Monday, 31 December 2012

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 30 Dec 2012 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 30.12.12 Waiting


The Jews waited a long time for the Messiah. Even when He came He took another thirty years before beginning His public life. Even then He was in no apparent hurry to make Himself known.

Now we have been waiting 2000 years for Him to come again.

He does come to us in the sacraments but there His presence is veiled, partially hidden.

So between hiding Himself and making us wait what is He trying to tell us in all this?

The underlying point is that the workings of God require a human response to be complete.

If He hides Himself from us; if it seems to us that He takes too long to move to the next stage - He is forcing us to seek Him. The seeking heart values more fully that which it seeks.

That is one part of the answer. Another part would be that we have clouded the issue by our sinfulness, our wilfulness, our refusal to accept with childlike trust those things He has offered us.

We have impeded His revelation. The Jews spent 40 extra years in the desert for their disobedience; and later generations have not been any wiser.

God has been rejected in every form in which He has come or shown Himself. Rejected from the Crib to the Cross, and beyond.

When He does not find faith He is less likely to work miracles. And he wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief. (Mt 13,58)

So He is hidden, partly to make us look for Him; partly because we have obscured His presence. We have made it harder than it needed to be.

If we seek Him we shall find. Having found Him we must stay with Him, building up our faith.

We are not sure of the timing of His interventions (such as the Second Coming) but it is always better if we are humble, expectant, waiting... like Simeon and Anna.

They were patient; and they persevered for years. Just waiting for the Messiah. If more people were like them we would have a very different world.

We are active in the waiting process. There are things we do not know; things we cannot know; things we do not need to know – but if we stay at our post God can use us.

It is as if He would say, Is there anyone around here who believes in Me? When He finds one of exceptional faith He can use that person as a launching point for further revelation. Thus Simeon and Anna, or more generally Mary and Joseph.

Can we be such people? Yes, and we should be.

Think of Simeon and Anna standing around in the temple for decades. Just praying for the Messiah to come. We could imagine someone saying, in today’s equivalent: Go and get a life! Go and do something more useful etc...

For our part we are not sure sometimes if our prayer is doing anything or not. Some things are very slow to happen, such as when we pray for a change of heart, or change of mentality in a society.

We just hammer away, making ourselves receptive to the grace of God.

In any event it is always best to be faithful. What if Simeon and Anna had died without seeing the Christ? They would still have gone to heaven, and seen Him from there. There are many generations who have died without seeing the next major intervention from God. But we all make part of the chain of faith that covers the whole of salvation history.

And the trust we show in Him is more important than whether we see the outcome.

So we stand at our post, and wait.

Christmas Day 2012 Sermon

Christmas Day 2012


Christmas is a feast that inspires a lot of hope. Once God has taken on human form it must make a difference to the human race, we would think.

Yet we see that humanity has not improved much from one generation to the next; even after Christ has come. Yes, there has been a lot of good fruit but the world has not been transformed as much as we would have hoped.

The first Christians would have expected a lot better result than this. When are those swords going to be converted into ploughshares? When are the lion and lamb to lie down together?

The world gets worse, if anything.

Can we still celebrate? Certainly, yes. For two reasons.

One, the mere fact that Jesus has come is something to celebrate. To have Him on our team must be a good thing. Just the fact that He is here. We may not see how it is going to work but we have to be on the winning side if He is on it.

Two, we are not just talking theoretically when we ask, Can the world get better. We are able to cause it to get better, or at least influence things in that direction. We don’t just think about these things - we actually get in there and do them. We change the course of events by the way we act.

At the individual level it may not look like we can achieve much, but what we do can make a difference. Remember the widow’s mite, or the boy with just five loaves and two fish.

We hope for a flow-on effect so that whatever we do as individuals will then be picked up by others and generally things change for the better.

People would get on board if they could see His miracles again.

It is hard to get people motivated at present because they don't believe that things can get better. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If everyone sits around saying it can't improve they will not pray and, of course, things will not change.

But if we pitch in and say, Let’s change this - it will change. It takes a little daring, a little foolishness for Christ’s sake to do this.

We go against the tide if necessary. We call on the power of Christ to change the way we think, act, and speak. We believe we can change ourselves, especially if we seek it. If we can get that far, why not the rest of the world? That can change too.

So it comes to this: Believe in the change and you will get it. Wish it and you will get it. This is not like the fairytales- where you make a wish and it comes true - but very real. Faith, where our desires meet the will of God, can indeed make things come true.

So we start praying with greater fervour, and we keep praying, even if there are no visible results. We claim the power of Christ and let it go to work for us.

We overcome any tendency to cynicism, doubt, or inertia.

We kneel before Christ in humility, in faith, in expectation; not just once but constantly, always keeping alive the expectation.

We have never seen the fulness of salvation yet, but the only reason for this is that not enough people have asked for it.

It is not that it can not be done; it just has not been done.

In economic jargon they talk of consumer confidence. If everybody spends then we have more production, more jobs, more wealth. If the consumers do not spend we have depression.

We can have spiritual depression too. If not enough people ‘believe’, then there is not enough prayer, not enough change. So we have to ‘spend’ up big. Spend some time praying!

Jesus Christ has come among us; helping us to finish what He has started.

4th Sunday of Advent 23 Dec 2012 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 23.12.12 Salvation


St John the Baptist tells us to prepare the way for the Saviour; to make the road straight and clear.

There is a refreshing simplicity about this. God wants to save us; we want to be saved. So why not just get on with it and make everything as direct as possible?

Yet we find in practice that it is not so simple; that far from clearing the way to salvation we are tempted to put extra barriers in the way – false gods, sinful behaviour, neglect of prayer and sacraments, generally living too much for this life and forgetting the next.

If we agree with God and go with what He wants we have salvation with all its attendant blessings – healing, peace, joy, unity...

If we put barriers between ourselves and God; if we think up reasons for why we should not have to do what He wants then we deny ourselves all the above blessings and we get a lot of misery and trouble instead.

How simple it sounds just to agree with God and go with Him, yet how hard we make it.

We need His grace to help us overcome our pride and self-will, to enable us to give the simple assent to whatever He puts before us.

We struggle with our own sinfulness and we try to break free. That is one level of the problem.

But we find there is another level as well. Even if we did obey God on every point and lived perfect lives we still would not immediately see a better world.

This is because there are millions of people defying the will of God every day; and the cumulative effect of this is that the world does not run as it should (not even close).

And we are caught up in that world. So we suffer from the fallout of other people’s sins even if we did not commit any sins ourselves.

We are then tempted to throw it all in and join the others. Why should I be keeping the rules and living on the straight and narrow when others are out doing what they like?

This is when we are really tested as to how much we love God. It still remains true that blessings will come to us if we obey Him, but we have to go on stand-by; we have to wait a while to see those promised blessings.

Until we can remove the blockage. Until that happens we will have to suffer some of the fallout.

Many Christians wonder why they have to suffer so much when they are living good lives (or at least as good as most people get).

It is not that God has abandoned us; nor that He is punishing us. He is asking us to do as He did when on earth – to carry the Cross; to be willing to endure the fallout of other people’s sins while still trusting in God to bring His plans to completion.

Or to put it another way: He asks us to be willing to obey Him at all times no matter what the consequences may be. Trust, obey, do not hold back; do not doubt or fear; just go with the momentum and let God’s will be done.

If enough people did that we would see major change in the world. In any case each of us must do it, even if no one else does.

This much is for our own salvation and sanity. We just hope the rest of the world comes along too. But to let it be done according to His word is always the best policy anyway.

That is our prayer, as it needs to be our attitude.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Mass times

Christmas Day, Tue 25th, Mass at St Monica's: Latin Mass 8am (no 6.45am)
No Mass at Hindmarsh Christmas Day.

New Year's Day, Tue 1st, Latin Mass: St Monica's 8am (no 6.45am)
No Mass at Hindmarsh New Year's Day.

Sunday Masses and other weekdays as normal through Christmas, New Year period.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

3rd Sunday of Advent 16 Dec 2012 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 16.12.12 Valley of tears


St Paul tells us in the epistle to ‘rejoice always’. Yet he also tells us in other places that this earthly life is an ‘exile’ from our true home, implying that we cannot expect to be completely happy in this life.

And we have one of our most common prayers, the Hail Holy Queen, referring to this earth as a ‘valley of tears’.

Certainly we have much reason for tears, either in our own lives or in the world at large.

So which is it to be, rejoicing or tears, or both? How can we rejoice always when so much is not as it should be?

If we are talk of valleys of tears we could say there are two kinds of tears. There are tears without hope, and tears with hope.

The tears without hope are for those who see no way out of their present troubles. There is no God, no salvation, no heaven as far as these people can see. They suffer without relief. All they can do is seek some sort of happiness wherever they can find it, but they do not expect much.

The tears with hope are the tears we shed as people of faith, understanding that any sufferings we endure are only temporary; only stages along the way to a glorious eternity, where ‘every tear will be wiped away’. There are no tears in heaven.

But there is much reason for tears along the way. We are allowed to acknowledge that things are wrong. Being joyful does not mean we have to pretend that nothing bothers us.

We can and should be upset at certain things, eg abortion, blasphemy, injustice - but we do not allow any evil to rob us of our faith, or hope of better things to come.

