Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Day

Mass on Friday 1st January will be at 8am, St Monica's. (No 6.45am Mass)

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27 Dec 2015 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 27.12.15 Sign of contradiction

Simeon predicts that the new-born Christ will be a sign of contradiction (Lk 2,34), a sign that will be ‘spoken against’.

The world had already ‘spoken against’ God insofar as it had adopted sinful ways. Our Lord would come and speak the original word of God, which had always been in place.

And they said it was He who was rebelling, not the world.

But He was merely speaking the Truth from God, of how things really stood.

He spoke the truth and He made it clearer than it had ever been.

In this He was ‘contradicting’ established liberties people were taking.

He explained the commandments, and revealed their inner meaning. In the case of each major type of sin He gave a better way of dealing with it:
Gluttony – Temperance; Lust – Chastity; Anger – Forbearance; Pride – Humility;
Avarice - Generosity; Envy – Goodwill; Sloth – Zeal.

The world goes one way; He points another way.

Usually the way of sin is easier than the way of virtue, so it has in that sense first claim on us.

We are likely to commit the sin unless we have some way of connecting with Our Lord.

If we go His way we will be happier and better people, but it takes a certain amount of courage and determination to get there.

And what is the other way, the world’s response to this Sign of Contradiction? Kill Him!

It is easier to kill the messenger than to adopt the message.

So Herod thought it would be easier to kill the Messiah rather than to let Him rule.

And the Pharisees thought it would be better for them to remove the troublesome Jesus than to put His words into effect.

And so the world has ever thought, as it has put to death countless of Our Lord’s disciples (cf St Stephen, feast yesterday)

It is quicker and easier but there is only one snag – it does not work!

The way of the Cross (contradiction) is hard, but very rewarding, both for this life and the next.

For us, it is necessary that we do not kill the Messenger, and further that we take heed of the Message.

If we are to be Christian we must be Christ-like.

This might seem impossible, but the Saviour has another resource to help us.

The perfect self-control, by which Our Lord kept His own commands, is available to us whenever we make contact with Him through prayer and sacrament.

His humanity will be working in our humanity to enable us to see things in a clearer light; and we will find that the lure of sin that used to overpower us is simply removed.

We are less likely to commit the sin because we have less desire for that way of doing things.

We break old habits and take on new ones – which are much better. Virtues replace vices as the main areas of sin are exposed for the fraudulent hold they have had on the human race.

We are surrounded by people who would kill Christ - and us - to protect their status quo: whether it be out of deliberate malice for the Church (as in sworn enemies of the Church); or just moral laziness (as in average citizens who cannot be bothered reforming themselves).

More than ever the laws and prevailing opinions are closing in on us. Those who uphold the true morality are being persecuted more and more openly.

This is the sign of contradiction in action.

The Saviour is still capable of saving, and He will not leave us orphans. May He continue to inspire, protect, and finally bring to victory those who follow His way.

We can rejoice in this Christmas octave that there is another way, and a much better one, and we are travelling it.

By the sign of His Cross we shall be saved.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Mass times

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

There is no evening Mass at St Anthony's, Edwardstown on Christmas Day.

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

Other days:
Sat 26 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Sun 27 Dec, 8am St Monica's; 5pm St Anthony's
Mon 28 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Tue 29 Dec, 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 30 Dec, 6.45am St Monica's
Thu 31 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Fri 1 Jan, 8am, St Monica's (not 6.45am).

Happy Christmas to all!

Fr David Thoroughgood

4th Sunday of Advent 20 Dec 2015 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 20.12.15 Are we ready?

Are we ready for Christmas? I don’t mean the shopping. Are we ready to greet the Saviour?

Are we ready to meet Him at Bethlehem, or at any of His appearances – such as the Eucharist, the Final Judgment, or His daily interactions with us?

It is the same Divine Person we meet in all these cases. We focus on different aspects of His identity but it all centres on Him. ‘Courage, it is I!’ (Mt 14,27)

It comes to questions of this sort:
Do we trust that He is the ultimate answer; out of all the people and things in the world, that He is the one we most need to be right with.
Do we love Him more than the people closest to us?
Do we love serving Him more than any of our favourite pursuits?
Do we grasp that He is more important than any other person or thing, or any other voice of authority?
That He is more truthful than anyone else; in every way more reliable?
Do we see Him as someone to love, not just to fear?

All of these questions, and more, could be asked by way of what it means to be ready for Him.

If Advent is a season of preparation then have we prepared? It is hard to say what is enough, but more is always better. Have we just put a toe in the water, or are we wading deep into the sea – as regards how seriously we seek to be His disciple?

We put a lot of restraints on our dealings with Him. We tend to take Him only in bits and pieces, disjointedly. We fail (generally) to see His absolute overriding importance.

For some He is relegated to ‘religion’, which they do not want in any form.

Others may be ‘religious’ to a degree, but they reduce Him just to certain times and events, eg someone who always goes to Midnight Mass, but not any other Mass.

All time, all places, belong to Him. The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof: the world, and all they that dwell therein. (Ps 23,1)

Even those who are more committed can still just be going through the motions. Our religious devotion has to be from the heart.

We need His help, of course, for this to happen. We need Him to help us be ready for Him.

‘Prepare ye the way’ means removing all the restraints or barriers we put before Him.

God wants to come; to save us; to take us to Heaven; to patch up this earth to be like Heaven. He has the power and the will to do all this. The only thing stopping Him is that we don’t let Him!

We might say we are not stopping Him, but we are insofar as we sin against Him, and put our will ahead of His; insofar as we argue with Him; or refuse to do basic things, like prayer.

We cooperate with other processes. If we were lost in the mountains we would be doing everything in our power to attract the attention of the rescue party.

But when God the Son comes to rescue us we make difficulties for Him.

We tell him His commands are too hard. We refuse to trust Him. We keep Him at arm’s length. We abandon Him.

So it comes back to Prepare the way… this means to make it easy for Him to find us.

God is insistent in delivering His message, but He does not force our final consent.

He might remove our false securities by way of directing us to Himself; but the final decision will be ours.

For our part we don’t have to be chastised before we obey. We can get in first.

And we obey not out of fear, but love. All with His help.

May He find us ready when He comes.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Christmas Mass times

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

There is no evening Mass at St Anthony's, Edwardstown on Christmas Day.

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

Other days:
Sat 26 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Sun 27 Dec, 8am St Monica's; 5pm St Anthony's
Mon 28 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Tue 29 Dec, 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 30 Dec, 6.45am St Monica's
Thu 31 Dec, 8am St Monica's
Fri 1 Jan, 8am, St Monica's (not 6.45am).

Happy Christmas to all!

Fr David Thoroughgood

3rd Sunday of Advent 13 Dec 2015 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 13.12.15 Gaudete Sunday

Why is light given to him who is in misery, and life to the bitter in soul, who long for death, but it comes not, and dig for it more than for hidden treasures, who rejoice exceedingly and are glad when they find the grave? (Job 3,20-22)

This passage contrast somewhat with today’s Epistle: Rejoice in the Lord always! (Ph 4,4).

Yet both are the word of God. They do not contradict each other, but remind us that we go through a range of feelings in this life.

There is always a mixture of joy and sorrow, though we might suspect the sorrow is more prominent.

Being joyful is not something that can be switched on like a tap. It is not so much how we look – whether we are smiling or laughing. It is more directing us to the Source of joy; and then we realize we have more than we need; in fact we have it all.

We have Jesus Christ in our midst, and that must be a cause of joy - and therefore we must be joyful.

It is a principle of how to proceed rather than how we feel at any moment.

Circumstances come and go and there are some things we just cannot be happy about (eg coming across the scene of an accident); but we are always happy that God is with us; and that He has the power and love to make things come to their proper end.

Joy has to work its way through the system. It has to be from within. It is not something we can just take in from outside. Certain stimulants can help but only for a time. They address the symptoms but not the basic condition.

Joy comes from deep within; it is a sense of rightness, of order, of things being as they should; of standing on firm foundations; of travelling in the right direction; of anticipating final salvation.

These are good things to have. They do not remove the many sufferings we have in this life.
But they put them into context. And we come to realise that in the race between joy and sorrow in fact it is the joy that is way out in front.

Joy is deeper than sorrow, and more enduring - as God is greater than the devil, or life is greater than death.

There are many people who feel as bad as Job felt. We cannot just talk them into happiness. But we can help them to see the direction they need to go.

And that direction is Christ-wards. Rejoice always means ‘Be close to the Lord’ or ‘Be in union with Him’ or any similar expression.

If we are with Him we are with the source of life and every blessing.

We are not guaranteed an easy life but a better one, and certainly a better eternity.

Today people are very impatient with God. If He is there why does He not show Himself?
Why does He not remove all the suffering? – they ask.

This impatience and anger prevent them from seeing where the solution lies. It is not just quick-fixes from heaven but a whole attitude change required.

Some things will be discovered only if given time. Let the tree grow and you will see it bears fruit. Chop it down to see what is wrong with it and it will not produce anything.

