Thursday, 24 March 2016

Easter times

The only Easter event at St Monica's, Walkerville, will be 8am Mass on Easter Sunday morning (27th).

There is also 5pm Mass at St Anthony's, Edwardstown on Easter Sunday.

The other ceremonies will be at Holy Name: Holy Thursday 7.30pm; Good Friday 5pm; Easter Vigil (Saturday 10pm)

Happy Easter to all!

Palm Sunday 20 Mar 2016 Sermon

Palm Sunday 20.3.16

On this Sunday we consider two events – Our Lord’s coming into Jerusalem with the adulation of the crowd.

And then, a short time later, the same crowd turns against Him and He is crucified.

We can repeat the adulation, and for this purpose we wave palms and olive branches. The only difference in our case is that we do not then turn against Our Lord. We keep waving the palms, and otherwise expressing solidarity with Him.

There is a contrast between the two events, and a contrast also within the second event, the Crucifixion.

This event could be called the worst and the best thing ever to happen in human history.

Worst: because it is the furthest the human race has gone in defiance of its Creator. To put God to death has to be about the worst thing possible to do. Even though people were ignorant of Our Lord’s divine nature they should have known, at least from all the signs He had given, that He was from God. The horror and ugliness of the event take hold of us, and makes us feel contrite.

Best: because by His death God the Son makes of Himself a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world. He offers Himself to the Father, in reparation for all sins, past, present and future; and the Father is pleased with this offering of love and obedience. It is a fragrant offering, the fragrance overcoming the stench of sin.

There is great beauty in this otherwise ugly event: the best and noblest of human behaviour is on display.

God is displeased with what the people are doing to His Son; and pleased with what the Son is doing to the people!

Ultimately the good element far outweighs the bad, and the Death of Christ comes down to us as a lifeline to eternal happiness.

We know we do not deserve it, but we will eagerly receive it.

When we partake of Mass, and Holy Communion; when we engage in worship of the Blessed Sacrament - we are expressing sorrow for human obstinacy (including our own share), with gratitude and hope for the graces which make possible our salvation.

We want to be as aware as we possibly can be of these two aspects, so that we never become complacent about our sin, nor ever lose hope of final salvation.

All the more so do we keep this awareness in Holy Week, which we are now beginning.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Passion Sunday 13 March 2016 Sermon

Passion Sunday 13.3.16 Coping under pressure

I met a man once whose main objection the faith was: why does God simply not kill the devil?

A lot could be said on that topic, but one possible answer is that out of difficulty good things can come.

A lot of our life is based on competition, eg parliamentary debates, law trials, sporting contests, examinations.

The idea is that facing adversity or opposition we perform to the best, and the best result is likely to emerge.

Something like that could be said to happen in the spiritual life.

We are tried in the furnace: So that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 P 1,7). And turn out better for the experience.

Originally, if we had never sinned, we could have just skated through to eternal life. There would have been no suffering, just simply basking in the glory of God.

Since we have sinned, and much suffering has resulted, the next best thing we can do is to use that suffering; allowing ourselves to be refined, to become as much as possible the people we were always intended to be (in the mind of God).

Suffering is the way back, we could say, the way back to the path we should never have left.

And this explains Our Lord’s suffering. He had no sin, but He took on Himself the sins of the world. He absorbed the punishment those sins deserved, and emerged, risen and glorious, free from sin, and any further suffering, except that involved with trying to save others.

So He enters this adversarial world. And right from the start someone is trying to kill Him (Herod). Then in adult life the people of His own town want to throw Him over a cliff (Lk 4,29); other groups of people want to stone Him (Jn 8,59; 10,31); and there was all manner of verbal and intellectual challenge to His position.

As in today’s Gospel, He fends off the hostile questions and reveals the truth, to those who are capable of receiving. He would endure such mistreatment for the sake of setting the evildoers free - the very same people doing this evil, He has come to save.

It is hard work saving the world! When it does not want to be saved.

And the Church in each generation has to take up the task. The true disciples have to take some share of the flak.

We may not want all this difficulty, but we will see that it is worthwhile after it happens. If we trust in God to know what is best for us, we let Him do what He wants.
If we want adventure, enough to follow Jesus Christ. Let him take your life and turn you inside out.

There will be some pain, as we readjust; as we give up various bad habits we have formed.
Anything we do too much of has to be trimmed back (eating, drinking, talking, television, all kinds of self-indulgence). These things all take discipline, and do not come easily, but we are carried on the wings of grace. It turns out to be easier than we feared.

Then there is still more. We are not just recipients of salvation; we are disciples of the Saviour - meaning we have to take some share in His mission. It is not just a matter of getting to heaven ourselves but doing whatever we can to help others get there.

God does not kill the devil; but He does give us enough help to overcome his influence. From this we will emerge better for the experience.

We don’t have to like the fact that the devil is there, but it helps to have some understanding of what can happen. As always, we pray, Deliver us from evil.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

4th Sunday in Lent 6 Mar 2016 Sermon

4th Sunday of Lent 6.3.16 Christ in us

If we were to spend time with the world’s best tennis player, or golfer, or singer, we could learn some tips from them. But they cannot transfer to us that touch of genius which makes them unique in their field.

