowest seat at the table.

We see that many saints resisted promotion. Quite a few saints had to be coerced into becoming bishops or popes. It was genuine humility in their case.

They said they were not worthy. In the strict sense they were correct. Even the saint is unworthy of these things – unworthy as compared with God Himself, but far more worthy than the average person.

In Church terms we speak of Vocation, a softer variant of Ambition. What do I think I am meant to do? What is God asking me to do? Whatever it is I can do it with the help of His grace no matter how far beyond my own natural powers. He will make it possible.

What then should be our ambition? We should put ourselves totally in God’s hands, like the clay to be formed by the potter. What He makes of us is up to Him. He could make me the Pope or the Prime Minister, or someone totally obscure that people ignore in the street. I should not care which. If God wants it then I want it. Let it be done unto me according to Thy word.

Where we fit in is not clear to us in advance but God can use each one of us and it is a privilege to be any part of the picture.

The worldly wisdom is to say I plan to be a millionaire by 25, and do this course or have this career, or live in this city, and have this many children...How much of that involves God? Sometimes people will add ‘God willing’, but it all needs to be subject to His will, an ongoing cooperation, and being ready to adapt to whatever is needed.

So we learn not to be too desirous of any position or circumstances, but ready for anything even exile or death. (For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, to be content therewith. I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound (every where and in all things I am instructed): both to be full and to be hungry: both to abound and to suffer need. Ph 4,11-12)

Whatever God allows to happen to me is good insofar as He can use it for His purposes. He knows what He needs from me, so I let Him go to work.

I am not running for Pope but to be the best possible person, the best I can be, not running against others but against myself.

It is not just what title we have. I could be Pope but I still have to be charitable and humble and not complain if it is too hot etc. Being Christian is paramount and always applies, regardless of rank or title.The fundamental vocation is to be like Christ. Thus the epistle today: St Paul prays that we find Him and be transformed interiorly.

We can pray about the subsidiary details but the main point is that I be available to do His will.

I sit at the lowest point of the table and wait for Him to direct me. Of course, the lowest point in this parable means humility. So even if one is promoted to high honours in self-opinion we always remain at the lowest point.

If we maintain that basic humility and accompany it with a readiness to do anything that God asks of us we have the right ambition!

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

15th Sunday after Pentecost 13 Sep 2009 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 13.9.09 Satisfaction guaranteed

Certain products we can buy will say on the label: If not completely satisfied return the package and we will send you a refund.

This can be a bit like what happens when we pray. We can ask for things like a new bike for Christmas, or, Lord, just let me win the lottery and I will spend the money wisely.

Yet, Christmas comes and no bike, and the lottery comes and I win about nine dollars at the most. Where is God, we say. Why does He not grant our prayers?

Well, one thing we can say is that He gives us what we need not what we want.

Or we could say He gives us either what we ask or something better still. He blesses us beyond what we ask (Now to Him who is able to do all things more abundantly than we desire or understand, according to the power that worketh in us: Eph3,20).

We never get less than we ask.

The only remaining problem is that our definition of ‘better’ might not be the same as His.We value the three million dollar lottery prize more than He does. Whereas He might say we are better off poor, because it will keep us humble and dependent on Him. But we say we could handle the money and still be humble. Maybe not.

Eventually we will come around to see that He was right.

The Gospel today records the return to life of the widow’s only son. It raises questions about God’s providence and His desire to bless us. Our Lord ‘felt sorry’ for the woman and spontaneously gave her what she wanted. This much is easy to understand.

But the question then could be: why does He not return everyone to life? Lots of people would be grieving as much as that woman: why not give them back the person they love?

It is a natural instinct when we hear of death to wish it were not so. But we see it is not God’s normal way to do what He did in this story.

He gives us either what we ask or something better. He has another way of bringing back the dead. It is called Heaven. He takes them to a better place (always presuming the right disposition on their part). The mysteries of His judgment of others are beyond us, but we can influence even that process by our prayer. We intercede constantly for the best possible result. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who most need Thy mercy.

He saves us from death - eternal death. If we have faith; if we are living in a state of grace then physical death is just a comma in the sentence, a transition to a fuller life.

We sometimes rage against His will. On the question of death, we are especially inclined to do that. Many, sadly, have abandoned their faith because of the death of a particular person. If God took my mother or son or best friend, then I don’t believe in Him for being so mean.

But He never gives us less than we ask. If He does not return the people to us He certainly does not abandon them either. He blesses them and us in a different way. Them, with mercy and eternal life. Us, with hope of joining them.

He brings back to life in another sense also: that of forgiveness of sin. He returns the wayward son to his Mother, the Church. This may be less spectacular than a physical rising from the dead, but it is more important.

Almighty God is always receiving complaints. The human race is largely ‘sending back the package’ demanding a refund.

