Thursday, 25 June 2015

4th Sunday after Pentecost 21 Jun 2015 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 21.6.15 Saving the world

From now on you will be fishers of men… The miraculous catch of fish symbolises the scope of Our Lord’s saving mission. He has come to save a great many people, as many as possible.

His target is not restricted to any nation or time, but open to whomever will accept the invitation to the banquet (Mt 22,1-10).

And the task of fishing for all these people is given to the Church. We acknowledge the task but we feel inadequate because of our own difficulties – personal lack of faith; and as regards the Church, crises of division and lack of confidence.

We can hardly get the boat out into the water, let alone be catching huge numbers of fish!
We are not attracting or retaining the youth. We are not generating the large number of vocations needed for the task. ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few’ (Lk 10,2)

Whatever the difficulties we can identify the task itself does not change. It is what we ought to be doing.

The Church knows the way to eternal life and possesses the means of salvation. The world, by contrast, does not know where it is going, has no vision, and tears itself apart trying to live without God.

It is a noble and necessary thing that the Church should seek to take the Gospel to the world.

He is risen - and all else that goes with the message – must be proclaimed, believed, and lived.

The task is too much for us? By ourselves, yes. But we have God to help us. Only by His power and grace is such a large project possible.

Just as the task does not change, nor does God Himself. He does not lose power with the passing of time. Nor does any amount of human denial or rejection of Him make any difference to His power.

He could swat the universe out of existence at any moment. He could demonstrate His power by any miracle. But He wants to be accepted in love not fear; so He holds back on the use of force.

The world continues to resist anyway. They want to argue every point about God – His existence, His relevance, His ways of doing things… this has always been the way. This vineyard takes a lot of attention!

So we have three things that have always been in place and do not change: the task of ‘fishing’ for large numbers of souls; the power of God to help us carry out this task; the resistance of the world to the plan.

The one thing that can change and needs to change is the faith level of the ‘fishermen’, meaning us.

We are too slow to believe, too quick to give up the task. We must allow the Lord to strengthen our faith, and to ignite our enthusiasm.

We have so many miracles to call upon to remind us of what has happened. We just need to make ourselves available so that His power can work in us and through us.

It is up to us whether we are more influenced by the worldly cynicism or the pure truth of Christ. We must ourselves be fished out of darkness, where we are inclined to remain (at least on some points).

If we are not capable of setting the world on fire we can at least bring the matches; bring what we have (five loaves and two fish, Jn 6,9). Humble faith (not little faith, but humble) combined with ready obedience, and we have the means of lighting a fire.

Like Peter obeying without seeing how it would work, this must be our habitual position. We do not have to know how it works. Just do the things required and leave the rest to God.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 14 Jun 2015 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 14.6.15 Depths of mercy

Everything about God is good and all that comes from Him is good. If things turn bad later on that is never God’s fault. It must be the result of some kind of rebellion against Him.

And this is exactly what we find to be the case. He made all things and ‘saw that they were good’. Then there was the sin of the rebellious angels, and the first sin of mankind. And great disorder and trouble were the result.

The essential goodness of God would have remained in every part of His creation if there had not been this disobedience.

Things are good when they are in union with Him; they are bad when they are not.

God keeps His creation in order, and when it goes into disorder He seeks to repair the problem.

Of all the qualities God has one of the most amazing (and useful to us) must be His mercy.

In love He created the world and keeps it in being. In mercy He deals with the rebellious elements in His creation.

Mercy is just one aspect of His love but it is the most amazing to us, insofar as it never runs out.

For ourselves we can forgive the odd offence easily enough. But to forgive millions of offences every day for thousands of years – that takes a lot of mercy!

God gives us another chance, again and again.

There is no limit to His mercy, though there is a time limit as to how long we have to get things right with Him (either the length of our life, or the length of time till the Last Day).

He will forgive any sin provided there is sufficient degree of contrition on the part of the sinner.

He will forgive the same sin any number of times provided the sinner is taking some steps to change his behaviour.

Mercy is Re-creation. Sin by nature leads to death; but with mercy the deserved death is turned to another chance at life.

We should be very grateful for such a state of things. In strict justice we could have been wiped out before this, and would have no claim on Heaven.

But Mercy enables us to be still here, and still hoping for Heaven.

On Friday we had the feast of the Sacred Heart. Today we have the parable of the Lost Sheep.

These both remind us of the strong desire that God has to save us.

We might be happy to write off one in a hundred but not the Good Shepherd; not the Sacred Heart, which burns with such intensity in love for man.

God does not begrudge forgiveness but rejoices in it (cf the angels in today’s parable; and also the parable of the Prodigal Son – the happiness of the father (Lk 15,20)).

As soon as we turn back to God we are drawn into His order, made right with ourselves and all else.

This is the essence of mercy. It restores to normal.

‘Normal’ means that we are in complete union with God and every part of our being is working as it should.

We are no longer proud in intellect or rebellious in will. We submit to His authority and so order returns to His creation.

Many regard God (and the Church) as killjoys, determined to stop anyone from enjoying themselves.

It is not so. It just happens that the greatest happiness we can know is found in complete and voluntary submission to the will of God.

