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.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sunday after the Ascension 1 Jun 2014 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 1.6.14 Praying as one

At this time of year we recall the gathering of the Apostles with Our Lady in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised Holy Spirit.

There is power in prayer and even more so when the prayer is from ‘two or three’ gathered in the Lord’s name. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. (Mt 18,19)

There must have been a very high level of agreement in that room. There may have been the normal tensions to be found in any group of people, but once the prayer took hold everyone concerned would have moved to a more communal point of view, leaving aside any selfishness or individualism.

This oneness of mind and heart is something we must re-capture in our time.

It has been a tradition to pray at this time of year especially for Christian unity. As the prayer has it: that they may all be in one flock, under one shepherd.

The Catholic Church itself cannot move to some new position. Our beliefs, teachings, practices are firmly in place.

But we Catholics have to do some ‘moving’ of another kind, and that is that we move away from sin; that we open our hearts and minds more fully to the coming of the Holy Spirit; that we bury all selfishness and individualism, as those first disciples would have done.

How can we pray for the Holy Spirit to come if our hearts and minds are closed to His influence?

If we pray with sufficient intensity we will find that we are formed into a unity.

If we start to pray the oneness will come as we do that. Then, in turn, our prayer will become more powerful and effective.

Whatever good qualities we bring to the prayer will be refined and multiplied by the Holy Spirit, forming us into the strong disciples the Church needs in our times.

If we have faith it will become stronger. If we have goodwill it will increase. If we seek the truth we will grow in understanding.

There are many Christians praying together around the world every day yet we are still so far short of the required unity.

We differ on doctrine, we lack charity for each other. We need to believe the same things (on essential points of faith and morals). And we need to love one another.

The prayer we make (albeit very imperfect) will move us closer to these goals. The more seriously we pray the more our appetite for these things will increase.

It is reasonable to speculate that the prayer in the original Cenacle would have become more intense each day as those present became more focused in their desire.

We can have the same experience. We cannot all gather in one room but we can be one in mind and heart whenever we do gather; and even when praying alone can have the same aspirations.

Whatever God wants to send us, we want to receive it.

We have Our Mother - who pivoted the prayers of the disciples back then - still in the same role now.

She encourages us to persevere, not to be fainthearted; to realize that whatever is lacking can be supplied if only we ask for it with sufficient intensity.

May her prayers assist ours as we pray for a new Pentecost in our time; a re-capturing of all that was good about the first Pentecost.