Thursday, 29 December 2016

Christmas Day 2016 Sermon

Christmas Day 2016 Peace

We associate Christmas with Peace, a time of good wishes, of rest from the usual toil and trouble, hopefully of reconciliation where there has been any sort of enmity.

While we have this peaceful and pleasant image on one side, we brace ourselves for the ‘negative’ side of Christmas, the violence, the discord which is with us all the time, but seems worse at Christmas.

We can be tempted to lose hope that any improvement in the state of this world is possible; to say that Christmas enables us to want peace, but not to have it.

We must not give up. It is all real, and true. It just takes a certain amount of work to translate what we see at Bethlehem to the rest of life.

It begins with contemplation. We contemplate the crib scene. This is a major point of meeting between Heaven and earth; this is the beginning of peace. Everyone needs to visit the Crib, at least in spirit, to let the peace of Christ begin its work.

His peace will come over us gradually. Do we not hear at every Mass - the peace of the Lord be with you (Pax domini sit semper vobiscum)? And ‘Agnus Dei… dona nobis pacem’?

These are prayers that the presence of Christ will take hold of our lives.

We do not lose our individuality, but discover it all the more, as we shed all that is false, and come to our true identity in Christ.

We can hear the words distractedly, without realizing their magnitude. It is quite a business to be transformed by the Peace of Christ, involving a lot of re-thinking, changing of attitudes, replacing pride with humility, selfishness with generosity, self-pity with forgiveness etc etc.

These faults and defects have accumulated over the years. It takes more than one Christmas or one ‘Peace of the Lord’ to fix it. There has to be a constant application of prayer and sacrament to get the full effect.

Christmas can at least get us started. It awakens in us a sense that we really ought to get this right.

We can envisage a much better world than the one we have, and it is not so far out of our reach as we might think.

At Christmas we express our highest ideals, and we are likely to be on our best behaviour.

From this point we can move on: we have two paths – of cynicism, with no change, or a real hope to achieve genuine holiness.

We can control our own response. We cannot stop other people fighting and massacring each other.

But we can let the Peace of Christ take root in our own lives, and this will make it more likely that others will follow.

Our combined prayer with the whole Church, including in Heaven and Purgatory, can help bring about change for the better, at least with individual conversions. If enough people change, the structures of evil will change too.

Generally the world still does not see the relevance of Christ’s coming, and all that could mean for them.

So they deny and ignore, and even supress it, much to their own cost. They are like Herod trying to protect what they have, when they would do far better to trade in for what they could have.

We, for our part, do the opposite. We welcome the Christ Child; we contemplate Him; we pray to Him, we learn from Him, we seek His influence in every part of our lives. So His Peace (and all related qualities) will be in us.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Christmas and Octave Mass times

Mass times over Christmas

Times for Latin Masses over the Christmas period are the same as they normally are; but just to make sure here is each day listed: 

Sun 25 Dec 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh
Mon 26 Dec 8am St Monica's
Tue 27 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Wed 28 Dec 6.45am St Monica's
Thu 29 Dec 8am St Monica's
Fri 30 Dec St Monica's
Sat 31 Dec 8am St Monica's
Sun 1 Jan 8am St Monica's and 5pm Sacred Heart, Hindmarsh

Christmas greetings and blessings to all!

4th Sunday of Advent 18 Dec 2016 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 18.12.16 Humanity of Christ

We are about to celebrate another Christmas. It could come and go without much thought.
But let us give it some thought, and connect with the real meaning of the feast.

It will give due honour to God, and be of great spiritual benefit to ourselves if we do explore further.

Christmas is the celebration of God-becoming-Man, no less than that! And in a world of surprising things, nothing could be more surprising than for that to happen.

Our Lord could have come down from Heaven, as an adult, fully formed, and ready for action. He could have gone straight to work in saving the world, performing miracles, teaching the way of holiness, forgiving sin, and finally dying and rising.

Instead He chose a much longer and slower way of achieving His ultimate goal.

He really did take on human nature. Some heretics have suggested that He only appeared to be human. The Gospel makes clear that He came from the line of His ancestors, and was born of the Virgin Mary, taking flesh from her.

He went through conception, birth, boyhood, thus showing deep identification with our human condition. He showed by this that He was healing humanity in all its stages.

He is human, in fact more human than we are, as in stronger and better.

We use ‘human’ as a synonym for weakness (I’m only human), but it can be seen as strength, as it was in His case.

We may be weak but we should not use that as a convenient excuse for wrongdoing. With a little more backbone, and with the help of divine grace, we could actually be much stronger, spiritually speaking.

The humanity of Jesus was perfect in every way, and thus becomes the inspiration for us to imitate.

Having become human He raises the standard, and then conveys whatever we are willing to receive from His perfect humanity.

He teaches, inspires, empowers us to act as He would act – if not in working miracles, at least in holiness of living.

Things will never be the same once He has come. Sadly they have been the same for many, because they have not absorbed the lesson. This is what happens to people who think Christmas is only eating and drinking!

It is no small thing that God would join us on such terms. We should never take it for granted.

Sin has blinded us; the devil has deceived us. We have another chance, another Christmas to break into the light. We have a way out of the valley of darkness, as we soar to higher things.

We declare ourselves willing to be lifted to higher things, no longer using our humanity as an excuse, but rather as a stepping stone to progress.

Each generation has to work this out and make it their own. Can we get it more right than previous generations?

There is no reason why we cannot. It just takes focus, and the graces will come. We are not condemned to stay the same as we always have been.

In the making of a film the same scene can be done again and again until it comes right. It would be handy to have that in real life. If we say the wrong thing, for example, we can cut that scene and start again!

We do have something of this effect in the cyclical nature of the year. We can get this Christmas more right than any previous one – by getting to the heart of the feast, joining our humanity to that of Christ.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

3rd Sunday of Advent 11 Dec 2016 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 11.12.16 Joy

We hear of people who have won the lottery but they do not know it. They have the ticket but they have not checked the result. Everyone has to go looking for them.

These people, we could say, are happy, but they do not know their good fortune. They are rich but they do not know how rich they are.

We could say a similar thing in regard to those who have the faith, who possess God – it may be they also do not know how rich they are.

This is more complicated than the lottery situation because there it is just a matter of telling people they have won, but with faith there are many more factors involved.

We see how difficult it is to convert people to belief in God; and even when people do have faith it is hard to interest them to go deeper into the matter.

The winner of the lottery is happy, but why is he happy?  Well, now he hopes to have an easier life, less work, more fun, security, even power.

What can the knowledge of Christ give in comparison to that? HOW to live! Money will open doors to us, but will not impart any wisdom. Knowledge of Christ will teach us what our life is for; its purpose; the way towards attaining that purpose. It will teach us how to rise above merely materialistic and short-term goals, and how to be anchored in a more spiritual view of life.

The happiness of belonging to Christ – because it is so deep – usually comes upon us more gradually. It permeates our whole life, enabling us to bring all our thoughts, words, deeds, attitudes, ambitions under the same objective – to grow in love of God and achieve eternal life.

It enables us to grow in understanding of God’s ways, so that we come to want what He wants, and trust His will ahead of our own. This is a lifetime project because we find it very hard to surrender our will, but it is possible.

We no longer hide from God, but instead seek Him out.

We might be envious of the man who has the lottery ticket. But we are just as fortunate as he is - more so if he does not have faith - because we have the treasure worth selling everything else to obtain (Mt 13,44).

Very few people win lotteries, but the joy of knowing Christ is available to everyone.
Everyone has the ‘winning ticket’ somewhere nearby. It is just a matter of finding it – finding the right way to see reality; then to translate that into everyday life.

We are told to rejoice (epistle); now we see why. We must be happy if we possess the source of all happiness.

What about all the things that go wrong?

The same St Paul, who tells us to rejoice in Ph 4, also describes how much he suffers: We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Co 4,8-9)

The joy goes deeper than the suffering. The joy is eternal, the sufferings are temporary.
The joy is as permanent as God Himself. The joy links with the whole central purpose of our lives; the sufferings are distractions. The joy is the picnic; the suffering is just the ants at the picnic.

