Thursday, 28 May 2015

Pentecost Sunday 24 May 2015 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 24.5.15 The human side of the Church

Pentecost is where the divine meets the human and lifts it to a higher level.

Can we fit the whole ocean into one bottle? No. But we can fill the bottle so that it contains nothing but water.

Nor can we fit all there is of the Holy Spirit into one soul. Infinity cannot be contained.

But we can fill the soul with only what is good and holy. And this we are striving to do, especially today, on this great feast.

We continuously ask the Holy Spirit to come to us; much as we continually receive God the Son in Holy Communion.

If we are bottles then we are leaky ones at that; so it takes a lot of asking for us to receive enough of God to the point that it makes a difference.

Our sin, and general lack of faith make it harder for us to receive Him; but then what we do receive of Him removes the sin and increases the faith; so that, over time we can expect to make progress.

It has been difficult but it is clearly something that God Himself wants, all the same.

The whole idea of the Incarnation shows that God wants to save us through our humanity, not in spite of it, but through it.

Our Lord could have come to the earth as a fully-grown adult, but instead He passed through all the earlier stages – baby, child, manhood; then the public ministry, and finally returning to the glory of Heaven.

And now the Church: all-too-human in its weakness, prone to sin and error, immersed in scandal; aspiring to the divine but nearly always falling short.

Our Lord takes our humanity and raises it, rather than simply overruling us. We would like Him to do everything for us, but He works through us, not around us.

He is showing us that there is more to Salvation than just being forgiven for our sins, or just going to heaven when we die. Salvation begins in this life and requires that we allow God to dwell within us. We are to receive God into our hearts and minds, and then allow Him to direct us from within.

Each one of His disciples, high or low, is called to this – covering not only our external behaviour but even the way we think; to be Christ-like.

So that sin becomes unthinkable; as it was for Our Lady. As it is in Heaven, where no one sins, though they still have free will.

When we know God well enough we would never dream of offending Him.

We are called to better behaviour, certainly, but prior to that we are called to stronger belief.

Call it belief or knowledge, the end result will be better behaviour.

So we can reach a point where, even though Our Lord has left His Church in human hands, it does not have to be riddled with scandals.

He has done this to bring out the best in us and complete the full plan of salvation.

So we ask Him to make it easier by sending help. He will help if we are prepared to see it His way.

And we discover the freedom and joy that come from doing it His way – humanity enlightened and enlivened by divinity as the Holy Spirit comes upon us.

With the help of Mary we reach another Pentecost, and we draw more deeply than ever from the well of divine graces, allowing our own selves to be purified, and praying for the whole Church - that every member will receive something special from the Holy Spirit, and answer the call to holiness.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Sunday after the Ascension 17 May 2015 Sermon

Sunday after the Ascension 17.5.15 Even if it kills us

If you won the lottery you probably would not kill the messenger who came to tell you. But if he came to tell you that you had eternal life then you might kill him. Or at least that is what the world has done to evangelists and missionaries many times.

What is the difference in the two cases? In the first case it is just a matter of picking up the winnings. In the second case there is a cost - a kind of ‘bad news’ built into the Good News, whereby people will have to give up their evil ways to receive the promised reward.

Everyone wants to go to heaven but not everyone is willing to do anything to get there. If entry to Heaven is automatic (as so many today seem to think) then no effort is required on our part, not even the effort of moral reform.

The true Gospel requires of us that we have to make an effort to uproot sinful habits, to overcome the flesh, to tame our unruly inclinations.

This can be very difficult at first, and because these things have to be done before any talk of reward - then it is a scheme easy to reject.

The message of the Gospel is essentially that we have to make certain sacrifices first and then we will be much happier, both in this life and the next. But it is a hard message to sell if people are enslaved to their various vices.

We are weakened by previous sin. The understanding and the will are both damaged and the idea of making sacrifices can seem so alien, even after we have come to faith.

Nevertheless the Gospel is compelling. And we would be very foolish to reject it.

Any sacrifice we make will be rewarded many times over in terms of peace of mind, a contented life, and the sureness of eternal life.

So we receive the Gospel ourselves and then we proclaim it to others.

Even it if kills us! In both senses of ‘killing’. That it kills us to put our sinful nature to death. And it might kill us to offer the Gospel to others, as the history of our Church shows.

Anyone who takes the faith seriously is likely to be ridiculed, marginalised, even literally killed.

We must not be afraid of any of this. The Holy Spirit will come and will enlighten our minds to give us joy in the truth; and He will enflame our hearts to love this truth and live by it.

We are so secure in Him that we do not need public opinion to be on our side.

Having the truth and proclaiming it come together in one continuous action.

We have found the pearl of great price (Mt 13,46), worth more than money and all worldly things which pass quickly.

We really are very fortunate to have a religion which offers so much and is actually true.

Even if it kills us we will let this joy possess us.

We are in a week of special payer for the Holy Spirit to come again in our time.

He will do these two things we need: purify our own souls and enable us to proclaim the Gospel to others.

He will put some steel back into us, in terms of courage and wisdom - the wisdom to know what is right; the courage to live accordingly.

The Church will regain the confidence to proclaim the full Gospel, not the watered-down version so common today, but the real Gospel, straight from the Holy Spirit.

