Thursday, 30 April 2015

3rd Sunday after Easter 26 Apr 2015 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 26.4.15 Discipleship

In the latter part of the Easter season we turn towards the Ascension as we prepare for the next phase of Our Lord’s plans.

He warns us that we are going to lose Him insofar as He will no longer be visible and tangible as He has been for His time on earth.

He promises, however, that He will be with us always, till the end of time (cf Mt 28,20).

We would like to keep Him with us, so that He is still visible. Imagine if Our Lord were still on the earth – all the miracles He could work and how people would be streaming towards Him from all sides!

Well, He often overrules us as far as what we want. It is only so He can give us something better instead.

His plan in this case is not just to keep handing out miracles but to transform us disciples so that we are capable, not only of coping with difficulties, but overcoming them. Then we help others to become disciples and the good work continues.

This is how His new-style presence is meant to work. We can change the world with Christ acting in us. We might have been happy just to watch from the sidelines, but He calls us onto the field, to participate.

Do we answer the call? Do we understand and engage with this or do we just sit back and wait on Him to do everything? Or, worse, give up in despair?

We have to do it His way if it is to work.

Salvation is a gradual process. Our Lord does not expect us to be perfect in one day, but to work on our faults and chip away at them.

Whatever life serves up we will be able to get the best results. We will get more things right and less of them wrong.

This is how He makes Himself present. He has not really gone but is present in a different way - to force us to think, to make decisions, according to His wisdom implanted in us.

The cupboard is not bare, as we might fear, but full of riches. The only thing is we have to go deeper and find the grace we need.

To our relief we find we are capable of more than we thought we were.

This works for the whole Church and for individual disciples.

It is difficult to grasp this for ourselves, and even more difficult to sell it to others. Follow Him, we say - you can't see, hear or touch Him, but you will be happy!

The sceptical demand proof. We cannot always provide immediate proof because much of the promised change is gradual and subtle.

Miracles still do happen; lots of them. But the general plan is that Our Lord will transform us and use us for His purposes.

Although He can work miracles He does not want us just to sit back and do nothing.

The greatest miracle in this case is to change the disciples themselves.

To feed five thousand is impressive. It is more impressive still to teach the five thousand and make them disciples - who will then make other disciples.

We find ourselves somewhere in this process. Some are further advanced than others, in terms of discipleship. The further we advance the more help we will be able to give to others. Everyone needs to keep moving to higher ground as far as understanding what is required and committing to it.

We ‘see’ the Lord in proportion to how fully we serve Him.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

2nd Sunday after Easter 19 Apr 2015 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 19.4.15 Sheep seeking the centre

The Good Shepherd says: My sheep are known to Me. He knows the name of all His people!

We see people everywhere. On the streets, in the shops, sporting venues, people coming and going in all directions. They can look like so many black ants as they move around.

And as far as we are concerned they can amount to about the same importance as we would give to a colony of ants.

We can be very impersonal about ‘persons’. We don’t have time to know them all, even if we had the interest. But the Good Shepherd knows them all – in every detail about each one. Their hopes, fears, desires, every word they have ever spoken, every thought ever had.

And He looks on them as His own. Not all of them are officially His at this stage, as there are many outside the flock of the Church. But all are meant to be His sheep.

As He says in today’s Gospel: there are other sheep which do not presently belong but which He will bring in to the one fold.

We understand this as a re-uniting of all Christian believers in the one Catholic Church; but it also extends to non-Christians. And a good many Catholics who are only lukewarm at present – these are in the fold technically, but not in spirit.

So a lot of people need to move from where they are to where they should be.

The Good Shepherd wants us to gather around Him, to approach Him; even to seek Him out.

Many are seeking Him; many others are trying to get away from Him. We can be centripetal or centrifugal – seeking the centre or seeking to flee the centre.

How can we hide from Him – which is impossible anyway (cf Ps 138)? But why should we want to hide from the One who is the answer, and the only answer?

There are many reasons why people try to avoid the Good Shepherd.

It could be pride: I don’t want to have to answer to any sort of god.

It could be despair: I don’t believe there is any answer to the problems I see.

It could be resentment: why does He let me suffer as much as I do; or other people to suffer?

By the cunning of the devil we can end up preferring the dark to the light, death to life.

So we see with great sadness so many people turning away from the Good Shepherd. He calls them by name, and they prefer to go into the wilderness.

On this subject more than any other there is distortion of understanding and will.

In sin we do not see clearly and do not make wise decisions. And when there is sin all around, and the whole world is infected, it becomes easy not only to make bad decisions but to glory in them.

So now we see atheists boasting of their status and drawing strength from each other. They are still wrong but they feel better for having company around them.

We who believe and who do seek the Good Shepherd can also suffer from some of these centrifugal tendencies.

We can be resentful of God for letting us suffer, for not answering all our prayers.

We can resist His will, preferring our own way. We can doubt Him in times of crisis.

We have to learn to trust Him more. We cannot understand more than He understands. No matter what the present situation it is always going to be better for us to approach Him than to run away.

If we are going to be sheep let us play the part and be dumb - at least in relation to the Shepherd. Don’t argue; just answer His call. We can try to understand it later, but first, Obey!

And we pray for all who are presently strayed: May there be one flock under one Shepherd.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Low Sunday 12 Apr 2015 Sermon

Low Sunday 12.4.15 Faith

Blessed are those who have not seen yet still believe.

There are ways of knowing things without seeing them.