On Gaudete Sunday, we express how happy we are - even if we did not know it - and in expressing we come to know it.

There is enough for everyone in this case. We lose nothing if others have the same prize (knowledge of Christ); in fact we benefit even more in that case.

The joy is always going to win out. The knowledge of Christ makes all else seem small.

Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ (Ph 3,8).

Thursday, 8 December 2016

2nd Sunday of Advent 4 Dec 2016 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 4.12.16 Challenge

The Bad News is… that we have to make a response to the Good News. We have to exert ourselves a little.

The Good News is that we can be set free from our sins, and begin the path to eternal life, where the weight of eternal glory far outweighs anything we suffer in this life (cf 2 Co 4,17).

So anything we suffer is more than worth it, in the long run. In any case we do not mind a little difficulty. We have within us a certain desire to overcome challenges – just look at all the things people do for amusement: climb mountains, swim oceans, run long distances….

This desire for challenge must have been in those people who flocked to hear St John the Baptist in the desert; even though he was going to tell them they were sinners who needed to change their ways.

They knew the message would be a hard one, but something in them made them want to hear it. Even Herod, evil as he was, liked to hear John speak (Mk 6,20).

People today go on pilgrimages, travelling far to get a taste of something beyond the normal daily routine; some contact with the divine, which will lift them to higher things.

We honour those who set a higher standard. We do not put up a statue for someone who always pampered himself. We honour those who make some kind of sacrifice for the good of others – such people as the saints.

We may not at present have the courage or the charity to imitate them, but we know we are at least attracted to what they did.

We can identify two challenges: one to uproot sin from our own lives - no easy matter, after a lifetime of pleasing ourselves!

The other is to overcome whatever obstacles we find when it comes to spreading the faith - the fact that true disciples will always be persecuted, for example.

Some things are true, but dangerous to say, like, Do not commit adultery, or Do not kill babies. This battle between truth and falsehood, light and dark, has been in every place and time.

Can we face these challenges? It is not so different from what we do in every other area of life. Those with extra talent or drive will rise to higher positions – in business, in politics, in sport.

If you are the one of the best tennis players in the world you will play other people who are also the best. There is no point playing someone who is too easy to beat.

Somehow this does not translate to following Christ. People are happy to make sacrifices in other areas of life; but when it comes to the moral law they want it easy.

They clamour for the law to make things easier – even members of the Church can do this, acting very unlike John the Baptist.

They want to lower the bar, instead of training to jump higher.

God is calling us, through John the Baptist, to respond to His invitation to greatness, to rise to the occasion, to personal holiness; and to whatever follows from that.

Thus to make the Church more robust - not like those who wear soft clothes and are found in palaces (Gospel).

The real bad news would be if there were nothing better than this life. Many people think this is the case, and seek all their happiness here. We are very fortunate that it is otherwise, and grateful for it.

That makes it good news, and worth a little trouble to bring to public knowledge!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

1st Sunday of Advent 27 Nov 2016 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 27.11.16  Long vision

When it comes to prophecy (as in predictions) there is a tendency to see one’s own generation as the central point of the prophecy.

Prophecies always seem to imply that certain critical events are just around the corner, but in fact they may be referring to events still a long way off.

Every generation must have felt the same way. There are enough things going wrong in all ages to make it look like it could be the end of the world. So far it has not been, and may not be for us either.

But it is probably good for us, all the same, to stay on our toes, to be fully engaged and alert on these matters. The master might return in the second watch, or the third (Lk12,38).

This is why God does not give us too much information about when things will happen.

We have to leave it to Him to know His own plans. He knows what He is doing, and what He wants done.

It is our role to agree with Him!

We are ready for either of two possibilities: Our world could change drastically at a moment’s notice (eg World War III). Or we might just go on for centuries.

We can take it either way, much as we do in our own lives, where we could die today, or live on for years to come. We can live with a high level of not-knowing what is going to happen.

We can, however, ask the Lord to come. He wants us to ask that, and He can answer that prayer in more than one way.

He can come in ways other than His final glorious return. He can make His presence felt as His kingdom is established among us; as He brings people to a deeper faith in Him, and a clearer recognition of Him, especially in the Eucharist.

In this way people would come to believe in Him, to worship and obey Him; as He is given a greater prominence in what is (after all) His own world!

In that sense He can come, and the more the better, for our purposes. Every generation has the right to make this prayer.

We pray, and we act in obedience to Our Lord, and if we do that consistently enough we will enable His kingdom to be recognisable.

We ask for anything He can send us – be it a miracle, daily sources of grace; a conversion of a sinner; anything that can make it easier for us to progress in holiness, and to convince others to do the same.

Our Lord will sustain us in hope as we battle through various difficulties.

No matter what happens, or does not happen, we will believe that God is still at work.

We may not see the spectacular improvements we would like, but we can sense His presence. It is like a tree growing. We cannot see it happen, but we see that it does happen over time.

God has many ways of advancing His cause. He can even use the rebellion or rejection of some, to draw forth value in the response of others - for example, in martyrdom. The glory of martyrs is made possible by the evil of those who kill them.

God makes good come out of evil.

Likewise we can use anything that comes our way - this suffering becomes a prayer; this disappointment becomes an opportunity for God's grace to go to work. We turn everything to advantage.

In this way, with short steps, and long vision, we are ready in every sense for Our Lord to come among us.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Last Sunday after Pentecost 20 Nov 2016 Sermon

Last Sunday 20.11.16 Happy death

If nothing else in our lives we can at least get the ending right.

Deathbed conversions are possible, though it is not recommended to leave it that late.

We can speak of a ‘happy death’. It means a death which is well-provided for in spiritual terms.

If we die in a state of grace we will be saved. Since we do not know the time of our death the only way to guarantee a favourable judgment is to be always in a state of grace. That takes the sting out of death, or at least the worst of the it.

We can then speak of death as merely falling asleep, which is how the Church speaks of it: falling asleep in the Lord (1 Th 4,14)

To be always in a state of grace means that we are constantly interacting with God, having His grace work in us, inspiring us to do His will, giving us the strength to avoid every kind of sin – and this all day and every day.

We recall the parable of the faithful servants, who are at their posts doing the master’s business at all times, ready for his return. (Lk 12,36) Or the wise bridesmaids who always had enough oil to keep their lamps lit, waiting for the bridegroom (Mt 25,1-13).

Our Lord gives us these images, not to frighten us, but to prepare us; to wake us up and inspire us.

He is not trying to trap us; far from it. He wants us to be saved, more than we want it.

The warnings are there to remind us of how important it is that we get our lives on the right note; and especially at the end.

That is His purpose in keeping these things before our minds; lest we grow complacent or distracted with the passing of time.

Union with Him is the paramount concern at any moment. He is the pivotal point. With Him we are safe; away from Him we are lost.

We return to union with Him, or increase that union, through the sacraments, and keeping the commandments.

We do not let ourselves be distracted from this main point, even if the times are turbulent, or become even more so.

We do not fully understand the prophecies such as in today’s Gospel. The general point of these prophecies is to ensure that we brace ourselves for a certain amount of conflict, and not be too alarmed by anything that happens.

The devil will throw everything at us. But we shall prevail against him, if we read the signs (Gospel), keep calm, and draw strength from Our Lord. Then we have nothing to fear.

At one level we have to find natural disasters scary. But only at one level. The thing that we really have to be afraid of is to be separate from God.

Fear him who can cast both body and soul into hell (Mt 10,28).

We can also go some way to reducing the severity of the threatened disasters by making sincere repentance and reparation. If enough people repented there will be no need for disasters (cf Gen 18,16-33: what if there are five good men in the city?)

We can defuse the threatening prophecies, and bring to fulfilment the more hopeful ones.

To be ready every day, to meet the Lord, in whatever form He might reveal Himself – this is the plan. We do not need to know exactly what He has in mind; just be ready to play our part.

Happy death, happy life. To live and die in union with the Lord!

