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.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 14 June 2009 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 14.6.09

We are the poor and outcast, that have to be brought into the banquet. None of us is rich in this context. We are all sinners and we all need mercy. We are all the sick that the Doctor has come for.

It is not just that some are sick and some healthy, as we have in the physical realm. Spiritually speaking, every living person is in need of salvation, even if presently sinless.

The parable was aimed originally at the Jews, some of whom thought they qualified for salvation just by being Jewish, on racial grounds. They were God’s chosen people.
Yes, He had chosen them, to lead the way. But they also had to be saved by faith; by being in union with Jesus Christ.

Just being Jewish was no guarantee. Just being Catholic is no guarantee. We are not saved by labels. We are saved only if we are in union with Our Lord, in a state of grace, if we have His life in us – or, in today’s Gospel, we come to His banquet, to eat of His life-giving flesh.

Most of us will receive Holy Communion today. Imagine if we could not receive Him for a long time. Cut off. Would we miss the sacrament?

We need to rekindle the desire.

Many are indifferent. They receive Communion occasionally – maybe at Christmas, a funeral or wedding, the odd Sunday – it’s like ‘catching a movie’; just fitting it in to a busy schedule. This is a very casual approach. These people do not think of themselves as sick, needing a cure.

If they were physically sick they would not be so casual if there were a remedy available.

They must either think they are ‘healthy’ and do not need the doctor, or they do not think the Eucharist is anything special.

Faith operates at two levels: one to perceive our need as beggars; the other to see in the Eucharist the healing of that spiritual poverty; to be as though desperate to reach that cure.

If we had a disease and there was a cure we would crawl across the ground to get it if necessary. So for the Eucharist we should be willing to crawl in here!

If not, we must either not believe we have anything wrong with us, or not believe that the Eucharist is a cure.

We have to realize our own nothingness, and the everythingness of this sacrament.

The Eucharist is our cure, but not in isolation from the Sacrament of Penance.

Our spiritual Doctor gives us both sacraments to work in conjunction with each other. One to remove the sin, the other to fill us with grace. We make use of both.

We are still sinners, still in need of cure, but now clothed in the wedding garment.

We are still sick insofar as we have any sin, even if we are better than we used to be. Even if we do become perfect it will not be by our own efforts.

Always we will be obliged to God for where we have reached. Even the eternal banquet is free food; we have to be grateful for all eternity.

Look at the saints how they wrote about themselves. They were very harsh in their self-assessment. This was not just poetic licence; they really did see the chasm between themselves and God. And see also their great love of the Eucharist.

We are healed only if we realize our lowliness AND accept the medicine offered to us.

So we do both on this Sunday after Corpus Christi. And we keep coming; we never let our love grow cold (cf epistle). The more we know our need, the more we benefit from the cure.

No Thursday Mass

There will be no Mass at St Monica's this Thursday (18th June).
7am Mass will be offered at Holy Name as usual.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Trinity Sunday 7 June 2009 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 7.6.09

Love is the subject of thousands of songs, and most films and books have a love story of some sort.

This is human love, the love between a man and a woman. We might think it is everything, but it is really just a derivative of something much stronger - divine love.

Divine love is the Source of everything we have here on earth, but particularly of our capacity to love and be loved.

Everyone wants to be loved, whether they are religious, irreligious, or anti-religious.
The need to love and be loved is built into us by the Creator, who Himself is Love.

The need to be loved probably seems stronger than the need to love; but we actually have a deep need to love God. We are made for this. We may not recognise the need, but it is there. To deny it is to be like a fish who thinks it can do without water. It can try living on the land but it will not be very happy in the attempt. Neither will we if we think we can get by without God.

As we come today to explore (as far as we can) the Mystery of the Holy Trinity we will learn something of our interaction with divine love and we should manage to improve both our love of God and love of neighbour.

We find that God is One, yet also three Persons. The three Persons are equal in status, perfectly united in will and action, always agreeing with each other, and loving each other with a force we can barely imagine.

