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.