Thursday, 17 November 2016

2nd Last Sunday after Pentecost 13 Nov 2016 Sermon

6th Sunday after Epiphany (readings) 13.11.16 Evangelisation

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a large tree which has emerged from small beginnings.

This can be interpreted as a reference to the Church, which started with just a handful of disciples, and has grown to be over a billion people.

Bigger, not necessarily better; but the ‘better’ part we are working on.

Our Lord offers the Church as a place of refuge for the birds of the air – the people of the world.

There are seven billion people in the world, so it must be that most people do not belong to the Church. This means that most people are travelling without seat belts, trying to work their way through this life without the benefit of the Church’s teachings (the word of God, properly interpreted); and without the grace available through the sacraments.

Most would say they can get by quite well, thank you; and many would say that the Church is the last thing they would want to be helping them.

It is easy to say we don’t need something if we are not aware of what that thing can do. Someone in a previous century probably would have dismissed the idea of telephones, or cars, or planes, or even learning. But we benefit from all those things once we are introduced to them. All the more can the Church benefit us.

So much of the dismissal of the Church is done through ignorance; people settling for too little too easily.

Then, of course, many people who are members of the Church do not fully appreciate the advantages they enjoy.

So we have a long way to go still, to extend the kingdom of heaven to cover the whole world.

We who do seek to extract the full meaning of belonging to the Church, have an obligation to make known to others the treasure we have discovered.

The whole process of evangelisation is based on this. Our Lord wants every person in the world to belong to His Body, to take refuge in Him. (Come to Me, all ye who labour and are heavily burdened…Mt 11,28)

To evangelise does not mean getting up in the street and giving a sermon. Speeches do come into it; the spoken word is important, also the written word. But most evangelising is done by example.

See how they love one another, was a comment in circulation regarding the early Church.

It is not all our fault that so many do not want to belong to the Church. A lot of it is their own lack of response to the signs God gives them (eg the beauty of nature, the many miracles He works in everyday life, the disorder of lives apart from Him…)

But some of it is our fault – insofar as we are not shining images of Christ; insofar as we commit sin and so impede the progress of the Gospel as a healing remedy for the world.

It is commonly said of churchgoers that they are all hypocrites; that they do not practise what they preach.

We admit the latter point. It is so much harder to do than to say. But ‘do’ we must.

There is no escape from our obligation to display by our lives the beliefs in our hearts.

First we believe; then if we believe enough we will act on those beliefs; and then at least some of the rest of the world will want to join us, by the power of our united witness.

And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they partook of food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2, 46-47)

Those were the days; but these can be the days too!

We are surrounded by people who do not know their right hand from their left (Jonah 4,11), and we need to offer them the word of life (and the bread).

May that tree continue to grow, offering its protection and fruit.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

3rd Last Sunday after Pentecost 6 Nov 2016 Sermon

Third Last Sunday after Pentecost 6.11.16 Salvation (Readings 5th Sunday after Epiphany)

At this time of the Church year we pray especially for the dead.

We pray for their salvation (a favourable judgment at the point of death); and their sanctification (purification from sin, if required), so they are ready for Heaven.

This prayer is important work. If the final destination for everyone is either Heaven or Hell, it is immensely important to get this right.

With rescue missions people try desperately to save as many as possible, eg from the rubble of an earthquake. This is the same idea, but much more important still.

Salvation (rescue) is necessary because something has gone wrong.

Plenty has gone wrong with this world, and it all goes back to what happened in the Garden of Eden.

Eden was the prototype of Heaven. Everything was in place and at peace. The inhabitants had everything they needed or ever could need, and most of all they had complete unity with God.

The first sin shattered that unity and took with it many of the other blessings. From then on we have been suffering sickness, pain, death, alienation, loss of direction, and so on.

Salvation means restoring all these things to their original state.

The best thing about this original state was that it was no effort to be good, or do good. It came naturally.

It was the way human nature was created, to live peaceably and comfortably in the presence of God. It was not meant to be the toilsome business it has become.

We reclaim Paradise (or claim Heaven) when we live in union with God, despite the many difficulties of living in this very un-paradise world.

With the grace of God working in us we can discover and express His goodness in every situation no matter how hopeless things may look.

And we discover His grace working in our own selves, enabling us to do things we never could before – such as loving difficult neighbours, overcoming sinful habits…

Salvation is getting to Heaven as a destination, but also overcoming the various obstacles on the way. Salvation is both a destination and a process.

Salvation means being good; or if we are not good, then at least being sorry for that; being sufficiently contrite to receive the saving mercy of God.

We have to work for our salvation, because of the difficult conditions surrounding us.

We work out our salvation in fear and trembling, as St Paul put it (Ph 2,12).

We make it the central question of our lives, using the time we have, to grow in grace and union with God.

The closer we get to God the easier it becomes to serve Him. The closer we come the freer we are to control our own desires and decisions. We are no longer slaves to sin and bad habits; we find being and doing good comes more naturally – as it was always meant to be.

While we go through this we pray the same for everyone else – living and dead.

For various reasons a lot of people do not regard the issue of salvation as important. They might think Heaven is a foregone conclusion, not something to worry about. They might think there is no Heaven. They might think there is a Heaven, but they themselves have no hope of getting there.

For all of these categories we pray. The grace of God can break through in each case.

In terms of today’s Gospel, may the final harvest be a lot of wheat and very few weeds.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Feast of Christ the King 30 Oct 2016 Sermon

Christ the King 30.10.16

Politics is always in the news - current issues, opinion polls, preferred leaders; and just now the American Presidential election is causing a lot of interest. A lot of speculation takes place about who is going to run a country.

If people are upset with the candidates for the top positions it could be said to be their own fault. The candidates in many ways reflect the values of the people.

Imagine a country which was almost entirely Catholic in identity and practice. We would then expect a higher standard of political leaders. We would not have the corruption, internal fighting, and lying we have now.

People lie in politics because they lie everywhere else; if people who seek to rule are greedy and grasping it is for the same reason people in general are greedy and grasping.

It does not have to be so, and is definitely not so in one government at least. This is the government that comes from Heaven itself – the rule of Christ the King.

To get to this position He did not need to win an election. His power comes from His being God, and therefore creating the world and keeping it in being. This would be enough to establish absolute authority, but there is more still.

His power comes also from His human nature, triumphing over sin and death, and earning the right to rule all other humans from this pivotal role that He holds.

He has the keys of life and death in His hands; no other human ruler could stand before Him, much less overrule Him.

Whether we live or die eternally, depends upon the relationship we have with this one Person.

He is Somebody, if anyone ever was!

In this case it is not the ruler being like the people he governs, coming up from the ranks. This ruler sets His own standards, and then offers to lift the people to His level.

We derive our values from Him; not He from us. His rule is one of complete integrity, every virtue overflowing.

If we would heed His authority we would share in those virtues, we would be more like He is: honest, kind, forgiving, loving, generous, etc.

Our whole society would be transformed to look like Heaven. The Kingdom of heaven will have come among us.

It is there for us to discover, to unearth, as we bring our lives into subjection to the true King.

He wants us to discover Him through obedience.

He could show Himself to the world and force obedience, but He wants us to discover it for ourselves.

A light has dawned. As the sun rises to the middle of the sky and increases in heat and light, so Christ becomes more and more prominent as more people give Him allegiance.

We must do our bit to make Him known. Politicians have their volunteers who help with the advertising. We must do some advertising for Jesus Christ, most of all by the way we live.

If we cannot convince others we can at least guarantee our own salvation, and make a little bit of heaven in our own sphere.

The surrounding world may be crazy, but not my house! We can go against the tide.

It is our privilege to know Him; now we must make Him known, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who restores all things in Himself, and brings His kingdom among us.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 23 Oct 2016 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 23.10.16 Healing the soul

The Gospels record many occasions when Our Lord healed the sick.

He did this as a favour to those whom He healed, but also to point to an even greater healing – that of the soul.

The physical healing is the more spectacular looking, causing great joy and wonder; but the spiritual healing is actually the more wonderful event; and the one that should attract the greater attention – because it is at a deeper level, and can last for eternity.

