Thursday, 29 May 2014

5th Sunday after Easter 25 May 2014 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 25.5.14 Mary, Help of Christians (Patroness of Australia)

Our Lady is the Help of Christians (her feast day, yesterday). She helps Christians, and she helps us to be Christians. And that gives a clue as to how she helps us.

To be Christian in the full sense is to be as perfect as Christ Himself, or at least as perfect as we can be according to the limitations of our nature.

At least to be free of sin and filled with as much of the Holy Spirit as we can receive.

Our Lady was herself a Christian. It sounds an inadequate description of her. This perhaps betrays that we are not immediately impressed by the title ‘Christian’, so accustomed are we to seeing the faults in ourselves and each other.

But she was a perfect Christian, and she brings to the title a force we generally might not expect.

She helps us to be as ‘Christian’ as she herself was; or if that is too much, then at least more ‘Christian’ than we have been so far.

She helps us by example, showing us that such a life can be lived. It is not unrealistic to base our whole lives on the will of God.

To imitate her is a wise thing to do, but she helps us more than that.

For one thing, she helps us by making the world an easier place to live in.

Much of the difficulty of this life is caused by the world we live in, so full of pressure, tension, anxiety etc. In such a world it is hard for us to think straight. There is never an excuse for our sin but we could say that if we lived in a more peaceful, ordered world it would be easier not to sin.

A life well-lived will have an effect on the surrounding society. Just as sin causes destruction so holiness causes ‘construction’, a building up not a tearing down.

Mary’s holiness has been all along constructive, building up the kingdom of God, a new Eden, getting things, and people, back to the way they should be.

She is Order personified, cf the Wisdom readings which are used at Masses in her honour.

She helps us further by bringing us the Saviour, by co-operating in His saving plans, by responding to His will perfectly, thus helping to bring us to faith.

She is involved with us individually and corporately (as the whole Church) taking in the whole world and the whole extent of human history.

She helps us to see things as she sees them, thus to come to a better way of living.

In our rebellious minds we say, I will do what I like. Nobody tells me what to do etc. I think I will be happier if I sin. But every sin make me less happy, not more so.

But there is still more to learn from this perfect Christian.

Our Lady did not just obey God - she worshipped Him.

God is not just to be served, or appeased, but to be loved for His own sake.

Even if we can be happier and have a better society these are not the final objectives. The final objective is to praise and love God for His own sake.

Mary has understood this from the beginning. The rest of us take about one lifetime to reach the same conclusion! She can carry us more quickly.

On feasts, on Saturdays, in certain months, we pay her special honour. But every day we should seek her out. She can help us so much. She is a treasure, always available but much under-rated.

If we have neglected her, never again. Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Ascension Thursday Mass

Mass for Ascension Thursday (29th May) will be at 8am, St Monica's, Walkerville.
Mass at Holy Name, St Peters, will be at 7am and 6.30pm.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

4th Sunday after Easter 18 May 2014 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 18.5.14 Truth

If we have come here to Mass it probably means that we believe that what we profess and do in this place is actually the truth. That is, that we are in the right place as far as religious matters go.

There are many churches around Adelaide that we could go to instead, non-Catholic, non-Christian; and other buildings such as temples and mosques, private homes; or like most Adelaide residents we could just go to the shops instead.

We believe we are in the right place because this is the Church that Jesus Himself founded, the Church built on the apostles, in particular, Peter.

For all the failings of individual Catholics this is still the right Church and in a sense, the only Church.

We believe the Catholic Church possesses the fulness of truth, because, as Our Lord promises in John’s Gospel, He would send the Holy Spirit to make sure we would stay on the right path.

And that same Holy Spirit would teach us a lot more things, and make things clearer, so that we could have certainty in our beliefs.

Many Catholics today are embarrassed by any claim that the Catholic Church possesses the truth. They prefer to say that we really do not have the answers after all. We are still ‘searching’, the same as everyone else.

With all due acknowledgment to human frailty it does not help matters if we throw out all our dogmas and definitions, compiled so carefully over centuries.

Those things are true and remain true. We must certainly be humble before the truth but we must not deny that same truth in an attempt to be conciliatory to others.

In the Gospel today Our Lord promises that the Holy Spirit will prove right those who are right and wrong those who are wrong.

This would cover attitudes as well as concepts. We can be right in one and wrong in the other.

We could, as Catholics, have the right doctrine but the wrong attitude, such as pride.

Or, the other way round, we can have a humble attitude yet be too willing to accommodate our beliefs to what others want of us. We must be humble, certainly, but we must also seek the exact truth about matters pertaining to our faith.