One of the many blessings He gives us is Wisdom – the ability to understand how He is working in our lives. And with that will come patience, humility, obedience, resignation to His will. And thanksgiving that it is all coming to where it needs to be.

If every prayer brings either what we ask or something better – how can we lose? Amongst our other petitions let us ask for the grace to trust in God at all times and in all things.

Monday, 7 September 2009

14th Sunday after Pentecost 6 Sep 2009 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 6.9.09 Full confidence

Some bet cautiously, just two dollars a year on a major horse race. It is better to be cautious and we don’t want a gambling addiction. But the language at least of gambling can be helpful to our faith.

The same sort of caution does not apply to the faith. Don’t put all your house on one race, but if you are to be a disciple of Christ you should put the whole house on Him, and the whole life too.

With misplaced caution some have just a little interest in religion. They smooth out the faith to an average level where they are indistinguishable from their neighbours. ‘Religion is all very well as far as it goes. But you don’t want to be going to Mass every day or saying rosaries etc.’

Granted, balance and wisdom are necessary, but people will think you are a religious fanatic if you show any signs of piety. We can’t be following every vision or being obsessed with our sins, but we should be enthusiastic about our faith. Praying more rather than less.

Our trust in God should be boundless, putting everything into God’s hands. So many places in the Scriptures tell us this (and today’s Gospel).

In betting terms it is All or Nothing. Not only we should put everything we have on Jesus Christ, but we must.

The reason we don’t put all our money on something is we might lose it all.
So with our religion we might have doubts: What if this is the wrong religion? What if there is no life after death? There are plenty of people to tell me these things are not true.

So I will just put my toe in the water; do the minimum, hoping to survive if it is all true. If it is not true then I have not missed out! This is an each-way bet.

The Church in her history has always seen a minority of committed, really committed people. The great bulk have been middling, mediocre. This is why we have so few saints in proportion to the total.

It is always easy to be the same as the majority. But in this case we should be like the disciples in the early Church, enthusiastic enough to share their possessions, or even to die for their faith.

The more mediocre we are the less convincing the Church’s witness, and this is why the gospel is easily rejected.

So we reach a state of affairs where people think it makes no difference whether one is Christian or not. As long as we are generally nice people it does not matter what creed we hold (they say).

If the Gospel were written by these people we would have Our Lord saying, Verily, I say to you you should go to Mass occasionally, give a few dollars every now and then to charity; be friendly to everyone – but nothing about renouncing our life, forgiving our enemies, giving without counting the cost, and so on.

I cannot wait for others to commit; I must start myself. It begins with me (and you).

The specific course of actions required for each person may vary according to vocation and situation, but all without exception are called to wholehearted trust and commitment.

We can build up to the required level of commitment. We will not be all-or-nothing saints in one day, but we can increase commmitment over time. We can strengthen the fortress with more consistent prayer, more discipline, more generosity etc.

All the time we will have to overcome the temptation to have misplaced caution. Imagine if at Pentecost the apostles had stayed inside just to think about it. They would have lost the momentum.

There would be no martyrs or missionaries ever. Everyone would stay home and stay inside.

We see that somebody has to take a risk.

At the very least give more room to God, asking to be built up in faith and fervour, and see the good fruits emerge (as listed in today’s epistle).

Monday, 31 August 2009

13th Sunday after Pentecost 30 Aug 2009 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 30.8.09 Thanksgiving

The Mass is essentially an act of propitiation: Lord, we deserve to be wiped out, but please don’t. What saves us from being wiped out is the intercession, mediation of God the Son.

We are not just asking for ourselves but He asks for us: Father, don’t wipe them out. This adds a great deal of power to the prayer.

We could all pray at home, Lord forgive us. But to come here and have Christ ask for us, it becomes a much better prospect.

Of all blessings we seek Mercy is the most important and the least deserved. It is the one that sustains all others. God will bless us with many things but mercy is the most essential.

The leper was saved, not just healed. It was more than just a physical makeover. So with us. With all the things we ask for, we must remember that our eternal salvation is the most important and, in a sense, the only one worth having.

To be truly aware of how valuable mercy is we need an awareness of our guilt; a sense of true contrition. If we make light of our sins we will make light also of mercy, but if we see the true state of things we will be as relieved as the Prodigal Son when he was welcomed home, expecting to be thrown out on his ear.

The more contrition we have for offending God the more grateful we are for being forgiven. The more aware we are of His blessings the more we thank, and the more likely to receive.

So the Mass is also an act of Thanksgiving. We ask for mercy and we give thanks for it at the same time.

We are lifted up as part of the voice of the whole Church and swept into an act of thanksgiving, just by being part of the Mass taking place.

Again, as with the atonement, it is Christ Himself who gives thanks on our behalf. As man He stands at the head of all humanity and thanks the Father for redeeming the human race, in which Christ also shares.

He makes up for what is lacking in our response, and He also helps us in the course of each Mass to become truly thankful, as well as truly contrite.

