Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sunday after Christmas 26 Dec 2010 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 26.12.10 Generational change

Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. If that is so it looks like not many people study history! Every generation does exactly the same things.

There is always war, people killing each other, arguments, selfishness. Whatever is evil seems to happen just as much as ever, no matter what century or what year.

And more to the point each generation ignores/rejects God.

Our Lord was rejected at His birth and then by another generation thirty years later. And then future generations have done the same thing, crucifying Him again - in their minds at least.

They insult, blaspheme against Him like no other. And disregard His words.

We should get better with time. Logically each generation should be better than the one before. ‘They did this wrong so we will do better’.

But everybody does the same mistakes again and again.

So we need some help here to get things to a higher level. We need God’s grace to put His will into effect.

Folly is the consequence of sin; our minds are darkened, and wills weakened. So that even when we know something will have bad consequences we still do it.

Only by divine grace. We have to accept him, at least initially, and then let His grace work on us to help us learn from the past; and with this greater wisdom our thinking will change and eventually our whole culture or society.

At Christmas time especially we would like to think there could be some improvement in the human condition. So far not much to enthuse over.

But it is not beyond us.

We cannot raise ourselves. It takes prayer, repentance, application. Daily seeking the necessary grace. Only God can lead us out of the wilderness.

A few basic steps is all it takes. We can make progress in other spheres such as medicine and technology but no progress at all morally.

The moral sphere requires direct acknowledgment of God and direct contrition. That is why it has not happened.

It needs for us to go further than just a ritual observance of Christmas and to dig deep for the power that is there.

This power is undiminished by time; every day is the first day of the rest of human history.

We can control only our own individual response but we are hoping that there will be a chemical reaction, an explosion of goodwill if a critical mass is reached. If enough people see something in a new light a big change can result.

It is not beyond us, if we connect with the grace of God. It is not beyond us to do that much. We are not being asked to solve all the world’s problems; only to humble ourselves before the crib of Bethlehem, to ask His help every step of the way.

And not to give in to fatalism. Many thinkers have noted the human condition and have resigned themselves to the sameness of one generation to the next; but this is to exclude the miraculous and abundant power of God.

The Covenant which Our Lord established was new not just in the depth of its teaching but also in its power to change human hearts and minds. It would inspire us to get out of the rut.

Just to believe this is possible is itself a breakthrough. This is not some naive optimism but plain honest Christianity; no more than tapping the power which has always been there (just as technological advance is merely discovering powers that have always been there).

Then this and future generations will give God-incarnate the recognition He deserves.

Christmas Day 2010 Sermon

Christmas Day 2010

The obscurity of Our Lord’s birth symbolises the rejection He received. Unfortunately however that rejection still continues.

If everyone who heard the Christmas story would then say: Well, I will certainly open my house to Him! Then we would be making progress.

But we have celebrated Christmas every year and after 2000 years it does not get much better as far as welcoming Him goes.

He is the most insulted person in the human race, despised and rejected. The rejection did not end with Bethlehem, either during His life or since. In the third Mass of Christmas we hear from John’s Gospel: His own did not receive Him. They did not want His message; they don't want religion even to be mentioned.

All this rejection is so unnecessary. A lot of it is just people being impressionable and following each other. It is fashionable to blaspheme, to laugh at goodness and purity, to be cynical and sceptical.

However to accept Him, to stand with Him - takes courage. We have to be prepared to be different to be His disciple.

Just as Mary would have kept Him warm, and protected Him from any dirt, cold wind or any danger... so we have to protect Him too from the cold winds of anger rejection, scorn.

So we ‘protect’ Him from the hatred of the world; siding with Him not against Him. And we do the same at Calvary.

Were you not with that man? We were, and we still are.

Part of our ‘welcome’ means we must defend and hold sacred all that He has put in place such as defence of human life, respecting the body, being merciful to others; standing up for Him in the market place of ideas; pointing out why His teachings are always right and why any deviation from them will always mean trouble.

Christmas comes by itself, in terms of the date. But that is just the shell not the substance. Christmas has not really come unless we interact with it, involve ourselves, see ourselves in union with Christ; then it has come.

We go beyond just the commercial, social, cultural aspects of Christmas and come to the main point: standing with Christ; ready to live or die for Him.

Above all, accepting Him. Not giving Him the ‘No vacancy’ sign, but the warmest widest possible invitation to come and dwell with us.

Of course this point could be reached any time of year, but we will make use of the good feelings that come at Christmas to prod us to a further response.

Christmas is the only feast that everything stops for. This could be helpful as an occasion to think. It could be unhelpful insofar as the cultural customs can be taken for observance, and thus the real point – the acceptance of Christ - is easy to miss.

Did you have a good Christmas? An open-ended question, which probably means did you have a nice time with family etc? That question can mean for us: Did you welcome and recognise Him? Did you go into the stable and offer Him warmth and strength and support? Did you protect His name?

The great rupture of the human race from God is still only partially healed.

Accepting Him means allowing His healing reconciling work to take effect. The world needs all the healing it can get. We would be glad to do anything to help. We do help if we accept Him in our own hearts.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Mass times over Christmas

Times for Latin Masses at St Monica's, Walkerville and Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh over the Christmas period are the same as they normally are, but just to make sure here is each day listed:

Christmas Day 8am St Monica's
Sun 26 Dec 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh
Mon 27 Dec 8am St Monica's
Tue 28 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 29 Dec 8am St Monica's
Thu 30 Dec 8am St Monica's
Fri 31 Dec 6.45.am St Monica's
Sat 1 Jan 8am St Monica's
Sun 2 Jan 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh

Christmas greetings and blessings to all!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

4th Sunday of Advent 19 Dec 2010 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 19.12.10 Going further

There are people who reject the Catholic faith because they have never known it and not thought it worth investigating.
There are others who have been in the Church and later rejected it.
There are others again who are still in the Church and yet restrict the degree of their commitment (such as those who go to Mass only at Christmas and Easter).

It is possible at any point for a person to say: this far and no further. Whether I have little or no or much commitment to the faith I can say that whatever I have is enough. I need no more, or I could find no room for any more.

Yet here comes John the Baptist to say: Prepare ye the way – implying that there is more to be done.

There is always more to be done in the matter of faith, in terms of our relationship with God.

The Catholic faith lends itself to formalism, not intentionally, but when we start to organise things it is always possible to reduce something sublime to merely technical details.

Like calculating how many Masses one has to go to, or how much of a Mass one has to be present at to say that the obligation is fulfilled.

These calculations are sometimes necessary but if it becomes habitual to think always in terms of minimum commitments then the whole spirit of the matter has been lost.

The point about ‘religion’ is that it is more like falling in love than anything else. It is not about minutiae of how many minutes we spend doing something. Instead it calls for the whole heart and soul of a person – things we don't mind handing over sometimes but rarely for ‘religion’.

Thus people will be ‘passionate’ about many things: saving the environment, justice for a particular group, pursuing a love interest... following a particular football team, conducting a hobby of some sort...

It is not the passion that is lacking; it is just a matter of where it is directed.

But if we can taste something of the sweetness of the Lord (as the Psalm says) we will be motivated to seek Him more.

This is where the sluggishness comes from: we do not seek the Lord because we do not see how attractive He is.

We need some help from Him at this point. We need Him to give us some small taste of His presence; some sign of His love. Then we can go further.

The cry of John the Baptist is addressed to each of us in every generation. Leave aside everything else that absorbs you and give your whole attention to this one matter I bring before you... Here is your Saviour, your Lord. Bow down before Him.

The question for many is Why should I? Why should I take any particular notice of this Jesus or of any of the associated religion?

Because, believe it or not, you will come to believe that He is the ultimate place to look. Every other place you look for happiness is the wrong place. Look at Jesus; give Him your time and eventually He will win your heart and then all that you have and are.

Just give Him a chance and He will prove to you why that was the best course of action.

And the call of John is for all of us, even if we already believe. Because there is always more to know of Jesus, more to give in response. Not as in paying a tax, getting blood out of a stone, but as in the spontaneous gift of the lover.

So the bad news: More is required. The good news: You will receive far more than you give and you will want to give more.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent 12 Dec 2010 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 12.12.10 Joy

We often find ourselves looking forward to certain things, like holidays. The anticipated delight of these events sometimes exceeds the reality. I might see myself enjoying a tropical paradise walking on the sands surrounded by palm trees, but in reality my luggage is lost and I am being eaten by mosquitoes.

In one case at least this letdown will not happen. We dare to anticipate one day going to heaven, seeing Almighty God face to face. This particular joy will be greater, not less, than we could imagine it to be.

This is because with our limited intelligence and experience we cannot grasp these mysteries; but they are no less real for that. We will find a level of happiness there that we could barely begin to describe here (cf St Paul in his heavenly apparition cf 2 Co 12).

Yet we dare to hope. With all our experience of disappointed hopes in this life we know we can feel differently about this one. Even though it is a much greater thing we expect we draw confidence from God Himself.

He has promised us this reward if we are faithful to Him and He never breaks His promises.

He does not promise happiness on our holidays or other earthly projects but He does promise us eternal life.

All other pleasures and joys are subservient to the ‘big one’ – the only one that matters in the long run – eternal life.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, we force ourselves to reflect on the reasons we should be joyful. So that, as the epistle tells us, we should rejoice always and never be anxious about anything.

