Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Feast of Christ the King 25 Oct 2009 Sermon

Feast of Christ the King 25.10.09

The most recognizable symbol of Our Lord’s life is the Crucifix. It may seem strange to call someone hanging on a Cross the King of the whole universe. It is not just that He rose again from the dead. We could say, Sure He was crucified but that was only a temporary setback. No, we go out of our way to emphasize the Cross; we make it the centre of our whole religion.

On the Cross Our Lord demonstrates His self-giving love. It is this love which defines in what way He is the King. My kingdom is not of this world, Our Lord told Pilate. In allowing Himself to be crucified He acted unlike other kings, who usually assert their power by putting other people to death, but not themselves.

He sets the tone for the rest of us, who would be His disciples. If we are to belong to this Kingdom we also must be prepared to serve others, even to the point of laying down our lives.

The Kingdom of God is not so much a place as a way of life. When we pray Thy Kingdom come, we are praying that we and others live in the way of humility and service. The Kingdom ‘comes’ when I and a lot of other people take God seriously enough to obey and worship Him.

By His life and death Our Lord was teaching us something, but He was also establishing a new way of life. He was not just ‘giving a lecture’ about how humanity should operate. He put it into practice and led the way. He changed the condition of the human race, repaired what Adam had lost.

Adam had dominion over everything. He was king. He forfeited his authority through sin. Creation then started to work against man. From then on animals might eat you; plants might not grow; the body would rebel against the soul; and men would kill one another.

The second Adam was also King and He regained dominance of the whole world by complete obedience to His Father.

If we obey God creation will obey us! It is as simple as that. Our Lord, in His humanity, gave complete obedience to God, and this restored humanity to peace with creation, including other humanity.

(This is why saints are able to work miracles. They are invoking their own exceptional obedience to God and the powers of nature will obey them in turn.)

Most of us do not have much power on this basis, because we are still rebellious against the will of God.

We must learn to obey the King and the more we do that the more order and concord will come back into our world; and the further we take it the better it gets. Even just as individuals we can do a lot of good.

We cannot predict exactly what will happen but all of it will be for the good. There might still be suffering because that is the way of Christ, but will be towards a good result.

The key for us is to be humble enough to fit in with God’s plan. If we assert ourselves we create rebellion and a lot of trouble. If we humble ourselves before Him and obey we become channels of His peace and the Kingdom takes hold.

The Kingdom can flourish only when people are and remain humble. So why make trouble where there is none? The devil will be trying to stir the waters all the time and he often succeeds, but we learn to see him coming.

Our Lord does not force His kingdom on us. We retain the right to choose, but we cannot choose the outcomes of our choice. If we reject Him we will have the roof fall on us in all sorts of ways.

So, come on board and taste real freedom, even your own power to make things happen. Our own share of creativity is waiting to be discovered.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

20th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Oct 2009 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 18.10.09 Faith

The nobleman did the right thing in approaching Our Lord and placing his request. Our Lord took the occasion to give us all a demonstration of His power, in this case healing from a distance. All things are possible to God.

Our Lord often appealed to us to have more faith. He wanted us to believe in Him without hesitation, that no matter what the problem or how improbable it looked of solution to our resources we should not doubt Him for a second.

There are different ways of asking. We can have assurance in our manner or we can have panic or doubt. He wants us to have assurance. Son, they have no wine.

Once that is established He wants us to ask for all that we need; to pray vigorously and constantly for anything and everything (not frivolous things, but anything good).

Why does He make us ask when He could give us the desired thing anyway? One of His main objectives is to lead us to a love of Him. By forcing us to communicate with Him it brings us to a better understanding of Him and makes us participants in our own salvation. If the prayer is left unsaid the power and love of God are still there but they remain as potential. It needs our request to activate His love, to apply it in the current situation.

It is like food, for example, that will only help us if we eat it. So faith will only work if we use it. Distance is no barrier as the Gospel today indicates. We can pray for anyone anywhere.

By our prayer we stir up an avalanche of graces. And we do not only ‘ask’ for things, but with increasing knowledge of Him praise and thanksgiving will emerge.

All the while we are drawing closer to God. We can pray for rain, or for a safe trip or the healing of an illness, but none of those things can compare with the need to be united with God.

We can pray at different levels. We can pray for the current crisis while at a deeper level we are expressing trust in God, and acceptance of His will.

It is hard for us to achieve this kind of trust in practice.

We tend to say, if a prayer is answered favourably, that God is good.

But, does this mean that He is not good if we do not get what we want?

This cannot be right. God is just as good whether the particular prayer request is achieved or not. He does not increase and diminish in goodness. He is eternally perfect.

This does not mean we are indifferent to what happens. We can still have preferences, and even passionately so.

God would not expect us to be indifferent to things like whether a missing child is found dead or alive.

But without losing any of our legitimate concern for earthly matters, we can increase our concern for the true recognition of God.

If we begin with glorifying God we come to trust that His will is perfect and is working itself out in every situation.

This makes us not indifferent, but peaceful.

A new sense of serenity encompasses us and enables us to deal with the worst, or the best, that can happen.

We will not panic but will act with assurance and accuracy.

Our prayer will always help to improve some aspect of the situation.

We have to pray first and foremost that we come to know God more completely.

That is our main prayer, and the main purpose of prayer.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

19th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Oct 2009 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 11.10.09 No short cuts

He who is a thief must be a thief no longer but work his way honestly. So St Paul tells us in today’s epistle. It is time to do things God’s way not our way. This is a struggle for us. It seems like taking the long way round when we could just cut across here...

