Monday, 23 March 2009

4th Sunday of Lent 22 March 2009 Sermon

4th Sunday of Lent 22.3.09 God’s bounty

Of Thy bounty –words found in the grace before meals. Why do we bless food and not other experiences like going for a walk, or a swim, or watching a film? Well you can offer any experience to Him asking Him to bless it.

Bounty... He gives it and we ask Him to bless it. A second step is required. It is one thing to have the desired object; another to interact with Him so that we can use it as He wants.
Many live without reference to God. They just use whatever they come across, be it food, possessions, sex, life itself.

We, as Christians, are aware of the magnitude of what He gives us, and we take the next step to give back or refer back to Him what He has given us.
Grace before meals and similar prayers give us an extra level of understanding about our use of things. We have an obligation to respect His order, and to proceed in all things in union with His will.

If we do that He will multiply His gifts to us. If we try to snatch as much as possible it does not lead to happiness. If we steal, rape, pillage it never works.

Remember the goose with the golden egg. They killed it to get at all the gold. If they had waited the gold would have kept coming.

Original sin - taking more than entitled to and quicker. I want everything and I want it now.
If Adam and Eve had paused to say grace they might have had time to rethink! (Sin makes us impatient and irritable. Grace has the opposite effect.)

If we could realign ourselves with God’s will and not be grasping and snatching, then things work a lot better and there is a balance in creation. This coincides with environmental concern. Do not rape the world.

Receive gratefully, give back to Him, and the more obedient we are the more He will bless us; and we will have an abundance left over. The troubles of the world economy bear out the effects of greed. One person snatches; another suffers.

If we have union with God we can get by on very little food and be grateful to Him. We recognize Him as the ultimate blessing beyond any individual blessing.

In a state of thanksgiving even if blessings are different than we expected we can still be confident that good will come.

God is all good, all bountiful; all good and always good. If only we stay close He will continually bless us.
We have to be careful not to complain, not to overreach.

This earth is troubled but would be a lot less so if we observed these things.

And as for the Sabbath. This is a day for rejoicing. It is not a day for shopping, for work, for professional sport. The unspiritual see Sunday as just another day to use (exploit). And they covet Good Friday for the same reason. What a waste of a perfectly good holiday to use for football or similar pursuits. Nothing, or not much, is sacred to the world these days.

We need to step back, to rest, to give thanks - like one long grace before meals. Bless us, Lord, and help us see the true perspective.

And don’t forget grace after meals and what that implies. We thank God for all His benefits, which are too many to recall or even be aware of. But if we combine thanksgiving with offering every new experience to Him - then we have harmony, thus preparing for the eternal blessing of heaven.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

No Mass 14 and 15 March

There will be no Latin Mass at St Monica's this Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th. All other days will be as normal.

2nd Sunday of Lent 8 Mar 2009 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Lent 8.3.09 Love and pain

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes. The Transfiguration brings home to us the sharp contrasts between the positive and negative ends of our destiny. We are destined for heaven or hell, for great happiness or great misery. We might settle for an in-between but there is not one on offer. It must be all or nothing.

It is ironic that the more seriously we become Our Lord’s disciples the more we are likely to suffer, but then again much greater will be the reward.

Also if we do not commit ourselves for fear of suffering He may reject us altogether.
So we really have to pitch in as far as we can.

Our Lord committed Himself fully and expects us to follow His example.
All the while He assures us that He will be with us to ease the pain and to receive us into blissful reward when the battle is over.

The thing for us to do is to readjust our sights. Don’t look down, they say, if you are afraid of heights. Well, don’t look at the suffering if we are afraid to suffer, but look rather at the good we are trying to achieve.

Look above all at Jesus Himself and simply be with Him, whether He is on the Cross or in Glory.

St John of the Cross says: many there are who want the garden of glory but few there are who are prepared to go through the thickets of suffering.

We all want heaven, but we want it on a plate, home delivered.

The suffering is really just a by-product. The question is not how much would you be prepared to suffer, but how much do you love? It is something like marriage where a person commits to marriage, knowing there will be sufferings, but is more interested in the love for the other person. A true lover will scale any height, swim any depth, as all the songs say.