Whereas, in reality, we are anxious about many things most of the time and hardly ever really feel undiluted joy.

When we reflect on the ultimate happiness to which we are heading we realize how much we have to be pleased about.

The difficulty is how to ‘use’ this knowledge to help us in the ups and downs of daily life.

Of course heaven is not just when we die. We can bring heaven down to us insofar as we can live in union with God already and create paradise-like conditions around us by the way we live.

(Paradise at least in terms of things like love and justice. We can't stop it being hot or cold or eliminate sickness but we can at least behave like we are in heaven.)

There are two clouds on the horizon:

One, that we are not entirely sure these things are true. We believe it to some degree, but we still allow doubts to assail us. What if there is nothing there? We need reassurance. We need more faith.

Two, that we fear we might not make it to heaven, because too sinful.

We can work on these two difficulties.

As with all things we need God’s help. If we are to rejoice we need to ask Him to help us rejoice, to deepen our faith, to come to know Him better. To know Him to such a degree that we can never doubt for a second that He will honour His promises and bring us to Heaven.

The other cloud: that He will forgive us, and give us grace to live holy lives, and so possess salvation with absolute certainty. (Not the complacency so prevalent today that everyone goes to heaven... I mean a real certainty.)

With the hope of heaven to anchor us we can deal with any rise or fall in present circumstances. This is the basis of our joy; and it is a joy that nothing can take away, unless our own renunciation of faith. Not being that silly, we allow the joy of eternity to filter through our everyday lives until we arrive at this place where all hopes are fulfilled.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

2nd Sunday of Advent 5 Dec 2010 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 5.12.10 Being different

St John the Baptist, for all his greatness, has probably never been as popular as certain other saints in terms of devotion.

Perhaps he inspires in every generation some of the awe felt by the people of his time when he set himself apart in the desert, strangely dressed, and with a fierce message of repentance.

His ‘differentness’ was a way of highlighting that the people as a whole were treading the wrong path and needed to rethink where they were going.

The austerity of his life was to put into action what he was saying with his words. When we fast, or deny ourselves pleasures to which we are entitled, we are forcing ourselves to realize that there is something better than this life as we know it. Man does not live on bread alone.

We need St John the Baptist in every generation. Although Christ has come each new generation has to learn the story all over again; has to be told to step away from too much worldly delight and look for something better – which they will find in Christ.

Each individual has to make a response. Do you believe in this man? Do you accept Him as Saviour, as Lord? Is He relevant to you? Questions we all have to answer, and continuously.

We have to renew the commitment every day. We cannot rest on past achievements; our membership must be current. So that at any given moment I am on fire with love for Him, with enthusiasm for His word, for His ways.

The message is just as urgent as ever. He has come but has not been received, and so the Church continues the prophetic voice of John the Baptist in our time.

The strangeness of dress, the austere way of life, the prophetic voice – we see these in religious life – the penance, the abstinence, the witness to the world that there is another way. There is a timelessness about these things. One could stand on a hill in any year of any century and say the same things as John the Baptist, and you would be right. (And people would think you were crazy.)

A voice in the wilderness. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever. His relevance does not decline with time. Even if ignored He remains important and His truth is eternal.

So the Church keeps John the Baptist before us. He must decrease, he said. John might have expected he would fade out of people’s minds but we keep him current because we see the difficulty of accepting the Saviour. The forerunner is still required.

How shall we proclaim Christ in the current age? Many Christians have abandoned the life of penance and self-denial, thinking such things belong to a bygone era. They argue that Christians should be part of the world and do as everyone else does.

Indeed we can blend in with the world on certain points, such as the relieving of poverty or trying to make peace.

But we must stand apart from the world when the prevailing opinions are wrong, such as on abortion, euthanasia, homosexual ‘marriage’.

We also need to stand apart from the world, as explained above, in doing penance and setting our sights higher.

We do not have to be all wearing camel skins and eating locusts but we do need at least something of that style, of that fierce courageous spirit that will enable us to ignore both the attractions and the disapproval of the world in pursuit of what is right.

There is an essential difference in being a disciple of Christ which colours everything we do in the world.

We can feel a certain solidarity with others but we never forget who we really are.

Be one with others when we can but be separate when necessary – working towards a final oneness when all the world comes to Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

1st Sunday of Advent 28 Nov 2010 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 28.11.10 Rebuilding

From the time of the first sin God has been trying to put back together the broken pieces of humanity.

Even with the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Pentecost and all the miracles and inspiration He has provided over 2000 years we still have not got it right.

If it were just a matter of putting a broken object back together it would be easy enough. A passive object offers no resistance. But human beings are another matter!

God can do all things, but it is difficult even for Him to get the human race to cooperate with His plans. The same trouble that caused the first sin is the same thing preventing the full reconciliation. Mankind has been resistant to the grace of God.

Because we have sinned we find it hard to give it up. It enslaves us, and we have to be prised free.

When we sin our judgment is distorted. Even when we know to the last detail what is required we still don't want to do it. Even if we know that it would make us happy we can still hold out. Our judgment is distorted, and we cannot see our way clearly.

We lack faith, trust, humility, obedience. We still sin even if we do believe all these things. Only by divine help can we break free completely.

So the Advent season comes upon us: a reminder to consider the great plan of salvation; going back to chapter one, and realigning ourselves. A season of repentance and preparation.

A time for us to stop resisting His graces.

So we ask Him to come, not just His second coming, but before that, to come and break down our pride, our stubbornness so we can see straight, live straight, be totally accepting of His grace, willing to cooperate with Him.

Come, Lord Jesus, fill me with truth, the attractiveness of Your way.

The only way I can break free from my distorted vision is to see something better which He has. The precious pearl, the treasure in the field, for which we would gladly trade the life we live now, stunted as it must be.

We would do this automatically if only we could see it. This is what we mean when we say, Come, Lord Jesus. Make it so obvious that we cannot miss it, even with pride and stubbornness.

His coming is moving closer in terms of time, insofar as the years pass. But He is coming closer also in that His influence will increase, enabling us to act differently and to restore what was lost, to restore the lost Eden, to have at least a share of heaven on earth.

We see then that Advent is part of a long process, which though dogged by much frustration, does head in a straight line to the final consummation of all things in Christ.

Indeed may He come, and without delay.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Last Sunday after Pentecost 21 Nov 2010 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 21.11.10

When we talk with one another about the state of the world the question arises: is this the end? Can it get any worse than this?

A bit of historical perspective will enable us to see that previous generations must have also asked the same question. Probably every generation has had enough things going wrong to be able to put those questions. Things have seemed black many times before this; but the end ‘was not yet’.

As for our time we certainly have some of the ingredients of the last days: increasing rebelliousness against God and His Church; increasingly blatant immorality, particularly sodomy (always a sign of degeneration); people have itching ears for new doctrines (Christianity is perceived as old hat).

Can things get worse? Yes, they could and they might. Predictions of evil can always be overruled if there is sufficient repentance and reparation. If everyone in the world went down on their knees there would be no need for chastisements, plagues, and other horrors to come.

God sends these things (or threatens them) not because He likes to punish us, but by way of claiming our attention.

He is trying to impress upon us how much we need Him, and how wrong things will go, and wronger still, if we do not seek to be reconciled with Him. The various images of Scripture threatening dire punishments are attempts to bring home to us that we have a vital need for God, and if we do not possess Him we will suffer agony.

After a certain point, if we deprive ourselves of God’s grace, there will be a reaction. There will be trouble in this life and the next. There will be anguish and distress as the soul realizes its loss, like the pain of grief multiplied a thousand times.

Many people have come to repentance in all these misfortunes over the centuries, but we have never managed to convert the whole world or even the majority of it. The message of repentance is not a bestseller; there is tremendous resistance to the Gospel, even though it be Good News.

People often prefer to remain in darkness and misery than change what they know.

For our part we never let up on praying for conversion of sinners and imploring God’s mercy on the world.

We deserve to be wiped out many times over by now, but still in His mercy and patience He gives us more time to get things right.

We thank Him for the time but we also gently remind Him that He has promised to come again and wind everything up!

We must not let the disintegration of moral values around us in any way loosen our own desire for holiness of life, nor of its absolute necessity.

The temptation is that when we see others relaxing their moral grip and giving way to things that they would have once been appalled by – the temptation is to join them; throw off the yoke of obedience we have been carrying for years and join the ‘progress’ to the new ways.

We must hold firm and thus be light in the darkness for others to see; a voice in the wilderness for them to hear. We are the leaven in the bread, the mustard seed that will expand to cover the whole world.

Confronted with bad news some will turn to the pursuit of more pleasure. Turn up the sound to drown out the unpleasant reality.

It is better to face reality head-on. It is the only way to discover the truth. If we read the signs of the times, realized our total absolute need for God and turn to Him at every opportunity then we have peace of mind, and we will pull back from the brink.

Can it get any worse? Yes, but it can also get better. We must make it so.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

25th Sunday after Pentecost 14 Nov 2010 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost (6th Sunday after Epiphany readings) 14.11.10 Euthanasia

The Gospel of the mustard seed: small beginnings for a great reality. The kingdom of God (or the Church) started out very small but has become very big.

A lot of actions small in themselves, but added together over time produce an effect beyond what you might expect. If the Church has grown this far despite all the sins etc, imagine what we could have become if we had trusted fully!