It is not sufficient just to be ‘sincere’ in our approach. If something is known to be true we must believe it. eg that Our Lord made Peter the first Pope, that Our Lord is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament; that Our Lady intercedes for us etc…

In practice we can work on both fronts at the same time.

We can strive to understand as much as possible about our Catholic faith, with judicious reading and prayer.

And we can strive to be as humble, charitable, truthful and all the other virtues as possible.

For both tasks we need the Holy Spirit to enlighten us (as regards belief) and to inflame us (as regards behaviour).

We hope meanwhile that those of other faiths will also invoke the same Holy Spirit and come to a greater clarity and charity on their part.

Traditional Catholics are very wary about ‘ecumenism’, fearing that the truth will disappear altogether if we trade with it.

We can, however, be charitable to all comers without sacrificing anything of our own beliefs.

And it is the ultimate charity to keep that truth intact so that others who have never known it will have somewhere to rest when they have found it.

Only a divine intelligence could manage so many things at once. May the Holy Spirit be active in bringing about true unity of believers in Jesus Christ, as well as attracting non-believers to the Truth that brings eternal life.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

3rd Sunday after Easter 11 May 2014 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 11.5.14 Leaven in the bread

For forty days after His resurrection Our Lord stayed with His disciples. But He was preparing to leave them. He could not stay with them (in that bodily form) forever.

He expected them to take charge of the newly-formed Church. It seems a great drop in quality to have mere mortals taking the place of Christ Himself. But it was all part of His plan, to impress upon us that we have a role to play in our own salvation.

When Our Lord worked miracles He always caused a sensation and people would tend to crowd around Him even more.

He tried to defuse this effect, telling people not to make known what had happened to them; avoiding the crowd when they would try to make Him King (cf Jn 6,15).

This was because the nature of the salvation that He brought required the understanding and cooperation of those being saved.

Our Lord wanted to avoid the idea that He was simply the dispenser of divine graces, and that all people had to do was come to Him and receive what they wanted. He was not just a free-food counter or a free medical centre. The people were not just passive receivers of His graces. They had to be transformed within, to be made into new people.

His hope was that, beginning with the apostles, His disciples would derive from Him a new heart and mind, and thus become like Him in all their actions.

The work of saving would be carried on by the whole Church and not just Our Lord Himself.

This is how the Church of today should be running. If we are all Christ-like in our thoughts, words and actions then we carry Him to the world (as to each other).

Healing and other blessings will flow naturally from such an arrangement. In the very early days of the new Church the apostles did duplicate the healing miracles of Our Lord. Even the shadow of an apostle going by could heal people (Acts 5,12-16).

We all need healing and other blessings, but we also must report for duty to be a carrier of those same blessings to others.

We are to be the leaven in the bread, along the lines of today’s epistle. We must be good citizens, but more than just law-abiding. We must make Christ present in our neighbourhoods by the way we live.

It is not just spectacular miracles or fine preaching that will move the world. These things are good when they happen, but most of the work will be done just by ordinary disciples doing ordinary things well, or rather, perfectly.

We probably all would have a fairly high degree of self-doubt regarding our own ability to change the world.

The power still comes from Christ; but we can activate that power in the here and now.

We go to Him to receive what we need. We are transformed as we do receive it. We then live our lives in this new way of thinking and doing things.

And the Church grows organically, as Our Lord always planned.

This will work for our greater happiness, because we are conscious receivers of His grace, privileged to participate in His works.

This is why He had to leave us. We discover that He has not really left anyway, but is present in a different way.

We have to work a little harder to find Him but He is very definitely in our midst.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

2nd Sunday after Easter 4 May 2014 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 4.5.14 The Good Shepherd

The Gospel image of the Good Shepherd portrays the Shepherd in possession of the flock and keeping the wolf at bay.

It also conveys that the Shepherd would be willing to lay down his life if necessary.

In reality the wolf was already among the flock before the Shepherd arrived. The wolf had been devouring the human race for all the years leading up to Our Lord’s arrival.

The Shepherd knew that if He was going to rescue this flock it was not just a matter of standing guard. He would have to dislodge the devil, deprive him of his power.

To do this the Shepherd had to put into practice very quickly his willingness to lay down his life.

It was in doing this he saved the sheep. When Our Lord gave up His life He set in motion another force which would prove to be stronger than anything the devil could do.

It was the force of Love, enough love to atone for every sin and sinner.

(This is why the death of martyrs, against expectation, can bear so much fruit after the event.)

Our Lord then proceeded to build up His Church (the flock) and reinforce it with His grace so that the wolf would not be able to return.

