Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Pentecost Sunday 27 May 2012 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 27.5.12

We need more of the Holy Spirit, both for our own improvement and for the good of the world.

There are restaurants where you can eat all you want for a fixed price. We find there is a limit to how much food we can take in at a time. So also spiritually, there are limits. For us to receive God is like a cup trying to hold the whole ocean. The finite cannot hold all of infinity.

That is a limitation from our created nature. But there is another limitation – self-imposed: we limit God for our own reasons. We do not want to be filled as much as we should want it; we do not seek Him as passionately as we should.

Why? We lack faith; we are damaged by previous sins; we become accustomed to the dark and no longer seek the light. Even we who do seek Him impose our own limits; limits as to how far we are prepared to yield to Him, to desire or expect anything different.

The first thing is to ask anyway. Ask that He will come; ask that He will make us want Him to come.

Our attitude could be improved by prayer, but we do not pray because our attitude is wrong!
The person who is in darkness is not likely to pray much and even then only in a superficial way.

Many do not desire God nor even expect that they could or should desire Him.

They suffer from lack of hope, even despair.

This can have the effect of dragging us back to earth when we could be soaring aloft. The Holy Spirit comes and inspires us to look much higher, if only we would ask.

Dare to hope. There is something much better than this. This is what the apostles were praying for.

Our faith requires us to take risks at times, to act in ways where we do not see the result, but trust that it will be good. We just have to take the first step and then we will see that God has honoured His promise and sustains us. From there further progress is possible.

Put your nets over the side. In the name of Jesus get up and walk.

We are praying for a release of all the unused potential; all the things that have not happened but should have, and might still happen if only we ask for long enough, fervently enough.

Not enough people have asked for God to come. That is the source of all the trouble. The way out of the trouble is to seek His presence and power.

Gradually the light starts to dawn, for individuals and the Church.

The original Pentecost was spectacular but our Pentecost experience does not have to be so fast or so loud, only as real. The reality of transformation by the Holy Spirit... We may not give a big speech or do public healings but we can be changed within and be a better person than ever before. And there can be healing in our families and communities. His effects are many, and all of them good.

It is all there just waiting to happen.

So there are two opposing views: Despair - which sees that all goes on just the same
or Hope - that the Holy Spirit can change all this if we simply ask; but we do have to ask with some intensity and consistency.

We never give up, never ease off. We become stronger ourselves the more boldly we claim the whole world as God’s domain.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Sunday after Ascension 20 May 2012 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 20.5.12 Come Holy Spirit

The prayer for this time of year is: Come, Holy Spirit. We relive in this week the Upper Room experience of the apostles, praying with Mary.

They might not have said precisely those words – Come, Holy Spirit – but the essence of their prayer was: Lord, send whatever it is you want to send and we need to receive; and we are willing to receive it (Your grace making us willing).

Ever since we have been making the same prayer, Come Holy Spirit. Why do we repeat the prayer when He has already come? We always need more because there always is more, more of God that we have not yet encountered; and more in us that needs healing and transforming.

And even if we did possess God fully we would still need to pray to Him in praise and thanksgiving. There is always a need to pray, if prayer is understood as communion with God.

Why pray so long as the apostles did? They, in particular, needed a tremendous amount of grace for what they had to do. We are small fry by comparison, but we also have to pray a lot to grasp the seriousness of the commitment needed to be a disciple of Christ.

Many Catholics do not realize how much time and effort is involved in being a disciple of Christ. Always we are tempted to downplay or slacken off our response to his will and how much business we do with Him.

We are reminded at this time of the Church year that we are seriously implicated in this business. We are not talking about someone else or somewhere else. We are involved, connected, implicitly at least putting our lives on the line, in the sense that we are willing to be known as his disciples.

Were you not with that man? We do not want to repeat Peter’s denials.

We live in a world where religious fervour is seen as a private matter like a hobby and if you take your spiritual life even slightly more seriously than average you will be viewed with suspicion.

We must risk the ridicule of others. Our predecessors in the faith have been through much worse. We can think of the times when others have been to Mass in fear of their lives, expecting the sound of soldiers any moment. Many have been tortured and killed for taking part in what we are now doing. It gives us pause for thought.

If we are afraid of deeper commitment the fear itself is covered by the prayer, Come Holy Spirit - Come, and make me what I need to be; override my fears and my self-imposed limits.