We cannot always be grinning broadly, but we can always have a calm serenity. We grin sometimes and we cry sometimes. They are not incompatible. They are simply different parts of the same drama.

But the overall issue is whether or not there is anyone flying this plane? Is there someone at the controls of this universe? We know there is. So we are joyful.

Friday, 11 December 2015

2nd Sunday of Advent 6 Dec 2015 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 6.12.15 Hard words

When parish missions were ‘fire and brimstone’ the people would crowd in to hear about the dangers of going to Hell.

Now, preaching tends to be much softer and basically assures people that they are loved by God and on course for Heaven. And crowds are down!

The false prophets of the Old Testament would tell the people what they wanted to hear, even if it was not true. The same thing happens today.

Ultimately we want the truth, even if it hurts. Better to hear a hard word which does some good than a soft word which does nothing.

Yet many today want the Church to soften its message further and further, to abandon all its hard teachings, in the hope that it will attract more people.

Clearly it will not have this effect. For one thing if the Church only repeats what the world says, there is no reason to come to the Church. If everyone is good and everyone is saved, why come here, unless for the social life? But that can be found in other places too.

The figure of John the Baptist gives us a clue as to what we need, and what we seek.

John’s message was repentance. There are many things wrong with the world and these have to be addressed. We all need to change certain things we are doing; to lift our game. It hurts to give up things we are used to, but we are going to discover much better things in their place.

And John delivered this message from a penitential life. As Our Lord pointed out: You would not expect such a message to come from a man who was dressed in luxurious style and indulging in physical comforts. He was self-denying, showing by example that we must all be disciplined and focused on the things that really matter.

There is a certain hard edge to all this which cannot be escaped. We have to face reality and deal with it at the root. We want to hear the word that will lift us out of the doldrums and enable us to achieve something better.

And although it has a hard edge it is in the end soft in its effects.

The Church does actually make it easier after all, as we point out how to live in a way which will lead to happiness. This is like a bird discovering it has wings to fly. We come to see that God’s way is the best and only way for the whole thing to work.

So it is that people were attracted to John’s preaching even though they knew they were going to get something a bit hard to digest. They wanted to hear it.

Deep down people do not want to be told just to be the same as everyone else, because they sense that will not be a solution. The world is in too sorry a state for us to stay the same! Something has to change.

There is a yearning for a deeper solution. Many regard the Church as the very last option, but are still fascinated by what it says.

The Church has to be different from the world, but the best outcome would be for the world to be the same as the Church! All people should be children of God and disciples of Christ.

It is the world that needs to change, not the Church. The Church, certainly needs to change as far as human sinfulness is concerned, but not our doctrines. We do not lower the bar; it stays where it is and we learn to jump higher!

John the Baptist, in his other-worldliness, reminds us that there is something better and deeper than what we see around us. May he continue to inspire us.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

1st Sunday of Advent 29 Nov 2015 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 29.11.15 Keeping the fire lit

There was a sense of expectation among the first Christians that Our Lord would return quickly after His Ascension.

But gradually they realized that they might have to settle in for a long haul, and get on with their lives in other ways – getting married, taking up careers etc.

Our Lord intended to give them time to baptize all nations; and also to give us a chance - the future generations!

This created other problems, such as how to keep the fire lit for such long times.

We have struggled as our history shows, and also our present situation. The fire has well and truly gone out for many of Our Lord’s potential disciples.

Many lose the faith along the way (as in the Sower parable); many refuse to embrace it. Many do not have it explained to them properly. All sorts of heresies and schisms arise to lead people astray.

Then we have to do it all over again for each new generation. We have to keep the torch alight and take it to the ends of the earth. Not easy.

This longer-term understanding of Our Lord’s return has implications for our lives too.

It means that if we embrace the faith early in life we have to hold faithful to it for a long time, well beyond half a century.

It is hard for us to be good for such long time spans, at least if by ‘good’ we mean Christ-like perfection.

If we knew Our Lord would return tomorrow we would be on our very best behaviour. We would confess, pray non-stop, help each other etc…

When we push ourselves we can do it, but much of the time we are in a state of slumber - I will get around to it one of these days… It is very easy to put off reform as long as the sky is clear!

Is it possible to be that good for that long? We can do it in short bursts, but do we not have to ease off the pressure as in a long-distance race?

When it comes to following Christ we cannot justify easing off, at least not in a spiritual sense. cf today’s epistle: Shake off the slumber. Get out there and do something. The enthusiasm of St Paul may not appeal to us. Give me another hour in bed we might say.

It can sound like a burden to have to be good all the time. Going to Mass, praying the Rosary, keeping out of mischief…

But if there are points along the way where we can be refreshed and rejuvenated it becomes manageable.

Refreshment, and also retrieval if we have gone astray. So we have Confession and can climb back on anytime.

The sacraments, our prayer, the Mass especially – these things replenish us with heavenly grace, wisdom, kindness, goodwill, ability to make sacrifices. Like Elijah who ate mysterious food provided for him and was able to walk for forty days (3 K 19,8).

Just like we need food to stay alive for a long time, so we need food from Heaven to sustain us.

So living for 50-plus years as a disciple of Christ is not so hard as we thought. We can always take the present moment and put all our energy into it.

It is not a weary pilgrimage so much as an ever-new adventure. Each time takes us to the next one and eventually we can rest.

It is not only possible to do this but necessary. Not only necessary but desirable – something we want to do. Following Christ is not a burden but a joy.

Let us not lose the moments while we still have them. While the daylight lasts we make use of it.

If we lived for 300 years instead of 100 we could still do this, on the same principle.

But also we are ready at any moment to leave.

Both ways we can handle it. The Lord will make it possible. He is our hope and our strength.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22 Nov 2015 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 22.11.15 Hope

It’s that time of year when we think especially about the end of the world.

The way things are going in the world at present it feels like the end of the world every day.

Between the terrorists and their violence, and the secularists eroding away at our beliefs and values we feel the squeeze from all directions.

Our society is descending into both physical and moral chaos.

Are we worried? To a degree, yes, but we are also filled with hope, and even joy as we draw upon our faith. The central point of our faith is that there is a God who created us, saves us, keeps all things in view and has the power at any point to intervene as He pleases.

The challenge for us is to stay calm. As in a fire drill: please proceed to the nearest exit, do not run, stay calm, gather outside until further instruction….

So we could say this for the whole of our lives: Do not panic, and wait for further instructions. Do not panic because God is with us; and wait for further instructions from Him!

So we can listen to readings like today’s Gospel and still survive. The end of the world holds no fear for us if we are in a state of grace.

Well, let us admit we would be frightened if the sky started falling in, but we understand that the grace of God would enable us to cope with any such eventuality, and we would call upon the inner joy that comes with faith.

When these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption is drawing near.” (Lk 21,28)

A certain amount of physical turmoil is to be expected.

But more important is the spiritual reaction. We do not panic, or lose faith for anything that happens either personally or on a larger scale.

We do not break our union with God, which would be like cutting a lifeline.

There is much we do not understand about God and His plans but we get the essential idea, which is that we must stand close to Him. If I can but touch the hem of his garment (Mt 9,21).

The passages like today’s Gospel serve as a warning: God gives the human race many chances, but there is a time when time will run out. And then it is too late.

All things must pass. If we try to build a kingdom without God we will lose house, city, freedom, life, and soul.

Time runs out. How many die without a chance to recollect, let alone repent?

How fragile it all is, even the structures on which we rely.

Despite the general impression of gloom this word from God inspires us to seek deeper union with Him.

While everything shifts, we stand on the rock which does not move.

Some despair and give way to hedonism. Some find the wrong certainties, as in false religions.

This is where true religion comes in. Is there truth out there in all this madness? It is the Faith. Carefully established and proven over millennia.

When the enemies come to get you, hold on the certainties. We will stand with Him: I know that my Redeemer liveth (Job 19,25).

We keep the heavenly perspective and do not let the turbulence around us deflect or distract us.

Remember the fire drill. The required response is essentially calmness. If we keep turning up and praying each week, each day, it has to make a difference. It is like a drill what we do here. It will enable us to act coolly in whatever crisis emerges.

And the other point about the fire drill: we wait for instructions. We live our lives according to His word.

If enough people would obey Him some of these terrible things need not happen. In any event we ourselves will be ready for whatever comes.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

25th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Nov 2015 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost (Readings 6th Sunday after Epiphany) 15.11.15 One Saviour

Our Lord talks in parables because He did not want to hit people with too much too soon; so He broke it to them in bits, hoping they would take it in.

One thing people have trouble taking in is the uniqueness of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Church He has founded.

Here is Jesus healing left and right, but people (and even His disciples) do not grasp the significance of His actions.

Who has the power to give life where it has been extinguished? Who has the authority to forgive sins?

Our Lord did these things, repeatedly. He was making the point that Salvation is found in Him, and the further point that it is not found anywhere else!

The Israelites were set free from Egypt but they soon forgot the source of their blessings and turned to false gods. The Jews of Our Lord’s time missed the true God among them because they were blinded by their own limited expectations.

