Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27 Dec 2009 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27.12.09 Christ to be born in our time

Sometimes in films or plays the Virgin Mary is portrayed as giving birth to the Christ Child with the normal labour pains associated with birth. This, however, cannot be correct as the Church has always understood that the birth of Jesus was painless to Mary. He passed through her flesh like sunlight through glass, or as He later passed through the wall of the tomb.

Mary was spared this particular suffering but she suffered a great deal later on in her role as Mother of all disciples of Our Lord: Woman, this is your son. To bring children to birth in faith is harder than bringing them to birth in ordinary life, and requires a great deal of sacrifice and suffering.

Mary’s future suffering was foreshadowed by Simeon in today’s Gospel: a sword shall pierce your soul. She would suffer to see her Son suffer. Then she would suffer to see Him rejected and despised even in future generations. She who can see so clearly that He should be honoured suffers all the more when He is dishonoured.

So we think of Mary in these Christmas days, that it was not all joy for her. Certainly in Bethlehem on the night of the birth it was unrestrained joy, but the shadow of suffering lurked close by.

This closeness of joy and suffering we express in the Church’s liturgical calendar where Christmas Day is followed quickly by the feasts of St Stephen and the Holy Innocents, a reminder of the red of suffering staining the pure white of joy.

Christ has been born, but we could say He still is waiting to be born in the hearts of men. He has come to the earth but has not yet penetrated the hearts of the people. Not until they accept Him fully can Our Lord be said to have come to birth fully.

On this line of thought we could say that we, as the Church, suffer the pain of childbirth as we try to bring all our sons and daughters to the fulness of faith. How we suffer when we lose one of our children to worldliness; or when we find it so hard to bring one outside the fold inside. How much resistance of every kind there is to the simple truth that God is our Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour.

What do we mean by penetrating the hearts of people?

At the end of the Second World War people on the allied side were very jubilant, dancing in the streets, hugging complete strangers, so relieved were they that the terrible destruction had stopped.

I do not suppose those people in that moment of joy would have expected that the war just finished was the last war there would ever be. They were just glad for at least a reprieve for a time. Human nature was still the same and there would be always danger of war while people were subject to greed, hate, anger and the like.

There needs to be a change of heart. Christ must be born in each person’s heart so that these sinful qualities can be removed. When we pray for peace it is not just absence of war we seek, but absence of malice. Not just the putting away of weapons but the burying of all grudges. When we reach this extra level of change we can say that Christ has penetrated our hearts.

Mary loved totally and so made herself vulnerable to whatever happened to her Son. If she had been hard and indifferent to Him she would have suffered less, but would be less helpful to us.

Her great love becomes a channel by which her children (including us) can learn love instead of hate. In this she is our Mother. She brings us to birth. The more our hearts are purified of sin the more alive we become; the more Our Lord can be said to be born in our midst.

Mass time for New Year's Day

Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville, will be at 8am on Friday 1st Jan 2010, instead of the usual time of 6.45am. All other times will be as normal.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Christmas times

Christmas Day Mass times for the Traditional Latin Mass in Adelaide:

St Monica's, Walkerville: Christmas Day 8am

Holy Name, St Peters: Midnight, 7am and 9.15am

The weekday Masses at St Monica's will continue as normal:except on Friday 1st January, Mass will be at 8am instead of the usual 6.45am

Happy and Holy Christmas to all!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

4th Sunday of Advent 20 Dec 2009 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 20.12.09 Change for Christmas

Keep Christ in Christmas is a common saying we hear; Christmas is about Him. But not just as a passive figure to be admired or adored but to be met, to be engaged with. He comes to meet us and from each of us He asks a response: What do I mean to you? Who do you say I am?

It is so easy to see Christmas in routine terms. Just dinners, parties, socializing, travelling perhaps. This can apply to both the believers and unbelievers, with the only difference being that believers go to church as well!

There may be routines associated with Christmas and that is fine, but we have to go deeper. Christmas is an encounter with Christ. And whenever we encounter Him it means something is likely to change in us, or at least should change.

Am I as fully His disciple as I need to be, and if not what must I change to be so? Am I obeying His commands; am I putting Him first, seeking to do His will in my state of life?
Or am I trying to keep my own ways with just the trappings of religion?

What do I need to change? If we were out robbing banks it would be easy to identify. But if there is nothing obviously wrong what is there to change?
There are lots of less obvious things: we might be jealous of someone, resentful, vain, lazy about prayer, or many other things, not obvious to the world or even oneself but which indicate a lack of passion for Christ. We can only work on these things with daily application and bouncing back stronger each time we fail. Refine the finer points.

John the Baptist: make straight His ways. This is the only show in town. Everything else is either preparation for it or distraction from it. Christ is everything and our response to Him is everything.