There are vast masses of people still living in darkness. We must light some fire for them. The Holy Spirit will do that. We implore Him to come.

Thursday, 14 May 2015

5th Sunday after Easter 10 May 2015 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 10.5.15 Union with God

There are certain things which Catholics do which are believed to guarantee salvation. For example, the nine first Fridays, the five first Saturdays, and wearing the scapular.

We understand that these practices do not work in isolation of our general attitudes and behaviour.

So, for example, if I wear a scapular that does not mean I can then go around and rob banks and still expect to go to heaven.

The way it works is that if I wear a scapular the grace which comes from that will move me to become a better person, and therefore more likely to be saved.

One still has to battle with temptations; still has to strive for holiness. It will not come by itself, but we will be assisted in our endeavours.

We are saved if we love God with our whole heart and mind. This is the endpoint of all our activity.

We are not saved by technical observances, but rather by what is in our hearts.

It is not just how many prayers we pray or how many Masses we attend. Generally the more of these things the better, but there has to be a change in us – such that the sin goes out and the grace of God comes in.

We are saved if we love God; if we live and die in union with Him.

And this union we achieve through a combination of prayer, sacraments (especially the Mass), good works, sorrow for sin, generally learning as we go.

The way we live, the way we pray – it all has to be with this understanding that we are united with God.

This is the message Our Lord is conveying to us in the Upper Room discourse (John, chapters 13-17).

If we have Jesus we also have the Father and the Holy Spirit.

If we have all three we lack nothing, and can afford to look life in the face with no great difficulty.

As to the way we pray: whatever we ask for we will receive because when we have a deep union with God we will always ask for the right thing, and in the right way.

God's will for us is better than our own will, so if He overrules us it will be for our greater happiness. If we do not get what we want we will want what we get!

St James tells us in today’s epistle: we can relate to God in such a way that it is like glancing in a mirror. We do not allow ourselves the time to get to know Him in depth, to come to an understanding and acceptance of His holy will.

The likelihood of our prayer succeeding will rise or fall according to the depth of our relationship with God.

With depth our requests are going to be more considered, and delivered with love.

One of our prayers has to be that we can pray properly; that we have in us the desire to know God more fully. He will grant that prayer certainly.

The way we pray and the way we live will both become better and easier, more like a natural expression of what is in us than an effort to do something alien to us, or beyond us.

This is how the devotions, such as first Fridays and first Saturdays work. Those devotions will save us insofar as they will help us to keep and increase union with God.

We lose ourselves in that greater reality, which is God Himself. We no longer measure out the prayer or the good deeds as though it is a great effort. It all becomes a joy and a privilege, instead.

Today many demand that the commandments be made easier. Instead of changing the commandments what about changing ourselves, allowing God’s grace to lift us to greater heights? That is a much better idea.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

4th Sunday after Easter 3 May 2015 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 3.5.15 True wisdom

The Holy Spirit will teach the world where it was wrong.

The world does tend to get a lot of things wrong in its dealings with Almighty God.

Everyone is aware that there are many things wrong in the world, but not everyone sees the same answer.

We have a clash between the wisdom that comes down from above (Jm3,17) and the wisdom that arises from the pride of man.

The world’s solution for problems tends to be more education, more dialogue, more money to spend on the problem.

The Christian solution is much simpler: we just need people to obey God, to respect His commands. If we disobey Him on most points most of the time we will have a very chaotic world – and that is what we have.

(To make it even more galling people will then look at the chaos they have created and blame God for not fixing it! Or they will say that this proves He does not exist!)

The Holy Spirit will teach the world how wrong it was. The world does not understand how a loving God would allow people to learn from bitter experience that there is a right and a wrong way of doing things.

It is a fundamental misconception of God. He is calling us to union with Himself, removing all obstacles to that union, especially sin. The world sees God as just someone to provide short-term solutions.

If we do the wrong thing God in His mercy might rescue us from the consequences but He might also let us have a learning experience.

We have to learn that sin spells trouble. Look what the first sin did; and that was just one sin. Throw in a few billion more sins and what do we expect the world to look like?

Yet though defaced by sin it is still a beautiful world. Here also the Holy Spirit teaches the world something: simply that God is good and all good, and if we think the world is beautiful now, what would it be like if we had never sinned?

We must pity the unbelievers who can walk through a scene of beauty, gazing on a mountain, or an ocean, or a sunset, and then having no one to thank for putting it all there!

We are all challenged to look deeper, to read the signs, to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit in what goes on around us.

God is good and only good things come from Him, but when they are misused repeatedly and systematically there will be trouble. The solution is not to abandon belief in Him but to change our behaviour and attitudes, and get back to union with Him as fast as we can.

God does not like seeing us suffer. But He will let us suffer if it is necessary to call people to see the main point of their existence – to know, love and serve Him.

We pray that people will see this without having to be pounded by more suffering.

We can do a great deal of good by the basic simplicity of obeying God in all things, just earning our bread and doing our job. Blessed are all they that fear the Lord: that walk in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labours of thy hands: blessed art thou, and it shall be well with thee (Ps 127,1-2).

We do not become obsessed with predictions about dates and future events. We just do what we have to do.

The world is trying to cut God out, to deny Him any place in His own universe. We must do the exact opposite and give Him full glory, and full scope to intervene.