Much of what we believe as Christians we have not seen (eg Heaven, angels). How can we have confidence in these beliefs?

It is because we are drawn into a much larger world than our own personal observation can provide.

Because we are one body in Christ we can claim for our own use anything that has been contributed to the wisdom of the body by others.

We have a lot of very wise and holy people who have preceded us as believers in Christ – apostles, martyrs, popes, confessors… many of great intellect; many of great holiness.

The power of thought and the holiness of life should concur. To be good is to be wise; to be wise is to be good.

All these people in their own place and time, in their own way, have demonstrated to us the supreme rightness of believing in and following Jesus Christ.

So when we come to decide whether or not to believe in Him we do not just say, But I have never seen him – we have seen His impact on others; we have seen that He has changed the world by His coming and His actions.

We have wiser and better people than ourselves showing us that it is safe and good to believe in Him. How can we refuse?

All the miracles worked by Him and in His name are there for our benefit, if we should falter in faith.

It is easy for us to be overwhelmed by present circumstances. When we have a major disappointment or a pressing problem we can lose faith because we focus too much on that particular thing. Yet all the centuries of miracles and holiness that have passed before us are still applicable.

We cannot see with the physical eyes but we have evidence all around us.

Blessed are those who can draw upon all this evidence and live accordingly.

It is very consoling to know we are not alone. It is often pointed out that people are becoming more isolated today despite having so many gadgets with which to communicate.

Being part of the larger body of Christ enables us to feel much more secure than if we have to do all this on our own.

Those who say they believe in Christ but not the Church are missing a vital point.

Our Lord’s will was that all who believe in Him would form one body; that they would not only believe all the right things but agree with each other in the process.

As it is we have much divergence between one believer and another.

The only way we can be sure which position is right is if we are in union with the Church which has proceeded from Our Lord’s time on earth, the Church built on the apostles.

Thus where Our Lord gives us this statement about believing without seeing He also establishes the power of the Church to define what binds believers; what things they must believe and do.

We cannot just believe whatever we like; we have to be guided by the Church, and so we allow ourselves to be.

The Church has great authority in Our Lord’s plan; this is something many Christians have lost sight of. We have allowed individualism to infect our faith life as well as other aspects of life.

We are too inclined to go it alone, and this leaves us vulnerable to many errors – and many sins.

Today we ask for Divine Mercy, for all our sins, and for what causes those sins – the mistaken idea that ‘I’ have the right to decide what I do.

Mercy gets us back to union with God and with the Church – thinking straight and walking in a straight path. Mercy frees us from the ‘self’ and incorporates us in the Body of Christ, a much better place to be.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Easter Sunday 5 Apr 2015 Sermon

Easter Sunday 5.4.15 Life overcomes Death

Today we celebrate the victory of Life over Death.

Jesus Christ comes triumphant from the grave and so establishes a new order of things for the human race.

He visits the grave only; it is a visit not a captivity.

We always did believe in life after death, insofar as the spirit would live on; but now we believe the actual body will also rise again.

And better news still, that body will be not just resuscitated but resurrected - not just coming back to life as before, but living gloriously forever, free of all aches and pains, able to enjoy new powers – like travelling at the speed of thought, passing through walls.

It takes a certain amount of faith to believe in life after death when we see so much death, but not so much resurrection.

Our news reports are full of death – massacres, murders, disasters, accidents.

Then, in our personal lives we experience the death of loved ones, and we hear of the death of people we have known.

We do not have many reports of people coming back to life! The occasional person does do that, but it is clearly not the norm.

Without faith we could say, as many do, that death is all there is. There is no tomorrow, only today.

Some will say, No one has come back to tell us. No one? In fact there have been many credible appearances of Our Lady, other saints, and souls from Purgatory. But most of all Our Lord Himself: Look at My hands and My feet. It is I myself! Touch Me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have." (Lk 24,39).

Even one resurrection is enough to prove that it can happen. Resurrections are not common thus far because God is working to a plan.

He lets everything run its course over the centuries. Then He will raise up everyone at the same time (the Last Day).

It thus becomes a matter of faith for us to believe these things are so.

If we find the presence of death too much to bear we take refuge in the Biblical testimony, in prayer and sacraments, in our liturgy - and we allow the grace of God to revive our hope.

Resurrection begins inside us – the way we think.

It is not so hard to believe that the same God who made the universe from nothing could also put back together a few million bodies!

Then, if we think Resurrection we will start to live like it.

Much of the sin that we commit is caused by a kind of despair, a sense of taking what we can while we still can: Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.

With a more measured approach we can deny ourselves the passing delights of this world, knowing there is something better awaiting us.

The knowledge that there is resurrection will enable us to live better lives. Living better lives will increase the certainty that we will benefit from resurrection – that is, that we are more likely to be living in union with Jesus Christ.

We are now in the position of the first disciples who were so perplexed by Our Lord’s appearances. They should not have doubted so much; neither should we.

It is hard for us insofar as we are still in the ‘valley of tears’, still toiling away on our pilgrimage; so our joy is somewhat restrained.

We are not as happy now as we will be when that moment comes for us, but we can draw forth some of the joy at least. We are living in hope until the full reality comes.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Easter times

Easter Sunday Mass will be at St Monica's, Walkerville, 8am and Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh, 5pm as normal.

All the other events of the Easter Triduum will be at Holy Name, St Peters, as follows:
Holy Thursday 7.30pm
Good Friday: Stations 11am, Main liturgy 5pm
Holy Saturday: 10pm

Happy and Holy Easter to all!