Reflecting on Our Lord’s life: He worked many miracles but could have worked a lot more. He could have healed every sickness, raised every dead person... and in every place and time.

He once walked on water but we understand that He normally walked the full distance and probably had aching bones. He could have worked a miracle every time. (What would we do if we had that power to work miracles?)

We don’t have the same power but we do have the ‘power’ to take some short cuts.
For example, to steal - There is something I want, so I take it. Why bother to work to make money to buy something when I can just go into someone else’s house and take it?

St Paul is saying: This, my good man, is not the way anymore. That is what you used to do, now you must be like Christ. You must do things differently now.

So with all the commandments and the teachings of the Church: what a business. Why would you give up the direct route and take the long way round? For example, with marriage. Why wait to express love sexually? Why stay with my wife when I can find a prettier younger girl?
Why have a baby if I can stop it from being conceived or born? Why bother to speak nicely or carefully when it is easier to shoot my mouth off? Why bother to work hard when I know others will do it if I don’t? Why bother to be good when other people are not?

It is the way of Christ. Jesus could have said to Himself, Why come to earth and be put to death? He shows us the hard way, the narrow way, the way of the Cross. In many ways unappealing compared with seduction, forbidden fruit, the path of least resistance. How can we come to accept it?

The natural law is one answer. If we were all thieves no property would be safe, no boundaries respected. If there were no fidelity in marriage no family would be intact. If there were no road rules we would all be crashing every day.

A higher motive, however, is to learn to trust and obey God, keeping His laws in His honour and at the same time benefiting from His providential love. Obey Him and He will bless: He will make water come from the rock, bread fall from heaven. He will work the miracles for us if we are in union with Him.

But don’t try to work your own miracles, or rearrange the commandments to suit yourself.
The short cut always leads to a dead end.

Go with Him and it will become clear. This is the challenge before us. Can we put our lives on the line like that?

We always like things to be easier than they are. The greatest blessedness is to be doing things His way. Even if you are the only honest person in the street it will bear fruit.

People don’t want to join the Church because it has restrictions... the Church is out of date they will say; it should change its teachings to allow all human frailties free reign. OK let’s try this out; abolish all commandments as from tomorrow, and see if the world improves!?

No, we must go the more sober way, as St Paul directs. No more thieving, lying, adultery... now we are re-formed in the image of Christ, like putting on a new set of clothes. (cf the wedding garment of the Gospel). It seems strange at first, but opens up a whole new world.

Ironic that people think that in throwing off the yoke of Christ they will find happiness; it is exactly the opposite. Take up My yoke... and you will find rest for your souls (Mt11, 28).

Thursday, 8 October 2009

18th Sunday after Pentecost 4 Oct 2009 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 4.10.09 Spiritual battle

We have just celebrated the feast of St Michael and also of the Guardian Angels, reminders of the spiritual world by which we are surrounded; and of the invisible spiritual battle that goes on around us all the time.

Spiritual battles are mysterious to us because invisible and often at a level of subtlety beyond our perception.

They generally concern interior matters, the battle for the ‘inside’ of us, the possession of our hearts and minds. Do our hearts and minds belong to God or to the evil one?

There was a story during the week of a man who was going to be a seminarian many years ago but presently is organizing a national blasphemy day in USA - a painful example of what can go wrong if the battle is lost.

Every one of us is subject to the pull of angels and devils. The devils tempt us to sin and the angels ‘tempt’ us to good. Each side is holding up to us messages why we should go their way.

There is a right and wrong way to look at everything. The more we can grasp the right way the more we will develop good habits (virtues) and shed the bad habits (vices).

The world around us has many wrong ways of looking at things. Not for nothing did Our Lord refer to Satan as the prince of this world. The world tells us that God does not exist, or if He does exist He does not count for much. We might as well go out and have a good time because this is the only life we have.

Your sins are forgiven you, says the Lord, to the man on the stretcher. And He would add, Go and sin no more. He forgives sin and He gives the power not to fall back into the pit.

Our task is to claim the freedom He has given us; to maintain and nurture it like a plant so that we can hold the progress we have made, and build on it.

It is not so hard as we make it. Evil is powerful but Good is more so. Our greatest asset is the light of Christ which illuminates us; helps us to see what is good, and walk in that. He will help us to recognize the tactics of the devil, who mainly works by deception. When the deception is unmasked he is a lot less powerful.

In ordinary life we learn not to pick up spiders, not to put our hands in the power socket, and other basic safety measures. We can learn from the wrong turnings others take not to end up like them.

We have to work on our salvation. If we do nothing we will probably be lost. Many today operate on the assumption if they don’t do anything obviously wrong they must go to heaven. The Devil can snare us that way too. Just as if we did nothing to secure our house or car we will probably be robbed.

If we do fall then we strengthen the defences. Just as if the house leaked we would fix that part of the roof. We don’t just leave gaps for evil to get in.

It is a battle and must be entered into vigorously if we are to win. The energy we spend on other contests – we could use some of that in the battle for souls. Look at football and how much energy, physical and emotional, is expended on that. If people would be that worried about their salvation!

Both sides are working all the time fighting for our souls. Many people don’t know anything about this battle. They go about as though nothing is wrong when they may be on the brink of hell.

Alertness is the key. Keep watch. Sentry duty. You are set free; go and sin no more and you will rise from your stretcher - and eventually your grave.