Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Mass times over Christmas

Christmas Day Mass is at 8am St Monica's, Walkerville.

There is no evening Mass at Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh on Christmas Day.

Holy Name Church has Christmas Mass at Midnight, 7am, and 9.15am.

All other weekdays are the same as usual at St Monica's, including Thursday 1st Jan, Mass at 8am.

Happy Christmas to all!

Fr David Thoroughgood

Thursday, 18 December 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent 14 Dec 2014

3rd Sunday of Advent 14.12.14 Joy

We say to each other: How are you? We answer, Oh, just fine!

It may not be true, we feel as we say it. But we know it is usually too hard to go into all the details.

However if we were to consider the question over a longer time span, say a hundred years – we really can say, Just fine – because over that sort of time span the will of God takes effect and we ourselves hope to be in Heaven. If that is the end of the story it all becomes worthwhile.

Still, though, we would like to have a happier time of the present, the meantime.

Where can we find the joy to which St Paul exhorts us? (Ph 4, epistle)

To begin with, it is no small thing that the whole world and everything in it belongs to God.

If we ever think that God is remote, well, He is not. Every particle of the world around us, and every moment of time is in His hands. He is fully aware of it all.

We just need to connect with Him. Then His goodness and power will be evident to us and we will be re-assured in our various anxieties, and pure joy will start to emerge.

We certainly do have anxieties. The same St Paul who tells us to ‘rejoice always’ also said that We are hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted, struck down. Yet: we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Co 4,16-18).

Being joyful in Christ does not mean we have to ignore the problems and say that everything is fine, when clearly it is not. We can face the problems head on, and stare them down.

Whatever the problems are the power of God is much greater and it is only a matter of time before His strength prevails.

Joy is like a weapon that we can use; an assertion of the power of God in transforming reality to the desired state. The joy of the Lord is my strength (Neh 8,10).

But how do we retrieve this power? I know the Lord delivered the Israelites from Egypt and worked many other miracles. I know He will come again in glory, but where is He now? Can we summon up a miracle in the present?

God is always the same. He does not tire, does not weaken, and does not forget His promises.

All we have to do is call upon His power/goodness/joy and things will start improving straight away.

God is acting here and that must be a good thing.

Within God Himself everything is in perfect order. It is His nature, His eternal perfection. Whatever He creates shares in that perfection

He does not create defective beings. What we see as defective around us is the result of sin.
It was not meant to be so.

When we turn to God we are allowing His natural order to re-emerge in the world. People and things will start to behave as they were always intended to do.

There will be miracles, and there will be a lot of just ordinary everyday goodness.

There will be pain because it is work-in-process. We cannot iron out all the troubles at once, but we can make ourselves feel a lot better about life in general.

We are in the same position as the fictional heroes who are in trouble on every page but finally come good at the end. One book which is not fiction has this ending: He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21,4).

Thursday, 11 December 2014

2nd Sunday of Advent 7 Dec 2014 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 7.12.14 The word of life

When Our Lord lists off the various things He has been doing for people the one at the end of the list is interesting - The poor have the good news preached to them. This is different to all the other items in the list. They all concern some sort of physical improvement; this one just concerns preaching.

Many would dismiss preaching as rather useless. Preaching is just words, and what use are they?

But preaching of the word of God enables direct contact between the receiver of the word and God Himself. It enables the receiver of the word to grasp the meaning of his life.

They say: Don’t just give the man a fish, but teach him how to fish. But we could say further: don’t just teach him how to fish, teach him how to live. Teach him what his life is for, why he was created, the promise of eternal life etc.

When Our Lord healed people He also forgave them their sins.

The physical healing was the thing that people noticed, but the spiritual healing was the more important.

There is another stage still. Our Lord does not just heal the body, nor just the soul.

He invites each person to be His disciple; to undergo a complete renewal of heart and mind.

If Jesus walks into my room, and heals me with a word, I can say, OK, He is a good doctor, and I might try to leave it there.

But He comes with a whole package for Salvation. He offers final glorification, but also here and now, transformation of the whole person.

This much glorification we can have straight away. The ability to live in freedom, love, justice - according to the will of God - this is living like a saved person, a child of the kingdom.

All the prophecies come to this.

The great blockage is that this truth has not taken hold worldwide. People have remained too much in the merely physical domain.

The Postcommunion prayer today asks that we despise earthly things and love heavenly. In reality we probably love earthly things a lot more, because they are more immediate to us.

It takes spiritual maturity to reach the level where we can honestly say we would rather have heavenly graces than material or physical blessings.

Our Lord, in speaking to John the Baptist’s disciples, is merely hinting at the power available to one who really seeks to know.

How many Christians are still there when it comes to this? Remember the one leper who came back? Do we just take the healing and run. Or do we come back, giving thanks, and prepared to make a commitment as a disciple.

We say effectively: Anyone who can do me that much good is alright with me, and I will give him my whole allegiance. I don’t know what it will lead to but I can see that I am better off with Him than anywhere else.

There is salvation in no other name. I cannot do better than he himself does it. There is only one saviour and I am not it!

So when the good news is preached to the poor, what becomes of them? They become exceedingly rich. They become disciples, and so being, they are able to operate as transformed people. They might still not have much money, but they have discovered the precious pearl, the kingdom of God. Worth more than all else put together.

May we make that same discovery each time we hear the word of God.

Friday, 5 December 2014

1st Sunday of Advent 30 Nov 2014 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 30.11.14 Salvation

We need Advent to understand Christmas properly.

If we are to celebrate the coming of the Saviour we need to realize there is something we are being saved from – which is sin and death.

So we need a penitential season to get us in an appropriate amount of relief that the Saviour is coming.

The Saviour comes to bring Salvation. Salvation is a complex thing.

It is not just like say, if I gave you a million dollars you could put it in your pocket and walk off.

But salvation is not like that, though it is a free gift. Salvation is a process, a relationship.

We are not saved passively or inertly as though we are simply lifted up from earth and put down somewhere in heaven.

We are saved only when we make a fully free and conscious decision to live in ongoing union with Almighty God.

He wants us to live in an ongoing covenant with Him, whereby we trust and obey Him at all times. He, for His part, will reward us with eternal life and help us negotiate all the troubles of this life.

The more actively we join in on this process the better it works.

Salvation is not a ‘quick-fix’. This is why we cannot always get what we pray for, or have everything the way we like it.

God will grant some of our prayers and not others, but He is not inconsistent.

He is working towards an overall goal which is to lead each person to this relationship of trust.

Accordingly we have to be patient with God. His plans can take centuries or even millennia to take full effect.

Whenever we encounter a long wait there is always a temptation to discouragement.

We are tempted to say God has abandoned us; has forgotten His promises. There is no salvation for us. Maybe He acted in the past, but He is not acting now etc etc…

But the truth is He is still very much with us, and His grace is active in our midst.

And the effect of this grace will be to enable us to act. Despite this long time span there are still certain things we can do to bring about at least some instant improvement.

While we have to be patient we do not have to be inactive. We can get our own lives in order at least, and live in the daylight not the dark, as the epistle tells us.

If we are living holy lives, constantly repenting and correcting our faults, then we will be ready at any time for either our own death or any decisive intervention by Almighty God in history.

This is the covenant to which we are called. This is how we live it.

So it becomes an ongoing activity which takes us a whole lifetime to bring to fruition.

And this another reason why we cannot see all the answers at once, but we still believe there are answers in place.

We have not simply been abandoned.

We can pray for God’s miraculous intervention but we know that most of the hard work is done in everyday fidelity to duty and patient acceptance of the sufferings we encounter.

God works from within more than from the outside (cf the Incarnation).

The miracles help when they happen, but most of the work is found in the daily detail.

This is how we are saved. Come, Lord Jesus!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Last Sunday after Pentecost 23 November 2014 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 23.11.14 The end of everything

We come to the Last Sunday of the Church year.

The prayers and readings naturally put us in mind of the last stages of time; the last moment of our lives; the last moments of the world itself.

It is an exciting, perhaps frightening topic. How will it all end?

Each year we say the same thing: I don’t know where this year has gone.

We have a sense of time rushing away. This should translate into a sense of urgency that we make sure we are ready for our own ‘going’. If time goes so fast then that must mean the end of my own life is approaching fast.

But it is easy to miss that connection; to amble along as though we have forever to get our spiritual affairs in order; to put off indefinitely the settling of accounts for when the Master returns.

The end of the year gives us a chance to contemplate the end of our lives and the end of the world.

‘End’ can have two meanings. End as in ‘finish’; and end as in ‘purpose’.

We could just avoid thinking about the certain end (finish) of our lives, and carry on as though it will never happen.

Or we can face matters squarely and say that while I still have time I will organise myself so that I am living life as it is meant to be lived. I am living for the end (purpose) until the end (finish).

The purpose of our lives is made clear in our Catholic faith - that we are created by God to know, love, and serve Him; to live in such a way that according to the talents He has given each person; and the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we will spend every moment in accord with His holy will.

