Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Day Mass times

New Year's Day, Wed 1st Jan 2014

St Monica's 8am

Holy Name, 8.30am

Happy and Holy New Year to all!

Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Dawn Mass 2013

Christmas Day 2013 Dawn Mass

The dawn is breaking. At Dawn it is not fully light but we know the full light is coming. So we have hope that whatever still needs to happen will happen.

Christmas inspires hope in us. But then we are accustomed to having hopes disappointed. Is Christmas just a symbol of goodwill or does it contain real power?

We could say Christmas not only makes us feel good but actually makes us good. God wants to save us and He gives us the power to live as ‘saved’ people should. The coming of Christ into the world can and should be a new start for humanity.

We get the sense that when Jesus freed someone from sin in His earthly ministry those people would not have returned to their previous lives. The woman caught in adultery; Zacchaeus the tax collector; the Good Thief, those set free from demons... These people experienced a major change of direction when the hand of the Lord came upon them. Filled with joy their lives were never going to be the same. They were not just forgiven but transformed.

And Our Lord did this not just for a few people here and there but in principle for all people of all time.

Salvation is not just for the next life but this one also. We begin right now to experience its benefits.

Other events can give us joy but the joy usually fades away. With Christmas we have a different reality; a joy that cannot be taken away. The world has been changed for us even if we ignore it, or deny it.

But why ignore such a benefit?

We can build on what we have and complete the process. We are joyful in anticipation, that what we have not yet achieved is about to be achieved.

We do not allow the cynicism of the world to sweep away what we have.

When parents hold a newborn baby they hold it like it was a precious item, protecting it from the cold or the sun, or any danger. So it is with us and the Christ-child.

We are holding a treasure here. Don't drop it, don't waste it, don't lose it. Carry this child like your life depended on it; and not just your life but everyone else’s.

If we came across a medicine that would cure all the world’s diseases what care would we not take to ensure that it was kept safe?

We protect the spiritual dimension of this feast not allowing it to become just another event that will quickly pass, and leave us as before.

We dare to hope for a better world, where the better side of human nature is evident. Where families are happy, the streets are safe, the world is at peace etc.

It sounds like a dream but it is real if we let it be.

In Christ we have the grace for renewal of our own lives and for the wider society.

We are bearers of Christ to the world. It is not ourselves we proclaim, but Christ.

Always conscious of our own limitations we proclaim that He has NO limitations. The messenger may be humble but the message is irresistible.

Despite obstacles we will not allow ourselves to be discouraged. We will not be moved by just any wind that blows.

We can do this only with His help. So as we celebrate His coming we are also asking that He give us faith, hope and charity, to overcome every obstacle, and to persevere until better times.

He has come and nothing can undo that fact. And once He has come all His other plans must reach fulfilment. This is the source of our joy, a joy which nothing can take away.

4th Sunday of Advent 22 Dec 2013 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 22.12.13 Incarnation

There have been many heresies in the history of the Church, distorting some point of doctrine. Most of the worst ones have been to do with Our Lord and denying either His divinity or His humanity. These heresies are still active today in various religions, especially those that deny His divinity.

It seems there is a great reluctance to believe that God could be Man or vice versa.

Jesus was always God and at a certain time became Man without ceasing to be God. So from then on He is both.

He took on full human identity; He was not just pretending to be human. He felt pain; He could be tired and hungry; He felt emotions; He even could learn things in His human nature (such as carpentry).

He was fully human and perfectly human. He was like us in all things but sin and it is sin which keeps us from being what we should be.

The way Jesus lived His humanity is the way we should all be following. When He says, Follow Me, that is what He means – Live as I do.

The new humanity means free from sin; we can be forgiven for what we have done and strengthened not to sin again.

Our Lord is the second Adam. He is re-creating the human race in Himself. He is the prototype of a new kind of humanity, a new way of living.

And He came for all mankind not just one race (Jews) nor just white people, or Europeans, not just women (as the men will say), not just children (as the adults will say); not just old people (as the young will say) but every person. Whether they accept or not is another matter, but He claims them as His own.

He is not just a good man, or one more prophet, coming to make a useful contribution. He is entirely above and beyond any other religious figure. He is God Himself coming to join us in one of the greatest moments in human history (along with His death and resurrection).

This is a major turning point in human history much bigger than any of the usual ways that history is marked (like 1066, or Second World War, or French Revolution etc). This one beats them all.

Yet so little understood, and so much underrated.

Christmas is for many simply a chance to relax with family, a holiday period, nothing to do with ‘religion’!

Even for practising Catholics we can keep the usual observances at Christmas but still not realize the depths of what we are dealing with.

He came to His own and they knew Him not.

He became human so we could become divine or at least share in divine nature.

He not only tells and shows us how to be human but gives us His life to work in us, to motivate us, making it possible to understand and to put into practice what perfect humanity requires.

This is maybe more salvation than we want, but there it is. Not everyone wants to be perfect, preferring to keep a few vices; but if we really understood we would be seeking this new humanity that Jesus brings.

We have to realize the potential. So much of Our Lord’s coming has remained only as potential, still on the shelf. We have to dig deeper and discover the possibility for what this could mean for the human race.

Many hide from Him fearing what He might want from them; but really we should be rushing out to meet Him. There is far greater happiness in being with Him than against Him.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Christmas Mass times

Christmas Mass times
Christmas Day, Wed 25th, Mass at St Monica's: Latin Mass 8am
No Mass at Hindmarsh Christmas Day.

New Year's Day, Wed 1st, Latin Mass: St Monica's 8am
No Mass at Hindmarsh New Year's Day.

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

Thursday, 19 December 2013

3rd Sunday of Advent 15 Dec 2013 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 15.12.13 Rejoice always

Today we are exhorted to be joyful at all times (epistle). We would, at first reaction, say that was very difficult when there is so much wrong with the world, and each of us would confront many difficulties at the personal level.

It becomes easier to understand this instruction if we see different levels of joy/happiness.

We can say we rejoice always insofar as the basic truths we believe in are always in place. For example, that God is always the same; that Christ has died for our sins; that He has risen in glory; and that He is coming back to complete His saving work.

These things are true and always true, no matter what else happens. This gives us security that enables us to keep a constant joy (aligned with hope).

On a surface level we always have some emotional turbulence but deep down we are always happy.

Rejoicing all the time does not mean we should never experience sadness, disappointment, grief etc. These things are inevitable insofar as so many things are not as they should be.

We cannot (and should not) ignore the suffering of others – either physical or spiritual. People are being murdered, tortured, abused. Worse still, people are living in sinful ways and in danger of hell.

Being joyful all the time does not mean we have to say that everything is just fine.

We can acknowledge whatever is wrong but then we bring to bear our faith, hope, joy, charity and all related virtues to fix the problem, or at least make things better than they otherwise would be.

So we set about fixing things. What is not already joyful we will make it so, or give everything to the attempt.

We find it is not easy to make everything as it should be. The victory of Christ has been achieved but it is not like a military victory where the winner marches in and takes over.

Christ has taken over but He wants to win voluntarily rather than compel the minds and hearts of every person. He will not come unless He is welcome.

The battle is fought at that level. He could easily win by physical force, but because He is trying to save people it is much more complicated. And a lot harder for us.

It is hard to convert even one person let alone the whole world. And while there are unconverted people around there is a lot of sin and strife in the world – which in turn makes it a harder world to live in.

We are still in the heat of the battle. We look forward to the reward but right now we are in the thick of it.

We fight the battle, not by physical force, but by the witness of our lives (cf John the Baptist) to the grace of God working within us. We must live good lives at all times, no matter what happens around us.

We do not change sides by abandoning our faith. So many Catholics lose their faith simply finding the going too hard.

They might trade the more mature Christian joy for the fleeting joys of worldly pursuits.

Or they might sink into inactivity through feeling overwhelmed.

Calling on our reserves of joy we will always have the energy to continue the battle, that is, to give witness of our faith.

The more fully each of us takes hold of the truth the stronger the Church becomes and the more easily we will convert people.

May the Lord sustain us now and till the end, when our joy will be complete and every tear wiped away.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Feast of the Immaculate Conception 9 Dec 2013 Sermon

Immaculate Conception 8.12.13 Two worlds

Our Lady is known as the Second Eve. God started in her a new order of things, a world without sin.

With her coming we now have two worlds co-existing, the world enslaved to sin and the world re-created, free from sin.

We are born into the first world and have experienced the oppression of sin. If we have come to faith and baptism we are also born into the second world, and begin to experience what it is like to be free from sin (full of grace).

Living in the world of sin makes us cynical about goodness. We doubt that anyone is really good, certainly not good all the time.

It is wise to be wary of pretended goodness (eg shady salesmen) but we should understand that the world we think is normal is actually a distortion of what God intended.

We should believe in goodness, much as we believe in God Himself. He intends the world to be like He is, full of every good thing.

In Our Lady we have the beginning, the restoration, of how it was always meant to be.

We have a chance to move from one world to the other. The world of darkness to the world of light; the world of despair to the world of hope.

Even if we have not been true to our baptism; even if we have sinned again and again - we can still reclaim lost innocence and start afresh.

It is hard when we have sinned to get the poison out of the system. Yet goodness has its power as well as evil, and also its own attractions.

