Thursday, 25 February 2016

2nd Sunday of Lent 21 Feb 2016 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Lent 21.2.16 The Fulfilment

Moses represents the Law, and Elijah the Prophets.

The Law is what we ought to do, and the Prophecies are what we ought to believe.

This covers our whole system of belief, and the behaviour that should come from those beliefs – what we believe (faith); what we do (morals).

There should be complete harmony between the two because the moral imperatives arise out of the beliefs.

For example, if we believe in one God, who is eternal and perfect (faith), it follows that we should love that same God (morals – first and greatest command).

We regard human life as sacred because created by God (faith); so we should not kill (morals – fifth commandment).

Some of these commands would be covered by the natural law anyway, but they take on a greater urgency when seen to flow from the nature of God Himself.

Our Lord is the source of both the faith and the morals. He is the be-all and the end-all, Alpha and Omega. He is the source of Law because He is the source of Being.

If we disobey Him in any way, we are upsetting the perfect harmony of His creation. If we obey we are maintaining or restoring that harmony.

For example, if we feed the hungry, we are restoring the order of God's original plan that everyone should have enough to eat.

So we see that our religion is not just abstract rules and beliefs. Both our beliefs and rules are very specific and practical, deriving from perfect theory. It is the best of all worlds when both theory and practice are perfect.

Our Lord is the centre, where it all holds together. He is greater than Moses and Elijah, and He is revealed today as the fulfilment of all that they expressed and represented.

Our Lord is perfect in divinity and humanity. He is revealed to us, just for a moment, in His glory, to help us remember His importance and centrality.

Many do not grasp His importance; there are many false ways of seeing Him.

One of the common errors of today is to see Him only as human, and a rather confused human at that. He is reduced to just a prophet, a philosopher, a do-gooder - but not God, and certainly not the Saviour of the world.

But He is more than all the things they call Him.

He is unique and so far above other religious or philosophical figures that no comparison is possible.

Who else is crucified for the sins of the world? Who else can raise Himself from the dead?

Who else can teach with such authority, or back up his teaching with miracles?

So that we do not forget; so that everyone has a chance to know: we have this event of the Transfiguration. Here the Father tells us: this is no hippie; this is no weak person.

Listen to Him! You will find all the answers here.

In all the confusion; while the world still tries to bury Him under falsehoods and distortions, we will never allow ourselves to be distracted.

We will be like the Palm Sunday crowd, shouting Hosanna; but not changing to Crucify Him! If even the stones shall shout, then we will shout louder.

He is the Lawgiver and the Prophet, the Creator, the Saviour, the Merciful Judge – if we believe in Him we will do as He asks.

It will require from us sometimes to walk in darkness, relying only on faith; and sometimes to be in a minority as we seek to keep commands that others will ignore.

It will be worth it because eventually it will lead to our own glory.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

1st Sunday of Lent 14 Feb 2016 Sermon

1st Sunday of Lent 14.2.16 Temptations

Our Lord fights off the temptations in the desert, and in each case dispatches the devil with fundamental principles.

The devil is the master of deception but he was not clever enough to deceive Our Lord.

He is clever enough, however, to deceive the rest of us.

Not just tempting to sin but tempting to remove sin from the vocabulary altogether.

He is doing it right now, in our general society: trying to make us believe that truth is something that can be changed according to time, and popular opinion.

Time: Something which was wrong in past times may be alright now (eg same-sex ‘marriage’).

Popular opinion. And, that ‘the people’ can decide these things, without reference to God. If enough people believe it should be so, then it must be alright.

So the devil would have us think, and so many people do think.

Some things can be decided by popular opinion. If we want to paint the walls we can ask everyone what colour they prefer, and go by the majority.

But there are certain truths which are sacred and immutable, and no human agency can change them.

Marriage, for example - very carefully created and designed by God, who ‘made them male and female’.

But lots of other truths, such as there is only one God, and God became Man, and established His Church, and guides us still…and all the other things in the Creed…

These things are what they are, and beyond the possibility of change.

More people might become atheists but that does not stop God from existing.

More people might break with the traditional morality, but that does not stop it from being sin, inviting punishment.

Only God could change these things. Not even the Church can do it. Certainly not just the general society.

God is Creator, Father, Saviour, and Judge. He holds all the offices. But He is not some corrupt dictator. He is absolute good. Whatever comes from Him is good, by that fact alone.

We cannot fashion a church of our own liking, like another golden calf. It must be of God’s liking!

Knowing this we have certain beliefs and principles by which we live.

And for this, society will say we are too rigid and lacking in compassion.

Indeed, we want to be sensitive to the needs of others, and charitable to all.

And we are commanded to be those things.

But charity can never be separated from Truth. If we speak and live by the truth, that is being charitable.

Living by God's truth is the best and only way to real happiness.

If we obey Him He will honour that. And all sorts of good fruit will follow. Not least, a stable and peaceful society.

Many Catholics succumb to the pressure of public opinion; in many cases because their own families are caught up in sinful ways. The temptation is to want the rules to be changed so that their family members will not be found guilty of sin.

But we must not confuse love and truth. We can have, and must have, both.

If our family members are doing these things we must pray and work for their conversion.

They must change, not the Church, much less God.

They will want to change when they understand well enough.

We do not have to spare the young. They are capable of recognizing and loving the truth. There are many young Catholics who do see these things, often more clearly than the old.

