Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Easter Sunday 24 April 2011 Sermon

Easter Sunday 24.4.11 Holding on to the end

There are many places in the Old Testament where the good are promised that they will be justified in the end; and the evildoers will bite the dust.

Yet we see that good people are not always rescued from death, that bad people are not always immediately punished, that unjust situations and practices can go on for a long time without apparent intervention from Heaven. Can the word of God be false? Never. It is just a matter of time.

Many fictional stories are constructed in a way that has the main characters (goodies) in trouble for most of the time and the baddies are on top, but at the very end of the story it all turns around and the good come out the winners.

One cynic explains this is why it is called ‘fiction’ because it is not the way it happens in real life!

But if we consider the story of Our Lord over these three days, could we imagine a more dismal picture than how things looked late on Friday afternoon - with Our Lord, dead on a cross, deserted by most of His followers. To any onlooker it must have seemed that His cause was finished, His race run.

Yet just 36 hours later He is back alive, and more alive than before (resurrected not just resuscitated). It has to be the greatest comeback story ever.

His story is the prototype for all others, and not just fictional stories either. The same applies to each of our lives as we thread our way through all sorts of difficulties here on earth, a lot of the time seeming to be overwhelmed by troubles – yet we too will see a day of glory, provided we hold on to the end.

Many, sadly, abandon trust in God when they feel deserted. Yet if they had held on they would have come right.

The vindication for us may take longer than 36 hours but it will come, in this life or the next.

Why does God leave us in suffering for such long periods of time? He does not want to see us suffer anymore than we want it.

He asks us to accept a certain amount of suffering for the same reason as He willed His Son to die for the sins of the world. This kind of suffering becomes an act of love; it is a prayer, a fragrant offering to God.

The motive force behind such suffering and such acceptance is the Love of God. When we love enough we are willing to suffer as an expression of that love. The more we love someone the more we would be willing to suffer for that person. Thus Jesus loved a great deal to be able to offer Himself in such an agonizing sacrifice.

We are challenged to enter this same process. If God lets us suffer it is not because He has abandoned us but because He is calling forth more love from us. And this extra love will help to make known the love of God, which in turn will bring a change of heart in those still far from Him.

They will be ‘cut to the heart’ as were those who heard Peter’s sermon at Pentecost.

The Risen Jesus stands before us now, and just as on that first Easter He says to His disciples, Peace be with you.

We can call on Him any day (not just today) and draw reassurance from His powerful presence. He will enable us to do things we could never manage by ourselves alone.

We are heading for a happy ending in our own personal stories. We just have to hold on till the end, and to help us to do that we have the Risen Lord within reach at all times.

Palm Sunday 17 April 2011 Sermon

Palm Sunday 17.4.11
To some observers the crucifixion of Our Lord was just another routine execution. No special event.

To us it is God Himself taking on human nature and then further taking on Himself the sins of the world. Definitely not just another death, just another execution.

Jesus, God and Man, the most loved and hated member of the human race in history.

Why so loved? Because of the healing and salvation He brings to millions. Why so hated? Because He rouses the jealousy and rage of the devil himself who then spreads hatred to as many people as he can.

Why would anyone want to reject One who can do so much good? (Vested interests, keep the status quo, too lazy to change one’s ways, steeped in evil, thus unable to see good when it presents itself.)

Thus so much denial and calculated indifference towards Our Lord.

We see the fickleness of human nature even in this one liturgy: from Hosanna to Crucify him.
What a spectrum of response is possible in relation to Him. Our response to Him is more important than any other response to any person or thing we ever make.

We have to be with Him not against Him if we want to live forever.

How hard we have to apply ourselves to be loyal to this king; not just to acclaim Him on good days but to make it the study of our lives to be faithful to Him, to know Him as well as possible, to be conformed to His image, to be proud to be identified with Him.
And not to give in to temptations to resent Him when life is hard or to ignore Him when we want to go our own way.

The palms we have been holding are signs of welcome and acclamation. The original holders of those palms largely changed their welcome to rejection. We must hold the welcome, and make that habitual.

So that we are always glad to see Our Saviour coming, never ashamed to go out to meet Him, never wishing He were further away, never complaining about our sufferings in following Him.

If we are faithful to Him He will be more than faithful to us. Whatever we give Him He will repay a hundredfold.

Let us go with Him through this Holy Week, to Calvary and then to the glory of the Resurrection.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Holy Week details

For Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday I will be taking part in the ceremonies at Holy Name. Accordingly there will be no Traditional ceremonies at St Monica's on those days.
On Easter Sunday Mass will be at the normal time of 8am at St Monica's,
and 5pm at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh.

The times at Holy Name will be:
Holy Thursday 7pm
Good Friday (Main liturgy) 5pm
Holy Saturday 10.30pm

Holy Name Church is at 80 Payneham Road, Stepney, Adelaide.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Passion Sunday 10 April 2011 Sermon

Passion Sunday 10.4.11 Sin binds and blinds

Isa 58:1Cry, cease not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their wicked doings, and the house of Jacob their sins. For 2000 years the Church has been proclaiming the need for the world to repent from sin. It is not a popular message and a very difficult one to ‘sell’ to the public.