A world without sin offers us a much greater happiness than the world as we now have it.

We find our way into this new world by grace, prayer, sacraments, self denial, good works, learning from experience. We come to see the attraction of holiness. We develop an increasing loathing of sin. (As we say in the Act of Contrition: we detest our sins above all things).

We live in both worlds, but as yet we are far more familiar with the world of sin.

We can claim entry to the world-without-sin at least at the personal level. If we cannot make it universal for everyone we can at least get it right for our own lives.

So we deal truthfully with each other. If the car I am selling you will not get you fifty metres from here I will tell you. We are honest, truthful, generous, and all the other necessary qualities.

There have always been good people around but never enough at the one time to make the new way of holiness the established way. We have tasted enough goodness to know we need a lot more.

We are trying to bring forth a better world, and it is like giving birth. So has Mary been doing ever since she gave birth to the Christ child. She helps and encourages us in every way to join fully with her and do what she does.

She encourages us to give perfect obedience to God; along with homage and trust. ‘Do whatever He tells you’.

Doing the right thing becomes automatic, spontaneous – once our wills have been corrected and fortified; once we have been filled with the zeal of the Holy Spirit.

This is how we need to be, and we find this in Mary. We get used to life in this other universe, first established in her.

We have much to be thankful for that long ago, a certain baby girl was conceived without sin.

O Mary, conceived without sin pray for us who have recourse to thee.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

1st Sunday of Advent 1Dec 2013 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 1.12.13 Welcoming Our Lord.

Our Lord has promised that He will come again and it has been the instinctive attitude of the Church ever since the Ascension (when there was a sense of loss at His departure) that we would desire His return.

We want Him back. We want Him as close to us as can be managed. And while we have Him in other ways such as the Eucharist we still would prefer a more visible tangible presence if we could have it.

We understand why He may need to be absent and that He has all this time been leading us in faith; but we still would rather have Him here than not have Him here.

And if we had a choice as to whether He come tomorrow or in a hundred years time we should say, Tomorrow. Of course we realize we are subject to His time scale, but just in terms of what we want it must be that we want Him to be as close as possible and as soon as possible.

In fact it is the constant prayer of the Church – Come, Lord Jesus. This is an Advent prayer but it is always applicable.

If we are to be to Him as brides to the groom then we must desire Him; that is, if we have any sort of love for Him.

We long for His return like the deer for running streams, or night watchmen yearning for the dawn.

What could be more natural than that all His disciples would want Him to return? Yet we find somehow that is not the case.

Somehow we have allowed it to happen that our love or desire for Him is not so straightforward as it should be.

We have sinned against Him and are afraid to see Him, like Adam hiding in the garden. And we have made golden calves in His absence.

Or we have formed other plans which we do not want interrupted.

We have said effectively, Stay away, Lord. Do not interrupt right now. Not many would say this in so many words but it can be our attitude all the same.

Either we fear His judgment or resent His authority.

No, if we love Him we must have unconditional trust in Him. Whatever He decides to do or not to do is fine with us. If He comes early or late, we accept His infinite wisdom. Only, if we are allowed to want something it is simply that He come as soon as possible.

If we have this unconditional trust we can do what the epistle tells us: live in the light. We can be industrious in His service like the servants who multiplied their talents, or who were found busy at their work when the Master returned; or the bridesmaids who kept their lamps lit.

We will have no fear of the ‘end of the world’ which really is just another way of saying ‘the return of the Lord’.

If we fear the turmoil prophesied in the Gospel we can go some way to reducing that turmoil by being ready to receive Him; better still, actively desiring to receive Him. So the Last Day will be a time of joy not of terror.

We express a desire not only to see Him but to be made worthy to see Him.

We confess our sins and we stand ready to abandon any plans of our own.

Anything, so we can have Him close to us. No earthly joy, legal or illegal, could match the happiness of that state.

So we make it our own personal prayer, with the whole Church: Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Last Sunday after Pentecost 24 Nov 2013 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 24.11.13 Seeking the highest good

On the last Sunday of the year we think about the last of everything; the last day, the end of the world, the end of our lives, and related themes.

We are warned (by the severe tone of the Gospel) that we are playing for high stakes. These are very important realities. We must come to some sort of serious response to these things.

The more we understand about our situation the more we can make sense of this life and prepare for the next one.

We can identify three levels of response to the knowledge that things as we know them will come to an end one day.

Seeking physical safety. If we are told there could be an earthquake coming, or an asteroid is going to hit the earth, or something of that sort, we could be alarmed and simply seek refuge from the danger. But that would be merely a physical response. OK there is a disaster coming; let’s see how we can minimise the damage and the loss of life.

No thought, necessarily, for whether we should change the way we are living, or repent of our sins. Just try to stay alive.

Today’s Gospel and several other passages in the Bible put the matter in simple terms: either you line up with the will of God or you will see your entire world torn apart, and yourself with it.

This should move people to repentance but it still may not.

It is not that God wants us to think of Him only as a possible source of punishment. He wants us to see Him in a much more positive light than that. But if we limit ourselves to physical reality we are warned that anything we pin our hopes on will be taken from us.

Seeking Heaven Taking a higher view of things we are meant to look deeper (read the signs) into the word of God; to be worried not only about the body but the soul.
I want to get to heaven and avoid hell. This is much more to the point. If I lose my life from an asteroid no great matter - as long as my soul is in a state of grace and I go to Heaven. We understand that our physical lives are nowhere as important as the life of the soul. And eternity is a long time compared with a few years on earth.

So we seek to do whatever we have to do to reach Heaven and keep out of Hell. This is certainly better than just worrying about our bodies but it is still short of where God wants us to be.

Seeking God If we want to avoid Hell, why? What is wrong with Hell? The worst thing about Hell is not the flames; not keeping company with the devil; nor any other discomfort -but the absence of God.

And the same principle applies in Heaven. The best thing about Heaven is not that we are happy all the time or able to do whatever we please - but that we are in the presence of God and can see His face.

God wants us to seek Him for His own sake. We go beyond worrying about physical safety; even beyond spiritual safety, to this highest point – seeking union with God, the greatest good we can seek; and, after all, the happiest state we can reach.

So the best way to be happy is not to seek it on too narrow a basis but let ourselves be lifted up beyond where we would ever be able to go by our own efforts; to be ec-static, taken outside of ourselves, to bask in God’s glory.

The biggest disaster facing the human race is not anything physical but that it does not and might never recognize the God who is its Creator and Saviour. To know Him better and to make Him known must be our life’s work.

Friday, 22 November 2013

26th Sunday after Pentecost 17 Nov 2013 Sermon

26th Sunday after Pentecost (Readings from 6th Sunday after Epiphany) 17.11.13

The Church is to be the leaven in the bread. This means we should be enriching and enlivening the faith of those who have faith, and drawing to the faith those still without it.

It does not help in this process that we hear so often of scandals within the Church – the more sordid ones which make the news, or the more commonplace examples of lapses from Christ-like behaviour - when we fail to be charitable, or tell the truth etc, and our neighbours notice.

The impact of the negative example gives an idea of the power we would have for good effect if we could achieve it. It shows at least that the Church is noticed and a lot of eyes are upon us as to how we behave.

A lot of our present struggle is whether the Church is leavening the world or the other way round. Much of worldly thinking has infected the Church, eg an over-emphasis on individual freedom, or an indiscriminate syncretism of religions.
We have to be very clear that the Church is teacher of the world, and not the other way round.
Yes, we can learn from the world sometimes, but only as to detail, never as to basic belief and policy. So, for example, if we have an atheist neighbour who is generous with his possessions we can learn from him to be generous, but not to be an atheist.
Two things we must do.

One, to be on our best behaviour anyway, because good is always preferable to evil.

Two, we must give to the world a clear and consistent picture of the value of holiness and the need and advantage of following Our Lord.

To follow Him is not just an option we might get around to someday, but absolutely essential.
He is the only God, our Creator and Saviour. There is nowhere else to go.

Yet we have the situation where many will say (because of the scandals), Why would you want to belong to a corrupt organisation like the Church?

It still remains true, however, that while we deplore the scandals, everyone should be a member of the Church (a good member).

No amount of sin by individual members of the Church will change the fact that God does exist; that Christ is the Saviour; that the Church is the vehicle of His salvation.

While He may sometimes operate outside the boundaries of the Church it is His preferred will that everyone be a member of that Church. The Church is to be a tree whose branches are so big that it covers the whole world.

As Christ is King of all, so His kingdom, embodied in the Church, stretches to all corners of the earth – not only geographically, but culturally, morally, in authority and practice.

We do not proclaim ourselves. We are not saying that we are better than anyone else, only that the Church is a better place to be than anywhere else.

For ourselves we must avoid the obvious evils which give scandal, but also attend to the more subtle things – like being charitable, forgiving, generous etc. Even when others are not doing these things.

And all of this without being smug or self-satisfied. None of this is possible just by our own will power but joined to Christ we can do it.

Only He can provide the increase, as He has done so far. In spite of the Church’s frailties we have grown in size, and many good fruits have been achieved.