If we are sick we can pray for good health. But we cannot guarantee physical healing will be granted. Sometimes miracles happen (for example, as at Lourdes); sometimes not.

The soul, however, will always be healed; at least as regards the first part of the process.

Healing of the soul comes in two parts. First there is forgiveness of the sin.

This is the easy part. Forgiveness means that God will not treat us as our sins deserve – eternal death – but instead will set us free from the guilt, the debt that we owe Him. (cf parable of the debtor, Mt 18,21-35).

He will treat us (and think of us) as though we had never offended Him. If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool (Is 1,18). He will turn again, and have mercy on us: he will put away our iniquities: and he will cast all our sins into the bottom of the sea. (Mic 7,19).

The second and much harder part to the healing of the soul is the removal of desire for sin.

I can confess, say, uncharitable remarks about my neighbour, and be absolved. But when I go outside again I might still want to make uncharitable remarks. And most likely I will do the same thing again.

The full healing has not yet happened. We are partly healed – of the guilt – and that is very important. But we are not fully healed unless we are totally cleansed of the inclination towards the sin.

This concerns how we think, the way we form attitudes, the things that are inside us, even if we do not realize it; all the mental and emotional debris we have collected over the length of our lives; the bad habits ingrained.

Some of this is born in us, through original sin. We can see it in children, who before the age of reason, will exhibit possessiveness and anger etc.

Only the miraculous healing power of Christ can get inside us and rearrange the spiritual wiring which makes us do the things we are trying to avoid; but we seem to be programmed wrongly somewhere.

Our Lord can arrange it so that we are as calm on the inside as we can appear on the outside.

Luther is said to have likened a saved person to a dung heap covered with snow. We say it is snow all the way through - the whole person, inside and out.

This is what Purgatory is for, to purge away even the desire for sin.

Through prayer and sacraments we draw the love of Christ into our souls, and this changes us, the way we think, the way we love, the way we react.

When the soul is clear of resentment, envy, desire to hurt others, and anything else out of place – then we are healed, well and truly. This is the complete healing which we seek. We can start now, not leave it till after we die.

‘If I can touch the hem of His cloak’ – the woman said. (Mt 9,21). In the case of spiritual healing it will take longer. We not only touch the hem, we cling to it, for as long as the healing takes!

All Saints, All Souls Mass times

Mass times for

All Saints Day, Tuesday 1st November, 6.45am St Monica's, Walkerville

All Souls Day, Wednesday 2nd November, 6.45am, St Monica's, Walkerville

Holy Name times 1st Nov: All Saints’ Day. Mass 7am & 6.30pm
2nd Nov: All Souls’ Day. Mass 7am, 9.30am, 6.30pm

Thursday, 20 October 2016

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 16 Oct 2016 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 16.10.16 Authority

Give to God what is God’s, says Our Lord.

What is His? Everything. We own certain things, like houses, cars, dogs, money. God owns all those things too, insofar as we are accountable to Him for how we use them.

As when a tenant uses the house, the landlord has an interest in how well the tenant looks after the property. God is the Landlord of the whole creation!

We use the things He give us, but it is all His. We are here only at His pleasure.

This insight makes a lot of human activity look very strange. Lots of people make lots of important decisions without any reference to God.

Political decisions, economic decisions, moral decisions. Some people think they are ruling their nation, but there is only ruler of the whole world.

Kings and Presidents and Prime Ministers are exercising only the authority that God has delegated.

We are not allowed to mention God, however, because it might offend those who do not believe in Him!

He is there anyway, whether we mention Him or not.

If we do not give Him due honour, then that is a sin against the First Commandment, and leads to great trouble and chaos.

We cannot run a country, or a world, or even one life, if we do not give due place to God.

The only way we can have order, balance, and happiness, is if we are prepared to obey Almighty God, and give Him what is His.

He is not oppressive after all. Many human governments are oppressive. We can see why people would not want to pay tax to them, let alone obey them, eg Communist governments.

With God, however, there is nothing to fear. He is all good, all wise, just and kind.

He will actually protect the people and look after them.

It is insanity to turn away from such power, and such goodness.

We are not allowed to ignore Him, but why would anyone want to anyway?

Whatever life, or nation, or world we can have, we will never do better than by obeying God.

We give Him our ‘coin’, which means our whole lives.

We give Him our time, our plans, our ambitions, our desires – all these will work better under His direction.

We live in a very strange world where a vast number of people either deny God's existence or His relevance; or, even if they believe these things they still disobey.

These attitudes are so common that they have become part of the structure of our whole society. It even could seem normal after a while but it is insane.

We, however, will believe; we will give Him first place; we will obey Him. That is the only sane way to live this life.

Our reward, at first anyway, will be to be called an extremist, or similar derogatory term.

Let all the world be ‘extreme’ if it means God can rule His own universe. If it lets God be God, and the laws of the land reflect His laws. If the Lord’s Day be respected, and every knee bow before Him.

It is a wonder we have lasted this long with such persistent denial of God. It is because He wants to give us time to repent.

One of these days it might be too late. Who knows how long we have, but the general standard of society seems to be slipping all the time.

Let’s make sure we don’t take any longer to get ourselves into the right position – giving back what He has given us, undamaged, and multiplied (like the servants returning the talents, Mt 25,14-30).

Thursday, 13 October 2016

21st Sunday after Pentecost 9 Oct 2016 Sermon

21st Sunday after Pentecost 9.10.16 Treasury of Mercy

Did you ever wonder where all that mercy comes from?

Imagine if you could go to the automatic teller machine and be able to take out as much money as you like, and as often as you like, and the supply of money would never run dry.

We cannot do that with money, but we can with grace and mercy.

We can go to the ‘bank’, the treasury of mercy, and be forgiven every time, provided there is true sorrow for the sin.

The treasury of mercy never runs dry. God’s mercy is infinite, as are all His attributes.

And also acting in our favour are the infinite merits of the sacrifice of Christ, by which He atones for the sin of the world, and enables any sin to be forgiven.

So we can understand the debtor having his huge debt removed. We owe God a debt of reparation that we could never repay. We have offended His infinite majesty and nothing of our own could set that right.

We have gone over the limit many times over.

The more hopeless it seems the more remarkable that God's treasury of mercy will prevail.
We cannot break this bank.

With a normal person the more often we offend him, the more likely he is to be annoyed.

We can think of God in these terms but it is not actually the case. God does not ‘lose His temper’ or ‘get mad’ at us.

However, if we continue to sin against Him, without appropriate sorrow and intention to amend our ways, we will be receiving less mercy, and the effects of the sin will accumulate.

We receive less mercy because we are not claiming it properly. It is not that God is any less willing to give mercy; we are less willing to take it.

It is called God's anger, but it is the natural consequence of what we do if we do not seriously seek mercy.

This much we must do: form purpose of amendment. I cannot just keep going to ask for mercy without some adjustment to my life. I have to think: what is causing the sin? How can I change what I am doing?

For this also we need God’s help - Grace.

We have Mercy for the sins, and Grace for the ability to break away from sin. Grace is also infinite in supply if only we ask for it.

Although they are in such ready supply it seems that both grace and mercy are neglected in these times.

Many do not see that they have any sin to be forgiven. Others see the sin but do not believe mercy is possible for them.

Others might believe in mercy but not get around to asking for it, or forming any serious intent to change their lives.

Many Catholics do not go to Confession, and thus deprive themselves of important grace.

So it can happen that despite the abundance of mercy one could still fail to benefit from it. It is like starving outside a bakery.

This leads in turn to further sin and general decline of faith and morals, of which we see too much evidence today.

We have to take God seriously – His word and His will. If we make any effort to engage with Him He will hasten to our help, move us to true contrition; remove the debt; and set us up to live properly from then on.

(Including that we will freely forgive anyone who has offended us).

If we are right with Him all else will be right.

It comes to this: we must change our bad habits, or at least be sorry that we have not done so. If it is genuine sorrow we will receive the grace to make the change, and so we are set free.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

20th Sunday after Pentecost 2 Oct 2016 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 2.10.16 Growth in faith

The study of history always helps to shed light on the present.

