Wednesday, 20 May 2009

5th Sunday after Easter 17 May 2009 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 17.5.09 Time to pray

The epistle exhorts us to spend more time taking in the full meaning of our faith, and not just skimming the surface, like one who glances in a mirror.

I am fortunate to spend a lot of my time dwelling on matters concerning the faith, it being my job, so to speak. Having to preach forces me to think about what I am going to preach. Having to hear confessions or to counsel people forces me to think about questions that I might otherwise have left alone. And I have more time to pray than most people would.

But where does this leave you? The layperson has to find time for these things too, in the midst of many concerns.

Do you find time to pray, or are you swept along in the river of busy-ness, giving only scant time to spiritual matters?

Not everyone has to pray the same amount but everyone does have to pray.
Not everyone has to read books and study the faith, but everyone must have some kind of mental hold on what the faith requires.

If we don’t think about these things we will not be likely to take them seriously in the conduct of our lives.

Our behaviour will be governed by our thoughts and beliefs, our values. It is vitally important we get these beliefs right.

If we follow the ways of the world we will value money, health, popularity, pleasure etc and think nothing of God or of what happens after we die.

But if we come to know God as central to our lives, and come to understand His will for us, then we are going to live differently, and much more happily.

Most of us would feel that the spiritual is important but would be struggling to give it due priority.

The world seems to make first demand on us and we pray only when we have dealt with everything else, and that can mean never.

Even priests and religious can neglect prayer as they hurry from one meeting to another!

Then when we do have time we may be too tired to pray or even think on a spiritual plane.

If we did pray more, did come closer to God, we would find a lot of things opening up for us that presently remain closed.

Our Lord in the Gospel is encouraging His disciples to ask for more things in prayer, and with greater confidence (Amen, amen, I say to you: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it you. Hitherto, you have not asked anything in my name. Ask, and you shall receive; that your joy may be full.)

There is a lot of unrealized potential out there.

Generally we have not begun to reap the benefits of our faith. We grumble, worry, and fret about many things when a glorious new life is waiting there for us.

Look at the advertising. They will show a tropical beachfront and someone sipping a drink in a hammock and run a slogan like: All this at your doorstep. So we should buy the package and go and stay at that holiday resort.

All the more so if we have heaven ‘at our doorstep’ and we can be free from the usual earthly ways of thinking. Give time to God and watch our faith grow. Then see how our lives take on a more purposeful and more rewarding quality.

We know where we are going, perhaps for the first time.

It takes discipline to move in this direction. Get out of bed earlier, turn off the television or computer; learn to appreciate silence and solitude; learn to be patient in longer times of prayer.

It might seem boring or useless at first but it is the doorway to a whole new world.

And it is something we should all be doing whatever our position in life. No one can claim to be too busy to find the central purpose of life itself.

What we lack, either in time or understanding, may the Lord supply!

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

4th Sunday after Easter 10 May 2009 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 10.5.09 Pipe down and listen.

We hear from St James in his epistle today. He wrote in another part of his epistle that we have great difficulty controlling our tongues. He was right. We shoot our mouths off. We are so quick to judge, to put an opinion.

Our Lord tells us not to judge one another. There are at least two reasons for that: one, we do not have authority to judge, and two, we do not have all the facts needed to judge.

It is bad enough if we judge each other but we also have the audacity to judge God.
CS Lewis wrote an essay titled, ‘God in the dock’. His point was that God is our judge, but in fact we judge Him. We put Him in the dock and we find Him guilty. Guilty of not knowing how to run a universe; of how to deal with good and evil in a fair way.

Now, if I were God, I would do such and such, and sort things out in a day. (So the argument runs). I would wipe out the evildoers, reward the good - and it would all be immediate. Like a political candidate offering free beer and no taxes.

We put Him on trial and we find Him guilty. This is biting the hand that feeds, or the pot saying to the potter: why have you made me thus? In short, we leap in too quickly.

What is required instead is a great deal of humility and patience.