Attending the Mass is a kind of enlightenment for us, a 'defogging' experience, as the fog of ignorance, apathy, indifference , insensitivity is lifted from us.

When we truly understand what is happening we would be both contrite and grateful. At present we are somewhere near the place but we need more clarity.

Confident of receiving God’s mercy we are then more able to trust Him in other matters as well. If He would give us the greatest possible blessing it is not so hard to realize He will give us the lesser blessings as well. By lesser blessings I mean things like health, food, friendship, the good things in life... wine, sunshine, sport, hobbies etc. We receive these things as well as mercy – we have much to be thankful for.

Thus St Paul says to give thanks in all circumstances. This means to give thanks even when things go wrong; even when we experience frustration, disappointment, heartbreak...

How be thankful for these things? Because we come to understand that God is working through all events and circumstances and what may appear to be a dead end to us is really a door opening to some other blessing. We give thanks for the blessings that will arise from whatever has just happened. We thank in advance, or simultaneously with the petition.
To ask is to receive, remembering that from God’s point of view everything is geared towards our final salvation.

So, gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro! Let us give thanks to the Lord, our God!

Monday, 24 August 2009

12th Sunday after Pentecost 23 Aug 2009 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 23.8.09 Identity

Loving others – do we have to? Apparently yes. It is in today’s Gospel of the Good Samaritan and peppered through many passages in the Scriptures.

OK, we have to, but why? Why do we have to love those who do not love us, or even who mean to harm us, or those who are just generally unlovable?

These questions come from the wrong angle. They presume that ‘I’ am the reference point. Other people have their value insofar as they affect me favourably. Those who are good to me are valuable; those who are not good to me have no value.

But I am not the reference point; God is. It is His will that must be done, not mine.

It is much emphasized today that we are unique beings, important to God. We are not just individuals, however. Our importance also is that we are part of a team, the ‘team’ in our case being the Church, the Catholic Church; or even more impressively, the Body of Christ.

We are joined to Christ and therefore to each other. If one part of the body suffers the whole body suffers. If I have a sharp pain in my right elbow, would my left elbow rejoice at that? Hardly. If my right elbow is hurting then I am hurting.

So with the Body of Christ. We must be in sympathy with each other because we belong to Him. (And those outside the Body should be in it, so we include them in our concern as well.)

If we understand God’s view of who we are, we see that though we are loved as individuals, He did not intend us to live isolated from others. To be indifferent to others or hating them is definitely not the plan.

God wants us to be very aware of the importance of other people and to take our place in helping them. And I mean really help them. Help them spiritually, to be saved.

The only use many can see for the Church is its charitable arm. We feed the hungry and give shelter to the homeless, etc. We do that and so far so good.

But that is not our primary point. What we are really after is to save their souls. Almost a faux pas to say that these days, not recommended for the dinner table. ‘Nothing wrong with my soul, thank you.’

It is still true, however, that every person, no matter what their current status, is in need of saving; needs to know God; is meant to go to heaven. Even if they don’t know or agree with this it is still true.

To love others is to be concerned for their spiritual welfare. This is our driving concern.

When we look at other people we are looking at souls. If I am in a queue at the checkout and I am muttering at the slowness of the people in front, then I am seeing them as ‘objects’ whereas really they are ‘subjects’ each one having an immortal soul.

If you were in an antique shop and holding a valuable plate... don’t drop it! Well, don’t harm that valuable soul!

We might want to be famous, to be acknowledged. But the real status is to be a person who loves others and to know where you come in the team. You may be obscure and people don’t even know your name, but if you are doing what God wants then you are the happiest person alive.

The Good Samaritan was humble as he went about doing what he had to do.

We do not ask Why we have to love one another; we are the same flesh; our fates are intertwined. The only legitimate question is How? What shall we do to help? Help can take many forms – action, prayer, sacrifice, forgiveness... God will make it plain to us what is required, once we have the will to love.

Monday, 17 August 2009

11th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Aug 2009 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 16.8.09 Strong in faith

These days atheists get a lot of publicity. A lot of people are quite proud to be known as non-believers in God. There seems to be a kind of status about it. They like to be seen as people who have the courage to throw off the chains of religious observance and face the world, alone and confident.

If we follow carefully the statements of atheists we detect a strong current of anger at (and even hatred of) religion, especially the Catholic religion. And they are angry with God (whom they say does not exist!)

We could say, in a certain sense, that if one believes in God it is because we want to believe and if we do not believe it is because we do not want to.

What I mean is that if we want to discover God (want to believe) He will make Himself known to us. But if we fight against Him and want to pretend He is not there, He will withhold His graces and let us wander in darkness, without the light of faith.

If our heart is pure we will be led by Him to belief, thus the gift of faith. If you seek you shall find.

