Thursday, 30 May 2013

Trinity Sunday 26 May 2013 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 26.5.13

This feast focuses on God Himself and what He is. So we don't fall into the trap of considering God only as He is useful to us!

God reveals Himself to be three Persons but not three gods. One nature (therefore ONE God) but three Persons, who dwell in perfect unity.

Each Person is not one-third of God, making up a coalition of three. Rather each Person IS God and whatever each Person does is done by God. There is no possibility of discord between the three Persons (as there would be in any group of three humans!). What one Person does would always be fully approved by the other two, thus accepting the action as their own.

This level of internal harmony is itself a revelation to us, so accustomed as we are to discord and compromise.

The inner life of the Trinity is essentially a giving and receiving of Love. Love begins with God. He had it first and then gives it to us.

God loves Himself as the three Persons love each other. God is self-sufficient. He did not create us because He needed someone to love, but in the overflow of His generosity wanted creatures to have some share of His own happiness.

We are very fortunate that He did make us and that we can share in that inner life, a fierce flow of love in which we are immersed.

By Baptism (Gospel) we are so immersed. God claims us as His own, adopting us as His children. He begins to dwell in us according to how much we let Him.

Being immersed we realize that He is so much bigger than we are; therefore hard to understand or to explain (Epistle)

When we talk of Him we are like a fish trying to talk about the whole ocean. The fish could only describe what he knows. But there is a lot more.

We can use symbols and analogies to describe God but we realize that there are not words enough to describe these things. We have to let ourselves be carried, as we are by poetry or music.

God is not a triangle or a shamrock. Nor is the Holy Spirit a dove. Images can help but they can also hinder. We must not limit God to any particular image.

In our inability to understand God fully we might be tempted to conclude that we do not need Him, contenting ourselves with whatever happiness we can squeeze from this life. But that would be only from ignorance of what else there is. In any case God wants us to have more.

Also there is a temptation to simplify God, as with those false religions which deny the divinity of Christ, and hence deny the Trinity.

Two things we must do straight away in the presence of God: Repent and Adore.

We fall on our faces and proclaim His glory, and we pray that He will enable us to participate more fully in His life. Included in this action is a plea for mercy, for the removal of sin.

How sad that people ignore, deny, or limit Almighty God. Today is a day for correcting that. A day of worship; simply saying how good God is. Let’s get this right for at least one day a year.

We salute God for His greatness. We could never praise Him enough. In Heaven they praise Him without ceasing and we should join in here.

Although we are focusing on God rather than ourselves we still benefit. Our praise of Him will lift us beyond narrow vision and gloomy thoughts, leading instead to faith and hope.

All glory to the One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Pentecost Sunday 19 May 2013 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 19.5.13 Come, Holy Spirit

When Our Lord promises to send the Holy Spirit it is to complete the process of revelation, so that we will possess God more fully. We always need more of God than we have.

Now He is ascending He will raise us to a higher level whereby we will be able to call upon God in a more intimate and a more powerful degree. This is the ‘internet’ of the spiritual world – instant access to God Himself.

Come Holy Spirit, we say, and He will come. That prayer will always be answered. He reserves the right to come in His own way according to each person and circumstance, but He certainly is willing to come.

When we ask Him to come we are flying blind: we must ask on His terms not ours. Come, re-arrange my life, direct me, use me in Your plans. I surrender proprietary rights over my life. Dispose of me as Thou wilt.

We cannot ask for just a little bit of divinity, just enough to solve my present problems.

We give God a blank cheque; He can write His own figure.

This is an interactive exchange not just a passive reception on our part.

Imagine a bottle being filled with liquid. Now, if you could imagine the bottle, once full, getting up and doing things. That is what happens to us. We are active containers, not just passive.

Then, imagine as the bottle fills up it expands and can take more of the liquid as it is receiving it. This is also what happens to us. The Holy Spirit will use us all the more as our capacity to receive Him increases.

Our capacity increases because we come to trust Him more, and desire Him more. We seek Him more eagerly and He comes more readily.

This is unexplored territory - what each of us can be, and what the Church can be. We could have progressed long ago but we have not prayed enough and not trusted enough.

We face the temptation always to limit God, as we hang on to the status quo, and say, Thus far and no further. All the while He is inviting us (without forcing us) to give ourselves into His hands, to make us into something great.

