Thursday, 26 May 2016

Trinity Sunday 22 May 2016 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 22.5.16 God’s Day

Today we focus on God Himself. If we have Mothers Day and Remembrance Day and the like, this can be called God’s Day!

Is it possible that someone so great could be so much ignored, not to say rejected? We would not believe it, except that it happens.

Let us focus our minds on Him today.

It is hard for the lesser to understand the greater. If we can never fully understand God we can at least avoid some of the gross errors that humanity makes – such as denying His existence; or adjusting their belief to the most recent set of circumstances – such as saying: If I am happy then God exists; if I am unhappy then He does not exist!

He is far beyond my world, and my highs and lows. So much so that humility is needed at all times, lest in our pride and arrogance we make ourselves equal with Him, and presume to judge Him. (And we are not as merciful to Him as He is to us!)

We ask Him to help us to know Him, to believe in Him in all weathers, never letting appearances distract us.

The clouds sometimes cover the sun, but the sun is always shining. So God is always existing, in full power and glory, and seeking to communicate Himself to us.

He tells us that He is a Trinity of Persons. One God but three Persons. We can speak of each of the Persons as God. Anything one of them does is done by God. We never speak of ‘Gods’ in the plural.

From this we learn that God has His own inner life, which is far more vibrant and active than we might have thought.

We might think of God as static, just being there, but not doing much. An impersonal presence.

In fact, God is dynamic. He is more alive than we are; smarter than we are. He could write better plays than Shakespeare, better music than Mozart. He could run the country better than the government does (any country!).

God is perfection within Himself. He does not need us, but He does want us. He is happy without us, and even more happy with us, we could say.

We put a lot of importance on love between humans. He can also love far better than we can.

It is only our sin and disobedience that obscures His goodness from us. If we would trust Him, we would experience His love more directly.

We cannot understand all that happens but if we trust Him moment by moment - go along for the ride, so to speak – then all will become clear.

We stand on the edge of an ocean. We are not able to cross the ocean, nor reach its depths, but we can at least swim in it.

And that is what we are doing as we come before God in all His majesty.

It does us good, and gives Him pleasure.

It does us good to discover that God is unlike us in one very important point. He will never let us down; He is reliable at all times. He asks us to trust Him even if there is much we do not know.

As we worship the Blessed Trinity we will acquire a stronger sense that we stand on very solid ground if we put our faith in God.

All glory be to Him.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Pentecost Sunday 15 May 2016 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 15.5.16 Spirit of Truth

The Holy Spirit reveals the truth. The truth is already in place, but we do not see it, because of our human limitations, accentuated by our sinfulness.

We are creatures of the flesh, aspiring to the spiritual world. It is not easy for us, but this is where the Holy Spirit helps. He helps us to ‘see’ with spiritual eyes what the flesh alone could never reach.

He reveals the truth which convicts us of our sinfulness and error, and induces us to change our way of life. This is the essence of conversion, something which each soul needs.

It is only spiritual blindness which obscures our vision of God, which weakens our faith.

If we could only perceive God clearly through all the contrary and distracting lights, we would never doubt Him for a second, much less disobey Him.

So the Holy Spirit comes. He came at that first Pentecost; and He comes whenever He is invited with sincerity. He will do what He can, according to the disposition of those asking Him to come.

If there is much prayer, and many praying together, the effects will be greater, as we see at the first Pentecost.

But even one person can ask and He will respond.

God wants people to know Him. But He also wants us to seek Him. He will not show Himself to the world like a video display, where we are only spectators.

He will show Himself to us in proportion to our desire for Him. If we really want to know God and be His disciples, then the Holy Spirit will come powerfully.

Even if we only partially desire Him, that may be enough to light the flame, to which the Holy Spirit will then add His own fire.

He will give us enough taste of the wonders of God to seek more, and that is what we are now doing.

The Holy Spirit wants to reach every single person on the face of the earth – those who presently believe in Him (to sustain and increase their faith); and those who do not yet know Him, or have abandoned belief (to establish or restore faith).

God can do all things, but surrenders some freedom to us as He respects our free will. Instead of force He uses persuasion. He seeks to attract us, so that we will be drawn to Him, and respond joyfully.

This is how the whole interaction between God and us is meant to happen. He never intended that we would see devotion to Him as a kind of obligation or chore, something we had to do, or be punished.

It is meant to be as natural and spontaneous as falling in love.

The Holy Spirit will make this plain to us, but only if we give Him a chance to work on us.

This is why we have to pray for Him to come. It is a proof of our willingness to learn more than we presently know; a gesture of humility by which we are admitting that we are not sufficient to ourselves.

Many try to exclude God from His own universe. It can never lead to happiness, causing instead much frustration.

It also causes much confusion among those who do or would believe. The present world pours out a constant stream of false or mistaken doctrines.

No one can remove God, but they might succeed in obscuring Him. All the more then do we need the Spirit of truth to clear away the clouds and let the light of God shine in.

When we see, really see, we are ready, like the apostles, to risk our lives. We are not thinking of ourselves, finally, but of what God wants.

We will be radiating the presence of God.

And people will want to join us, as they did on that first Pentecost.

Churches will be full; enthusiasm will be the norm not the exception.

For this state of things to arrive, we pray today: Come, Holy Ghost!

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Sunday after the Ascension 8 May 2016 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 8.5.16 Praying as one.

