Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Palm Sunday 28 March 2010 Sermon

Palm Sunday (second Sunday of Passiontide) 28 March 2010

The Liturgy today comes in two stages. The first is the re-living of the welcome given to Our Lord as He entered Jerusalem. That first welcome was genuine but lacking in depth. As we re-enact it we want our welcome to be just as enthusiastic as the original one but more enduring. We resolve to be faithful to Him at all times (for which we need His help).

The second stage is the commemoration of Our Lord's Passion and Death. We can 'welcome' Him in this action as well, by showing our solidarity with Him.

If we are to be His disciples we must be prepared to do as He did. If He died then we must be willing to die with or for Him.

Above all we must not be ashamed to stand with Him, at the foot of the Cross, even if it means we take some share of abuse for being there.

We 'welcome' His death insofar as we show our understanding of it, our sympathy with it, and best of all we let it transform us.

We don't like suffering but over time we can develop the capacity to suffer in the cause of love. We become willing to suffer if it is necessary to make His love known to others.We could never do this just by our own strength but as we receive His love from the Cross we become stronger and more generous.

May this be so for each of us in this coming Holy Week.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Holy Week details

For Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday I will be taking part in the ceremonies at Holy Name. Accordingly there will be no Traditional ceremonies at St Monica's on those days.
On Easter Sunday Mass will be at the normal time of 8am at St Monica's,
and 5pm at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh.

The times at Holy Name will be:
Holy Thursday 7pm
Good Friday (Main liturgy) 5pm
Holy Saturday 10.30pm

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Passion Sunday 21 March 2010 Sermon

Passion Sunday 21.3.10 Recognizing the Messiah

In the wake of a state election we might debate the merits or demerits of a democratic system. Democracy is supposed to give us a chance to elect those whom we want, but we see there are many rough edges to how it works. In the end we may not have much choice.

Some things are too important to offer a choice, and one of these is the place of God in our world.

He is not up for re-election. He does not preside over a democracy; He is absolute Monarch. He does not ask for our opinion on any issue, and He expects our instant obedience at all times. Does this sound oppressive? Many would say so, in the current permissive climate.

But if the King is good and knows what is best, then what is there to debate? His will must always be the best thing for us, even if it is not initially to our liking.

So we acknowledge that and, with His help, come to adopt this view into our lives. We come to respect and love the will of God... Thy will be done... and live it day by day.

We do have one choice and that is whether or not to obey the one true God. In that sense we do get a vote after all, but the choice is between life and death, heaven and hell.

This absolute authority which belongs to God alone explains why Our Lord was so forceful in His teachings and actions. He spoke with the authority of God, and this disconcerted a lot of people.

How can a carpenter’s son, who grew up in Nazareth, and is only a young man - talk with such authority? Where did He get it all?

He got it from God; He was Himself God, as He made progressively clearer. It was a stunningly new revelation, but true all the same; and the sooner people believed Him the better it was.

We can sympathise with some early incredulity on the part of the people. After all if someone from a remote town or village in Australia claimed to be somebody important we might say: who could come from that place?

Yet God, in His humility, and desiring to teach us some humility, has often chosen the lowly places and people to do His bidding. The rich and famous, meanwhile, take longer to catch on.

The Messiah was rejected in His time, and He did not entirely mind that because it gave Him a chance to make Himself a sacrificial victim for sins. The very hatred which His enemies poured out upon Him, He was able to transform into a love-offering to His Father on behalf of all sinners.

The more they hated Him the more He loved them in return and the object of their hate (which was to destroy Him) was frustrated. Everything they did to Him only made Him more precious in the sight of His Father and made more certain His triumph over sin and death.

The Messiah is still rejected in our time. Many have not recognized Him and take no account of Him. He has saved them; they say they do not need saving; or want it.

We also, who have accepted Him in general terms at least, do not give Him our full unconditional loyalty.

Sometimes we want to argue with Him; we want to exercise our democratic ‘right’ to dispute His will! It is never going to happen that we know more about something than He does.

As much as it hurts we must always bow down before Him when there is any difference of opinion.