He was ignored enough the first time without our providing an encore in our time.

So each of us decides here and now that we are going to give Our Lord the greatest welcome ever. What about the others? All those people out there - so few will see Christmas in this light, nor for that matter any other part of the year. How can we reach them? By the fulness of our conviction.

If the non-churchgoers see that the churchgoers are just like them, with only church attendance being the difference, then they have a point. We must show them something better.

We must take up our cross; this is what it means to be transformed as His disciples.

When we do meet Him really full-on this is what will happen to us. We will be made like Him. We will be like Him in wanting to give our lives for others.

Giving life requires death. The seed must die to become wheat; a mother sometimes dies in giving birth; Christ dies to give us life; disciples die to make other disciples.

Taking Christmas seriously means we would be willing to give of ourselves for the salvation of others, whatever that might mean in actual detail.

Usually it will mean just everyday patience and kindness, not getting easily upset, not holding grudges, just being humble and generous in all directions.

Every person must make his own path to this conclusion. It is a long way from a worldly lifestyle to true discipleship. If too worldly one will not see the need to change, let alone want to. But the wanting and the achieving are in the power of Christ Himself to give – to any who are prepared to meet Him as He really is.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

3rd Sunday of Advent 13 Dec 2009 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 13.12.09 Find the time

One of the difficulties of the Advent season is that we are surrounded by Christmas celebrations. From a liturgical point of view Christmas comes too soon by far in the world around us. We really should celebrate Christmas after 25th December, not before.

If we can abstract from all the busy-ness and focus on what really counts then the Advent time should be for us a chance to appreciate the true wonder of Christmas.

This wonder comes in two main statements: that God became man and dwelt among us; and that He did this because of His great mercy whereby He wants to forgive all our sins despite our unworthiness.

These are two well-known and much-repeated facts and we may be somewhat dulled in our appreciation of them because we have heard them so often.

But just pretend you are hearing them for the first time. God is becoming Man. We would never believe this if it were a future event instead of a past one, but there it is; it has happened already.

Consider that the same God who made the universe and holds it in being, the greatest of all kings or emperors, far more important than any earthly celebrity – that same God is willing to take a personal interest in someone like you or me.

Earthly rulers do not do that. Presidents, and Prime Ministers are not likely to ring me up to ask how I am going! But God, King of heaven and earth, far more important than any other king or queen is following my every move with interest.

Can we believe that? We should: it is no more than part of our everyday faith, yet if we allow ourselves to be impressed by it as a fresh revelation we discover some of the wonder of Christmas.

And as for the Mercy: imagine any other person allowing us to offend him again and again, even every day; how long would such a person remain on friendly terms? Yet here is God, willing to take us back no matter how many times we offend Him. This is astounding; we need to take time out to realize how fortunate we are that He is like that.

He could wipe us all out if He wanted to, and strictly speaking that is what we deserve. But we get something far better than we deserve.

So He dwells among us and He forgives us - two impressive facts to wrestle with in the Advent season.

Unless we find time and space to reflect on these things we will not appreciate Christmas. It will be just a round of drinking and eating and socializing; pleasant enough as far as it goes, but not getting to the heart of the matter.

We must seek the Child, like the wise men. We must make an effort to find Him, and when found, to keep Him.

How do we find Him when, as mentioned, there is so much bustle around us, making prayer the least likely thing to be happening?

We must pray as much as we can, depending on each one’s circumstances. Force time for it; give up something else, anything else. Whatever it is it cannot be as important as prayer.

Then also, find God in the world. He makes Himself known in many different ways. We can see His beauty in His creation and His will in the unfolding of our lives.

St Paul exhorts us to joy. When we give enough time to the matter we see he is right. We do have much to be joyful about - eternal life to come; His providential guidance in this life; His glory all around.

We will experience this joy only if we let it sink in; only if we give it enough time to become a part of our lives. Can we find the time?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

2nd Sunday of Advent 6 Dec 2009 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 6.12.09

‘What did you go out to see’, Our Lord asks the people. It was not someone soft and comfortable who would make you feel good.

John the Baptist is an awe-inspiring figure for his absolute commitment to the task. He is not the most popular saint because of his severity, yet there is something very admirable about him for his refusal to yield to anyone in any direction, in life or death.

We admire people like that and wish we were like them, or maybe we don’t wish it, but we should!

To be uncompromising with evil. We compromise with a lot of things that go on in the world. There is so much evil around, and we are powerless to stop a lot of it from happening. If we look deeper we may have more power than we realized.

Always people will be telling us not to worry, to relax. The temptation to compromise is very strong but sometimes we have to make a stand even if we die in the effort. (St John Baptist, St Thomas More, all the martyrs, and of course Our Lord Himself... just about every martyr has probably had someone say at some point: Is your cause sufficient to give up your life? Would it not be better to save your life and fight another day? Yet the sacrifices they made have changed history).