Most of the time we live in trust; we do not see the future, not even as far as tomorrow. Yet we believe that if we act according to the will of God we will see better times. One step at a time and eventually we will have walked a long way.

There is one particular example of this trustful stepping forward that I want to dwell on today, because of its current urgency to our state (South Australia) – euthanasia.

If we live in daily trust of God’s providence, asking for our daily bread, we should also die in trust of His providence. The matter of death can be a great anxiety for us as we occasionally think of our own death. When will it happen? How? How much pain will there be? What happens after death? And so on.

It is an even more mysterious matter than most of the things we encounter. All the more reason we should delve deeper into our faith and entrust ourselves into God’s hands. Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commit my spirit!

As God has decreed when I should be born, so I leave it to Him to decide when (and all other details) I shall die. It is His decision far more than it is mine.

So we have always had (in the Church, and before that in the people of Israel) a sensitive reserve about the manner of death. Look at Job: how he endured the loss of everything but never presumed to take his own life, nor ask others to do it for him.

He trusted during the time of darkness and all was restored to him.

So all will be restored to those who die in the Lord’s keeping. Not necessarily the material restoration as Job experienced, but more likely the joy of eternal life, the next phase of the gift of life which we are preparing for here on earth.

But today many do seek refuge in death rather than in God. Euthanasia is just glorified murder and/or suicide. Almost everyone disapproves of these things, when so called. But somehow murder and suicide in the face of physical or emotional suffering is proposed as acceptable.

What is being attempted in the push towards euthanasia is a redefinition of murder. It is OK [they are saying] to murder sometimes - if the one to be murdered asks for it, or wishes it, or seems to be in intolerable suffering.
But murder (the taking of innocent life) is always wrong. If a thing is wrong in its essence it is always wrong. Good intentions cannot make it right.

The absolute value of each person must be defended at all times. We cannot kill people according to characteristics, such as race or colour. We all understand that. But neither can we murder people who are perceived to be unhappy. Not even if they ask us to kill them.
(Same sort of logic with suicide. You can't kill yourself because do not own yourself. You have a sacred value which you might discount or deny, but cannot remove.)

We encourage each other to take this nobler view of self (which is only the truth). And of other people in the same light. We are subjects not objects.

The value of a life is not in economic output; nor in ability; but simply being a human person makes one God’s property.

In short, euthanasia is either murder or suicide, and can never be justified. Instead we must simply put ourselves into God’s hands. He looks after everything else; He can also handle our deaths.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

24th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Nov 2010 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost (5th Sunday after Epiphany readings)7.11.10 Good and Evil

It is a problem for many that evil seems to flourish in the world and evildoers do not drop dead in the street, or not straight away at least. Sin seems to go unpunished for long periods of time and even never to be punished in many cases.

The real life solution is not as simple as in the movies, where in a 90 minute film the bad are punished and the good rewarded. Such rewards and punishments are always put into very visible and material categories. The bad are either killed or imprisoned; the good find wealth, marriage, promotion etc.

God’s way of resolving things works on the same principle only it needs more than 90 minutes to sort everything out. There are lots of factors we don't see or can’t understand. There are things that will need more than a lifetime to sort out.

God does hear the cry of the poor. All injustices will be set right; all evil behaviour will be dealt with; nothing is left hanging in the Kingdom of God. He knows when a sparrow falls from the sky. Nothing involving any person would escape His attention.

The psalms and other wisdom literature of the Old Testament ask repeatedly: When, O Lord, will You act? How long must we put up with these injustices? Yet the same literature also expresses humility in the face of the infinite wisdom of God (cf Job); and acknowledges that He has ways of getting what He wants.

We entrust it all to Him. It may take centuries or millennia; it does take in billions of people. Only God could sort out such complexity and He is doing so.

He lets the wheat and the tares exist side by side, not immediately separating them but promising to do so at the Last Judgment.

Why would God not remove evildoers straightaway? Because He wants them to repent, and for that to happen He has to give them time. If He removed every evildoer at the first chance we would all have been wiped out by now. He has to give a certain leeway of time so that people have time to see the wrongness of their ways and come to a new heart. And this has to be repeated for each generation, which has to learn it all over again.

What does it mean for us, trying to do the right thing in a world where there are a lot of bad and dangerous people around? We have to work and pray for the conversion of evildoers. We have to desire their conversion, not their destruction. We do not wish enemies destroyed but wish them friends.

We must avoid the temptation to compromise with evil. Surrounded by it we can relax the standards. We must oppose evil just as we do now on the euthanasia issue. But without condemning others.
We must use the time that we have to make things as good as they can be.

Time is our friend insofar as we are in a time of mercy and have the chance for conversion.

However, it is good also to pray for a shortening of the time, as we do in Advent. We don't want the time for mercy to be cut short but we do want the Lord to come.

Amidst all the things we don't understand we can see some things clearly.
It is better to be good than evil.
It is good to be good, for its own sake, and not just because it brings a reward, or evil a punishment.
The more good people around the easier it is to change the bad ones.

May the Lord keep those whom He already has and gain those He still seeks.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Feast of Christ the King 31 Oct 2010 Sermon

Christ the King 31.10.10 Unity

People often wish we could all live in peace, acknowledging that it is a pity that we have wars, genocide, racism etc... that we should all get along together. Just about everyone would agree with these sentiments.

We have events like the Olympic games, and other ceremonials (national days, military remembrance days) where we see displays symbolizing world peace, These events inspire us, with the right sentiments at least, but they tend to lack power. They don’t really make things better, apart from a few good intentions.

But this feast today, Christ the King is another matter. Here we have access to the real power to make things different. A life-changing power. Here we have contact with Someone who actually does unite us - the new Man, the new Adam, the source of a new humanity; reconciling us to the Father. And when united to this central figure we are automatically united with each other.

This feast gives us the sentiments – the desire for peace – but also the actual sacramental access to the grace which will make things different.

As we make contact with Christ we are given the power to love, to forgive, to help others; and to turn swords into ploughshares.

We experience a genuine change of heart, whereby we are not just living in peace (as in the mere absence of conflict) but genuine love of neighbour.

Christ breaks down the barriers between Jew and Gentile, between all races, and gathers together the scattered children of God. He is the peace between us.

The world is reluctant to acknowledge Him and will try just about any other solution first.

Some will propose Tolerance as the answer to all our troubles. ‘OK we are different but there is no harm in that provided we all leave each other alone.’ Tolerance may be better than killing each other but if we tolerate things which are objectively wrong, and which alienate us from God, then we cannot have a true peace.

Only in Christ are complete peace and unity found, because only He can be the link between divine and human - and without the divine the human is sunk.

The world will say: Oh yes, Jesus Christ is a good role model, but there are many others too. He is more than role model, and He is more than just another good man. He is the Saviour of the human race, and the only one at that. Only in Him is the human reconciled with the divine.

Are we imposing Him on others? Not by force. It is like coming across someone drowning and we say: if you want we can pull you out of the water. But we won’t force you. You have a choice; only if you want to live there is only one choice you can make.

This we say to the world: if you really want peace and unity, here is the only way: go down on your knees before your true King.

We are a long way from achieving this. Even in the Church, even among those who do believe in Him there is much conflict. In families, parishes, religious orders... people do not get along even if they have the same beliefs, hopes and values.

The difficulty of it just shows all the more how much we rely on Christ to give us the missing ingredient – His own love and power. To help us get over centuries of negativity.

At least as individuals we bring ourselves before Him; we offer Him homage; ask for His grace that will work in us from the inside, to take the poison out of our hearts, the anger and the bitterness; to enable us to be what we should have been all along.

May all humanity find salvation and peace in Him.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 24 Oct 2010 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 24.10.10 Give to Caesar

If we are to give to God what is God’s that would have to be everything because He made all things and all things belong to Him.

But we can understand there is a kind of dual ownership of certain things and we can operate at different levels without contradiction.

For example, we have bank accounts. I say the money in my account is mine. But it is also God’s insofar as all things belong to Him and He would want me to use that money according to His will.

There is nothing that I could say is mine in such a way that it is outside of God’s providence or jurisdiction; so that if He had a preference for how I use something I would be able to override Him. So our money, houses, cars, even our lives belong to Him in such a way that He can take them back at any time.

Everything falls under His authority, but for practical purposes He lets us govern things at a lower level (principle of subsidiarity).

So we have systems in place to deal with things at the appropriate level. We have governments federally, for each state, for each local area. We have government of the Church – from the Pope down to the local bishop down to the local priest.

But everyone, high or low, is answerable to God as the Supreme Ruler when all is said and done.

Whatever title we may possess – if we be prime minister or archbishop – we are answerable to God for how we exercise that office.

How easily this is ignored in the world. How people scramble for positions of power not intending in the least to defer to God’s authority.

The three wise kings give us an example of how to be a king: kneel before One greater than ourselves. If we can be truly humble before God then we will be able to exercise power properly, without letting it go to our heads.

Many today deny God even existence, let alone power. They make the mistake of thinking humans are the highest life force around and so can arrange ourselves accordingly.

This is why people are not afraid to make new laws about human life – abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning, and the like. Who is to stop us? Who is above us to tell us any different?

They are attempting to build a world without God. It won’t work but they think it might.

Give to God what is God’s. How timely those words are in an age when it is fashionable to deny Him.

How much we need to return to the straight path of living by His will.

