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.