And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode Peter and John, James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James of Alpheus, and Simon Zelotes, and Jude the brother of James. All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1,13-14)
At this time we are re-living the period of the Cenacle, the prayer of Mary, the apostles and disciples, all praying as one.

Their prayer made them receptive to the Holy Spirit. Ever since, the Church has prayed that the Holy Spirit will come afresh on the Church, and every member.

When we pray Come Holy Ghost, we are asking that He come on everyone, not just on ourselves.

This is a generous, open prayer. I could not pray: Holy Spirit, come to me, but not to anyone else!

This prayer excludes all jealousy, meanness of spirit, pettiness.

It costs us nothing to have goodwill to others. Jealousy can eat away at us. Why should they be happy if I am not?

Our prayer for the Holy Spirit is communal in expression and intent.

We pray that all of us will receive Him, and all benefit.

We all need the Holy Spirit, either to correct our faults, or to enhance our virtues. And then, further, to take our place in the life of the Church according to particular gifts and vocation.

The original cenacle gathering was unanimous. We cannot imagine any spite or jealousy in that group, at least not at that time.

But the Church of today is a different story. In every parish, probably in every family, there would be some meanness of spirit, some lack of love, lack of desire for the good of the other.

We know there are serious divisions within the Church on all sorts of issues. We get used to a situation of not being in union with large numbers of our brethren.

However we sort out these issues, one thing is fundamental. We must have mutual charity, and to have that, we must have the Holy Spirit.

This is what we ask as we re-live the time of the Cenacle.

We have to recapture that initial unanimity, oneness of heart.

We all want Him; we all need Him; we must ask together, and receive together.

The solution comes from above if only we ask. We do not have to be perfectly united all at once; but at least to desire what God wants us to have. The unity will come as we proceed.

If we are together, and praying for the same thing, charity will emerge if it was not there to begin with.

The Holy Spirit is a gift to be lavished on all. The more people receive Him, the better for all.

(Moses told those who complained that Medad and Eldad were prophesying: Shall I be jealous on that account. Would that all Israel were prophets! Numbers 11,26)

There can be a certain vagueness about our prayer; a doubt that we can actually achieve any improvement.

How many people would believe, for instance, that there could be complete harmony in a parish, or - even more challenging - complete harmony between nations?

Yet this is the essence of praying for the Holy Spirit to come; He will achieve things of that sort.

And the only reason we don’t see these things is that there are not enough people praying.

It falls to us, blessed by the grace of God, to us who have faith, to keep the candles lit; to pray against all opposition, all darkness, all negative factors – so to bring the Holy Spirit into the Church and world at this time.

We have Mary in our midst, as they did then, to keep us on course.

Come, Holy Ghost!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Feast of St Joseph the Worker 1.5.16 Sermon

St Joseph the Worker 1.5.16 Working for God

This feast was instituted in 1955, partly at least to re-direct the Communist ‘feast’ of May Day.

The Communist notion of work did not respect individual workers as human subjects, deserving of respect.

So it is very hard to celebrate anything to do with Communism. Its greatest evil, however, is not the way it treats people, but the deliberate denial of Almighty God, which is at the basis of its operation.

The Communists and other secular groups claim that Man can do it on his own; that Man is the highest form of being around. Heaven help us, indeed, if that is true!

We are created by God in His image and depend on Him for our existence and for any hope of happiness.

We owe Him perpetual gratitude and obedience. Far from displacing Him we need to return to worshipping and serving Him.

If we want any guidance as to the right relationship with God we have, in St Joseph, all the best qualities.

He was humble: he did not assert his rights in opposition to God's claims. He understood his lowly place in the scale of reality.

Joseph’s humility extended to the fact that he was largely unnoticed by the people around him. They referred to Our Lord as ‘the carpenter’s son’, a title of dismissal – as if a carpenter’s son would know anything!

In this case both the carpenter and his ‘son’ knew a lot more than they were letting on!

He was obedient. The Gospel of Matthew records four occasions when Joseph immediately responded to a message he had received in a dream. (Take Mary to be your wife; fly to Egypt; come back from Egypt; live in Nazareth.)

He was faithful under pressure. He did not know at first that Mary’s pregnancy was from God.

He did not know at first that the baby to be born was God Himself.

He did not know where Jesus was when He stayed behind in Jerusalem.

Joseph was not told everything in advance. Sometimes he had to stew over things first, and only then discover how God had been working in the situation.

This kind of practical on-the-run faith is something we all need. It helps us not to panic when trouble emerges. We do not know how a particular problem is going to be solved but we know that God will do all that is necessary to help us.

Joseph was faithful; he was humble; he was obedient. These are all things we need to be.

And something else he did, which we also do – he worked; the specific focus of today’s feast.

His work was for the glory of God. It was not work for his own glory, or to set up a world of his own making. It was a sharing in the creative power of God.

He had, we could say, two jobs. One was a carpenter; the other was to help Our Lord and Our Lady to do what they had to do. There was no pay for the second job! But a great reward.

Our work for God goes beyond whatever paid work we might have. Every moment of our earthly life is an opportunity to be working for God - cf Today’s epistle: Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men (Col 3,23).

We have much to learn from St Joseph. We honour him so much because he did not seek honour. It was precisely his humility, faithfulness, and obedience that made him great. It was the self-effacing qualities that make him so exalted. He provides proof of Our Lord’s words that he who humbles himself will be exalted (Mt 23,12).

May St Joseph help us to grow in these qualities; and also help the human race as a whole to seek its salvation in the only place it can be found – in the Carpenter’s Son.