This we do for all the time that remains for us, whether short or long.

Many believe in God but act as though He is not there. Maybe they think they will deal with Him when the time comes (death). But we have to deal with Him now. The principle of crossing each bridge as we come to it works for some things but not death and judgment.

Am I ready to die today? This is a question which must always be before us because we might die today. We can never say with certainty that we will be alive 24 hours from now.

The language of today’s Gospel, and similar biblical passages, is meant to stir us into a closer consciousness of these things.

Human nature is inclined to complacency. If the sky is blue and there is no earthquake or volcano actually in process we can sit back and say, It all seems plain sailing. Plenty of time to reform my life.

But even if there were no judgment it would still be the best thing to live in union with God and His holy will.

We want to be ready anyway, not just to handle crises that might emerge, but because it is the best way to be. We have discovered the end (purpose) of our lives before the end (finish).

The ‘threat’ passages of the Bible are conditional. If enough people actually do repent the terrible things foreshadowed need not happen.

The passages are there just so the things they describe will not need to happen.

We can take all the trauma out of dying and judgment, just by getting things right in good time.

If we put it off and put it off eventually the time will run out. One more year will go by and we will no longer be here to wonder where it went. Where then, did we go?

Thursday, 20 November 2014

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 16 Nov 2014 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 16.11.14 Patient trust

The fallen angels rebelled against God because they thought they were equal to Him, or better.

Humans do much the same thing. They will challenge God, put Him on trial, tell Him what He should be doing.

Human beings are capable of many things but we must remember where it all comes from.

It all hinges on this: can we believe we are created by someone higher than ourselves; or do we think we have just happened into existence, with no one above us?

We are tempted by the devil to throw off all subservience to God and so decide our own destiny.

This temptation is at its strongest when things go wrong for us, or when we meet difficulties.

It needs time for faith to show its fruits. We have become accustomed to things happening at lightning speed (eg computers). But we cannot always have lightning speed in matters of faith.

In fact some things take centuries or millennia to happen.

We have to let God do things His way. He is not obliged to tell us anything.

We can ask Him to make His power and goodness evident and He will do that. But there are times when He will leave us in the mists of unknowing, giving us a chance to grow in wisdom and faith.

We have to be patient with God.

Some of God's blessings are mainly for the future. Resurrection of the body is a case in point.

Many will say they don’t believe in life after death because they have never seen anyone come back.

Some people have come back, not least Jesus Himself. But the point is that God has it within His power to raise the dead, whenever He pleases. It is no harder for Him to bring a person back to life than to create a life in the first place.

So far resurrections are rare, but we are told that all the dead will rise up on the last day. We will see then what we cannot see now.

It is so arrogant if we stand before God and say, I don’t believe this or that, because it does not fit into my time scale or my experience.

We know nothing before the majesty of God (See Job 38-42).

We believe in God, Creator of all that is, seen and unseen.

The unseen things are often more important than the seen. But what we have seen is a huge indication of what else there might be.

As we contemplate any part of God's creation we are left wondering: Where did all this come from? It must have been from a higher intelligence, and a benign intelligence as well.

If we can humble ourselves - like the woman who touched the hem of His garment (Gospel) - we will receive what we ask, or at least equivalent blessings.

We need a Saviour, someone smarter and better than we are. And we have Him. From Heaven comes the Saviour who will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into glorious copies of His likeness (epistle, Ph 3).

It is God's wish (in His time) to restore the soul and raise the body of each person; also to recreate the world, freeing it from the effects of sin.

Are we still along for the ride or did we get out along the way because of some grievance with God; still trying to tell Him what to do?

Just stay on board and we will come out alright.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica 9 Nov 2014 Sermon

Dedication of the Lateran Basilica 9.11.14 Unity

We live in an age where the rights and liberty of the individual are considered paramount.

Today’s feast gives us a much more corporate and balanced understanding of the matter.

The Lateran Basilica is the Cathedral church of Rome. It is therefore the central church in the centre of the Church, the church which more than any other in the world represents the unity of the Catholic Church.

This unity is something which partially we have, and partially we are still praying for.

Our unity stems from Christ Himself. He founded the Church which would be a visible link with Himself. Those who belong to this Church are united with Him and with each other.

Our Lord said He would found the Church on rock and now we have become a big rock. Not, however, a rock that is meant to crush, but to be a foundation on which we can stand.

The existence of the Church gives us a secure foundation for our individual lives. Without the Church we would not know Jesus Christ. It was the Church that gave us the Bible. It was the Church that has preached and taught the Gospel in every age since the time of Christ.

Many challenge the Catholic Church’s claim to teach the truth. We do not make this claim out of any sense that we are better or smarter than other people; only that Our Lord has guaranteed that the Holy Spirit would guide the Church in all important matters.

This is divine activity not human. We do not claim credit for it; we simply recognize the action of God when He does act.

Unity of Christians does not require that we all agree on everything – just the essentials.

We can have cultural differences regarding clothes, food, music and the like. We can have different personal preferences, for all sorts of things.

But we cannot have different beliefs when it comes to basic doctrines and practices.

Many Catholics in fact do not believe the same things as the Church teaches; nor do they observe the Church’s rulings on certain matters of morality or sacramental practice.

This is one of the perils of living in an individualistic age. We have the right to think for ourselves but not the right to pit our own individual wisdom against the wisdom of God Himself, as revealed through the Church.

So we can think for ourselves but there is still only one right answer (on the basic things at least).

Some will say that doctrines are not so important; that it is what we do that counts.

There is, however, no need for conflict between theory and practice; between having the right doctrines and living them out in practice.

We will not step over a poor man at our front gate so that we can go to Mass.

Nor will we feed the poor man, and then not go to Mass.

We can do both. We can meet all obligations to God and Neighbour, by the help of God’s grace.

Today, we give thanks for the unity we already have, and we pray for what is still lacking.

Our Lord Himself prayed for the unity of His disciples, as we see in John 17,21… that they may all be one.

He must have been looking into the future when He prayed that prayer!

What a tangle we have made of it, as of most issues.

Only God can answer His own prayer. We can help by not forgetting that we have a corporate as well as an individual identity.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

21st Sunday after Pentecost 2 Nov 2014 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 2.11.14 Complete Forgiveness

Today would normally be All Souls Day, but because it falls on a Sunday, the day of Resurrection, its observance will be kept tomorrow.

However, we can still think about the souls and pray for them.

The souls in Purgatory have been forgiven for their sins, but are not yet ready for Heaven because they still carry some scars from those sins.

To enter Heaven it is necessary to be free of all imperfection.

In the light of today’s Gospel we can think of one imperfection which just about everyone would suffer from: namely, the difficulty of forgiving those who offend us.

If the souls in Purgatory have this problem we pray for them. We pray for ourselves that we can sort this out before we die.

An ‘offence’ is anything that upsets us whether the other person was intending it or not, or even aware of it. Forgiveness is more about our state of mind than the other person’s.

Each indulged feeling of resentment is a blockage to the love and mercy of God. It has to be removed, to let the grace flow.

We can use reason. In calmer moments we see that a lot of our resentment is unnecessary and it blows over quickly. eg a minor traffic incident.

Other times we would have good reason to feel aggrieved at the way someone has treated us.

It may be much harder to forgive in these cases, eg someone steals your life savings, or harms someone you love.

But we are told: Bless them that persecute you; bless, and curse not.(Rm 12,14) And: … if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him to drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head.(Rm 12,20)

We find this hard, yet, in the light of today’s parable it should be easy. All we have to do is pass on a small fraction of the love God has already extended to us.

He has forgiven us a large debt; can we not forgive a much smaller debt?

Reason tells us this much,

But we have passions which reason cannot easily control. If we had never sinned our reason would be in control all the time. But our thoughts and feelings are all over the place as a result of sin, and living in a sin-infested world.

We may know our resentments are silly and illogical but we still have them. We need divine grace to clean out the system; to enable us to think and feel as we should.

We need the grace to think like Jesus Himself as He hung on the Cross, and could still pray for those putting Him to death!

That is ordered thinking. If ever someone had a legitimate grievance it was Jesus in this position. This was the most unjust act ever committed in history, or that could ever be conceived, and yet He can calmly forgive it, giving full rein to divine mercy.

We could not do this by ourselves but we can do it with His help.

If we open ourselves to His forgiveness (and He included us when He said: Father, forgive them) then we are going to be able to do the same as Jesus did.

We will have nothing but goodwill towards those who have offended us, wanting them to know the mercy of God as we have known it.

How do we know if we have forgiven everyone? It may not be possible as a lot of our hurts are subconscious and may be way in the past. But it is more the attitude of forgiveness that we are cultivating. We can then forgive everything without necessarily even knowing what it was.

Forgiveness does not require that the offenders are sorry; only that we do not resent what they have done. We pray that they will be sorry where they need to be. We hope they are saved, and we will be glad to see them in Heaven. Strong stuff, but possible in the strength of Christ’s saving sacrifice.