If we want to stay mediocre that is what will happen.

It is best to be as open as possible, not letting our fear restrict His influence.

This is much harder in one sense than just staying at a comfortable level of non-commitment, but also much happier. It is a real adventure story as we deal with this process.

All of this the apostles in the upper room discovered. They did not know what they would receive but they were ready to receive it.

One person in that room had already received the Holy Spirit, and that was Mary. She also had things to learn in the future, but in terms of union with God she was already perfect.

She helped the others, and she helps us now, to be more confident in yielding ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit. She enables the grace that will open our closed hearts.

It is very hard to open our own blockages, but if we at least expose ourselves to the grace the rest will follow.

We await the Holy Spirit. We have received Him but we always need more. May the whole Church and the whole world receive Him, as He deserves and needs to be received.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Sunday after Ascension 12 May 2013 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 12.5.13 Whose God?

Our Lord refers to probable persecution for those who follow Him. He predicts that those who persecute us will think that they are doing a good deed, ridding the world of error and trouble.

Is this not exactly the way atheists talk these days: that religion, and in particular the Catholic religion, is the very worst thing in the world and the source of most of the world’s evils?

There is much confusion abroad today as to what is the Truth, or where is the source of truth.

A lot of people just do not know what the truth is anymore, there being so many religions and points of view to choose from. They do not know their left hand from their right, or which way is up.

It is a relief to know that there is a way out of all this confusion: that, as we say in the Creed: Credo in unum Deum... I believe in ONE God, and only one. One is enough, and one is all there is.

A woman who supports ‘gay marriage’ wrote in the local paper that as far as religious arguments go, she hoped that any god believed in by people would be open to gay marriage.

A man once debated with me about abortion and he said he believed in abortion and also in God, only that his ‘god’ was pro-choice.

The assumption is that each one of us has our own ‘god’ as though we have the freedom to choose, like going to the shop to choose which things to buy.

‘My god’ says this: ‘your god’ says the opposite. Whose god is right? This is subjectivism gone mad.

We can cut through all this: Credo in Unum Deum! There IS only one God. Not because we happen to think so, but because it is objective reality.

It is not as though we have any choice as though we ‘prefer’ one god to the next. There is only one to pick from.

Indeed we can come to be glad that He does exist and He is the way He is, but it is entirely out of our hands to determine these matters. God is what He is regardless of our belief or approval.

This clarity makes it easier to know right from wrong. It all comes from God – reality itself, and any rules relating to it. It all must be referred to Him ultimately. There is no alternative way of looking at things, at least no true way. If we disregard Him we will reap a lot of trouble - and that we have already done.

Fortunately part of this one God’s nature is that He is merciful. He is slow to anger and rich in mercy (Ps 102,8). Just as well for all those who deny Him! But there will come a time when time runs out.

When we, as the Church, say to the world: you can't do this or that action (such as same-sex ‘marriage’) we are not saying these things for our own amusement or to hurt anyone’s feelings. We are simply saying what is what according to the God who made us, and keeps the whole universe in being.

It is not my God but THE God.

Meanwhile we will cop flak but at least let us be clear where we stand and why we continue to hold our beliefs.

We hold them because they are true and they appeal to reason as well as faith, but in any case there is no one else, nowhere else to go.

We will come to like whatever we do not yet understand. The one God is infinitely good; the more we know of Him the clearer everything else will become.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

5th Sunday after Easter 5 May 2013 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 5.5.13 What we need

Our Lord is encouraging us to ask for whatever we need from Him, or the Father. At other times we are encouraged to ask through Mary, or St Joseph, or other saints.

The overall message is that there is an abundance of chances for us to obtain whatever we seek, as there is an abundance of goodwill on God’s part to give it to us.

This is not exactly how we usually feel about it.

We are conscious rather that most of our prayers are not answered, or certainly not as quickly and as simply as this Gospel passage makes it sound.

As with all these Last Supper passages (John, chapters 13-17) the main point is that we need close union with Our Lord. And if we have that union we are assured of having every other thing we need.

He may not give us a million dollars but He will give us everything we need for this life and the next.

If we want a million dollars He will gently cure us of such cupidity and teach us holier thoughts. This is just what we don't want (at first). But when He says He will give us anything we want He reserves the right to change what we want; to form us in His own ways of looking at things.