We are implicitly saying all this just by being here, and any time we pray. So that we can be ready to die, ready to live; to stay or go; ready for anything pleasant or unpleasant; that each one of us, and all of us together, be responsive instruments in God’s hand.

The apostles received what they asked and probably more than they expected. So can it be for us. We have to pray for longer than nine days and the different tasks we are given are more varied than for the apostles, but the principle is the same.

We need more people praying, more often, more fervently, with more expectation.

It should be the norm rather than the exception that people pray like this. A town like ours would be a very different place if God were taken as seriously as He deserves to be.

It starts with us. More than ever before we open ourselves to the Holy Spirit.

Until we see improvement, and after that as well.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

5th Sunday after Easter 13 May 2012 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 13.5.12 Fatima

We note today the 95th anniversary of Our Lady’s first appearance at Fatima.
Our Lady was asking us to give her a more prominent place in our lives and in the Church.

She was asking for the Rosary, for Masses, for repentance and penance, for the consecration of Russia. If we would do those things we would be greatly blessed; if not, well, we know what happened since 1917. Clearly we have not done the great part of what she asked, and we have reaped the results.

The things she asks are not difficult but we don't do them. They are easy to do and even easier not to do!

We have too little faith, too much ‘sophistication’, too much rationality, too much arguing.

We must not be deceived by the humility of Fatima. A remote town (so were Bethlehem and Nazareth), far from the centres of world politics, economics, and military matters. These were three children who had no power in worldly terms. Yet God chose them as His instruments. As we find God so often does, He entrusts His messages to improbable people (less educated, youngest, smallest etc)

God does not consult with businessmen or soldiers or politicians to decide these things. He prefers the humble of the world. We can be humble even if we don’t live in a remote town. But we do have to be humble, whatever else.

If we would just humble ourselves to do as Our Lady asks: go to confession, pray the rosary; do the basic things; do them well and we will see better times.

We have not heeded the message as well as we should but it is never too late; or even if it is too late we can still retrieve something.

We can start praying now like we should have prayed then. In today’s Gospel: ask for what you want and you shall have it. If the thing we ask for is a big thing it will take more than one time or more than one person asking. We cannot just ask for something like ‘world peace’ and expect it the same day.

Some things we really have to go on our knees, and wail a little bit, and get involved.

Fatima is one such case. We are really asking for two things at Fatima - World peace and Conversion of sinners. They are both huge things to ask and the second is bigger than the first.

It is going to take a lot of prayer and penance from a lot of people. We aggregate our prayer and faith and thus we offer an opposing force to the aggregation of sin, blasphemy, neglect and all the rest.

If we can get enough momentum going change will come.

The consecration to Russia has never been done exactly as asked for. Other consecrations have been made, which have helped along the way, but we clearly need that absolute literal blessing as Our Lady asked.

So we pray for our Pope and Bishops, as we do in every Mass, that whatever they need to understand will be made clear to them; that they will have the wisdom and courage to do what they need to do.

All prayer is connected. One prayer leads the way to another prayer. When we pray to Mary, she prays to God. Our humble prayer is like putting a match to a fuse. Our prayer will enable other things to happen.

The more each of us does the better. It is vital that we pray even when there is no obvious reward; even if we think we are the only one praying, and feel discouraged etc.

No prayer is wasted. We keep hammering away. The great spiritual battle of our time will be won in this way.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

4th Sunday after Easter 6 May 2012 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 6.5.12 Goodness of God

There is a sign we often encounter that says, Please leave this place as you found it - meaning that we should tidy up after ourselves and leave everything neat for the next person.

We could imagine Almighty God saying the same thing to us as He presents us with a nice new universe.

As far as He is responsible the universe would still be as fresh and clean as when He first created it.

But we have defiled it by our sin.

The epistle (James) tells us that whatever is made by God is good. How could it be otherwise?

We are so quick to blame Him for everything, and so many demand from Him that He must fix everything before they believe in Him.

Yet it is our fault that anything is out of place. We have not left the place as we found it.

But it can be recovered. And this is where we are now.

Of course we should never have sinned, but since we have we must deal with the new reality.

Still, and more than ever, God sends His mercy upon us. It was a great act of love by which He created us. It is an even greater act by which He saves us.

At any point in time we can turn to Him. We have rejected Him to this point (speaking generally of the human race). We can turn to Him any time while there is still time.

