Friday, 28 March 2014

3rd Sunday of Lent 23 Mar 2014 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Lent 23.3.14 A patient life

There are many stories in the Gospels where someone is healed or delivered by Our Lord. We do not hear in detail what happens to these people in after years. We hope they stayed on course, for the long term.

Our Lord puts before us in today’s Gospel the longer term view we need to have. It is not enough just to be free of one demon at one time. The devil will make repeated attempts upon us. If we do not remain vigilant he will find some way of getting back into our lives.

God seeks to build up; the devil seeks to destroy. Unfortunately, therefore, the devil’s work is easier. It is much easier to confuse than instruct; much easier to derail a life than to build it on careful foundations. Easier to let a garden go to weeds than to make it produce flowers.

There are a lot of people whose lives are more like a wilderness than a garden.

God is all-powerful but if He is to help us He requires our cooperation, and that cooperation has to be continuous. To be protected from evil requires a willingness and continuous vigilance on our part against falling away.

This is hard for us, but manageable. It becomes almost easy if we get in the right groove.

God is a patient gardener. He waters the soil, digs up the weeds, checks on the plants. If we live in the orderly manner that He would teach us we will achieve salvation over a long period.

A long life can be a challenge to stay on course. We could fall away from the task, simply forgetting why we are here, where we are headed. On the other hand the longer our lives the more time we have to bear a harvest for God’s glory.

The devil will try anything he can to attack us, distract, or discourage us.

A large part of our defence against the wiles of the devil is simply to know what he is trying to do. One of the problems facing many people today is that they no longer believe there even is a devil. If you go swimming believing there are no sharks...what happens?

Temptations will come at us all our lives; but we see them as just that – temptations. We can overcome them once we know what they are.

We can see them off if we hold firm to the basic principles – the Commandments, the Sacraments. We build on rock, not sand.

We ask the Lord to keep us on track, for life. He will not leave us abandoned.

But we have to stay very close to Him. Just as we cannot leave a garden to grow itself so we cannot leave our spiritual life unattended. If we do it will turn to weeds very quickly.

But if we consciously seek to nurture our spiritual lives; carefully preserving the gifts we have received, seeking to improve upon them; weeding out the sins and the faults – then we greatly increase the likelihood of final perseverance.

God will bring forth the desired fruits from our lives if only we let Him. It is not so hard after all, but it is mighty easy to go wrong too.

We take the Lord’s warning from today’s Gospel as a call to renewed vigilance in pursuit of holiness.

Once we are on the right course lock on to it, and never deviate to right or left.

By the grace of God we shall be saved.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

2nd Sunday of Lent 16 Mar 2014 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Lent 16.3.14 Path to glory

The Transfiguration reminds us of our hope of eternal glory. We hope that one day we will be so glorious in body that to see that glory now would hurt our eyes.

But how do we get from the way we are now to that state? Only by being cleansed of all trace of sin and impurity, and filled with grace and virtue.

Then we become a shining light, figuratively for now, and literally at the resurrection.

We cannot be transformed without our own consent. We are not just put into some kind of machine that makes us come out glorious the other side.

There has to be internal transformation so that the way we think, the way we exercise our will, is in complete harmony with Almighty God. Then we share in His glory.

This is why we need to look closely at our lives, while we are still here, while we still have time. It all begins here.

Those who ignore the Lord’s commands will be imperilling their own salvation and glorification. It will not happen unless somewhere along the line they agree with the process.

The epistle today tells us plainly that we should avoid fornication, dishonesty, and generally seek to sanctify ourselves; that we bring all our desires under control so that we do not offend God.

This is a very standard sort of text which we hear all our lives, which we agree with in general; yet for all that we may not exert ourselves to put that instruction into practice.

It is easy to think of goodness in a general sort of way. I am good insofar as I don't do anything really bad; anyway not worse than others do. We hope that God is happy with that.

A little more thought, however, would tell us that the commands such as those of the epistle are meant to be taken literally and seriously. The word of God tells me to keep away from such and such a sin, so I must keep away.

At this point we tend to call on our human weakness as an excuse for not complying with every detail of God’s will.

Human weakness is certainly a factor but we should not use it as a cover-all excuse.

Our weakness makes us humble but not dormant. In spite of our weakness we must work to eradicate all faults.

Just as we do for a garden or a house. We would not leave a foul-smelling object in the middle of the house. So we don't let such things be in our souls. Jealousy, anger, lust, fear etc – these things are not meant to be there, and they can be removed.

Even weakness itself can be removed, or at least reduced. We become less weak as we engage the quest for a complete holiness. Especially in Lent we must look into our lives more closely. This thing I do – if it is wrong it is a sin. It may not be the worst sin in the world but it should not be there, and out it goes.

We cannot do this by our own strength. This is where the grace of God comes in. It will be there to help us if we seek it.

With grace we can train ourselves to look at things in a different way. A bit of planning and a bit of prayer, and the grace will enable a new insight. I do not need to fall into the same traps I usually do.

Instead of anger, impurity, envy etc, there are better ways of doing things. We can ride out the temptations and find new ways of responding.