The people of our time miss the true God because they pursue the false gods of pleasure, wealth, living in the flesh and not the spirit.

In every age and culture it seems the temptation to worship the wrong gods is prevalent. There is one real God and all the others are false. But the false ones will have enough appealing qualities to lead people astray.

Freedom of thought (misused), excessive individualism, a thousand counterfeits – and we have people confused and looking in the wrong places for salvation.

So we come back to asserting that there is one God, one Saviour, one tree to which all birds must come… today’s Gospel.

In the secular view the Church is just another organisation, another player on a crowded field. It has no particular importance.

But as Jesus puts to us, the Kingdom of God (Church) is meant to cover the whole world.

Just as He is King of all, His Church is meant to cover every part of the world. Go and baptise all nations (Mt 28,19).

There is only one God, one Saviour, one Church – and all must enter that Church to be saved.

As Our Lord said, in another tree image – He is the tree and we are the branches. Joined to Him we live and bear fruit; cut off from Him we can do nothing (Jn 15,5).

Even Catholics do not understand this, as with a false ecumenism they give too much respect to false religions.

It may seem arrogant to claim to be the only true religion out of all the others. We do not say this because we feel superior but because Jesus Christ is superior! He is the centre of all places, all times, all events, all history.

They crucified Him for claiming ‘too much’. So they will crucify us as well for saying the same things. Even other believers will persecute us.

It makes it harder when we are persecuted but we see we must hold on to the truth.

How can we convince others? Not by human efforts alone. We need the same miraculous power that has kept the Church afloat all this time, despite so many external persecutions and internal divisions; so much sin and scandal from the disciples of Christ.

It has to be a miracle we have come this far.

Many say the Church is corrupt, so why join it? It is still the Body of Christ, still the vehicle He uses to save the world, still the tree to which we must be joined.

This is one of the things He was telling us in parables, and which we are still challenged to understand. There is one Saviour and only one. Any alternative and we will not be saved.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

24th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Nov 2015 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost (with 5th Sunday after Epiphany) 8.11.15 Prayer for the dead

The Gospel foreshadows the final judgment (the separation of the wheat and the darnel).

At this time of year we consider more closely the end of things; the end of our lives; the end of the world. We pray for those who have already died that they receive a merciful judgment, and the full purification necessary to enter Heaven.

We believe judgment occurs at the moment of death, but also that prayer can work backwards in time.

So if I hear that X has died last week, I can still pray now that he be judged mercifully. God can see all time at once so a late prayer can still be effective.

When we ask God to be merciful to a sinner we are not asking Him to do something differently than He is already doing. God is merciful anyway!

But we are encouraged to ask, all the same. Our prayer is more to do with the human response than with God's initiative.

We can ask that certain people be forgiven but they may not want to be forgiven. They may have resentment towards God. They may be hardened in sin so that they do not want to give it up.

It is much the same problem as we have praying for living people to convert to a holy life. Many simply do not want to do this.

In which case we are asking for a burst of divine grace and mercy to open the hearts and minds of the dead and move them to true sorrow, a perfect sorrow which grasps the full weight of their sin and leads them to a complete renunciation of it.

This is how we are made ready for Heaven; we have to be transformed to the point that we see things in exactly the same light as God sees them.

When we pray for others we are transmitting the love of God to those other people. It is not that God's love increases – because it is already infinite – but that it is focused on the one being prayed for. (Like magnifying the rays of the sun through a magnifying glass – it can start a fire).

The more people praying the more things will happen.

It is up to each person whether or not he receives the mercy that is being offered. Some will hold out against it. That itself can be overcome with prayer. Many layers of resistance are possible; it just means we have to pray more.

And this at a time when many no longer think they need to pray for the dead. It means we must pray overtime to make up for those who do not pray.

A second aspect of our prayer for the dead is for the souls in Purgatory.

Purgatory is a place for those who have been forgiven but still need perfecting before entering Heaven.

For example, a murder committed in anger could be forgiven, but there is probably still some anger in the heart of the murderer, which would take longer to remove.

It is not so easy to be free of all attachment to sin. And we cannot enter Heaven with any imperfection.

It is one thing to stay out of hell, but not so easy to get to Heaven!

We do not know who is in Purgatory and what each person’s particular need is but we trust that our prayers and sacrifices are helping in some way.

And as we pray for the perfecting of others, of course we take on the lessons ourselves and seek perfection in our response to God’s grace and mercy – before and after death!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

All Saints 1 Nov 2015 Sermon

All Saints 1.11.15 The call to be saints

Today’s feast is a chance for us to celebrate the ‘unsung saints’ those who have reached Heaven, but are not canonised saints.

Today is a time to acknowledge the good that has been achieved by members of the Church over the years. Faithful attention to duty, courage under duress, temptations and sins resisted, good works of every kind. The living out of the Beatitudes.

These saints have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. They have obtained mercy for their sins and been found faithful at the time of death.

It is encouraging that ordinary people we have known - aunties and uncles, teachers we had at school; people who were old when we were young – that people like these who were ordinary in their lives, and probably only ordinary in virtue, could now be in Heaven. It gives us hope of achieving the same thing.

We would like to be better than ‘ordinary’; but it is comforting all the same that there is a ‘safety net’ in place. Thank God for Confession!

However we are called to holiness. We must not see the commandments as a burden, something to be resented. Nor must we water them down as so many are trying to do.

The commands of God are a liberation. What God tells us to do must be the best thing for us, and it must be possible to fulfil. God could not command the impossible, and would not set us anything but the best course. We could never think of anything better ourselves.

So we do not fear holiness. It is just a matter of seeing it in the right light.

If we are told: you must be good all the time; and never do anything wrong – that can sound like a burden; each command gradually tightening the grip on us till we give up all our pleasures, and see ourselves being reduced to singing in the choir at church!

But the same thing can be put in other words: Would you like to discover the life as planned by God directly for you? To discover the potential happiness that can be uncovered as you grow in acceptance of God's will for you?

Self-improvement courses are very popular at present. You can learn how to speed-read, improve your memory, master public speaking, and become proficient at Windows 10… and all such things. They will enhance your life.

But not so much as you will be enhanced if you simply discover the ways of God and how immediately and directly He will work with you in your life; how joyful it will be for you to be in communion with Him; taking instructions from Him; gradually overcoming faults and discovering the corresponding virtues.

To be an All-Saint is to be in tune with the will of God. There are different levels of sainthood. It depends on how many talents we were given in the first place. Also it depends on how soon we enter the service of the Lord.

The longer we spend in the Lord’s service the better; the sooner we start in the vineyard the better.

But then intensity is a factor. One could come in later but be far more zealous in the service of the Lord than someone who has been around longer.

You are here now and that is a good thing. Wherever you have been, whatever you have done, now you are expressing your willingness to put your lives in His hands.

Do not be afraid of what He has in store for you. Be assured He will forgive you for anything and everything up to this point, and He will guide and sustain you in whatever comes next.

Is it all worth it? Ask any saint! May the Lord make us saints, and bring us through every obstacle to the greatest heights we can reach.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

All Souls Day Masses

Low Mass for All Souls Day, Monday 2nd November 2015 will be
These are all at St Monica's, Walkerville
There will be a Solemn Mass at Holy Name, St Peters, 6.30pm

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Christ the King 25 Oct 2015 Sermon

Christ the King 25.10.15

The annual Christ the King Pilgrimage concludes today (Victoria, Australia).

Several hundred people are walking through towns and cities displaying their faith in Christ, specifically acknowledging His Kingship.

We want to proclaim Him to the world, for His own sake; and also to convert others to believe in Him and give Him allegiance. Every knee shall bow before Him, or must do so eventually. There is no option. He is Lord whether we affirm or deny it.

He cannot be dethroned by human opinion. The world, in general, tries to deny, ignore, or downplay Jesus Christ. They laughed at Him when He was on the Cross, and they laugh still. But they will not laugh when they see Him coming in glory.

The pilgrims are saying to one part of the world: Behold your God.

The message applies in every place and every time. There is no particle of the universe that does not come under the authority of Christ. All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Mt 28,18).

Some will say that religion is essentially a private matter, and not to be intruded on ‘normal’ life; that Church and State should be separate, thus relegating religion to a minor and optional role in human affairs.

But the Church must direct the State, insofar as God's authority must be always respected.

It is God who rules this and every country.

The State can be separate insofar as we do not expect bishops to decide where to put new roads or set taxation rates. These things are not directly under the sphere of the Church but indirectly, through the involvement of Catholic laity, they still come under God's authority.

The Church is not just one particular type of humanity that thinks a certain way, and everyone else thinks another way.

The Church represents how everyone should think on the basic questions of faith and morality. We can differ on many things such as culture, temperament, ways of doing things – but we cannot differ on these basic things which affect all humanity equally (eg laws about marriage, the Ten Commandments).

The State runs itself but it must have the same beliefs that the Church has.

Are we not a democracy? We cannot govern ourselves if we will not first obey God.