Our Lord Himself shed tears over Jerusalem when He contemplated the destruction it would bring on itself. It was so unnecessary; they could have avoided that fate.

But as He shed those tears He knew that He would make things better by His actions. He could see the glorious tomorrow as well as the sad today.

Tears of sorrow are not necessarily tears of despair.

Our Lady shed tears at Calvary, but not because she was despairing. She knew her Son would rise again, but she still felt His pain, and the rejection He would experience.

We acknowledge what is wrong; we feel the pain that must come with that. But we also pray in certain hope that what is now wrong will be set right. The blind shall see, the deaf shall hear; even the dead shall rise; and most of all, the evil can be converted to good.

We have to rejoice at so much promise, so much possibility of salvation.

The more we embrace the joyful hope the more capacity we have to take a share in the suffering.

No one minds a little bit of pain if we can be sure that we will feel better soon afterwards.

In this earthly exile the pain is more than a ‘little’ and the better times are not necessarily ‘soon’, but the principle is the same.

We are thrown into the midst of a disordered world so that we can help to bring order. We are ambassadors for Christ, bringing His healing into effect, particularly on this very point of offering hope.

There are many who have the suffering but cannot see the joy. They are in a ‘valley’ with no sky. For them we must proclaim and demonstrate that there is Hope.

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy, the Psalm says (Ps 126). And so it shall be for us.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

2nd Sunday of Advent 9 Dec 2012 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 9.12.12 Breaking free


St John the Baptist launched his enquiry of Our Lord while still in chains. That is symbolic because ‘chains’ are often used as an image for our sins and the effect they have on us. Unless the Lord break the chains we remain in captivity. John’s enquiry effectively becomes: are you the one who can break these chains?

John was not much of a sinner himself; his chains were only physical. God sometimes broke physical chains as well (cf the release of Peter from captivity in Acts) but His main concern is spiritual.

We can be free physically but heavily ensnared by sin and its trappings.

In Our Lord’s time, the Jews expected a messiah but they thought he would be another King David who would set Israel free from foreign forces.

Our Lord, however, was more interested in another sort of liberation – from sin. It was because of this different emphasis that He was so much misunderstood, and has been ever since.

A spiritual problem requires a spiritual solution. So we hear of repentance, and living differently.

There are two stages in breaking free.

The first is removal of the guilt of sin. If we are guilty of sin our greatest need is forgiveness. Unless the Lord forgive us we cannot enter His presence. We would never be able to reach Heaven.

So we ask for His mercy and it will be freely given.

The second stage is to be set free from attachment to sin. Even if we are forgiven we might still want to commit the sin again. We have a certain hankering for sin, called ‘concupiscence’. We are attracted to sin even though we know it is wrong; even if our minds reject the sin we still want to do it.

We can be addicted to certain types of sins, like lust or anger. We confess them but still do them again. This is slavery.

It needs prayer, grace, the power of the sacraments to break the chains, to set the soul free.

When we confess we also ask Our Lord to take away these sins, in both senses - the guilt and the desire to re-offend.

And as we come into freedom that we be filled with desire for the good which is the opposite of the sin. (cf Mary, conceived without sin – she not only avoided sin; she had no desire for it)

The world has a different idea about sin. It says, the best way to deal with guilt is to deny it. Accept yourself the way you are, faults and all, and just get on with life. It is human nature to do these things; so just accept it.

If we hold such a false notion then we need to be set free from that too. What Christ commands He also enables. He came to save us, not by half, but all of us, even to the very centre of our desires.

This is real freedom; the whole package that God is offering us. He is setting us free in every way. If we were literally slaves and suddenly let go we would not walk about with some part of the original chains still hanging on to us. We would cut them off completely.

So with sin. If we are to be free of sin, to live as children of God, there can be no compromise. We are a new creation. This is what Our Lord was demonstrating.

He healed the sick and even raised the dead; but His main interest was in people’s souls. He wanted people to experience not just freedom from physical pain, but to come to full humanity as lived by Himself.

So no more sin, nor hankering for it; we are free and we will stay free.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

1st Sunday of Advent 2 Dec 2012 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 2.12.12 Judgment


We have these dramatic gospels in Advent, which remind us that strange and terrifying cosmic events are prophesied.

Yet people can still be complacent. They laughed at Noah, it is said, for building a boat on dry land.

It is so easy to procrastinate. I will do it tomorrow, or next year. Especially easy to put off repentance. I will get my life in order... someday.

We can hear a gospel that talks about cosmic upheaval but then look out the window and see peace and calm. We react (too much) to what we can see and not enough to what we know. Spiritual life requires the ability to see with eyes of faith.

It is hard to get people to repent unless the actual events start happening, and then it may be too late.

All this is not helped by the fact that there have been so many false predictions about the end times. Yet despite all that falseness the true prophecies remain in place and awaiting fulfilment.

There is a further problem that in these times people think they do not need to repent. In their minds either they have not sinned; or they think that God has already forgiven them.

There is huge complacency on these matters, even among Catholics. So few Catholics go to Confession; nor even talk of these things. Our whole vocabulary has been reworked; the unpleasant words have been excised. (Words like sin, hell, devil, repentance, penance) People honestly think that Vatican II removed these things. No, they are still with us.

Ironically there is a parallel call to repentance but on much less important matters. If we don't change the way we live the temperature will rise by 2 degrees by 2020 etc! Same style but different message.

The Church says, If we don't change the way we live we might go to hell. But this message is laughed at. Why laugh at hell but take climate change seriously? Because too many people are locked into a this-world only view.

Maybe their laugh is a nervous one. They don't believe in these things because deep down they know it might be true and they hope it isn’t.

It is alarming today how casual people are about the faith and how negligent of basic things, like the need to confess sins.

They mistake generally being likeable for holiness.

We must get this right. If there is sin we have to confess it, stop it, atone for it; tell each other to stop; and find what we should be doing instead.

We encourage each other to holiness.

We get on the ark instead of laughing at it.

We don't want to go to the other extreme where we put so much fear into people that they despair.

We just need to be healthily aware of the reality of sin - its presence and dangers - but also that it can be forgiven and overcome.

So we face judgment but we need not fear it. Not because we presume it will be ok, but because we can make it certain that we are saved. We do all that we have to do to be ready.

Advent is a time for this focus. Advent has been buried by Christmas in recent years. This is explainable in that Christmas is for joy and Advent is for penance. Who needs penance anymore? We do. It is good to be joyful but it must be a well-founded joy and not one prematurely claimed.

To be totally free of sin – now that would be something to be joyful about!

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Last Sunday after Pentecost 25 Nov 2012 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 25.11.12 God with us


At the end of the Church year we think of dramatic moments portrayed in the readings.

Those of us who believe in these things may even hope for some turbulence in the world, thinking that it might shake the complacency of people, a complacency so widespread.

People either think God is not there at all, or if He is, He is not really worried what we do. Nothing to fear, therefore, from above.

We are alarmed at this complacency, a general disregard of things sacred; so we pray that God make Himself known. We don't want thousands of people wiped out (which might include us, after all). If possible we would rather have miracles which show God’s goodness and love, such as the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart - anything which makes Him better known in these dark times.

So we pray, as the Church always has: Come, Lord Jesus. Come, and complete the work You began 2000 years ago. Save us, as we still so much need saving.

But while we keep one eye on the end of the world, we must have the other eye on what we have to do right here and now.

We can be discouraged ourselves as we go about our daily lives, wishing for some stronger sign of God’s closeness to us.

The Lord sometimes does act in a very visible and obvious way; but most of the time He acts quietly and unobtrusively, so much so that many will say that He is not doing anything.

Yet if we are really seeking Him we will perceive His presence and His activity.

We ask Him to come and save the world and we have visions of quick and decisive action on a large scale.
This does happen and will happen.

But also what happens is that He ‘comes’ quietly, like a gentle breeze, and moves our hearts and minds to better things; to repentance, to forgiving our enemies, to making greater use of our talents, to praying more often and more fervently... and many other things of the same sort.

He is, in fact, ‘coming’ all the time. He is with us, in our midst, even ‘inside’ us insofar as we have Him dwelling in our hearts (or that we are temples of the Holy Spirit).

He is as close and as active as could possibly be. He has not left us orphans. So we should never mope about as though He has abandoned us.

Rather we seize each moment and turn it into a triumph of His holy will, thus transforming the world till it is ready to receive Him.

The Second Coming is not meant to be a surprise. He does not want to come in such a way as to embarrass us. He wants us to expect Him and to be ready for Him; that it be joyful on all sides.

Our waiting for the end is active not passive. We do not simply wait for the coming of Christ as spectators watching an event, but as participants in the same cause.

In fact our degree of participation in advancing His kingdom could bring closer the time of His coming. (cf 'hasten the time' 2P 3,12)

So, if we say, Lord, why do You not do something? He can reply I have been doing something all along. You were too dull of perception to see it.

The more we have Him operating in our world the better off we are. This is why we desire His intervention at any point.

If He does not come one way it will be another. But come He always does, especially when invited.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

25th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Nov 2012 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost 18.11.12 (Readings 6th Sunday after Epiphany) Church, sign of hope


In the news at present the Catholic Church (in Australia) is under heavy attack from all sides, and even from within.

We are accused of large-scale sexual abuse of children and of covering up what has been done. We are accused of being a dark, secretive, powerful organisation which uses its strength to continue doing evil.