However, if we spend time with Jesus Christ, He can transfer His ‘talents’ to us.

What is His special talent? Simply being good. (No doubt He could be good at all the other things, but the most important talent, if not the most sought after, is simply being good.)

When we approach Jesus in prayer, or sacrament, we are implicitly asking him to feed us with Himself; to live inside us; to transfuse His goodness into us.

From Him we do not just learn about Christianity, but begin to think and feel as He does.

So our tuition with Him is a very practical matter. He guides us, not just from without, as other teachers do; but from within us. He gives us the thoughts to think, the words to say, the deeds to do. Above all He plants in us a desire to be good.

This is what we call the workings of grace – that mysterious process by which God interacts with us, and transforms us.

Grace will work best in those who are most humble and submissive – such as Our Lady.

He dwells in us; takes over our mind and heart. It could sound threatening; but we retain our own identity. We can always break away if we want. But that would make us worse off.

Taste and see that the Lord is good. We do not want to break free from Him once we have discovered the delight of this particular captivity.

Holy Communion is the strongest point of contact we have with Our Lord. Here we understand that He enters us and dwells within.

Or, it can be said that we enter Him. We are immersed into the identity of Christ, and therefore all His qualities.

When people say Christianity is too hard they are missing a very important point.

Our faith is never just words or theory. We need to be told what to do – that much give us light.

But we also need the heat, the motivation and the power to do what we must. Both the light and the heat come from Him.

So He tells us, for example, to forgive our enemies. We say, Too hard! He demonstrates the process. Still too hard for us. He puts inside us His own ability to forgive. Now we can do it.

Christ be with me, within, behind, before, beside, beneath, above me (as St Patrick expressed it)

This is our prayer too – that we be surrounded by Him, immersed in Him.

We have so much power available to us, and we are not using it. We are like someone who still rides a horse when cars are available. We are doing this when we still operate as though Christ had not come. We are no better than the Babylonians and the Assyrians and all those pre-Christian people.

Maybe we can be the first generation to get this right. Every generation has the same chance.

From the epistle, we are sons of the free woman. We are not slaves of our own desires. We can control our behaviour, even words, even thoughts. If only we let Christ dwell within us, or we dwell within Him.

This is something to rejoice about (Laetare); a real liberation, better than being set free from physical captivity.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

3rd Sunday of Lent 28 Feb 2016 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Lent 28.2.16 Perseverance

We get rid of one demon and seven more come back! That is what our spiritual life can feel like. We strive for perfection, to have the spiritual house completely clean – but like a real house, when we open a drawer we find more in there than we wanted to see.

So, when we examine our conscience closely we see there are more stains and patches than we would like.

When someone dies, everyone says how good that person was. And some of them are good.

But the word ‘good’ is thrown around like confetti. If we do not look too closely anyone can appear good, including ourselves.

But we must understand that when God looks at a soul His searching light is much stronger. He can see every thought we have ever had, every word we have ever spoken, every deed ever done.

He can see what we have become as a result of all that. We are general in our analysis of a person’s life; God is specific.

If there is even one fault it has to be ironed out before we can enter Heaven. (This is the role of Purgatory)

It is in this light we can understand today’s Gospel about the demons.

It is good to get rid of one demon; but we cannot rest with that. We must see it like a war, where we repel advance after advance of the enemy. Never resting until there is no more threat.

Perseverance in the faith is vital. So many do not stay the distance.

Look at any First Communion photo, and wonder how many of those children stayed faithful all their lives.

As to young people today we have got to the point that it is almost expected that they lose their faith.

Not because the faith is any less true, but simply because people have become so spiritually vague (as above) that they do not see the need to work on their faith.

Complacency has seeped in to the works and salvation is taken for granted. This is potentially disastrous for actual salvation, which is not so easy.

Everyone who has the faith should keep it. It is not so easy, but not so hard either once we recognize the pitfalls.

‘Use it or lose it’ - applies to other things in life, but more than ever to the faith.

Faith is central to our existence and the meaning of our lives. We have to exercise the faith, interact with it, think about it, see it as normal.

It has to be every day, not just Christmas and Easter, not just weddings and funerals, but every day, the big days and the days when nothing is happening.

The devil (one or seven) will be trying every trick in the book to make us neglect the faith, and there are many such tricks.

For example, saying: I don’t need to go to church to be good. Or I don’t go to church but I am still spiritual. Or, I don’t go to church but at least I am not a hypocrite.

Daily prayer, frequent confession, Lenten discipline and all-year penance. They all help; no one of them guarantees salvation, but they all help along the way.

Much of what we do as Catholics is just to remind us how much we are in need of God's mercy.

It is not just the young. Older people too can lose the faith, often by gradual neglect.

We have to work on the faith, keep it on the boil.

One very consoling fact: that even if seven demons come back we can get rid of them too.

Any spiritual battle can be won if only we stay close to Christ and keep close – till the end of our days.