Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22 Nov 2009 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22.11.09 What really counts

We have just had a reprieve from euthanasia in our state. This is a great relief as we know that euthanasia is a totally immoral process and is based on a godless understanding of life and death.

One of the arguments put forward for euthanasia is that people cannot bear to watch a loved one die slowly. It seems so cruel to see a person lose more and more of what they had during life and be reduced to almost nothing.

Granted, a strong emotional argument, but is there more to that process of losing everything?

In the Bible we often find that people have things taken from them, and it is usually to teach them to have more dependence on God. The Israelites lost Jerusalem and were taken into exile because of persistent disobedience to God. At other times they lost their crops through lack of rain, or through punishing hordes of insects. God, at such times, was not rejecting them but calling them back to faith in Himself.

Put not your trust in money, food, other people, having big walls around your city. It can all be taken away from you in an instant and it is not where to look for help. Only in God do we find the security we crave for.

So the process of dying is another way that God reminds us of the futility of clinging to earthly things. He forces us to give back to Him what He has given us. The power of sight, hearing, taste, mobility, memory. We are stripped of everything eventually. It is not pleasant to think about, but if we put it in terms of going back to the One who created us it makes a lot more sense.

Into Thy hands I commend my spirit. The words of submission of Our Lord become our words also.

And like the holy man, Job, everything will be restored to us in greater quantity, though not in this life.

Such sentiments are important for us on this the Last Sunday of the Church year when faced with another ‘end’ we consider also the end of our lives, the end of our world as we know it.

These things must come and will not be improved by trying to ignore them.

So how do we get ready for death and/or the end of the world?

By making a habit of giving everything back to God in acts of thanksgiving and trust. By reminding ourselves constantly of our dependence on Him; reminding ourselves that it is His world and only He can bring it to its proper conclusion.

When something is taken from us we face a critical choice. Do we allow ourselves to become bitter with God and turn away from Him? Or do we take the lesson and give thanks for whatever it was that has gone, and then say: but I still possess God and that is far more important.

It is not easy to be deprived of things but we can train ourselves to see that God and His kingdom is all that really matters.
As he came forth naked from his mother's womb, so shall he return, and shall take nothing away with him of his labour.(Ecclesiastes 5,15) We cannot take these other things with us.

At the end of our lives only one thing matters: are we or are we not in union with God (in a state of grace)?

If yes, then we have everything; if no, then we have nothing.

Are you with God or against Him? All our preaching and praying and striving are for the purpose of attaining union with God, and increasing that union.

We do not count what we lose when we stand to gain so much.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

24th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Nov 2009 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost 15.11.09 The Church (Readings: 6th Sunday after Epiphany)

When Our Lord established the Church He never meant that the Church would just blend in with the surrounding society, becoming a part of it only, even less a part which people would be free to reject or ignore.

What He meant was that the Church would take over the whole world, and that everyone in the world would be in the Church.

In practice because people largely ignore or reject the truth of the Gospel, the Church is seen as an option and even a despised option. Even the people who choose the Church are deceived by what happens. They come to accept as normal the view that the church is just part of the world. One even hears prayers asking that the Church would take its place as part of the world community and work with all other people of good will to establish peace, justice and the like...Lord, hear us!

In this view we are just one little group that does things while a lot of other people do other things and we pitch in with them. We can indeed work with others sometimes, for example on relieving poverty. But it is unthinkable that we can let people see the Church as a sort of club which you might or might not join.

In fact the Church permeates the whole of reality, like the leaven in the bread, or like the tree that is so big its branches cover the whole world Or like Mount Zion the tallest mountain, to which the smaller mountains look and to which all people hasten.

As Christ is King of all, so His kingdom, embodied in the Church, stretches to all corners of the earth – not only geographically, but culturally, morally, in authority and practice.

In advertising the line is always: there is no other hotel you would stay, no other car you would drive, no other drink you would drink... besides this one.
We say this too: there is no other body you could dream of belonging to in preference to the Church. We are not just the best but the only. There is no real choice.

This is the Body of Christ; there is no other place you will find Him like here. You will find aspects of Him elsewhere but even those things will only lead you back here.

(We are not saying the people are better but the place is better, so we are not guilty of arrogance here.)

Think of the apostles and how they preached. They did not preach that they had come to listen, or dialogue, but to offer something they possessed – faith in Jesus Christ. Only in this name can you be healed and saved. There is no other Name.

At times we can cooperate with ‘people of goodwill’. But many times we are right against the public opinion on abortion, euthanasia, homosexual ‘marriage’, sexual morality, the reality of hell and judgment, the need to confess sins etc. It is up to them to agree with us. It takes a lot of courage for a minority to say to the majority, You are wrong. They will laugh at us and even kill us. They have already.

It is tempting to say instead, Isn’t it wonderful to live in a country that allows everyone to have different views?

We must be against the tide, unapologetic. Christ cannot be put under a bushel, cannot be diluted, and must not be.

We proclaim Him to the world but first to ourselves. Many Catholics do not believe more than a fraction of the content of our faith nor have any intention of spreading the faith to others. A huge amount of catechising and evangelising in our own Church is needed, let alone the whole world.