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Feast of Christ the King 26 Oct 2014 Sermon

Christ the King 26.10.14 Our response

This feast was established in 1925 to re-assert the authority of Christ on an increasingly complicated world.

Pope Pius XI was pointing out something that should have been obvious – that Christ is ruler of the world, transcending all national boundaries and cultures. If you are a human being you come under His authority.

It is His world; He made it; He keeps it in being. Many want it otherwise, but no one can escape His ultimate authority. At some point each person has to come to terms with Him, if only at the point of death and judgment.

With this being so, nations or states should obey the will of God in setting their laws, which should not go against the higher law of God. And the citizens of the world should see obedience to God as more imperative than obedience to the law of their land.

It is hard to get even one person to obey the law of God. It is harder by far when we are trying to organize millions. But it does help if we can see the whole picture.

This feast gives us a chance to recall the essential simplicity of choice that we have.

No matter what we call nations – be they republics, monarchies, colonies – or what we call their leaders – presidents, prime ministers, kings – when we get right down to it we have two choices.

Imagine going to vote and before you are just two choices – are you for Christ or against Him? Yes or No, Heaven or Hell. Do you accept or reject the King?

This is what it comes to, no matter what other structures are in place.

The authority of Christ is absolute but He prefers not to use force. He wants to draw people to Himself by love.

He is like the husband looking for his adulterous wife, as God looked for Israel (cf Hosea).

This is His preferred way of doing things. He could easily force our consent, and punish us if we refuse, but He wants to convince us to give our own consent to His plans.

With His help this is what we are doing. We vote for the King. We want things to happen exactly as He wants them (Thy will be done). May His kingdom come among us. May this world reflect as fully as possible the world of Heaven, where there is obedience to God, and love between neighbours.

God wants a covenant relationship with us, a peaceful kingdom where wolf and lamb are at peace (Is 11,6).

We are a long way from that. But in any case we know what we have to do. We identify with the King whether He is being crucified or exalted.

To cling to the truth, to hold to what is right, is not only the best, but the only thing to do.

Most people today reject the Kingship of Christ. Some would do this outright; others would do it indirectly by following the crowd, keeping up with the trends. It is easy to lose one’s faith if we do that.

Many even have the audacity to declare that God does not exist; that they can govern themselves. (If there is no god then humans are the highest intelligence around; and that is frightening!)

Pius XI probably did not achieve what he wanted but this feast has helped to give us a foundation to build on.

We go higher than elections and polls and go to where the truth is to be found; and also the grace to live that truth. There is great joy in such a life.

And we save as many as we can from falling in the pit - which is where people go when the blind lead the blind (Mt 15,14).

Long live, Christ the King!

Thursday, 23 October 2014

19th Sunday after Pentecost 19 Oct 2014 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 19.10.14 All are invited

With the Synod on the Family in recent days there is much discussion about the Catholic Church.

It is said that we are not welcoming insofar as we put restrictions on who is eligible to receive Holy Communion.

We do this because as St Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 11,29 - he who eats unworthily of the body of the Lord will bring harm on himself.

This refers to what we have come to call ‘sacrilegious Communions’, which are themselves another sin on top of the already existing sin.

As far as ‘welcoming’ or being ‘hospitable’ goes should not the host warn the guest if something he reaches out to eat would harm him?

And the Church goes further, in our concern for each person, to warn against sin of every kind. In this we follow Our Lord, who taught that if our hand should cause us to sin we should cut it off, and if our eye, then pluck it out (Mt 5,29). He did not mean it literally but He did mean us to take the lesson that sin is not something we should treat lightly.

This is just the plain Gospel, so if we are to proclaim the Gospel we cannot leave this part out.

We also proclaim the mercy and compassion of Christ. We believe He is merciful but we understand that we must make some effort to break with our sin, and not simply presume on His mercy to cover all the damage we create. He forgave the woman caught in adultery but also told her, Go and sin no more (Jn 8,11).

We exclude no one who has a serious desire to come to eternal life.

Some will have to do certain things before they can receive Holy Communion. If their lives are in a state of mortal sin they must break free from that sin. This requirement is represented in today’s parable by the wedding garment. Everyone is welcome to the banquet but only if they are prepared to keep the rules of the banquet (wear the special garment).

These days many call for full inclusion in the Church but also claim the right to hold different beliefs from the Church. This is not possible. We must be either all in or all out – just as if we were travelling on a boat - and that is an image for the Church.

Everyone is meant to be a member of the Church, which is just another way of saying ‘child of God’ or ‘disciple of Jesus Christ’. We are all called to these things. It is not as though the Church is for some and not others.

We help each other to be ready for the banquet. We are all sinners, so we all need help (cf epistle).

If we sin we do not despair but we work on it, knowing there must be a way free, because it is God’s wish to set us free.

He can help me with whatever my particular problem is. We do not have to be perfect to be here, but at least not defiantly sinful.

The Church does not hate sinners, not even the worst sinners. We wish them to be saved, and we leave the doors open for them to find their way to God.

We will help anyone who wants full communion with the Church to achieve that.

This is as inclusive as it gets. We offer not only full membership but full union with God, and a future place in Heaven.

It is not necessary to change our teaching to be compassionate to sinners; compassion is already in our teaching. The best favour we can do those outside (and inside) the Church is to live by the truth that God has revealed to us. That truth includes mercy and gentleness, so no one will come to any harm. We all stand to gain.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

18th Sunday after Pentecost 12 Oct 2014 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 12.10.14 Healing on the inside

Our Lord is challenged as to His authority to forgive sins. He responds by healing the same man of his sickness. He thus indicates that He has a great deal of power at His disposal. He can demonstrate only so far as human vision is capable of going. But the inference is that He can do a lot more things that are beyond human capacity to perceive.

The overall message is that He is someone we should trust. You could safely buy a used car from this Man! The car would run.

Our Lord is showing us He has the power and the desire to heal the whole person, body and soul.

He wants to give us as much as we are prepared to receive. There is no limit to His power but there usually is a limit to how receptive we are. We tend to obstruct the grace of God because we cling to our present state.

He offers light, we prefer the dark. He offers freedom, we prefer the chains of sin. Why do we prefer the negative alternative? It is what we know. We are afraid of changing too much too soon, so we cling to our vices. Sometimes we want to be healed and we have flashes of brilliance. Other times we do not want the healing and we crash back into sin.

We think this is normal, this zigzagging between good and evil. We don’t believe it is possible to be good all the time. Partly we don’t believe it; partly we don’t want it.

But with whom are we dealing here? Someone who can put together the whole universe.

The crowd were impressed when Our Lord raised the sick, or the dead. Who is this Man? What is He not capable of? He could have worked a lot more miracles. He could have raised every sick person and every dead one, for that matter. With just a word, or a nod.

There is no doubt of His power; yet still we may not respond. We can still be stuck in a very narrow vision of what is possible in our own case.

It can be that we have little expectation, and little desire, to change our lives. We would not mind changing circumstances, such as having less problems; but we don’t expect our attitude or behaviour to change.

So we resist His power to heal us on the inside, even if subconsciously.

We do want to change, after all. We want it and we don’t want it. We accept His grace and we resist it.

We find we need His help to receive His help! Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief (Mk 9,24).

Transform me within, so that all my desires and thoughts will be according to Your holy will.

If possible, heal my body too. The body is the one thing we cannot guarantee because it is subject to frailty and must eventually die. Still it is always worth a try to seek bodily healing through prayer.

But it is always God’s will to heal us in the soul. He may will us to stay sick in the body, but never would He want us to remain in a state of sin.

We are not condemned to a lifetime in jail – we can walk free from selfishness, pride, lust, and all the rest.

Our Lord proved He had great power. He also has the knowledge of where we most need healing. He knows our deepest need and can meet it.

Our deepest need is this: to be forgiven for our sin; to be totally cleansed of its effects; to be transformed so that we now desire good as much as previously we desired the fruits of sin.

This is the happiness to which we are called. We will achieve it if we let Our Lord deal with us on His terms not ours. Let Him take us to places that we may not have wanted to go, or thought possible. But when we get there we will be glad we did.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

17th Sunday after Pentecost 5 Oct 2014 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.14 Full unity

There is a solution to all the world’s troubles and it is not just tolerating each other’s errors!

We are called to peace (epistle). Peace is not just the absence of killing but a complete unity between people, not just co-existence but faith, faith in Christ, belonging to the Body of Christ.

The human race is meant to live in joyful unity, every person on the face of the earth acknowledging their Creator and Saviour. (And Mary as Mother, also.)

We might as well get all of it right if we are going to get any of it right.

The usual idea is to reduce religious belief to its lowest common denominator where it becomes no more than a noble sentiment (eg that we should all live in peace).

But in fact religion makes sense only if it is followed through to its logical conclusions. If we believe in a God who made us, who saves us, who makes certain demands of us – how can we then proceed as though He does not feature in our decision-making?

It has to be true religion, of course. False religions muddy the waters. But there is truth that needs to be discovered and believed in. How else can we understand the world?