Let us be assured and re-assured in our mission and pray that the Lord will continue to multiply our efforts, advancing our good intentions, directing, strengthening, and purifying us at the same time.

May His kingdom come.

Friday, 15 November 2013

25th Sunday after Pentecost 10 Nov 2013 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost (Readings: 5th Sunday after Epiphany) 10.11.13 Another chance

‘Give me time, and I will pay you...’ – the words of the debtor in Our Lord’s parable on mercy (Mt 18, 21-35).

The one in debt will always plead for more time to repay. Perhaps with more time circumstances will change; something will ‘turn up’ and all will be set right.

We could see our whole time upon this earth as ‘more time’; each extra day of our lives a chance to draw closer to Almighty God; to repair the damage our past sins have caused; to resolve on a better way of life from now on.

He is so patient with us, as indicated in today’s Gospel. He lets the weeds grow alongside the wheat, the bad people mix with the good - in the hope that they will become good.

We are not naturally so patient. We wonder, at least as a first reaction, why God does not remove all the bad people? We have to be careful whom we want removed. At another time He might have been removing us!

God wants to give everyone the greatest possible chance of being saved. He gives another chance, in fact, many other chances – every day is one.

No, the bad people probably don't deserve another chance but then neither did we.

It is not a question of deserving, but of pure generosity on God’s part. He hopes, and so should we, that all those presently away from Him will take up His offer of mercy.

The epistle makes the same point. You must bear with one another’s faults... the Lord’s generosity to you must be the model of yours.

We must make allowances for each other. Instead of just hating those who offend us, we desire their change of heart. We give them ‘more time’, another chance. In the hope that they will turn into better people than they are right now. This is what Christ would do, and what the Christian must do.

If we are all one Body in Christ then the health of all depends on the health of each one. Just as with the human body if one part is hurting it is enough to make the whole person uncomfortable.

The Body of Christ is torn by so much hatred, hardness of heart, division. We all suffer from this. All the more reason that anything we can do to restore peace is going to help.

Even if others don't change it is still better for the peace of the Body and the good of one’s own soul, if we live with this attitude.

We must be what we would like others to be.

We give others a chance just as we would hope they would do for us, and not foreclose too quickly.

Our Lord said we should forgive others seventy times seven (Mt 18,22). We must forgive repeatedly, even if there is no sign of improvement. Always governing our reaction is the hope that the offending person will change.

Even Our Lord Himself could not convert everyone from bad to good, but this did not deter Him from keeping to the same policy; and even giving His life in atonement for sin.

He knew, as He did this, that there would be many who still would not change; but He went ahead. So must we. It is not so much whether we succeed or fail with this policy as simply that it is the best way to follow. It brings out the best in us and may bring out the best in others.

We tend to see this forgiving of others as a very difficult business; something we might just manage to do if we really put in an effort.

But it is meant to come easier than that. It is no more than passing on a very small part of the mercy and forbearance that we have already received from God.

We have another chance to give others another chance!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

24th Sunday after Pentecost 3 Nov 2013 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost (4th Sunday after Epiphany readings) 3.11.13 Seeking deeper faith

Our Lord rebukes the apostles for their lack of faith. The problem was not that they asked Him for help. It must have been that their manner of asking betrayed a lack of trust in Him.

He had already worked many miracles in their sight, so they should have had more confidence in Him by now.

Much of our prayer is of a similar kind to that of the apostles so maybe we are doing something wrong too!

In fact we are never more likely to pray than when facing a crisis; and at such a time we are likely to have a certain amount of panic in our manner.

It is fine to ask for help at such a moment, and indeed we are encouraged to bring our requests to Our Lord.

But He wants us to understand that if we have Him with us that should be the end of the matter as far as worry and fear go.

The apostles were conscious of the storm around them; but not so conscious that they had the Saviour with them in the boat.

They could see the problem but not the solution.

They had God with them; and so do we have Him with us.

Therefore the solution must always be greater than the problem. Nothing can overcome us if we have God on our side, in our midst.

This rings true with the intellect but we still have some work to do to have this belief in our hearts as well. So that we not only believe He is here with us but also feel it in the depths of our being.

We need more faith. We of little faith need to be We of much faith.

We need a faith which is so much a part of us that it comes naturally to the surface when needed. As easy as counting to ten.

Faith has to be a language for us, as natural as our first speaking language. It takes no effort for us to speak that language. Just so it should be no effort to trust in God, when a crisis is on.

How can we achieve this kind of faith? Ask Our Lord for it! The same God whom we must believe in will help us to have that belief.

In the non-crisis times we can seek Him out as much as possible. Let Him take possession of our minds and hearts so that we ‘have’ Him on hand when there is a need.

All the while contemplating His power and goodness.

His power is demonstrated by His miracles. Even the winds and the sea obey Him. Couple that with raising people from the dead and we have a great deal of power in our midst.

Then there is His goodness. All His actions are directed to our benefit; ultimately our salvation; in the meantime making things as easy for us as they can be.

Goodness and power in infinite supply and He is at our service. We cannot tell Him what to do but we can certainly ask Him to help, and He will always come up with a way forward.

True faith is habitual, like language, and it will express itself naturally.

Only those who do not know the Lord will cry out in panic. We will just mention to Him that there is a problem.

Some of the problems we face are more complex than just being in a boat on rough sea. Things like the loss of faith on the part of so many people in our time. This sort of problem is much harder to fix and will take more than one miracle.

But the principle is the same. Whether immediately or over centuries He will achieve His purpose. He has the will and the means to help us. All we have to do is believe, and even this He makes easy for us.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Feast of Christ the King 27 October 2013

Christ the King 27.10.13 God, King, Saviour

As we contemplate the sheer size of the universe or the complexity and diversity of all that is on the earth we can react in one of two ways.

One reaction would be to conclude that we are not really so special, just a small rock in space, and mankind not the only - nor necessarily the most important - species in existence. This view essentially denies the existence of God, or at least His relevance.

The other and opposite reaction is to see that the earth is still the most important of all the stars and planets, and the human race is still the most important component in God’s scheme of things. True, it is a very large universe but that is what you would expect an infinite generous God to make

Either we are just random molecules put together in human form on an equally random planet - without purpose or direction.

Or we are planned, created, kept in being, and finally saved by a loving God who is concerned for each one of us.

These are two very different view of life. We hold to the second view. It is a much more cheerful view, and it also happens to be true. At times we might feel we are caught up in a giant impersonal world but actually we all hold a very important place in God’s plans.

There is nothing random about our existence. All reality is held together by one Person, God the Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ: All things were created by Him and in Him; and He is before all, and by Him all things consist (Epistle).

Christ has united the human race in His own humanity and taken us (at least all those who want) to a higher level, even as far as Heaven itself.

It is often suggested that our religion is just one among many, and even as saviours go that Jesus is only one among others.

No, He is the only Saviour as He is the only God. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. All creation is subject to Him. He does not share any power with other gods. How could He if they do not even exist?!

The pessimistic atheistic view described above has done great harm to many people, depriving them of the simple faith that would make their life a lot easier.

Today’s feast is a chance for us to reaffirm our recognition of the central place of Christ in the universe.

Because He is so much denied or ignored the world is largely in chaos. We can go some way to setting matters right by our willing obedience to Him, and worship of Him.

There will come a time when every knee shall bow before Him, but we need that bowing to be voluntary, not the involuntary reaction of terror.

We must honour Him now, while there is still time, before the final Judgment closes all options.

If enough of the human race would recognize who really is their King the world would start to come right from all that presently afflicts it.

We can help to make Him known by imitating His humility. For all His splendour He came not to be served but to serve. This must be our attitude also; from obedience to Him and as witness to others.

If we can stay loyal to Him in times of trial we will share His glory when He comes again.

May He who always has been King finally be recognised as He deserves.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 20 Oct 2013 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 20.10.13 Giving to God

Almighty God has authority over the whole world - every nation, every tribe, every person.

However we organize ourselves, whatever system of government we have, He is still Lord of all.

We must give him what is His (Gospel). And what is His? Everything! But this is not so difficult as it might sound.

We give God everything insofar as we recognize that He has dominion over every part of our lives. We can still keep our houses, cars, clothes, money etc for our own use, but we see it all as being available for His purposes.

He wants us to trust Him, to understand that He will co-ordinate all the factors and events in our lives according to His will; but not in a way that He will forget us. He will make everything fall into place – what He does with us; what He allows to happen to us; how it all finishes up.

There is nothing that is ‘mine’ as in somehow separate from God. Everything we do must be either to please Him, or at least not displease Him.

There are many things we do that are not explicitly ‘religious’ but we should do nothing that is ‘irreligious’, offensive to God.

There is a constant temptation to push God to the sidelines; to relegate Him to background status.

It is ironic in the light of today’s Gospel passage that part of the ‘evidence’ used in Our Lord’s trial was that He was accused of trying to displace Caesar. Here is the God of the whole world, eternal and infinite, being considered less important than one tyrant, in one place and time.

You can kill Him (this once at least) but you cannot remove Him. You can rage against Him but you cannot de-throne Him from His place at the head of the world.

Nations make new laws, based on new ways of defining life and human nature, but their laws have no validity.

Man cannot redefine himself. The most he can do is defy the one true God - but he must come to account before that same God.

Many regard God as a thing of the past. We have outgrown Him; we have evolved to a higher level, they say. There is talk of a post-Christian society.

He is no more ‘out of the way’ than He was at the Crucifixion. He can make Himself known at any moment; but even if He keeps Himself hidden He is never any less relevant. The whole world is His, even what we give to Caesar, even Caesar himself.

Any attempt to live our lives as though there is no God, or that He does not matter – is a failure to give to God what is His.

Instead of pushing Him to the sides we bring Him back to the centre. We consciously and deliberately seek His will. We entrust everything to Him and to His providence.

All our fears for the future; all our hopes and ambitions; we hand all this over – it is all His!

This is the wisest and happiest way to live.

But it is not from force that He wants our allegiance; He wants it from love. He does not want us to see Him as a remote figure, to be appeased by our offerings; an impersonal presence, like the Taxation department.

We reach a point where we want to give Him things. We do not quibble about whether we have to give something or not. We are glad to give Him whatever we can. (eg going to weekday Masses which are not compulsory, or spending time in adoration). This is love taking over; which is what He wants.

Nobody pays taxation to Caesar through love (!), but giving to God becomes a joy, a joy which we are still discovering.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

21st Sunday after Pentecost 13 Oct 2013 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 13.10.13 Consecration of the world

Today Pope Francis will consecrate the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and we join in with him and the whole Church for this event.

As the Introit of today’s Mass puts it: All things, Lord, are subject to Your power, and there is nothing that can go against Your will. For all that is, is Your creation; the earth and sky and all the stars contained within the vault of heaven. You are Lord of all the universe.

To consecrate the world is simply to acknowledge that it all belongs to God. We, the human race, have not always lived in that acknowledgment; very far from it. We have defied and disobeyed the will of God, in all manner of ways usurping His sovereign authority. We have lived as though the world belonged to us; that it is there for us to do with as we please.

Today we can go some way to correcting the collective sins of humanity, and going through the pure heart of Mary, seek right balance in all our dealings with Almighty God.

Today is the anniversary of the miracle of the sun at Fatima in 1917. On that day the power of God over the universe was demonstrated. Thousands of people witnessed this miracle and were greatly moved by it.

A lot of people present that day repented fairly quickly thinking that the sun was going to fall on them! It is easy to be unconcerned about matters such as final judgment when all is going well; when the sky is blue and all appears to be going along as normal. But we must never become complacent.

It appears that God lets a lot of things go unpunished; and people gather confidence from that. They can even reach a point of denying God’s existence. But He can make Himself known very quickly and in all sorts of ways. Let some disaster come and suddenly everyone is asking for mercy.

What we have to do is ask for mercy while all is still calm. We do not need to be terrified into repentance; we want to get things right with God anyway. This is the proper attitude.

And today’s consecration is an expression of this desire – that we, as the Church, on behalf of all humanity, beg the forgiveness of God for all sins against His sovereignty, and ask His grace that we may do better in the future.

The debtor in the parable (Gospel) was terrified of the punishment he was about to receive, and to avoid this punishment was prepared to promise anything. That his repentance was insincere is proved by his subsequent behaviour.

If we ask the Lord for mercy it must be with the complete determination to do all in our power to avoid repeating the same sins, or any sort of sin.

This determination is easier if we keep reminding ourselves how it all belongs to Him, all the world, even our own lives.

If He forgives us it is not because we deserve it, but simply because He is kind to us.

If He give us chance after chance to get things right it is just further proof of His kindness.

But we owe it to Him to do all in our power to get things right; not presuming on His mercy, but letting it transform us to new ways of acting.

So we offer the world to Him today. It is His anyway, but it is important we ‘give it back’ to Him, letting go of any false sense of our own dominion.

We are stewards only; stewards of His creation.

Our Lady will help us to keep the right perspective. Despite the great honours granted to her she always remained humble and obedient to One so much greater still.

May she accept today’s consecration, take it to the throne of God Himself, and guide us as to anything else we need to do.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

20th Sunday after Pentecost 6 Oct 2013 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 6.10.13 Intercessory prayer

The insistence of the man (Gospel) represents us and our impatience with God. Lord, do something!

Lord, You are not doing enough, or not acting quickly enough to save us. We are in such difficulties we need Your help quicker than it is coming.

What to do when prayers are not answered, or apparently not answered?

It could be we are not praying enough; or praying well enough; or asking for the wrong things. There can be a lot of factors involved, depending on the complexity of the prayer request.

It takes a lot more prayer to achieve world peace than to have fine weather for the parish picnic!

Any prayer which involves changing the will of another person (such as conversion of a sinner) is likely to be hard work and require lots of perseverance.

So we have to keep on praying for what we need, without getting discouraged or distracted.

We keep our focus on the main issue - which is always Salvation. The salvation of the soul is always the most important thing. Other things like physical healing, safe travel, world peace are secondary, if still important. We can ask for all that we need, large or small.

But given there are different levels of importance to our prayer we have to leave it to the wisdom of Almighty God to know which blessings to grant or withhold at any moment.

What is required from us is an attitude of humility, patience, trust, perseverance.

‘Unless you see signs and wonders you believe not’, Our Lord says. No matter how many miracles He works the people want another one to be sure. They are impressed when they see a miracle but the effect wears off. This is not faith.

What we need instead is to be always believing, always trusting, regardless of whether or not we see answers to our prayers. Be prepared to wait years, centuries if necessary. Just do what we have to do.

A seed does turn into a tree but it takes a long time.

We do not have to be informed on every aspect of how God works. We just need to be in the right state of mind and heart, and then keep knocking on the door.

We put our request simply, but without demanding results; or placing any condition such as, Come down, Lord. (The nobleman was telling Our Lord how to work the miracle). Leave it to Him to work out how to answer the prayer.

He wants to bless us and will often surprise us by giving us more than we ask.

Consider the Incarnation. The Jews prayed to God to deliver them from the various enemies they encountered. They had to wait a long time for the Messiah to come.

All they expected was a good soldier, a strong leader. What came instead was God Himself! They wanted freedom from their enemies; instead they were freed from their sin.

They received more than they asked for, or would have dared to ask.

So if we think God is asleep, all the while He is preparing something bigger than we could even ask or imagine (Eph 3,20).

Or consider the Resurrection. The apostles were in desolation during Good Friday and Holy Saturday. If they prayed in that time it is not likely they were asking for the Resurrection. It was more than they dared to ask, or expect.

So with us. Do we dare to believe that all that has been promised will come to pass? We should dare it, only without trying to tell God what to do; beyond the merest hint that something is wrong. (Son, they have no wine.)

And having just mentioned our need we don't start complaining after thirty seconds that nothing has happened!

Lord, teach us to pray. And then: Lord, hear our prayer.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Feast of St Michael 29 Sep 2013 Sermon

Feast of St Michael 29.9.13

The angels see the face of God (Gospel). And then they deal with us. They help to bridge the gap between heaven and earth.

Each of us has a guardian angel, and we can assume there are many angels around us, especially at Mass and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, where they are in constant and profound adoration.

They bless the Lord; they help us adore Him. And they defend us in battle – the particular point we attribute to St Michael.

The angels are powerful beings for good. The source of their power is that they are so close to Almighty God. They live in His presence. Free from sin they reflect his glory.

They shine His light upon us, mediating the goodness and power of God. They spread a holy and healthy influence around us, counteracting the evil influence spread by the fallen angels (demons).

The angels invite us to turn towards the living God. In doing that we become more alive. As we turn away from sin we come out of the dark into the light; we derive more of the power of God in ourselves. And become more angelic (or saintly) in the process.

The battle between the angels does not use conventional weapons. It is fought more at the level of the mind, a battle of ideas, of whose view of reality will prevail.

Michael and the angels are thinking of God, and of their need to submit to Him. They have great humility and all related virtues, and this is what makes them strong.

Lucifer and the fallen angels are thinking they can take the place of God and they are filled with pride, rage, violence and every kind of malice. They have less power than the good angels because they are not based in truth; but they have power to do a lot of harm, all the same (especially to us).

The good and evil angels have been fighting a long battle, and it still rages. They are fighting over us, over each and all of us. Both want to claim our souls – the good angels for God, the evil angels for hell.

The demons often win the battles if not the war. The ultimate victory must go to the side of Good but a lot of harm can be done along the way (like a retreating army will destroy as much as they can of the territory through which they pass).

We are the prisoners of war, or the hostages, needing to be set free. We are in this position to the extent that we are still imprisoned in sin and vice.

It is relatively easy to break free from captivity to sin if we can only be humble enough to seek God’s mercy and grace.

Humility is always the key. If we can let God be what He is; if we can affirm and not try to deny it, we will be imitating the good angels and will draw power from God as we do that.

Can we accept that we are created beings and depend for everything on the Creator or must we assert ourselves against Him and bring destruction on ourselves?

The battle for our minds and hearts goes on all the time. We can help the good angels to help us by being aware of how the battle operates; of what precisely the fight is about.

It is always possible to tune into the good side of the battle, to draw upon truth and grace. We do this whenever we pray, or receive a sacrament. Sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to discover the right way to see things, as for example being patient in suffering. But it can always be done with a little discipline and perseverance.