Has the Church been discredited by too many scandals? How can we tell the world what to do when we do not do it ourselves?

The scandals make it harder to sell the message but they do not invalidate the message.

Christ is still King; and the Church is still His Body.

We must of course strive to heal the ugly human elements of the Church’s life. We must be Christ-like ourselves, in purity and charity. The Church can apologise but we cannot cease to be what we are.

It is, ultimately, not a message to be feared. That Christ rules the world is a good thing for the world. He has goodwill towards us; He wants to give us every good thing.

It is more straightforward than we make it. The human race has made it all a quagmire of conflicting opinions and desires.

The deeper people get into sin the less wise they become and then the more resistant to the truth when it comes. Someone who is used to the dark does not want to let the light in (…people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. Jn 3,19)

This is why there is so much hatred towards Christ.

We meanwhile must hold firm, live by the truth, proclaim it; take part in public displays of faith when we can.

Show forth our numbers. We are not such a minority as we might think. We can make the non-believers uneasy.

In the short term we have to do a lot of atoning for sin. We are still very much in the Gethsemane and Calvary stage as we follow our King.

It might be easier in the future but for now it is mainly getting crucified! Whether they love or hate you hold firm to Christ and you will be vindicated, as He will be in His glorious return.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

21st Sunday after Pentecost 18 Oct 2015 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 18.10.15 Forgiveness

Today the Church acknowledges St Luke, known to us for the third Gospel.

There are certain passages unique to his Gospel, an emphasis on mercy:
The Magnificat – He has raised up the lowly; Jesus: He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free (Lk 4: 18). The “lost and found” stories (the stray sheep, the missing coin, the wayward son) are only to be found in Luke. Also: Repentance of Zacchaeus (19:1-10) Jesus weeps over Jerusalem (19:41-44) Meeting with "daughters of Jerusalem" (23:26-32) The good thief (23:39-43).

Today, however, it is a passage unique to Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 18,23-35) which also teaches about mercy – the abundance of God's mercy for us, and the necessity that we must be merciful with each other.

The first servant was forgiven, but somehow the experience did not sink in far enough to change his attitude to others.

We find it hard to forgive those who offend us. It should be easy but it is not somehow.

In really difficult cases we can do this through God’s infinite mercy. If He can forgive the one who offends me then He can help me to do what He is doing.

There are ways we can look at this, which will at least make it mentally clearer why we should forgive, even if there are still emotional blockages.

One image: we are all trying to escape a burning building. If I get outside I will not be trying to push you back inside.

Begrudging mercy to another is like this. Do I really want others to stay in their sins? It seems outrageous when we put it like that; but it is possible to resent the forgiveness of others.

At murder trials there is often someone in the gallery who will call out to the accused: I hope you rot in hell (or similar).

I heard of a woman who resented the fact that her husband made a deathbed confession.

We have the labourers in the vineyard parable and the prodigal son.

There is a resentment to those coming in late. It seems too easy to us who have been toiling away all this time. It offends our sense of fair play.

But we cannot complain. We are all treated better than we deserve, including the ones who have laboured longer in the vineyard. We have no strict right to eternal life; it is simply that God chooses to give it to us.

This is not a time for small-minded resentment.

If we are to ask for mercy it must be for ALL. Most of our prayers for mercy are in the plural, such as Forgive us our trespasses… pray for us sinners now…

We cannot say Lord have mercy on us, except this or that person!

We need to cultivate gratitude for the miracle of God’s mercy, which is so freely available.

Then we will be transformed enough to have goodwill towards everyone else, including those who have offended us.

The forgiveness takes root and changes us to a new person. We are not just freed from debt but actually a new person, able to do new things (like forgive others).

We want the other person to discover the same joy. So at the murder trial we should be calling out, I hope you go to heaven! It may take a long time for the other person to change, and maybe they never will, but at least we want it to happen.

Everything we need is in Christ. We call on Him at every point from the forgiveness of our own sin, to the right attitude towards the sin of others.

May the Mercy of God transform us all.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Change of location

Due to renovations at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh, from Sunday 8th November the Sunday 5pm Mass will be at St Anthony's, Edwardstown instead. St Anthony's is at the corner of South Road and Castle Street, just at the edge of the Cross Road overpass.

20th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Oct 2015 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 11.10.15 Rosary/Prayer

We have just celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary and October is a month dedicated to this prayer.

It is a powerful prayer which has been associated with significant military victories and other prayer campaigns.

Many are praying the Rosary in the light of the current Synod in Rome.

The Rosary leads us to focus on the life, death and resurrection of Christ, through and with Mary.

These events form the basis of all history, and all reality.

The coming of God into the world changes everything and forever.

When we pray the Rosary we are calling on the power of these events to work transformation in our midst; and to be transformed ourselves.

The more we bring ourselves into the light the more the powers of darkness are overcome.

It is a matter of perception. We would never sin if we could see God. Well, we cannot see Him, but we can perceive Him, through faith, prayer, and meditation.

The more we summon His presence the more likely we are to obey Him, and the more His good order will come into effect around us.

Even one person focusing on these mysteries will bring about a greater awareness of God and therefore enable His grace to act.

One person praying the Rosary can make a difference. Even better if many people are praying, and then the bigger objectives can be achieved. Like the conversion of Russia, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.

There is a humility and simplicity about the Rosary. Is it too simple? Not when we are getting back to the basics. We cannot do better than dwell on these basic truths, which do not change and do not lessen in force.

Just because we know the story we cannot think we have exhausted its power. If these things were ever true they are always true.

The presence of God grows stronger in proportion as we dare to call upon Him.

Every mystery we meditate is a deepening of our grasp on the truth of salvation.

In praying we are opening doors to grace. As St. John Vianney put it, prayer is like putting a snowball in the presence of a flame (so are our problems and anxieties when we come close to God).

To pray is to reverse completely the view we would otherwise have of the world. Unfortunately even we, who do pray, can feel overwhelmed by what we see around us.

The Rosary will keep us strong. It is not a great weapon in appearance. It is not a gun or a bomb. It would not frighten the armies of the world, not at first anyway.

Yet it invokes all the power of Heaven as we confront the power of evil.

Its power lies in its smallness. If we humble ourselves as Mary did, we are then empty vessels ready to receive the fullness of God.

Remember David’s weapons as he went into battle with Goliath? The less he took the more he was under God’s power.

As we go into spiritual battle we take nothing of ourselves but rely totally on the power of God.

The Rosary is our weapon, enabling us to draw on the humility of Mary. And she in turn brings us the presence of God.

She prays with us. She puts confidence and courage into us as we confront the host of problems on all sides.

We see the lack of faith, the immorality, the sacrilege, the apostasy... and then we see the majesty of God and His power sweeping all before it.

Let us work on this prayer, making sure we pray it each day, and take every chance to pray with others.

Good things will happen, if we do this.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

19th Sunday after Pentecost 4 Oct 2015 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 4.10.15 Salvation

‘I must get around to it someday’. This is a familiar saying, and one which is used often in relation to the practice of the faith.

People have an idea that they are not at rights with God and they resolve that ‘one of these days’ they will straighten things out.

The Gospel passage of the banquet, and other similar passages, convey a warning that there may be a time limit to such things.

‘One of these days’ may never come; we may be called to judgment before we do actually ‘get around to it’.

These passages (cf servants being busy when the Master returns; the foolish virgins who did not keep their lamps lit; the servants who buried their talents instead of using them) are meant to hurry us along, so that we put our good resolutions into effect now, and not at some vague future point.

We must not rely on a deathbed conversion because by then we may not be able to think straight or make a proper confession.

We may not even have a deathbed death – we could die suddenly, and thus be stranded as far as repentance is concerned.

Even those who call out ‘Lord, Lord’ may not be saved because the Lord will know their cries are insincere (Mt 7,21).

A last-minute repentance will be accepted if it is sincere, but it may be made more through fear than love. The question is: if we did come back to health would we behave differently?

This is a more fundamental problem than the matter of timing. The real issue is one of attitude.

We might confess our sins at 11.59 and be just in time, or 12.01 and be too late. But what really counts is whether we have any love for God in our hearts.

We cannot manipulate God, like playing a system. He will not be mocked (Ga 6,7). We must give Him our full allegiance to make a proper repentance (thus the man without the wedding garment in today’s Gospel).

If He is not important enough to me now how will He ever be important enough?

One can reach a point of no longer caring; no longer being able to distinguish right from wrong.

We are changed by all our moral decisions. We cannot just commit sin for forty years and think we can turn around in a moment. Our hearts may have hardened too much for change to be possible.

In fact people do turn around, but that is by grace and takes a lot of prayer from others. It is not just something we can switch on at will.

For those of us who have accepted the invitation to the banquet, who have tried to get it right - we conform by wearing the wedding garment, meaning we give God our best.

We are not just worried about judgment, but we want to give Him as much glory as we can, by the way we serve Him.

We wish we did not have to threaten hellfire (to ourselves or others), but human nature is so stubborn and perverse, that sometimes explosives are needed to get people to see the problem.

