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.