In terms of our faith, there is a long history before we arrived. In fact we go back 4000 years!

That long ago God spoke to Abraham, and set him up to be the father of many nations. He would, God promised, have more children than the grains of sand on the seashore. (Gen 22, 17)

Since that time God has intervened much in human affairs; guided us; forgiven us; many times worked miracles to help us along.

In return He has asked that we trust in Him – that He has good intentions towards us, and knows far better than we do what is best for us.

It helps if we reflect on these past events and let them strengthen our faith.

If God has set His people free from slavery, healed their sickness, forgiven their sin, raised up leaders and prophets, given clear teaching – if He has done all that over four thousand years, He can do it again for us.

And this give us confidence.

It is one purpose of the Mass and other prayers, such as the Divine Office, to recall what God has done. Psalm 135,1: Give thanks to the Lord, for His love endures forever.

And all of that rescuing and forgiving was in the midst of constant denial and sin.

Yet we still doubt!

The Gospel story today is of the nobleman who sought healing for his son.

It contrasts with another similar story where the Centurion asks for healing for his servant (Lk 7,1-10).

The nobleman thought it would be necessary for Our Lord to come to the house; the centurion knew that Our Lord could heal from anywhere. He had more faith.

The nobleman’s faith was tentative, needing to be reassured. Only when he heard the time of the miracle did he fully believe.

We have four thousand years of miracles to call upon; but we can still lurch from one event to the other without ever having complete confidence in God.

Our Lord would get frustrated with people who always wanted another miracle before they would believe.

Yesterday’s miracle was no good; we need another one now.

What He wants is that we would believe in Him, without needing miracles to boost that faith.

He wants us to express trust in Him, to the point that, whatever the outcome of our prayers, we still believe in Him, even if we do not get what we ask.

We put our faith in Him, not in changing circumstances.

He is happy to work the odd miracle, but He does not want us to rely only on miracles.

Several other passages record Our Lord’s reproving lack of faith.

The Apostles in the boat (Mt 8,26), Peter on the water (Mt 14,31), the man with a possessed son (Mt 17,17). ‘Men of little faith’; ‘faithless and perverse generation’.

Why do we trust Him so little?

It is partly our sinfulness, which reduces our vision to merely physical and material matters, slowing our spiritual growth.

It is partly that we do not remember the lessons of our very richly blessed history.

We need to build up our relationship with God on every level – prayer, sacraments, good works, constantly seeking His will.

Our faith will grow as we develop at all levels, the whole person being involved.

We can grow in faith, also as a community, which is another reason we gather for Mass; to remind each other of the blessings of the Lord.

Remember the number ‘4000’ next time we go to complain. Four thousand years, God has been proving how reliable He is!

Thursday, 29 September 2016

19th Sunday after Pentecost 25 Sep 2016 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 25.9.16 The Church – charity and clarity

We are invited to the wedding banquet. Some accept, some refuse. Once in the banquet, some conform, some do not.

It is hard to get people in, and hard to keep them once we have them!

The banquet can be taken as an image of the Church. First we must join it; then we must conform to its teachings (wedding garment).

We are called individually by Christ Himself: Come, follow Me.

We answer the call as individuals, but we cannot follow Him only as individuals. He incorporates us in His Body, the Church.

If we are to be in union with Him, we must also be in union with the rest of the Church.

This is His desire - that they may all be one (Jn 17, 21)

The unity, if achieved, will have two aspects. Unity in charity, and unity in clarity (of belief).
We will learn to love one another, and to believe the same essential truths of the faith.

Unity in charity: we treat each other well. We think as well as we can of each other. At the very least there is always goodwill for the other person. Even if we think someone is a major sinner, we still have goodwill for him insofar as we want him to be saved.

Take the symbolism of a large number coming to Holy Communion and the union that expresses; how can we have differences from each other, hold grudges etc (epistle)?

Unity of belief: we look to the Church to teach us what to believe. We have no other way of knowing what is what. We could not work out for ourselves all the intricacies of the creeds and catechisms; all the finer points of faith and morality.

We rely instead on the accumulated wisdom of twenty centuries – the Bible itself, the writings of Councils, of saints and popes. No one person could match that or supersede it, though many think they can!

Chaos results when people try to outdo the Church in wisdom. We are always tempted to take an easier path if we can choose for ourselves.

We learn to think as members of the Church, not just as individuals.

It requires of us that we be humble both in attitude (charity) and belief (faith).

There is discord around us, both in the Church and the wider world. We can find order and peace in Christ Himself.

We go to Him first. We submit our intellect. He knows better than we do, surprise!

And our will. We submit totally to Him, and go along with anything He says, or does, or gives, or withholds.

Then we are in a better place to deal with any difficulties that arise.

If we are unhappy with the way the Church is headed, we draw closer to Our Lord, desiring the best for all, ourselves included.

Those with higher responsibility have a harder task, and need more prayer. Whether we think someone is doing a good job or not, is not the issue. Simply pray for him.

This is why we pray so often for our leaders, the Pope and the Bishops. We pray that everyone, high and low, overcome any deficiencies, and themselves come closer to full unity with Christ.

We do not feel superior if we think we are more right than others on some issue. We remember our own sinfulness and ask for mercy; for us and them.

We pray for the Church to be as pure, holy and wise as she needs to be. Remember we have a commission - to baptise all nations. Or to fill the banquet hall.

To get people in, those already in have to learn to behave. That is our task now. May the Lord who invites us, give us all necessary graces to fulfil His will.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

18th Sunday after Pentecost 18 Sep 2016 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 18.9.16 Sorrow for sin

The sick man has his sins forgiven, and is restored to health.

Once again we see in action the abundant mercy of God, restoring a person to a new beginning.

We are encouraged to trust in God's mercy. The prayers of the Church, prayers of the Mass, and prayers used in private, are constantly asking for that mercy.

We are taught that God is infinitely merciful; that He will forgive any sin, that He goes looking for lost sheep (Lk 15,1-7); that He runs to meet the returning sinner (Lk 15,20). All this would make one think that salvation must be an easy matter.

But on the other hand, the same sources warn us that God will punish sinners, and that punishment might even be eternal (Hell). Then He will say to those on His left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’ (Mt 25,41)

Is He going to forgive us or punish us? The key is how sorry we are for our sins. It is not so much the size of the sin as the size of the sorrow!

Sorrow is not something that can be measured as a quantity. I might think I am sorry, or hope I am, but not really be so. Only God would know the true state of my heart and mind.

It could be just fear that makes me say I am sorry, but I might really be still attached to the sin.

If we go to the Sacrament of Confession, it is a pre-requisite that we have firm purpose of amendment, sincerely intending not to commit the same sin again.

We can build up true sorrow by meditation on the malice of the sin; on the harm that it does; on the goodness of God; on the ingratitude which continuing sin reveals. We can make various devotions and prayers which will help us to see things in a clearer light.

We could, for example, consider the sufferings of Our Lord as He approaches Calvary; the sorrows of Our Lady as she sees all this; we are hurting her as well.

Sin is not something that can be casually dismissed.

The fact that forgiveness is so readily available could lead to its being cheapened – as when a free event might not be taken as seriously as one where we have to pay to be admitted.

We need to realize the largeness of both the sin and the mercy.

All sin (even lesser sin) offends the Infinite Majesty of God; this all the more underlines the immensity of His mercy, which is ready to forgive any sin.

If we grasp that sin is large and mercy is large, we are more likely to reach a sufficient level of sorrow to make us grateful, and determined not to re-offend.

We hope to reach perfect contrition – whereby we are sorry because we have offended God, not just because we are afraid of punishment.

But what of the punishment? Does the merciful God punish sinners? Yes, in two senses.

1) If there is still a chance for repentance, the punishment will be a way of forcing people to re-assess their priorities.

When God deprives people of health, wealth or status, it is a wake-up call to consider how much they value other things above Him.

The same applies to communal punishment, as with natural disasters, diseases, even wars. A whole community of people might re-think their way of life.

