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.