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!