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.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

4th Sunday after Pentecost 20 June 2010 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 20.6.10 Making a miracle

The epistle (Romans 8) refers to disorder in the universe. Creation itself is groaning. The problems in the world are caused by sin, which leads to alienation from God; which leads to things falling apart in all the ways they do.

Loss of faith can happen when we look around us and see the various things wrong with the world; and then somewhat deflated by what we see we conclude either that there is no God, or that He does not act when we ask and therefore there is not much point asking Him anything.

So a lot of Christians cease to pray and just let things take their own course.

This of course has the effect of reducing faith even further because with less prayer things will get even worse.

The words of Our Lord to Peter: put out your nets - even though it seemed improbable that anything would result – this is the key moment for us; that we can act as God tells us even though we may have our own opinions on what is likely or unlikely.

If we obey Him without question we can then see the wonders He will work for us. What if Moses, when told to stretch out his arms over the red sea, had debated with the Lord and said, what good will that do with thousands of Egyptians charging towards us? He did not debate; he just did what he was told and the waters parted.

Our Lady did not debate with Gabriel about his instructions, but consented rapidly and a Saviour was born.

Other times there was disobedience and the moment was lost: The rich young man who could not part with his riches; Judas who could not maintain loyalty to Our Lord.

Our Lord founded the Church, but He made it clear it would always be His Church. He would appoint human leaders (Peter and the apostles) but He would maintain overall authority.

This means that He would expect Peter and everyone else in the Church to obey Him at all times even when (and usually it is the case) we do not understand the full implications of each event or instruction.

He would always have the power to direct things, and when necessary by miracles to save the Church from destruction. Behold I am with you always till the end of time.

But He will not usually tell us exactly what miracle He will work, and He will often leave us to feel our human inadequacy in the face of trouble.

How easily and often we slip back to merely human analysis of problems and think the Lord has deserted us.

He is waiting on a greater level of trust from the Church which would enable a much quicker resolution of the problems we face.

See the self-fulfilling problem we make for ourselves by doubting all the time. We actually impede the grace of God from taking its full effect.

So we need remedial prayer. We need to pray so that we can pray properly, with real faith, and then see the wonders the Lord will do for us.

We need to pray for the faith which will not run dry at the first sign of trouble, but will hold firm in every circumstance.

The Lord promised the Church would gather in men like fish, would bring the whole world into the net of love which He had spread.

We find it hard to convert people, but we should not conclude that it is impossible. We need to let the grace of God go to work. Leave our doubt outside; come in here and pray like never before for this miracle of conversion (and any other miracles we need). It is all possible if God wills it so. Our part is merely to agree and obey. Put out the nets to catch what He sends us.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 13 June 2010 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 13.6.10 The worth of each person

Having just celebrated the feast of the Sacred Heart today’s parable reinforces our understanding of God’s intense desire to save us.

That God would go to such lengths (Incarnation, Crucifixion) to save us shows that we are valuable to Him.

It is necessary that we understand our true worth before God.

These days a great deal is said about self-esteem; a lot of it is not grounded in Christian understanding. True self-esteem must be based on a proper relationship with God, beginning in humility, a sense of gratitude to God, of trust in Him, of putting myself entirely in His hands - what I will do, how long I live etc.

Ps 138: He has created me; He knows every thought, every move etc. I cannot hide, nor should I want to.

Recognition of God’s importance gives me true sense of my own importance.

God does value me and if so then I must be important. I could be despised by every other person on earth but if God thinks I am important then I must be. Not ‘hey, look at me, I’m important’ - as though better than others. More in gratitude that He has made me so.

And then, do everything to let Him save me. If the Good Shepherd is looking for me then why am I hiding?

People self-destruct through sin, trying to advance their position but really making it worse. The only way to make it work is to submit totally to His will... into Thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit...

If I am important then so are you. I thought I was special but now I am just one of the billions. A man cannot have ten wives and give himself to each one as if he had only one, but God can give Himself totally to each person as though he/she is the only one. I do not lose any way because He also loves you.

No place for envy here. My own lack of self worth may want others to be kept down, but in His view He can give gifts lavishly all round and I am not missing out. I have everything I need for happiness. He forgives others, good. He gives them gifts I don’t have, good.

This is not a competitive thing in the same way as, say, the sporting world. I do not have to be better than you, only better than myself yesterday. If we must compete we could ‘outdo one another in showing honour’. (Romans 12,10)

We generally don’t like losing but if you are holier than I am then I should be happy with that. Whatever contributes to the glory of God.

Other people: we can find all sorts of ways of distancing ourselves from them. The attitude required: to want what is best for others - ultimately salvation, union with God. As far as possible happiness in this life as well.

So we become concerned for what happens to others. More concerned than just for our family or friends, and more concerned than just for physical or material wellbeing. Concerned for eternal life; wanting others to have what God wants them to have.

We become shepherds as well as sheep under this scheme. Notice that in the Gospel the angels rejoice. If we were angels we might not care what happens to sinners, but a real angel does have the mind of God and does care. We are moving into that frame of mind.

These days we talk of people ‘finding themselves’. They will do that if they place themselves with Christ. May all the lost sheep find their way home!

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 6 June 2010 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 6.6.10 The Eucharist the greatest miracle

The Eucharist is the greatest miracle the world encounters. Greater than a healing of an illness; greater than a raising from the dead; greater than a miraculous intervention in nature... because of what it is. The other miracles are all God’s doing something; the Eucharist is God Himself.

