Sunday, 30 October 2011

Mass times for All Saints, All Souls

Mass times for All Saints and All Souls Day: Latin Mass, Adelaide

Tuesday 1st November: All Saints Day: Mass St Monica's 6.45AM & Holy Name 6.30PM.

Wednesday 2nd November: All Souls Day: Mass St Monica's 8AM; Holy Name 11AM & 6.30PM

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

19th Sunday after Pentecost 23 Oct 2011 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 23.10.11 The whole truth

A social worker said to me recently that in her job she mixed with many clergy and she did not care what denomination they might be; she just works with all of them. This is a very typical comment these days, expressing a sort of ecumenical openness to all comers.

It is a good thing to respect people for their basic worth and dignity. However it does not follow that one’s religion is a matter of secondary or no importance. This would be faulty logic. It is right to want to respect everyone but wrong if in doing that we lose sight of the importance of truth in our spiritual lives.

We used to have a big problem with sectarianism in Australia, where Catholics and Protestants were openly hostile to each other. We are largely over that problem but now we might have the opposite one instead: namely, religious indifferentism.

In the interests of keeping the peace we have reached a point where many no longer think it matters in the least what people actually believe, as long as they are allowed to believe it!
Whether the beliefs are actually right or wrong is not an issue.

In fact, though, the possessing of religious truth is a matter of utmost importance. For one thing our salvation could be at stake. If we do not know the truth of what we should believe or how we should behave how can we know if we are at rights with God?

For another thing, and even more important, God deserves our best efforts to know as much about Him as possible and to have accurate knowledge. We pursue accuracy in all sorts of other fields, such as science, engineering, courts of law, calculating interest rates, keeping statistics, counting votes – surely we can do as much for God Himself.

In the same exaggerated ecumenical spirit it is considered that any effort to convince others of the truth of one’s own beliefs is ‘poor form’, a violation of the other’s right to privacy. It is also considered as a kind of arrogance. Who do you think you are to be telling me what to believe?

But if what we believe is true should we not try to tell others about it? If we had discovered a medicine that would cure all the diseases of the world would we not make it known? We have something better still, a medicine which will bring eternal happiness.

It may be we will be interrupting people’s lives and their established order but they will thank us later. The apostles did not apologise for bringing the Gospel to other nations; nor did Our Lord Himself apologize for bringing a New Covenant.

As to being arrogant we are not just lecturing people what to believe. True religion should also produce true love, and true behaviour. If we could manage to live what we believe there would be no contradictions. The truth of the Gospel remains intact, whether we live it or not; but if we want to ‘sell’ it we must live it better, along the lines of today’s Epistle: no lying, stealing, unjust anger etc.

The lady who works with all ‘denominations’ must think that ‘Catholic’ is just one of many versions of Christianity. Many people think this, including a lot of Catholics.

But it is not so. We are not just a ‘denomination’. The Catholic Church is simply THE Church, the only Church. The others are ‘ecclesial communities’ but not in full union with the Church. They may be better people than we are but they are in a leaky boat. We need both the boat and the people to be good!

In any case what could be better for overall tolerance than if we all believed the same things? So the desire for the Catholic Church to include every person in the world is, among other things, a push for greater unity and peace.

Our Lord calls us to the banquet (today’s Gospel). This presupposes that we are all coming to the same thing, all of one mind. With His help we can be truly one, in belief and action.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

18th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Oct 2011 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 16.10.11 Forgiveness

Which is easier to say? ‘Your sins are forgiven’ is easier to say insofar as it cannot be verified externally that anything has happened.

So Our Lord gives another command which can be verified – ‘Stand up and walk’ - which indicates His authority to forgive sins. It is not everyone who can cure a sickness with a word! If He can do such things in the physical world it can be presumed He has the same power in the spiritual world.

Our Lord has authority to forgive sins because He has authority over the whole world and everything in it. It is all His – every person, every thing, every nation, organization, the public domain, the private, the individual, the communal. All things are open to His eye and subject to His authority.

Every sin affects Him directly because it involves something that belongs to Him. There is nothing ‘private’ from Him. Sometimes people try to justify behaviour by saying it does not harm anyone else. So if I take drugs for instance, it is my decision and my body, so no one else should get excited. Or an abortion is just a decision for the woman concerned: it is her body after all.

But everything belongs to God. My body is His body. My house is His house. My time is His time. There is no way we can quarantine some part of our existence from His influence.

This is what makes a sin a sin: that we are somehow infringing on His rights. When we sin we are probably offending other people but always offending Our Lord.

Since He is personally involved He has the authority to forgive sin, and He does this with great generosity.

When He forgives He is bringing back to life. He is offering His love to the sinner and this love has the effect of restoring the sinner to union with Himself, which we call sanctifying grace, or life in the soul. Like a branch attached to the tree, we are alive again.

It is like a resurrection of the body, but better still.

He forgives ‘in potential’ every sin. But for the forgiveness to take effect the sinner has to ask for mercy. Not everyone is willing to do that, for all sorts of reasons.

But when they do ask they will receive and they are brought back to life or to a much healthier state.

In the meantime, until they ask for mercy, Our Lord will continue to offer it. He waits for that interior light to switch on, moving first to shame for sin and then to the joy of being forgiven.

This is probably the result of someone else’s prayers. Like a mother for instance. We pray for each other’s children, for all the children of the world that they will understand the dimensions of sin; how ugly and damaging it is; how glorious it is to be forgiven.

We are the man on the stretcher insofar as we all need forgiveness. We are the friends bringing the man insofar as we pray for each other.

The Lord loves us enough to forgive us; now we have to love Him enough to receive that forgiveness, and be changed internally so that we do not want to sin again.

We are His property; we have been bought and paid for. Everything is His. All the better for us.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

17th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Oct 2011 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 9.10.11 God loved us first

We are told to love God and then to love Neighbour. These are both difficult commands in different ways.

Loving God is easy insofar as God is loveable, being perfect in every way. But difficult in that God is invisible, intangible, infinitely superior to us. He can seem remote from us, and it is hard to love someone remote.

Loving Neighbour is the reverse problem. He is visible enough, but not so perfect! With regard to neighbours it is their imperfections that make them hard to love. We are not drawn to people who annoy us in any way.

So both these commands are challenging. Yet they are made a lot easier when we realize that God has loved us first.

In telling us to love Him and others He is really just saying: receive My love, and reflect it back to Me and to others.

So we go back one stage and now the task is to receive the love of God. This is a lot easier, but even this can be tricky.

To receive the love of God we just have to recognize His goodness at work in the world, and in our lives. To realize that every good thing we have is from Him and by His gracious will.

We are inclined to resent God when things go wrong, but we really should be thanking Him that there are any ‘things’ in the first place.

What goes wrong is just what has been right undergoing some distortion due to human sin, but the basic goodness of the world is still perceptible and retrievable.

God has loved us first. If we can only realize that and imprint it on our memory we will then have sufficient motivation to love (thank, praise) Him in return and we will even have enough goodwill left over to extend to our neighbours.

When we are grumpy with others it is a sure sign that we are not sufficiently grounded in the love of God. We have forgotten for the present how lucky we are to be alive, how everything about our world is pure grace from God (grace as in gratuitous).

This much we can say just for Creation. If we consider Salvation that is one better still. God has not only made us but saved us. He is willing to forgive our sins when in justice He would be entitled to obliterate us many times over.

This also proves His love. For God so loved the world...

That we might have eternal life, better than life here, in a place more beautiful than here.

If we allow these truths to sink in we will never complain again about anything.

To love God we simply have to reflect something of what He has given us. In the Mass, for example, we offer Him the sacrifice which He has provided for us. It is not much effort on our part; we just have to let ourselves be carried.

To love Neighbour we simply have to remember how well we have been treated by God and offer the same sort of generosity to others. Like the servant who had been forgiven a large debt should have forgiven the other servant a much smaller debt.

The grievances we find with others are so small compared with how much we have offended God.

So we are brought back to humility and gratitude.

We cannot begrudge some small return on all that has been lavished on us.

Many think these commands impossible. We love only those who love us, they say.

But if we give God enough room in our busy schedules to think about what He has done we will grow in love for Him and this will in turn put us in a much more patient mood with others, even the most difficult.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

16th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Oct 2011 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 2.10.11 Let God rule

Often we hear in political news that two or more people are contesting leadership of a party. When two or more people want a place and there is room for only one – that leads to tension.

Today’s Gospel parable refers to any such situation when people are striving for a greater slice of the pie than they presently have; wanting something more.

When people claim a higher place than they deserve they will probably have to take a humiliating fall.

Not everyone is ambitious for high office. Most people are probably happy just to find a level where they can make enough money, have some sort of recognition from others, and keep some sort of self-respect in the process.

