Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Sunday after Christmas 26 Dec 2010 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 26.12.10 Generational change

Those who do not study history are condemned to repeat its mistakes. If that is so it looks like not many people study history! Every generation does exactly the same things.

There is always war, people killing each other, arguments, selfishness. Whatever is evil seems to happen just as much as ever, no matter what century or what year.

And more to the point each generation ignores/rejects God.

Our Lord was rejected at His birth and then by another generation thirty years later. And then future generations have done the same thing, crucifying Him again - in their minds at least.

They insult, blaspheme against Him like no other. And disregard His words.

We should get better with time. Logically each generation should be better than the one before. ‘They did this wrong so we will do better’.

But everybody does the same mistakes again and again.

So we need some help here to get things to a higher level. We need God’s grace to put His will into effect.

Folly is the consequence of sin; our minds are darkened, and wills weakened. So that even when we know something will have bad consequences we still do it.

Only by divine grace. We have to accept him, at least initially, and then let His grace work on us to help us learn from the past; and with this greater wisdom our thinking will change and eventually our whole culture or society.

At Christmas time especially we would like to think there could be some improvement in the human condition. So far not much to enthuse over.

But it is not beyond us.

We cannot raise ourselves. It takes prayer, repentance, application. Daily seeking the necessary grace. Only God can lead us out of the wilderness.

A few basic steps is all it takes. We can make progress in other spheres such as medicine and technology but no progress at all morally.

The moral sphere requires direct acknowledgment of God and direct contrition. That is why it has not happened.

It needs for us to go further than just a ritual observance of Christmas and to dig deep for the power that is there.

This power is undiminished by time; every day is the first day of the rest of human history.

We can control only our own individual response but we are hoping that there will be a chemical reaction, an explosion of goodwill if a critical mass is reached. If enough people see something in a new light a big change can result.

It is not beyond us, if we connect with the grace of God. It is not beyond us to do that much. We are not being asked to solve all the world’s problems; only to humble ourselves before the crib of Bethlehem, to ask His help every step of the way.

And not to give in to fatalism. Many thinkers have noted the human condition and have resigned themselves to the sameness of one generation to the next; but this is to exclude the miraculous and abundant power of God.

The Covenant which Our Lord established was new not just in the depth of its teaching but also in its power to change human hearts and minds. It would inspire us to get out of the rut.

Just to believe this is possible is itself a breakthrough. This is not some naive optimism but plain honest Christianity; no more than tapping the power which has always been there (just as technological advance is merely discovering powers that have always been there).

Then this and future generations will give God-incarnate the recognition He deserves.

Christmas Day 2010 Sermon

Christmas Day 2010

The obscurity of Our Lord’s birth symbolises the rejection He received. Unfortunately however that rejection still continues.

If everyone who heard the Christmas story would then say: Well, I will certainly open my house to Him! Then we would be making progress.

But we have celebrated Christmas every year and after 2000 years it does not get much better as far as welcoming Him goes.

He is the most insulted person in the human race, despised and rejected. The rejection did not end with Bethlehem, either during His life or since. In the third Mass of Christmas we hear from John’s Gospel: His own did not receive Him. They did not want His message; they don't want religion even to be mentioned.

All this rejection is so unnecessary. A lot of it is just people being impressionable and following each other. It is fashionable to blaspheme, to laugh at goodness and purity, to be cynical and sceptical.

However to accept Him, to stand with Him - takes courage. We have to be prepared to be different to be His disciple.

Just as Mary would have kept Him warm, and protected Him from any dirt, cold wind or any danger... so we have to protect Him too from the cold winds of anger rejection, scorn.

So we ‘protect’ Him from the hatred of the world; siding with Him not against Him. And we do the same at Calvary.

Were you not with that man? We were, and we still are.

Part of our ‘welcome’ means we must defend and hold sacred all that He has put in place such as defence of human life, respecting the body, being merciful to others; standing up for Him in the market place of ideas; pointing out why His teachings are always right and why any deviation from them will always mean trouble.

Christmas comes by itself, in terms of the date. But that is just the shell not the substance. Christmas has not really come unless we interact with it, involve ourselves, see ourselves in union with Christ; then it has come.

We go beyond just the commercial, social, cultural aspects of Christmas and come to the main point: standing with Christ; ready to live or die for Him.

Above all, accepting Him. Not giving Him the ‘No vacancy’ sign, but the warmest widest possible invitation to come and dwell with us.

Of course this point could be reached any time of year, but we will make use of the good feelings that come at Christmas to prod us to a further response.

