Friday, 29 April 2016

4th Sunday after Easter 24 April 2016 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 24.4.16 The real question

The Holy Spirit will show the world how wrong it was. Not just in crucifying Our Lord, but in continuing to ignore Him even after that event.

People can have it demonstrated that they were wrong, but they can still go on being wrong!

How desperately the world seeks to deny Jesus Christ, despite His resurrection; despite all His miracles.

They do not want Him to be who He is, because they are preoccupied with this-worldly things.

Most people are worried about things, but very rarely the most important thing; which is whether or not they will go to heaven or hell.

This is a question of such utter importance, but it can be missed, not seeing the forest for the trees.

It is the be-all and end-all question, literally ‘end all’.

Consider that every single person is going to spend eternity in heaven or hell. The starkness of that choice is astonishing.

One reason people don’t worry is that most do not believe in hell, or that anyone goes there.
The existence of hell is clearly established in Church teaching, the Bible; and it makes sense. eg Where do devils come from?

A certain philosopher said that when he died he would wake up either in heaven, or not wake up, and he was happy with either alternative. He did not allow for hell.

The opposite to heaven is not ‘nothing’, but the loss of everything.

One feels the loss. The pain of that realization of what could have been mine, but I have lost it.

Many are indifferent to God but it is only that they do not know His worth. Even if one does go to heaven the greatest joy there is the possession of God, not just earthly delights without limit.

God is the greatest good and the source of all else (epistle).

This may sound too abstract now but we will come to experience this particular happiness, either through possession of it, or loss of it.

To love God is not just a commandment; it is a need that we have. Like food and oxygen.
It is built into us. He created us to love Him. So few would realise this.

How muddled we get if we miss this. All that energy and time people spend on futile pursuits when they could be discovering the true purpose of their lives and of this world.

And it would make them a great deal happier; and this life a lot easier.

We don’t run anything else like we run our own lives. We make products to exact specifications, complex machines and systems. But we do not apply the same effort to knowing God's word and will, and how we could overcome our various faults.

Religion is seen as airy-fairy, not real, therefore less important. But it is more real than the games we play here.

For those who do believe and even practice the faith - like us - it is possible still to put earthly concerns ahead of heavenly matters.

We must face it squarely and take it to heart. No more putting God on the back burner.

We can establish the kingdom of God around us if we do give Him due attention. We will be breathing in a purer atmosphere,

And we pray for those who do not yet see it; that they will come to clarity without being hit by chastisements.

The key is to get people to realise before they die what they will realise after they die!

It is not so hard if only we look in the right place.

Friday, 22 April 2016

3rd Sunday after Easter 17 April 2016 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Easter 17.4.16 This life

They will be looking for Our Lord but they will not see Him.

This applies to us too. We do not see Him, at all, not even sometimes. It would be a lot easier for us if we could see Him; but we find other ways of coping, which are ultimately very good for us.

The absence of Our Lord, at least visible absence, makes this life seem often like a precarious and difficult walk in faith. We have faith, and we have the sacraments. And we have an abundance of miracles to draw upon to boost our faith; not to mention the inspiring example of so many saints.

Yet still, we would say that this earthly pilgrimage is a hard slog. Some familiar phrases from prayers and scripture will bear this out. This life is a valley of tears (Hail Holy Queen); from the same prayer… after this, our exile. From Psalm 22, though I walk in the valley of darkness. St Paul refers to this life as an exile, and reminds us that this is not our true home (Ph 3,20; Heb 13,14; 2 Cor 5,6).

But then, My yoke is easy, and My burden is light (Mt 11,30). This life is hard, but Our Lord makes it, if not easy, at least easier.

To note the difficulties of this life does not mean we are miserable people. It is simply acknowledging the limits on our present situation.

This world is limited by two factors:

One, that it is not the destination – only the way to reach the destination. It cannot, therefore, be as good as Heaven. This life is just a prelude to the glory of heaven. The sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us (Rom 8,18). In heaven, every tear will be wiped away (Rev 21,4).

Two, that the world is made much more miserable than it needs to be by the huge quantity of sin that goes on. This has to act on us, even having faith, as a dampener on our joy.

We are instructed along these lines: you are finding it difficult but don’t get too downcast; do not dwell on how much suffering there is, but dwell on the hope of better things to come, a certain hope. Your wait is short; the time is drawing ever closer when you will be able to experience the things you have longed for all your life; and the human race has longed for.

Be comforted by that knowledge, and may it give you the strength and the wisdom to negotiate the various sufferings you encounter.