So we might think ourselves to be humble enough in terms of today’s parable. But there is another power struggle going on that we might not be aware of.

And that is the struggle between the human race and Almighty God, for control of this world, for control of our own lives and destiny.

God has given us intelligence (enough to be dangerous) and free will. But because of these gifts we are in a position to rebel against Him; and we often do.

At such a point we need humility to take the lower place, deferring to a greater mind.

So who is running my life? Is it me or God? Sometimes I obey Him; sometimes I claim sovereign control for myself (which usually amounts to sin).

We should just let Him run the whole thing but we find that very difficult – due to pride, or fear of what will happen.

On every possible occasion the Scriptures tell us to trust God; not to assert ourselves against Him, not resist His plans.

It is not just that we are a zillion times inferior to Him and that it is absurd for the lesser to try to usurp the greater. It is also that God loves us and can do far more good for us than we could ever achieve for ourselves.

So in today’s Epistle we have St Paul encouraging us to explore more fully the nature of God, to get to know Him better. If we are resisting Him then it is plain we don’t yet know Him well enough. If we knew him better we would willingly submit ourselves to Him, just as they do in heaven.
St Paul prays we get to know Him better. That is what we have to do as well. Pray. And receive sacraments, and obey the will of God, even if it is against the grain to begin with. If we persevere in seeking Him out we will come to know Him and love Him.

Will we do these things? Each must decide for himself.

God will help us if we ask Him. By His grace we can get used to Him and the way He works and the easier it becomes for us to get the right balance.

The main thing is to get used to the idea that He is on our side. He is to be sought out rather than avoided.

He knows better than we do how to run our lives, and the whole universe for that matter.

We are not to seek a higher place if motivated by pride or greed, but we can seek a better life; a greater understanding of God, a closer union with Him.

15th Sunday after Pentecost 25 Sep 2011 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 25.9.11 Raising us to life

When Our Lord restored the son of the widow to life He was relieving that woman’s grief, but also giving us a symbol of His power over life and death.

He does not normally raise dead people back to life, not to this earthly life at least, but does often raise people back to life spiritually.

Every time He forgives sin He is raising back to life. We should rejoice in sin forgiven even more than we would rejoice if someone came back from the grave.

But we should also learn from the lesson that sin is a deadly thing, to be avoided in future.

God restores sons to Holy Mother Church by the forgiveness of sins. That is the crucial thing. To be away from God is to be dead; to be in union with Him is to be alive. We are like planets - the closer to the sun the warmer we are, the further away the colder and darker.

Generally people think far too much in physical terms and far too little in spiritual.

We try so hard to stay alive. We are careful crossing the street; we eat the proper food; we don’t go down dark alleys at midnight... but the soul is so neglected by comparison. So lightly do people take the spiritual dimension, so blithely do they disregard the fate of the soul; or they just assume it looks after itself somehow.

And how much grief is poured out over physical death while the death caused by sin is missed altogether!

We want healing for our aches and pains but healing of the soul is always more important.

(Of course we can be careful about both body and soul and proper care for the body does itself have a spiritual dimension via the fifth commandment. Also we could say that our bodies would be healthier if we lived with less sin.)

But how do we heal the soul? In one way it is easier, in another way harder to heal the soul. It is easy in terms of confession with sincere contrition. But harder if we mean a deeper healing which requires a change of heart, where the sin came from.

When we go to confession it is not just to be forgiven but to ask for the strength not to sin again. What can I do differently?

So the healing of the soul has two levels: the removal of sin and the firm purpose of amendment. I will not sin again.

But though there are many aspects to being holy there is an essential simplicity in that we can just come to Jesus with all our burdens, and be forgiven freely.

Then we can look for the deeper solutions - what needs to change in our lives etc.

Our Lord said: I came that they may have life and have it to the full.

When it is said that someone lived life to the full it usually means the person did a lot of adventurous things: but was he doing the will of God, which really would be living to the full?

This is where we find how alive we are or not. It is not how many things we do or how many places we go or people we know: it is whether or not we have lived in union with God and His holy will.

We can start that anytime, but sooner is better. Resurrection begins when we claim the life of God to be in us. Sanctifying grace. This must be our first priority.

Each of us is the ‘son’ in this story, that Jesus wants to raise from death (in all its senses).

And collectively we are the Mother (Church) rejoicing when others sons are brought back to life.