We are seeing the chaos caused by social engineering, by man’s attempts to build again the tower of Babel.

Only humble repentance can return us to the wisdom that will enable things to work properly.

We cannot exclude God from His own creation.

The same applies to our own personal lives, the way we organize ourselves. Here also we are tempted to think we have complete dominion. Who is to tell me how to live my own life? Surely I have the power to decide what is right for me?

No, there is One greater and we must kneel before Him. This is the only way to order our lives towards happiness. Other solutions may give some partial or temporary happiness but ultimately will fall to pieces.

The world is lurching out of control so long as we do not acknowledge our Creator who is also our Father; also our Saviour; also our daily Guide. Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Give to God what is His, in a word, authority. Recognize and obey Him and we will see the world transformed.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Canonisation of Mary MacKillop Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 17.10.10 (Mary MacKillop canonisation, taking precedence over the 21st Sunday)

Our first Australian-born saint is to be canonised today. Why has it taken this long to produce a saint in Australia? Or why are there so few saints relative to the number of Catholics in the world? A saint is one in a million (give or take).

Yet we are all called to be disciples of Our Lord; all called to be saints. There must be a lot of lost potential out there. There should be more people rising to the occasion.

Undoubtedly the surrounding standard does affect us. If we lived with St Teresa of Avila, or St Francis of Assisi, for example, we would probably behave a lot better. Conversely if we lived with a group of criminals, our standard of behaviour would drop.

All of us together set the average. What ‘most people do’ is what becomes the norm. The bar can get lower and lower; I think it is lying on the ground by now! What does one have to do to be a saint when even going to Mass once a week is seen as above-average commitment?

Many today believe salvation is achieved simply by the love of God lifting us into heaven; without any action or even repentance required on our part.

With this minimalist approach the talk of sainthood turns to saying that we are all saints. We are all good, or at least good enough.

The pressure is on us to conform to the general standard around us; conform downwards if necessary.

Anyone trying to be better than one’s neighbours will be accused of being a religious nut, a hypocrite... who do you think you are?

Granted religious observance can be hypocritical, but that does not mean we should abandon the observance. We want to be genuinely holy, not just appearing to be so.

Holiness, though demanding, should not have to be achieved through clenched teeth. St Dominic, for example, was always cheerful. Sainthood is not having a long face and censuring everyone else.

But the other extreme and current popular formula will not work either: just letting everything else go. Don’t ever presume to tell anyone else what to do or not to do. This is the ‘new charity’.

The saints in history were not afraid to correct error; to admonish the sinner.

Sainthood, in summary - when all extremes have been levelled out - is doing things in a Christlike way. It is being holy in oneself; performing not for others but to Christ’s expectations; being genuinely charitable; dealing with every person and situation in exactly the right way, with no excessive harshness; everything exactly as it should be.

We should desire to be saints. Not necessarily seeking canonisation; not looking for recognition as such. But yes, we should want to be canonised if it helps others to love God and gives greater honour to Him.

If people can use our lives as an example then that is good. Not for reasons of conceit, but for service.

Should we be competitive in holiness? I want to be holier than I was until today, not necessarily holier than you. If you are holier than I am so much the better. In any case all of us should be looking to improve.

We will be tempted to ease off; to run only as fast as the pack; just cruising.

Obligation is important but real love will push further. Think of Romeo and Juliet. Would you tell Romeo that he has to see Juliet one hour a week on Sunday? And that was all he had to do to please her?

He would want to see her as much as possible, and that is how we should be with God.

Obligations should be seen as just the minimum. True love takes us further and further still. If we really love God we never stop wanting to do more in His service. This is the mark of the canonised saint.

St Mary MacKillop, help us to be saints in our part of the world.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

20th Sunday after Pentecost 10 Oct 2010 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 10.10.10 Prayer

When we hear the problems other people have and we cannot see any obvious solution to those problems we are inclined to say, I will pray for you, or pray about that. This can sound like it is not going to be much help but in reality prayer can move mountains. Today’s Gospel is a reminder of the power of prayer.

Our Lord heals the nobleman’s son from a distance. Nothing is impossible to God.

We get discouraged too easily. We tend to take too short term a view of our situation. We can let our current set of problems preoccupy us to the point of forgetting the goodness of God, and failing to see His overall plan.

When we pray for specific problems we cannot guarantee they will be solved immediately but we can guarantee that prayer will make things better in an overall sense.

A lot of what we suffer is caused by other things beyond our control. For example that we live in so much anxiety in our personal lives is caused by the fact that the world as a whole does not accept or obey Almighty God, and so does not run as it should.

There is a saying that you can give a hungry man a fish but better if you teach him how to fish. It is something of that order with God. He can help with this or that need but most of all He wants to teach us how to live.

When we pray we can guarantee that the overall situation is coming closer to what it should be. We cannot guarantee the particular problem of the moment will disappear but with prayer it is far more likely to. If the Body of Christ would pray more, with more vitality, more faith, then certainly there would be more miracles, more order and a healing of the face of the earth (along the lines of the prophecies, such as children being able to play with cobras (Isaiah))

We are accustomed to a high level of disorder in the world. For example, the fact that we habitually distrust other people when we lock our houses and cars, or when we are afraid to go out at night. Not to mention that we all need ‘police checks’ now!

To heal the more basic problems it would need thousands to pray properly. We are working to a larger picture as God does: seeking the salvation of as many as possible.

If we repented on a grand scale a lot of the underlying problems would not happen. For example, if you went for a walk you would not be attacked by a gang of youth. They would all be home with their families! In a better world, that is. And it is for this better world we are praying.

We can succeed only if a large part of society will turn to God. In the meantime we have to stay home and lock the door.

In a better world people would find the right person to marry, marriages would last, workers would be treated justly; the streets would be safe. People would even drive better, and of course, there would be no road rage.

Often the apparent non-answering of prayer causes loss of faith. We pray for something and it does not happen as we ask. We can then conclude, OK, there is no God, or prayer is useless.

We have to trust that God can see the overall picture and that our prayer is helping that overall situation to come about.

It may be we have to suffer a certain amount of things, in union with Christ.

It may be that God will withhold one blessing for the sake of giving something better instead.

It is always good to ask, and any sincere prayer will help somehow.

If we cannot heal the whole world we can at least create a little bit of order in our own part of the world.

May the Lord hear our prayers - local and cosmic - short and long term - and bring things to how He wants them.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

19th Sunday after Pentecost 3 Oct 2010 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 3.10.10 All are called

We are all called to the Banquet, the Kingdom of Heaven.

Just about everyone would want to go to heaven but not everyone wants to be identified as a disciple of Our Lord. Yet to be a disciple is a requisite for reaching heaven.

Only through Him can we hope to be saved from eternal death. We either attend His banquet (eat His flesh) or we perish in the darkness.

Come to the Banquet is the same as Come, Follow Me.

It is a personal call that must be answered personally, on one’s own behalf.

People have a way of trying to deflect the demands of following Christ. Look what they say about ‘religion’. The adults say it is only for children (to teach them manners). The children say it is only for old people (especially grandparents). The men say it is only for women. The laity say it is only for priests and religious. The intellectuals say it is only for the ignorant. And so on. It seems everyone is trying to put the onus on someone else. But still He stands there, waiting for that answer.

The invitation is directed to each and every person on the earth.
We must commit, Yes or No.

It is possible to treat God like a distant cousin, someone we barely know; that we might meet on ceremonial occasions. Or to regard the worship of Him as an option, like a hobby; something we might get around to but probably not.

But He is not optional. His invitations amount to commands. There is a reward if we obey; punishment if we disobey.

We must commit. This does not necessarily mean we will have to sell our possessions and go around in poverty; but according to each one’s age and state we must do exactly as God asks us to do.

We are not all called to the same magnitude of holiness; but whether we have ten talents, five or one, we must make a return on what has been entrusted to us.

There is only Heaven and Hell ultimately; no middle ground.

If the good go to heaven and the bad to hell where does everyone else go? There is no one else. We are either for Christ or against Him! There is no third place. (Purgatory, yes, but that is only until the Last Day, and everyone there eventually goes to heaven).

Following Christ, coming to the Banquet, means belonging to the Church. The Church is not just a club that one can call in occasionally; pay a few dollars subscription, and use when needed. Many treat the Catholic Church in this light. But if we read the New Testament! The blandness of much of Church life is not foreshadowed there. We must regain and maintain that first intensity.

The Church has always been meant to take over the whole world and make it the kingdom of God.

So we retrieve the ‘radical’ understanding of the Gospel. Leave all else and follow Him. Leave all that is not of Christ, whether possession or attitude.

Back to basics: prayer, keeping His commands, confessing sins. Internal as well as external commitment. Not just ‘turning up’ but body and soul committed.

It is easier to be bad than good. If we make no response to His invitation it means we are bad. Holiness comes only through striving for it.

The enemy is complacency. There is no hell for those who are vigilant and positively seeking God.

But for those who are in slumber and refuse to wake up – there is danger.

Whatever is difficult can be made easy by sufficient grace from God. To believe this basic message, to commit to it fully, to persevere until the end – all this is within our grasp simply for the asking.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

18th Sunday after Pentecost 26 Sep 2010 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 26.9.10 Forgiveness

The greatest miracles are the ones we cannot see. God can do many miraculous things. He can make a whole universe just with a word. We see the signs of His creative power everywhere around us, with accompanying beauty.

