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.