Having saved His sheep He then set about keeping them. We can recall another reference to sheep. Those who were lost He would go in search for them (Mt 18,12). He does not want to throw away what He has worked so hard for!

Jesus saves us from the wolf by enabling us to live without sin. Firstly we are forgiven for the sin we have committed. Then we are transformed such that we no longer want to sin.

We will develop a repugnance to sin such that it will have no further appeal for us.

And we will be wiser in recognising the wiles of the devil in the various ways he tempts us.

So the devil has less ways of reaching us, and enslaving us again. The closer we keep to the Shepherd the safer we will be.

This would have worked a lot better if the sheep had been more responsive and grateful for what had been done on their behalf.

But many do not think about it. They are too busy grazing – thinking about their stomachs and other pleasures, and so they let the wolf back in. They have turned back to Egypt having already been set free.

This temptation we all face, and all the time. So we draw closer to the Shepherd and decrease the likelihood of becoming lost again.

Seeing the Church as a flock, in need of protection, might seem an overly negative view. Some would call this a ‘ghetto’ mentality; as though we are all huddled together trying to keep evil out of our midst.

It is necessary to keep evil out as far as we can, but we are not a ghetto. We interact with the surrounding world, but we do not take in its false values. We do not need to hide behind a wall to be safe from sin. We are safe because we have learned to think and act as Christ has taught us.

And we are always outwards-directed insofar as we seek to go out and baptize all nations, winning new converts and reclaiming those who have strayed.

The Saviour is still saving us, still keeping us safe. It has to be an ongoing work as long as there is still the possibility of being lost.

He cannot save us, however, if we do not cooperate with Him. If we do cooperate we will see, as the Old Testament prophecies foresaw, His salvation reaching the ends of the earth (Ps 98,3).

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Low Sunday 27 Apr 2014 Sermon

Low Sunday 27.4.14 Knowing with certainty

When Our Lord rose from the dead He appeared to His disciples in several appearances, at one stage to five hundred at a time (1 Cor 15,6)

He did not, however, appear to those who opposed Him such as the Pharisees, Herod, Pilate etc.

It seems only those who loved Him could appreciate seeing Him. Loving Him (at least partially) is a pre-requisite to having faith in Him. Our Lord expects us to believe in His resurrection even though we have not seen it. If He expects this it must be possible.

Seeing is not everything. We make it everything but there are other ways of knowing things besides seeing them. Knowledge can come other than through sense experience.

This event of the Resurrection is knowable in another way. Not through the external senses but from the interior, we discover the truth by living in it. If we live as the Lord directs us His grace will act on our minds and hearts, and somehow, between mind and heart we will know with certainty that Christ is risen.

We come to know Him through prayer, through the sacraments, through experiencing His presence in a thousand different ways.

There is much we do not understand but we have a strong interior certainty that all that is said of Him (by the Church) is true and that we could stake our whole lives on this truth.

This is not just head knowledge but knowledge from the heart as well. Our hearts yearn for this truth and that yearning is fulfilled.

We sense instinctively that death is not the last word. (Even the pagans think this much.)

We look around at the beauty of the world, and believing in a God of life, a God who can make life so abundantly, we sense that He would not allow death to wipe out all He has made.

Nor does He allow it. The new Adam bursts forth from the tomb triumphantly and sets in motion a whole process of restoration which we now experience.

Our Lord meant it when He said, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.

The vast majority of His disciples did not see and yet believe. We are blessed not just because it requires an extra effort of faith to believe something we have not seen; but blessed because if we do believe it must mean we are in some measure living the truth in which we believe.

More blessed are you because you are not just looking for external signs but you are letting your soul do the talking. You are letting your soul register interiorly what cannot be obtained through the exterior senses.

We have allowed ourselves to become imprisoned in a sense world.

Our religion is one of the heart, which appeals to the poetic, yet is not lacking in objective proof.

There is something for everyone in this religion. If we want head knowledge there are many pieces of evidence which point to the Resurrection being true.

If we want heart knowledge just do what He says and the belief will come.

If we believe first we will act on it, but it is also true to say that if we act first the belief will come.

If I sit back and say, I need a miracle before I will believe, I probably won’t get that miracle and will probably also continue in a life of sin which will blur the understanding even more.

This is why people like the Pharisees, despite seeing so many miracles, still did not acknowledge Jesus. Their hearts were blind (Jn 9,41).

We still use our brains but we also use the heart, and thus we see it all come together.

If we are humble and faithful enough to see it through to the end we will be able to say with Thomas, My Lord and my God.