May the Lord help us in all the changes we have to make and bring us finally to share His glory.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Change in Wednesday Mass time

From 12th March the Wednesday Mass at St Monica's, Walkerville, will be offered at 6.45am instead of the previous 8am. All other days the times remain as before.

1st Sunday of Lent 9 Mar 2014 Sermon

1st Sunday of Lent 9.3.14 Living in two worlds

We have to travel lightly through this life; to be ‘in the world but not of it’. Not hiding from the world but engaging with it; seeing, however, everything from a Christian perspective, our loyalty being to Christ, above all.

With this attitude we learn to take whatever comes, not seeking power, status, wealth or pleasure. If these things come they come; if not, not. You might end up a president or lord mayor. If so, so be it. Christians do not have to shun such positions. It is better that they be held by Christians than by others. Only that anyone who does hold them do so by Christ’s standards.

The same applies to wealth. Use what you have for good, but never forget whom you are working for.

And we remember that it could all be taken away in a moment. We learn to serve Christ in poverty or plenty, long life or short. It all belongs to Him and must be given back to Him.

In this sense the whole of our earthly life is Lent. It is all one big Lent leading to one big Easter (in eternity).

We find all this discipline and detachment to be hard. And we frequently fall on these points.
We do get attached to things; we do worry about status, popularity, pleasure etc. We do have a lot of trouble trusting the will of God when it comes to organising our lives.

It is in this context that we can understand Our Lord’s fasting in the desert, and the general need for all of us to do penance.

We need penance to remind us that in this life there is no permanent home. Rather we are on a pilgrimage through to our real home in Heaven.

Going without food, for example, is a symbol of our detachment from this world.

It is like keeping a flag of one’s own country while in exile.

We are saying, by penance, that we are citizens of heaven, more than we are citizens of earth.

Penance enables us to gain control of our desires rather than that they control us. We become more focused on the task at hand.

It would be easier in a way if we were taken early; if we were martyred early in our Christian walk. It is hard to stay focused for many many years as we may be called to do. We are set adrift in a society which either complacently denies evil, or cynically denies good. It is so easy to be lost in such shifting sands.

The whole of our life is ‘Lent’ in this sense that we can never relax our vigilance. The actual season of Lent is like a refresher course to make sure that everyone still knows what he has to do.

Whatever we give up in this life, be it food or television; be it at a deeper level, father, mother, land or house – we will receive tenfold in compensation. Even in this life, not economically but in terms of happiness.

If we could all be saints; if we could claim enough of this world we would not have to renounce it. If we could make the world His kingdom we could say, Go out by all means and enjoy yourself, because it would all be heaven,

But until then we enjoy this life as much as we can - under the circumstances. When the storm passes we can relax a little, but not yet.

May the Lord keep us faithful to the end.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Quinquagesima Sunday 2 Mar 2014 Sermon

Quinquagesima 2.3.14 The Crucifixion

It is ten years since the release of the film ‘The Passion’ which graphically portrayed the sufferings of Christ on the Cross (and on the way to the Cross).

The film was graphic and many questioned why it needed to be.

Whatever about that particular film it is certainly the case that we need to be reminded of how much Jesus suffered for us.

His suffering tells us two things:
One, how awful sin must be if it needs so much atoning for.

And, two, how much God must love us if He would put Himself through that much agony for our sake.

By reminding ourselves of how much Jesus suffered we are forcing ourselves to come to terms with these two things.

It is easy to gloss over the crucifixion. We are so familiar with the image of Christ on the Cross that we can see a crucifix without taking much notice.

(Imagine, however, if that was someone you love on the cross, another member of your family, for instance! It would not be so easy to ignore.)

We have to allow ourselves to be shocked by the story even though we have heard it so many times before.

A film, such as The Passion, can help. Otherwise we have to use our imagination a little, when we are praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, or praying the Stations of the Cross. We can imagine some of the sufferings of Our Lord.

Also at every Mass. The main point of every Mass is to re-live the sacrifice of Christ. His death is made present on the altar at each Mass. This means that we are witnessing His death, albeit in a much easier way for us.

If the altar became a river of blood every time we offered Mass it would be much more challenging for us emotionally. Since we are spared that we must work harder to have the same awareness as if we could actually see the sufferings of Christ.

It would be harder to endure, but it would be easier for us to remember what it was all for – the forgiveness of sin.

Sin is another thing we can take sin for granted, thinking of it as just a normal part of life, always with us.

So we have Christ on the cross as He always is, and people sinning away as fast as ever, as they always do!

Something is not right with this scene!

He went through this to set us free from sin, both forgiving it and enabling us not to sin again.

His death atoned for our sin and made forgiveness possible. We are forgiven if we ask for it, provided we have true contrition.

As to not sinning again, that is the hard part. But if anything will bring us to that state it will be the realization of God’s love for us, acting upon us, helping us to see things differently.

Love responds to love. The very demanding formula for love expressed in today’s epistle becomes achievable if we are motivated by God’s love for us.

The more we do contemplate Him crucified the more likely we are to respond in like manner.

The unrepentant sinners of the world are those who do not look at Him at all, or in the right way. Thus they do not receive His love and are not transformed.

We do look upon Him and we are changed forever.

As Lent approaches, we will think more than usual on the theme of Christ crucified. May the impact of this event change us forever, away from sin, towards all that is good.