Yet because of its relative commonness in terms of frequency it is easily underrated and even taken for granted by those who believe in it.

So we have to pinch ourselves and really grasp that here and now right before our eyes is a miracle, performed in each Mass, and the best possible type of miracle in terms both of what it is, and the good it can do us.

What it is: bread from heaven. The most visible tangible link with heaven, a kind of permanent and visible reminder. If anyone is scratching around for a sign from heaven, some miracle, “if only there was some way of knowing”... this is it.

Now one might protest that you cannot see any difference with this ‘miracle’ so how do you know it is happening?

There are stories of eucharistic miracles, where hosts bleed or turn into visible human flesh.
But if one is looking for spectacular effects these are to be found in the Eucharist in the difference it makes to people’s lives. They will be able to live in a Christ-like way, loving God and neighbour, forgiving enemies, sacrificing their own pleasures for a higher cause etc.

This may in turn seem rather dull by comparison with some spectacular miracle of nature, but it is more useful all the same.

To enable people to live to the fullest extent of their human nature transformed into the image of God –this is the best thing the world could have. If everyone lived to the full power the Eucharist makes possible there would be no more war, crime, bashings, terrorist attacks, adultery, bullying and so on...in such a world. The remedy is right here in this church, on this altar.

The change in people may be gradual, and not always obvious, but overall the world is a much better place for having this miracle of the Eucharist.

This is what the Eucharist is. A quiet miracle that is not ostentatious to the sense experience and yet will work wonders (miracles) in the lives of those who receive it in the right spirit.

We can come to understand that the effects of this heavenly food are what we most need. So we hunger for this food and seek it out. If there were a medicine that would cure all illness and would enable one to live forever what would people not do to get that medicine? So we have it here, a small piece of food that packs a punch for all eternity, that will cure us of every fault and enable us to live forever.

In a sense one has to grow into this miracle. It is not obvious and instant like the more visible miracles but is evident only to those who have the eyes of faith.

Each time we receive this sacrament with at least partial faith, we can expect to receive more and eventually to become totally convinced of its truth and value.

We also need fortifying against the false and negative influences in the world around us. Many have lost the faith they once had through neglecting to maintain this essential nourishment.

So we are reminded on this Sunday after Corpus Christi of the great treasure we have. The Gospel speaks of a Banquet to which we are invited. Despite its humble appearance this bread from heaven is the best food to be had anywhere around here!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Trinity Sunday 30 May 2010 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 30.5.10 Never enough praise

We can never give Almighty God adequate worship, never adequately state His true worth. This is because of our own limitations. We are so much less than He is that our attempts to describe Him are always going to be lacking. It would be like an ant trying to describe a mountain.

But as long as we enter fully into the worship we offer we are then giving Him all we have and that is pleasing to Him.

Also we can grow in our love for Him and this will happen if we approach Him in the right way. So, small as we are, we can get bigger in terms of our capacity to love God. We are drawn into His inner life and share in the infinite love between the Three Persons

We may not be able to explain it, may not be able to understand it, but we will be experiencing it. We are swept up into a greater love when we come into His presence.

That love will cure us of whatever limits we have brought on ourselves through sin: such as pride, malice, false gods, lack of vision. We are gradually and steadily set free from these limits and can become as pure as the angels as we sing with them in heavenly chorus.

Limit 1: Way we seek happiness. It is possible that we undervalue God Himself and overvalue some of the things He has made. So sometimes Heaven is spoken of a place of endless pleasure where one can indulge one’s favourite things on earth forever – be it drinking beer, playing scrabble, watching cricket. But the ultimate happiness of heaven is not any one thing or number of things but simply relationship with God. If that sounds boring it means we have not yet discovered the beauty and wonder of God.
God is so good and so desirable but one has to acquire a taste for Him. We have to move towards Him. The more we do that the more we discover how desirable He is. The saints lead the way in this. By God’s gift we can make progress in knowing and loving Him. We advance in our quest for Him.
Once we begin in this direction the doors will open, and our eyes too.
(Even in this life union with God our greatest happiness. We need love but people think they can love without God , cf the growing practice of people marrying outside of churches. People seek love but without God. It cannot work.)

Limit 2: Way we pray. There is need for absolute reverence when we approach Almighty God. He relaxes the rules for us to let us approach so close to Him. We must not become complacent about this. In the current day Church we find people walking all over the sanctuary, talking, laughing, eating in church. They have turned it into a marketplace all over again. There has been a loss of the sense of the sacred. We have become too ‘familiar’ with the sacred. We need to restore the Fear of the Lord without going to the opposite extreme of seeing Him as unapproachable.

Limit 3: Way we relate to each other. The fact of the Trinity teaches us about God’s own way of relating with Himself. He is Three Persons in perfect harmony and balance. There is no discord or hint of friction between the three Persons. This is mind-blowing for us because in our human experience there is always conflict even in a two-person relationship, let alone three.
But God’s inner peace is a strong sign to the human race that we were meant to get along a lot better with each other than we have managed so far.
Unity of heart at least is required. We cannot agree with everyone on every point. but we must maintain charity and goodwill. We want every other person to be in union with God and to be drawn into His light.

We can never exhaust the mystery of God Himself. Even in Heaven where we see Him face to face we will never reach the end of learning about Him. If we can never give Him enough praise, we can at least give Him more.