If enmeshed in sin then I probably do not want to believe in Him. It is more convenient for me to be a law unto myself. In that case I will not be seeking Him and will not receive or retain the gift of faith.

If I ask you, Do you believe in God: Yes, you say. But do you really really believe it?

There are degrees of belief, in our minds and in our hearts. How much we understand Him and how much we love Him – they both need increasing.

We are looking for a deeper and deeper faith to be so close to God that nothing on this earth can disturb our equilibrium; that we are totally aware of Him at every moment; totally trusting, totally obedient, always yielding to His promptings. We need to be so convinced that we can be happy to be torn apart by lions (cf St Ignatius of Antioch), or be ridiculed by others.

People find reasons for not believing/trusting in God. He did not hear my prayers when my mother was dying. He did not help me when I needed such and such a favour. He lets cyclones and fires happen which kill a lot of innocent people etc etc.

But at root they do not want to believe. Questions about suffering etc are not meant to be asked in isolation. We cannot necessarily say why God would allow the death of a child etc. What we are meant to do is take Him whole , as revealed, and trust in Him. Then the more specific questions will sort themselves out sooner or later.

One thing we can say: If we trusted Him more there would be less disasters.

If we are prepared to listen: OK, Lord, I am listening. I may have a few complaints but I am willing to hear from You. We humble ourselves; let Him open our ears; listen to His word - and then we are better placed to explore both the reasons for our faith and to see it at work in daily life.

Our faith continues to grow and increase.

Our disposition is everything. If we are willing to let God in He will come. We have to humble ourselves first and then we will believe.

Having said ‘Yes’ we still have to deepen that response.

We are accused by unbelievers of believing only because we lack the courage to go it alone. No, we believe these things because they are true. St Paul in the epistle recalls us to the evidence on which our faith is based – the resurrection of Our Lord. It is certain fact; our trust in Him is equally certain.

10th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Aug 2009 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 9.8.09 Grace

Our Lord said, If you do good only to those who do good to you, well, even the pagans do that much. He is saying that to be His disciple we have to rise somehow above just the natural response. It is easy to love sometimes and when it is easy there are no medals awarded.

The Epistle today speaks of the Holy Spirit giving gifts to us, and the Gospel of the limits of natural goodness. The pharisee thought himself good by his own efforts, but he was only deceiving himself. We can go some distance with natural good works, such as loving our parents, but without supernatural help we cannot do the more demanding things, such as forgiving enemies, and these things also we are required to do.

The gateway to those higher acts is to admit our inadequacy at the natural level – thus to repent, which the pharisee - too satisfied with himself - was unable to do.

It begins with repentance, admitting that we cannot do it by ourselves. If we open our hearts to God He will give us mercy, and over and above that the grace to do better things.

We will be able to live in His Spirit. And continuously so, not just a once off, here and there, but an abiding state which will last as long as we remain humble and return to Him asking forgiveness for whenever we have failed.

We are in a covenant relationship; and in a dependent state. It works as long as we keep in right balance with Him.

How shall we see ourselves? Are we worthless worms, incapable of good; or are we unique, precious beings greatly loved by God and incapable of evil? Neither view is fully correct; both have some truth.

If we understand our relationship with God as a covenant partnership, with Him being the superior partner, then we see that we are greatly loved by Him and each of us is very important, but also we see that we are capable of sin, and probably do sin quite often.

When we sin we do not become worthless; we still have the basic dignity that God has invested in us, but we are out of union with Him and greatly need to restore that union. So we confess our sins and resolve not to sin again, climbing back into the proper relationship, and able to feel right again.

But our ‘feeling right’ must never become complacency, using God’s love as a licence to do whatever we please.

If we remember our dependence on Him we will be less likely to step out of line.

Independence is a much desired quality. It is nice to have own house, car, health etc. but spiritually it is not possible to be independent of God.

We are inferior to God yet loved by Him. Provided we acknowledge He is in charge things will work fine. He will bring forth fruit from the branch; otherwise we are as useless as a branch lying on the ground.

Even our natural goodness will fall apart after a while, as we move further away from the Source of goodness. The pharisee in the parable would have committed sins, we may be sure, because he was not right with God.

And if genuinely repentant God will fill us with grace, so good must follow.

Thus if we humble ourselves, simply recognize our true status before God, we will be exalted; we will glorify God and do the best for ourselves by becoming what we are, truly children of God.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

9th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Aug 2009 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 2.8.09 Time management

We sometimes wonder what we would do if we had our time again. If I went back to when I was ten or twenty or thirty... what would I do differently than I have done?

At first we probably think we would not repeat any of the sins or mistakes we made then. But on further reflection we might just make different mistakes.

If we cannot go back in time we can go back in another sense. Go back to the basic union with God which should govern all our lives: simply obey Him. Trust in His providence and do whatever He says.

So we can renew ourselves at any time, regardless of age, by returning to this simple starting point.

