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.