Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Pentecost Sunday 23 May 2010 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 23.5.10 Steady progress

Receiving the Holy Spirit can manifest itself in different ways. In the case of the apostles they were filled with great enthusiasm and went out to proclaim the Gospel to a large audience.

It does not follow that each Christian is meant to do that on every Pentecost Sunday.
We are not all called to such a public role, nor does enthusiasm always require such an expression.

It may be the Holy Spirit will come quietly sometimes and work inside a person in a way that is not visible to the public but will be noticed by the person concerned: for example, providing help to overcome a certain addiction; or the grace to forgive someone who has caused offence; or to move the person to greater generosity.

What is required is complete openness to the working of the Spirit so that each of us will respond exactly as He wishes. In this way He is able (as St Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12-14) to animate the Body of Christ with each member doing whatever is most needed for the good of the whole Body.

Also needed is consistency, so that at all times we are doing whatever is required whether it be public and spectacular, or humble and hidden.

As with ordinary life - where most of what we do is routine, nothing startling - so in the Christian life we are not called everyday to martyrdom or to work miracles, but we are called every day to be kind, charitable, humble, obedient etc.

Steady-as-she-goes is the message. We do not try to set the world on fire but we very likely will do that if we maintain a consistent responsiveness to the workings of the Holy Spirit.

Humility goes without saying. We are not seeking self-aggrandisement. We are not looking for personal glory. It is all for the team, the overall result.

We are careful not to overdo things or let the fire of early enthusiasm burn out too quickly. Sometimes on being converted some disciples throw themselves into everything but after meeting obstacles of some kind will abandon the cause. We have to be stronger than that.

If we hear of certain saints that they did great things and endured heavy penances we may want to do the same things, but what made them saints was not their miracles so much as the fact that they also would have pursued a steady daily course, getting the little things right as well as the big ones.

Even the great saints would have spent much of their time doing ordinary things. They would have got those things right, treating other people well, guarding against anger, jealousy, lust and so on.

These days we often hear of public figures involved in scandals: routinely someone seems to be falling from grace. We are reminded that the interior life of a person does not always match the exterior.

It is much easier to have the outside right than the inside. Anyone can have a wash and put on fresh clothes. But meanwhile the inside can be full of corruption. (cf the Pharisees)

The Holy Spirit will help us achieve the interior holiness which is so necessary for our own good and the life of the Church.

It is easy to be thought good by others; our task is to be as good as people say we are. (Think of all those speeches they will be making at your funeral.)

What makes all this manageable is that we can take small steps. We don’t have to conquer the world in one day, just conquer one or two of our own faults.

The more right we can get our own individual selves the better for the whole Church. Every day let us call on the Holy Spirit to work in us, on us, and through us.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sunday after Ascension 16 May 2010 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 16.5.10 In the Upper Room

How intense the prayer in that upper room must have been!

It is commonly said there is a shortage of prayer in the world. Of all the things going on in the world at any one time not much of it would be prayer. Many people never pray at all, and many of them would be Catholics.

We can speculate what would happen; what would the world look like if more people prayed? I suspect that we would have a very radical change on the face of the earth if this were so.

Prayer enables us to commune with God directly and as we do that we are drinking in the essence of life, of all that is good and clean and powerful. It is a purifying activity which will sweep away all sin and its effects. It is healing, transforming, life-giving.

All this assumes that the prayer is well done and with full sincerity. Hasty, poorly executed prayer will not do much good and may even be offensive to God.

The prayer has to be done in such a way that the one praying is really entering into the presence of God; really engaging with Him; ready and willing to hear whatever He has to say; ready to do anything He tells us; always trusting in His holy will.

Prayer like this makes us ten feet tall; gives us the strength of Samson, the courage of David, the fervour of Paul, the patience of Simeon, the humility of the centurion, the charity of the Good Samaritan... and every good thing needed.

Prayer like this will change us into different people because our whole way of thinking will be transformed. We will be less self-centred, less cautious for our own safety and comfort; more willing to be a flame consumed in the service of God.

The prayer in that Upper Room must have been of a high quality because of the effects that it produced. The Holy Spirit came down in all His power and worked a great change in the ones praying.

Perhaps some present in that room were better at praying than others. Not least Mary, Mother of the Lord. She would always have prayed with nothing less than total commitment, and her prayer would have helped ignite the others; also to sustain them if they were feeling discouraged.

She is still praying for us in precisely the same way and for the same reason.

We are in the ‘upper room’ ourselves as we gather together and look heavenward for strength, for guidance, for answers.

We are still asking the Holy Spirit to come even though He has come. We need more of Him. It is not any lack of giving on His part that leaves us needing more. The lack is on our side. We (as the human race) have not been fervent enough about wanting Him to come.

We have been either too distracted or too discouraged or too afraid of commitment or too selfish to apply ourselves to the simple remedy of asking a higher power to set things right.

And we have simply not believed enough in what we were asked to do. We have not had enough faith. So with all these categories there has been plenty lacking.

For all that is lacking we ask the Holy Spirit to make up the difference.

Even to pray properly – this must itself be a matter for prayer. The fulfilment of one prayer helps us to make the next one better still. So we keep improving.

We have to work overtime – we small band – because the great sluggish mass of the human race is not awake to these things. Not yet at least. We have to light a fire here, and that is what we are setting ourselves to do.