It is a matter of perspective. We need to have an eternal perspective on the temporal now. So as we encounter each day, we will have greater depth of understanding. And much greater discipline, in terms of our behaviour.

We learn to wait, to watch and wait. We learn to live this life, with all its twists and turns, with our eyes and hearts fixed on heaven.

So even if life is drab and nothing much seems to be happening, we can still make progress by faithful attention to duty, in a spirit of hope. We are called to a lot of that kind of waiting, because it has been 2000 years, and much longer than we first expected.

We always want some sort of miracle to help us along, and they do happen, but we must master the everyday discipline as well.

A good disciple is one who does not draw attention to his own needs, but happy to be a team player; and simply fit in with whatever is required. No self-absorption, no clamour, no argument.

So there is much to be done in this earthly life, better than complaining. We note the suffering, but we use it for learning and growth, if we cannot otherwise remove it.

Let us cultivate this right understanding, and so be exactly the disciples Our Lord wants to have. Always and only with His help.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

2nd Sunday after Easter 10 Apr 2016 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Easter 10.4.16 Lamb and Shepherd

Our Lord did not retaliate when they abused Him (epistle). He let himself be taken. This is unusual for a human response; usually we want retaliation or revenge.

Think of any trouble spot in the world where two opposing sides commit atrocities on each other – and each action is justified as ‘revenge’ for the previous action. This could go on forever, unless something or someone breaks the circuit.

Our Lord, the Lamb of God, has taken on Himself the sins of the world. He has made Himself the victim.

It is as if He is saying to us: do not hurt each other; if you must hurt someone, load it all onto Me!

This is one way of seeing the Crucifixion. All our hostility to each other, all hatred, enmity, malice, desire for revenge etc… He takes it all from us. In Him there is no more Jew or Gentile…(Ga 3,28).

Our Lord’s hope was that, having crucified Him, we would then see how insane our behaviour was, and leave all malice behind. They shall look on Him whom they have pierced and weep for Him (Zech 12,10).

We are reconciled with each other as we all look together on Him.

He takes the rage from us, and He also takes the guilt of sin.

He is saying to the Father: do not harm them, Father, but Me instead. Load onto Me all that they deserve!

And so the Father does, accepting the sacrifice of His Son, the Paschal Lamb.

And we are set free from all punishment and all rage. We are free of both the guilt of sin and the desire for sin – a complete cleansing.

That is, if we let ourselves be cleansed. The sacrifice has been made; the Lamb has taken away our sin, in principle, but we have to want to be free for the full effect to take hold.

The human race, in general, has not grasped the importance of the sacrifice of Christ. They have acted since that time much the same as they acted before.

We have not learned the lesson. It is like having a book on the shelf that contains all the wisdom we need, but the book has never been opened.

When we do open it, we are amazed that we have not opened it before.

So now we learn the lesson, at least those of us gathered here around the altar of sacrifice.

We let the full impact of His sacrifice take hold on us, and we learn the lessons there put before us.

We learn not to kill each other; and also not to kill the Son of God.

At least let us not kill Him again through apathy and indifference.

And there is one other lesson He wants to teach us – to do as He has done; or at least to share in His sacrificing action.

When we realize what He has done we become grateful; and out of that gratitude we want to help save others.

Many sheep are still in the dark, either not knowing or not wanting the salvation which is available to them.

The Lamb took these attitudes upon Himself also; all the malice of the world, and all its ignorance; whether wilful or not.

All are included in His heart as He makes this sacrifice. On many, the ‘many’ we speak of at the Consecration, the light will dawn, and they will be saved.

This is the book on the shelf that needs to be opened. Each time we renew His sacrifice at Mass this is our prayer – that His sacrifice not be in vain; that as Shepherd He will gather in a great many sheep.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Low Sunday 3 Apr 2016 Sermon

Low Sunday 3.4.16 Faith

Before this was Mercy Sunday it was, unofficially at least, Faith Sunday. It is the Sunday that we hear about St Thomas’ progress in faith, from a high level of scepticism to a complete faith: My Lord and my God!

We have to arrive at the same point as St Thomas. Our Lord wants all His disciples to be fully operational, filled to the brim with faith in Him.

He will help us to reach such a point.

We use the word ‘faith’ in two senses – there is faith as in what we believe - the doctrines; as listed in our creeds.

And there is faith in a more personal sense, as to how much or little we trust in God to look after us on a day to day basis.

So to say: I have faith in God, means both that I believe He exists, and that I believe He will help me in my life.

We need both kinds of faith. The more personal one is harder to come by.