We can grasp the present moment. We can make this moment an encounter with God, by calling upon Him in prayer, in sorrow for sin, in asking for guidance and grace to steer us forwards.

We want to make this encounter as deep and as powerful as it can possibly be. God, for His part, never changes. He is present to us; but we can vary in our presence to Him from total to zero.

If we do reflect on our past lives we could all see a lot of things that needed to be done differently. It is a painful reminder of how easy it is to take a wrong turning. It is so easy to drift through life without taking full responsibility for our actions, especially in relation to God and His will.

We can learn from our own mistakes and those of others. In both epistle and Gospel today we hear of the Jews (in different generations) missing all sorts of opportunities to get back on the right path.

Too many sins, and too-long delayed repentance, will eventually bring some kind of payback, some kind of punishment.

But why wait around for that to happen? These things are told to us, as St Paul says, so that we will act differently. We will grasp the present moment, the acceptable time of salvation, and find a new direction.

God’s mercy can never be exhausted. We come back and back to the fount of life, drawing as much as we can each time.

We can be renewed each time we do this; so we are able to go back and start again after all. We start again living the life of grace, discovering more and more of the wonders of God.

Each day is a gift from God to be gratefully received by us and returned to Him.

In the short term all of us can say: This very day I give over to His purposes. To glorify Him, to love neighbour. I renew here and now my resolution to serve God with my whole being, every moment of the day and every day of my life.

In the longer term, we can use the time we have to develop our talents, and bring return and increase.

If you are young enough to have most of your life ahead of you, then set your course under His guidance, resolving to be faithful till the end.

We could certainly weep over Adelaide (or equivalent places) when we consider the question of taking heed of God’s will. The time to repent is now, but who knows it? A few, certainly, but still there are so many who are as oblivious to God’s importance as those in biblical times.

We pray without ceasing and offer our sufferings and penances that all can see their way to a new beginning.

For ourselves we go further and deeper. Time is a preparation for eternity. The decisions we make here have a way of being fixed forever. There are certain things we can do only here; later may be too late.

8th Sunday after Pentecost 26 July 2009 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 26.7.09 The Spirit of adoption

The last two Sundays we have been hearing from St Paul in the letter to the Romans; that in Baptism we have died to sin, and that the wages of sin are death. The message is that we have been set free from sin, and just as a prisoner who walks free would not return to the jail, nor should we return to the captivity of sin.

To sin is foolish as well as being bad. Today’s epistle reading continues the same thought. Nature no longer has any claim on us. From now on we live a spiritual life. We have been adopted by God the Father to be His own children. And He has empowered us to live accordingly.

We are inclined to think of the moral demands of our Christian lives as being a heavy burden. This is because we are still thinking as creatures of the flesh. We are thinking from a worldly point of view and looking at the spiritual message as though it were a message from Mars, something alien and outside of our world.

St Paul is telling us that we can understand the moral demands only if we realize we have become different people through our spiritual adoption. We are actually changed by receiving the Holy Spirit. You are a new person; you have been transformed. You would no longer even want to do the sinful thing. It is not a burden to be good anymore than it is a burden to eat or breathe; it becomes the natural thing to do.

We tend to reduce Jesus’ teaching to ‘have a nice day’, something manageable. Instead of saying it is too hard, we say OK the bar is higher but with His Spirit within us we can jump higher.

It is possible because He makes it possible. We are now creatures of the spirit. So a large part of overcoming sin is simply understanding that we have been changed.

Still we might say: Granted I am a new creature etc, but I am still trapped in the flesh. We need the Spirit to work on us at the level of understanding. He can provide that service too. He can help us to think like new people. Lord, make us see, understand, so that we can make the leap; the ‘leap’ of recognition that enables us to leave the old ways behind.

Bring what is buried within us to the surface so that we can claim the power that You want us to have. And thus to live holy lives.

It is so easy just to muddle along.

Consider perfectionism: everyone has some hobby or area where perfection is sought.
Clothes, house, stamp collection, pet dog... Everyone has something. So do the same for your spiritual life. Redirect the energy. Let God be the focus. Seek goodness.

How good can we be? How far can we go? We hear people advocating positive thinking, as though we can be anything we want if we just set our minds to it. I could be an astronaut, or Prime Minister etc... Not necessarily, because some things are just not meant to be. But we are all meant to be good, to live in union with God. We can all achieve that; and we can all make continual progress to better and better.

It is not such an effort required to be good. Not ‘effort’ as in rowing a boat. More like getting on the high powered vehicle; a speed boat not a rowing boat. The effort is required in just getting into the right groove.

From the Gospel of the crafty steward: the worldly wise show more enterprise in being crooked than we do in being good. At least we should work as hard to be good as others do to be bad!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Another Sunday Mass

From this Sunday, 26th July, I will be celebrating another Traditional Latin Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Port Road, Hindmarsh (Adelaide). The time will be 5pm.