But greater still than all the physical miracles is the miracle of forgiveness, when God chooses by a separate act to pardon a sinner and restore that person to spiritual life.

When Our Lord raised the dead and healed the sick it caused a sensation, but the greater miracle was that these people were also forgiven their sins.

And in churches all around the world sometimes physical miracles happen, but greater miracles happen in confessionals when years of sin can be wiped away by a single confession.

Forgiveness is a greater miracle because it involves a greater use of God’s intervention.
With physical processes He is usually content to let things follow their normal course; but with forgiveness He personally intervenes each time a sinner repents and grants the necessary new life in the soul.

It is a miracle because forgiveness is a departure from what ‘ought’ to happen by normal laws.

As with a physical miracle if I, for example, fall from a height I would normally be killed but God could act in such a way to keep me alive. So with a mortal sin I would (all else being equal) be forever separated from God; but He can choose to spare me that fate and give me another chance.

God is under no obligation to forgive our sins; it is something He chooses to do. We have no claim on Him apart from His good nature.

The fact that He does forgive so freely and so often should not prevent us from seeing it as a miracle and being suitably grateful.

Because of the relative ease of obtaining forgiveness we can fall into various errors:

We can take forgiveness for granted, simply presuming on God’s mercy to cover any damage I may have done. Thus people decide that they do not need to confess their sins, nor even be sorry for them. God will forgive them anyway, they reason.

Or one can lose sight of sin itself as a crime against God and nature, deserving of dreadful punishments. If forgiveness is taken for granted so can sin be taken. It is just a normal part of life and not worth worrying too much about, people reason. So again there is a refusal to confess or even try to correct wrongdoings.

We must not presume on God’s mercy. Yes, He is willing to forgive and will forgive any sin no matter how atrocious – provided there is genuine contrition on the part of the sinner.

The miracle will be forthcoming, but we must play our part as well. Just as in the physical domain we can pray for protection but still have to exercise due care (eg in driving a car) so in the spiritual life we must exercise ‘due care’ in doing our best to avoid sin and please God.

With due humility we acknowledge our sin and the penalties we deserve. We then ask for mercy, knowing it will be given, but no less grateful for that.

We can come back to life many times in one lifetime. If we are truly grateful we will sin less often and less seriously. We will be chastened by having to ask for mercy so often and will (always with God’s help) find more resistance to further sin.

This is the miracle we need more than any other. Let us ask for it as often as we need it, and be duly grateful when received.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

17th Sunday after Pentecost 19 Sep 2010 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 19.9.10 Love God and Neighbour

The greatest command is to love God and the second to love neighbour as ourselves.
All other commandments and laws come under the umbrella of these two.

What does it mean to love God? It can be difficult to know quite how we relate to God. He is so much greater than us, and so much out of our normal range of knowledge and feeling. Our relationship with Him can seem very vague.

How love what or whom we do not understand?

We can come by two roads: the high and the low.

The low road is simply to obey Him. Our Lord said once: if you love Me you will keep My commands. If we keep His commands it proves at least that we are trying to please Him and that is some kind of love. So we do that. Day by day, piece by piece... just do the next thing right. Seek to please Him. Not expecting to understand everything all at once, but just to obey Him.

The high road is to be in communion with Him, through prayer, sacrament, in some cases mystical union. Like being immersed in the sea of His love. Lost in Him. Opening ourselves to the infinite reality of God, and always seeking more of Him, never being able to exhaust His fullness. Yielding to Him; complete submission, complete union.

We can employ both these approaches. We can be hard-headed and practical; doing what is there to be done.

As to the path of union, most of us are not very mystical but then we have the liturgy to lift us up to higher places, even if we don’t have much imagination. Just to be here at Mass is to enter the depths of God.

We need both approaches: we cannot be just doing tasks. God wants us to know Him, as much as we are able. He wants us to be friends not servants.

Then again we cannot ignore duties in the pursuit of high spiritual experiences.

Taking the high road and the low road: We see Him in the small and the big things; from the circumstances of every day to the overall cosmic view of His plans.

We come to value Him more. He is not just a vague presence out there somewhere, but our most valuable possession by far.

And the Neighbour? We love what God loves, if we love Him at all. The strongest argument for loving neighbour is that God loves that very same person, and we would have a hard time explaining to God why we disagree with Him.

Of course we can list off the faults of another person but so can God. The ‘love’ we are required to exercise is not the romantic emotional love, such as being ‘in love’ signifies. Our love of neighbour can also be divided into a matter of duty in individual details and a little of the mystical as well.

The mystical side: Our neighbours, being human, are spiritual beings and therefore mysterious to us. We must respect this dimension and leave it to God to work His wonders in the other person’s soul.

Our main task is not to interfere. We pray for others to receive whatever God wants to give them, and we must not resent if He is generous to them.

God is a lavish giver and we must not allow any pettiness to curtail our goodwill towards others.

And as to duty, loving the other is simply doing whatever the situation requires, as in the case of loving God.

These commands are high enough to inspire us and low enough for us to be able to reach. What God commands He also enables. With His help we do as He commands.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

16th Sunday after Pentecost 12 Sep 2010 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 12.9.10 The secret of holiness

One of the requirements of our Catholic faith is that we must try to be good at all times and in all places. We are never allowed a ‘day off’ from the requirements of holiness.

This could sound like an intolerable burden. Yet Our Lord said His yoke was easy and His burden light. (Mt 11, 30)

And St Paul tells us that we are never tested beyond our strength. (1 Cor 10, 13)

Yet it remains true that there is no ‘day off’ or ‘time out’ from holiness. In practice we might take time out but we are not allowed to.

So can we be good all the time?

We can learn something from the example of Our Lady. She never sinned in her whole life, from conception to death. Not one sin, not so much as one uncharitable thought or loose word! Is it possible?

Sometimes we are tempted to sin and we manage not to. For example if I am tempted to say something in anger, I can manage to keep my mouth shut but it comes as something of an effort, and my anger would probably register in other ways, such as coldness of manner or impatience of gesture.

But with Our Lady, not even these things would have happened. She would not have been walking about like a time bomb ready to explode as we can feel ourselves to be.

The ‘secret’ of her success lay in her closeness to God, to the Source of holiness.

We define holiness in terms of how close one is to the nature of God.

If we act in a God-like way, such as being charitable, generous, chaste – then that is being holy. If we sin we are acting in a way other than God would act in the same situation.

Our Lady was so close to God in her thoughts, in her heart, mind and soul that there was no possibility of sin occurring to her.

It was not by some supreme effort of willpower that she avoided sin. It was natural to her to pick always the God-like way of responding to whatever happened.

This is the way we must travel. To be holy all the time means we must draw closer to God Himself and draw from His nature to transform our sinful nature.

This process will happen by a gradual change in the way we see things; the way we think.

If we see holiness as a burden it is a sure sign that we are not seeing reality as it really is. Our spiritual eyesight is suffering a blockage. We need to be healed of whatever is not registering properly.

Thus the epistle reading today where St Paul prays that the Ephesians will be strengthened with a power which reaches their innermost being; that they be able to understand more clearly the height and depth of the love of Christ.

We note that it is an interior process that needs to happen. There is something inside each person which needs to change. This is St Paul’s prayer and it is our prayer for ourselves and each other.

May all of us come to see as God sees, as Our Lady did see in her life; and countless other saints also.

It will be painful sometimes to unlearn some of the false worldly ways we have accumulated. But each sinful habit discarded is a glorious liberation and paves the way for further spiritual progress.

We must always remember that to sin in any form is not ‘normal’ behaviour; it is a deviation from the norm. Holiness is the normal state. We were created to share the life of God, and even His nature. Drawing from His nature it is not so hard to be good all the time.

15th Sunday after Pentecost 5 Sep 2010 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 5.9.10 Restoring things

Our Lord gives back the son to his mother. He restores life and the event occasions much joy, as we can imagine.

He had the ability to raise the dead and could have raised everyone if He had wanted to. He could have emptied out every cemetery in Israel.

But He does not normally restore life in that precise way.

He came that we might have life, and have it to the full. Usually He lets physical death take its course. He gives us life to the full, firstly by enabling the departed soul to reach heaven; and then at the end of time restoring the body to full glorious life - not the life of pain and suffering we encounter here, but Heaven in all its glory. Lazarus, and the young man of Naim, and the young daughter of Jairus – all brought back to life - would have had to suffer the same things as before. But in heaven all tears are wiped away; there is no more pain.

Our Lord is more interested in the life of the soul than the life of the body. To Him the greatest enemy is sin; whereas for most of the human race sickness would be a greater concern.

So when Our Lord comes across someone who is sick His first concern is for the person’s soul.

God creates and He takes pleasure in what He has made. He also likes to re-create; to restore things which have been damaged in some way.

We ourselves take pleasure in restoring things – be it houses, gardens, cars, books, works of art. There is a real pleasure in making beauty out of something that was distorted or corrupted.

If we are restoring something we will be meticulous in our approach. So is God meticulous in remaking man, His primary creation.

His mercy will forgive the sin and His grace will enable the person to rise above sin in the future.

He also can restore whole societies. As we worry about declining moral standards; about the loss of marriage and family values which threaten the foundations of our society – we can also extend the presence of Christ by living according to His word.