The true religion is that which teaches that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and is Himself God. (epistle and gospel)

Religion is often reduced to the private domain. You can believe whatever you want but don’t try to get me to believe it… But there is only one truth in these matters. Many beliefs but only one truth.

St Paul is asserting in today’s epistle the oneness of all these crucial points. One Lord, one faith, one baptism… and we would add today, one Church (Catholic).

This is a call to everyone to find out who they are, what they are, where they came from and where they are going. It is all explained through this oneness of faith.

To see this is to be on the way to the solution. It is the only hope for the world.

People suppress this truth because they think it will be divisive. And they also think it is too hard to live by.

In recent centuries the false idea has arisen that people can be governed without reference to God (separation of Church and State). Many in the Church hold this false idea.

Yet God is Lord of all His creation. Jesus Christ is King of kings, Lord of lords.

He must be acknowledged if we have any hope of having the right laws, and the right way of conducting ourselves.

We cannot reduce Jesus to just one among many solutions. We cannot restrict Him to the realm of private belief. He must be at the centre of all our decisions, personal and communal.

If the King is not obeyed we have a very unruly kingdom - and that is what we do have.

We should not wish him other than He is. If we align ourselves with Him we will see every blessing, in this life and the next.

It needs a lot more confidence from those who do believe. We may not be that strong in belief but we have to grow into the fulness of faith.

St Paul is praying this for his people because he knows that many of them will be wobbly in faith. They will need encouragement to hold on to the life-line they have been thrown.

We ask the Lord to sustain our faith when everyone is telling us we are crazy.

The things we believe do not get any less true. We can ask for the easiest possible ride but we cannot expect an armchair ride all the way. More like a roller-coaster ride, but eventually at rest.

May the Lord deliver and sustain us, until all is complete.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

16th Sunday after Pentecost 28 Sep 2014 Humility

16th Sunday after Pentecost 28.9.14 Humility

God makes us all and we believe He has a special purpose for each one.

We have a role to play that is unique to each person. Apart from any role each person is a unique soul and important to God, even if not valued by other people.

So every homeless person that dies in some isolated place is of great importance to God.

For our part we all want to serve God, and be useful to humanity.

Sometimes we wonder why God does not give us more gifts so that we could be more useful.

For instance, if we had more knowledge we could cure cancer, or solve other problems, or invent new things.

We would all like to be more gifted than we are. Maybe brighter, better-looking, more capable in general, braver, maybe richer. And younger… and on and on we could think of qualities we would like more of.

And most of these we don’t get! We have to put up with how we are, and that is usually very limited.

Some people are exceptionally gifted, and that is, as the word says, ‘exceptional’. That means everyone else is not exceptionally gifted.

We are probably part of ‘everyone else’, not setting the world on fire.

One reason we can see why Almighty God does not entrust us with all these gifts is to keep us humble.

There is a danger that if we had too many abilities we could give way to pride and use those abilities to work against the will of God.

Human history gives many cases of talented people advancing their own cause and not the Kingdom of God. All of history’s tyrants, for example.

Of all the qualities we have, the most important is that we be in union with God Himself.

Union with God is our life itself. We are dead spiritually if we do not have that.

I could be the best tennis player, the smartest scientist, the most witty conversationalist; but I am not even alive if I do not have God’s life in my soul.

To be aware of this is to be humble, the quality highlighted in today’s parable (take the lowest place).

Humility is knowledge of God’s infinite greatness and my own nothingness by comparison.

We all take the lowest place in relation to God Himself. We do not concern ourselves with comparisons with other people.

Others may be more or less gifted than I am. Let them be. My task is to be exactly who and what God wants me to be.

This is the best way I can serve humanity; also the best way to find happiness.

The saints give us the example. All saints are noted for their humility. Our Lady, the greatest saint, was also the most humble.

She was sinless, meaning she never opposed her will to that of God. Every sin is an act of pride on our part.

Mary’s humility enabled her to be totally an instrument in God’s hands and meant that He could entrust her with such important tasks as she had.

If we are truly humble we can expect to be entrusted with more gifts (cf parable of talents).

If God can see that we are capable of basing everything on His will He is more likely to trust us with greater things.

If we break from His authority we will lose whatever gifts we had.

It is hard for us to be indifferent to human esteem. We would all like to be thought well of by others.

But here again we are far more likely to be esteemed if we are in right relationship with God.

We will then be more useful to others because we have more grace working within us and we will achieve greater things.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

15th Sunday after Pentecost 21 Sep 2014 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 21.9.14 Conversion

The son is restored to his mother. A marvellous event in itself, and also for what it suggests – the restoration of many sons to their Mother, the Church.

Jesus heals with a word. And so in the sacrament of Penance He heals with a word of forgiveness.

We are accustomed to hearing of the wonders of the Lord. In the Gospels, it seems that every chapter contains a miracle. We hear these and we believe them.

Yet somehow, perhaps with a tinge of sadness, we do not expect such things to happen to us.

Nothing happens to us, it seems! But we still need miracles. There are a lot of things in the world that are not as they should be. And they are beyond our power alone to change.

The miracle of forgiveness is still with us, and happens all the time. Someone goes to Confession and is restored to life, given back to Mother Church. There is no public celebration, but it is a great thing all the same.

We might believe in this much of a miracle. But can we go further and believe that large-scale conversions of sinners and unbelievers can happen in our day?

We are tempted to discouragement as we see the size of the problem and think it is too big to be overcome. For example, as we contemplate the loss of the younger generations to the Church. We can feel the sadness of the woman of Naim, but we cannot seem to get the happy ending that came to her.

We are at a fork in the road. We have a decision to make. How to react. Do we give way to despair, or do we change things for the better?

We can adopt a come-what-may attitude, leaving things to turn out as they may. Or we can apply ourselves to vigorous prayer and action to bring back the lost children.

Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear (Is 59,1)

As far as miracles go, that of converting sinners is the most urgent. The other ones are important too, but Conversion stands at the very heart of the matter.

To be at rights with God is more important than physical safety, good health, having food to eat etc. If we have Him we have eternal life.

Do we believe that the Lord can, in our time, bring about the conversion of a sinner?

We believe it can happen, and it does happen. But we also are prone to discouragement and to ease off on our prayer as our expectations contract.

We can be so knocked about by the difficulties we see on all sides that when it comes to pray we lack confidence.

We might think certain individuals, or certain types of people, are too hard to convert.

Yet miracles do happen.

We must be concerned for the danger that faces souls who are distant from God.

Moved by this concern and remembering the power of God we commit to prayer.

We lament whatever is wrong, but only as much as necessary to motivate us to action.

We pray to save as many as we can. And act in whatever way will help.

We focus on the goodness of God rather than the evil of the world. Our confidence and energy rise as we do this.

We talk of better days the Church has seen. If those were the days these are the days too. With the Lord’s help we will make them so.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Exaltation of the Holy Cross 14 Sep 2014 Sermon

Exaltation of the Holy Cross 14.9.14

Every organisation has some sort of emblem or logo that announces who it is. The most recognizable symbol of the Christian faith is the Cross.

The choice of the Cross might seem a strange one, given that it highlights suffering. And most organisations would not try to attract interest that way.

Yet we have crosses everywhere. In churches, homes, on rosary beads, large and small. And we make the Sign of the Cross at regular intervals. We are thus reminded of how central the Cross is to our whole lives.

There are those who would tell us to remove the Cross. To the Jews a scandal, to the Greeks, madness, as St Paul puts it.

A ‘scandal’ to some because it emphasizes death, and apparent defeat. ‘Madness’ to others, because why would you emphasise pain when pleasure is the quest?

Many admire the general teachings of Christianity but cannot endure the idea of sacrifice or suffering. Take the cross away and all will be fine, they say. So people have always been trying to take Christ off the cross; others trying to take the Cross away altogether.

We will not try to remove either. Instead we hope to honour and exalt the Cross; to understand and live by it. For what it is, and what it has done.

What it is: The Cross is both the worst and the best moment in human history.

The worst because it is when the human race tried to murder God.

The best because it is when humanity (in the person of Jesus, as Man) made the most perfect response to the will of God.

What the Cross does: it reconciles humanity to divinity. So perfect was the human response (in Jesus) that all other breaches with God (past, present and future) would be more than compensated for by this one perfect act.

The Cross makes it possible for all our sins to be forgiven, on request. It is like having a bank account that never runs dry. In this case it is mercy not money that we can draw upon.

The more we appreciate what Our Lord has done for us the more fully His action will save us.

Consider: that He did not have to die for us at all. It was not His problem that we were in sin. He could have stayed in the comfort of Heaven and let us go our own way.

Consider further just how painful His death was. He died in His humanity. He was not miraculously preserving Himself from pain. He was allowing Himself to feel the full extent of nails, thorns, whips etc.

And even worse, the emotional pain of rejection and ridicule.

And worse still, the realization that even this sacrifice would not be appreciated by future generations.