Souls in Purgatory see their lives in full clarity, and are aware of their excesses. Their punishment serves to purify them, to be ready for Heaven.

2) For the souls who die impenitent, only Hell remains. The punishment cannot save them; but it does serve to warn us not to make the same mistakes.

There is no contradiction between Mercy and Punishment. Mercy is God's essential position, but Punishment is what we have insofar as we refuse to engage with that Mercy.

Thursday, 15 September 2016

17th Sunday after Pentecost 11 Sep 2016 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 11.9.16 Loving the loveable

We are told we have to love God – the first and greatest commandment. It is a strange thing that we have to be commanded to love.

Normally we would think of love as something that happens spontaneously. We would not need to tell Romeo that he has to love Juliet! He loves automatically, without being told. The attraction of Juliet is enough to bring forth the love from him.

Yet Romeo, and the rest of us, do have to be told to love God.

By use of reason we can work out that God must be much superior to Juliet, or any part of His creation. The beauty we see around us is just a glimpse of the beauty of the One who makes all this possible.

Logically, we know we should love God more than anyone or anything else – and this is just what the commandment means. But given our human limitations we tend to cling to lesser objects to love, and fail to make the great leap to God Himself.

People search for love, but that usually means human love. They might find their ‘soulmate’, but they stop short of finding God.

It is really only God who can fill the soul; who can satisfy our deepest longings. Loving other people is a good thing, and that is also a command; but it is not the full story.

We are created by God to know, love, and serve Him. That is our destiny, our fulfilment; discovering which is like a bird learning to fly, or a fish to swim.

Yet we can find it hard to love God.

For one thing He can be difficult to perceive. We cannot see Him, hear Him, touch Him.

Then He can also be difficult to ‘read’, as in we do not always know His will, or His mind, on a particular subject. He does not always tell us either. Sometimes it seems He leaves us hanging in suspense.

Many people give up the hunt, and settle for whatever happiness they can find in this earthly domain.

That is a big mistake, though we understand the temptation.

If we hold on, hang in there, we will discover enough of God's goodness to enable us to make further progress.

We can learn to love Him. Like all difficult things it becomes possible with His own help.

He is a long way away from us, in the heavens; but He is also very close. In fact He is even inside us, helping us to think, to feel, to know, to decide various things.

With His help we set out on a path, a path that will take us all the way to eternity.

We learn to love Him whom we cannot see, and to trust Him whom we do not always understand.

He stirs up in us a desire for the infinite (that is why we feel so inspired by oceans and mountains, and the like).

And He steers us through this life, with all its disappointments and uncertainty, with a sense that we can feel He is close, even if there is a lot more we do not know than we do know.

By small steps it becomes achievable. We cannot explain every single thing that happens, like all the suffering in the world; but we can come back to this point: that if we would do things God's way, a lot less of those things would happen. The more people joining in, the less things would go wrong.

It is always better - no matter what questions we have - always better to go towards God than away; always better to obey than disobey; to pray than not to pray.

Doing this for a time, we will find it is as natural to love God as to love the people or the things He has created. We no longer need to be commanded to love; it will come naturally.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

16th Sunday after Pentecost 4 Sep 2016 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 4.9.16 Pharisees

To be a ‘pharisee’, as the term is used, means that we look down on others; judge them harshly; think ourselves to be free of fault.

People like us, who go to church, who keep at least the externals of religion, are often so accused.

Do we really think we are better than everyone else around?

We should not see ourselves in such a light, but rather as fellow sinners, all in need of salvation, and grateful that we have that hope.

We do not need to know who is better than whom, but simply that all of us need the mercy of God; and we ask for that mercy – for ourselves and others.

Whatever we do right, we do by the grace of God, for which we are grateful. Whatever we do wrong – that is our own fault, and happens when we do not seek the grace of God.

Others will be better or worse than we are on certain points. We do not keep score; we simply wish that every person will come to a better relationship with God than they presently have.

We rejoice (with the angels) when a sinner repents. We grieve when someone goes the other way, away from God.

As in today’s Gospel we are prepared to take the lowest place, so long as we can be at the Banquet. In humility we are happy to be the least of all, so long as we can still be included.

The saints have a way of seeing themselves as the worst people around, when everyone can see they are really the best.

But their humility was real, not feigned. They judged themselves so harshly because they could perceive the infinite holiness of God, and by comparison they were lowly worms.

So we all need grace and mercy; and that is our wish for each other, as in today’s epistle, where St Paul prays that everyone will come to know the infinite goodness of God.

We remind each other of the prophetic call of John the Baptist: There is the Lamb of God (Jn 1, 29).

We all need to do this, and we hope we all do it.

If we remind each other of the need to be right with God, that can be seen, not as a hypocritical judgment, but in the light of genuine help… cf to admonish the sinner, to instruct the ignorant etc…

We should all be humble enough to receive correction, encouragement, or anything that will help us on our spiritual way.

But we are told we must not judge. This is often taken too far, as though to mean we can never tell anyone ever that something is wrong.

This would be abandonment of moral responsibility; a false ‘tolerance’. Sometimes we have to point out evil, for the sake of enabling the good.

It is just the same as we would put up a sign to warn people of danger on a road.

The Church warns against evil, and encourages good. In this we seek the happiness of people.

To say that someone is on the wrong path is not to condemn or hate the person, but to seek the best outcome for him.

It is a false charity to ignore the laws of God, because when people do that chaos results (as we see everywhere).

We understand human weakness, and we will not stone anyone to death; but we still must all acknowledge the place of God.

So we hope from all this that we are not pharisees. We admit that our behaviour is not as good as our beliefs, but the solution for that is to improve our behaviour, not reduce the beliefs.

We hope this for everyone; those presently in the Church, and those outside, who should be in the Church.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

15th Sunday after Pentecost 28 Aug 2016 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 28.8.16 True life

The young man was brought back to life, and all were rejoicing. A physical resurrection is certainly a spectacular thing, and much to be desired; yet the Church has always believed that forgiveness of sins is a greater thing.

We tend to make too much of the physical life, and too little of the spiritual. It would be better to die young in a state of grace, than to die old in a state of sin.

We often hear, of one who has just died, that he ‘lived life to the full’. That might mean, in reality, that he indulged in a lot of life’s pleasures, but not necessarily that he did much good; especially the sort of good that God would have expected of him.

Did he develop his character as his life progressed? Did he receive and put to use the various gifts and talents with which God was blessing him? Did he multiply his talents like the good servants in the Gospel parable (Mt 25,14-30)?

There are others, again, who may live a more respectable life. They are not out getting drunk and stealing cars. Yet they ignore God completely in their lives, and set their own personal goals as to what they are going to do with their lives. This is not ‘living’; it is a form of death.

Our Lord said: I came that they may have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10,10). Fulness of life means essentially spiritual life.

Spiritual life needs to be cultivated, and protected. Nothing can kill the soul unless we consent to its death by choosing sin. Choosing to sin is like spiritual suicide.

Most people reject suicide, but quite freely commit sin after sin. Yet that is suicide.

Or at least, roulette. Sin is dicing with death - eternal death.

Yes, we can make a comeback from sin, but we can never be fully sure we have time for that; and there is the further problem that we could be so hardened by sin that we may not even want to come back.

We are truly alive only if fully engaged with God, calling on His wisdom, serving Him, trying to please Him. If we do sin, we quickly repent and get back on track, learning from the experience.

We can be fully alive spiritually even if not able to be physically active. We could be 89 years old, and not able to get around much, but still give God all we have (Lk 21,1-4 the widow’s mite).

It may be that sickness and pain is all we have to offer, but this can be more pleasing to God than someone who can get around, but never gives Him a thought.

Identity with God's will is the crucial thing. We want what He wants. He knows what we need, and how it all ties together.

We come to see our lives not as the personal pursuit of happiness, but entirely at the service of God, like soldiers.

Soldiers, and pilgrims. Soldiers ready to be sacrificed; pilgrims ready to move on quickly.

We do not fear physical death because it is not the end. We fear sin far more.