The more we cooperate with Him the more we restore the world from death.

The fight is essentially won through holiness of life, through our own absolute fidelity to the will of God, doing what He wants us to do.

This enables the holding on to the values we have, and recapturing them; and where possible reclaiming those who have abandoned Christian morality.

Our private behaviour must match our public declarations. Individual and communal behaviour must reflect the same values. Lots of people doing the right thing, in small things, everyday things – this will transform our communities.

We live in fragmented times; we must not be discouraged. Above all we must not go over to the ‘other side’ abandoning what we have held so far.

Avoid pollution, we are told, because it is the only planet we have. Far more so must we avoid the pollution of sin. The only way to save the planet is to live by God’s laws.

We can make this world truly beautiful by lives of holiness – which means simply living as God wants us to live. The ugliness of sin will give way to beauty, as death gives way to life in the raising of the young man.

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

14th Sunday after Pentecost 29 Aug 2010 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 29.8.10 Total trust

When the earthquake happened in Haiti in January this year a local source said that in terms of religion Haiti was so many percent Catholic and so many per cent Protestant, but 100% Voodoo!

No doubt an exaggeration, but it has been a problem for the Church in many parts of the world that the Catholics in those places often hold another religion (and by necessity a false one) alongside of the Catholic religion. It is hard to convince people to give up something that has been part of their culture for a long time.

It can be a problem right here in Australia too, where it may not be voodoo but we are tempted to put our faith in other things besides God – perhaps money, insurance, friends, superstition, ... fate, destiny, the luck of the draw...one’s own abilities, working harder...

The thing we all have to learn is that we cannot improve on God. There is one God and only one. Every other ‘god’ is a false one. To try to work in other gods with the real God is to gild the lily, to try to improve something which is already perfect.

Today’s Gospel about lilies in the field tells us plainly to have trust in God alone, and reminds us how helpless we are to change things from how He ordains them.

But if we do trust Him we will receive everything we need for our welfare and enjoy great security as we go.

How comforting this passage is and yet how hard for us to live by this principle.

We are always tempted to try some other angle besides prayer, faith, and trust. Just a little improvement. I am sure God has my welfare at heart but just in case He forgets I will try a little of my own initiative.

So we tell a few lies; we cheat at business a little bit; we look to our own welfare in a way that seems wise to us, but actually if we disobey God in any of these details we are making things worse.

It amounts to going to false gods if we look anywhere else than to Him.

We are allowed to - and supposed to - exercise human wisdom and industry in terms of working for our bread, making plans for the future.

If you insure your house it does not mean you lack trust in God. If you seek a career which will likely provide you with a steady income that does not mean you doubt God will provide.
He uses these things to give us our daily bread over a longer term.

However the false part would be if we place total reliance on these things and never pray to God for His help.

I could be rich through business acumen and think that I do not need God, but I still need His help to maintain the economy that makes me rich. We see if the stock market crashes that wealth can be wiped out suddenly. Or one’s health can collapse, or war could break out etc.

So we do need God no matter how secure or clever we might think ourselves. And thus we turn to Him in the simplicity of the birds of the air and ask that He feed us.

And we remove from our houses all the good luck charms and new age trinkets and anything bearing a trace of a false religion. And we resolve to be honest in business and in speaking and living the truth.

We cannot improve on God; we can improve our relationship with Him; draw closer to Him and come to a more secure faith in Him.

This is what Our Lord is telling us to do today and He will help this to happen as He feeds us with Bread from Heaven.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

13th Sunday after Pentecost 22 Aug 2010 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 22.8.10 Salvation – not to be taken for granted

All ten lepers were healed, but only one returned to give thanks. This one was saved as well as healed. He received the cleansing of soul as well as body. The other nine had only bodily healing.

He was ‘saved’ because he recognized the work of God in what had happened to him, and was prepared to submit himself in gratitude to the power of God. By casting himself at the feet of Our Lord he was expressing a willingness to be His disciple, to accept whatever terms or conditions might be further required of him.

This is what ‘salvation’ means. We are saved when we are in a state of grace; in a state of union with God – and this can be the case only when we are willing to trust, obey, serve Our Lord; when we are sorry for offending Him, and grateful to Him for favours received.
It is an ongoing interactive state – dwelling in grace, or as it is sometimes put: He is dwelling in us.

The nine lepers represent much of the human race who take God for granted; which also means they take salvation for granted.

They have no gratitude for God for the gift of life, nor anything that the world provides in its bounty – food, wine, fresh air, friendship, health, music etc.

They might say there is no God and these things happen by themselves. Or they might say there is a God but rarely give Him a thought. They are too busy enjoying life, or coping with it, to see beyond to the Author of it all.

For the same reason they do not consider the meaning or purpose of life. They take that for granted too, just making the best of things according to their own selfish perspective. Some will even say that life is a burden which they never asked for, resenting rather than being grateful.

They have no consciousness of sin against God; they see no need to change the way they are living. This is the nine lepers and probably at least nine million Australians.

Today’s Gospel is usually seen as an exhortation to thanks, but it is also a wakeup call to deeper issues of our whole attitude and way of relating to Almighty God.

We have much to thank Him for, from the daily blessings we receive in this life to the far greater blessing of eternal life, the happiness of which will greatly exceed any happiness we have here.

The disposition of being grateful is necessary to be in a state of grace. If we are angry with God or indifferent towards Him it is very hard to be in union with Him. But if we are prepared to trust Him at all times (including when things go against us) we can then live in habitual union with Him (the state of grace).

The more we value something the more grateful we will feel. If we are conscious of our need we are inclined to be very grateful. Receiving spiritual graces can be overlooked if we are too focused only on physical or material blessings.

Many would be glad to have physical health restored but may be indifferent to having their sins forgiven. Yet the latter need is far greater, only not so easy to discern.

It is the same God who gives us all blessings – spiritual and physical. It is the same God who sometimes deprives us of one blessing for the sake of giving something greater still (such as when He removes a false attachment to lead us to a better knowledge of Him).

We cannot begrudge Him the right to decide what is best for us. We would not even have existence if He had not given it to us! The more simply and humbly we come before Him the better it works. We learn from that one leper who is immortalized for all generations as the model of humble gratitude before God.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Feast of the Assumption 15 Aug 2010 Sermon

Feast of the Assumption 15.8.10 He has looked upon His lowly handmaid.

As we follow through the mysteries of the Rosary, beginning with the Annunciation, and finishing with the Assumption and Coronation of Mary, we can see that in a lifetime this humble girl from Nazareth travelled a long way.

It is always interesting to trace the lives of famous people and see what they were like early in life and how they arrived where they did.

Often it is a strong inner drive that makes them persist where others would give up. The Virgin Mary had strong inner drive too but not for her own worldly success. She did not want to be Queen or Empress or any title that the world could give. She wanted only to give herself totally to God; to be attentive in all things to His will.

It was precisely her lack of self-seeking that brought her so far. God could see that of all the people He had created Mary was the only one who cared nothing for herself; whose heart totally belonged to Him.

If we were all like that how much improved the world would be!

But one person like that was enough for God to fulfil His plans of sending His Son to be our Saviour. Mary agreed to be His mother, and then either was with Him or near Him at every stage of His earthly life, including the Cross.

Her role did not end with His birth, as some Christians would have it. She was a vital co-operator in God’s plans.

The entrustment of John (and all other disciples) to Mary at Calvary was not just a housekeeping arrangement by Our Lord; it was to give her full scope as Mother of each and all disciples.

She was to be the new Eve, the Mother who would convey life to her children; not physical life but spiritual; therefore more important.

She is highly and personally relevant to each of us. It is tragic and wasteful that she is so much neglected by most Christians; even these days by most Catholics.

Protestant Christians have always had trouble with her, thinking that any attention paid to her is honour stolen from God. Many Catholics have moved over to this way of thinking and are very reluctant to give her more than a passing mention.

Mary herself would be the first to say, Don’t honour me – if it were just a matter for her own gratification. But because it is God’s will that we honour her she would say, Do it, for that reason.

In honouring her we honour Almighty God. Every prayer we make to her she passes straight onto Him. She is the last person in the world to be competing with God. Others might retain praise for themselves, but not she.

She still thinks nothing of herself. She is truly humble, not just putting on an act. Thus the Magnificat prayer (today’s Gospel) speaks of God looking upon her lowliness and lifting her up. She is still lowly as far as her own spirit is concerned, but she lets God hold her as an example to the rest of the world.

And she is not just an ornament to be admired. She is very powerful in the spiritual domain and sends the devil and his legions scurrying. With what weapon? Humility! Her deep and total humility is the source of her power and is the ideal weapon to defeat the devil who (exactly opposite) is consumed with pride. The humble are directly in line with the power of God, being open to receive His help. The proud are unable to call on His help because they are in a state of disorder.

As we honour Our Lady in her moment of triumph let us call on her as often as possible. She has much to give, and will not refuse us.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

11th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Aug 2010 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 8.8.10 Hearing the word

At present we are having an election campaign, which is hard to miss! The air is full of words with promises, denials, accusations, counter-accusations.

And apart from elections at any time we are saturated with gadgets, phones, ipods... There is a concern now that people are dying on the roads because of too much distraction from these devices.

It may be hard to discern the truth out of so many words and so much sound. One could question whether there is any truth to be found, and some would say no indeed, there is not.

We Catholics believe that there is a word worth listening to; so much worth listening to that it is imperative it must be followed. This is the word of God. This is the one true word in the midst of so much falsehood. And this word of God says: Don’t listen to the other words, the babble of voices.

Don’t fall for the false philosophies that you will hear of – the ones that say that the human race is just one species among many, that there is no God, no order to this world, no purpose for being here. The ones that say that we have a right to determine our own way in this world and are answerable to no system of truth. The words which propose things we know to be immoral or against the will of God.

Hear the word of God – the ancient cry of the prophets. Thus says the Lord....
Hear and obey. It is an old formula and it still works. But as of olden times there are many who refuse to listen; who would rather kill the prophet than do what the prophet says.

In the Gospel today Our Lord heals the deaf man. We have always understood this action to be symbolic. He takes away our deafness; opens our ears - so that we can take in the life-saving word of God.

For the word to take root in us we must develop a certain discipline. We must prepare the ground to give the seed a chance to grow.

This is why the noise of the world is dangerous for us: it can stifle any chance we have to think, to find out the real truth.

The word of God is not always obvious; it cannot always be grasped immediately. To take in His word fully requires more than just something going in our ears. There has to be an engagement of the whole person.

We can keep Him at arm’s length; hear but not hear (as Our Lord said of the Jews). We can adopt a defensive attitude. ‘Whatever I hear or read I am not going to change what I am doing.’

We must be fully engaged. Like Our Lady – see how she was able to respond so quickly at the Annunciation. It was because she was already predisposed to hear the word of God.

So with St Joseph, who responded so readily to the messages he received in dreams.

We can be like that if we prepare the ground for the seed to fall. We can be willing listeners, ready co-operators.

Part of the overall balance is to avoid the harmful words, the wrong messages.
Not taking in too much media, dangerous ideas, false entertainment, or conversation etc.

We can reflect that the great saints of our Church history did not have radios, televisions, phones, computers etc. It must have given them more peace, and more time to think.

The less error we take in the more room for truth. We just need to make room for His word; let Him come among us; become familiar with Him. This is why we need to pray, to reflect on our faith.

We let His word determine the way we look at life. We then see that from all the words spoken there is indeed one that is true. We can find peace amidst the babble of voices; direction amidst the chaos.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

10th Sunday after Pentecost 1 Aug 2010 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 1.8.10 Pride

The first sin ever committed was one of Pride. Certain of the angels, falling in love with their own beauty, rebelled against God and became fallen angels (devils). From that time they have been tormenting us and trying to get us to do the same thing. And sadly they have a very high success rate.

The fallen angels had one thing right – they were truly beautiful; they were worthy of admiration. But to admire the creature while forgetting the Creator is a fundamental error and must always lead to trouble.

We must always acknowledge the Creator; acknowledge where we come from and to whom we hope to return. All things come from Him and all things are accountable to Him. He can be denied, ignored, insulted and many other things, but He cannot be made to go away. He is always there and no matter how much a being may rebel it is always God who has the last word.

By acknowledging Him I do not mean merely obedience; I mean praise as well. To give God His ‘due’ would be to sing for all eternity of His goodness – which is what they do in heaven.

There is a rightness about praising God which is borne out in the Psalms. Praise the Lord in his holy places: praise him in the firmament of his power. Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to the multitude of his greatness. Praise him with the sound of trumpet: praise him with psaltery and harp. Praise him with timbrel and choir: praise him with strings and organs. Praise him on high sounding cymbals: praise him on cymbals of joy: Let every spirit praise the Lord. Alleluia. (Ps 150, for example).

It is not that God is vain, and needing our attention, as another person might be. It is just that there is an objective rightness, a right order about things, when the creatures praise the Creator.

The world would run a lot better than it does if this rightful amount of praise was offered. (Dignum et justum est).

Which brings us to today’s parable of the Pharisee and the Publican – respectively representing pride and humility.

The Pharisee is proud because, although he does certain good actions, he thinks himself responsible for his own goodness. He regards himself as self-sufficient; not properly grasping that anything good about him is only possible because the power for good comes from God.

The Publican is humble because although he has done the wrong thing he gives proper acknowledgment to God as the One to whom he must answer, and he re-connects with God, reconciles with Him, thus going home ‘at rights’ with God.

To sin is to deny God, at least temporarily. To ask His forgiveness is to switch back into acknowledging Him, to re-connect, and thus come more fully to be what we are.

We cannot exist properly without God any more than fish can live without water, or birds without air.

The proud do not think they need God. They think they are sweet enough by themselves. Atheists make a boast of their own self-sufficiency. They laugh at us for needing someone else to lean on.

But believers can suffer from pride too (such as the Pharisee). We can try to be good in our own way, and even if we succeed in doing something good there may be little or no merit, if God has not been honoured.

The motive by which we do our actions has a great bearing on how valuable or effective they are.

St Therese tells us that something as simple as picking a pin off the floor can save a soul if done for the glory of God.

So we must try to be good, and do good, all for God and His glory.

It is comforting to know that obscure, humble actions can be so powerful because that is what we are doing most of the time. We would like to do something spectacular to help the world, but we are usually thrown back on just doing the usual things, day in and day out.

We can make those things powerful by the proper attitude of humility. Even our repentance can be powerful by being genuinely sorry we have offended God.

Humility unlocks the full power of God. The first sin is reversed and all its ugly results begin to be set right.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

9th Sunday after Pentecost 25 July 2010 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 25.7.10 Divine punishment

Our Lord laments over Jerusalem which has missed so many opportunities to get things right with God but has missed them all. He foresees the destruction which will come upon them in 70AD.

Things have not improved much, one fears, in our own time. Repentance never seems to be a popular activity.

If destruction follows too much sin, then repentance does not always follow destruction.

In our time, if a disaster happens there are various responses, but repentance is often not one of them.
a) People will say that it was not God involved, but only scientific principles at work.
b) Or it will be said that God does not punish people in that sort of way (even though the Bible is full of stories where He does use nature or foreign armies to punish rebellious people. And there are countless other passages threatening such action).
c) Or some will say that if God does do such things then He is not the sort of God I want to believe in, and they will then leave Him.

It is true that God is love, but Love does not always follow human thinking. God loves us in a way that is designed for our overall good, and this requires sometimes that He take from us a lesser good to replace it with a greater one.

The greatest good we can have in this life is to know what it means to love God, to be united with Him; to be able to renounce sin so that we can walk fully in His ways.

This is the best thing for us, though it will not usually be our first choice. We will be tempted to seek happiness in much more immediate things, which may often be displeasing to God and harmful to ourselves.

He will intervene if He thinks it is for our good, and His interventions may seem quite rough to us. But He sees it necessary to remind us from time to time of the fragility of our earthly life and of how impossible it is that the things of this life alone can satisfy us.

So the odd earthquake or hurricane might be coming to a town near you...!

What must be our response? When we hear about how slow the Jews were to repent we are meant to repent more quickly. If others have been slow we will be quick.

We can do a great deal to decrease the need for divine punishment if we simply do what God is asking: Repent, Change the way we are living, Obey Him at all times.

He does not enjoy punishing us; it is a last resort for Him. This is why Jesus was weeping. But He has to do something to get our attention.

We pray for our own ongoing conversion to His will; and we pray for others to repent before the disaster not after.

It is said the people laughed at Noah for building the ark when there was no sign of rain. They laugh at us for going to church, for taking all this God-talk seriously. It is not so funny when a disaster comes.

We pray that the Lord will not punish us as our sins deserve. We pray that everyone will come to repentance in this time of mercy; the delay is to give us time. God could have ended the world a long time ago.

It is always a good time to repent, to start again. It is never too late if we are still alive, but any later than this might be too late.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

8th Sunday after Pentecost 18 July 2010 Wisdom

8th Sunday after Pentecost 18.7.10 Be wise in doing good

A very early story in human history is still relevant for today’s times. The Tower of Babel: men were becoming overconfident in their own abilities and wanted to build a tower as a monument of their own cleverness. God confused the tongues of men and so set one group against another as a reminder that without God there would always be one group against another.

In our own time there are many people who set themselves up against God and pit their own cleverness against His.

Presently in South Australia there is a parliamentary committee looking into the issue of ‘same-sex parenting', paving the way no doubt for same-sex 'marriage’. More and more places around the world are considering the same issue and increasingly laws are being changed to allow it. The strategy of supporters of the idea is to keep putting the question until the resistance to it is softened. It only needs a small majority of the public, or of politicians, and there you have it.

From a Christian point of view it is frustrating that things would get this far, that a topic like this could even be seriously discussed let alone passed into law. The only reason it is able to happen is that people have turned away from God; He is not acknowledged as Father, Creator, Lord; and in ignoring Him people think they are free to remake the laws of the universe, as though man is the highest agent.

If something is wrong in God’s sight it can never be made right by human legislation. People can be protected from courts and prisons, but not from the justice of God which must prevail eventually.

For ourselves, as believers, we must keep our own sanity and not be lulled by this process of erosion of moral values. Some Catholics are anxious to appear at one with the world and give up too easily.

Another thing we need to do is find ways of explaining to those who see differently why such things can never be right.

One level of argument: Simply, God forbids it. This is the first and last word. It may not satisfy un-believers, but it is true all the same.

Another level: Argue from the natural law. Certain things are wrong because they violate the nature of things. Killing babies or old people; engaging in unnatural sexual practices. There is a certain obviousness to these things.