This is essentially what prayer is: forcing ourselves to think more deeply than we otherwise would; to draw upon the greater wisdom and goodness that is available.

Let us go to battle then, armed with prayer, humility, and right thinking. May St Michael and the angels bring us safely to our heavenly home.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

18th Sunday after Pentecost 22 Sep 2013 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 22.9.13 Full healing

Our Lord demonstrates by a physical miracle (the healing of the paralysed man) that He has the power over creation to make things happen.

If He can make a sick man get up and walk there is a strong indication that He also has power to go further still – to change things at the spiritual level; to reconcile the creature with the Creator.

And He does claim this power. Your sins are forgiven. Who is he to forgive sin, the critics ask. He has the right to forgive because all creation is under His authority, including all human life and its interior secrets. It is all His domain, His territory.

So He has the right and the power to reconcile us with God; to re-create us from within; a marvellous moment of healing - as anyone who has ever been forgiven for a major sin or a lifetime of sin can testify.

The ultimate purpose of our existence is to know, love, and serve God; and to live with Him in heaven. God always meant this for us. When we do not know, love or serve Him He takes steps to bring us to where we need to be. He draws us to Himself through offers and demonstrations of His love.

Whenever we repent of our sin He willingly forgives and reconciles us to Himself. At that point we come back to life. Our spiritual health is restored.

Today many take for granted that they are in God’s favour; that He loves them and therefore will forgive whatever they do, regardless. But it is not so simple.

He loves us, certainly; but we may not love Him. His love cannot change but our love for Him is damaged whenever we sin, and it needs to be restored.

The deeper our contrition the more effectively we can be forgiven and reconciled.

When we sin we do not mean to offend Almighty God, but we do all the same. When we realize this dimension of our sin we seek to be fully re-united with Him. We have effectively stopped loving Him for the time being and we need to re-light the candle, to bring back life to our souls.

With this goes a prayer that we will remember more clearly the next time that we owe Him everything and therefore will be less inclined to sin.

Having been restored to life we are determined to stay alive and to become more so. Thus we resolve not only to avoid sin but to take every chance for doing good and increasing our union with God. Our love for Him can increase, and it should.

We no longer see our faith as just living by the rules. We still keep the rules but not in a grudging way. We come to see that they express the mind of God, to which we are becoming attuned.

I want to do exactly the same things He wants me to do. I would not sin for all the world. This is what the saints demonstrate to us.

We can all move closer to Him than we are now.

We ask for the mercy that will repair our relationship with Him, that will enable us to love Him perfectly - in theory and practice; in word and deed; the coming together of what I know and what I do; the full integration of the person, symbolised by the miracle of today’s Gospel. The man was fixed in body and soul, and sent packing. So we seek for ourselves.

We understand that bodily healing is not always God’s will for us, but it never hurts to ask for it. We know that the healing of the soul is always His will, and we ask for that too; that He bring us to life, fully united with Himself.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

17th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Sep 2013 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 15.9.13 Loving God

We are commanded to love God. It is a strange thing when we think about it – to be commanded to love. Love is something, we would think, that looks after itself. We love whatever is loveable.

You would not have to tell Romeo to love Juliet. It comes naturally.

So it should come naturally to love God, but because of our sin it has become more complicated than it should be.

In Romeo’s case the attraction is visible, physical, instant, no explanation required.

Whereas in relation to God, from our side at least, it is just the opposite. God is not visible, not audible or tangible; He does require explanation, and further thought.

And loving God often cuts across the working of other desires that we might have, which are more instant - such as the desire for pleasure or to avoid pain. For example it is hard to get out of bed to go to Mass.

Yet Romeo would have got out of bed if he had a chance to see Juliet. When we love enough we will do just about anything for the beloved. People will make all sorts of sacrifices for what they hold to be valuable.

It would seem we just do not have enough love for God. That is why it has to be put as a command. You should love God. You must love Him. If you do not love Him now then take whatever steps to begin doing that.

We have to ask God to help us here. We need Him to show us how desirable He is.

If we had never sinned we would have clarity of intellect and will. Our thoughts and desires would all be in complete harmony.

As it is we do not perceive Him clearly because sin has clouded us over, weakening mind and will.

We do need to be told to love God. And we might still argue the point even when we are told!

God can repair the damage we have done through our sin, and the damage we have suffered from the sin of the world. He can help us to think straight, to see clearly, not with the physical eyes but the eyes of the spirit.

He can help us to understand how good He is, and how good - therefore, how desirable.

Think of all the people you love, and all the things you love. God is better than all of them.

We cling to what we love. Initially we will prefer the things of this life to the next, simply because they are more concrete. With our foggy perception we resist the call to higher things. Just pious words, religious talk, we might say.

The Source of all beauty is greater than any one beautiful thing. The things of earth are just shadows or glimpses of what is beyond.

We are still allowed to love people and things, within reason; only we should love God more.

Whatever is good about this earth is from Him and whatever is good about our affections will be perfected and increased in heaven. We will love those we love here, but even more.

So we pray that we can come to love God not as a task but as a joy.

We pray that we really can seek God more than anything else, like a lover seeks the beloved; like a deer thirsts for running streams (Ps 41,1).

As we seek Him He will reveal more of His goodness to us and thus seem more desirable to us. Those who have had a religious conversion or awakening will testify that the joy that comes from being united with God is very great.

It is a discovery of what we should have known all along, a recovery of what we lost in Eden.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

16th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Sep 2013 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 8.9.13 Humility and power

True humility is having a proper understanding of one’s true status, firstly before Almighty God and then as regards other people.

Before Almighty God our true status is very lowly. He is as far above us as a mountain above an insect, and further than that.

We owe our lives to Him and everything we have. It is enough that He has created us to deserve our respect; even more again that He has saved us, forgiven us for our multiple sins.

God allows us to stand before Him, but in our hearts and minds we should be prostrate in adoration and contrition.

If enough people did this the world would look a much better place.

Yesterday Australia had a federal election. From a Christian point of view we pray for our nation to be humble before God. If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Ch 7,14.

Whoever wins an election the real power comes from God. All the world is His; and each nation.

Human leaders are just standing in for Him. The original idea was that we would have kings, who would be Catholic kings, and rule justly.

Somehow we have strayed from that model, in several respects. We now have atheist republics where there used to be Catholic kingdoms. Very doubtful whether that can be called progress!

We pray for our political leaders that they will recognize their status, acting according to God’s laws; not seeking to change them, as so many call for today.

The separation of Church and state does not mean that the state can separate itself from God’s law or God’s will. To separate like that is to be a branch cut from the tree (cf John 15,6).

When a nation humbles itself before God it will be blessed. When it reverses His commands there will be trouble; as is more and more the case in the western world.

Catholics must push for true values, God’s values, to be upheld in our society. We do not command religious observance (though that also is a moral imperative) but we do demand that people not kill their babies, or the elderly etc.

The more we keep in the shadow of His wings the more accurate our decisions are going to be and the more order our society will enjoy.

And the more peace we will have in our world. Yesterday was a day of special prayer for Syria.

When it comes to prayer for peace we must seek more than just a ceasefire. It has to be peace based on right relationship with God. If we have that right relationship then the crises like Syria would not emerge in the first place.

This is the only way to peace, but, as we see, acknowledging God is not a strongpoint at the moment.

People play games and pretend that God is not there. Or even if He is there then His opinion does not count.

This is not humility; in fact the very opposite, the spirit of Babel, where the people asserted themselves without due reference to God (cf Gen 11).

How can we run a nation, or the world, if we ignore the One who created us and keeps us in being?

All power and authority are His; and all goodness too. It is not as though submitting to Him is such a terrible burden. He wants only to bless us and give us every good thing.

So we take the ‘lowest place’ before Him and let Him lift us to higher things.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

15th Sunday after Pentecost 1 Sep 2013 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 1.9.13 Coming back to life

The raising of the young man back to life was an extraordinary event. Extraordinary for its outcome. Extraordinary for its simplicity. ‘Young man, I tell you to get up.’ How easily the Lord imparts life!

He is the Lord of life, after all; the Creator of the world and all that is in it.

He did this three times in His public life: the other two being the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus.

Why only those times when there must have been many other deaths He encountered? Those three were privileged cases. It would not become God’s normal practice, though He certainly would be capable of raising any dead person back to life.

We cannot complain on this point. If God withholds one blessing it is to give us something better. And what is better for us is that we are not just resuscitated but resurrected.

We come back to life indeed, but it is a better kind of life than we knew before (presuming that by God’s mercy we are saved.)

If we are fortunate enough to reach Heaven we would not want to come back to earth. By the same logic we should not want those we love to come back.

We miss them, but we understand we are still united with them through the bonds of faith and love. United in Christ who is Lord of the living and the dead.

While Our Lord does not normally raise people back to life here on earth He does continue to restore sons to their mother - insofar as the Church is Mother of all her children, including the wayward ones.

The only snag in this case is that those who are spiritually dead may not want to be brought back to life.

Forgiveness is not possible unless there is some sort of consent from the one needing forgiveness.

There is no question of Our Lord’s ability and willingness to offer mercy but many who need that mercy will resist it.