All this for our benefit.

We acknowledge with reverence and awe the contrast between His love for us and our lack of love for Him.

And as we realize it we can resolve to narrow that chasm. We will never love Him as He loves us, but we can at least draw closer.

And instead of piling on lashes and thorns to Him by our own sins we can offer Him consolation, as did Veronica and the women of Jerusalem.

And further, we not only stand with Jesus, but we also share in His suffering to the extent that we make Him known in our place and time.

Thus the Cross is everything to us. It is our salvation and our way of life. But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ; by whom the world is crucified to me, and I to the world (Ga 6,14).

Thursday, 11 September 2014

13th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Sep 2014 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 7.9.14 Law and Covenant

Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity, and that we may worthily obtain that which Thou dost promise, make us to love that which Thou dost command (Collect prayer of today’s Mass)

We pray to love the laws of God, because they express the love God has towards us.

St Paul, in the epistle, explains the relationship between Covenant and Law. The basic point is that while we should keep God’s laws that itself will not save us. It will make it more likely that we are saved but salvation itself can come only from God’s free gift to us.

Catholics are accused of trying to earn their salvation, by doing lots of good works, as though to impress God enough to let us into Heaven.

This is not the case. We regard salvation as a free gift of God, but we understand that to receive that gift we have to do certain things and avoid certain other things.

This is where the laws (or commands) of God come into operation.

The laws are there to help us know what to do: eg go to Mass on Sundays, help those in need, forgive those who harm you… And avoid certain things: do not steal, do not lie, do not commit adultery…

If we get these things right most of the time, and sincerely repent when we get them wrong, we are pre-disposing ourselves to receive the free gift of salvation.

If we were to neglect all these commands then there is the danger that we will forfeit the gift that has been offered to us.

Take a simple example: you have a rich friend who lends you his holiday house for free for two weeks. If you take the offer of course it is understood that you would look after the house and leave it in a tidy state etc. If you trash the house you will not only not get the offer again but you would be likely to lose the friendship.

So it is with our relationship with God, with the difference that He is more forgiving than the average person. We can restore a damaged relationship with God, but even there we have to do certain things, like Confession, penance, change our behaviour.

It comes down to this: God loves us, but we may not love Him.

To love Him we have to know Him. This is a lifetime work as we experience His love in many different ways. As we recognize His blessings we express Gratitude, like the one leper who came back.

Gratitude makes us want to please God in all things. Not to impress Him with how good we are, but simply in response to His goodness to us.

If we do not respond to His love we could lose our covenant relationship with God. He will not stop loving us; but we might stop loving Him. This is the way to Hell. We have to be aware this is possible, so we can take the proper steps to avoid such a fate.

To be saved is not that difficult if we simply keep the will of God in view. He will provide the grace to do the right things and avoid the wrong things.

He will enable us to receive and retain the gift of salvation.

We are on our way to Heaven and we will complete that way, simply by doing His will; or at least by confessing our sorrow for not doing so, and making another start.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

12th Sunday after Pentecost 31 Aug 2014 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 31.8.14 Vulnerability

On Friday we recalled the Beheading of St John the Baptist. It is still going on today, in the Middle East. (We have not made much progress!)

To be Christian requires that we identify with Christ. He allowed Himself to be put to death.

He made Himself vulnerable to the hatred of men (and the devil).

We must be vulnerable with Him. It may happen to us one day that we are put to death for our faith. If which case we should not value earthly life higher than our allegiance with Christ. We would rather be united with Him than try to live longer here on earth.

We make ourselves vulnerable for His sake - to death, to ridicule and mockery, to whatever comes.

It may occur to us we would like an easier religion. Many have abandoned faith in Christ for just that reason. They want an easier life. But they will regret their choice sooner or later.

To identify with Christ, with all its perils, is still the best investment we can make. To be with Him is the best place to be in a crisis (cf Storm at sea. Jesus is in the boat with us Mt 8, 24-27).

In our weakness is His strength. If we are with Him we can be sure His power and goodness will prevail, even if it means temporary or apparent loss for us.

But why did Our Lord allow Himself to be mocked and crucified? Our Lord is identified with the Good Samaritan in today’s parable.

He came to help us, the victims of robbery, insofar as the devil has robbed us of our innocence.

Our Lord helped people at different levels.

At the physical level He healed their sickness, fed them with bread, saved them from danger.

At a deeper level He forgave sin. He heals us by His mercy, and the sacraments - represented by the oil and wine applied to the wounds.

Once rescued we will live free from sin. If we do happen to sin again we can be rescued again (Sacrament of Penance) but gradually we learn not to let the robbers (devils) get the better of us.

At a deeper level again He made of His body a perfect sacrifice for sin, so that all sin could be forgiven (wherever there was true contrition).

And then He calls those He has healed to imitate Him in His suffering. The greatest healing is to learn to love as Our Lord loved.

This leads to the fact that we must also be Good Samaritans, helping other victims.

This means practical help of which there are many forms, and we pitch in with that in whatever way we can.

But it also means helping by conveying the spiritual presence of Christ.

This is where the suffering, or willingness to suffer, is necessary.

The greatest need our neighbours face is not physical but spiritual.

If we are to love our neighbours we must be prepared to risk a certain amount of suffering on our part. It is one thing to give a few dollars to a poor man. But would I suffer for him; would I die for him? Our Lord would, and did. He will help us to grow to the point that we would do the same.

When we have reached such a point we have been rescued twice – first, raised from our own degradation; and then enabled to help rescue others.

We thank Our Lord, the Good Samaritan, for both stages of the rescue - both privileges that we did not deserve. Let us be as worthy as we can of His trust.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

11th Sunday after Pentecost 24 Aug 2014 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 24.8.14 Centrality of Christ

The healing miracles of Our Lord always have a symbolic effect as well as the practical help He is giving to the person concerned.

So in this case (the healing of the deaf and dumb man) Our Lord symbolically takes away our deafness (our inability to hear His word) and our dumbness (our inability to proclaim His word).

The epistle reminds us of the essential central message of the Gospel which we have heard and must hold on to no matter what. That Christ has died to set us free from sin and risen to lead us to eternal life.

This is the message we must ‘hear’ and ‘speak’. We ‘hear’ it insofar as it sinks into our consciousness and becomes part of us, something we will never lose.

And when it has become so much a part of us that we no longer doubt its truth we will be able to live by it and proclaim it.

The message ‘Christ has died, Christ has risen’ is not just central to the Gospel but needs to be central to the whole of human existence.

Many people either do not believe this message or they regard it as only a side issue (even if they believe it is true).

No, it is central to everything. Without Christ doing what He did we would still be in our sins and unable to look forward to heaven. And the world would have no hope.

The world does indeed have hope, but not enough people see where that hope lies.

So the Gospel needs firm believers, who can hang on even if the sea is rough, and there is danger of being thrown overboard.

We must have mental clarity about what we believe and why.

We must not see ourselves as just one religion among many; as just one alternative stream among many others. We could be bamboozled by the variety of different religions and philosophies so that we end up saying everyone is right.

No, there is only one God and only one Saviour. And only one Church, the Body of Christ.

We face various temptations to loosen our hold on these central truths.

We might doubt God's power, or love, or the likelihood of His intervention. We might think, in the midst of some crisis, that He has left us out to dry. And we might resent that, and lose our inclination to pray.

Or, we might believe it all but not see how central it is, being preoccupied with other things.

But we must keep that central focus and get back to it.

Which is why we read the Scriptures and offer the Mass, forcing ourselves back to the centre, back to the drawing-board in a sense.

It might seem monotonous sometimes, but there is no other way that progress can be made.

If we start from any other place it will be the wrong place and the wrong results will follow.

Our ears are opened to hear… this time the word will sink in a little further than ever before.

And the further it goes in the more our tongue is loosened to proclaim, and praise, the wonders of God.

We cannot keep the word in once it has reached a certain point. Cf Pentecost, saints, Old Testament prophets- Jeremiah ‘a fire within’ (Jer 20,9).

Deepening our belief in the central message will enable us to cope with our own crises better, with less doubt and more confidence.

And will enable us to proclaim the word of life with such force that more people will convert to belief, and themselves enjoy the new certainty of truth.

May the Lord continue to open our ears and loosen our tongues!

Friday, 22 August 2014

10th Sunday after Pentecost 17 Aug 2014 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 17.8.14 Fixing faults

Some people avoid church with the excuse that churchgoers are all ‘a bunch of hypocrites’. They make a virtue out of not being as bad as we are. No, we cannot claim virtue because someone else is worse than we are.

Each of us has an obligation to be good, as good as we can be. This means to practise what we preach, to put into practice what is true.

We come to church to remind ourselves what is true, and to derive the grace that will help us to live by that truth.

We admit we have faults, but we are trying to fix them. That is the difference between a hypocrite and a repentant sinner. The hypocrite is content to hide behind a veneer of holiness. The repentant sinner actually wants to be free of his sin.