Whenever we make an overture to God, whenever we turn to Him, it is like the sun breaking through the clouds; a new season begins, a time of grace.

We have only to ask and the grace will be there. Our sins can be forgiven and we can set about repairing the world.

We have been doing this partially in our own lives, though still slipping back into sin.

We have been doing this partially in our world though hampered by the obstinacy of so many who would rather complain about God than confess to Him.

Think of it: when something goes wrong for you – do you complain to God in your spirit or do you humbly ask for mercy?

The latter response is the one required.

We must go back to basic principles, back to the start. If we are walking in the forest and we get lost what better way to recover than to retrace our steps to the starting point?

The human race has been wandering in the forest (or desert) for as many centuries as we have existed.

It is time to go back to the start: which is a humble acknowledgment of God and His goodness.

And His goodness. We might grudgingly acknowledge his power but demur about His goodness.

If He is so good why does He let us suffer so much?

Because He is calling us back to first principles. Until we get back to the basic foundation we will continue to flounder.

It is a hard message to get across. The world thinks it has the right to try God, and to find Him guilty!

He does not know how to run a universe, they say.

But how would they run it? Any parent learns that you cannot give children everything they want.

Sometimes we have to trade one perceived good for another. I might want to stay in bed because I find that good. But it is also good if I get up and go to Mass. Of the two the second option is better. Sometimes we have to be forced to see the better option.

This is why God allows us to suffer. Not because He is cruel or remote but because He is leading us to better options. If He removes or withholds something good it is only so He can give something better.

And only one option works for every purpose: the humble complete submission of mind heart and will to the one true God. From whom all good things come.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

3rd Sunday after Easter 29 Apr 2012 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 29.4.12 Suffering

We are tempted to complain about the way that God treats us. If He loves us so much why do we have to suffer so much? This question is constantly put, both by believers and unbelievers.

Suffering makes the believers want to give up belief; and is a stumbling block for the unbelievers.

If we could somehow take all the suffering out of life - and especially out of being a disciple of Christ – we would gain a lot more recruits, as well as keeping the ones we have.

We cannot actually remove suffering but we can do two things to make it more agreeable.

One is to follow the logic of today’s Gospel passage and understand that suffering is temporary, and short-term at that.

Our Lord likens the suffering of being His disciple to the pain of a woman giving birth. It hurts a lot, but in the context of what happens afterwards it is not so bad. After the birth the woman forgets the pain, so great is her joy.

And this is how it will be for us. We suffer so much in this life but if we get to heaven we will forget all the pain, declaring it to have been worth it.

(Even much lesser triumphs, such as winning a premiership, require a lot of pain and effort, for such a fleeting glory. Yet ask any player in a premiership team and he will say it was all worth it.)

The other thing we can do to make suffering more agreeable is to live this life in close union with Christ. The worldly wisdom says that Christ’s way is too hard and the only sensible thing to do is modify His way to something easier.

True wisdom tells us to live as the Epistle says – like Christ. Love like Him. Do things as He would do them. That is how we can enjoy this life.

It is so much against expectations. But we will find (if we try it) that the way of Christ, restraint and all, actually leads to greater happiness, not only in eternity but here and now.

So for example if you have a harsh master (or boss) do not complain about him; do not wish him harm, but seek to win him over to Christ by the gentleness of your manner.

This is loving your enemy, something so much against the grain; but much more productive than hating him.

Our Lord went to His death in a spirit of mildness and forgiveness to all who were torturing and killing Him. He was concerned for their welfare, not thinking of Himself at such a time.

With His help we can cultivate the same ability.

If we do this we will experience an inner joy and peace that would never come by the worldly way. Hate just brings more hate and chaos on all sides. This is what the world sees everywhere. Look at all the trouble spots in the world; look at world history.

But the love of Christ brings peace and order, and greatly reduces the overall amount of suffering.

Imagine if everyone did this. It is plain that a world in which everyone lived like Christ would be a happier place than the one we have now. Yet people say to Christ that He is wrong. He is unrealistic. But in saying that they do not live like Him, nor even try to.

If we do act like Him we are helping to bring on the better times promised in the Gospel and well as giving ourselves a much better way of coping with the present sufferings.

We can do this if we really set ourselves. His grace will make it possible. The more in tune with His will the more clearly we will perceive His presence; the more powerfully receive His help.