So Mother Church prays for the grace that will move her children to a receptive state of soul.

It is an endless task given the number of children who are ‘dead’ in one degree or another.

The present widespread misconception that going to heaven is more or less automatic is a very worrying factor. Mercy has to be received as well as given. It is not so easy as many think. But it is possible, and with lots of prayer and penance it is more likely to happen.

Who will be converted and how and when we do not know, but the more we pray the more will be saved; will come back to life.

Qui pro vobis et pro multis... for you and for many – words used at the Consecration.

‘For many’: Christ died for all as far as what He wanted to happen, but for many insofar as not all will accept. It is up to us to increase the size of that ‘many’.

Most sinners are not going to leap up and start praying for themselves so we have to start proceedings for them.

We don't have to tell the Lord that these people are important; they are more so to Him than to us. But we know that He wants us to realize their importance and to grow to the point that we care what happens to others. We want them to have life as we hope to have it for ourselves.

This is a maturing to a higher level of charity; pleasing to God.

He came that we might have life, and have it to the full. We have no argument with that. Only may we be humble enough to receive what He wants to give.

Friday, 30 August 2013

14th Sunday after Pentecost 25 Aug 2013 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 25.8.13 Two masters

We cannot have two masters, as both readings tell us today. The epistle speaks of the flesh being at war with the spirit; the Gospel that we cannot serve both God and money.

When Joshua was about to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land he put an ultimatum to them: You must choose whether you will follow the God who has led you out of slavery or one of the other gods round about here (cf Joshua 24,15). Put like that they did not have much choice, at least as to what they said. Actually being loyal to the one true God is not so easy, as we find for ourselves.

Why do we find it so hard to trust in God? The same God who has created us, saved us, kept us in being, promised us eternal life as well as daily bread? Yet constantly we are tempted to disobey Him, to take some other course than the one He puts in front of us.

A lot of the problem is just the time factor. We know we are promised a reward in heaven but we want happiness right now.

So we are tempted to snatch at every passing thing that seems to offer happiness. But some things that seem as though they will make us happy will in fact make matters worse. All sin comes under this heading.

Sin is any time we try to do things differently than God wants us to do them. We make a calculation: if I do this particular action it will make me happy. Then we find we have been tricked.

This has been the story of the whole human race. Eden is repeated all over again, in every life, in every generation.

How can we get this right? How do we train ourselves to see past the shiny apple to the indigestion the apple will cause?

Lots of prayer, self-denial, sacraments and all the usual practices of our faith will help us to make sure our treasure is located in heaven, not here on earth.

It is not that we are miserable here and happy in heaven. We can be happy in both places. But it will not be sin that makes us happy here; it is holiness that does that. We sin to make ourselves happy and we fail miserably. If we obey the will of God we find that we are happy, even right now, leaving aside eternal life.

It is easy to see how holiness of life makes us happy if we think in terms of how other people treat us. If I am surrounded by murderers and robbers (to name two kinds of sin), does this make me happy? Certainly not. If I am surrounded by kind, honest, caring people? Then I am happy. Thus we see that holiness produces happiness.

The only reason this life is so difficult is that people disobey God. But if everyone would obey we would have a much happier world. So much tension and anxiety would dissolve.

The Lord provides for us, as we know. He has more than one way of doing that. One major way He provides is through moving us to do things in a better way. Thus to set up a society where people care for each other (the Kingdom of God).

It has to begin in one’s own soul. Not grasping, but giving. If we must grasp something then let it be the will of God. This will make us happy, short and long term.

As we are still a long way short of such a society God provides grace to deal with such hardship as we encounter; until better times come. But come they will, to those who trust in Him.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

13th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Aug 2013 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 18.8.13 Thanksgiving

When we ask God for something there are two levels to what we ask, a more immediate need, and then something deeper.

The more immediate need is seen in things like: I am hungry – I need food; I am unemployed – I need a job; I am in danger – I need safety....

The deeper need is something that we might miss altogether but is always there: I need to be in union with God; I need to draw closer to Him.

This is actually more important than the particular thing we are asking for. (If we don't see this then all the more reason we have the need.)

Our whole earthly life is based on this: We are here to know, love and serve God. The other things are just details by comparison with that overall objective. It is more important to be in union with God than to have food or money or health etc. No matter how urgent these needs are I still should want union with God more.

We don't have to mention this need every time we pray but just to understand the need is there. And if I don't get the thing I ask for the deeper part of the prayer will always be addressed. When we pray to God for anything He will always bring us closer to Himself.

So we can understand the story of the ten lepers. Our Lord gave them two blessings: freedom from leprosy, which was the lesser blessing; and the gift of faith, the greater blessing.

Only one of the ten accepted the second blessing. In thanking Our Lord for his healing the one leper activated the gift of faith; he saw things in a new light and his life was changed. His soul was healed as well as his body.

If we receive a blessing from God we should thank Him. This is not just good manners. It is necessary to thank Him so that the fulness of His bounty to us will take root.

Our thanksgiving includes the deeper element. We are not just grateful for the particular blessing but also that God has acted in our lives; has invited us to come closer to Him. We thank Him simply for being what He is, for being there all the time, for knowing what is best.

Thus we grow in understanding. This in turn will make us more perceptive and accurate in what we ask for, more able to recognise blessings, even in adversity.

The asking and the thanking become all merged in together like a busy office with the memos coming in and out. We thank for the last blessing as we make the next request. The line is always busy!

We can even thank God for hearing the next request... Father I know You always hear Me (John 11, 42)

It is like a love relationship where the two parties interact freely, constantly giving and taking, asking and receiving. If we are close to God this is how it will work. Our thanksgiving is not stiff or formal but joyful and spontaneous

If a prayer is not answered we can still be strong enough in faith to be grateful to God in the more general sense – that He has lost none of His goodness. If we were not blessed one way it will come in another way, and better still. We thank Him for His activity and see His blessings unfold.

We do this as the whole Church and as individuals. As the Church we pray for big items like the conversion of the whole society, peace on earth, no more killing and hatred - and we expect that these things will happen; and would happen a lot faster if there was more thanksgiving going on.

The more thanksgiving there is the more spiritual power is released. (Cf 2 Cor 9,12, the effect of almsgiving is not only to help in need but to increase the level of thanksgiving.)

Less complaining, less bitterness, less jumping ship - and we will see a much more vibrant Church, and happier world.

For which we can give thanks!

Thursday, 15 August 2013

12th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Aug 2013 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 11.8.13

A former Australian Prime Minister stated in answering a question that ‘Life wasn’t meant to be easy’.

This expresses the kind of realistic pessimism which characterises so much of our world view. We do not expect things to be easy; nor to go overly well. We brace ourselves for disappointments. We take it as routine that a fair amount of what we hope for will just not happen; that a certain amount of suffering is inevitable.

The statement itself, however, can be taken different ways.

In the original state of things Life was meant to be easy. If Adam and Eve had obeyed God’s commands they (and we) would still be in the Garden of Eden, where there would be no difficulty of any kind, no suffering, no disappointment, neither sickness nor death.

However, as sin has intervened, the whole situation has changed. And from that point on it is true to say that Life was not meant to be easy. Though we say this, not from a fatalistic point of view but from seeing, in the plan of God, that suffering is a necessary component of restoring creation to its original purpose.

Take up your cross daily, and follow Me, says Our Lord. He sets the tone. He did not find life on earth easy, taking on Himself the sins of the world. And He asks us, as His disciples, to take some share (a much smaller one) in the same process.

All this suffering is meant to make life easy again. We suffer only until things get back on the rails; till once again the human race is in union with God. Then we would be able to relax and enjoy life without any shadow. An earthly paradise - theoretically possible, at least. In any event Heaven is such a paradise.

It is not just random bad luck that we suffer so much. It is because, firstly, we have not obeyed our Creator and Saviour. And, secondly, we suffer to get things back into place.

We feel like the man on the side of the road (Good Samaritan parable). We have been robbed by the devil of our true heritage. We should not be in this position, but we are anyway.

What to do about it? We hope that someone comes along and helps us. Someone has come. Our Lord Himself stops to help us, and put us back on our feet.

We have all been robbed (original sin) but not all equally grasp the rescue (Baptism). We who have been baptized have been rescued and are in a better position to understand.

Gradually the hope dawns on us that this world, despite all its difficulty, can once again be a place of beauty, where every person and thing is in union with God’s will.

We do not complain about our ‘bad luck’, but keep focused on the road to recovery.

The closer we come to God the better everything starts to look (at least in potential).

And we ourselves change in the process. The more we let the Good Samaritan heal us the more we become like Him - able to be Good Samaritans ourselves.

The more rescued we feel the more we want to offer the same freedom to others.

We offer them the joy of the discovery we have made – that life was meant to be easy, and will be again, if only we turn to the source of all goodness and beauty. To give people hope is better than giving them food and medicine etc.

Even if the world does not improve we can establish for ourselves an interior life whereby we live by the rules of the kingdom. And enjoy inner peace in the process.

We will not allow ourselves to be robbed again. We will re-claim the life and the kind of life that Almighty God always wanted us to have.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

11th Sunday after Pentecost 4 Aug 2013 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 4.8.13 Resurrection

The stories we heard in childhood end with ‘and they all lived happily ever after’.

