Tuesday, 28 February 2012

1st Sunday of Lent 26 Feb 2012 Sermon

1st Sunday of Lent 26.2.12 Good v evil

A previous Australian Prime Minister made the famous line: Life wasn’t meant to be easy.Most people would agree that they don't find it easy. On the other hand a case can be made that it should be easy – if only we took the right turnings. It is our own doing that life has been a lot harder than it needed to be.

If we go right back to the beginning: before Lucifer fell and before Adam fell everything was as right as rain, and would still be had those falls not happened. It is only spiritual resistance to God that has begun all the trouble.

Sin brings with it confusion and disorder.

We know the feeling if we are trying to solve a problem and we make a wrong move it gets worse; then we get frustrated and make it worse again.

Life is like that. If we take a wrong turning we make it worse, harder to see a way clear.
We did not stop at one sin. One sin is very likely to lead to another and in different ways the confusion spreads. eg if I am lazy I am likely to commit gluttony as well. etc
One vice breeds others.

And that is just for one person. What about a whole society copying each other and being influenced by each other - with every sin making things worse than they were before?

It is not all bad, fortunately. There has been another current running through our history. A lot of good has been done too. And the same principle applies in reverse. Every good deed makes it more likely that other good things will follow. And the confusion lifts and we start to see things more clearly.
Virtue will spread; eg generosity will lead to patience. (see Galatians 5).

This is what has kept the planet going. Enough goodness to save us from destruction so far. But not enough goodness to make this life comfortable (which it could be).

We are all exposed to these two currents. We are pushed and pulled in all directions. Today Our Lord battles with Satan. Good will always win if only it remembers its basic identity and principles. Evil really does not have substance; it works only with illusion and deception.

It is not as hard as we make it. We have available to us the grace, the means, the power to sidestep the temptation when it comes. It is always possible to take the good path; and when we do that we will grow in confidence and joy, without giving way to complacency.

If we avoid one temptation the devil will try something else, more subtle or more dangerous.
And there are many pitfalls and snares. It is possible that someone who is ‘good’ in basic terms can turn bad by degrees. The snares are often subtle. We are not likely to rob a bank, but there are other sins.

At least if we know how it works we can set about untangling things to some extent.

We can follow the example of the Lord to cut through the deceptions and build up our strength.

Eventually we can be strong enough that the devil has no way of getting at us, no foothold by which he can cling. (The Blessed Virgin Mary is an example of this. The devil had no way of getting at her because she had no weakness caused by previous sin.)

In the process of saving our souls we will be making our own lives easier and also improving the world - which no one will mind.

It is all there before us if we can only see it and take the right path.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Quinquagesima Sunday 19 Feb 2012 Sermon

Quinquagesima Sunday 19.2.12 How much love is enough?

St Paul tells us (epistle) that even if we do something that appears heroic and generous, such as giving up one’s life – but have not love, it counts for nothing at all.

It is the motivation behind our actions that counts, apparently.

The deed itself might be good and have a good effect. I could give some money to a poor man and he might be much happier for that. But if I did the deed only so it would help my chances of being re-elected then it would count for nothing towards my salvation.

The motive we most need is that of seeking to please God.

What does He want me to do here - is the question.

Some things we want to do; some things we have to do.

Charity in its fullest form will enable us to see the will of God as both: we have to do it and we want to do it.

He wants me to give up my life in atonement for sins. That’s fine with me. That’s the very thing I would have chosen myself!

This is the pinnacle of charity, towards which we are climbing.

The last judgment scene portrayed in Matthew 25 highlights the importance of doing charitable deeds. If you did this to one of the least of these... It must be understood that in feeding the hungry we did so not just for show but with the higher view of pleasing God.

We probably do several good things each day without even giving it a thought.
We might wonder if we have the right motive or not for these deeds. It just needs an extra thought on our part to direct all our actions for the glory of God.

We do this in such prayers as the Morning Offering, and in consecrations we make. Everything for God, through Mary.

We do not have to be thinking of God in every action, but at least have the general intention to please Him, and never to displease Him.

If we seek to please God His grace will act on us to do even more in His service; also making the difficult tasks more attractive.

We tend to find a lot of things distasteful, yet we know they are the right sort of things to be doing. We can steel ourselves to do these things, overcoming our own repugnance.

But then, better still, we can come actually to want to do them. This change in us comes about by the grace of God acting in us, such that we start to think as He does; to see things as He sees them.

Loving neighbour flows from loving God. We love our neighbour because we will treat the neighbour as God would have us do. Everything is kind, good, gentle etc as outlined by St Paul, and none of it is for show. It actually is genuine.

When we come to be judged the crucial point at issue is whether or not we love God. If we have any love for Him, even imperfect, we will be saved. If we have no love for Him at all; if our soul is dead in its hardness and coldness, we will be lost.

How do we know if we love Him? By how willing we are to please Him, for His own sake. Not just trying to gain something ourselves but simply because He wants it. It will make us happier too, but that is not the main motive. May all our good deeds converge on this.

This is the pinnacle to which we climb, sometimes sliding backwards. All is possible with His help.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Ash Wednesday Mass time

Ash Wednesday Mass (this week, 22 Feb) will be at 6.45am St Monica's

(There will be no 8am Mass that day)

Holy Name Masses will be at 11am and 6.30pm.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Sexagesima Sunday 12 Feb 2012 Sermon

Sexagesima Sunday 12.2.12 Reaching one’s peak

The epistle unfolds the following sequence: St Paul suffered a lot in his efforts to spread the Gospel; then was consoled for his sufferings; then suffered again so that he would not be carried away by the consolation!