Why is repentance so unpopular? One of the unfortunate effects of sin is that the sinner suffers at least a partial blinding every time he sins. Every sin moves us further away from the divine Light, pushes us further into the darkness.

From that darker position our power of perceiving reality becomes weaker; our capacity to judge clearly is warped. Everything looks out of shape.

The darkness can be in the form of presumption or despair.

Presumption can take two forms. a) when people say: I have no sin. I am good, or good enough at least. I never do anything wrong. I haven’t killed anyone....
To say we have no sin in us is to be a liar (cf 1 John 1,8). The person saying this does have sins but has become unable to register them. Repeated and unrepented sin has blunted the conscience and dulled the intellect so that the person can no longer see his own sin, great as it might be.

b) when people admit they have sinned but presume that God will not ‘mind’; will forgive them anyway, whether they repent or not. It is the come-as-you-are mentality. God loves me no matter what I do, so I will do whatever I please and know that He will still welcome me into heaven. Very dangerous theology!

Despair is when a person concludes there is no ultimate good in the world, no source of salvation. What we see is all we have. There is nothing for it but to take whatever pleasure can be got while life lasts. This is a denial of any difference between right and wrong, good and evil; a kind of amoral floating through life, very common today.

All these positions are a kind of spiritual blindness, brought on by sin and kept captive in that state.

Repentance would bring a person out of that darkness very quickly; but the difficulty is that when one is in the dark the appeal of repentance is not easy to see.

The above positions all involve a defensive attitude. Don't come near me with your preaching and your religious messages. I am all right thank you. Leave me to my own ways of looking at life. I can cope without you.

Sin blinds as well as binds.

Our Lord faced the same problem in His own preaching, and He had the advantage of working miracles. Even with miracles He had great trouble cutting through the hard edge of cynicism which surrounded many of His audience.

But He is determined to save us, resistant or not. He loves us in spite of our rejection. (The Presumptives have got that much right.) But there must be some bending on our part; some humbling of self before this great mercy which is offered us.

Over the next two weeks we will have many reminders of human obstinacy (as in today’s Gospel) - Herod, Pilate, the Pharisees, the crowd... they could not see the right thing to do.

We must humble ourselves before Him. Then the blindness will be lifted and we will see the way forward.

We have sinned; we do need mercy; there is a way out of all this.

Saviour of the world, save us and all who need Thy mercy.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

4th Sunday of Lent 3 April 2011 Sermon

4th Sunday of Lent 3.4.11 A new covenant

The epistle today points out that with the coming of Christ a new state of things has been established, a new covenant, a big improvement on the previous arrangement.

St Paul likens the difference to being a child as against a slave of the family.

We can now enjoy a greater familiarity with God. The Eucharist, foreshadowed by the miraculous loaves of the Gospel, is an experience of familiarity. The same God who can be so majestic and powerful will make Himself available to us in the form of food, so willing is He for us to receive His love.

He wants us to trust in Him; to approach Him with confidence; to tell Him everything that is in our hearts and minds. This is the advice from saints and spiritual writers.

Be familiar but not irreverent. We are dealing with someone infinitely greater in power and goodness.

Older generations had the fear of hell, being told how wicked they were. This approach has to be modified with encouragement as to the gentle, merciful side of God, whereby we understand He is fierce only with the unrepentant, not with sinners as such.

Once we sincerely repent He is all tenderness and compassion.

Younger generations have been raised with the opposite problem of having not enough fear of God, ‘fear’ being understood not as servile terror but as a healthy reverence.

The correct attitude must be somewhere between the extremes.

We understand that He has great love for us, that He wants to bless us far more than we deserve; that we in return must be grateful for this one-sided love and do whatever we can to return it. We strive to please Him in all things, at the same time understanding that if we fail we can confidently approach Him for forgiveness.

We are to worship Him because He is so far above us, yet our worship is to be as loving children not as frightened slaves.

We worship Him in love, because we want to, not just because it is a duty.

We ask God for many things, as He encourages us to do, but we ask politely, reverently, always deferring to His will.

This politeness is both because of our inferior status and because He has much greater knowledge of what is good for us, so we acknowledge both these factors.

God takes pleasure in giving; it is in His nature.

This is very good for us as we are the main beneficiaries. We are encouraged to approach Him, constantly and confidently. Approach the throne of grace, asking for what we need, which is whatever He wants to give us.

He will give us the wisdom to want the right things. We might start out wanting a new house or new car, but with greater maturity we come to want things like wisdom and humility, even the privilege of suffering with Christ. We see these things in the lives of the saints. Not too many saints died rich, but they had other sources of happiness.

This Sunday is a day of joy. Why are we joyful? Because we have such a state of affairs that we are treated better than we deserve, and far better. It is like getting a job where you have only ten minutes work and paid a million dollars in return.

We manage to find things to complain about but if we really understood how lucky we are we would be dancing in the street. This Sunday is here to remind us of our good fortune.

May we all find our right place with Almighty God, and give Him perfect love in return.