After a few years of bruising by this earthly life we might be tempted to think that only in fairy stories do they find such happiness. But in fact we are promised the same thing, only a much better and longer happiness – eternal life in heaven.

We believe this, not just because we want to believe it (as we are accused) but because it is true. In the light of today’s epistle reading (1 Corinthians 15) let us review the reasons for our hope of eternal life.

If we believe that God created the world and keeps it in being it stands to reason that the same God would love His creation and that what He creates expresses something of His own nature. He himself is Life; He cannot die. He is eternal, immortal, indestructible. There is a certain vitality about Him. He cannot be sick, or deteriorate over time. He is above and beyond all that. Immutable.

He would not like death any more than we do and the book of Wisdom tells us that.
Death was never of God’s fashioning; not for his pleasure does life cease to be; what meant his creation, but that all created things should have being? No breed has he created on earth but for its thriving; none carries in itself the seeds of its own destruction. Think not that mortality bears sway on earth; no end nor term is fixed to a life well lived (1,13-15 Knox)

Ultimately death is the absence of life. Death is what you get when you don't have God.

If we believe that Jesus Christ came as God among us we see the same affirmation of Life. He demonstrated His power over sickness and death. If He could raise others from the dead could He not raise Himself? There is a certain very powerful vitality evident in Him.

Then there is proof from the historical record. There were witnesses to the Risen Jesus. These witnesses have spoken and written of their experience. They could be making up a story, the sceptics will say. But see how these first believers lived. They were transformed from timid to bold so quickly.

In proclaiming the Resurrection they would be far more likely to lose their lives. Who would take that risk for a made-up story?

Yet they took on the whole world with this extraordinary and unpopular message And then, despite all odds, the belief did spread. By their fruits you shall know them. So much success could not come from a lie.

Why did Our Lord not appear to everyone? He wanted to invite faith through love. Only those who loved Him could perceive Him. He was saying, in effect, If you want to experience this new life you have to be united with Me; you have to love Me. You have to believe first.

It is not: I will believe it when I see it, but I will see it when I believe it.

Piece all these things together and we can see the reasonableness of our faith. Is it so unlikely to be true when it makes sense from every point of view?

And if we live out this belief in our own lives we will see that it is true. We will discern the life-giving power of God at work in our lives and in the world.

And we will discover something else. While it is nice to think that we will live forever that is still not the main point. With all the delights of heaven our greatest happiness is being with God, dwelling in love. Being alive is great; but living in this divine love is what makes that life worthwhile. It is the fulfilment of our being, the whole reason that God created us in the first place.

Next time we go to a funeral, or stand around a sick bed, we can take comfort from this. That we will live forever if we hold firm to this belief.

May the Lord of life bring us through all doubt and confusion to that glorious state.

Monday, 5 August 2013

10th Sunday after Pentecost 28 Jul 2013 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 28.7.13 Serious prayer

If prayer is communing with God then there are degrees of how well or how badly we can do that.

If our prayer is just words and we are not really engaging with God then the prayer will be ineffective.

But if we really are authentic with Him, laying ourselves bare in His sight, then there is a much greater chance of the prayer being heard and making a difference.

In today’s parable the publican made this kind of prayer. Though his prayer was very brief it was heartfelt and therefore effective.

The Pharisee prayed for much longer but he was all hot air; not really engaging with God; just sounding his own praises.

What we need when we pray is a recognition of our true position before Almighty God, a recognition of our true status (humility), really seeing what is what, how things really are.

When we do that our prayer is going to be heartfelt, particularly with regard to sin and sorrow – necessary to get on level ground with God, from where we can then ask for other things.

‘I am sorry’ – we can say the words, but how deeply we mean them is another matter.

If we really do recognise that our sin is an offence against the majesty of God; and against the order of nature – then our sorrow will take us to the point that we will not sin again.

We will not sin again because we can see clearly (by God’s grace) what really is the truth.

The Church teaches that when we confess our sins we require firm purpose of amendment.
If we are sorry enough for our sins we will have this firm purpose of not re-offending.

We have turned the corner, crossed the threshold, made a quantum leap. The chains that bound us have been broken and we will not return to captivity.

Heaven is full of repentant sinners. No one sins in heaven but the people there still have free will. They do not sin because they do not want to sin. They can see a better way of doing things.

In this life it is not so easy for us to see the right way forward; but God will help us to see it once we ask His help.

The beginning of the whole process is in humility. Can we humble ourselves in God’s presence, or will pride keep us captive?

The Pharisee could not be forgiven his sins because he did not think he had any. Many today do not see their behaviour as an offence against God. They do not acknowledge His authority over them.

This prevents them (while this attitude lasts) from being forgiven, and will greatly impede anything else they ask for as well.

But we do acknowledge our sinfulness, and more generally our total dependence on God for all that we are and have.

If we keep that dependence in view, never letting it slip, we will make progress. Our behaviour will improve and so will the quality of our prayer.

The publican had hit on a gold mine by discovering the value of humble heartfelt prayer.

This is all that God asks of us: just to be humble before Him.

It sounds easy but our track record indicates that we do not find it easy. Pride was, after all, the first sin, and the besetting sin of the fallen angels.

Lord, make us humble enough to pray for more humility! Teach us to pray so that our prayer can be heard.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

9th Sunday after Pentecost 21 Jul 2013 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 21.7.13 Repentance

Our Lord laments that Jerusalem is about to be destroyed because its people have refused to repent of their sinful ways.

They could have turned at any point but they would not.

We could weep over just about any city with all the increasing defiance of the laws of God in our time: same-sex ‘marriage’, euthanasia, etc etc

If only the people of our time would repent it would save a lot of trouble.

There is an even worse outcome than sudden physical death, however, and that is death of the soul – mortal sin.

If Our Lord weeps for Jerusalem He feels far more pain for a lost soul.

He wants everyone to be saved, and that is a great comfort.

But we have to cooperate, somewhere along the line. We cannot presume on His mercy to save us, or others.

God is very patient, but we must not take His patience as laxity or indifference.

There will be a time when there is no time. The time we delay now is wasted when we could be building up His kingdom on earth.

There is always the temptation to delay repentance. I will get around to it some day.

But I might die suddenly. And then also, if we delay too long our hearts can become hardened and we lose the whole idea of repentance, or any desire for it.

Complacency is a huge problem. Just like the Jews of Moses’ time (epistle) and of Our Lord’s time (Gospel) our present world has lost its way. We, minority that we are, must keep God’s commands before us, and hold onto them no matter what falsehoods we encounter, nor how many people believe in those falsehoods. Further still, we must be ready to suffer and die for God’s way.

Repentance is a hard message to sell. We can appeal at different levels.

There is natural reason. The world would run better if everyone behaved.

There is the threat of temporal punishment, like floods, earthquakes etc.

There is the threat of hellfire.

There is the promise of heaven.

All of these things are true. But they can still be ignored.

To the natural reason argument: I must look out for myself. I cannot worry about society or the future.

To the threat of punishment: There is no such thing. Disasters are merely a matter of science or random events.

To the threat of hell fire: Hell is just an old superstition. There is no such place in this enlightened age.

To the promise of Heaven: they will say, either that there is no heaven or that if there is then everyone goes there, regardless.

It is very hard to get through to the modern mind because secularism has permeated to every level.

We cannot coerce repentance. It has to be a work of grace. We do what we can to prepare it, to follow up, to make it more likely.

If we can save one soul it is worth it.

We never know who is going to convert next.

We have to keep beating the drum – all at once warning against errors, the depravity of which man is capable, the consequence of sin, and the joy of repentance.

We cannot change the tune because each generation faces the same basic choice – for or against God.

We have our work cut out. Holding on to our own faith while offering it to others. Lots of prayer is required.

And part of that prayer is: Lord give us time, give us grace. Don't wipe us out just yet. Somehow move people to see what they have never seen before, and to ask for Your mercy.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

8th Sunday after Pentecost 14 Jul 2013 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 14.7.13 Stewardship

Small children will take hold of an object and then proclaim that object to be ‘Mine’.

Other people will try to tell the child, No, it is not yours, it is someone else’s or for such and such a use.

Due to original sin we start out life thinking everything is Mine, and everything revolves around Me.

Then we get a little older and we learn that we are not the centre of the universe. We become less selfish and more able to see where other people come in.

But this is a lifelong struggle, and goes deeper than it first appears.

As adults we understand clearly about ownership. This is my car and that is your house etc.

But today’s parable of the Unjust Steward reminds us that even what is ours in a legal or commonly accepted sense is really God’s more than it is ours.

We are stewards of God’s creation. Certain things are entrusted to us, for our use; but everything about our lives must be seen in the context of our belonging to God.

If I have money, for example, that money is mine but God intends me to use it according to His will, for His purposes.

The same for all our possessions; we are merely stewards. We must give an account of our use of all these things.

Including our talents. They are for God’s work, to advance His kingdom.

Even our lives are not our own. We might die at any time, thus parting from all we have in one moment. We have to be free of undue attachment, even to life itself.

We are pilgrims, just passing through. We must never forget that, though we do forget it very easily!

The moment we start to think of these things as Mine we are ensnared by them and led into sin.