Mary, especially, and all the great saints in that upper room – pray for us. Pray that our prayer be like yours.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ascension Thursday Mass times

Ascension Thursday falls on 13 May this year.
Mass at St Monica's Church, Walkerville will be at 8am.
There will also be a Sung Mass at Holy Name, St Peters at 6.30pm.

5th Sunday after Easter 9 May 2010 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 9.5.10 The will of God

Our Lord encourages us to pray for whatever we need and to have no fear in approaching Him. He will give us whatever we ask.

We understand that this means only things which are in accord with God’s will.

I cannot just ask for anything, like a million dollars or a luxury car. ‘You can have anything you want’ translates into ‘You can have anything He wants’.

Our first instinct is to ask for things which make our lives easier, anything that either increases our pleasure or decreases our pain. We are then led to a more balanced understanding that puts all our various wishes and desires under the banner of God’s all-loving will. He knows best what we need; and what is best for us.

Some of our prayer might amount to an attempt to get God to change His will to fit in with ours! Instead, we come to see that the point of our prayer is not to change God’s mind but ours. We change our will to agree with His, and when we do that we are in a position to receive what we ask for.

We reach a point where we no longer want just riches and comfort but want more important things like conversion of sinners; a world where everyone obeys God; the grace to forgive those who offend us; a genuine compassion for others in their suffering, and so on.

Coming to agree with His will might also mean things like embracing martyrdom, or cheerfully enduring persecution and other unpleasant treatment.

Peter and John reached a point where they were glad that they had been flogged on account of their faith.

Our Lord is not deceiving us with His promise but He knows that if we do ask Him for things He will lead us to a point that we are perfectly happy with whatever He sends us, or withholds from us.

If something goes wrong we can see that God will make it come right, or bring good out of evil.

Just as Calvary led to the Resurrection so it will be for us in our own lives.

The tears we shed now will be turned to shouts of joy later on.

Our Lord was forming His apostles. What He especially needed from them was the ability to weather a fairly high amount of stormy seas, so that they would become strong in faith – then be able to help others reach the same level.

For all our perplexities with God’s will we can reflect that there are many other people who would have even less idea than we do about how God operates.

There are many we encounter who reject faith in God because of some disappointment they experience. They do not wait around to find out how God answers their prayers.

We must be the people who do wait around to find out. We must become strong to help the weak; to offer the word of hope to those who see no way out.

Ask for what you will and you shall have it: Increasingly this prayer becomes, Lord, make us into the best possible disciples. The point of the prayer is not so much this or that particular outcome of prayer but simply that each one of us be totally in union with Him and His holy will.

Many still see God as the ultimate Mr Fix-it. If things are not fixed they become frustrated. He does fix things but not in isolation. The only total solution to all problems is for each person to come into union with Him - never arguing, never complaining, yielding in trust at all points.

This is where He is leading us in this time of preparation.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

4th Sunday after Easter 2 May 2010 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 2.5.10 Why God created us.

The Epistle speaks of the goodness of God and how only what is good comes from His hands. If we can enter God’s mind a little way, we might see why He created this universe, and us (the human race) in particular.

He likes to create; He takes delight in His handiwork. He creates this beautiful universe. It would all be beautiful but for the fact that two of His created works can reject Him... angels and humans (the only beings endowed with free will).

But then this gives Him a greater challenge. If He can win over spiritual beings who have the power to reject Him - but choose to accept Him - then His joy is all the greater.

If we do respond we give Him that joy. All of us gathered here, we want to obey Him, to do His will.

We do not always act according to our beliefs or our best intentions. We say the Act of contrition and promise not to sin again. We mean it as far as we can.

We want to give Him what He wants to receive. He wants us to be good; we want to be good. The only way we can do this is to call on His help; that He will strengthen our will to stay faithful to Him.

Other creatures have no choice - they have to obey Him. A rock, for example, always obeys. Just sits there. A rock would not go down and get drunk and assault people etc.

People, by contrast, will constantly do all sorts of things: fight, stab, get angry, commit adultery... and even the more restrained ones can hate and be jealous and worldly and have false gods.

Whether obvious or subtle sinners we don’t give God the rate of return to which He is entitled.

It is a constant struggle for us to be good at all times. It gives Him pleasure if we obey, because the obedience we offer is a voluntary offering, a sacrifice. This is what makes it acceptable to Him.

I could choose my own way, make my own gods, my own commandments. Instead I come before Him and kneel before Him and submit to His will.

It will be also the greatest pleasure for us. The reason we do not submit fully is that we do not entirely trust that His way is best. So we partially obey Him and partially keep a few things up our sleeve. Can we go that extra bit in trust?

How can it be happier for me to submit everything to Him? One, because He is more likely to bless me and hear my prayers if I do that; and two, it is good for me because I am finding my true self, my true location, like a fish in water.

My greatest happiness is to be immersed in God.

When we come to Mass we do a lot of kneeling down. Rare these days. Why do we kneel?
We are expressing with our bodies what ought to be in our minds and souls, that we are willing to give ourselves over to Him.

And we recognize that our sin causes all the trouble; it is the only thing that spoils the beauty of the universe.

And all the healing in the world is caused by repentance. When we get back on the right wavelength we are beginning to be healed.

‘I will not sin again’ becomes more than just a vague formula, and becomes a reality. I am going to deepen each day my grasp of my desire to serve Him

This is the acceptable fruit, the return on His investment. This is why He created us.