If we must cling to life, let it be above all spiritual life.

If God spares us physically, even then it is not just to seek personal goals, but be seen as a further chance to serve Him. We do not cling to this life just to have more pleasure.

We cannot measure how alive we are in these terms. We have no way of measuring spiritual life. Sufficient to say that every move towards God will make us more alive, and every move away will be a kind of death. We can get it right with His help.

May we live to the full, spiritually, and eternally.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

14th Sunday after Pentecost 21 Aug 2016 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 21.8.16 Seeking the Kingdom

In the Garden of Eden God provided everything needed. It was there for the taking, and would still be there if we had not sinned.

There was no working week there; every day was a holiday. If there was work to do it would have been entirely pleasurable and easy. There was no pain or sickness, nor death.

(This much sounds like Heaven to us, but Heaven is actually much better again.)

When expelled from the garden much of that set-up collapsed, but the basic idea remained that God would provide for us. Only from then on we would have to experience suffering, as we felt the friction between good and evil.

So has been our history ever since.

We have, with varying success, sought to bring ourselves back to God (individually and communally).

We have confessed our sin, made good resolutions, performed good works, and now find ourselves reminded (Gospel) of the need to seek first the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is that place where everyone obeys God trustingly and lovingly, where no one cuts corners, or even less would cheat or exploit another.

We are still a long way from that world, but we can establish the kingdom at least in this part of the world where we find ourselves.

The difficulty is that in a world where God has been lost to view, people generally do not seek His will, nor keep His laws; resulting in much chaos.

We must hold firm while the ground seems to be shifting beneath us; we still reaffirm and recommit to the basic understanding that only in God can we find happiness.

The closer we can get our politics, our economics, our social and moral landscape to His will, the better for all.

If we cannot make the world a visibly better place, we can at least be purified of our own sins, and thus made more ready for heaven.

The purification required is that we would have a complete trust and love of God, and like small children would trust in Him always to provide.

Thus, as in the Gospel, we cannot be too preoccupied with worldly things – food, clothing etc. We are so narrow in our concerns, so short-sighted, so selfish - compared with what we are really offered by God.

We have become cynical in our adulthood. We doubt that genuine goodness is possible, or in any event that it won’t be to our advantage in such a world.

But we do not give God enough chance to show He means his word,

How can we say He does not provide when we disobey Him so continuously?

Piece by piece we must give him our whole lives, our whole world. He has dominion over every part of this world, but we do not let Him rule unless we turn away from sin.

God will help us. When He expelled us from the garden it was always with the idea that He would give us something better; and that has been the promise ever since.

He wants to help us get this right. It is a complex operation, always correcting and re-directing our desires – but it can be done, with the help of grace.

We crucify nature, with all its passions (Epistle) and come to share in super-nature. We are no longer bound by the constant quest for short-term pleasure; seeking instead a higher order of happiness.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

13th Sunday after Pentecost 14 Aug 2016 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 14.8.16 The goodness of God

The lowest level of faith is when we believe in God if the last thing that happened was favourable; and we cease to believe in Him if the last thing to happen was a disappointment.

We have to do better than that.

We need a faith which is robust, indestructible. If the gates of hell cannot prevail against the Church, nor must they prevail against any one of us.

Faith is a direct relationship between me and God. It does not depend on any other circumstance, or even on any other person.

If God never changes nor should our faith. We hold a constant relationship with Him no matter how much circumstances may fluctuate.

We are not accustomed to being so logical or so cool. Our emotions usually have too much influence to allow us to be so detached.

But like all spiritual qualities, faith can be increased, and this is part of our prayer today – that our faith will be as strong as it needs to be.

God never changes, but we do. On this point we must never change – that we have certain, unwavering trust that God will always be there for us; always working for our good and that of the whole world.

If He appears to have deserted us it cannot be so. He has His reasons, whether we understand them or not.

When we pray we tend to focus on our troubles, and what we need. If we have many needs, we may feel overwhelmed, and we might carry that feeling into our prayer, with the result that the prayer lacks conviction. We ask God to help, but we do not really think that He will.

If instead we begin the prayer with focus on God and His attributes, leaving aside for the moment our many needs – then we will experience a big difference.

The three young men in the furnace spent their time praising God! (Dan 3) The holy man Job, on hearing he had lost everything, said: Blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1,21). The grateful leper returned praising God at the top of His voice (Lk 17,11-19).

Focusing on God, rather than ourselves gives us an entirely different viewpoint. We are beginning the prayer in strength rather than weakness.

The Church has always understood the need for prayer of praise.

It is easier to praise after receiving the desired blessing, but we should train ourselves to do the same both before and after the result.

Glory to God in the highest… Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. (Ps 150)
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. 1 Chronicles 16:34 |
Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done. Psalm 105:1 |
And countless other such exhortations.

It might seem superfluous to tell God of His own goodness, but it is an expression of love, and also it serves to remind us of His goodness, and that in turn will strengthen our faith.

When afraid or sad, or in any negative state of mind, we need reassurance. The praise of God will gradually revive us.

At first it might sound just like words, but the deeper reality will seep through and give us more courage, hope, joy etc.

This will be so especially if we praise God regularly, and work it into our normal patterns of thought. If we are always extolling the goodness of God we have a much stronger basis for understanding what is happening around us, and for absorbing any suffering that comes our way.

Our troubles will melt in the light of God's goodness. If He is so good how can anything bad have power over us? It cannot, and therefore we must be happy, even if we did not know it!

Let us imitate the leper, and all the other people in the Bible who have expressed great joy at the goodness of the Lord.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

12th Sunday after Pentecost 7 Aug 2016 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 7.8.16 All in need

We can feel sorry for other people with the various problems they have.

Feeling sorry for others is generally a good thing insofar as it is motivated by genuine charity. We do not want others to suffer, just as we do not want to suffer ourselves.

It could be, however, that our sorrow for others has a tone of superiority about it. If I see someone has a problem I do not have, such as a particular addiction, I might feel superior to him (like the Pharisee towards the Publican, Lk 18,9-14).

Our Lord said that we should remove the plank from our own eye before the splinter from our brother’s eye (Mt 7,5).

Taking today’s parable of the Good Samaritan, we might see ourselves in the role of the Good Samaritan, the one providing the help; or at least the one in the stronger position.

If we can provide the help we should do so, but first we need to see ourselves as the man lying by the side of the road.

We also are in need of being rescued, healed, forgiven, set free etc.

Some have more problems than others, but we all need the mercy of God; and that is where we must start.

We all need Salvation. We all need to be in union with Jesus Christ, and that is our first concern.

The man by the side of the road symbolises all of us – robbed by Satan of our true status; turned into outcasts when we should have been sharing in God's kingdom.

Our Lord comes as the true helper, giving us the thing we most need. Once lifted up by Him, cleansed of sin, re-orientated in our thinking by the Holy Spirit – we are then able to help each other; but always with that awareness of our frail humanity.

We can help each other make progress.

The whole of our lives, and the whole of human history, we have been trying to get back what we have lost.

God wants to restore us, even more than we want it (cf the father waiting for the prodigal son to return Lk 15, 20).

But such is sin, that once we have been led into the darkness, we do not always welcome the light. (cf Jn 3,19: men loved darkness more than light because their deeds were evil. Or: If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth (1 Jn 1,6)).

We do not always want to be ‘patched up’; still being attached to the sin.

So it takes an extra dose of grace to break through our defences, to the point that we will willingly turn away from all sin.

Once we do let Our Lord lift us up, we are then more desirous of helping others to know what we know.

If we have faith we want to share it, because we see how much good it can do.

Of course we should practise practical charity; helping the poor, the sick etc.

If that was all we had to do it would be easier, but we are also called to help others spiritually, and that is more demanding.

The idea of rescuing people spiritually is not new, but in the present secular climate we will be accused of imposing our views on others.

We impose nothing; we merely point out that there is a Saviour, and the good He can do.

He is the real rescuer, no matter what human intermediaries there may be.