God is so good that to lose Him is something worth making a fuss about. It is terrible for a soul to be lost.

Ideally everyone will be able to see this and we will have no more need to tell each other, Learn to know the Lord (Jer 31,34) No more sermons about repentance because everyone can see that it is the obvious thing to do.

Repent, and come to the banquet of heaven. Everyone is invited. Everyone should come.

No more delays. Now is the acceptable time (2 Cor 6,2).

Thursday, 1 October 2015

18th Sunday after Pentecost 27 Sep 2015 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 27.9.15 Humanity

The Church is a divine and human institution and as such can be seen in different lights.

If we focus on the Church at the human level it is easy to see many faults and find much reason for discontent.

Many have left the Church, or refused to join it, because of such human faults eg lack of charity, sexual sins, hypocrisy…

But to judge the Church only on the human side is a mistake.

The Church is the Body of Christ and He is its Head. The Church has Our Lady as Mother, and she is also a member of the Church.

If we look at the Head of the Church we see miracle upon miracle, and total love and goodwill operating. Look at the Holy Family, the saints – and we see order, peace and every good quality.

If we look at some of the members of the Church we see selfishness, scandal, fighting, unforgiveness etc etc.

It is easy to see why people would want to leave the Church if we see only the faults.

But we must see the whole picture. The Church is instituted to make humans share in the divine; so that we can rise above our faults and gradually be Christ-ianised, made copies of Jesus Christ Himself.

There will be a lot of ugliness evident in the meantime but we are processing to the final stage. It is like a building site where all looks chaotic now but will eventually be a nice straight building with gardens and pathways. So the Church is in process of becoming the perfect Bride of Christ, the City of God.

We, who are still in the Church, have two tasks.

One is to remain faithful. We do not allow any negative experience to cause us to leave the Church or lose our faith. We do not always know why God allows certain things, but we entrust the government of His Church to Himself and keep our own place within it.

Nothing is improved by jumping ship. Better to stop the ship from sinking.

Two, we must try to improve our own humanity. We may be human but we do not have to be hopeless! We can improve with a little application and lots of grace.

God knows we are human; and He even knows what that is like, because He has taken on human nature.

But when joined with the divine we see that humanity can be freed from its usual failings and reach greater heights.

This is exactly the idea of the Incarnation and what it means for all humanity.

Some suggest that we make our commands easier so that we have more chance of keeping them. This is an appeal to the Church to be more ‘human’.

It is really a selling short of what humanity is called to. God the Son did not become human so that we would continue to wallow in our sins; and then try to say that they are not sins anyway!

He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10,10). This means that our human nature would be perfected by contact with the divine; and that the whole Church would be a place of intense holiness.

Much better than making the rules easier would be to keep the rules as they are, and live by them, with divine grace acting in us (which is what sacraments enable).

The rules - at least the most important ones – are divinely instituted so we are not free to change them anyway.

We hold firm, to our beliefs, and our hope. We improve the human, at least for ourselves, and we hope the same for others.

We see the divine, and this helps us cope with the human.

Lord, save Your Church.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

17th Sunday after Pentecost 20 Sep 2015 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 20.9.15 Loving God

The need for religion is often disputed along the lines that a non-religious person can be just as good, or just as useful, as a religious person.

One often hears a statement something like this: I have one neighbour who is kind and good but does not go to Mass; and the other neighbour goes to Mass but he is a drunkard and dishonest etc. The inference is that religious observance is essentially a waste of time. Just be good and that is all you need.

And beliefs do not matter either, under this approach. Whatever you believe makes no difference as long as you treat other people well.

But it does matter what we believe, and religious observance is important and necessary.

We have to worship the right God. To say that it does not matter which God we believe in would be like saying it does not matter which woman is your wife! Identity does matter.

For the two ‘neighbours’ we can say that the one who goes to Mass should let himself be changed by the grace of God and so live a better life. The one who does not believe or does not practise his religion – if he is as good as claimed - he will be better still if he learns to pray and give due honour to God.

The first command is to love God. We do not satisfy the first command by keeping the second. The first command has its own obligations.

To love God with one’s whole heart, soul and mind means a lot more than lending your lawn mower, and bringing in someone else’s bin.

It requires each of us to give God our whole allegiance; to seek Him out; to express trust in Him at all times; to pray to Him; to give Him praise and thanks; to express sorrow for offending Him; to take part in the Mass; to submit every thought and desire to His will.

God does not need our love but we need to give it.

This is the stage that is often missed as we leap instead into action, often misdirected, motivated by self rather than by God.

Unless we are seeking to do His will perfectly we cannot claim to love Him according to the first and greatest commandment.

We find Him in our neighbour but we must also find Him in Himself.

All this takes nothing away from love of others but should add to it.

If we give due honour to God we have much more chance of achieving real love of neighbour, which includes: forgiving those who offend us, praying for those who persecute us, seeking to bring others to faith… being willing to sacrifice any of our own preferences for the greater good.

Our love must be practical (Jm 2,16). We cannot just wish our brother well; we must actually help him, if we can. On the other hand if we are thinking only at the level of physical or material need we can overlook the deeper meaning of our actions.

Neither command is as easy as it sounds, but keeping either one will help us to keep the other.

We must be assured that to spend time in prayer to God; studying His ways; revising our behaviour in the light of His will – all these things are not a waste of time. They are in fact essential.

If we are not in union with the One from whom all else comes how can we expect to get other things right?

Yet so many are running about ignoring God because they have no time for Him. They race about so busily, even on Sundays.

Only with God’s help can we love Him in the way that He desires. May He give us that help.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

16th Sunday after Pentecost 13 Sep 2015 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 13.9.15 Know thyself

St Paul prays that we come to know God as He really is.

And the Gospel exhorts us to humility. Humility is knowing myself as I really am.

If I know God as He really is, and myself as I really am, things will work much better.

If we knew God better we would be more likely to obey Him. This in turn would bring His healing power into the world – a world which is so lost but does not have to be so.

Knowing God: this is not easy at first, because He is invisible and we cannot approach Him as easily as we can another person.

We can grasp mentally how good He must be but this does not easily transfer to the emotions. We do not easily feel His goodness.

We can approach in various ways. We can thank Him for His blessings; that is a start. All the beauty of our world; all the things we take for granted. Whoever is behind all this must be Someone!

Then if we actually obey Him we will start to see the marvellous order of His providence at work. People blame God for all that goes wrong, but it is only our disobedience to Him that causes all the trouble.

If we start to walk in his ways it will become clearer. With growing confidence in Him we will accept His will without complaint, and with complete trust. Then we will see many graces at work, presently obstructed by disobedience and lack of faith.

Whether we understand all the details or not we will go with Him to the finish. Nothing will separate me from the love of God. (cf Rm 8,39)

Knowing self: Any status we have is because we are created by God. Even our very existence is from him and any value we have could only be from Him.

Many try to detach themselves from Him, to run independently. This cannot work for long.

We humble ourselves before God. Humility is not lowering ourselves to be something less, but more a trimming of all the vanities we put on ourselves – till we finally get to the real person.

Vanities – the games we play to try to impress others, or to disguise our faults.

If we remove all them we discover what is underneath. We may be afraid there will be nothing there, but in fact what we find is someone made in God's image.

We try to impress each other, when in fact our real dignity lies in being children of God, redeemed by blood of the Lamb. He calls us friends (cf Jn 15,15)

One potential vanity is namedropping, casually mentioning important people. Well, we can all say, I know God. He calls me His friend!

The fact that others can say the same thing does not make it any less real for me. I don’t need to put you down to be important myself. We can all be important and still humble. The humility is not inflating oneself in any false way; simply sticking to the truth.

The truth is impressive enough if we would let ourselves look at it.

This gives us a new way of seeing ourselves and others.

No more looking down on others – for being poor, or not good enough, or any reason. We are all created in God's image and meant for salvation.

We learn to see the true image in each person and not fall into the usual traps.

Finally we shall know as we are known (cf 1 Co 13,12).

Thursday, 10 September 2015

15th Sunday after Pentecost 6 Sep 2015 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 6.9.15 Conversion

Our Lord restores the son to his mother. If we take the mother to be the Church and the son to be individual sinners then we can see what this miracle symbolises.

This miracle causes great excitement as it naturally would. To see a miraculous healing is one thing. To see a dead person come back to life is even more spectacular.

Our Lord could have done this every day of the week, but we have only three cases recorded in the Gospels (this young man, the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus).

He intended to raise everyone from the dead eventually; but for the time being He had another priority – to raise from sin!

It may not seem so to us but to be forgiven from sin is a greater thing than to be raised from the dead.

This is because sin is a greater evil than death. Death is only the penalty for sin. It is Sin which is the ultimate evil.

To be raised from sin is the more immediate problem. It is like the difference between curing the symptom and curing the disease itself.

But there is a snag. Not everyone wants to be forgiven; nor to give up the life of sin.

Sin is addictive and can be very hard to shake off. There are some sins which we will find easy not to do (eg bank robbery, murder) but others which are much harder to avoid (eg uncharitable words and thoughts).

This is true even for those who are disciples of Our Lord, who are trying to live good lives.

It is even more difficult for those who are not His disciples, who hate or ignore Him.

How can they give up sin when they do not even believe in Him, or may not acknowledge that they have any sin?

It is hard even for God to get through to some people.

He could easily override their will and make them sorry; but He chooses not to do this.

He wants to win people over by love rather than by force, so He works on them in a more subtle way - which gives them the chance to refuse.

To be forgiven we have to make a voluntary acknowledgment of our sorrow. It is His grace and mercy at work, but we have to make a response for the process to be complete.

It has to be voluntary, and this is where the blockage occurs.

God will work in mysterious ways around each person, but will not force them.

Sometimes - out of the blue as it seems to us – people will convert and repent, and be much happier in the process.

We rejoice in this but we need it to happen more often and more quickly.

There are millions of people throughout the world who are right now in a state of sin, and this would be in many cases mortal sin. They need rescue.

This is a crisis bigger than anything that makes our daily news. It may not be a visible problem but it is very real.

We can help by standing firm in the state of grace, constantly praying and doing penance for the conversion of others.

This is one of the Church’s major purposes for existing – to be a Mother for lost children.

Prayer will make conversions more likely to happen; and the more prayer the more good will follow.

The Church prays collectively all the time for the conversion of hearts and minds, for true sorrow for sin to take root, and for the mercy of God to complete the process of forgiveness.

Once forgiven each person then becomes responsible for helping others to reach the same point.

We are here because we have been fortunate enough to discover the workings of God’s grace. We have a duty to be grateful for that and also to do whatever we can to direct that grace to others.

Lord, have mercy!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

14th Sunday after Pentecost 30 Aug 2015 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 30.8.15 Spiritual maturity

God gives us what we need - that is what He thinks we need not what we think we need. (We have to read the fine print!)

We want money and cars and houses. He wants us to have humility and patience and generosity.

He does give us the material things too, but most of all He wants us to have the right idea about what we really need. So He says, Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all else will be given you besides.

He wants to save us by transforming us, changing the way we think, the way we value things; and this is preparing us for heaven.

He wants us to reach the point where we would be more likely to ask for humility or similar virtue, more fervently than we would ask for a new car etc.

We are allowed to ask for the things we need for basic comfort and dignity – enough to live on; food and shelter etc. But when it comes to more luxurious things we have to be prepared to live without them, if God so wills it.

Even the basic things we cannot guarantee fully, because circumstances might not permit them (eg war, famine). But we can always ask, and we are more likely to receive if we ask, than if we do not.

God wants us to understand that to possess Him is more important than to possess the various blessings He can give. He is greater than anything He has made, so we should be happy with Him. If we find ourselves murmuring with discontent it must mean we do not properly value God Himself.

Why does he withhold blessings? Sometimes He wants to give us different blessings, so if He refuses one thing it is only to give us something that will be better for us.

One thing in particular that He wants to bless us with is our ability to trust Him. He does not tell us much about the future. He lets us discover it bit by bit. This is frustrating for us as we would like to know certain things in advance. But He wants to keep us trusting in Him. So we have to pray our way into the future.

It is ironic that we trust other people more than we trust God. eg pilots, surgeons. We let them do more than we let God do.

God is proving us, refining us, seeking to bring us to spiritual maturity. So that we learn to relate to Him in a smooth consistent way, covering all times, not just when we have a pressing need.

We ask and thank all in one continuous motion. And what we ask takes on a less selfish quality, including the needs of other people, and that the plans of God unfold (His Kingdom come).

An example of this prayer is found in Our Lady at Cana. Son, they have no wine (Jn 2,3). No fuss, no panic. Knowing He would do something.

Once we have reached this higher level of spiritual maturity it turns out we are more likely to get the things we would have wanted in the first place.

The saints are the people who are most likely to work miracles. Yet they worry the least about what they have. This should tell us something.

How to get what you want. The first thing is to want something higher (Kingdom) and then we go back to getting what we want, only now trimmed of all the selfish excesses.

This is how God saves us. He leads us to this after we have gone every other place.

We are grateful that He has denied us a lot of things to give us what we have.

We navigate our way through life ignorant of so much, but we make progress to the final fulfilment. In Heaven it will be more straightforward!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

13th Sunday after Pentecost 23 Aug 2015 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 23.8.15 Thanksgiving

It is possible to take Almighty God for granted. As soon as we have whatever we ask from Him we are gone. This is ‘Gimme’ praying – Gimme this, Gimme that!

It is treating God like a servant or a secretary. When things go smoothly enough for long enough we can forget all about Him.

Instead we should thank Him – thank Him often and eternally.

To thank God is not just good manners; nor just an insurance that if we thank Him for the last blessing we are more likely to receive the next one. No, we thank Him because it is right to do so. It is something that needs to happen, and we need to do it.

Dignum et justum est. It has to be done. There is a kind of cosmic balance involved. God gives goodness out all the time. The creation, receiving His goodness, needs to return it in the form of thanksgiving.

To take God for granted is to become alienated from Him. We may not mean Him any offence; but we will surely be separating ourselves from Him.

We see plainly the consequences of this separation in the various disasters around us on the moral sphere. If we do not acknowledge Him we will have a distorted view of reality and humanity.

This in turn will lead to lots of sin and destructive behaviour.

How much better the world would run and how much happier we could be if we did acknowledge God’s centrality and superiority.

While it is right to see God as close to us, and providing for our needs, we must maintain a sense of His majesty and not forget that He is God.

We are tempted to fashion our own version of God, like the golden calf – a god who will make no demands on us.

When we thank Him we open ourselves to a transcendent view of reality; and break free from just the material and physical concerns of this world.

Then we find our true status before Him – we are infinitely inferior, and very fortunate that He treats us as well as He does.

If we humble ourselves before Him we will be exalted. But even when exalted we still remain grateful.

We are lucky He even made us in the first place. We had no claim upon Him then, and even less now that we have sinned. So we can at least be grateful. If we make it to Heaven it will be only by His mercy and grace. There the phrase ‘eternally grateful’ will apply.

In today’s Epistle we are reminded that Salvation is free gift. If we receive it gratefully and humbly the gift will take effect.

The moment we think we can do it ourselves it all starts to fall apart.

Our world denies God at every level, and many people pride themselves on doing that. And some want to stamp out every trace of recognition of God.

We must do the opposite of all that and bring Him back into public view. We must be the light on the hilltop. It is imperative that He be made known – because it is right and fitting; because we need it for our own sake; and because those living in darkness need it.

One man came back to say ‘thank you’. This has been our story ever since. The Mass is an expression of thanks, among other things. Where would we be without Jesus Christ and His sacrifice?

But we are not without Him and therefore in a very fortunate position. Gratias agamus Domino Deo Nostro!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

12th Sunday after Pentecost 16 Aug 2015 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 16.8.15 Where is God?

In the face of suffering, and especially injustice, people ask: Where is God?

Let us locate Him, and find out exactly where He is, and what His intentions are.

The Good Samaritan represents Jesus Himself, as the one who comes to relieve suffering.

God has deep compassion for all who suffer, and He seeks to bandage them up – to apply the remedy needed for each problem.

He also bandages up spiritual, emotional, mental problems, not just the physical. He is concerned for every corner of human existence.

People will say: No, he does not heal us. He lets the sufferings continue and leaves us to our own devices.

It is true that not every problem is solved immediately, nor exactly as we would wish it; but we can discern God’s intentions and His way of acting in our world.

Sometimes - many times - He does work a miracle and all is set right (eg the various healings and raisings from the dead in the Gospels).

But most of the time God shows His love for us by teaching us how to love.

There is a saying to the effect that while it is a good thing to give a hungry man a fish, it is better to teach him how to fish!

We could say the same thing for how God loves us. He does help us directly, and often with a miracle; but His main way of healing us is to teach us how to do what He would do, to love as He would love – to be ourselves Good Samaritans.

If there is a hungry man at my front gate I don’t just pray he get fed; I feed him myself. And this pleases God because this way two people benefit, the one receiving and the one giving.

If we can solve even one problem it is an improvement. We cannot solve every problem or save every person from hunger etc, but we do what we can and where we can. Even one good action will have an atoning effect, and will contribute to better structures in our society.

God is concerned for everyone - the one suffering, and the one who should be helping, and the ones who should be concerned for the overall workings of our society.

He loves us first, and this, if we let it take effect, must spill over into our own attitudes and actions.

Our attitude will be kinder and gentler. Our actions will be practical and helpful.

We will learn to love the unlovable – those who oppose us, who hate us, who persecute us.

We seek, as Jesus did, to bring them the mercy of God, to bring them to a change of heart.

Charity towards them will mean prayer for their conversion and offering the word of truth. Some of them at least will convert.

So it is not just a matter of praying that God do something, though we always pray. We have to see that we are involved in the equation. God wants to heal us of our problems at the same time as the people more obviously in need of help.

He heals us of hard-heartedness, selfishness, indifference to the sufferings of others.