Granted we cannot take on the whole world all at once. There are so many fronts on which the battle can be fought and no one person could deal with all of them. But progress is possible.

First, of course, one has to avoid joining in with the sin of the world. If we cannot stop others sinning we can at least not sin ourselves. This alone is a major task. Only with an abundance of prayer and sacraments, and studied application, can we be strong enough to avoid sin, at least in its worst forms.

Second, we can consider our own individual place in God’s scheme of things. Each of us has a different place in the Body of Christ; different gifts; different limitations. If we could harness the power of the Holy Spirit and let His gifts develop in us then we can be powerful contributors to the good of the Church, and thus the world.

We may not be John the Baptists but there is a lot of power in aggregates, all of us putting in our ‘five loaves and two fish’.

Third, there is the importance of being zealous: coming to love what is right and good for its own sake, for God’s sake. The saints had this in abundance. It was nurtured through their communion with God. They were zealous for the Lord, jealous for His honour.

Fourth, if all else fails at the very least we will be atoning for the sin that is going on. There is value in reparation for sins committed. Sometimes we can do no more, but it is something in itself. In reparation we express the love for God that the sinner has failed to show. God is consoled by that, and spiritual power is obtained. (This is the main point of the death of Christ)

We don’t always know what to do in the fight against evil. Even in one’s own family there are likely to be people doing something wrong. Do you tell them, or let them go and just pray? Or a bit of both? It is hard to say, but the closer we come to God the more likely we are to come up with the right answer. Live the truth, speak the truth, act the truth and good effects must follow.

Many people don’t even try to be holy, or do not go far enough. So the Church is very lukewarm in many places and the evils run riot.

Consider that a quarter of all Australians are Catholic but how little we influence the surrounding culture. In other countries the great majority of the population is Catholic but you would never know it.

How far can we go? We don’t know, but further is needed.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

1st Sunday of Advent 29 Nov 2009 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 29.11.09 Recognition of God

He came to His own and they knew Him not... sad words from the beginning of St John’s Gospel. In the beginning was the word and the word was God. One would think that if God came to the world He would be recognized, but apparently not.

Stranger still, if He came again after the first time He is still not recognized!

Our Lord comes to the world every day in the Eucharist and also in others ways, acting in response to prayer, absolving sin, seeking out the lost sheep – yet in all these activities He is largely ignored or denied by the human race.

The season of Advent is a time for us to Recognize Christ, to give Him due attention, to ensure that at least those of us who call ourselves His disciples will give the honour, worship, obedience and trust that should be given by everyone in the world.

Why is He so little regarded? Because the first time He came it was in humility, and humility is not the world’s favourite quality. If He had come as a great warrior, or miracle-worker it would have been different.

As it was when He worked miracles people would flock to Him but they cooled off when He gave hard teachings, or when He claimed to be God, which was seen as going beyond reasonable limits (even though true).

In the face of this general rejection we have the promise/threat of His second coming, which unlike the first will be very spectacular and obvious, and will leave no possibility of being ignored.

But by then it will be too late for repentance, and evildoers can expect only punishment at that stage.

God does not want to catch people unawares. He wants everyone to come to recognition of Him and repentance of sins before that final stage.

This is why so much of His word is directed towards eliciting repentance and warning us of what will happen if we do not.

Sometimes we wonder why God does not make Himself more obvious to the world. Given that many people do not believe in Him and many others who believe do not take Him very seriously, why can we not have more miracles, more obvious signs of His presence?

Our Lord, when He was on earth, pointed out that certain people wanted only signs and wonders, and always needed proof. As He said to St Thomas, blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

If God made Himself too ‘obvious’ it would take away the element of free will which is so much at the basis of our human nature.

Thus He ‘hides’ Himself to some extent in this earthy pilgrimage. He is found by those who seek; He is recognized by the poor in spirit, by those who can humble themselves. But He is rejected with scorn by the proud and mighty of this world, the Herods and the Pharisees, the false intellectuals and the self-sufficient (or those who think they are sufficient).

God may not work signs and wonders to order, but it is a miracle when a proud person humbles himself to accept the truth – a miracle of conversion.

Our Lord asks us to read the signs of the times. When you see clouds you know it is going to rain. When you see your life falling apart or realize how empty it is then you know you need something else. That ‘something else’ is faith and a life of obedience to God. You will never be happy without it.

So when we realize this we come into voluntary submission to God; we become His disciples, and begin to give Him due recognition.

Advent is a trumpet call to the world: Here He is, Behold Your God; do not ignore Him any longer. Enough damage has been done. Come right with Him before another day goes by.