Christmas is the only feast that everything stops for. This could be helpful as an occasion to think. It could be unhelpful insofar as the cultural customs can be taken for observance, and thus the real point – the acceptance of Christ - is easy to miss.

Did you have a good Christmas? An open-ended question, which probably means did you have a nice time with family etc? That question can mean for us: Did you welcome and recognise Him? Did you go into the stable and offer Him warmth and strength and support? Did you protect His name?

The great rupture of the human race from God is still only partially healed.

Accepting Him means allowing His healing reconciling work to take effect. The world needs all the healing it can get. We would be glad to do anything to help. We do help if we accept Him in our own hearts.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Mass times over Christmas

Times for Latin Masses at St Monica's, Walkerville and Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh over the Christmas period are the same as they normally are, but just to make sure here is each day listed:

Christmas Day 8am St Monica's
Sun 26 Dec 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh
Mon 27 Dec 8am St Monica's
Tue 28 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 29 Dec 8am St Monica's
Thu 30 Dec 8am St Monica's
Fri 31 Dec St Monica's
Sat 1 Jan 8am St Monica's
Sun 2 Jan 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh

Christmas greetings and blessings to all!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

4th Sunday of Advent 19 Dec 2010 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 19.12.10 Going further

There are people who reject the Catholic faith because they have never known it and not thought it worth investigating.
There are others who have been in the Church and later rejected it.
There are others again who are still in the Church and yet restrict the degree of their commitment (such as those who go to Mass only at Christmas and Easter).

It is possible at any point for a person to say: this far and no further. Whether I have little or no or much commitment to the faith I can say that whatever I have is enough. I need no more, or I could find no room for any more.

Yet here comes John the Baptist to say: Prepare ye the way – implying that there is more to be done.

There is always more to be done in the matter of faith, in terms of our relationship with God.

The Catholic faith lends itself to formalism, not intentionally, but when we start to organise things it is always possible to reduce something sublime to merely technical details.

Like calculating how many Masses one has to go to, or how much of a Mass one has to be present at to say that the obligation is fulfilled.

These calculations are sometimes necessary but if it becomes habitual to think always in terms of minimum commitments then the whole spirit of the matter has been lost.

The point about ‘religion’ is that it is more like falling in love than anything else. It is not about minutiae of how many minutes we spend doing something. Instead it calls for the whole heart and soul of a person – things we don't mind handing over sometimes but rarely for ‘religion’.

Thus people will be ‘passionate’ about many things: saving the environment, justice for a particular group, pursuing a love interest... following a particular football team, conducting a hobby of some sort...

It is not the passion that is lacking; it is just a matter of where it is directed.

But if we can taste something of the sweetness of the Lord (as the Psalm says) we will be motivated to seek Him more.

This is where the sluggishness comes from: we do not seek the Lord because we do not see how attractive He is.

We need some help from Him at this point. We need Him to give us some small taste of His presence; some sign of His love. Then we can go further.

The cry of John the Baptist is addressed to each of us in every generation. Leave aside everything else that absorbs you and give your whole attention to this one matter I bring before you... Here is your Saviour, your Lord. Bow down before Him.

The question for many is Why should I? Why should I take any particular notice of this Jesus or of any of the associated religion?

Because, believe it or not, you will come to believe that He is the ultimate place to look. Every other place you look for happiness is the wrong place. Look at Jesus; give Him your time and eventually He will win your heart and then all that you have and are.

Just give Him a chance and He will prove to you why that was the best course of action.

And the call of John is for all of us, even if we already believe. Because there is always more to know of Jesus, more to give in response. Not as in paying a tax, getting blood out of a stone, but as in the spontaneous gift of the lover.

So the bad news: More is required. The good news: You will receive far more than you give and you will want to give more.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

3rd Sunday of Advent 12 Dec 2010 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 12.12.10 Joy

We often find ourselves looking forward to certain things, like holidays. The anticipated delight of these events sometimes exceeds the reality. I might see myself enjoying a tropical paradise walking on the sands surrounded by palm trees, but in reality my luggage is lost and I am being eaten by mosquitoes.

In one case at least this letdown will not happen. We dare to anticipate one day going to heaven, seeing Almighty God face to face. This particular joy will be greater, not less, than we could imagine it to be.

This is because with our limited intelligence and experience we cannot grasp these mysteries; but they are no less real for that. We will find a level of happiness there that we could barely begin to describe here (cf St Paul in his heavenly apparition cf 2 Co 12).

Yet we dare to hope. With all our experience of disappointed hopes in this life we know we can feel differently about this one. Even though it is a much greater thing we expect we draw confidence from God Himself.

He has promised us this reward if we are faithful to Him and He never breaks His promises.