What we give goes into a heavenly account. The good deeds we do, the things we share - these all come back with interest.

And there is an earthly reward as well; we are transformed into better people, more in tune with the will of God.

The more we give, the more willing we become to give more. It is the opposite of becoming greedy and grasping.

It is not a problem having things, just how we use them.

The important thing is to do exactly what God wants. It is often asked, Why does the Church have art treasures, or why have such elaborate churches? Should we not sell everything and give it to the poor?

In the Old Testament God Himself commanded the building of the Temple and it was to be a grand building, not just an economic little room (cf 1 Chronicles 28,11-12). God was teaching us that to give glory to Him is itself a noble objective.

And we have Our Lord Himself telling us that the woman who poured expensive ointment over Him was doing a good thing, not a wasteful thing (Jn 12,8).

True wisdom and purity of heart will enable us to do exactly the right thing in each case. God will help us use the gifts He has given us.

Even the poor need to be generous. If He allows me to be poor then I seek refuge in Him, not in the grasping ways of the world.

He will find us our daily bread.

However, there should be nobody poor anywhere in the world, especially not in the Church.

There is enough to go round, but we don't make it go round.

Justice and charity require us to do whatever we can to make the world better than it is; to relieve poverty and the things that cause poverty.

It begins with a proper understanding of our own individual position. None of it is Mine; all of it is His!

7th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Jul 2013 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 7.7.13 Certainty of salvation

It is not those who say Lord, Lord who will necessarily be saved. (Gospel)

Can we be sure, or make sure, that we are saved? One day we will have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ. What will He make of us?

We want to make sure we have it right.

Can we be certain of our salvation? Protestant Christians tend to claim certainty, and in these relaxed times many Catholics would assume they are saved - but can we be sure?

We do not claim certainty of salvation because there is always the possibility of falling from grace, but we can reach a point where the probability of salvation approaches a practical level of certainty.

I might fall from grace but I can do things to make sure that is very unlikely. This is the approach we need to take.

It comes to this: we either obey God in all things, or we ask His mercy for when we have disobeyed Him.

If we are good, good. If we are bad, we become good – by the mercy and grace of God.

All the while we are reflecting on our lives, on our attitudes, our thoughts, words, actions; looking at all aspects of our lives from a spiritual point of view.

What does God want me to do? Do I need to change the way I think or act? Do I need to give up some vice, or develop some virtue?

We need to think about these things, so we are not just drifting along.

Drifting is highly likely to lead us into worldly thinking – living by the flesh and not the spirit.

We are always asking for mercy for whatever we have not got right; and for grace to make any necessary changes.

This will keep us on guard against complacency so we do not fall from grace.

Thus we increase the probability of salvation to the point that it is certain for all practical purposes; but not to the point that we go about boasting of that certainty – lest overconfidence cause us to fall; and also lest we give scandal to others by way of making them presumptuous.

In the Church there have always been the two extremes of Presumption and Despair.

Presumption is when people take their salvation for granted. I know I sin, but so what, God will forgive me.

Or when they say: I do not sin at all (which a lot of people today would say).

Despair is when people do not believe they can be forgiven, not even by God.

Presumption is probably the more common problem in the Church today.

We must avoid both extremes.

The sensible position is to say we have a confident hope of salvation; and this hope can be increased to the point of practical certainty.

Act of Hope: O my God, relying on Thy almighty power and infinite mercy and promises, I hope to obtain pardon of my sins, the help of Thy grace and life everlasting, through the merits of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Redeemer. Amen.

Having this hope we then maintain it and increase it. We have to bring the plane into land, so to speak. We are on course for a safe landing but we still have to concentrate on all the essentials. We are not home yet.

Those who say, Lord Lord, can be saved after all - provided we say it with genuine feeling and commitment.

Everything is possible by grace and nothing is possible without it. So we pray that we remain vigilant to the end.

There is a partnership between God and us. He is trying to bring us home. We are trying to get home. It is not so hard if we see it in these terms.

May it be a soft landing for all of us!

Thursday, 4 July 2013

6th Sunday after Pentecost 30 Jun 2013 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 30.6.13 God works through us

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves (Gospel) reminds us that we can never rely purely on human solutions for the problems we face.

Yet the human component is essential for some miracles to take effect.

Our Lord could have made bread out of nothing but He chose to work from the small amount which human resources could provide. He also needed human help to distribute the bread once it had been produced. (Again He could have distributed it miraculously but chose to use human instruments.)

This, we could say, is His preferred method for working among us. He works among us by working through us.

He expects us to provide some sign of trust in Him, some spirit of co-operation. And if we do that His infinite power will come into play. But if not, very likely there will be no miracle.

The miracle will happen only if someone is on hand to trust in God, to obey His will.

If such people can be found there is no limit to what the power of God might do in our midst.

Think of Noah building an ark when there was no apparent threat of flood. Or Abraham told to sacrifice Isaac; or the apostles told to put out their nets when they had caught nothing all night.

Do whatever He tells you - like filling up large containers with water, and see the wine that comes in its place.

Some miracles take longer than others. They unfold over time, even a whole lifetime, or longer still.

The kingdom will grow like a seed turning into a tree. The survival and growth of the Church has been a long-term miracle. Despite human weakness, persecutions, internal division – we are still here!

But it does always need somebody out there to believe the word of God and act upon it.

That is where we come in. We are to facilitate the miraculous power of God. He has all the power but He needs people to do His bidding. He will then multiply our humble efforts and good fruit will emerge.

Why does He want our contribution when He does not really need it? From His point of view it is more important that we believe in Him than the particular outcome of the miracle.

He did not feed the thousands just to give them lunch, though He was attentive to every need. But it was more important to Him that people would come to faith through the miracle, and through their part in it. So He wills for us in our lives.

With this approach every day is a new adventure even if it looks the same as all the others. There is a myriad of possibilities for the power of God to be at work. If we are faithful, humble and expectant, we will be opening the way for miracles.

And this can be both the short-term miracles where present problems are solved, and the longer-term miracles where it might take years for the soil to be right for God’s intervention.

The Annunciation, for example, did not happen in a vacuum. Many things had gone into making Mary as ready as she was. ‘At the appointed time...’

We just ‘do whatever He tells us’. The less capable we feel the better, as it keeps us humble and leaves more scope for the power of God to work.

The miracle we really want is the same one as God wants: that a very large number of people will come to conversion and salvation, through belief in Him.

We declare to Him now that we are ready to co-operate in bringing on that miracle!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

5th Sunday after Pentecost 23 Jun 2013 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 23.6.13 Unity in Christ

Be reconciled with your brother first, the Gospel tells us. Be reconciled, before we offer the sacrifice.

We cannot come in here offering love to God if we have hatred in our hearts.

We cannot offer the perfect sacrifice of Christ unless we are of one mind and heart with Him. There must be unity between the one offering and what is offered.

Of course we cannot immediately match the perfect charity of Christ, but we can at least remove the more obvious cases of uncharity.

Thus the epistle tells us to be compassionate to each other, to restrain the tongue from evil, and all similar points.

We must work on these points in between Masses so that when we come to offer sacrifice the next time we will be more ready than this time. And so on into the future.

There should be complete unity among any congregation gathered for the Mass. Yet we know how difficult that can be.

Arguments, resentments, jealousy, disagreements, prejudices... all sorts of things can divide us.

The quickest and best solution is for each person to converge on Christ. He is the one who unites us, who can make Jew and Gentile one, or male and female, or white and black, or any other way of distinguishing one person from another.

If each of us is united with Christ we must therefore be united with each other. We are all meeting at the same place. We converge on Him, taking on His mind and heart, being formed by Him. All that is improper in our hearts and minds is swept away by Him. He gives us His own way of thinking, His own power to love.

We cannot do literally what the Gospel says: go and be reconciled with every other person. There are too many people to consider and too many points of difference to be able to cover all of them. When we can reconcile a quarrel, certainly, let’s do that. But the Gospel is asking us at least in our hearts to forgive everyone who has offended us, and to pray that others will do the same for us.

We all have something wrong with us; we all have sins and faults. If we work on our own faults while encouraging others to do the same we become more Christ-like. We start to look like a united people.

Even one person fixing one fault will help the whole Body of Christ to heal; will make the Church more united.

What we cannot achieve before the Mass will be helped by the Mass itself. We come, all unworthy, to the Altar. Our own personal offering will be limited to some extent by whatever faults we still carry. But if we open our hearts and minds to Christ while the Mass is happening we will be healed. We will be helped to love one another by being here - provided always that we let Our Lord work in us.

If we consider that during Mass we are actually standing at the foot of the Cross - that we have Calvary made present for us – then at such a time we can hardly begrudge mercy to each other.

To maintain an unforgiving attitude to another person in the congregation is to be standing at Calvary and saying: Lord, have mercy on me, but not on this other person here!

We cannot stop the flow of God’s mercy, nor should we want to stop it.

We come to see each other as standing together rather than standing opposed. We are all on the same side here, all wanting the same outcome.

It is only the snares and wiles of the evil one that make us turn on each other in anger. A little reflection and prayer will help us see things the right way up.

Ut unum sint, as the Lord Himself prayed.