Or, think of it this way. If someone you love has a serious accident and is in the intensive care unit, unable to talk or move. What do you do? You stay there with him. Just the same with Christ. He is suffering on the Cross. You stay with Him. You do not ask why; it just seems the natural thing to do.

Love makes pain bearable. We stay with Christ in His suffering. He stays with us in ours.
It was necessary for Him to suffer for the sins of the world. It is necessary for us to suffer to be free of our own personal sins. It is painful for us to readjust our way of living to the new way He reveals to us. Bad habits are hard to kill; old attachments are hard to shed. But if we allow His grace to set us free we begin the new and glorious life to be continued in eternity.

To prove that love is stronger than death we have the example of the martyrs. They went to painful deaths with singing and rejoicing. How can you rejoice to be eaten by a lion, burnt alive, or cut into pieces? Only if the power of love is greater than the pain. And it can be. Even in ordinary life people forget their normal fears when there is a crisis on, for example running into a burning building to save a child. Love will enable sacrifice and take its pain away.

It was love which motivated Our Lord’s sacrifice and which made it bearable in spite of all the suffering. That same love will sustain us until we also are transfigured in glory.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Bible/Catechetics course

For those in Adelaide, I am running a Bible/Cathechetics course on Thursday nights from 7.45 to 9pm at the Greenacres parish hall (next to the church), corner of Hampstead and Muller Road. Every Thursday except the 3rd Thursday of each month.
All welcome.

1st Sunday of Lent 1 Mar 2009 Sermon

1st Sunday of Lent 1.3.09 Fasting

Lent has begun. Three traditional things we do in Lent: Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.

Of the three one in particular is neglected these days. What is the good of fasting?
It sharpens the focus as we pray; it intensifies our prayer and always accompanies really serious intercessory prayer. The Israelites would always fast when they faced a bigger than usual crisis.

Fasting also atones for sins committed. Sin is taking something I was not entitled to have. Fasting is giving up something I am entitled to have.
It is a way of re-establishing balance. We are not seeking to earn forgiveness but rather to make some effort to please God, to indicate our goodwill.

If we feast all Lent what is there to look forward to at Easter? There is a tradition to eat more on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday; the feast before the fast. But many will continue to feast all through Lent as well!

We need to step back in some way from our normal routine, to make space in our hearts for the final state.

Lent is a kind of re-enactment of Our Lord’s death preceding the resurrection.
If Christ is risen, why bother with Lent and Good Friday? Why not just celebrate 365 days a year that Christ is risen? Because we are not yet in heaven. We are not yet risen either physically or spiritually. Our own lives do not match that of Christ yet. We are still working our way through, getting into the groove, so that we are more likely to appreciate fully the Easter mysteries.

First I have to understand my sin and what I am being set free from. We cannot do much about raising the body but we can do a great deal about the soul, learning to live like we are risen from the dead,

We will be happier at Easter because we have tasted a little bit of death. We have felt what it is like to feel desolate and abandoned.

Thus Our Lord went into the desert. Why? Why not just go and start preaching and healing? To steel Himself for the immense task He was about to undertake. It is not simply something one can walk out the front door and start doing. He had to get into the role - and beating off the devil, even more so.

He was focusing on His relationship with His Father, remembering His objective, keeping Himself without sin. So the devil’s attacks had no impact on Him.

Through the Lenten discipline we steel ourselves for battle. There is a spiritual war going on. We are not yet risen, nor even guaranteed of rising. We have a lot of preparation to do first. One cannot just waltz out there and think it all happens by itself.
It is not that easy to be good, to stay on course.

Where I live I can see footballers training, and I can hear musicians practising.
One does not play football (or the piano) well without practice. Nor does one follow Christ well without training and discipline.

The more we intensify our experience of the spiritual life the more we are going to appreciate the sweet victory.

Lent is just one small part of the calendar and we might be glad when it is over, but really the whole of life is like Lent, and eternal life is like Easter. So the whole of this life is a kind of renunciation, training, setting us up for heaven.

We should be thirsting for heaven like deer for running streams. Our bodily thirst (or hunger), induced by fasting, will sharpen our spiritual hunger for the things of God, helping us – with prayer and almsgiving – to be ready for eternal life.