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.