So we come, sooner or later to an acceptance of His will as preferable to our own. This is a big step and not one likely to happen overnight; but it is the key to these promises.

If we cannot get what we want we want what we get! We love the will of God; we fall silent in adoration of His wisdom. How deep are His ways, how inscrutable (Rm 11,33-36).

When Solomon, as a young man, became king of Israel, he pleased God by asking for wisdom rather than riches or dominance over his enemies.

God was so pleased that he promised Solomon the other things as well, it being likely that Solomon would know how to handle them (3 Kings 3).

Maybe He will do the same for us, if we ask first for the spiritual gifts rather than material or physical benefits.

It is certain that our prayers for spiritual advancement will be heard and granted, even if other requests are denied.

We cannot have everything we want if our wanting is immature or wrongly based.

As children we would just want ice cream all day. As adults we want cars or houses or other things according to age and taste.

But who wants Christ, or God, or heavenly things? These are acquired tastes!

Who really believes that to possess Jesus Christ is all we need? We believe it, to a point, but we still want the other things as well.

Not necessary if we have Him.

It comes to this: ‘ask for anything and you will receive it’ translates to ‘you will receive it if I want you to have it’. Ask for whatever you want becomes Ask for whatever I (Jesus) want (for you)!

This might sound like a letdown but with the necessary amount of wisdom being supplied we are very happy to let Our Lord decide what is best for us.

So many people have abandoned the faith because of some disappointment or tragedy in their lives. They did not grasp the message that the possessing of God is enough.

With His help we will grasp that message and we will actually live by it, having all our desires re-arranged around it.

Ask for this, and we certainly shall have it.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

4th Sunday after Easter 28 Apr 2013 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 28.4.13 Christ within us

We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We are supposed to resemble Him in the way we live, the way we think, speak and act.

We are immediately conscious that we are not enough like Him as we should be.

How can we be like Him? It is not enough that we imitate Him. We should imitate Him certainly, but we will not be able to do that just by our own strength.

We need Him to be inside us, in the control room, thinking for us, acting in us. Then we will see some progress!

We must ask Him to dwell within us, such as we do when we receive Him in Holy Communion. The more we ask Him, the more seriously we seek Him, the more of Him we shall have.

We tend to ask for ‘things’ that we need but it is far more important what sort of person we are than whether or not we get the particular thing we are asking for.

So it is better to be humble, kind, generous etc (Christlike qualities) than to have lesser blessings such as health or food or employment (important as these things are).

In the Last Supper discourse (from which today’s Gospel comes) Our Lord is promising us some very rich blessings, but they are blessings which may take a while to understand.

He is promising to send the Holy Spirit, which is effectively His own Spirit, His own nature, His goodness, power, love - everything about Himself which we are capable of receiving.

This is better than getting just food and shelter and having our basic needs met.

The Holy Spirit will enable us to be what we need to be. The more of the Holy Spirit we have the more like Jesus we become. The answer to every prayer is be more like Jesus, to possess more of Him. This will solve all our problems in one hit. If we are like Jesus the rest becomes easy.

So Our Lord tells the Church: I am not leaving you. It may look I am gone but in fact I will be closer to you than ever. I will be dwelling within you. My Spirit will tell you everything you need to know and enable you to do everything you need to do.

He is forming the Church, a slow steady process. See His patient build up of the apostles over three years. While He does want the Church to grow quickly He also wants that it be a solid structure on strong foundations, not about to collapse under the winds of persecution or change.

There has to be at all times this connection with the identity of Jesus, with His actual person. He is not just a leader giving out orders. He is the head of the Body, giving us His life blood, the very stamp of His personality.

The Church can never be itself unless we have this sense of identity stamped on everything we are and do. We are not just an organization doing a job.

We always need to go back and derive a little more of the presence of Jesus (or Holy Spirit) to be more who and what we are.

He forms us; smooths off the rough edges. How worldly we can still be; how unperceptive of spiritual realities.

We wonder why He hides Himself. But He is leading us to a greater self-understanding.

What you see is not what you get, in this case; we get a great deal more than we see!

People are so cynical about the Church, and even we can be cynical, seeing only the faulty human side of things. But if we draw deep on our real identity we become what we are, the Body of Christ, enlivened by the Spirit of Christ.