So all these points of dispute and confusion are part of the present-day temptations. May Our Lord illuminate and fortify us against the ‘wickedness and snares of the evil one.’

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Quinquagesima Sunday 7 Feb 2016 Sermon

Quinquagesima Sunday 7.2.16 Suspense

Suspense – not knowing what is going to happen next. We enjoy it if it is a film but not so much in real life.

Most films have a happy ending. We are not so sure with some of the problems we confront.

God can see past, present and future all at once, but for us the future is very hazy.

So He takes pity on us in our anxiety, and assures us that we will be alright if only we trust in Him.

He does not tell us everything, just enough to get by.

For instance, in Acts 1,7-8 He says, Do not worry about dates and times but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you…

There are countless biblical stories of people being given a little information, and expected to take the rest of the message on trust.

To Abraham you will have a son (already improbable); and then, a little later: kill the son as a sacrifice. Yet the prophecy is fulfilled.

The Annunciation. And you will have a son. How can this be since I am a virgin?

And today’s Gospel: The Son of Man is going to be killed and then rise again. How often does that happen?

Yet all these things happen, despite seeming improbable or impossible.

God is refining us, like gold in the fire, so that we come to a point of trust in Him; where we would believe anything He said, without argument, doubt, or even hesitation.

We don’t know a lot of the details but we know this much: that God is in command, and that is enough.

If we trust Him we do not care that there are things we do not understand. He is the most reliable reality in our life. Nothing or no one could give that much security.

Strangely, we cling to our own experiences and calculations, and we say that such things cannot happen, because we in our tiny world have not seen it.

eg resurrection cannot happen, because I have not seen it!

We dare to put God on trial and say, You don’t exist; or You don’t keep Your promises.

Every single miracle someone will say, It can't happen. A man can't be God. A dead man cannot rise. A virgin cannot have a child. God would not become man. You can't get water out of a rock; nor bread from the sky. Nor divide a river to walk through.

These are all things which did happen.

We have a big record of past stories that had surprise endings.

They all point to the same thing; that God keeps His word.

We still have some things to happen - such as the Second Coming of Christ, and the general Judgment; and other things like the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart

These things are as certain as the things which have already happened.

We have made it difficult for ourselves because of our sin. We have made the obvious obscure.

So we are training ourselves to see things in a different way, and so to come to that happy ending.

We can control at least our own destiny, and we help the overall story when we do that.

We hold on to that trust in God like it was the last piece of wood on the high seas, and we will come through however rough the ride can be.

Not every prophecy or prediction we hear is necessarily from God. We have to sift the wheat from the chaff. But we do not exclude the miraculous simply because it is miraculous. With God all things are possible.

No matter what, we will be there at our post, all the time.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Ash Wednesday Mass times

Ash Wednesday Mass at St Monica's Church, Walkerville: 6.45am

Masses at Holy Name, Stepney: 7am, 9.30am, 6.30pm (Solemn)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Sexagesima Sunday 31 Jan 2016 Sermon

Sexagesima Sunday 31.1.16 Perseverance

Both readings today tell us to persevere. Once we have put our hand to the plough we should not look back (Lk 9,62). If we have set out in following Our Lord, we should keep doing that until the last moment of our lives.

Last Sunday St Paul gave us the image of the athlete who runs to the finish (1 Co 9,24). Today he refers to his own history as a disciple of Christ, revealing the incredible intensity of his life. We cannot match such a record, but we can at least apply the same principle, and give all that we have to the cause.

And in today’s Gospel – the parable of the Sower – there is only group that gets through all the obstacles, and is still doing the Lord’s will some time later. Everyone else has dropped out.

As a test of love - to find out what sort of disciples we are - there has to be a time dimension. Anyone can say, I give myself to God, or, I love God. Anyone can look and sound impressive, but the only real test of such statements is - as the song says, Will you still love me tomorrow? Will you be there in one, ten, or fifty years time?

The only way we can prove our commitment is to stay committed! If we are anywhere but still with Our Lord, it must be we have abandoned our commitment. We have been tricked somehow; fallen for one of those old tricks the devil uses.

Either intimidated by the difficulty of the task; or seduced by the pleasures of the world.

We have to be in that final group that has resisted all temptations to turn this way or that, and kept on the straight line through to the Promised Land.

So we have to persevere. There are many who do not.

We could say there are two wrong approaches – to say that salvation is assured and no special action on our part is required.

And to say that salvation is beyond us, and nothing we can do will change that.

So for opposite reasons – that salvation is easy and salvation is hard – people do not strive as they should to reach the Promised Land.

Yet look at St Paul’s life, or that of any saint, and we see a great deal of energy expended in seeking their own salvation and that of others.

It takes energy to be saved. We do not earn our salvation by works. We understand that salvation is a free gift. But we also understand that to receive that free gift we have to do a certain amount of ‘work’.

A rich man comes into a town where everyone is unemployed. He could give them all money and that would be some help. But if he gives them all a job that is much more help.

However, in the second case, the people do have to work – they must do whatever the job requires.

This is how it works with us. Our good works, and prayers, have the effect of putting us in the right disposition to receive the grace God wants to give us.

So as regards salvation we are not over or under confident. It is not automatic; but neither is it out of our reach.

We just have to remember the urgency of the whole thing so we do not get distracted. This is the biggest project of our lives. The stakes are eternal.

Will we be there for Him tomorrow, ten, fifty, a thousand years? Yes, by His grace.