Those who measure their holiness by looking at others are mistaken. The only way to measure holiness is to look at Christ. He sets the standard.

Are we living like Him? At least as much as we can; and always seeking to do better - which includes that we would not look down on others.

Nor would we use the faults of others to excuse our own. Such as saying:
At least I am not as bad as him over there.
Or, I do not do the things that others do. Therefore what I do is not too bad, considering.
Or what I do is not as bad as what I could do. I actually exercise restraint, so I should get some allowance for that.

If we are to compare ourselves with others, there may be some benefit if we can learn from the good example they give. But when it comes to their faults we cannot use those faults to excuse our own.

What we must focus on is improving our own behaviour, attitude etc. I want to be a better person than I was yesterday. Whether I am better or worse than someone else is not the point.

We do not excuse our sin but confess it. We humbly ask for God’s mercy.

Today there are low expectations of personal holiness. There is a confusion between holiness on the one hand, and self-acceptance on the other.

Talk of sin or guilt is avoided because it might damage someone’s self-image.

It is true that God loves us whether we are good or evil. It is true that each of us is made in His image and therefore of unique importance. It is good to feel good about ourselves, to have a healthy self-image.

But none of these things excuse us from trying to correct faults.

The Pharisee had a good self-image (too good). He thought he was close to perfect.

His fault was that he could not see fault. He could have said, Lord, I thank you for making me in your image (and that is no small thing); but I am sorry for offending you. Then he would have had it right.

Whereas the publican asked for mercy and received it.

One was a hypocrite; the other a genuinely repentant sinner.

The best way to feel good about ourselves is to be right with God, thus to share in His goodness. It feels good to be good, not in a smug way, but simply that everything then fits into place.

We will not become proud and sanctimonious (another excuse to avoid improvement). Part of getting everything right is remaining humble (cf the saints).

As we have just celebrated the Feast of the Assumption let us call on Mary, always holy and always humble, to help us be good, and feel good!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

9th Sunday after Pentecost 10 Aug 2014 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 10.8.14 Walk a straight path

The Israelites spent forty years in the desert, which was a lot longer than the actual distance they had to travel required. They were being punished for their disobedience and general complaining attitude.

There were many setbacks, such as mentioned in the epistle where 23000 were killed in one day.

They would have arrived a lot sooner if they had obeyed.

The Gospel speaks of a different generation of rebellious Jews, those of Our Lord’s own time, reminding us that human nature can be much the same from one generation to the next.

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem: If only you had responded to the constant offers of mercy; if you had read the signs, taken the hint!

We are like the people in the desert insofar as we have been set free (Baptism) and are still seeking the Promised Land (Heaven). We need to read the signs also.

God wants to make it as easy as it can be. This was always His intention. He encourages us to call on Him. He is not hard to reach. He will hear any plea for mercy, any cry of contrition.

Yet we make such heavy weather of it. In the desert we are tempted. The devil offers attractive alternatives. Would you like to eat, drink etc… so the seeds of discontent and rebellion are sown.

And we start saying, Who is this God that keeps telling us what to do. Or in our time, What is this Church that dares to intervene in my life?

Every act of rebellion ties another knot. If we are lost we might get more lost if we do not find the right exit. Every time we sin we are adding a few more steps we have to travel to freedom.

And when the whole human race is sinning, around the clock, the chaos increases greatly.

But at any point we can still cut through to a direct route: just by resolving that from this moment onwards, whatever else I have said, done or thought, I will obey God totally. So help me, God.

This is the beginning of the way home. We can make a straight line even if we have been going around in circles for years.

Just because the world is in a sorry state does not prevent us from being good disciples. In fact it can act as extra incentive. The more things are wrong the more I must try to set them right.

The more insane the world the more sane must we be.

Whatever others do I will do as Christ says. If they laugh, let them laugh. If they kill me, let them do that. I am going to walk that straight line. To the Promised Land, to Heaven.

God wants it to be easy for us, but in a certain way He makes it hard. Of those closest to Him He will ask them to take on a share of the world’s suffering in atonement (not punishment) for sin. It is a privileged sharing in His own suffering.

If we love God enough we don’t mind doing this. (cf St Laurence, whose feast we acknowledge today).

We are suffering from the fallout of sin but there is a pure thread through the middle of that which enables us to keep eyes fixed on the final objective, and this will enable us to hold firm.

We hope and pray that everyone will recognize the signs and respond. Meanwhile, we live simply, carrying such extra weight as the Lord entrusts to us. But always fixed on that final goal.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

8th Sunday after Pentecost 3 Aug 2014 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 3.8.14 Restoring order

In the world at the moment there is possibly even more bad news than usual with major trouble spots in Gaza, Iraq, Ukraine.

And we have the centenary of the First World War to remind us that human nature does not change easily.

How to stop the killing? Everyone asks. Not that killing is the only sin, though it tends to be the most spectacular.

But how stop sin in all of its forms? We have to go extra and ask that question, not expecting merely political solutions to hold much water.

It has to be a root healing at the soul level. There has to be genuine repentance and a turning to the Lord. It is His world, so we have to go to Him to learn how to run it.

How to do this? The readings today call for a clear grasp of the relationship of the flesh and spirit (epistle), material world and spiritual world (Gospel).
The essence of the matter is that we need to live in the material world with a totally spiritual understanding.
If the flesh is operating outside of the spirit’s control then our life is out of control.
If we put money (or any material thing) above the life of heaven, then we are in danger of losing our soul.
So we seek the right balance. The spiritual perspective will help us both advance our own salvation and also go some way to healing the world of its troubles.

In the face of so much bad news one could lose hope. But we do not do that. We pray more not less. We pray like we really mean it.

If things get worse we pray better. If less people turn up to pray we pray longer. If others are dispirited we re-affirm our hope.

The Church often faces externally bleak situations. Think of Good Friday itself. How did the apostles and disciples feel on Good Friday evening? How much tempted to despair they would have been at that time. So much they did not understand, did not know. A solution looking so improbable.

From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, just 36 hours from death to life. This is our eternal consolation. We feel like it’s Good Friday but we know there is an Easter Sunday on its way.

Any setback can be absorbed and transcended; and we will see better days. When we suffer defeat we think victory. When we have a victory we build on that and expect another victory.

We don’t go by how things look but by how they are. And how they are we work out from faith.

There are certain good ‘things’ which are always in place and available to us to call upon. Such as that the whole world is made by God, and ruled by Him.

He permits evil to happen but it is always under His control. We do not always know why things happen but just to know that it He is in control is a comforting thing.

We must do our bit to set things right. We can at least be on the right side. The majority of people were mocking Our Lord on the cross. Only a few were prepared to stand with Him. We want the numbers to shift so that everyone is under the cross paying homage and no one is mocking Him. Every knee shall bow…

We need to be as wise in doing good as some people are in doing evil (Gospel). The only way to reclaim the world is through the spiritual channel, conformity to Christ, acknowledging His sovereignty.

All divisions between people cease once they are in union with Him.

Thursday, 31 July 2014

7th Sunday after Pentecost 27 Jul 2014 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 27.7.14 Seeking happiness

Christian life is often seen as harder than ordinary life because we have to go to more trouble to be good, and to make proper use of all the things that God places at our disposal.

Undoubtedly the Christian life requires a lot of discipline, but we will always find that any effort we expend in the pursuit of holiness will be worth it.

We, like everyone else, are seeking to be happy. Everyone wants to be happy. It is just a matter of how we go about it. We can try to be happy just for this life alone, or we can aim for eternal happiness.

For this life alone: there are some who live by their instincts, and just seek to grasp every pleasure that comes along, without worrying too much if it is legal or moral. Just do it.

This is simply self-indulgence, leading to spiritual death, as St Paul puts it: the wages of sin are death.

There are other people, more restrained, who manage to keep self-control and discipline in their pursuit of happiness but they stop at only earthly happiness. They have no thought for eternity. These yield bad fruit (Gospel) in the form of wrong thinking, wrong behaviour, and false gods. Anything that does not lead to the one true God is ‘bad fruit’.

We, for our part, aim for eternal happiness, and we direct all our energies to achieve that goal. This does not mean we ignore the things of the world, because part of the process of getting to heaven requires that we handle earthly things well - eg using our resources to help the poor.

It is a delicate business staying on the right side of God’s law, remaining in a state of grace.
It requires that we balance up our use of things, our attitude to people and things, our general attitude to life.

It requires that we keep a long term view of happiness, with our hearts and minds firmly fixed on heaven.

The things of this world are provided for our benefit and to give us a foretaste of much better things in heaven. We can enjoy the things of this world but must not be too attached to them - to the point that they become false gods.

Suppose I am a keen gardener. I make flowers for God's glory. But if I become upset when I win only second prize then I am losing my way.

So we must always remember the spiritual long-term view in all our actions, possessions, habits. We must avoid being addicted to things. We use lightly whatever we have. This is not my whole world. I do this but it is not everything, just a step on the way.

We have to reassess all the time; keep on track or get back on track.

