Tuesday, 28 April 2009

2nd Sunday after Easter 26 April 2009 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 26.4.09 Perseverance

He has died for us, risen from the dead, set everything in place for us, but we are not in heaven yet, are we? There is still a chance to be lost. We might ‘snatch defeat from the jaws of victory’.
So we have to stay close to the Good Shepherd. He takes that role as well, to guide us through all the winding bits before we can finally rejoice without end.

Why do we need guidance? Well, there is still so much evil about, and so much suffering that we need to pick our way very carefully through the various alternatives that we face. The devil may be defeated but he can still be dangerous, like a wounded beast still able to bite or sting. We can be tempted to evil and we can be tempted to despair, either of which could derail us.

We have to ‘maintain’ our salvation. Salvation can be lost – an important point to remember. And also salvation can be built upon. We can store up more graces. We can multiply our own reward in heaven as well as do more good on earth. These things the Lord wants us to understand. There is a depth to the process that involves our cooperation.

It is actually in our favour that we have to live out this time on earth. We might prefer to go to heaven straight off, but doing it this way, the long way round, must be for a good reason.
God lets us endure these terrible temptations. It has never been harder.

But He puts Himself before us as the Good Shepherd. He says, I am here for you. Stay close to Me and you will have more chances to grow in love of God, and I will make sure you get to heaven.

So we hear the voice of the Shepherd beckoning us closer. We are here now to listen to His voice, to be encouraged by Him. We take the chance to renew our commitment to be faithful to Him until the end. Until He calls us from this life, or He returns in glory, we will serve Him every single day.

This takes perseverance, which in turn requires persistent, consistent prayer, sacraments; every day a new struggle or challenge. We do not rest on our laurels, never think we have done enough. Never say, I’ve been a Catholic all my life...so I should be OK.

We do not minimise or trivialise our obligations, but are prepared to do whatever is required to thread our way all these difficult things.

We can get stronger and better at these things. It is not always difficult. We can pick up new strengths and this is what He wants.

Also we can do good by being here, and this also He wants. We can build up His Church, win more lost sheep.

Without ever being overconfident, we press on, and discover there is a joy in our religious life. It is not a burden to pray, go to Mass etc. It becomes a joy as we discover the closeness of God.

This is the way He wants us to develop. He gives us wisdom to understand, motivation to continue.

Easy to be lost? In Australia 88% of Catholics do not even get to Sunday Mass every week, the most minimal obligation. See what happens if we let things slide.

Christ has risen, yet who knows it? It is so easy to lose what we have. How could the Church ever have looked back after that start? Complacency and a host of other factors have led us into trouble. There are so many tricks and traps around.

We will not fall for them. We will cling to the Shepherd and let Him form us.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Low Sunday 19 April 2008 Sermon

Low Sunday 19.4.09

Christ is risen from the dead but who knows it? Even His disciples have doubts, as represented by St Thomas before his moment of realization.

There are degrees of knowing. We tend to put too much weight on physical evidence. People will say: If God appears to me I will believe... much as Thomas said. But for some people no amount of proof is ever enough. They always want one more miracle, one more sign.

The task is how to get from the external signs of God’s presence to an internal faith. How to have such an internal certainty of God’s existence, nature, presence and purpose that there will be no more doubt.

When StThomas said, My Lord and my God, He was saying this to a particular person, not just making a general affirmation of a concept. He believed Our Lord to be God, and that is quite a statement. Not just, Oh yes I believe there is a God of some kind, but this man standing in front of me is God!

It is the specific nature of the faith that is so important.

We profess to be Christian, which requires that we believe Jesus of Nazareth to be God, yet we still manage to put our faith on a more distant level, less intense.

So today we have to set about localising or making more specific our faith in the person of Jesus Christ. So that our faith is not just a vague or cloudy notion, a kind of general idea.
Tentative faith means a tentative living out of that faith. How dogged we are by doubt and fear.

And how much progress we would make in holiness, evangelising, and even working miracles if we believed in God as we believe in other things, such as our own existence. We do not doubt earthly realities but when it comes to God we start swimming in doubt.

Once the belief in Him is rock solid we will behave differently. We will be wanting to please Him and have a horror of displeasing Him (Sin).

Remember Peter after they had fished all night with no result. Throw your net out the other side, and a huge haul resulted. What was Peter’s response: to fall on his knees, Leave me , Lord I am a sinful man. He was brought to an awareness of his true self and status.

When we are really brought face to face with God this is what happens. We not only believe but we repent.

Thus today is the feast of Divine Mercy.
Faith will make us ask for mercy. We ask it for ourselves and we go further, seeking it for others as well. That everyone in the world would know God as He is.

What a tragedy that people do not know Him. All the terrible things that happen in the world can be traced to this simple fact that people do not know God. They do not love Him and do not seek union with Him. If they sought Him they would find Him and they would then behave differently.

The subtitle to the Divine Mercy image is, Jesus, I trust in You. Maybe we could have it in brackets: I wish I did but I don’t, but please help me so that I can.

We may not be entirely sure but will become surer.

We do not demand miracles but we do ask Him to make Himself obvious, to increase our trust in him. To such a point that we will never again doubt His existence. Never again have fear, but be so grounded in Him, so immersed in His reality, that we can base all our lives on His will - which is nothing other than we should have been doing all along.

We know Him, we trust Him, we obey Him. May He reign for ever!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Easter Sunday 2009 Sermon

Easter Sunday 12.4.09

If we have been to all the Holy Week ceremonies we probably have spent more time contemplating sorrow than joy, but we are very glad finally to arrive at the joy of today, Easter Sunday.

The experience of sorrow seeming to outweigh joy is probably fairly typical of this whole earthly life, this ‘vale of tears’, where we encounter so many sufferings and disappointments, yet we live in hope of eventual and eternal joy. When it is all said and done we will have a lot more joy than sorrow, which leads us to conclude that life is worth living and we are glad to be alive.

The final stage is hard to reach but if offers so much. Today we rejoice that we have the hope of eternal life; the fulfilment of every hope; the reward of every good action, the compensation of every suffering; the righting of every injustice.

We celebrate the possibility, probability, even certainty of our eternal life. We make it certain by coming closer to Him.

Necessarily our celebration is still a little muted given we are still in the earthly stage. We cannot yet celebrate unrestrainedly because the final joy is still in the future.

But we have enough going for us to be able to celebrate. We are in a very good position overall! We are a great deal better off looking at Resurrection as against looking at simply nothing, a great void after death.

Christ is risen. Initially we might think, what is that to do with me? Everything, when we realize that to be united with Him is to rise with Him.

We become more alive by coming closer to Him. We begin resurrection here and now. Heaven is not just something that happens to us if we die.

Sudden death, sudden heaven? Not that simple. Heaven is not just a place where they take dead people. Resurrection is not just that you happen to wake up after you die. If you are the same sort of person with all the sins and faults death would not improve anything. There has to be a change in the person, at the interior level.

Heaven is for people who are alive in Christ, who have received His grace, have let Him work in their souls, have had some sort of contact with Him.

Life is available as much as we want, not only life without end as we normally understand it, but the life of the soul, the capacity to love, that which makes us truly human.

Life like this is both promise and demand. To live forever in Christ is the promise, and to live like Christ is the demand if we are to receive what is promised. The key to life is acting in a God-like way. That is how we lost the life in the first place (sin). Remove the sin and life takes its place.

Easter may not yet be unrestrained celebration but it does help us to position ourselves in a much better way.

Think how fortunate we are. We have been created and then recreated. We are born and that is good, but to be reborn is better still.

God could have put us in heaven straight off, but this way is better, despite being so much harder. The resurrected life is better because it is in a sense earned, requiring the cooperation of the one risen. Resurrection is not just a passive thing, something done to us, but a partnership, a covenant with God.

So we have to begin resurrection now. We cannot avoid physical death but we can do a lot to reduce the apparent dominance of death. We can be so alive before death that the actual death is just a punctuation mark in the longer narrative.

Christ is Risen. We are risen with Him, in part already, and the remainder will come if we stay faithful.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Holy Week details

For Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday I will be taking part in the ceremonies at Holy Name. Accordingly there will be no Traditional ceremonies at St Monica's on those days.
On Easter Sunday Mass will be at the normal time of 8am at St Monica's.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Passion Sunday 29 Mar 2009 Sermon

Passion Sunday 29.3.09 New covenant

Those attached to the traditional Latin Mass are often accused of being people who are not able to cope with change. We would reply that change per se is not necessarily good. It may be for the good; it may be for the worse. Each instance of change has to be taken on its merits.

One change which we can guarantee was definitely for the better is referred to in today’s epistle: that Christ has changed the manner of offering sacrifice to God. It used to be bulls and goats; now it is Himself who is offered. This is a change for the better because the new sacrifice (Christ) will be much more pleasing to the Father and much more beneficial to us who offer Him.

In His own flesh He has made a new covenant with us. This is a new beginning, not a new religion, but an upgraded one. It is like moving from horses to cars. It is progress in the truest possible meaning of the word. There is still continuity with the past but now everything has been lifted to a higher level.

It is change we should welcome, and the most diehard traditionalist will get on board with this one.

The Jews generally did not take to the change brought by Christ. They could be excused for being cautious and wanting to test things, but Our Lord proved Himself again and again, by His words, actions, attitude and by fulfilling all the Old Covenant prophecies. The time for doubt had passed and to reject Him came to mean they were rejecting God as well.

Our generation does not care about either old or new covenant, nor religion at all. This is not a failure to endorse change; it is more like despair, a refusal or inability to believe in anything beyond what can be seen or experienced. In that sense our generation rejects change as well, by rejecting the possibility that things can get better than they are.

Two things we have to do and we don’t do either of them:
1) Grasp in our minds the possibility of a change in the human condition. God promised in advance:I will make a new covenant with you. I will put a new spirit within you. You will be so full of My presence that you will be able to keep this covenant by supernatural grace. It sounds difficult initially but you will be able to do it.

2) The second thing is to live by this covenant, to put the word of God into practice, to begin to live differently.

So that living righteously becomes a matter of habit, not just rising to the occasion every now and then, but a way of life, normal behaviour.

Being charitable to everyone around us, forgiving those who offend us, trusting in God at all times, all of the Ten Commandments – is it possible? No, not possible, certain - once we are sustained by His grace.

The death of Christ leads to life: in two ways. Life as in living, in that we will live forever and in glory if we are in union with Him;
and life as in loving, in that we will rise above selfishness etc, truly becoming alive as we were always meant to be.

All this is the result of the new covenant, which is still being implemented insofar as very few people really come to terms with it. It is one change we should welcome and accept with great fervour.