I will still be celebrating the 8am Sunday Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville.

More choice now, especially for those on the western side of Adelaide!

7th Sunday after Pentecost 19 July 2009 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 19.7.09 Detesting sin

If we went for a walk one day and fell down a ditch at a certain point of the path, then managed to scramble out - would we learn anything from that? Would we be likely to fall down the same ditch again the next day, or indeed every day? No? Well, how come we commit the same sin each day?

We are not sufficiently mortified by sin. We brush it off; we accept it; we factor it in; we presume on God’s mercy. But when it comes to physical injury we take great care not to fall, not to be electrocuted etc.

We need to have a greater horror of injuring the soul than the body.
The wages of sin are death. Sin brings death. Every time we sin we die (at least a little bit). Even minor pain we avoid, but not minor sin. We think the little ones don’t matter.

So we need first of all a detestation of sin. Just as much as we detest pain we should detest sin.

In fact we enjoy it. This is another problem. Falling down a ditch hurts; but committing a sin usually brings some kind of pleasure. The pleasure is the incentive. OK, I might suffer later but now this seems a good idea.

So we have to rearrange our system of ‘pleasures’ so that the things that actually give the greatest happiness will be the most attractive to us, even if the happiness is deferred.

‘If you have it now you won’t have it later’ was a warning I often heard in my youth.
Before wolfing into a slice of cake, this would check me in my tracks and make me think of deferred pleasure.

On the same lines, if you indulge in some forbidden pleasure now you won’t be happy in a hundred years. We have to practise projecting forward to the heavenly banquet and realizing that every self-denial we practise now will be rewarded a thousand times over then.

We can also rearrange our ‘pleasures’ in the present by looking for other values.

If I steal and pillage and exploit others, then I have instant pleasure, but I am destroying the very society I need to live in.

If I do things God’s way then I am helping to build up a society where other and many more good things can flourish. So I am happier if I take the longer way round.

Penance is another example. Why fast during Lent or on Fridays? Why deny ourselves anything ever? Because we are happier if we do.

If everyone knew this, penance would take off! What are you doing tonight? Oh, more penance probably…

So the Gospel message that we should turn away from sin and live righteously, which would be received by many with great reluctance or derision, is in fact the quickest way to happiness, both in this life and the next.

Our own happiness is one motivation but there is one greater still: we should detest sin (as we say in the Act of Contrition) most of all because it offends God.
Sin doesn’t just kill us, it offends God.

It is a distortion, a defacing of His work of art, Creation. We would not throw mud on the Mona Lisa; we should not throw mud on God’s work of art, which we do in any act of disobedience to Him.

We don’t understand the full consequences of sin. People talk of a sin which ‘doesn’t hurt anyone’. In fact all sin hurts all of us, because it puts a cloud over the divine light, weakens the whole Church and thus the human race.

Sin is, from every angle, a bad investment. Especially if we are all sinning every day. So we don’t keep falling into that ditch. We walk around it, take the longer way, to a very long reward, eternal life.

Monday, 13 July 2009

6th Sunday after Pentecost 12 July 2009 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 12.7.09 Death to sin

When someone dies it is often said he is ‘at rest’ or ‘at peace’ – the idea being that the person concerned cannot suffer anymore, having been through all his earthly troubles and physical pain. The assumption that he is at rest is based either on a belief he has gone to heaven or gone nowhere. In either case he cannot feel any discomfort.

The Catholic view of death is not so simple. We believe a person dying might be in even more discomfort after death than before, but we do heartily concur with any prayer for the person’s being at rest and at peace.

There is another form of dying, however, that does definitely lead to peace and that is referred to in today’s epistle – the dying to sin.

St Paul likens Baptism to a form of death, a death to one’s former life, a turning away from false beliefs and behaviour, and at the same time a coming to life in a new form, a life of holiness which will yield the person great peace.

This is not death as in being unable to feel anything, but a death to evil, a complete absence of anything wrong which in turn means there is room for all the good qualities to enter. The best way to be dead to sin is to be filled with holiness. We are not just alive but radiating life through this view.

We can learn from Our Lady, who avoided sin, not by carefully treading her way through the commandments but rather that sin never even occurred to her, so absorbed was she in the will of God.

No turbulence of the passions; everything in order.

We have died with Christ and risen with Him. We have not yet risen from the grave in the physical sense but we have risen from sin – at least we should have.

We should never have sinned after Baptism. Baptism was supposed to be a complete break with what went before. If we were baptized as babies then we should never have tasted sin in any form.

It is like taking a bath and then rolling in the mud again; or a dog returning to its vomit.

However, we find in practice that it is not so clear for us. We find that we are not so totally dead to sin in our hearts and minds that we can leave it forever.

There is, because of concupiscence, a lingering desire in us to prefer what is forbidden. This seems to be part of fallen human nature, and not even Baptism removes this desire completely.