He does not promise happiness on our holidays or other earthly projects but He does promise us eternal life.

All other pleasures and joys are subservient to the ‘big one’ – the only one that matters in the long run – eternal life.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, we force ourselves to reflect on the reasons we should be joyful. So that, as the epistle tells us, we should rejoice always and never be anxious about anything.

Whereas, in reality, we are anxious about many things most of the time and hardly ever really feel undiluted joy.

When we reflect on the ultimate happiness to which we are heading we realize how much we have to be pleased about.

The difficulty is how to ‘use’ this knowledge to help us in the ups and downs of daily life.

Of course heaven is not just when we die. We can bring heaven down to us insofar as we can live in union with God already and create paradise-like conditions around us by the way we live.

(Paradise at least in terms of things like love and justice. We can't stop it being hot or cold or eliminate sickness but we can at least behave like we are in heaven.)

There are two clouds on the horizon:

One, that we are not entirely sure these things are true. We believe it to some degree, but we still allow doubts to assail us. What if there is nothing there? We need reassurance. We need more faith.

Two, that we fear we might not make it to heaven, because too sinful.

We can work on these two difficulties.

As with all things we need God’s help. If we are to rejoice we need to ask Him to help us rejoice, to deepen our faith, to come to know Him better. To know Him to such a degree that we can never doubt for a second that He will honour His promises and bring us to Heaven.

The other cloud: that He will forgive us, and give us grace to live holy lives, and so possess salvation with absolute certainty. (Not the complacency so prevalent today that everyone goes to heaven... I mean a real certainty.)

With the hope of heaven to anchor us we can deal with any rise or fall in present circumstances. This is the basis of our joy; and it is a joy that nothing can take away, unless our own renunciation of faith. Not being that silly, we allow the joy of eternity to filter through our everyday lives until we arrive at this place where all hopes are fulfilled.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

2nd Sunday of Advent 5 Dec 2010 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 5.12.10 Being different

St John the Baptist, for all his greatness, has probably never been as popular as certain other saints in terms of devotion.

Perhaps he inspires in every generation some of the awe felt by the people of his time when he set himself apart in the desert, strangely dressed, and with a fierce message of repentance.

His ‘differentness’ was a way of highlighting that the people as a whole were treading the wrong path and needed to rethink where they were going.

The austerity of his life was to put into action what he was saying with his words. When we fast, or deny ourselves pleasures to which we are entitled, we are forcing ourselves to realize that there is something better than this life as we know it. Man does not live on bread alone.

We need St John the Baptist in every generation. Although Christ has come each new generation has to learn the story all over again; has to be told to step away from too much worldly delight and look for something better – which they will find in Christ.

Each individual has to make a response. Do you believe in this man? Do you accept Him as Saviour, as Lord? Is He relevant to you? Questions we all have to answer, and continuously.

We have to renew the commitment every day. We cannot rest on past achievements; our membership must be current. So that at any given moment I am on fire with love for Him, with enthusiasm for His word, for His ways.

The message is just as urgent as ever. He has come but has not been received, and so the Church continues the prophetic voice of John the Baptist in our time.

The strangeness of dress, the austere way of life, the prophetic voice – we see these in religious life – the penance, the abstinence, the witness to the world that there is another way. There is a timelessness about these things. One could stand on a hill in any year of any century and say the same things as John the Baptist, and you would be right. (And people would think you were crazy.)

A voice in the wilderness. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday today and forever. His relevance does not decline with time. Even if ignored He remains important and His truth is eternal.

So the Church keeps John the Baptist before us. He must decrease, he said. John might have expected he would fade out of people’s minds but we keep him current because we see the difficulty of accepting the Saviour. The forerunner is still required.

How shall we proclaim Christ in the current age? Many Christians have abandoned the life of penance and self-denial, thinking such things belong to a bygone era. They argue that Christians should be part of the world and do as everyone else does.

Indeed we can blend in with the world on certain points, such as the relieving of poverty or trying to make peace.

But we must stand apart from the world when the prevailing opinions are wrong, such as on abortion, euthanasia, homosexual ‘marriage’.

We also need to stand apart from the world, as explained above, in doing penance and setting our sights higher.

We do not have to be all wearing camel skins and eating locusts but we do need at least something of that style, of that fierce courageous spirit that will enable us to ignore both the attractions and the disapproval of the world in pursuit of what is right.

There is an essential difference in being a disciple of Christ which colours everything we do in the world.

We can feel a certain solidarity with others but we never forget who we really are.

Be one with others when we can but be separate when necessary – working towards a final oneness when all the world comes to Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord.