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)

Thursday, 14 July 2016

8th Sunday after Pentecost 10 Jul 2016 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 10.7.16 Trust

It can be difficult for us to trust in God on the one hand, while taking the blows of life on the other.

At the weaker end of faith, we are tempted, when we have a misfortune to take it as a betrayal on God’s part; to think that He has left us high and dry.

He might have helped before, we say, but not this time. This is a feeling we can have many times, even if we have seen past crises resolve themselves.

We apologise to God for doubting Him, but we might still do it the next time!

We know, deep down, that God has not abandoned us. We know that He is absolutely reliable, and this reliability does not depend on the last thing that happened, whether it was good or bad for us.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb 13,8). He does not have good days or bad days (as we do).

He never forgets who He is, or what he is doing; never gets confused; never has to deal with conflicting thoughts, as we do.

We have to rework our minds to take this in, because it is so different from our normal experience of human nature.

People can let each other down all the time, so we can think that God is the same as the rest of us; when in fact He is a great deal better and stronger than the rest of us.

We can also survey the future in a similar negative light. We can think of all sorts of thing that can go wrong.

This is not how it is supposed to work.

As disciples of Christ we are supposed to be of very strong faith; where even in a dungeon awaiting execution we are absolutely convinced of God's existence, goodness, and reliability; of the need to serve Him - and that not grudgingly, but in a spirit of praise, love, and thanksgiving.

Everything that happens is an expression of God’s will, either directly what He wills, or at least permits.

Feelings of doubt are just a distraction, a waste of time and energy, when we could be getting on with better things.

With Him and me working on the problem, especially Him (!) we will sort out whatever the problem is.

If we have this attitude we are far more likely to stay calm in a crisis; to inspire others to a similar level of faith; and to get a favourable outcome in the matter that concerns us.

So this is what we should be like, but how do we reach such a state?

It all comes from God. He will give us the required level of faith if we show enough interest; if we make clear that we are willing to receive it.

God will see if we are serious or not; and help us to become serious if not yet.

We ask His pardon for not getting further before this. In His mercy He gives us always a new moment to begin, or resume, our quest of faith.

We hold firm. We don’t stop going to Mass, praying, receiving sacraments, just because something goes wrong; even if it is the worst thing that has ever happened to us.

We dig in deep. We shall not be moved. We will not be fair-weather disciples.

Eventually it will be only sunshine, but for now we have to survive a few storms. We still have to see off the enemy.

What is good reminds us of the eternal goodness of God. What is bad reminds us of what has to be overcome. The good is permanent, the bad is temporary.

We have to drill ourselves in this so we know it as part of us, like being able to speak a language, or count to ten.

We just know these things to be so.

We know it but we let our emotions get in the way. May the Lord give us faith which goes beyond emotions. This faith is available on request.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

7th Sunday after Pentecost 3 Jul 2016 Sermon

7th Sunday after Pentecost 3.7.16 Who is in charge?

Only the man who does the will of God can enter Heaven (Today’s Gospel).

Man often thinks he knows enough by himself to proceed, and has no need for God.
In fact all sinful behaviour could be put in this category.

All the good we ever achieve is by the grace of God, whether we acknowledge it or not.

It is something we should acknowledge, certainly, if we hope to do any lasting good.

It is always a temptation to attribute our successes to our own merits, and forget to give thanks to where the real ability comes from. We can praise each other to some extent, but the real praise should go to Almighty God, from whom all good comes.

We must maintain appropriate humility before Him. Not least because we so often need His forgiveness.

Yesterday the nation had an election, to determine who would govern us. The actual people who make up the government come and go, but really it is God who governs the country, as He governs the whole universe.

Some would say that religion has no place in politics. Is God to have no say in the world He Himself created, and keeps in being?

For the last few centuries many scholars have tried to argue God out of existence, or at least out of relevance.

Strangely, He will not go away. He will continue with His plan for the human race – which, essentially and undeservedly is to save us!

In the world of politics, the idea has emerged that the people have the right to determine what is right and wrong.

Remember Israel in the desert. Could you imagine them having an election to determine what to do next? We see that God is not swayed by human opinion.

To know what is right we really have to go to God Himself.

There is room for human creativity, but in such a way that we never deviate from the general norms that God sets.

We must attend to His will, all of us, those in government and those being governed.

The Catholic Church in particular has been criticised from all sides for our strict moral codes, and for even having a voice.

We do not enter the debate simply on our own opinions. It is God that we proclaim.

As the prophets of old would say, Behold your God!

If you don’t like the rules you will have to tell Him; we are only the messengers.

But in fact His yoke is easy and His burden light (Mt 11,30). His rule is designed for our greatest happiness.

If we had obeyed Him from the start we would still be relaxing in the Garden of Eden.
We can reclaim Eden (or better) if we turn back to Him, we as a nation:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.2 Ch 7,14.

Catholics must push for true values, God’s values, to be upheld in our society.

The more we keep in the shadow of His wings the more accurate our decisions are going to be, and the more order our society will enjoy. The more peace we will have in our world, peace based on right relationship with God.

Let us pray for Australia, and for its people, that we will recognize the source of all authority and goodness, and enjoy His favour.

Only the man who does the will of God can enter Heaven (Mt 7,21).