It seems that God will not allow us to experience either too much unhappiness or happiness. If we reach the real depths of sorrow He will throw us a line.

If we are highly elated He will remind us of the passing nature of earthly joy. It is not that He begrudges us happiness; just that He knows how easily we could seek false happiness.

If we need bringing back to earth He will let that happen. But even if we did not need any bringing back to earth we would still suffer because in that case we would be called upon to share more fully in the Cross of Christ.

The better we are at being disciples the more we will be called upon to do. ‘To do’ the same as the Master did – to love to the point of suffering and self-sacrifice.

Just as in ordinary life: if we are good at something we will be called to higher office. e.g. if we excel at sport we might be called upon to play for our country. Or if at playing a musical instrument, to give concerts.

The more good we are the more trouble we will get. More pressure will be upon us; more responsibility. This is the price of being good at something.

The same applies to being a good disciple of Christ. More will be expected of those who love more.

Yet we hide from this whereas we probably would not hide the other talents.

Generally people who have talents in worldly matters would display those talents and enjoy the recognition, even if it does bring certain costs.

But when it comes to being known as friends of Our Lord we like to avoid notice as far as possible. We fear looking different and we fear persecution.

Sportsmen and musicians are not usually put to death for being good, but Christians are!

We would all like to do a few good deeds, but we don't want to suffer for our faith.
We would like to get to heaven with a minimum of fuss.

But look at the New Testament and the writings of saints that always ask for complete detachment and commitment. Never just tagging along.

So the better we are the more we suffer. Not a great selling point!

But there is also the promise of reward. The joy exceeds the sorrow. The more we suffer the more joyful in turn we will feel. Even in this life.

Many look on religion with worldly eyes. They see only the pain and the sacrifice and they shrug their shoulders. Why would anyone want to do that? What is the good of it?

But if we live it, we see what good it does.

We can only trust and not try to make too many calculations. Put it all in His hands – Lord, make me the best I can be.

Not holding back through fear but launching out like a bird in flight.

Not bury our talents, not trying just to squeeze in almost unnoticed, but to be a flower unfolding. Be what you are. Find out what you are in the process.

We become ‘better’, ‘greater’. This is what Paul did; as did the other apostles and other saints. In modern jargon we seek to unlock our full potential.

We find in this life that joy and sorrow coexist, but not as equals. The sorrow is permitted only so that the joy can be greater.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Septuagesima Sunday 5 Feb 2012 Sermon

Septuagesima 5.2.12 What must I do to be saved

Is it easy to be saved or hard? Opinions vary.

These days most Catholics would be inclined to the view that salvation is easy. We are saved, they would say, because it is almost impossible to be damned. To be bad enough to go to hell you would have to be as bad as Hitler or someone along those lines.

If it is that hard to be damned the question of salvation becomes irrelevant – and it is irrelevant to many Catholics today. Go to a funeral these days and it is a ‘celebration of life’. The only prayer is for those who grieve, and for the dead only those prayers still contained in the liturgy. But the general ‘feel’ of the ceremony is that the deceased person is already and unquestionably in Heaven.

Unfortunately, it is not so easy. St Paul in the Epistle talks of running, fighting, and chastising his body lest he be lost himself. If St Paul were alive today people would laugh politely and assure him there was no chance that he could be lost. But the fact is anyone can go to hell and the higher one’s reputation the more danger. Think of Judas or Lucifer, for that matter.

Why was such effort necessary for St Paul? And presumably for us also?

Salvation in one sense is a straightforward and simple thing. It is a free gift from God, offered to all who will take it up. Our sins can be forgiven readily so long as we are truly sorry for them; and grace is available for all the challenges we meet in life. If we stay on course for the rest of our lives – which is not very long, as compared with eternity – we can be saved.

It sounds easy, put like that.

But we have to fend off temptations if we are to stay on that straight road to heaven.

One of the temptations is Complacency, that sense of self-satisfaction whereby we think ourselves to be good people, simply because we are as good as others around us. But to be saved we have to be as good as Christ! Or at least that we have Him dwelling in us, acting through us, so that we express His will in our thoughts, words and actions.

There are not many people who are so perfect as that? Salvation requires a level of perfection which few could claim in this life.

Of course there is a safety valve insofar as we can still be saved by means of God’s mercy. If we are not perfect we can be made so by receiving His mercy which will purify us of any trouble spots and make us fit for Heaven. This is the purpose of Purgatory and it is the purpose of praying for the dead – that they be first forgiven and then perfected.

St Paul uses the athletic imagery to convey what we have to do to be saved. We must enter the contest, show some sign of interest. We must run as hard as we can – this means using our natural and supernatural gifts to the fullest extent; being enthusiastic, really pitching into the contest, not just dabbling around the edges.

Then we must persevere till the finish line, run the race to the full. Not give up, half way or any other point.

If we are keen, God is much keener still and will shower His graces upon one who really seeks perfection.

In view of today’s Gospel it may be possible to run only the last part of the race. The workers who came in late did not work the full day, but they did work for such time as remained for them. Whatever age we are we can make a commitment to be faithful from this point until the end. Whether 6 or 65 from now till death I will serve the Lord.

Salvation is not easy but it is achievable if only we take some care. Let us encourage each other to finish the race.