Let us at least not stand in the way of what He wants to do. Let the Saviour save; let the Good Samaritan stand us all on our feet, as children of God.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

11th Sunday after Pentecost 31 Jul 2016 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 31.7.16 Hearing and speaking

Our Lord heals the deaf and dumb man. We take this symbolically to say that He opens our ears to hear the word of God; and opens our mouths to speak only what is good and edifying (Eph 4,29).

As a philosopher once observed, we have two ears and only one mouth; and this suggests that we should listen twice as much as we speak.

How many times do we say the wrong thing – false, unfounded, uncharitable, unhelpful? How we shoot our mouths off.

If we spent as much time listening as we do talking; if we really listened, to discern the word of God in the midst of all the noise and clatter round about, we would be much more settled, much more at peace; and many good effects would follow from that.

So we ask Our Lord to touch our ears, to hear what God is saying.

We do not hear the voice of God directly, but there are other ways we can find out what He is saying.

We have the Bible, the Catechisms, the Creeds, the Saints, Popes and Councils of the Church; the written and living word of God – all telling us what God wishes us to know

Then there is just about an infinite amount of written and audio material available today; some of it highly misleading; but if we are firmly grounded in the teaching of the Church, we can learn to separate the good fish from the bad (cf Mt 13,48).

We can also learn from our life experience. We learn from both the good and evil around us – what to do and not to do respectively.

And we ask Our Lord to touch our mouths, that we may speak always the best thing to say in each situation – all that is truthful, charitable, wise – as close as possible to what Our Lord Himself would say if He were in our place.

We will not let careless and loose words damage the cause.

We know how hard it is to control the tongue (cf James 3,1-12). We will improve in control if we have listened first; if we are settled in prayer, and strengthened by the grace of God.

If we are more at peace within ourselves we are less likely to be attacking others.

The monasteries had it right all along. Lots of silence, and much damage is avoided. How much sin results from loose talk.

Yet our social life is based on lots of talking. Silence makes people uneasy - and if not talking they have gadgets making sound.

We have to learn to step back from the ways of the world, and take a more spiritual view of things.

The rest of us have to live outside of monasteries, so we have to work out how to speak without sin, and without compromising truth and charity. Also we have to be discerning as to what we hear (or read, or watch).

We do not just listen to anything that happens to go in our ears; nor let just anything escape our mouths. We filter both.

We are quick to listen, and slow to speak (James 1,19). We speak only when our minds, and hearts, have processed what is about to come out.

Gentleness does not have to be weakness. We can speak to different people in different ways, as Our Lord did. He was gentle with sinners, and harsh with the unrepentant. In all cases He was aiming at the good of the person He was addressing.

We find it very hard to be angry, and still speak with charity. (Be angry and do not sin – Eph 4,26). We can get better at this with lots of prayer, and again, listening to the word of God. The saints would say what God told them to say. We want to learn how to do that.

‘Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.’ (1 K 3,10).

Thursday, 28 July 2016

10th Sunday after Pentecost 24 July 2016 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 24.7.16 Human respect

When Sts Peter and John were brought before the Jewish authorities in the early days after Pentecost; and charged with making Jesus Christ known, they replied, ‘we must obey God rather than men’ (Acts 5,29).

If we put man’s opinion ahead of God’s, this is called ‘human respect’. It is a sin and a very common one – widespread and deep-rooted.

We learn from the saints not to worry about what others think of us, not at least if we are doing God's will.

Peter and John were flogged for their defiance, and they rejoiced to have the honour of suffering for Jesus Christ (Acts 5,41).

Often it is our own side that can persecute us. We expect it from the world, but even within the Church - from our own families, friends, colleagues – we can be ridiculed for our attempts to uphold God's will.

It takes courage to go against the opinion of the majority, especially when we have to do that again and again. It can be very wearing.

People will question our sanity, our integrity, our relevance. They will accuse us of being uncharitable, judgmental, out of touch, and so on.

We understand that anything we say or do must be based in charity and wisdom.

But we must also be totally firm in holding onto the truth, as revealed by God, through the Catholic Church.

We do not judge others, as to their motives, or as to what factors may be acting on them; but it is often necessary to identify certain things as wrong, and others to be right. We must not be afraid to call black black and white white.

We seek to please God, not man. We are glad to please man when possible, but sometimes we have to do things which will offend someone; but we do them for a higher cause, eg in opposing abortions.

Many would argue that we must get people onside before we can preach to them. Yes, we are as friendly as we can be, but not at the expense of God's truth.

It is better to state the truth openly, and then set about helping everyone come to terms with it.

If we put God first it is not to deny anything to other people. We understand that by giving God His true place everyone will benefit. The Truth will set us free (Jn 8,32), if ever we let it.

The Publican in today’s parable states an important truth when he identifies himself as a sinner.

If we started all our communications with that note it would help. Humility keeps us firmly grounded, and more inclined to give God His proper place.

If we are to deal in truth it must start with ourselves. I am a sinner; therefore, I should stop being so.

There may be other people who do worse things than I do, but this does not excuse me from a rigorous pursuit of holiness.

People will tell each they are ‘good’. But are we good in God’s estimation, or is this merely words, social pleasantry?

It all comes back to what God wants. What does He think of me, of what I do etc?

We maintain a contrite and humble attitude before Him, and in gratitude for His mercy we seek to please Him.

And, in the process, we are prepared for the disapproval of others, even those close to us.

Do we please the Lord? We cannot always tell. But if we seek His help we must get better at doing so. At the end of it all, may we hear the words: Well done, good and faithful servant. (Mt 25,21).

Thursday, 21 July 2016

9th Sunday after Pentecost 17 Jul 2016 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 17.7.16 Weeping over Jerusalem

We feel a strong sense of sadness for the present state of the world - increasing violence on one hand; social and moral collapse on the other hand.

We have a double sense of sadness: one, for the bad news itself, such as people getting killed in terrorist attacks, accidents, disasters etc.

And two, for what causes the bad news to happen; which is the constant denial of God by the world.

The greatest evil in the world is not this or that disaster but Sin, the defiance of God Himself.

We will never hear that on the news.

And it is very common. A vast number of sins are committed each day, and for a long time past.

If we had never sinned we would not have all this damage, not even sickness or death.
Through sin death has entered the world (Rm 5,12).

People are aware of the suffering but draw the wrong conclusions. There is so much trouble it proves there cannot be a God, they will say.

What it really proves is that we cannot afford to ignore God!

The people also weep, but only for what goes wrong, not for what is causing the wrongness.

In their failure to see the true God they turn to false ones.

There will be more trouble as long as they refuse to learn. The Jews in Moses’ time did not listen (Epistle); nor the Jews in Our Lord’s time (Gospel); nor the people of our time.

Even if people accept the reality and the authority of God they might say that sin is inevitable. But as the Epistle says we are never tempted beyond our strength (1 Cor 10,13).

So we weep at both levels: for the trouble itself, and for what causes it.

Our weeping is not just lamenting, but also purifying; motivating us to make sacrifices for the sins of the world.

We put ourselves on the line to share in Our Lord’s sufferings. It is our major work in life, to assist in any way possible to call people back to the truth.

The message is, simply: Behold your God!

People generally resist this message, but we announce it all the same; if not by direct statement, then by our own living out the belief; and - through our prayer - building up a store of grace for the world.

Somebody needs to do this; to pray, to weep, to repent. We can do this for ourselves and others.

Day and night we intercede for sinners, for mercy. Every Mass is such a plea, for the grace that we can all see whatever error there is in our ways.

We maintain a sense of the urgency of the whole matter. It is a big problem, but it can be solved. Salvation can be achieved despite all the confusion.

If nothing else - if we do not see any success - we will be like old candles, extinguished in the service of the Lord.

Others can take up where we left off. Eventually God will intervene strongly, in His time.

While we are still alive we do all in our power to avoid sin, and call on the grace of God to bring all people closer to Him.

If others defy God we will acknowledge Him. If others insult, we will praise. We will be as humble as they are proud, as generous as they are selfish, as attentive as they are careless.

Eventually our suffering will be transformed: Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! (Ps 125,5)