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.