If no other argument will get through we can try the Golden Rule: would you like someone else to treat you as you are proposing to treat them?

Some argue that if enough people do something it must be alright. This is Morality by numbers. There are some things that cannot be decided by vote. If it is wrong in itself then no amount of public approval can make it right.

Can we do anything to stop the rot? We can do various things: write to parliament, run for parliament, pray outside abortion places, go to lectures etc. Keep the passion and maintain the fight.

Just our general prayer and Masses are vital - to stay sane, to keep seeing clearly.

It may be we will suffer for these truths. Many have lost their lives before now in the defence of God’s truth. Others have suffered loss of employment, loss of friends, general scorn. The Catholic Church is the most recognizable defender of God’s truth and the most hated.

Temptation under pressure to give way: I was a Catholic until I saw the soldiers coming up my driveway... not now.

Today’s Gospel of the Unjust Steward tells us to be as clever at doing good as others are at doing evil. Our opponents are very clever at manipulating public opinion. We have to be as wise, without being deceitful, in explaining the real story.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Dedication of Cathedral 11 July 2010 Sermon

Anniversary of Dedication of Cathedral (Adelaide) 11.7.10 (replacing normal Sunday)

One thing that we do as Catholics is adore Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. The Host is placed in a monstrance positioned in the centre of the altar and by its central position visibly draws to Itself all who enter the church.

This is exactly what Our Lord intends. He wants to gather all people, all nations to Himself, to restore the unity of the scattered children of God (cf Jn 11); to round up the lost sheep; to give sight to the blind and all those other sources of relief described in the prophecies (cf Lk 4 quoting Isaiah).

All who adore Him converge on Him, asking that He take us into Himself, into the depths of mystery which we cannot comprehend in our minds, but we know in our hearts it is where we need to be.

He exerts a centripetal force on all His creation to come to Him to be restored to its original condition (perfect) and freed from its slavery (cf Rom 8).

And that includes us. We are drawn to Him like a magnet.

He is the Centre of creation, the One who binds all things together, and enables all things (and people) to find their true place and purpose. (Cf Ep1 and Col 1)

It is in this context that we have today’s feast, the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Cathedral church in this Adelaide archdiocese.

Feasts of dedication of churches are considered to be feasts of the Lord Himself, insofar as the church building is His dwelling place.

The honour we pay to a church is honour meant for Our Lord Himself.

As He is the point of convergence for all creatures, so is a church built in His name, and especially the Cathedral church of a diocese.

In a diocese we build many churches so that people can get to one that is not too far away. But the plurality of churches does not take away from the single unity that should pervade each diocese.

In each diocese there is a Cathedral and that church especially acts as a focal point, a point of convergence for all Catholics to worship, and all necessary prayers to be prayed.

When we celebrate the dedication of the Cathedral we are reaffirming our own desire to be one with Christ; to converge on Him; and to pray continuously that all other people will find their way to Him.

We find Christ fully present here in this church as much as in the Cathedral; that is how well He caters for us. We do not have to climb up to the Temple as the Jews had to do; we worship in spirit and truth, and can do so fully in any part of the diocese. But we must acknowledge the Church is bigger than wherever we are, and make a spiritual convergence on Christ, the centre of unity, even if we do not make the physical trip.

There are many centrifugal forces at work on us in today’s world and we need to overcome them. There are many who will tell us that there is no central truth; no one saviour of the world; no one way to live rightly – it is up to each person to decide for himself. So the spirit of our age is highly ego-centred and individualistic. Never have we been so alienated from each other as a result.

In the name of a false freedom we are encouraged to find our own way on the path to meaning, to abandon traditional beliefs. Only chaos can result from this, and we have plenty of it as proof.

Today’s feast is a reminder that there is a Saviour but only one; there is a flock to which we are called, but only one. We cannot pick our own saviour but we can seek out the One who is real and calls us to Himself. We cannot pick our own church as though it is up to us, but we can joyfully take our place in the Church which He has established... the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, to which we belong and whose unity we celebrate today.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

6th Sunday after Pentecost 4 July 2010 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 4.7.10 Does God matter?

Our new Prime Minister has gone public that she does not believe in God, or any form of religion. One analyst suggests that she will resonate well with the majority of Australians for holding this view because neither do they believe, at least not in any very serious way.

There are some people who do not believe that God exists.
There are others who are not sure if He is there or not.
There are others, a much greater number, who believe there is a God but who live as though there is not. (They can be called practical atheists; theoretically they believe; in practice they do not.)

Non-belief is often held up as a very reasonable and sensible position. It avoids the ‘excesses’ of religion, particularly of Catholicism, and enables people to pursue a sort of middle ground whereby we can have a little bit of all the various social evils: such as abortion, euthanasia, pornography, homosexuality ... without making any unseemly fuss.

Those who believe in God to such a degree that they would try to express that belief in moral or social matters are held to be fanatics, and dangerous to the common good.

The average Catholic is put under pressure by this prevailing ‘sensible’ view to relax our beliefs and moral standards and just go along with whatever society is doing.

We are allowed to believe in God, but not too much. Believe in Him only to the point that we can go to church if we like, but don’t take it any further than that. God must not be allowed to ‘intrude’ on the running of our world.

This makes a very strange, surreal situation for us who do want to take God seriously.

We find ourselves isolated not only from the world in general but even from most of our own Church – sadly most Catholics go along with the ‘middle ground’ approach.

The epistle today helps us to see the real reality, how things really are with God and the world.

St Paul reminds us that in baptism we have broken with sin, and from then on must live a new kind of life, a life dominated by the thought of God and the desire for heaven. This and countless other New Testament passages tell us that we have left the world and all its false and futile ways behind.

Going back to worldly thinking would be like the Israelites returning to Egypt once having been set free.

We hear this and accept it, but the practical application is another matter. We need to be very sure of our ground before we can go beyond a merely comfortable Catholicism, just keeping up enough observances to feel religious without actually being so.

Believing in God is not something that works by half measures; it must be all or nothing.

There are some things in life that have to be done completely or not at all. An aeroplane taking off is one example. If the pilots of a plane intended to take off only a little bit but not too much then the plane would crash somewhere for sure.

If we dive into the river we are committing ourselves to swim. Thus the waters of Baptism require a kind of diving-in, a commitment which is required for the whole thing to make sense.

But if we do commit then we discover the joy and fulfilment that is waiting for anyone who is prepared to take the leap.

We must go further; half-way is not enough and will never satisfy. Too much muddling around and we will probably join the world which is created by God but tries to pretend He is not there. We don’t want to go that way even if it does open up the way for better jobs or higher positions.

We ask God to make Himself known to us in such a way that we can be riveted onto His will and never in any way oppose or resist Him.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

5th Sunday after Pentecost 27 June 2010 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 27.6.10 Offering a pure sacrifice

May the Lord accept this sacrifice at your hands… Of course He will accept the sacrifice insofar as it is the perfect sacrifice of His Son, and every Mass is that.

However, there is another component to the whole process, and that is our own participation in the sacrifice.

The sacrifice is perfect but our attitude in offering it may not be perfect.

The Gospel today speaks of the need for us to be fully reconciled with one another before we can offer the sacrifice of Christ.

If we are to offer the pure and perfect sacrifice our hearts and minds should be also pure and perfect.

To the extent that they are not, the efficacy of the sacrifice is reduced. Christ is giving all of Himself to the Father and to us, but we are not in a position to be able to receive what He is giving.

We need to grasp the momentousness of what we are doing by attending Mass. A very great thing is happening on the altar; we cannot be half-hearted or distracted in our own response.

It is no light thing to ask the Father to forgive the sins of all the world, including my own, yet we do this at every Mass. Lord have mercy... Who take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us... my soul shall be healed...

If we would approach Him with such a request we must be fully engaged to do whatever we can to stop the flow of sin; to amend our lives where necessary, and also – since we are asking for the sins of the world – to forgive those who offend us; to have a merciful attitude.

May the Lord accept (this sacrifice) including us, this current crew assembled before Him.

Avoid any malice, unforgiveness, uncharity. What we have in our hearts must be consonant with what is happening on the altar.

Much harder than just ‘saying Mass’ or ‘going to Mass’ is this internal disposition.

A lot of power on the altar, waiting to be released. People can be cold and alienated, and quarrelling with each other – after Mass just as much as before. Obviously not meant to be like that. The Mass should change us.

The Gospel is saying: Before Mass be at peace. All the more so afterwards by inference.

If we took this more seriously; if we approached the Mystery of the Sacrifice with greater identification, who knows what that would mean for the world, but it would make a major difference.

Mass is not just a formality to be dealt with. One can go to an early Mass or a shorter Mass, but give it all you have. That is the essence of the Suscipiat prayer.

Participate: you could be sitting in the back corner but very much affecting and being affected by what is happening on the altar. You are making things happen by what you are thinking about, what you are resolving. You are realizing (making real) the power of Christ’s sacrifice. Charity, Mercy, Holiness – He will make these things happen in you and through you.

We will receive a lot more than we give insofar as God loves us far more than we love Him; however, if we give less than we have we are then clogging up the paths of charity and reducing the effectiveness of the Sacrifice.

May this Mass at which we are now present be the first of many more; each time growing in understanding and response to what is happening on the altar and how it affects us.