It is extraordinary that so much negativity could surround an organisation that really is the brightest light, the greatest source of hope in the world.

If we consider what the Church is: the kingdom of God on earth; the light on the hilltop, the salt in the food, the leaven in the bread, the tree that gathers all the birds in its branches, the net that gathers all the fish, the banquet where everyone is welcome, the city of God, the bride of Christ (Mt 13 et al).

We are all these things, yet we have bitterness, fear and suspicion all round.

Part of the explanation can be found in the words of Our Lord: If they hate you it will be because they hated Me first (Jn 15,18).

The world hates Christ because He threatens their status quo, the way things are done. Other empires must give way before His.

So the world hates all who identify with Christ, and clearly the Catholic Church is the most prominent organisation to do that.

It is a kind of back-handed compliment to us that we are criticised so much. It is because we are worth hating. The enemies of Christ see that we must be taken seriously.

We do not make light of the sins that individual Catholics commit. These must be acknowledged in their full force.

It is tragic that sins are committed, including sins against children.

This is not the fault of the Church as such, but of those who choose to sin. The Church herself does not sin.

The Church can review structures and procedures and should do everything possible to create a climate of holiness, but in the end it is up to individual Catholics to choose right over wrong.

If other Catholics sin all the more must we be holy. All the more must we atone for sins committed and make certain they are not repeated.

We cannot control what other Catholics do but by our own attention to getting it right we can go some way to helping.

The Church is the small flock which will get bigger and take over the whole world. It is the nucleus ready to explode - but this time to spread goodness, not destruction, over the world.

So we are not that dark sinister organisation as portrayed in the media. We are big, yes; strong, yes. We do want to make people join us, but only to make them happier. And we will never use force.

The main way in which the Church can make progress is through gaining hearts and souls; ordinary people, one here and one there, grasping the essence of faith in Christ, being purified, made better than they were; embracing the life of holiness, penance and reparation.

We need a cultural change in the Church but this will not come about through legislation. Only a change of heart can set people straight.

So it is not time to close the Church and sell off the assets!

It would be a much better solution if we become what we already are, and then win over even our harshest critics.

We must present to the world the image of a bride made pure, the city of God, come down among us (Rev 21). Holy, as we have always been destined to be.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

24th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Nov 2012 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost 11.11.12 (Readings 5th Sunday after Epiphany)


God is patient but not impotent. We should not mistake His apparent inactivity for approval of human behaviour.

Just because He does not send a lightning bolt every time a sin is committed does not mean He does not notice.

We can be angry with evildoers and want them removed, but better than killing the enemy is to convert him to a friend.

I take no pleasure in the death of a wicked man (Ezekiel 18.23). This is God’s mentality, the way He sees things.

We might be glad to see the wicked man gone but we should have desired his conversion.

This sums up a great deal about the way that God runs the world. He is often accused of being too remote from worldly affairs. If He is a loving God why does this or that disaster happen? He should have stopped it, it is said.

The good are perplexed why they are not rewarded, and the evil not punished.

The main answer is that the evil need to be converted and God’s main plans are focused on that objective.

He asks us to be patient with Him in this project; also to make it our own primary objective.

He also asks us to be patient with any suffering that comes our way; to see it as a sharing in His cross, offering prayer and sacrifice for sinners,

We might start out saying, I don't want to suffer for sinners; all I want is an easy life. But what sort of a disciple is that? If we are disciples of a crucified saviour – how can we escape taking some share of His suffering. And you shall be hated by all men for my name's sake (Luke 21,17)

We cannot expect an armchair ride through life if we are His disciples.

At first we might expect reward and to be spared from suffering, but the more good we are the more it seems to bring on suffering. This is because we become more of a target; a sign that we are true disciples, not just a lazy or negligent ones.

Also if we are good enough disciples we actually will want the conversion of our enemies – they may hate us but we love them.

We are Christian; therefore we are to be like Christ. He did not hate anyone.

We have to learn to think as He does; the spiritual way not the worldly way.

So we have to override our desire for revenge, our desire to see enemies punished, and want them converted instead.

How can we want this? It seems so unnatural; yet it is what Christ is like. Easy for Him, we might say. He is God. But He takes out the heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh instead (cf Ezekiel 36,26)

To be like Christ we have to be humble too. So we do not go the way of pride but of compassion. We do not see ourselves as better than others; just all in need of mercy.

To help others to be saved. This is one of the two main reasons we are on this earth. The other is to glorify God. We do not want to obstruct things by doing the opposite of what is required.

May the grace of God give us this vision, that we will always remember who we are and what we are here for.

We are not here for a holiday; but to make this place look like the Kingdom of God.

If we do our job well enough there will be no ‘weeds’ at the final harvest.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 4 Nov 2012 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 4.11.12 Death


Death is not meant to be part of our world but it has encroached upon us. See how much of our attention is taken up with news of someone dying, attending funerals, visiting cemeteries, daily news of death in various forms.

Death is very much part of the way we live, and has a huge effect on us. We can joke about it; philosophise about it; but we all wish there were no such thing. It is not meant to be there; it is alien to our nature.

It is alien to God’s nature too. It is not His preferred way of doing business!

But because of sin our link with the perfect source of life, God Himself, has been ruptured.

Death became necessary, partly as a punishment, and partly as a mechanism for correcting things, bringing us back to life.

It serves a purpose but it is limited in its power. The miracles of Our Lord prove His mastery over death and foreshadow its ultimate disappearance.

The two miracles in today’s Gospel remind us of Our Lord’s perfect humanity, imparting life to all who come in contact with Him.

If sin is the cause of death we could also say death is the cause of sin. The first sin leads to death and other disorder. In that position we are tempted to further confusion and despair and more sin follows... more death... more sin. Until we can break the chain of cause and effect.

We cannot avoid physical death which is already set in place, but we can take the sting out of death by removing the sin. The sting of death is sin.

If we remove the sin the physical death is no more than falling asleep. She is asleep (the daughter of Jairus). And Our Lord says the same about Lazarus.

Most people do not come back to life as quickly as those two, but the dead will be reawakened.

It is fair to say that we give death too much importance and too much power.

Too much importance in that we (as a society) use it as a measure of everything, eg how many people were killed in such and such an accident or disaster. It is important certainly when people die, but it is not the only thing at stake. Our faith tells us that the state of a person’s soul is far more important than the life or death of the body.

Too much power in that we are afraid of death. We think that avoiding death is all that matters. We grieve too much over it; and we let it cause us to lose hope. Death is like a black hole which swallows us up; takes away the future. How many people think it is the end, literally the end of existence.

Whereas we can be so much in union with Our Lord that we hardly notice the movement from this phase of life to the next. Our true homeland is in heaven (epistle).

The most crucial thing is to stop sinning which is death-dealing to ourselves.

We discover life as we do this. The less sin we commit the more alive we become.

We take all reasonable steps to stay alive. Be careful crossing the road. Watch what you eat etc.

But, far more, we give attention to the way we live; to whether or not we are in union with the will of God.

That is real life, not just biological life. The life of grace, the platform from which we can step into heaven without too much of an upheaval.

And death has lost its sting.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Feast of Christ the King 28 Oct 2012 Sermon

Christ the King 28.10.12 A very different king


Kings are normally highly visible, living in palaces, with splendid clothing and lots of servants. Wherever they go they are preceded by trumpets etc. Yet the King of Heaven, who is far greater than any other king - is often invisible.

Take His Eucharistic presence, where He is present, but not visibly so.

And then in terms of authority, kings usually have an army and a police force to ensure compliance with their will.

But this King has no police. If you break His laws there is no one to arrest you. It is as though He is not insisting on His way.

We wish He did make himself known more obviously. We think that would bring all the atheists and lapsed Catholics to the faith. Generally it would be a much better world.

So we pray, with the psalms, Lord, show Yourself.

He does make Himself known but more subtly.

And if He does not have a secret service He knows what everyone is doing.

The wicked laugh because they think God is impotent. But He has all power and could easily smite anyone anytime. He is merciful and holds off what He could do in the hope of our repenting.

No one gets away with anything. Everything is stored away, either to be repented or punished.

Normal kingdoms (states) do not care what sort of person we are as long as we do not break the law. But God does care what we are like, inside as well as out.

The private and the public is all one to Him. and His laws are much more detailed and go much deeper than those of the state. Even thoughts and attitudes come under His scrutiny.

We cannot hide from Him. People worry about cameras intruding on their privacy. God does not need cameras!

He wants our total allegiance on all these points, to be His children as well as subjects.

This will work only if there is co-operation from the individual. He does not force it, yet it is compelling.

He tries to draw us to Himself. The language of love.

We must love Him – an imperative if ever there was one – yet He wants us to come to this by our own will. To this end He hides from us to some degree - to test us, to draw us out. He asks, Can you still believe and trust even though you cannot see or hear Me or you cannot understand how I am acting in your life?

If we do trust we will see time and again that He is faithful.

He is invisible because He wants to lead us beyond just sense experience and come to deeper understanding of the meaning and direction of our lives.

Only then are we truly children of the kingdom. Children not slaves.

So it comes to this, we have to do it (love God) but we have to want to do it! We hate being told what to do, but when we see the whole story it becomes clearly the right and only valid option.

So let’s get down to it and honour Him, freely and willingly. The King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

21st Sunday after Pentecost 21 Oct 2012 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 21.10.12 Goodwill


The epistle tells us to put on the armour of God, so that we can wage the spiritual battle.

Sometimes spiritual battles can be very major and obvious. Most of the time, however, they will come upon us quietly. We may be in a spiritual battle and not even realise it.

Let’s define a spiritual battle as any occasion where we have a choice between right and wrong, and the ‘wrong’ has some attraction for us – to the point that it takes some effort on our part to resist it.

One of the most challenging things we have to do as Christians is described in today’s Gospel – to forgive those who offend us.

The logic of forgiveness is very simple. God forgives us the large debt; we have to forgive each other the small debt (the figures in the Gospel are in a ratio of 600,000 to 1).

When it is made so obvious it sounds easy. If we could carry this parable around with us maybe it would help. But despite how obvious it is we still find it difficult. This is a real spiritual battle, for which we need all the armour we can find.

How to put on this armour? Lots of prayer and then more still. So that we receive the grace of God to such an extent that we will change the way we think/feel towards other people.

Our disposition will be sweetened, enabling us to have more generous thoughts and feelings towards others - to the point that we want others to experience all that we would want for ourselves in terms of the grace and mercy of God. If I want it for myself then I want it for others too.

It is not so easy as it sounds. Consider, for example, the temptation to jealousy. .

If my neighbour wins the lottery while I am struggling to make ends meet, can I rejoice in his good fortune? Or do I resent it, wishing it was mine instead of his?

We should want good things to happen to other people, not begrudge their happiness.

This is particularly so with enemies and ‘those who trespass’.

Worldly thinking will make us want to get even and to wish harm to those who harm us. But the way of Christ is to wish them mercy. We want them to come to repentance and make a new beginning.

It is very hard to love someone who harms us but then if he repented and changed his ways we would find some loveable qualities there. We will rejoice that he has received that mercy.

This is the way Our Lord Himself sees it; and we are created to be like Him. The idea of wishing harm on others or begrudging them mercy - these things are of the devil, who is consumed with hatred and malice; happy only when he can cause misery.

So the lines of battle are drawn. Which camp are we in?

To fight this battle we need every day a fresh dose of goodwill, kindness, and the like. Goodwill directed to everyone, anyone, even our enemies, and especially them; praying for a change of heart.

So it is possible that in heaven a murderer and his victim might meet again! By this time both will have been cleansed of all trace of sin.

A general goodwill is to be cultivated. For any and all people – family members, neighbours, people on the roads, in the shops; the whole mass of humanity. This is why we need spiritual armour (graces), because we would not be able to do this on our own.

Only by His grace does it become possible, and even joyful – to forgive, to bring back life where there has been death.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

20th Sunday after Pentecost 14 Oct 2012 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 14.10.12 Faith


At present there is being launched a Year of Faith; also a programme of New Evangelisation; also there are commemorations of Vatican II, fifty years on.

All these events deal with the question of how the Church can better proclaim the Gospel to an unbelieving world.

People are lost and confused, there is no doubt; and Christ is the answer, also no doubt. But it is not easy to get the message across.

It is the Church that is commissioned to proclaim the Gospel yet many see the Church in its human limitations and focus on the messenger rather than the message. The message is Jesus Christ. He is the Good News; in fact the Best News.

To all our troubles, all our searching there is a conclusion. He is Christ the Lord. This day a Saviour has been born to us. Behold your King. There is the Lamb of God...

He is the answer to every question, the fulfilment of every need.

The Gospel today (healing of the nobleman’s son, John 4) brings out what He can do. He knows our needs and He can work miracles to set things right.

But do we believe in Him? The nobleman represents us in his various doubts.

First, he tries to tell Our Lord what He must do. Come and see my son. He says this twice.

He limits the power of Our Lord to work a miracle in any way He decides. Of course He can heal from a distance.

Then he does not really believe until he sees the evidence of the miracle.

How full of doubt we can be. Unless we see signs and wonders we will not believe, and even then, only until the novelty of the miracle has worn off.

If we really believed in Him we would not insist on a particular course of action He should take. Rather we leave it to Him to decide what is best. And we say, Thy will be done. And whatever Thy will is, let it be done to me.

Our faith is in Him rather than in any particular outcome of the prayer. This we find hard to grasp.

If we get what we want, we say, God is good. If we do not get what we want, we doubt God’s existence, or His level of interest in us.

No. If He is good He is good all the time regardless of outcomes to our prayers.

This is what it means to have faith in Him. We believe in Him as a Person. Whatever He does or does not do, that is fine with us because we believe in Him.

(Sometimes He challenged His disciples, such as at the Crucifixion; when He left them without clear explanation, expecting them to trust Him all the same.)

If we have faith in Him we can then have Faith, as defined and taught by the Church.

If all the members of the Church believed in Him in this way, believed to the point of absolute trust – then we would not have the contradictory witness we presently give. People would not be able to say, But you do not practise what you preach.

We ask Him now for the faith which leads to Faith, the full identification with His Church; and then for that Church to be able to convince the world where salvation is found – only in Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Our Lady of the Rosary 7 Oct 2012 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 7.10.12  Our Lady of the Rosary


Today is the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Historically the feast was established due to the Lepanto naval battle in 1581 and another reprieve from Islamic advance in 1716.

If God is on our side numbers do not matter, as the Israelites learnt in Old Testament times.

So we call on Mary to help fight our battles, military or otherwise. Her way of fighting is not with swords or guns but with the power of God, to which she has unlimited access.

In a Rosary we ask her fifty times to pray for us. Why do we repeat it so many times? It is not that she is hard of hearing but because we are emphasizing the point. We mean it fifty times as much.

Also we are keeping up a non-stop chorus of prayer. The repetitious nature of the Rosary is helpful here. It is not because we need to convince God or Mary by saying the same thing over and over. It is to keep up a constant prayer. We repeat the words because they are true at every moment and we want to fill every moment with an affirmation of God’s goodness, thus bringing His healing into the world. So the prayer goes on...

The Rosary is a strong petitioning prayer from which we can expect many graces to come.

It is also a prayer of meditation as we seek to deepen our understanding of the faith, the central mysteries which we constantly recall.

We call them to mind so often because they are the most important things that have ever happened in human history and we cannot afford to stray from them.

One of the powerful effects of the Rosary is the change that it brings about in the one praying it. From that change others will come. The final victory will come closer each time a loyal child of Mary invokes her in this special prayer.

We take on the qualities of Mary as we open ourselves to God’s word (Joyful), offering to share His sufferings (Sorrowful) and proclaim Him to the world (Glorious).

When we pray the Rosary we enter the mysteries, not just as a pious meditation but in real practical terms we are advancing the cause of salvation. We are not just thinking about things; we are actually causing them to happen when we pray the Rosary.

We need this prayer in a time when the Church is under attack, often physical but also spiritual, for example the moral crises we face in our present world; the loss of morale, direction and confidence within the Church. It is necessary to go back to the basic mysteries and recover strength.

The more we believe the more powerful our prayer becomes.

Better still if the prayer is prayed with others. The historic victories mentioned earlier were the result of a whole campaign of prayer. If we are to move mountains it needs a combined and sustained effort.

All Catholics should pray the Rosary – one set of mysteries a day; more if possible. We will find it rewarding and so will everyone else. The prayer of one helps all.

We would pray if our country was about to be invaded, or some other obvious crisis emerged. Don’t wait till then! There are crises enough already, and we need to get to work.

We fight the battles and we win them, if we pray this prayer – the Holy Rosary.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

18th Sunday after Pentecost 30 Sep 2012 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 30.9.12 Your sins are forgiven


Our Lord works two miracles in today’s Gospel story. The first is to forgive the man’s sins; the second to restore him to physical health.

It is the second that attracts more attention but the first that is more important.

Yes, the forgiveness of sin is a miracle, in that it is a direct intervention by God in His creation, causing something to happen which would not happen by natural causes.

If we had a priceless vase and it smashed to pieces there is no way we could restore it to its original value.

But the human soul, even when defaced by sin, can be restored ‘as good as new’.

You could murder ten people and still be restored to a spiritual state of innocence, as though one had never sinned.

The sin can be forgiven; and then the purification of the soul can follow. Admittedly some souls would take a lot of purifying but it can be done.

This is a miracle, one which we may take for granted because it is common; but we need to realise how totally we rely on God for this arrangement. Otherwise after even one sin we would be lost forever.

So we come back to life whenever we are forgiven of a deadly sin; or healed when it is a lesser sin.

Our Lord wants us to draw confidence from this Gospel incident. He has both the power and the desire to forgive us, to put the pieces back together.

But not everyone sees this or wants to see it.

People will dispute His power. Who does He think He is by doing this, the pharisees asked. Does He make Himself equal to God? (Yes, He does)

We can forgive something only if it is somehow an act which harms us. I cannot forgive you if you stole someone else’s pot plant; but I can if you stole mine.

Today people would say, who is this Jesus that I have to answer to him? What has he got to do with it?

Only that He is God, that He has created you, keeps you in being, and would, if you let Him, put you back together again.

Every sin does relate to Him because the whole world belongs to Him. It is His creation, every particle of it.

There is nowhere we could go, not even into outer space, that would be outside His territory.

Most sin is an offence against another person, but all of it is an offence against Our Lord.

Therefore He has the right to give or withhold forgiveness. He is always willing to give it; but not all are willing to ask for it.

Another stumbling block is that many people are unhappy with their lives. They know they could be living differently, but they cannot see how to get out of the rut.

Here the difficulty is believing in the miracles of forgiveness. God may forgive sins but could He forgive mine? Many think not.

His miracle in the Gospel shows that He can and will forgive on request.

It is as easy for Him to heal the soul as to heal the body. He can make a sick person (and even a dead person) stand up; He can put together the shattered fragments of a soul.

The hard part is getting people to believe this, and to seek that new life which is available to them.

Everyone would like physical healing; not everyone wants spiritual healing because there is a fear of what that might mean.

If I let Him forgive me I have to change the way I am living – and not everyone can face that.

Not many people would like to stay on a stretcher if they could be well instead. The same applies to the soul. Why stay sick (or dead) if we can know the true vitality of holiness?

May the Lord raise us to life – in soul and body.



Tuesday, 25 September 2012

17th Sunday after Pentecost 23 Sep 2012 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 23.9.12 One Lord


We have the same Lord, the same faith, the same baptism, the same God... (epistle)

Who is this Lord that is the same for all of us? It is Jesus Christ, God the Son, who has taken on human nature and saved us from sin and death.

That He is Lord must mean that we have to be submissive to Him.

Who talks about submission anymore? We have become so used to egalitarianism – where everyone is on first name terms; and leadership is by consultation not by decree.

Things have become much more casual than they used to be, and we see this in the Church as well. Formality is suspected of being insincere. Only a very chummy, matey style of prayer is allowed. We speak to God as an equal, or nearly equal.

While we can and should approach Our Lord as a friend and helper, it is never as an equal. We must give Him obedience, adoration, and absolute submission of mind, heart and will.

It is not, after all, a burden to obey Him. As He tells us, My yoke is easy; My burden light. He makes the commands delightful to us.

He is Lord as in all-powerful, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, as well as Saviour. Every detail in the whole of creation is under His authority.

As Lord He can make laws. They will always be good laws, far exceeding human wisdom. Today elected governments and houses of parliament think that they can overturn divine laws. There are some things that cannot change, eg that marriage must be between a man and a woman. Such things cannot be decided by vote or opinion poll.

A man recently asked me, Did I believe in women priests? The next pope maybe would change it, he thought. Given enough time people come around. They do ‘come around’ but that just shows how foolish people can be when cut loose from the source of Wisdom.

Much better if we leave things as the Lord has arranged them! That certain things cannot change gives us peace of mind and a solid basis on which to build other things.

There is peace of mind also in obedience. If we would all obey the Lord what a different world it would be. If we make our own laws we have the world looking like it does!

We understand the concept. Look how every sport has very precise rules and how everyone respects those rules. There would be a riot if someone tried to change the rules to suit themselves. eg how a goal is scored in a football game.

We have the same Lord for all, because human nature is the same the world over. The Church is not meant for just a few places. Cultural differences are fine but we cannot have differences in the basic beliefs.

People try to make all religions acceptable to give everyone a sense of belonging. You will not miss out just because of your beliefs. This is a false harmony, ignoring the differences.

The real harmony is when everyone obeys and worships the same Lord. Then we really have unity and ‘tolerance’ (so much extolled these days).

This is what St Paul was appealing for. No one will fight if we all believe the same things and live the same truths.

So we see there are a lot of ‘ones’ here – one faith, one baptism, one Lord - restricting our choice but working very much towards our advantage.

If we want to stop the fighting the best way is if we all believe the same things, and it would help if we could get the beliefs to match the objective truth -
Jesus Is Lord!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

16th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Sep 2012 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 16.9.12 Finding self


The parable of the guests taking the higher places teaches us to be aware of our true place in life, in the universe, in relation to each other and especially in relation to Almighty God.

The hard lesson to be learnt is that ‘I’ am not the centre of the universe; it is God’s kingdom not mine, that I should be seeking. We say, Thy kingdom come, not My kingdom!

Have I been looking for a kingdom? I may not want a castle and some of the other trappings that go with being a king, but we do start out in life wanting everything our own way.

Somewhere along the way we have to learn that the self is not the right place to focus. It is to God we must look for our true identity.

The fear is that in Him we might lose our individuality. In fact He invests us with far more importance than we would find anywhere else. In the world we are just one of the crowd, known by a few, loved by less; otherwise just a statistic. But God dies for us, lavishes gifts and attention on us, treats us far better than we would find anywhere else.

The Gospels tell us some strange things: that the last shall be first; that if we die we will live; the more we give the more we receive; he who humbles himself will be exalted etc...

The source of happiness in these cases is that our union with God is increasing. The closer we come to the sun the warmer we become.

Whereas if we are in business for ourselves our lives become chaotic and disordered. We are unable to build a kingdom for ourselves because it will never hold together.

Everything that we would cling to just by our own resources is insecure. Money, property, health; life itself; the stability of the world. We don't even know if we will be alive in 24 hours time.

Our only real security is in the will of God. And the way to arrive there is through constant prayer and sacraments - which enable us to see things His way, with greater wisdom and balance.

And we start to behave differently. Let us consider another lesson from the banquet. At a banquet we do not just dive into each dish and eat as much as possible before anyone gets to it. If we are very refined we learn to be patient and wait for the food to come, and then we find that everyone has enough; and it is very pleasant as well.

We need to apply the same principle to the whole world. Certain people do dive in and take what is not theirs, such as thieves, tyrants, bullies...

If we all lived gently and generously we would have a world where everyone would see the light of day; all genuine rights would be respected.

This is the kingdom of God where everyone looks after each other while deferring to God - at the same time praising, thanking, asking, confessing. Always moving towards that.

Even if no one else does this I should do it. In this case we might be exploited, even put to death. It does happen. But that is how saints are made. There is great glory for those who do put others first: cf blessed are you when they persecute you..

In any case it is the only way forward, the only way to happiness.

It all gets back to this: I am not the most important person in the universe;. God is. We are the planets; He is the Sun. We revolve around Him; we bask in His glory.

So many times we have said, Thy kingdom come. It will come if we restrain the rampant ego, finding our true selves in Him.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

15th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Sep 2012 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 9.9.12 Church as Mother


The son restored to his mother can be taken as a symbol of Our Lord returning sinful sons to their Mother, the Church.

This return could be understood in two ways: those separated by sin being reconciled to the Church through Confession; and those separated not only by sin but by lack of faith experiencing both conversion to faith and forgiveness of sin.

The regular practice of Confession provides a steady stream of sons returning to full union with the Church.

Sin separates us from the life of the Church; it cuts us off like a branch fallen from a tree (cf Jn 15).

Our sin offends God and harms us; but it also harms other members of the Church insofar as sin injects poison into the Body. If we are hurting in any part of the body the whole body (whole person) feels worse as a result.

When we go to Confession we are asking that our place in the Church be fully restored; that we become again fully healthy and useful members of the Body of Christ.

And this will happen; it is one of the effects of the Sacrament, completed even further by Holy Communion.

So sons are restored to their mother and the family is joyful.

Even more joyful is the other aspect of sons returning: that of Conversion followed by Forgiveness.

The father of the Prodigal Son ran to meet his son as he returned so eager was he to welcome him back.

The angels in heaven rejoice more over one repentant sinner than over 99 who never strayed (though they are happy with them too).

Conversion happens all the time to one person or another, but we need a lot more of it.

If the widow of Naim had only one son the Church has many, and a lot more than one are ‘dead’ in either of the above senses.

So there is a lot of converting to be done; a lot of confessing of sin required.

We must add our prayers to this process, imploring God constantly that His mercy will work miracles of grace in the souls of the ‘dead’. Just as He raises the dead He can rekindle life in a dead soul.

He does this through the mysterious workings of His grace. We can help in the process by praying constantly.

At the end of each Low Mass we ask God ‘mercifully and graciously to hear the prayers which we pour forth for the conversion of sinners...’

Of all the things we pray for; of all the things that need to happen – this has to be the most urgent of all.

We can pray for rain in time of drought, for full employment, for road safety, for peace on earth and many things besides, but nothing is as important as the conversion of sinners -because that goes to the core of the matter. If we are converted it means we are in full union with God and if we have achieved that we are then able to cope with anything else.

And if we are not in union with God then the other things will not do us much good unless to lead us to that full union.

So we ‘pour forth’ our prayers as, no doubt, the widow of Naim was doing. She would not have been expecting such a quick or dramatic answer to her prayers.

But our prayers are heard and they do store up graces to be distributed wherever someone is willing to receive them.
Every day, somewhere in the world, a wayward son will return to the Church. The prayers of all of us help all the lost sons. It may be someone else’s son not ‘ours’, but then another day the prayers of someone else will help our son to return.

The Church is one large family and Mother to them all. The prayers of any will help all.

Stand by for further miracles!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

14th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Sep 2012 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 2.9.12 Security


We had no say about being born; nor about the creation of the world; nor the redemptive plan of God.

We came in rather late on the scene.

We have been carried thus far without consultation but God does give us finally a choice as He now asks us whether or not we will trust in Him, and commit our lives to Him.

If we are astute we will follow the logic that if He has brought us this far it is not likely that He will abandon us now. (Cf Romans 8,31 With God on our side who can be against us?)

But there is still an air of uncertainty whereby we are not sure what will happen next, and we tend to cling to the certainties we know – such as material possessions, friendships, the lifestyle we know, the things we enjoy doing etc.

At which point Our Lord asks us to go beyond these things; not to rely on them but rather on Him.

It is natural in one way to cling to what we know, finding ourselves in such a strange universe, where so much seems insecure to us.

But we can see that there is a limited satisfaction that can be derived from earthly things.

It is often noted that riches will not guarantee happiness. We could have ten luxury cars and twenty houses and still be lonely and unfulfilled.

Or even if we have lots of friends there is a yearning in the human heart for something beyond. (Thou has made us for Thyself, O Lord... St Augustine)

The ‘something beyond’ is the union with God Himself, the fulfilment of our desires - even if we don't know it or believe it, or even if we would actively reject such an idea.

It is a leap of faith for us to seek something when we are not even quite sure what it is or what it will be like.

We are insecure so we go on clinging. We would rather have a bird in the hand than two in the bush.

So Our Lord comes in and says: you see how I have done all this for you; created a world, created you, saved you, helped you, and now I ask this one teeny thing that you would trust in Me - and you cannot do it. You would rather cling to some small part of the whole universe I have created. Your security is in Me; so seek Me and all else you will have in abundance.

What does it mean to cling to Him?

It does not necessarily mean that we have to sell all we have and walk the streets of the world like the apostles did.

It may mean that for some people, those still young enough to have such possibilities.

But if you are already well established in years and living in a suburb somewhere it is likely that Our Lord just wants you to base your life on His will.

Keeping the ten commandments and then all those little details that go with them - like not complaining, not resenting, being honest, generous, speaking only edifying things etc - a million things like that.

This can all be seen as part of the quest for the last piece of the jigsaw, the last fulfilment of all that has been before – a growing trust and finally full union with God.

Why did God put us here in this strange universe? If we had obeyed Him all along it would not be so strange as it has become. If we return to obedience now we can reclaim the universe for His glory, leaving behind our insecurities and rejoicing in God’s care for us.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

13th Sunday after Pentecost 26 August 2012 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 26.8.12 Where are they?


The other nine, where are they? In Australia we have about ten per cent of Catholics who come to Mass every Sunday. That comes to one in ten, just like the Gospel story.

Why should we ‘come back’? To say ‘thank You’ to God. To express our joy. Gratitude is good manners and also good business.

If we thank Him we are more likely to get another blessing. This could sound cynical; but not if we understand that we need a continuous relationship with God; not just episode by episode; only when I have a problem.

I will come only when my life is falling apart otherwise why should I come? We don’t call a plumber unless there is something wrong.

God is not just a fix-it person. It is a covenant relationship (cf epistle) based on love and union. This is what saves us; that He unites us with Himself.

Thanksgiving is a regular part of the whole cycle of communication. It is also an essential part of receiving the whole range of gifts. We need to know what we are freed from.

He has removed my leprosy - my sin. He has restored me to wholeness, re-admitted me to the community. The more glad we are the less likely to reoffend.

The one leper who came back would be less likely to reoffend.

It is hard to stay grateful once the euphoria wears off.

We can simply forget what we have received. In trouble we might promise anything: Lord, if you get me out of this I will be good for six months.’ But once we are out of danger we go back to old ways.

We have to get past this stage and see that God is there for us all the time.

We need to see the spiritual life like a fish sees water. It needs to be our whole milieu, central to our lives, not just something we call on every now and then.

To look back in a long gaze and see where we have been. All of us here now have either come back from somewhere bad, or we have been here all along. In either case we can be grateful that we are here now.

The more deep-rooted the gratitude the less likely we will ever leave the protection of the Good Shepherd.

When we die He will know us as His own.

People often hold grudges against God, especially for the death of loved ones. This is the opposite of gratitude; we actually resent what He has done. If we have developed a strong covenant relationship with Him it will be easier for us to cope.

We do not make just knee-jerk reactions but develop a continuity of understanding. Thus we can ‘rejoice always’ and cultivate this ability. We may not be happy about the last thing that happened but we understand that everything comes to good sooner or later.

Either we get what we want, or if not, then something else good is coming.

The attitude is more important than what actually happens.

If something goes well we say God is good, but we should also say the same thing if something goes bad. God remains the same either way; it is just a matter of coming around to the good result.

His goodness is everywhere; it only needs us to recognize and bring it to light; and then live by that light.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

12th Sunday after Pentecost 19 Aug 2012 Sermon

12 th Sunday after Pentecost 19.8.12 Good Samaritan


We sometimes hear in the news that a ‘good Samaritan’ has been assaulted or even killed as a result of his intervention in a situation, trying to help.

So there are dangers in helping out, in getting involved. Is it worth it?

Christ Himself could be considered a Good Samaritan. He intervened; He came to help out some people in trouble (the human race); and was killed for His troubles. So maybe He should have stayed ‘at home’ - in Heaven.

Was it worth His intervention? It appeared He ‘failed’ insofar as He was put to death; yet that is the very thing that saved us.

From the death of Christ: apparent defeat but actually victory. His resurrection was a victory, but the Cross, even by itself was also a victory. A victory of Love over Indifference.

The apostles and the martyrs have followed His example. It is a Good Samaritan act to preach the gospel, to spread the faith. It is an intervention, trying to help. And it can mean death.

Arguing from a basic kind of prudence, they would have done better to have stayed at home; the apostles should have gone back to fishing.

On deeper reflection, however, we see that there is a spiritual value to certain actions, whatever their apparent consequences at the time.

Our interventions may not ‘work’ by human standards but yet still be a victory.

If our intervention is motivated by love it will have the merit of being a sacrifice, in imitation of Christ. This is the greatest kind of love, and the most powerful – to lay down one’s life for another (Jn 15,13).

The apparent object may not be achieved. For example, I could intervene to save someone who is being assaulted and I might be killed myself. Not a success. But the love that one showed in trying to solve the problem will bring spiritual benefit to the helper and others.

There is a risk element in helping another. The Church cannot offer a detailed list of what to do or not to do in each case. We need the gifts of Wisdom, Prudence, and Counsel at such times.

The general point is that we should not expect in this life to have complete personal security or comfort. We are at times going to have to sacrifice our comfort and sometimes even our safety in getting involved in the lives of others.

The driving principle is what does Christ expect of us? We are, in effect, images of Christ; trying to replicate what He did, on a much smaller scale. We would die for the truth, or to save another. Or, if not called upon to die, at least spend ourselves in the attempt.

We cannot help everyone in the world; we cannot fight every battle. But if we are filled with the Spirit of Christ unselfish behaviour will come naturally.

Worldly prudence will tell us to make sure we are safe at all times. The Gospel will say we cannot be safe at all times, or even most of the time.

We are not required to go looking for trouble, but there will be times when we do put ourselves at risk, which, even if miscalculated will not be wasted.

We can still be as wise as serpents. Otherwise we will be answering all the scam emails, giving away our bank account numbers to every stranger!

We must be cautious in general, but not to the point of wiping out all risk.

It is just as well that Jesus Christ did not stay at home. Just as well that the apostles did not go back to their previous jobs. Just as well that we are being formed in the same mind and learning to be good Samaritans in our time.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

11th Sunday after Pentecost 12 Aug 2012 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 12.8.12 Back to basics


Because there are so many religions about people become confused and many end up saying that all religions are false, because they all contradict each other, and it seems no one knows with certainty what is true and what is false.

It is necessary that we be clear what we believe and to be reassured that we have very good reason for believing it.

Our religion is not just legend, but based on historical fact.

At a certain place at a certain time a certain man died on the Cross and shortly after rose from the dead.

Of all the things which have happened in human history why should we concern ourselves so much with one man who lived in Israel 2000 years ago?

A man like other men but on certain details very different. The most pronounced difference was that He proved Himself to be also God, gradually revealing this to His disciples; then rising from the dead to make the point fully.

He taught His apostles and gave them power, sending finally the Holy Spirit who would take them to a higher level, making them the fully operational Church - which then has the task of believing the things He taught and did; maintaining those beliefs; and then spreading them.

All of which stages we find difficult – the believing, the maintaining, and the spreading.

This is difficult because there is so much scepticism about, which attacks our beliefs and also is resistant to being converted.

But while there are many difficulties we can do much to strengthen our beliefs by going back to the basic truths elaborated by St Paul in today’s epistle (1 Cor 15).

It is as though St Paul is saying to the Corinthians: I will not always be with you but you have the teaching; go back to that.

These things do not change. The death and resurrection of Christ - two of the most important events in human history. They still apply, they are still relevant. In fact they have exactly the same relevance now as they had then.

Normally things lose relevance over time. If I told you that Julius Caesar has been assassinated or that Napoleon has invaded Russia you would not be likely to roll over in surprise. These items have lost their relevance because they are old events, not news.

But with the death and resurrection of Christ we could have the 6pm news every night and start with the latest trouble spots in the world and the latest sport, and put in there: Christ has died; Christ has risen.

It is not a new piece of information but in terms of relevance it is more relevant than all the other things.

We have heard it all before but we have to do it all over again: in that we have to regroup, and re-grasp the central mysteries,

So that our whole lives are based on union with this Man; so that every step be with Him, guided and strengthened by Him. It is no longer I that live but Christ who lives in me (Ga 2,20).