Despite the considerable limitations of Catholics as people, the Church has grown to great size and endured. That is the miraculous element at work. We must live up to the privilege of being in this special place and not disgrace Our Lord by selling Him short to the world.

Monday, 9 November 2009

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 8 Nov 2009

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 8.11.09 Faith

The woman touches the hem of Our Lord’s garment and is instantly healed. Not all prayer is so successful or answered so quickly. What can we learn from this?

We can discern that there is a kind of inverse proportion between the level of faith of the one praying and the number of words used. If our faith is strong enough the lightest touch is enough to reach Almighty God and receive whatever He is willing to give.

The more we believe the less song and dance we need.
It is not how many words we use or how many gestures we make but the depth of our faith.

Our Lord did say, Do not use many words when you pray, and then proceeded to teach us the Our Father, a prayer which is very succinct but also very deep.

Using very few words is not to be confused with making very little prayer, whereby a person with little or no faith makes little or no prayer. Indeed they do not use many words but that is because they do not expect anything to come from the prayer.

If we should pray with few words then what are we to make of such lengthy prayers as the Rosary or of events such as prayer vigils when many words are said? And even the Mass contains many words.

Our Lord once referred to a particular demon as being more difficult than usual to remove. He said that for such a kind much prayer and fasting is required.

Sometimes longer prayer is required, not because we lack faith, but because the mountain that needs to be moved is bigger. It takes more prayer to convert a sinner, for example, than to produce fine weather for the parish picnic.

Our Lord Himself found it necessary to pray all night sometimes.

We do not repeat ourselves out of doubt but for emphasis! If we say the same words over and over again, as in the Rosary, it is not because we doubt their truth but because we want to emphasize them. Like a lover saying, I love you, again and again. We are making a triumphal expression of the goodness of God. Hallowed be Thy name, Hail Mary full of grace, Glory to the Blessed Trinity... in affirming these things to be true our faith grows stronger.

We want to fill every moment with the confidence that comes from our knowledge of God’s goodness.

And we want to make His love cover as far across the world as we can make it go. Every time we repeat the affirmations of His goodness His power goes out to someone somewhere.

The best of both worlds – strong faith (like the woman who touched His garment) combined with a desire to make that faith cover every possible need.

The key to both the short and the long of it is closeness to God. The closer we are to Him the more effortlessly we can express the substance of our prayer; also the more we perdure in a state of prayer, not just a moment here or there. Our prayer is constant rather than episodic.

We need to be strong in faith to the point that our prayer flows smoothly. We do not pray only when the brakes fail or we feel the earth trembling and think there might be an earthquake! We nurture a closeness to Almighty God such that we are able to speak to Him without fuss and panic. We do not approach Him as strangers but as His children.

Re Mass times

There will be no Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville this coming Wednesday 11th Nov and Thursday 12th Nov. All other times will be as normal.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Feast of All Saints 1 Nov 2009 Sermon

Feast of All Saints 1.11.09 Beatitude – good and happy

There are two very common statements we make about Heaven:
One is, You will be very happy in heaven. The other is, You have to be good to get to heaven.

Goodness and happiness are connected; they eventually converge on the same point.

We are happy in heaven because we will be dwelling with God, and thus drawing in the fullness of life, as alive as we can possibly be; as much as possible being what we are meant to be. Fulfilment.

But to get to heaven, we have to be good. Meaning that we have to be in union with God, living in such a way that we have the life of God operating in us.

The way to get to heaven is to live like you are already there!

We are not as happy here as there, but everything else is the same. The only difference is that here we have suffering, various distractions and purifications. These things are preparing us to go there forever.

Those in heaven worship God, thank Him, trust Him, submit to Him, love one another, and pray for those in need.

These are all things we are supposed to do on earth and the more we do them the happier we are; and furthermore these things give us the surest way of getting to heaven.

On earth we have a foretaste of heaven. The best way to enjoy yourself on earth is not to sin, as some would suggest, but to obey God in all things.

Beatitudes: Blessed are those... ‘Blessed’ means both happy and good.

They are happy because they are good. Good because they are happy (insofar as in union with God).

The closer one is to God the happier and the more likely to behave in the right way.

All saints: Saints come in different degrees of holiness. Most are not canonized. They were just ordinary, average - like us.

You can get to heaven without being the best; you just have to be good (enough). But we should strive for excellence.

Today we are celebrating ordinariness (rightly understood).

At the very least we seek union with God, to be in a state of grace, so that we will be there on the last day, among the blessed.

Reflect that a lot of the ‘All Saints’ are people just like you. They have battled through the same sort of things as you are going through. Maybe they had a difficult marriage; maybe they had very little money; maybe they had trouble passing exams; maybe they struggled with depression; maybe they were bullied by someone; maybe they had doubts about their faith...

Think about the day you die and then 50 years later still. People will read your tombstone and see some basic information, but they will not understand all you went through. Just as we do not understand what they went through – those who have gone before us.

It is comforting to know we are all in the same boat. We can encourage each other to get at least the minimum right. Just hold on till you die... not much to ask. Of course you can do more, but at least do that much.

Our religion works better if you pitch in, not just dabbling around the edges, keeping God at arm’s length.

Our Lord is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the reward and the way to the reward.

He makes us happy and He makes us good – with all the chorus of the saints we rejoice in Him.