However, though it may be ‘normal’ to continue committing sin it is not something we should ever rest with, or simply shrug off as inevitable.

It is normal insofar as it is widely practised, but against the norm which Christ has set for us. He has not returned to death having once died and risen from the grave.
Nor should we return to the death of sin having once been set free.

The Church, in her maternal mercy, has another remedy for us – the Sacrament of Penance – whereby we can be forgiven for sin committed after Baptism.
We can become frustrated with our inability to cast off sin, yet with persistent use of this Sacrament we can at least reduce the sin.

If we cannot come to life all in one moment we can at least edge our way towards it.

At least we can recognize the absurdity of thinking that sin is a normal part of life. It is no more normal than dying twice.

Turning away from sin is actually the beginning of resurrection. Resurrection is not just something that happens to us after we die. It is the end result of a process that begins with the turning away from sin, the death that leads to life.

We cannot avoid physical death but we can guarantee that it is no more than a stepping stone towards eternal life.

5th Sunday after Pentecost 5 July 2009 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 5.7.09 Fraternal unity

The Gospel calls us to a fraternal spirit of unity among the congregation. There should be unity within the Church anyway, and especially at the celebration of Mass.

We have to be united before we start Mass, but Mass will have the effect of increasing unity.
However the Mass cannot fix a complete lack of unity. If A and B hate each other before Mass they will probably still do so after Mass.

This raises the question of the value of each Mass. Every validly offered Mass is a perfect sacrifice insfoar as Christ offers Himself. The Father could never be displeased by the offering of His Son.

But Masses can vary as to the amount of benefit received by those taking part. How much they benefit will increase or decrease according to the attitude they bring.

A lot of discord will reduce the effect of the Mass even on innocent parties. So if A and B are at odds with each other C and D will receive less benefit from the Mass, even though unaware of the conflict. In this sense we can build up or bring down the community by our individual attitude.

If there is a high level of unity in the congregation that should help even the stranger who turns up only on that day.

We are the Body of Christ and like the human body the different members feel the concord or discord in the rest of the body.

So we are exhorted to do what we can to increase the unity in the Body. If we go some way to getting it right God’s grace will carry us the rest of the way.

One thing we can do is direct our minds to higher things. We could find something wrong with every person in the church if we let ourselves.

Or we could go above that, and say that I am here to worship God - not in such a way to exclude other people, but focusing on Him I am far more likely to have a good disposition to those around me.

So we do not dwell on grievances but instead immerse ourselves in God, thinking about His mercy and goodness. We let that take root, take hold of us, and we are lifted to a higher level.

We cannot lift ourselves. We cannot simply turn on niceness and love, like flicking a switch. We can pretend to be loving but that is useless. To be really loving is only possible if God acts in us.

What does it mean to be reconciled with our brother? In a typical Church parish or group there are many other people. We have different sorts of grievances with different people. We cannot line up with everyone on every point. Often it is not always an exact grievance so much as a general dislike or discomfort.

A specific issue could be resolved, but a lot of the disunity in a congregation is just a lack of goodwill stemming from an excessively worldly thinking. I don’t like this or that person, or this or that kind of person.

The solution is to include others in the general goodwill that comes from Chirst. We do not impede the mercy of God reaching all who need it. We let the Mass do its work. The Prince of Peace unites us in His own body: Jew and Gentile, male and female, north and south, short and tall... and every other possible division. If we are reconciled with Him we are off to a flying start to find union with each other.

Our unity is increased, if not yet perfect, and a more genuine charity will be evident.

What if the others do not think all these lofty thoughts and I am the only one trying to be reconciled? It is just one more thing that needs the mercy of Christ.

One person really trying to get this right will certainly exert a good influence on the others even if they need longer to come around.

Ut unum sint! That they may be one – in belief and in charity.

Sunday, 28 June 2009

4th Sunday after Pentecost 28 June 09 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 28.6.09 Believing without seeing

We find ourselves in a strange position in this earthly life. We suffer all sorts of adversities and disappointments yet we boldly proclaim that things are better than they look and will get better yet.

We are able to make such claims because of the gifts of faith and hope, instilled into us by the grace of God.

If we have these gifts we are able to believe in things which we cannot see (such as that God exists), and things which have not happened yet – but we know they will happen, for example the Second Coming of Christ.

We are asked to believe several things which all tie together. Not as hard as it sounds. For instance if we believe in an all-powerful God it is not so hard to believe in the Resurrection or the Real Presence. These are simply things which God has caused to happen, and put in place for our benefit.

Some people believe in God but not, for example, that He became man; or if He did, that He did not rise from the dead; or if He did that, He is not present in the Eucharist.

There is no need to pick and choose between all these items in our body of doctrine. We believe them all because the same God has made them so. And we believe in the power of the Church to teach us these things, without error.