The Messiah has come but He is still waiting for recognition. We must drop all ambiguity, all hesitation from our response and give Him all we have; entrust everything to Him. He is Messiah; He is King. Let His reign take effect.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

No Mass 17 or 18 March

There will be no Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville, on Wed 17th and Thu 18th March. All other days Mass will be as usual.

4th Sunday of Lent 14 March 2010 Sermon

4th Sunday of Lent 14.3.10 Laetare Sunday

Our Lord multiplied the bread not just because He felt sorry for certain hungry people but for the benefit of all future generations. The miracle makes us think of the Eucharist, not just of bread that we make into sandwiches but the bread from heaven.

The bread from heaven enables us to perceive God more clearly, and receive His help.

In general we have trouble grasping God: we cannot see, hear, or touch Him. This we find a disadvantage, as we rely so much on our sense experience.

We cannot take Him in all at once as He is greater than us; we can only receive Him according to our capacity.

He understands this and to help us He gives Himself in small doses as we ‘receive’ Him in the sacraments. We receive all of Him but we don’t really take in the full effects of His presence. So we take as much as we can at any one time.

We renew the link with Him. We have an abiding relationship through faith, but we need to renew and keep it on the boil. If I receive Him in Holy Communion it is not that I did not believe in Him before but now my belief is energised and increased.

There are the sacraments, but He gives us other signs as well. Any sign of His creative goodness is a sign of His goodness and closeness to Him. So we can see Him in the works of nature; or in the ‘chance’ events of everyday. His providence is all around us. The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

Read the signs, and get to know Him better and thus possess Him more fully.

(Even ugly things as being an obvious deviation from what ought to be – these too point to Him the source of all order.)

Open one door and find another door. All progressing closer to Him; each one revealing more of His reality.

Not a light or easy thing to know God. He is infinitely perfect. One cannot simply walk in to His presence as we can with another person.

There is so much more to discover. Think of Him as an infinite sea. We could stand on the shore with toe in water and think, Yeh, I know God (like a Catholic who goes to Midnight Mass every year and thinks that is enough).

Or we can be like the saints and wade deep out to sea and however far we reach there is always more to find.

So God reveals Himself through these ‘doors’. Always more where that came from.

He multiplied the bread; the Eucharist also. There is more that He can give and will give if we desire it.

In heaven we will see Him face to face, (no doubt with still more to discover). Here we proceed in a stumbling manner, groping somewhat but at least knowing what we are looking for.

We are changed in the process. Our capacity to know Him is increased. This is the whole point.

We can be a thimble full or a larger container.

Those who say, If He comes to me and works a miracle I will believe in Him - are being very crass and ignorant. The process is more subtle than that. If we understand the way God uses signs we will be on the right wavelength and able to progress, from one door to the next.

He does not hide from us. He wants us to find Him but in the process to be changed ourselves.

On this Sunday we ‘rejoice’: at the goodness of God and at His willingness to help us find Him.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

3rd Sunday of Lent 7 March 2010 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Lent 7.3.10 A new heart

St Paul in the epistle is instructing us to avoid impurity of any kind. Good advice certainly. And the same could be said for any sort of sin: avoid outbursts of anger, avoid seeking revenge for injuries; avoid stealing, lying and so on.

We agree with it all, and we only wish we could put all those things into practice.

But the sad tale is that we are not as strong as we would like to be and we often do things the opposite of what we intended. (As St Paul himself observes in Romans 7).

At which point many Christians will simply pull out of the race as far as seeking perfect holiness is concerned and settle for a kind of comfortable mediocrity – sometimes getting it right; often wrong, but not worrying too much either way.

However, with a little perseverance we can discover a very different outcome.

What God commands He also enables.
What He tells us to do He enables us to be.

One of the psalms says, Create a clean heart in me, O God. In Ezekiel and Jeremiah God promises to take our hearts of stone and give us hearts of flesh instead.

When God says, for example, Be pure, He is not just giving us a rule to follow, as though leaving us to our own devices. He would not be so cruel as to command the impossible.

He is saying, Be pure, and I will enable you to be that because I will put purity into your heart.

(And likewise for charity: love your neighbour and forgive your enemy - and I will put charity in your heart. And so for all the virtues and commands.)

He will give us a different set of desires. What makes us want to be impure? It is that our desires and passions are disordered; they are all the wrong way round, like an untidy room. If the room is tidied the desires find the right place and balance.

The key to the process is the sacramental encounters we have with God (Jesus). When we receive Him in Holy Communion, for example, He is entering our hearts, taking possession there.

The Gospel today speaks of evil spirits occupying us, and this can happen. But so can God occupy us with exactly the opposite results.

With God possessing us we are likely to manifest the behaviour described by St Paul in Galatians 5 as the fruits of the Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity

God takes over our minds! Not to the point of removing our free will but by way of giving us a new way of looking at things. We see the futility of sin, the damage it does, and we gladly reject it. We see the freedom and beauty of God’s ordered creation and we gladly follow His ‘commands’ which are now seen, not as burdensome but as friends along the way. ‘Lord, how I love your law’ as the Psalmist puts it.

This puts a whole different light on Church teaching, rules and regulations. It is routinely asserted in the media and often by Catholics themselves that Church teachings are too hard and should be relaxed. The real answer lies in invoking the power of God to come into us and give us new hearts, new ways of seeing things, new desires. Then we are Christ-like. Disciples of Christ were never meant to be just following a book of rules; to be His disciple means to have His vital spirit within us, guiding us and motivating us at the same time.

It is possible after all, and being possible it is compulsory, because it would be an insult to Christ to refuse what He is offering us.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

2nd Sunday of Lent 28 Feb 2010 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Lent 28.2.10 Transfiguration

The Church has always understood that the main reason Our Lord showed Himself to the three apostles in glorified form was to strengthen them (and through them all disciples) against the scandal of the Cross.

When they would later see Our Lord crucified and apparently defeated they would remember this vision of His glory and maintain faith in Him despite adverse appearances.

Yet we know they were still overcome by the sight of His suffering. They had seen Him work so many miracles but now His power seemed to have run dry. They allowed themselves to lose hope. He had healed the sick, walked on water, even raised the dead, but apparently He was finished. Not so, as we know. Yet we are no better. We also are inclined to lose hope as soon as something goes wrong.

It is alarmingly easy to forget consoling things when we are under pressure of some kind. We have not only the Transfiguration but the Resurrection itself, and then Pentecost and countless other miracles; yet we can still be overcome by adversity and feel as though we are losing our faith.

We also have to confront the scandal of the Cross and the mystery of suffering in our lives. We will cope with these things if we anchor ourselves on Christ and what He has demonstrated. He is stronger than death and sin and can set His followers free from these things.

There are times when it might appear God is absent, or when we cannot work out what He is doing; but it can never be true that He is really absent, nor that He is somehow working against our interests. He is the same every day; He never loses power; never changes His mind; never forgets us.

We are very subject to time and we simply forget things, or we let time erode our previous fervent convictions.

If God ever worked a miracle the power of that miracle still applies.

The remedy for us is to immerse ourselves into the consoling aspects of our faith. In our creeds, our prayers, in the scriptures – there are reminders everywhere of God’s power and fidelity to us. ‘Behold I am with you always, until the end of time’ (Mt28,20)

And if words are not enough there are countless miracles we can recall, some of them embedded in our sacramental life such as the miracle of the Eucharist. There we have Our Lord Himself, present in all His power and love.

We learn to re-think our understanding of time. Just because a miracle happened a long time ago does not mean it has somehow ceased to be relevant. Miracles do not wear out. Nothing belonging to heaven wears out with time.

It is all just as true now as when it first happened. Our Lord’s rising from the dead is just as real this present Sunday as the original Easter Sunday. We can be just as happy now as those first disciples were then.

When things look dark we go through the drill of reminding ourselves that God is still God; that His promises are still reliable; that with His help we will come through whatever this crisis is and have all the more reason to praise Him.

We can take a lesson from Joseph in the book of Genesis. In the good years he set aside food for the lean years. So with us, when we recognize God’s blessings we can store that up for the lean times when His presence is not so obvious. We train ourselves to believe in Him in all times and conditions.

Good Fridays turn into Easter Sundays; dark into light. When things look dark, remember the Transfiguration!