It is easy (as we see from the number who do it) to live as though God does not exist, or does not matter.

If we worry too much about our ambitions, appearance, houses, cars, finances, etc… What has God got to do with it, people ask.

The only ‘good fruit’ is that which leads to eternal life and which moves souls closer to that.

Where will I be in a hundred years from today? This is the question.

We all want to be happy and God wants it too. It is just that He and I have different ideas about how to get there. He is always going to be right but I will be tempted to fight Him every inch of the way.

We make it very hard for ourselves by not accepting the ‘terms and conditions’. It is so much easier if we ‘read the directions’ first!

If we would just look in God’s direction (He creates, saves, offers grace every day) it would be a lot easier but we thrash around and make it worse.

To attain the ultimate prize we must forego lesser delights along the way. This will become easier as we focus more on Heaven, on the God who dwells there.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

6th Sunday after Pentecost 20 July 2014 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 20.7.14 Seeking perfection

The demand for holiness is absolute in our faith. In practice people tend to settle for a ‘near enough is good enough’ approach.

It is true God will forgive our sins and will reward our good efforts but we should not rest with that. We should strive to be as holy as possible.

Biblical passages, such as today’s epistle, remind us that we don’t do things by halves around here.

The call for holiness is absolute: we go into the water as the old self and come out the new self, a different person in spiritual terms, renewed, revitalised.

The same could be said for whenever we go to Confession, or Holy Communion. We are thinking each time of making a new start, walking in the perfection of Christ.

When we talk of perfection people start running for cover, looking for excuses, for reasons why they cannot be expected to be perfect.

It is all a matter of how we word things. If we hear that we must behave ourselves and keep all the commandments that can sound burdensome. But if we are offered freedom and happiness that sounds very appealing. And yet it comes to the same thing.

Would you rather be dead or alive? In prison or free? Hungry or well-fed? When it comes to absolute opposites like these it is easy for us to choose.

But when it comes to the spiritual life we are suddenly less clear. We like to have one foot in each camp. We want to follow the Lord but also we want to keep our worldly interests.

Because we do not commit fully to the new life we are offered we find ourselves compromised, and everything is much harder. One foot forward, the other foot backward. It is very uncomfortable to be like that.

But unless we commit we are not likely to see what the attraction of a holy life is, so we remain in the fog of indecision. Many people reject the Catholic faith but they are rejecting what they have never known.

The Church is so often presented as a stern law-making body that lacks a real understanding of humanity. We will find that this is not the case. In fact the Church is the centre of where divine meets human and great joy results.

For our part we look for the grace to make a decisive, once for all break with sin; to leave sin behind like we would leave behind a prison uniform.

Zero tolerance for sin! If we cannot do this in one day, or one week, we will never cease striving and working for this goal.

All this striving is so that we can become more fully alive. And further, so that we can discover the love of God for His own sake.

The Church speaks of ‘perfect contrition’. This is where we are sorry for our sin simply because we have offended Almighty God.

Imperfect contrition is when we are sorry for our sins more out of a fear of punishment than out of true love. (This is better than nothing but not ideal.)

The more we embrace God’s ways the more we get to love Him and the easier it becomes to obey Him. Love and obedience coalesce as one response. Simply out of gratitude and love we do our best to please Him.

There is more happiness in keeping the commands than in breaking them. We come to enjoy doing things God’s way as we discover the freedom available to us.

We take this Mass as one more chance to renew our commitment to walk in the new life Christ has won for us.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

5th Sunday after Pentecost 13 Jul 2014 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 13.7.14 Achieving Unity

The Mass is the offering of the sacrifice of Christ in atonement for the sins of the world, especially our own sins.

The congregation gathered for the Mass seeks to offer their own hearts and minds in union with the offering of Christ.

This in turn depends on the faith and general disposition of each person at the Mass.

The Gospel today highlights the importance of the congregation being totally as one in the offering. If there is discord in the congregation the purity of the offering will be compromised.

The sacrifice of Christ Himself is always perfect insofar as He offers Himself, but our joining onto His sacrifice can be more or less successful depending on the state of our hearts and minds.

So, one thing that is happening at Mass is that we are praying for our contribution to be as perfect as it can be. Orate, fratres… that my and your sacrifice may be acceptable to God the Father Almighty.

We are not sure of our own inner dispositions. In any case we always need divine help to be in the proper state of mind and heart.

Disunity is an impediment to the effectiveness of our offering. We should be in union since we are all doing the very same thing: worshipping the same God, offering the same sacrifice. How could we not be at one with each other?

The necessity of loving one another is reaffirmed everywhere in the New Testament: For example: If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. (1 Jn 4, 20) And, even more strongly: Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 Jn 3, 15)

What we think of the others is an indication of how much we love God.

If I love God I would be of one heart and mind with Him and I would love my neighbour because He loves that same person.

And we know that God loves even those who do not love Him. We find this part very difficult but it will come to us as we grow closer to God. The closer we come to the furnace the warmer we become.

The Gospel says that we should not come to offer sacrifice unless first reconciled with our brother. In practice we make this a little easier. One can come to Mass even if unreconciled but we can use the Mass as a chance to pray for reconciliation.

I pray for whatever I have to change and whatever the other person needs to change.

We can be in a state of sin or weakness and come to be strengthened. Even if unable to take Holy Communion we can still benefit from being here.

If we seek His love we will find it here and it will help us change. Doors will open; things that need to happen will happen.

All this and more is happening at each Mass. How necessary it is that we do not see the Mass as simply a mechanical ritual that is there to be got over with!

There is so much that needs to happen in each individual and in each community.

We owe it to each other to bring our very best attitude (Sunday best), seeking deeper union with God, and from that with each other.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

4th Sunday after Pentecost 6 Jul 2014 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 6.7.14 The problem of suffering

St Paul in today’s epistle speaks of creation groaning in anticipation of events yet to happen, namely the full transformation of the world in the light of Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and return in glory.

Christ has risen. He has overcome sin and death. Yet the world is still full of misery! How can this be? In brief it is because too much of the human race is still disobeying the will of God. And this disobedience (= sin) results in a large amount of disorder in the world.

If we stopped sinning the world would be a very pleasant place to live.

Many people tackle this from the wrong end. They say, Why is there so much wrong in the world? It must mean there is no God? Or that He has abandoned us…. etc.

Do we interpret God in terms of the suffering or the suffering in terms of God? This is the choice we have.

As Catholics we think of God first and then look at the suffering. The reason there is suffering is that people do not obey God.

Sin causes suffering. If there were no sin ever committed there would have been no suffering either.

We usually cannot attribute particular outcomes to particular sins but we do know that every sin makes matters worse; and conversely that every good action will make things better.

There are forces for good and forces for evil. Which one is going to come out stronger? That is up to us.

The people say: If God fixes the problems then I will believe in Him. God says: if the people will believe in Me, then I will fix the problems. Who is going to give way first?

If we all behaved, and prayed, we would have a much better society than we have now - much less crime, and even less accidents, less ‘natural’ disasters.

It begins with you and me. We may or may not live to see a better world but we will at least have peace of mind ourselves. We will have to take some of the fallout resulting from the disorder of the world, but in the midst of that we can still have interior peace.

In any case we must not be too pessimistic about the future of the world. We cannot rule out the power of grace, the power of God to act on large numbers of people at the same time, as He did at Fatima, for example. We can be sure that God desires a major transformation of the human race and we can hope that He will accelerate this outcome.

We must do our bit, meanwhile, and regardless of any other circumstance.

And we offer the same solution to anyone we contact.

If it seems improbable that things improve we have today’s Gospel, where the apostles are told to put out their nets, even though it is not the best time of day. Worldly logic would say it is unlikely they will catch anything. And it is probably how we feel as to our prospects of converting sinners.

But if we obey as the apostles did we will be providing the fuel for the fire, the channel needed for the grace of God to advance.

Who knows what size catch we can make? Or how much influence on the surrounding society? Hard hearts can melt. The way people treat each other can change. Swords will be turned into ploughshares (Is 2,4).

We are talking here of more than just goodwill. Only by grace can we change things, and still maintain hope through all the disorders around us (thus today’s epistle: we groan but we also hope).

So far we (the human race) have reaped what we have sown. If we give humble obedience to the will of God we will see a different harvest!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Sts Peter and Paul 29 Jun 2014 Sermon

Feast of St Peter and Paul 29.6.14 Called to greatness

Why did God entrust His Church to human agency which makes such heavy work of it? Because He wanted us to be saved through our own cooperation and not just leaving it all to Him.

The sins we commit, the errors we make, are all part of the learning process as we slowly make our way back to how God always intended us to be.

The progress of Sts Peter and Paul are examples of the human and divine working at the same time, with finally the divine winning out and the human being perfected.

We can consider Peter and Paul at the personal level and also for what they symbolise.

At the personal level we see that both men had transforming experiences. Peter probably would have been happy to end his days as a fisherman and would not have expected to go down in history in such a famous role.

But he was called to greatness, and with some hesitation, fulfilled his destiny.