The world is flooded with news like never before but nothing can take away from the Good News.

How to spread it? If we believe it enough ourselves it will change our lives and that will be the witness to others. Nothing attracts a crowd like a few miracles, and the true faith lived out in real charity.

We believe all the truths which the holy Catholic Church believes and teaches. Our beliefs are not just vague ideals but fully applicable in our daily lives.

We have to be strong to be able to resist the errors of the age, the mockery of unbelievers; to be able to hold firm through our own personal crises; and then by our lives win others over.

All of which is hard but it is also manageable: if only we look in the right place for help; if only we refer back to what we were first taught and believed; and is still true.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

10th Sunday after Pentecost 5 Aug 2012 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 5.8.12 Competition


If you are in the Olympics is it better to run the fastest you ever ran in your life and finish fifth; or is it better to run a slower time than you normally do and finish first?

There is much focus on winning these days, but the real focus should be on how well we perform. It may be that another competitor is better than I am, but if I perform well I should be pleased with that, especially if it is the best I have ever performed.

This gives us an insight into today’s Epistle and Gospel.

In the Gospel we have the Pharisee being smug about himself because he considers himself better than the publican standing nearby.

He relies on the obvious faults of the publican to justify his own lack of effort to be truly holy. He is satisfied with the general appearance of things; the general impression that others would have of the matter.

What should the Pharisee have done? Not worry at all about whether he is better or worse than the publican, but simply evaluate himself in the light of God’s mercy; seek to overcome whatever faults he has and do better for the future.

When I go to Confession I should not be concerned for the sins others confess, but my main focus is what do I need to do differently in my life?

We can learn from what happens to others, both from their sins and their virtues; but we must concentrate on seeking our own improvement; especially not using the failures of others to justify our own.

If others are holier than I am then I can rejoice in that.

If you love God more than I do then I am glad for your sake. For me it should be an incentive to increase my own efforts. Outdo one another in showing honour (Romans 12,10)

It is all healthy if we are competing for the glory of God. Let us maintain between us a high standard and make it even higher.

It is not relevant who is the holiest person around; what counts is that each of us is striving to improve on our own level of holiness.

This ties in with the Epistle: if you have certain gifts give thanks for them; use them for God’s glory. If you have five talents and he has two don't think yourself better than he is; and if someone else has ten talents don't be jealous. Just run with what you have and it may be increased.

What a scourge jealousy is and also complacency. I look down on those I consider worse than I am, and envy those who are better. This is not the way.

The Body of Christ, like any body, needs all its parts to work together.

The focus on one’s own holiness is not self-centredness in the wrong sense. It is a rigorous humility which refuses to excuse avoidable weakness and which seeks improvement - not to impress others but to give greater glory to God.

The saints never sought to be holy just to receive the praises of other people; but because it was the only fitting way to give something back to God.

In the fulness of God’s plans we will not only be individually holy but holy as one body; meaning that the Body of Christ will function as one unit, with each part playing its role, like the instruments of an orchestra.

In this case the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts. When we give our best - which includes a complete lack of jealousy - we will be brought together by the Holy Spirit in one harmonious whole, pleasing to God.

This is what we ask for today, as we all take the part of the publican: Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

9th Sunday after Pentecost 29 Jul 2012 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 29.7.12 Divine punishment


There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I think we might as well say that those who remember history also are doomed to repeat it.

The human race makes very little progress in moral or spiritual development. We are terrific at inventing new technology but terrible at learning how to live according to God’s will.

Today’s Gospel has Our Lord reflecting on the way things unfold in human history. He laments that Jerusalem has not and will not take advantage of the lessons it has been given from past generations. They will make the same mistake as their ancestors in putting to death the prophets; only this time they will go one further and kill not just the messenger but the son (cf parable of the vineyard).

Here we have God lamenting that He (God) will have to inflict such a severe punishment on people that He loves.

In recent times a belief has emerged among Christians that a loving God would not ever punish His people. He is too gentle, too forgiving for that.

Yet we have abundant biblical stories where He does just that; and also many times since biblical days when clearly a divine punishment has taken place (eg the Second World War, prophesied at Fatima).

We can think it won’t happen to us, but it has happened before and we (taking everyone together) are doing our best to bring on even bigger punishment than ever before.

It is not as though God is bad-tempered. He is not like us in that if we push Him so far He will finally snap; for example He will forgive the first 499 times but not the 500th.

He does not reach boiling point (like we do). He has perfect control of His thoughts, so that His actions and reactions are always the best possible in the circumstances. He sees, with perfect wisdom, that we are heading down the wrong path.

When He sees that other avenues are not working He will allow a punishment designed (in love) to bring us to our senses.

Just as parents have to punish their children sometimes so a loving Father must punish us. He does not enjoy it but it has to be done.

He gives us a lot of freedom and a lot of time but there comes a time when intervention is necessary.

We naturally pray that He spare us the full force of the punishments we deserve. And this prayer is heard (cf the ten good men in the city, Genesis 18,16-32).

No doubt prayer on our part has averted many disasters; but we have to keep praying and like never before.

As well as praying we must repent. If we had repented in sufficient numbers before we might have saved ourselves a lot of the disaster we have seen. And then we really would see the blessings, uninterrupted.

God is much happier to bless than to smite. But the way to allow Him to bless - and only bless - is to go with Him not against Him.

Thus Jerusalem could have been spared. But they would not listen and we are not listening now, as a society at least.

In the meantime a certain few, ten good men, must do what they can. This is where we come in.

We pray to hold off the disasters, and that by peaceful means the people will repent and enjoy rich blessings.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

8th Sunday after Pentecost 22 Jul 2012 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 22.7.12 Child of God


We understand that there is a connection between how a person is brought up and the way he is likely to behave in adult life.

If someone has no stable family life, no role modelling or formation it is likely he will be violent or do destructive things. Alternatively, if he is well brought up and taught to respect self and others then he is not likely to be out vandalising at night.

The same sort of understanding would apply to our knowledge of God. If we have no concept of being loved by God then we are more likely to ‘run riot’ and ignore God’s will, or any laws He has in place.

If, on the other hand, we are fully secure in the knowledge of God’s love we are more likely to keep God’s laws as we do not need to look elsewhere for happiness.

This is our position. We know that God loves us; we are His children. The epistle today reinforces this. We are children of God and heirs to His promise.

Recall the Prodigal Son parable. When the son returned he was not just forgiven and told to start again at the bottom. He was dressed in the best robes, befitting his true status.

He had forgotten who he was. He was prepared to start life again as a slave, but the father would not let him do that. Nor will He let us.

We are children of the King, royal children.

It is not a false pride to assert this, and we do not do it for reasons of pride, but rather to restore our lost self-esteem.

We are embarrassed by our past sins and feel unworthy; yet if we allow the truth to sink in we will be more able to resist future sin as unworthy behaviour of someone who has ‘royal’ blood.

We come to see God as Father, to whom we are intimately connected, rather than as a distant law-maker somewhere out there in the cosmos.

If laws are seen as impersonal it is very easy to break them; but if they are seen as a sacred family tradition they become a lot harder to ignore.

A lot of sin comes from a ‘Who cares anyway?’ sort of mentality; a sense of self-abandon: what does it matter if I sink a bit lower?

The royal child approach makes this very different. How can one who is an heir to the throne behave in such a manner?

Also sin is often an acting out of a sense of grievance that I have been overlooked or not properly treated. Realizing I am a child of God, and have been all along, corrects this.

Sin comes to be seen as irrational behaviour, right out of line; instead of (as presently) seen as normal.

How can we all be royal? This is a foretaste of heaven. It is not necessary that there be winners and losers; everyone can be a winner in this scheme.

On earth we have developed ways of lifting some people up and putting other people down. This is not God’s way and never should have happened here. The arrogant have simply taken over. All that is now reversed. (He has taken the proud from their thrones and raised up the lowly.)

In the Kingdom of God everyone’s true dignity is respected. Some may still be higher than others (as in more glorious) but there is no trace of envy or arrogance.

We are reclaiming the true view of reality - what people are; what they are capable of; what should be happening.

We become free of sin and grow in holiness as we come to know our true identity.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Jul 2012 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15.7.12 Wages of sin

The wages of sin are death, says the epistle. Sin brings death, or at least causes harm. Always sin has a bad effect on the sinner and on everyone else too (through a flow-on effect).

Sin is far more harmful than is generally realized today. Many make light of it, not seeing how deep its damage can be.

If you went for a daily walk on the same route and one day you tripped over a particular place in the path where the ground was uneven, would you not be careful of that same place on future walks? It would be a strange thing if you fell at exactly the same place every day, and made no effort to avoid doing that.

This is because we carefully guard our physical safety and comfort. But we are not so careful about the state of our soul. We don't mind so much falling into the same sin again and again, refusing to avoid occasion of sin; failing to think through what causes our sin and how we could avoid it.

Sin has a way of appealing to us, offering us a short-term pleasure, but the after-effects are deadly.

The damage sin does: Firstly it can send us to hell. Many today do not believe in hell, thinking that a merciful God would not send anyone there; so there is no danger on that score.