God could rain down food on the hungry, give sight to all the blind, heal every sickness – all in a moment. But most of all He wants to change the way we think; to change our minds and hearts.

So this is ‘Where God is’, as so many ask.

We ask God why does He not do something? He asks us: why do you not do something?

It begins with me. It is always tempting to put the onus on someone else, but I have to learn to be Christ-like. It is not so hard as we might think: He loves us first; and He give us the grace we need for every situation.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

11th Sunday after Pentecost 9 Aug 2015 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 9.8.15 The gift of speech

He has made the deaf hear and the dumb speak (Mk 7,37). Our Lord, in working miracles, also had a deeper message. In this case the miracle symbolises His desire to open the ears of everyone to hear the word of God; and loosen the tongues of everyone to speak that word.

The greatest privilege of speech is not that we can talk to each other but that we can talk to God, and hear His word to us.

He has made us to be able to do this; we must not misdirect the power.

The misuse of the tongue must be in the top ten sins. Speaking evil to, or about, others - lying, blasphemy, gossip, insults, angry disputes, yelling - how much that is false, unkind, or destructive is spoken by the tongue.

The power of speech is explosive; it needs a lot of harnessing, as explained in the epistle of St James. The tongue is a small thing but it can do a great deal of harm. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind but no man can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so. (Jm 3,7-10)

To be able to speak is a privilege, and a sign of the higher status that God has invested in the human race. It is up to us to use the gift wisely according to God’s intent. It will help if, before we speak, we first listen: Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening (1 Kings 3,10).

He intends that every word we speak should be edifying and constructive. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen….Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. (Eph 4,29-31)

We thank God for this gift and with His help we seek to eliminate the misuse.

In one way we have to tighten the use of the tongue – eliminating gossip etc. In another way we need to be loosened – in proclaiming the Gospel, encouraging, instructing, charitable correction.

We can be afraid of what others will think. So when we need to speak we may not, eg to correct an injustice.

St John the Baptist leads the way in a long history of courageous prophets who, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, found the right words.

Our Lord promised us that the Holy Spirit would give us the words to speak when taken before kings and governors (cf Mt 10,19)

If we are to speak good things there has to be goodness in the heart first. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries (Mk 7,21)

The Lord heals the whole person, not just one part of the body.

If we are healed within we will not make so many uncharitable or bad-tempered remarks, and the like.

Nor will we say too much. We will be like the wise man who keeps his counsel (cf Prov 29,11).

We will say the right thing, in the right amount, and in the best possible way.

Only the Holy Spirit can help us to do all this.

In a world which is noisier than ever before, where we are immersed in technology that enables more, but not necessarily wiser communication – we must maintain an interior silence.

From that silence, where we let God’s word act upon us, we are then qualified to speak.

May His word be heard and proclaimed among all His people!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

10th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Aug 2015 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 2.8.15 Fear of the Lord

The publican had it right because he acknowledged his nothingness before God.

The pharisee was presumptuous and proud. He declared himself righteous before God and that is a dangerous thing to do. True goodness is very exacting and is not something we should presume we have. And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Lk18, 19).

So we pray like the publican. We do this every time we offer the Mass. We use more words and ritual, but we are in essence repeating the publican’s words: Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner.

Every time we offer Mass we are renewing our share of the covenant; and bringing forth from God a new act of mercy on His part.

As often as this memorial sacrifice is offered, the work of our redemption is wrought. (Secret, 9th Sunday after Pentecost).

The mercy of God is current and immediate. We claim that mercy for the world. Lord, your people rebel against you non-stop, so we intercede nonstop, that you have mercy and win them over.

God has made a covenant with His people, and we are included in that. It is not, however, a covenant between equals.

God is superior to us in every possible point. What we have is only a sharing in what He has.

By the workings of grace we participate in God's life. We must never forget for a second that we are made by God, and kept in being by Him; and this so we can do His will, and live with Him forever in Heaven.

This is how things are set up. It will work fine if we keep our place, but if we break away at any point we will know great misery.

The covenant is in our favour because God gives far more to us than we give to Him.

Even what we do give is really His anyway (eg old sacrifices of animals or crops; and now His own Son!) Our giving does not add to what He already has, but He is pleased with our gratitude.

In a world which ever more ignores, insults, and disobeys God we go back to basics. My lifetime is as nothing in Thy sight (Ps 38,5)

Some will say that we do not have to abase ourselves before God. We can stand and look Him in the eye. No more need to kneel or bow before Him. They consider these things demeaning and not befitting our true status as children of God.

True, we are children of God, but children are supposed to honour their parents.

And all the more should we honour God as Father, and infinitely above us.

To show Him honour is not to contradict our status; it is an expression of that status. We are sinners brought in from the cold to dine at the Father’s table.

Even if we lived entirely good lives we would owe Him honour; but because we sin it becomes all the more necessary that we get back on the right footing with Him.

So our worship takes on a penitential flavour. We proclaim His greatness and our own nothingness.

Then, having restored the correct balance in the relationship, God can act in us and through us as He pleases (epistle).

The right attitude we seek is called Fear of the Lord. This is not fear, as in being afraid. Rather it is a healthy reverence; a sense of awe and wonder, which leads to joy; to a sense of relief and gratitude that we can enter God’s presence, despite being so unworthy.

God wants us to rejoice in His presence, to enjoy the good things He has given us; and to flourish in the light of His face.

Having entered in, God wants us to act like princes, His children, in showing the same bounty to others that we have received. Thus we want others to know what we have found.

We are all sinners and all called to greatness.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

9th Sunday after Pentecost 26 Jul 2015 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 26.7.15 Punishment

We have two sets of people being punished in today’s readings: the Jews of Moses’ time (Epistle), and the Jews of Our Lord’s time (Gospel).

There were over a thousand years between these two groups. And another two thousand years on to our time.

As the song says, When will they ever learn?

We, the human race, do not seem to make much progress in wisdom or humility, or plain obedience to the will of God.

When people reject God they take up other things which are not only inferior to God but positively opposed to Him.

The worship of false gods always involves blatant immorality because it is, at root, the worship of Satan.

It is often observed today that there is probably more evil on the face of the earth today than at any time in history.

And we wonder in our conversations whether the world is heading for a mighty big chastisement in view of the blatant and continuous insults to God.

We would enjoy seeing some of the evildoers put to rout, as is a frequent request in the Psalms and other Old Testament books.

But we also would be sad to see massive destruction of life (including the innocent).

So we pray for other means to change people’s hearts, not just wiping them out.

We can be like Abraham praying outside of Sodom [If there be ten good men etc…Gn 18,20-33].

We want people to repent. For their sake and for the sake of the world in which we live. It is a lot easier if everyone is behaving.

We should not want enemies to be smitten unless for their good, offering them every chance to repent. So we are not motivated just by vengeance or malice.

Or we can wish them to be smitten for the good of others, as in the destruction of an aggressor (eg an invading army, against which we use force, not out of malice, but to protect the innocent life of those being invaded.)

We can have justified anger against many, but we are obliged to desire their salvation.

As God says Himself: He takes no pleasure in the death of a wicked man; rather let him turn from his evil way and live (Ezek 33,11)

We might have our ideas what God should do but we must leave it to Him to know exactly what to do in each situation, and with each person.

We humans can be harsh or lenient at the wrong times. God will always get it right. We allow our passions to interfere; this is not a problem with God. He is even-tempered!

When God does punish it is not because He has finally lost His temper, but because He sees that it is necessary to use strong methods with certain people.

Some will resist even when punished. They will probably deny it is God at the heart of it anyway (eg they will say an earthquake is just natural forces at work). Or they will take offence at the idea that God would punish, and still refuse to submit to Him.

In the meantime we pray both that people do repent, and that we be spared from destruction. Both intentions will be more likely to become reality if we pray, and pray unceasingly.

We persevere in this prayer whether we think people are going to repent or not. Always at least some will repent, even if not the generality of people. If nothing else we will be reparating for evil done.

Reparation is important and necessary. We are like the people gathered at the foot of the Cross. For pure love of God we are sorry for the offences made against Him.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

8th Sunday after Pentecost 19 July 2015 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 19.7.15 The way to happiness

We are taught as children not to eat everything in sight; not to be greedy; to consider others, and various other points of etiquette and character-building.

It is good for us to learn manners, but there is also a spiritual parallel here to be learnt.

As we should not reach out too greedily for the food, nor should we for any other perceived benefit.

As we learn restraint and self-discipline in one area so we need to apply it in all areas.

We learn to be patient, humble, generous, considerate of others; and not to be ruled by our appetites.

We need to cultivate these attitudes and make them the basis of our whole spiritual life.

If we are patient with God Himself we will obey Him even when there is no immediate or obvious reward; and even if there is no obvious penalty for disobeying Him.

It is not that hard insofar as God has laid it out for us like a garden. Everything you want, just ring, and you shall have it. The only tiny condition is that you must not touch the forbidden fruit.