If we say that human love is like the pale sunlight that comes in the window after 93 million miles, then divine love is the temperature at the source of that sunlight, on the surface of the sun itself! (And more besides)

We observe human love, which can be very strong but is also marred by arguments, betrayals, selfishness etc. Divine love is a billion times stronger and without any of the negatives.

It is sometimes suggested that God created the human race so that He would have someone to love, and to be loved by.

It is true that He wants to share His love with us, but not true that in any sense He would be lonely without us. He has in Himself, through the three divine Persons, every possible degree of love. Perfect love is given and returned.

He has no need of us but He wants us all the same.

So we enter the scene. Created by Him and then called to be His adopted children, we participate in His nature.

This means we learn to love as He loves – being generous, faithful, and loving even when not loved in return.

We are elevated as we contemplate Him. We rise above pettiness, unforgiveness and any other imperfections. There is no place in Him for these things, nor in us.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right and fitting to do so..

It is useful for us because it will bring many blessings. But even more so it is necessary because it is in our nature to do so. We are made for God, made to be in union with Him. It is something we need to do – to contemplate Him and glorify Him.

He does not need us, yet we can add to His glory. After all, three million and one people can give more glory than three million. So each person can add something. We cannot increase the perfection of God, but we do a good thing to express His perfection.

Thus the Church, through prayers and hymns, and above all the sacrifice of the Mass, proclaims the glory of God, One and Three.

May each and all of us come to know, love and serve Him more fully.

Glory be to Him!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Our Lady Help of Christians 24 May 2009 Sermon

Our Lady Help of Christians. Feast 24.5.09 (Patroness of Australia)

In 1844, Mary, under the title of Our Lady Help of Christians was chosen as the patroness of Australia at the First Provincial Synod of Sydney. Our Lady has been invoked under the title Auxilium Christianorum or Help of Christians since at least the sixteenth century. After the battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, at which a Turkish fleet was defeated by a Christian fleet, Pope Pius V, who had previously called upon Catholics to invoke Mary's assistance so that the Turkish threat may be averted, inserted the title "Help of Christians" into the Litany of Our Lady as he believed that the threat of invasion had been averted through Mary's intercession. Our Lady was again to be invoked under the title Help of Christians early in the nineteenth century. Pius VII was elected to the Papacy in 1800, soon after Napoleon had seized power in France. Although Pius VII and Napoleon had signed a concordat in 1801, Pius later refused to accede to many of Napoleon's demands to whittle away the Church's prerogatives. In a fruitless attempt to coerce Pius VII, Napoleon kept him under close arrest in Savona in Italy and other locations from 1809 to 1814, forbidding cardinals and other Church officials to meet him. A prayer campaign was organised amongst Catholics throughout the world to obtain the Pope's freedom, particularly the freedom for him to exercise the Petrine office. Pius VII attributed his eventual freedom in 1814 to Our Lady Help of Christians and decreed that the feast be celebrated on the anniversary of the day upon which he re-entered Rome, 24 May.
Our Lady helps us. Well, we certainly need help! Actually no small part of our struggle in the spiritual life is caused precisely because we are not inclined to admit our own helplessness. So we can be defiant towards heaven and pretend to ourselves that we can get by on our own strength.

We need help both personally and communally, as the Church. And the tempest-tossed Church all her eyes are on thee. They look to thy shining, sweet star of the sea!

We are tossed by tempests as never before in the present Church. Scandals, loss of faith, lack of vocations, loss of members (especially young), false teaching, sacrilegious liturgies, to name a few...

In our personal lives every one of us has sinful habits that need changing. We cannot do it on our own. We need help.

Where does help come from? Heaven. When we pray we are bringing to bear the power of heaven onto the current situation.

It is usually very difficult to measure the difference that prayer makes because there are so many factors involved in what happens.

Sometimes it is obvious - as in a complete miracle, such as a major healing. Most times the prayer will just go into the mix of all the factors and although we may not be able to say exactly what the prayer did, we can be confident that it helped things to turn out for the better.