Many identify with Peter as a person who speaks before he thinks, yet who has an admirable warmth and sincerity. Peter needed his honesty and directness harnessed for a higher cause.

Paul had great zeal for the things of God. But he had the wrong belief. He accepted correction humbly. Then he applied the same zeal in the right cause.

Both men convey a quickness to grasp an ideal and immediately apply it. We all want these qualities such as warmth, honesty, courage, zeal… to be good in a crisis.

We are not all called to such greatness as Peter and Paul were, but we all have certain good qualities which need enhancing, focusing, refining… And we all have things wrong with us which need removing or correcting.

As we see, it does not take much to derail someone from being a good disciple of Christ. Only one or two faults can do it. To be a fully operational fighting machine, a truly dedicated and useful disciple requires that we work on it constantly. Like a racing car.

God can take someone and form him; bring out his best qualities while chipping away the bad points.

So we are all here for repairs, to be made ready for the big race.

This is the battle that every individual must fight; the transformation we all need to experience.

At the more symbolic level: Peter, we could say, represents the fixed nature of the Church and Paul the mobile.

What happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? The Church needs to be both these things.

Immovable, insofar as we possess the core truth. We stand as a house of rock which will not fall over no matter how strong the winds of adversity blow.

The world tells us we should update our teachings. We say we cannot change the fundamental truths which God Himself has put in place. We can change our behaviour (for the better) and we agree we should do that, but not the teachings.

Irresistible force: is represented by Paul, the great evangeliser, missionary. He understood that the Gospel is meant for the whole world, all nations.

The Gospel at one level can be resisted, and rejected, but as the word of God it carries a certain force which no human agency can quell.

If we are to ignore it we have to turn truth on its head, and ourselves inside out not to see its compelling nature. My word does not return to Me empty, said the Lord (Is 55,11).

So the Church is both – immoveable and irresistible – or would be if enough of us played our part.

May the prayers of Sts Peter and Paul help us to improve, both at the personal and ecclesial levels, and see better days.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 22 June 2014 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 22.6.14 Too busy?

The Gospel portrays people who are too busy to come to the banquet. Too busy for prayer, too busy for the lesser duties to think of the greater one – which is to love God with our whole hearts.

We can have our vision set too low and forget to look up to the glory of God which is all around us.

While we must attend to practical needs we must never lose the spiritual perspective.

We have just celebrated the Feast of Corpus Christi. We also are invited to a banquet – to partake of the Body and Blood of Christ.

Those who take only a material view of the world will ask what difference a sacrament makes. Or what difference does prayer make?

It is hard to quantify these things. If we receive Holy Communion on a given day it may not make us feel any different, nor any more virtuous.

Yet over time, cumulatively, we can be sure that repeated Holy Communions (as with other sacraments and prayers) will make a difference to us.

Normally when we eat food it becomes part of us, but in this case we become part of the food! “I am the food of the mature: grow, then, and you shall eat Me. You will not change Me into yourself like bodily food; but you will be changed into Me”(St Augustine).
We are taken up into God’s domain, a new dimension.

We don’t know what He will do with us but we give Him permission for whatever it is. And if what He wants differs from what we want we express in advance that we will come to prefer His version.

We can see the Eucharist as a glorious banquet, celebrating Christ’s victory over sin and death, a foreshadowing of the Heavenly banquet.

Or we can see it as food for the weary pilgrim threading his way through a difficult and hostile world.

We will feel differently at different times, whether we are celebrating or just surviving.

On balance, the way things are in the world, and in the Church, there is probably more of the ‘weary pilgrim’ feel about our present position.

The general loss of faith, evident in the Church and the world, can leave us feeling very isolated and demoralised. But we won’t let that happen.

The Eucharist makes it all manageable. It sustains us in our faith and makes us resilient against all attacks. Do not be surprised if the world hates you. (Epistle) It is all part of the process – to be expected but not alarmed about.

Faith gives us sanity and enables us to cope if we have to be out of step with the world.

There is great happiness in being simply good (as God defines good). It is better to be a poor good man than a rich bad one.

In the Gospel parable only the poor come to the banquet. This does not exclude people who might have material riches. All must be poor in spirit, absolutely aware of their nothingness before God.

The whole world is invited to this banquet. At the present time most people refuse, either through ignorance or malice.

It is one thing to know one has a spiritual hunger, and another thing again to know how to relieve that hunger.

We are privileged to know what we know and to have (by God’s grace) enough wisdom to accept the invitation to the banquet.

In the violence and despair of much of the world’s behaviour we see what happens when people do not recognize their true hunger.

May the grace of the Sacrament work its way into the consciousness of those still in the by-ways, waiting to come in. And may those already in the banquet not be lured out of it by transitory temptations.

O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine!

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Trinity Sunday 15 Jun 2014 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 15.6.14 The Mystery of God

Today is a chance for us to consider the mystery of God Himself.

There is much confusion about God. Some do not think He even exists. Others think He does not matter. Others are not sure who is the right God.

People ask questions like, Where does God come from? Who made God?

We believe that God had no beginning. He simply IS from all eternity. He relies on nothing else for His existence and is the source of existence for everything else.

Because He is so much greater than we are we have to accept there is much about Him we cannot understand.

We cannot exhaust the mysteries but we can enter them, like an art gallery or a large garden, where there are endless avenues to pursue.

God reveals Himself to us to be a Trinity of Persons.

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!).

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 insofar 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 remember the limitations of language and of our own understanding. The greater God is the better for us. We must never try to limit Him to our level but rather let Him lift us to His level (at least as far as such is possible).

Our ultimate need, whether we realize it or not, is to be in union with God, loving and being loved by Him.

We find God through prayer, sacraments, reading the signs of His presence, trusting Him to steer us through each event; finally coming to see Him face to face, but preparing all the time for that encounter.

The more seriously we seek Him in this life the more we will understand Him and the more ready to spend eternity with Him.

Far from thinking that God is distant we learn more and more that we have no life apart from Him. We are not only created by Him; not only must we return to Him; but nothing even in our non-religious activity falls outside His holy will.

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.

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.

Instead we fall on our faces and proclaim His glory, and we pray that He will enable us to participate more fully in His life.

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.

Our praise of Him will lift us beyond narrow vision and gloomy thoughts, leading instead to faith and hope.

God is not so far away as to be unapproachable; not so close as to be equal. We need to find the right mix of reverence and filial trust.

All Glory be to the Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Pentecost Sunday 8 Jun 2014 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 8.6.14

‘They were all filled with the Holy Spirit.’ And ‘The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord’. God can fill people and can fill the whole universe.

His presence in the universe is easier to discern because there the goodness of His creation comes through more obviously. The beauty of the created world shines through, even though it has been defaced by so much sin.

When it comes to people the activity of God is sometimes evident when we see such things as kindness, generosity, heroic self-sacrifice. But it can be obscured by sin. Even with a sinful person, however, we can still see the outlines of what God intended when creating him.

But certainly God wants to fill every person with His presence. “And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on My servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days. (Joel 2,28-29)

Brother will have no need to tell brother, learn to know the Lord (Jer 31,34).

If we are all filled with the knowledge of God we do not need to tell each other what to do. Everyone will know intuitively.

All this is what Pentecost does, or at least begins to do.

When the Holy Spirit takes charge each person is changed for the better. He knows what each person needs, by way of correction, and also what each person is called to do, by way of entrusting with gifts.

When we are all free from fault and enthused about the faith we meet as one body, strong in mutual charity and strong in a desire to take the word of salvation to the world.

Such was the Church on the first Pentecost and so we have ever been trying to re-capture that status.

Not all give sermons but all should be bubbling over with the presence of God. He is so good we cannot keep Him to ourselves.

Enthusiasm does not have to be expressed loudly or in a spectacular way. It could be quiet daily attention to duty. We do whatever is required, and the Holy Spirit will direct us as to what that is.

Every particle of creation belongs to Him - every blade of grass, every bird in the tree, every star in the sky proclaims His goodness.

His presence is not restricted in place (to churches) nor in time (to Sundays). Every time and place are His domain. All is sacred in that sense (cf Zech 14,21). This means in practice that we should use everything as God intends it to be used, and never to act outside of His will.

We face complex political and social issues, such as how to treat refugees, how to help the poor. What to do? We do not always know. But we can at least say that the best and ultimate solution is to obey the will of God, to be free of sin, and filled with His knowledge.

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, that He may show us His ways (Is 2,3). We strive for a situation where we all know what God wants, and we all want the same as He does.

We are so far from this just now. That is one reason we are still praying.

We say the Holy Spirit has come, yet we ask Him to come. Why? We need more of Him. As much as we have received of Him so far, we build on that – till everything is complete.

As when we are trying to stir up a fire we poke around until the flame bursts forth. So we pray in the quiet times when nothing seems to be happening. And something will happen!

That first Pentecost will always inspire us. Everything that happened there is still applicable to us.

Come Holy Ghost, fall afresh on us.