And as soon as we are forbidden something we want to know why, and think about how we can get around that command. No matter how much God blesses us we still want to sneak a little more. We don’t want to wait around to be happy. We want to be happy now, as well as later.

So we are tempted to advance our own interests even if it means going against God Himself.
This is the essence of all temptation and all sin.

Sin is snatching at happiness in a way that is too much too soon (like being greedy with food).

If Adam and Eve could not withstand the temptation we are in a worse position because human nature has been weakened by the first sin, and we live in a sin-infected world.

But there is still the same essential simplicity of the choice before us as Adam and Eve faced.

We are still promised happiness if we obey God; and threatened misery if we disobey.

We are no longer in the Garden but God still wants to bless us and make it as easy as possible.

Adam and Eve misfired. Jesus and Mary came along and did better. And now they are helping us to extricate ourselves; to give up slavery to sin and take up holiness of life instead (epistle).

In small and steady ways, in a thousand little things, we can make progress as we throw off the old yoke and take on the new identity.

We can change ourselves if not the whole society.

I cannot stop other people bashing and robbing, lying and killing. But I can stop myself from those things; or even the less obvious sins like speaking ill of others, laziness, pride, anger.

The closer we get to the way of Christ the better we are going to feel, and we can make at least some impact on the whole society, especially if many of us are making the same resolutions.

We must be patient with ourselves also, as we often stumble back into the old ways. We do not give up believing that it is possible to live without sin. It is simply a matter of following God’s instructions.

We learn to recognize the false logic of the devil: Disobey God and claim happiness now – this is the essence of his message.

We have learnt by now not to snatch at the forbidden fruit.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

7th Sunday after Pentecost 12 Jul 2015 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 12.7.15 Carried by grace

If we came across a large amount of money lying on the ground would we turn it in to some trusted authority, or would we pocket it?

Clearly one action is right and the other wrong.

If we do the right action it might be only for fear of getting into trouble; or it might be because such an action would come easily to us, as the obvious course of action. We have been trained in that much virtue at least.

In life we face several major points of decision and a lot more smaller ones. Every day we would face at least a few times when we have a choice between a better and a worse action.

How we decide will depend on various factors but much will depend on what sort of person we have become to that point, on our degree of character and sense of right.

It is better if we can habitually choose the right course because it has become a matter of course for us to do that. (Like Our Lady, for example).

Our Lord speaks today of good trees bearing good fruit - He wants this to be our habitual and normal state… good people doing good things all day long, without much turbulence.

It is God Himself that enables us to be like this. He gives us grace, firstly sanctifying grace which is the state of union with Him whereby we see things the way He sees them.

Then He gives actual grace which is the special impetus to help us in particular situations.
This is like having ‘wind assistance’. We are propelled in the right direction and carried a large part of the way.

Everyone will hit upon the right course of action sometimes but without union with God (being in a state of grace) there is a danger we will do good only when it suits us (and also make light of sin).

Unless we are in union with God our actions, though ‘good’ by human standards, do not have the supernatural quality that grace would give them. The main reason for doing good is to please God, just as the main reason for being sorry for sin is that sin displeases God.

If we are to be good and do good it requires an ongoing union with God, and then specific interventions by Him which will enable us to handle each situation in the best way possible.

We want to be good in private as much as in public; in our interior attitude as much as in our external behaviour. We want, above all, to be good simply to please God. Our actions, words and thoughts will all reflect His will.

As our union with Him increases this becomes more and more the normal state of affairs.

We come to find that being good is not such hard work as it might first seem, but actually a pleasure.

With heart and mind locked in union with God we find it ‘natural’ to rise above the usual sordidness of human nature.

It sounds easy when put like that, but we find it hard in practice when very few other people are concerned much about God’s will.

We have to go against the wind much of the time, the wind of popular opinion, of what is considered normal.

To be Christ-like in such an environment takes a lot of application but there is a lot of grace available and we can still do it. We go against the wind but the grace carries us where we need to go.

We can be not only good trees but trees which grow as our capacity to understand and carry out the will of God increases.

May He bring each and all of us to this state of happy and fruitful union with Himself.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

6th Sunday after Pentecost 5 Jul 2015 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 5.7.15 Souls and bodies

The Lord feeds the soul and not just the body. Many are happy to stay with the body and can think only in those terms: seeking pleasure etc.

In John’s Gospel account of this miracle (Jn 6) Our Lord escaped the crowd because they wanted to make Him king. He did not want them to see the miracle simply in physical terms - free food.

He did want to be their king but only in the full sense of what that would mean.

This miracle foreshadows the Eucharist. It is recorded in the Gospel so that future generations will understand the deeper meaning. So what does it mean?

Our Lord has brought bread that will satisfy; such that if we eat this bread we will never die (Jn 6,50).

He is asking us to understand something that we are inclined to forget or deny: that we are spiritual beings, not just bodies but souls.

And the soul has needs that might not be met, especially if people don’t even know they have a soul.

The world at the moment shows forth an even greater than usual insanity, engaging in physical and moral violence, tearing down traditional values. With a riotous self-indulgence, man asserts himself against God, denying His existence, yet hating Him too!

All of this is following the demonic pattern whereby the creature turns against the Creator; the inferior against the superior – as though we do not need the Creator.

But we do need Him even for the physical domain, such as food. And even more we need Him for the spiritual domain.

Without Him we have no meaning, no direction. We owe Him everything – praise, thanks, obedience, adoration.

Not only do we owe these things as a kind of debt, but it is a need within us to do them. It is something built into us by the Creator; something that we yearn for.

We are made for this: to know, love, and serve God - not just impersonally, but in complete union with Him.

It is a command to do these things, but it is also a desire. You shall want to love Him – more of a prediction than a command.

When we have muddled through enough of life and see the futility of all the wrong turnings, we understand that to love God is the right way forward.

Any ambition we might have – for marriage or career or achievement – any and every desire comes second to this one – to love God with all our heart, mind and soul.

Many people don’t know they have this desire, and many would deny it vigorously, but it is still a deep need within them. It is a hunger which ordinary bread, or any worldly pleasure, cannot satisfy.

The Eucharist feeds the hunger by enabling us to know, love and serve God, which in turn makes us happier. It is not the immediate happiness such as would result from ripping into a favourite snack. It is more subtle, working more slowly, but much better for the spirit.

We who do know we have souls are also tempted to put the physical first and the spiritual on hold. And we are tempted to stay with vague notions of God.

Instead we must go deeper, and not be afraid of greater commitment. When we know Him better we will want all the more to serve Him.

We can take it on His word that we do need Him, and He wants to give Himself; but we have to let Him do that; not to be permanently absorbed in the physical.

We are made for something greater; we are souls as well as bodies. With His help may we understand and reach our destiny.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

5th Sunday after Pentecost 28 Jun 2015 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 28.6.15 Being transformed

The Holy Mass could be seen as an event like others, something which begins at a certain time, ends at a certain time, and then on to the next thing.

But although Mass does fit into a schedule along with other events, it is of an entirely different order. The Mass is meant to change us within as we are caught up in divine and eternal mysteries.

Mass is something much bigger than I am. I can take in other events with a certain amount of detachment, but if I am to participate fully in a Mass I must lose myself in the mysteries.

We do not just ‘go to’ Mass; we are ‘taken up’ into Mass. Each Mass is an encounter with the infinite goodness and mercy of God Himself.

It helps a lot if we prepare for each Mass and put ourselves as far as possible into the right disposition. Today’s Gospel tells us not to come to the altar until we have been reconciled with anyone with whom we have some discord.

It is very difficult to know in some cases just how reconciled we are with certain other people. We may have a chance to be reconciled with those nearby, such as husband and wife. But for those further afield we are not required to go through the address book and ring up every person to say sorry!

We should, however, at least have good will towards all who have offended us. We should want the best possible thing for them, in terms of God's will.

And the best possible thing for them is to be in a state of grace, to be on the way to heaven. As to their earthly prosperity, again it is a matter of God’s will - whatever He wants for them is what we want.

It is tempting to want our enemies to suffer something, but we rise above this, with God's help. The epistle tells us that we should bless our enemies instead of curse them. We wish them in heaven, not hell!

We may be ready to reconcile but the other person may not. In that case we can at least want them to come to a better attitude – mainly with God, and by extension with us.

In terms of disposition for Mass charity is the most important point. It would be safe to say that none of us is as charitable as we should be.

Fortunately it is not just what we bring to the Mass but what the Mass can do for us.

In the Mass we receive the love of God, as we experience the effects of Our Lord’s sacrifice of Himself.

So the Mass enables us to be more charitable than we would have been if we had not come.

The same would apply for other qualities which we need to have: such as chastity, honesty, zeal for the faith, humility.

We can always use more of these qualities. Anything we lack when we come in to the Mass we can expect to have more of that quality when we go out again.

The Mass is a transforming experience if we let it be, if we want it to be.

Even if we doubt we can ever improve in certain areas we must not limit the power of God to our own expectations. Leave the window open for Him and He will come in!

And what we achieve in one Mass can lead to further growth in another.

May the Lord make us one, as we gather around Him!