The world runs a lot better when this happens, but so do the people!

Friday, 12 June 2015

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 7 Jun 2015 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 7.6.15 The Eucharist

We have just celebrated the feast of Corpus Christi, and today’s Gospel invites further reflection on the theme.

In the sacrament of the Eucharist Christ makes Himself present under the appearance of bread and wine. We then have the chance to receive Him, and adore Him.

We say we ‘receive’ Holy Communion. We do not say we ‘receive’ breakfast. We ‘eat’ breakfast and we ‘receive’ Holy Communion – a subtle shift in language which tells us of a vital difference in the two forms of food.

Ordinary food goes inside us and does what it does. It does not depend on our attitude. But the Bread from Heaven will have different effects on the one who receives it according to spiritual factors. It will benefit us only if we are disposed spiritually to receive Him.

Only Jesus knows the status of each person. He comes as fully as the person is prepared to receive Him.

This is why a sacrilegious Communion will bring no benefit and will actually make the person worse off than before.

So there is a subjective element here. Objectively He is fully present. Subjectively He may be received or denied.

It is as though He stands before us and says: Here I am; do you want Me? How much?

As fully as we are able we can receive. How much good this next Holy Communion will do will depend on my attitude, humility, faith, general desire to please God, etc.

Quantity does not matter with this food. With ordinary food if we had only half a potato for a meal, that would not satisfy. With the Eucharist half a host will do as much good as a hundred hosts.

Yet the physical presence is still vitally important. In recent times, with an emphasis on other things (like community) the attention paid to the actual physical reality of the Eucharist has diminished among Catholics. So we have the scandalous situation of consecrated hosts being left lying around, or vessels used for the Eucharist not being properly purified.

We are vigilant about every particle of this Divine food, on one hand. And on the other hand we realize there is more involved than just the physical, and we work on those fronts too, such as the relationship between each one of us and our Lord.

The physical proximity of the Eucharist is not enough, of itself, to change people. There has to be some other grace working inside the person. There has to be a hunger on the part of the one receiving, a hunger for spiritual growth.

We must have hunger for this food and we must believe in the power it contains.

We cannot achieve holiness on our own. We need all the help we can get. This the Eucharist provides.

It is a process, so we might make a better Communion one day than another; and we hope to improve the whole time.

There is the danger of treating Holy Communion as just another routine. It will not do us much good in such a case.

But then we do not go to the other extreme of receiving only once or twice a year.

We receive frequently but give it full focus. We make each Communion like it was our first and our last.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Trinity Sunday 31 May 2015 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 31.5.15 God’s feast day

In encouraging each other to pray we sometimes put in the caution that we should not only pray to receive things, but also pray in praise of God and thanksgiving to Him.

At the human level it would be considered bad manners to address another person only ever in terms of request. We do not want to ‘use’ people; just so with Almighty God.

We do want Him to give us things that we need; and He encourages us to ask Him (for our daily bread).

But He also wants that we would come to a deeper understanding of Him, such that we value Him more than the things He provides. We love the Creator more than the created.

We find it hard, generally, to lift our minds so high, but God will help us to know Him better and see where everything fits in.

Trinity Sunday could be understood as God’s own feast day. We have feasts for saints, Our Lady, for events such as Christmas and Pentecost. Well, Trinity Sunday is a feast for God Himself; a chance to celebrate His existence and His nature.

He is all-good, all wise, all-loving. These are infinite qualities, beyond our mental grasp. We do not have to understand everything about God, only to recognize our place before Him – which is one of great humility.

The angels in heaven bow down before Him constantly and sing Sanctus, Sanctus… and they are superior to us.

We cannot do that all the time, but in our attitude at least we need to have a profound reverence and humility towards Almighty God.

He does not need our praise, but we need to praise Him. We need to do this because it enables us to have the true perspective for everything else that we do.

So much of human life is tragically misspent because God is left out of the picture.

People think He either does not exist, or does not matter.

He not only matters; He matters far more than anyone or anything else.

We may not feel Him to be so important but that just means we have not yet reached the proper understanding.

To come to this understanding of God does not make other people or things unimportant. It just means they take their proper place in our estimation.

We love others even more if we love God the most. We use the things of the world with greater wisdom and enjoyment if we use them in accord with God's will.

So we try to grow beyond the view of God as simply someone who is there to fulfil our needs.

We learn to love Him for His own sake. We still ask Him for things but we now see that to possess Him is the greatest blessing.

If He is so good and we are in union with Him how can we lose?

So this feast, Trinity Sunday, we take the chance to think about God, as He is, for His own sake. (Much as we do on someone’s birthday, or funeral.)

How much would we miss God if He were not around?

We glorify Him for who He is and what He is.

He has revealed Himself to us as Three Persons. We know something of each of the three Persons. God the Son we know the best. We can relate to all three at different times, but we understand that any dealings with one Person is dealing with all of God, not just one-third.

Every opportunity to praise His goodness and glory we should take; because it will make the truth better known to ourselves and the world.

Everything wrong with the world could be said to result from a lack of recognition of God. We can go some way to correct that.

All glory be to the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost.