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.