But the Scriptures and Tradition remind us constantly that there is a hell and a serious chance of any one of us going there. Yes, God is merciful, but we must ask for His mercy and with serious purpose of amendment. We cannot simply presume on His mercy to save us if we have no real contrition.

Secondly, sin will bring us death in this life, imprisoning us in selfishness and mistrust of each other. Look at the harm that is done by the fact that people lie to each other, break promises, steal from each other, kill each other. There is death here in many forms. Our whole society suffers from sin.

Thirdly, and most importantly though least understood, the damage of sin is that God Himself is offended. Recall the Act of Contrition where we say: I am sorry for my sins ... most of all because they offend Thy infinite holiness.

The worst thing about sin is that it is an injustice to God who is all perfection and goodness.

When we sin we are defacing something beautiful. We would not go into an art gallery and throw mud on the famous paintings. When we sin we are throwing mud directly at God Himself! We are loading another scourge onto Christ’s back. Each time we sin.

Any of these factors should be enough to help us stop sinning. Sin is so normal for us and comes in so many forms that it is very hard to shake it off all at once, but we can make progress, and with God’s grace we will be free.

We need to get to the point that we see sin as foolish as it would be to fall over the same part of the road each day; or as outrageous as it would be to strike our own grandmother.

By the same logic we can develop the positive side of things. If the wages of sin are death the reward of not sinning is life – more life and better life. And certainly happier life.

The logic is there. It makes sense. But we do not yet feel convinced even though our minds tell us so. We need our hearts as well as our minds to be convinced.

Only the love of God acting on us first will bring forth the response our hearts need to make. ‘They will look on the One whom they have pierced and they will mourn for Him.’

When we reach the point of ‘mourning’ for our sins we are on the way to being free from them.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

6th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Jul 2012 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 8.7.12 Bread from Heaven


Our Lord fed the multitude. He was always trying to get people to see beyond the actual miracle and see it as a sign of something else.

He is saying to them, Not only can I feed you on this one occasion but I can feed you on every occasion; and furthermore I can give you a better kind of bread – from Heaven.

It is hard for people to see that far. If we offered free beer here I suspect the car park would be full. If we advertise eternal life - which we do - only a few come.

What about us? Do we see beyond the sign, or do we also regard God as a kind of private secretary who is meant to look after our needs and meet all obstacles?

He is willing to give us every good thing. It is just that His definition of what is good for us is not the same as ours.

We would tend to go for material physical instant pleasures. He is looking to a larger vision, both in time and in our capacity. I will give you what I think you need, not what you think you need.

We can understand this for a flippant request like millions of dollars, but when it is something more reasonable like a healing of a sickness, and it does not happen - then I might be annoyed with Him.

We can be sure that He has reasons and they are good ones. We need time and grace to see what He has in mind.

At all times we need to trust him. This we need above all because the relationship with Him is more important than any given thing that we might seek.

One thing He is saying to the crowd in this miracle is: Don't think about the bread so much as think about Me. What does this event tell you about Me?

That is where we have gone wrong all along. We have not understood sufficiently that our religion is about relationship to Jesus Himself rather than the things He can do for us. The God of blessings rather than the blessings of God.

We have a lesson from the Our Father. The first part of the prayer is dedicated to God’s view of things coming about, and only half way through do we get to our own personal needs

If we had written that prayer we might have made it much shorter. Our Father, who art in heaven, give us this day our daily bread. Amen! We have to travel a longer route to get what we really need.

We can, with time and grace, adapt ourselves to whatever situation emerges under God’s providence. If we cannot get what we want then want what we get.

Also we can say: I am in union with God and this alone is enough for me. Material blessings are a bonus but I already have what I need.

Sadly many have left already, not comprehending how God could fail to deliver on a particular need. But that is not to read the sign.

Among our other prayers we must pray for the wisdom, patience and trust needed to ride us through our initial difficulties of understanding.

The epistle refers to the Israelites returning to Egypt, or at least they wanted to. This is when we put the comfort of our lives ahead of the will of God.

Sin is when we try to speed things up; to snatch some perceived happiness instead of waiting on God’s idea of our happiness.

If only we had waited for Him – at any point in the last four thousand years.

So we cannot offer free beer but as a consolation have some eternal life instead!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Feast of the Most Precious Blood 1 Jul 2012 Sermon

Feast of the Most Precious Blood 1.7.12 His death, our life


If we commit an offence, we feel the need to make things right. If I broke your front window, for example, I would like to offer you money to buy new glass.

In the same way if we offend God we feel the need to offer Him something. People of all ages have had this spontaneous instinct to offer God some atonement for their sin.

For the Jews it was an unblemished offering from their flocks. The better the animal, the greater the sacrifice, because it was worth more. Hopefully God would be more pleased as well.

Then God, having pity on His people, offered them something better which they in turn could offer Him.

He sent His Son, to be the Lamb of sacrifice. No need to go looking in the flocks and herds. Now this one Lamb would atone for our sins.

One of the remarkable things about Our Lord’s sacrifice is that He is offering Himself. Not many lambs would do that, but the Lamb of God does.

It makes the sacrifice (already perfect) more impressive still.

It is pleasing to the Father, not only because of who/what is sacrificed, but the generous impulse behind the sacrifice.

This blood is precious because it is divine, and because it is given from a motive of love.

The Jews on occasions were offering dodgy lambs, trying to cut corners, as if God could be deceived.

There were no corners cut with the Lamb of God. His blood was infinitely valuable, and His offering was infinitely generous.

God is offended by human sin, but more than appeased by this supreme act of love and generosity.

We do not deserve this from Jesus, but we are grateful for it.

His blood, given in death, brings us to life - first by saving us from the death that we deserve (eternal death);

Then, by our communion with this blood, we learn to become like the One we receive. That is, we become people ourselves willing to lay down our lives for others.

If we let His blood mingle with ours we are going to be changed, for the better.

The martyrs give testimony to this. They are the ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb; who have learnt to love as Jesus did.

This is a natural consequence if we let things go that far. (See 1 Jn 3,16: how much as a matter of course he tells us we should be willing to lay down our lives for the brethren!)

So we offer this blood to be saved from death. We drink the blood to be brought to a fuller kind of life.

Whatever weaknesses we have; whatever is lacking; each of us can get to a better place – whether we need to be encouraged, consoled, strengthened, inspired... whatever it needs. All the rough edges are smoothed out.

Can you drink the cup that I must drink, Jesus asks. There is a commitment implied if we drink His blood. But then the same drink will strengthen us to be able to make that commitment.

Fear, selfishness and all the rest, will be swept away in the force of this greater love. We might be timid disciples shivering in the corner to begin with; but we will be fortified and made able to do great things - if we drink that cup.

On this feast we give thanks for what has happened; and for what still needs to happen we seek the necessary strength.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Birth of John the Baptist sermon

Birth of John the Baptist 24.6.12


John the Baptist is exalted as one of the greatest saints in our Church history because of his closeness to Christ.

Most saints follow Christ; John preceded Him. It was harder in that sense for John to do what he did because he did not have the benefit of the sacraments or of the knowledge of Jesus’ life.

It is hard enough for us to imitate Jesus once we know what He did, but how to do what He did in advance!? That is John’s glory.

In his birth, in life, and in death John shows forth a very different way of doing things from the normal worldly view. In all three areas he reflects or highlights the greater glory of Jesus, who did the same things a little later.

The birth of John, today’s special focus, was an event surrounded by strange wonders. The appearance of the angel, the message of the angel, the naming of the child, the fact that he was born to parents who would not be likely to have a child. All of these things applied also to Jesus.

John led the way; he was the precursor.

In his life he lived apart from men, in a strange way, intensely holy. He was different from others so that they could become like him. We do not all have to live in the desert and eat locusts but we do all have to give our whole attention to the will of God.

In his death, he was put to death unjustly. An innocent man being murdered by guilty men, in the name of the law; for political expediency.

And he did all this without actually knowing what was to follow.

In this he can be a help to us. We have the knowledge of Jesus Christ and all that He did. We also have the help that comes to us through the sacraments and the Mass. Yet still there are things in the future that we do not understand; and we never know what is going to happen next in our own lives.

Thus we also have to know how to live a certain way without knowing fully how it will turn out.

This takes faith, as well as hope. It takes trust in the goodness of God.

From John we learn what happens when someone gives himself fully to the will of God, in humility and trust, and letting God do the rest.

Four lessons in particular:

One, that as Zachary and Elizabeth had to wait for their son, God will sometimes make us wait before He answers our prayers.

When we really want something we pray harder for it; so by withholding things from us for a time God is forcing us to pray harder, which is good for us.

Two, that when He does answer a prayer He will answer it beyond our expectations.

Zachary and Elizabeth did not know what God was planning, but they prayed for a child and got more than they expected; more than they would have dared to hope. And so it will be for us, if we persevere.

Three, that only to the humble will He grant such favours. Zachary and Elizabeth were humble, not powerful on the world stage. God uses the little and the obscure. Not those with military power or brilliant intellect etc, but just humble people doing the right thing, trusting in God, cooperating with His will.

As with the Loaves and fishes: bring what you have and let Him multiply it.

Four, that once we have made ourselves available for His purposes He will do the heavy work. All we have to do is stand there and let His power work through us. If we do not impede Him through sin or obstinacy He will work wonders through us too.

May the voice in the wilderness finally be heard, and Christ be welcomed as never before.