There are certain things we can do to make the prayer even more effective. One of those things is to invoke the aid of Mary, Help of Christians. She can help us by praying for the same things as we pray for.
Not all prayer is equally effective. People pray with different degrees of faith, of fervour, of perseverance. Our Lady prays the best possible way in all areas.

Her prayer is worth far more than ours. She is more likely to reach the heart of God because she is so much closer to Him to begin with.

It is said that God cannot refuse a request she makes. This would not mean that God lacks resolution; it means that Mary is so close to Him in her own thinking that He will always agree with whatever she suggests.

She also does not suffer from lack of faith as we usually do. She sees God face to face. She does not doubt His existence, or His love. She can cut through all the things that make us tentative and inconsistent in our own prayer.

She goes straight to His throne, still humble, but knowing already what He will say.

So she is a powerful Advocate for us, a very fruitful source of help.

Generally we underrate the power of prayer. We tend to leave it to the last thing. We try all the practical solutions, and then if they do not work, we pray. Prayer should be the first thing, permeating all our actions, before, during and after.

We can be in a state of prayer, whereby we may not have time to make formal prayer, but nevertheless can still be close to God in mind and heart, so that whatever request we make, however hurriedly, will be sincere and will be accepted by Him. If you ever find yourself on a sinking ship, you will be glad if you have maintained a close relationship with God.

In any case, wherever we are with Him, we can ask Mary to pray on our behalf because she is always close. It helps to have a mediator. So we call the mediator ‘Help’. It is her name so much is it part of her nature.

Pentecost Sunday 31 May 2009 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 31.5.09

We understand that there are different degrees of happiness in Heaven. Everyone in heaven is perfectly happy, but some are more happy than others. It is all to do with capacity to receive. Think of two containers, a small cup and a large mug, both full. There is more liquid in the mug than the cup. So with Heaven. One soul has more capacity to be filled with the knowledge of God than another. Yet the smaller soul is filled to completion and is perfectly happy.

Knowing this we might settle for being a ‘small’ soul, for just scraping into heaven, doing only what we have to do to be saved, but no more. Surely though, if we have a choice; if we have the chance to maximize our knowledge of God, to draw closer to Him – then we should take that chance.

If large-souled, we can receive more. So we set out to be that, to drink as deeply as we can from the well of living water, to know as fully as possible the delights of God and Heaven.
We are doing this whenever we ask to receive the Holy Spirit.

We receive the Holy Spirit at Baptism, and again at Confirmation. Then we turn around and say let’s receive Him. We are always asking to receive Him, yet we already have Him. How can this be?

Both statements are true. We have Him, but not as much as we need or would like. To receive Him more means we can come closer to Him, can love Him more; that He can be more active in our lives.

Come Holy Spirit... It is not as though He is hiding from us. He wants to come. But He will usually come only if invited. We have a covenant relationship with God. He could just take over, but it is our glory to be able to love Him in return.

We would like to be just taken to heaven, but this way is better. Almighty God is waiting for us to learn to love Him from our own (assisted) understanding, to seek Him ourselves, not simply be passive recipients.

We might think we are happy already and we are at peak capacity. But no, we could always be more aware, and therefore more happy.

It is only ignorance that would ever lead us to say we know God well enough, or we have enough of Him in our lives. It can only mean we do not know Him. We do not miss what we do not know. But in this case we cannot live without the knowledge.

People will say: You must take up golf, or bushwalking, or some other pursuit, and will say, You don’t know what you are missing. You must try it. If you do you will never look back. We do not have time to follow all these lines of advice.
But in the case of: You must find out about God – this one is not optional. This is the very heart of your existence, the very reason you exist and you literally ‘have not lived’ if you do not know Him as fully as possible.

People who have had a conversion will say: how did I ever live like that, without God?

Once we have tasted even part of the joy of heaven we cannot look back. So we take the chance, while we are still alive, to increase our capacity to know God. We ask for more of the Holy Spirit, that He will take over our souls, possess them, and use them for His purposes.

Come Holy Spirit break down the barriers by which we minimise or sideline You. Take us to where we need to be. And then higher still.