It is not really harder to believe all of them than some of them, insofar as they all come from the same source. There is an inner certainty which flows from the reliability of God Himself.

He is totally reliable. If He has delivered us from past crises He will do it again; yet we doubt like crazy.

We always doubt the future no matter how blessed the past. We dwell on all the things that go wrong. We don’t have to be so negative.

God says: If I have done all these things for you, does it not follow that I will continue to watch over you?

We worry because it is unknown, but it is not unknown to Him. He is saying: let me bring that future to you just as I have brought you this far. If I have brought you out of Egypt I will bring you to the Promised Land.

In our anxiety we tend to leave God out of any future view, thus causing more anxiety.

Instead of floundering in the unknown let it be a peaceful rest instead.

The miraculous catch of fish: it can’t happen, it shouldn’t happen - but it did. The Lord can make things happen against appearances or expectations.

The Epistle: things look bad but we don’t go by looks. We go by faith and are happy with where that leads us: eternal life.

It is not just what we see with the eyes but how we interpret it.

We put negative fearful interpretations on things but if we could cultivate the gift of faith we would see sunshine no matter what present circumstances.

This I know, that my Redeemer liveth.

Present faith becomes a claiming of the future. Things cannot not get better.

All this works better the more we practise it. The future is not fixed in a fatalistic way. We can change what happens. We can make different turnings. eg Judas did not have to do what he did. The book is still being written.

It required the apostles to cast their net over the side for the miracle to happen. It requires us to do the simple things God asks of us for the miracle to continue.

We call them miracles, but it is really just the omnipotent God making things happen as He wants. Not so unusual if we see it in that light.

Things are better than they look, and they will get better yet!

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 21 June 2009 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 21.6.09 Lost sheep

This Sunday, coming straight after the Feast of the Sacred Heart, does reinforce the message of that feast – that God has a very strong desire to save sinners. As His Heart is open to receive the returning sinner, so He also goes out looking for sinners. He is the Good Shepherd who knows each sheep by name and calls him home.

It occurs to me sometimes what a marvellous thing it is that God, in His infinite knowledge, knows exactly what each person is doing, thinking, suffering, hoping for – at every moment.

We find it hard to keep track of just a few people, but here is the Good Shepherd keeping track of every detail.

We sometimes complain about Big Brother; about the information that is stored up on each one of us through financial records, and all the forms we have to fill in.

With God, we don’t need to worry. He knows all that without any forms. He knows more about us than we know ourselves.

And He has nothing but goodwill towards us. We may be suspicious how others will use the information they have, but Almighty God desires only our happiness, and will work towards that.

God actually speaks to each person in the world, though not usually in an audible voice.

He ‘speaks’ insofar as He makes Himself known through the signs of His creative activity; through the circumstances of each person’s life; through His law written on the heart of each person, even those who do not officially know Him.

So, for example, if someone finds his life falling apart through the economic crisis, he is being invited to reflect on the deeper issues in his life, such as ‘what is it all for?’ Why am I here on this earth? There must be a reason. Thus the person is led towards God.

It does not always work so smoothly, because we live in an age when meaning is often denied. It is all just random, many say. They close out the voice of God. Nevertheless He still speaks to them, and sometimes one or other is converted. The lost sheep comes home.

One way He speaks to the lost is through us, who are the ‘found’ (apparently), though we feel lost enough ourselves a lot of the time. Still, if we are in the flock, whatever sins we commit, and whatever weaknesses we have, we are at least still in the right place.

He seeks the sheep through us, the ones He already has. We are the 99, though we may have been stray sheep ourselves at some time.

So we have to go out and look for the others. We don’t feel qualified. It does not mean we have to go out like missionaries, tramping the streets, though some will do that. It may just mean we need to pray, to speak a word of encouragement or correction, to give good example, to be part of the Church’s apostolate.

Once included in the flock we are automatically commissioned to go out and look for others. No standing still.
We need to be more ‘worried’ about what happens to people. We tend to say easy come, easy go. We quote statistics or percentages, but each soul is infinitely valuable.
When one is found there is great joy in heaven. In heaven they know the value of each soul. Each soul has been bought at the price of the Precious Blood, so it must be worth something.

We are not expected to know everyone or everything about each person, but we can at least recognize that where there is a human being there is a soul, of infinite value. And thus we are motivated to do what we can for that soul.

We would normally say 99 out of 100 is not bad. But this parable is telling us, No, you cannot be happy if even one of your number is out in the cold. This makes sense if we think of the Church in the same light as a family. Suppose a family of say two parents and six children had to make a sudden exit because flood waters were coming. You would not be happy if one of the children could not be found. Nobody would say: well, I have five out of six children in the car. Five out of six is not bad. Of course, you would be frantically looking for the lost child.

Let us continue our devotion to the Sacred Heart by being in sympathy with His search for the one(s) who is (are) missing.