Humility: to admit that there is a great deal we do not and cannot know. We understand that God is dealing with a universe of billions of people and over thousands of years. I come into that for a brief space and time. Like an ant on a football field. I cannot have much to say that is going to improve things.

The only useful thing I could add would be to refer to what God has said; to draw attention to His word.

Patience: is needed to take in the time scale and the breadth of His plan. He has made the stars and all their movements. Consider the complexity and beauty of life. Study any branch of science and see the marvel of His wisdom at work. Consider the things we enjoy, the things that make up our lives. Who invented all these things? We would not have them without God.

So I conclude that God has more idea than I have, and more power as well. He has the ideas and He has the means to put them into effect. I am glad He made me and that I have some small share in all this. I will take my span, my 70 or 80 years, and hope I can be useful.

Humility, Patience, and we could add Trust. Trust Him to work through me and I can just watch things unfold as they should. They will unfold a lot better if everyone pipes down, listens and obeys. How much better the world would run if everyone, or at least many people did this.

Even if others do not, you and I can, and even one instrument in tune will make the orchestra sound better. Better to light one candle than curse the darkness.

So we should be quiet. If we are inclined to make a noise then be loud in His praise.

In the Gospel today Our Lord is telling His apostles not to be premature in their reactions. Don’t be too upset if I leave you; don’t jump to conclusions. The Holy Spirit will make it all plain. But you must give Him time. Don’t be trying to read the last page before you have finished the first chapter.

Be still and know that I am God!

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

3rd Sunday after Easter, 3 May 2009 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 3.5.09 Our true home

Our Lord compares our suffering to a woman in labour. She suffers a lot of pain for a certain amount of time, and then the pain not only stops but turns to joy as she sees her baby born.

Our suffering in this life has two forms. One form of suffering is all the things that go wrong for us, everything from stubbing our toe on the chair to our lament for the irreligious state of the world, everything large or small that is other than the way we want it to be.

The other form of suffering is less obvious. It is the deeper suffering of not yet seeing our true home. We are refugees, looking for home. If we never suffered pain in this life we would still not be completely happy because we are not yet where we truly belong.

Our true home is in heaven. Earth is an exile, a place of pilgrimage. We need to get out of here and into our true home.

Granted we can be comfortable here, and that is precisely a major temptation to us: that this life appears to offer happiness but it is never the complete happiness that we seek. Many have suffered shipwreck in the faith trying to find heaven here, exchanging eternal happiness for passing pleasure.

Until we walk in the door of heaven we will be like that woman in labour. Our Lord consoles us in the meantime with a glorious hope. It does make things a lot easier if we have something definite to look forward to.

The Lord relieves our sufferings in both forms. Things will continue to ‘go wrong’, though through prayer we can at least reduce the number of those things. But the suffering that really counts – that we are not yet home – well, that is coming to an end. We just have to make sure we stay close enough to Him, that when our time to leave this world comes we are within reach of His mercy.

An exile never forgets his homeland, yet we can forget heaven as we get caught up in worldly matters. We are tempted to think that God has forgotten us; that He will never return. But when we turn to Him in prayer we receive His reassurance. Any apparent absence on His part is only to increase our longing for Him, and to intensify our prayer for His aid.

He will not leave us orphans. He has set up a system of protection for us, through the Church and the sacraments. We have more access to Him than we might realize. Granted we cannot see Him, but we can feel the power of His presence as we approach Him in the sacraments, and obey His teaching through the Church.

When all seems dark and we feel all alone the best thing to do is reassert our faith in Jesus Christ and call upon Him. He will do something good for us, we can be sure, even if we may not be able to predict what it is.

Living with a passionate desire to reach our true home in heaven will help us cope with any sense of loss here on earth. We will not be so heartbroken when someone or something we love is taken from us, realizing everything here is just passing.

The people we ‘lose’ through death, we hope to reclaim in eternity, once we have all passed through.

The things we enjoy on earth will be found bigger and better in heaven, whether in the same or different form - but we will suffer no loss.

All this is within our grasp if only we stay close to the Good Shepherd. May He call us safely home.