It is a strange thing how we attribute certainty to some things more than others.

We can find that we have more faith in the things that God has put in place than in God Himself.

For instance, we would have absolute certainty that tomorrow morning the sun will rise in the east. Yet we are probably not so certain that God would help us solve our current problems.

But the sun rises only where God ordains it so.

He wants us to trust in Him more than any detail or fact.

I believe He made the world, but will He help me find a lost set of keys? When put under pressure our faith can buckle very easily.

It is the personal nature of the thing that makes it harder. Can I really believe that God would care about my problems at this moment, as trivial as they must be on the world scale?

Yet if He understands the whole He must also understand all the parts that make up the whole. So every detail of our lives is known to Him.

That may sound scary, but it works for our benefit. It means He can control the flow of events and He does just that. All the more so if we pray for His help.

This kind of faith is possible only if we keep it constantly on the boil.

We have to take advantage of every opportunity to pray, to meditate on God's wonders, to recall past blessings, communal and personal. We intersperse our prayers of petition with praise to God for His goodness, and thanksgiving for past favours.

We come to know Him better, so well in fact that we believe in Him as much as the sun rising in the east, and other similar certainties.

It may be hard, but it gets easier.

Imagine having no fear, not even of death itself; because our sense of God is so strong.
I will not fear though the earth should rock, though the mountains fall into the sea; though ten thousand come against me (Psalms 45,3 and 3,6).

Not even St Thomas had reached this point as yet. He still needed the extra prayer in the Upper Room.

We all probably need lots more prayer to reach such a level of faith. But it is where we should be.

Faith takes away fear.

It is all the work of the one Lord and Saviour, who firstly does these remarkable things like dying and rising for us; and then imparts to us the confidence in Him that is necessary for us to follow Him through these events.

He is Our Lord and Our God!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Easter Sunday 27 Mar 2016 Sermon

Easter Sunday 27.3.16 Reasons for belief

We hold the hope that the next life is going to be a lot better than this one.

For us, as Christians, this is not just wishful thinking, or a sunny optimism. It is a hope based on the certain fact of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.

It can be hard to hold onto this hope, given that we experience and witness so much suffering.

When things are bad it can be hard to believe they will ever get better.

In relation to the body in particular we see the decline of the body over time, gradually losing its power and vitality.

Then we see people being buried in the ground.

And against all this that we see, we are asked to believe what we have not seen, that bodies can rise from the dead.

If we believe in God, who made the world as it is, including our bodies - if He can do that much, surely He can raise dead bodies too. If He can make a body in the first place, why cannot He put that body back together, if He chooses?

We have to respect His immense power and wisdom; to trust that He knows the best way to deal with us, and to bless us.

We are dealing with a God of love, who wants to give us good things. It would be a very strange thing if He gave us this life only, with all its sufferings and unanswered questions. It makes more sense to believe that this life is only a prelude, a foreword to better things.

So if your body is creaking and aching, that does not mean it will always remain that way.

Presuming we are saved all these things will follow on. The power and the goodwill of God guarantee that He will raise us from the dead.

But the strongest argument for the resurrection is that of Our Lord Himself.

As St Peter put it after Pentecost: it was inevitable that Jesus would rise again, because it was unthinkable that the grave could hold Him. (Acts 2,24)

The grave is the symbol of the victory of death, but to Our Lord it was like a motel room. He was just staying for two nights!

The grave could not hold Him because He is the Resurrection and the life (Jn 11,25). Not just that He has life; He is life.

He could have come out of the tomb three minutes later if He wished, but He chose to give us the three days, and to give us Sunday as the day of Resurrection.

Some think that His resurrection was only a spiritual event, inspiring the apostles to carry on with the task. No, it was a real, physical, historical event. Fact not Myth.

Why did He not appear to everyone? Because He wanted belief in His resurrection to be a matter of identification with Him, through love, obedience, and faith.

Only those who love Him will understand this event. Those who will not commit to Him are not in the right frame of mind to have the privilege of seeing Him.

And, it is likely, that even if they had seen Him they would still not have believed, putting it down to a trick, or an hallucination etc.

So a lot comes back to our own attitude. If we are humble, willing to admit there are things we don’t know, we will grow in faith and understanding.

We will live good lives here, die in a state of grace, and eventually rise from the dead. All of this is available to us. We will be tempted to throw it all away; to reduce it to a minor part of life.

But not so for us. We recognise that this is the most important thing about our existence on earth - preparing for heaven.

The grave holds no fear for Our Lord, nor for those who trust in Him.