Thursday, 28 December 2017

Christmas Day 2017 Sermon

Christmas Day 2017 Entering Joy

We have major feast days, where the Church rejoices. We may not feel as joyful ourselves as the feast would seem to require.

With a little effort on our part, and loads of grace, we can enter into the joys these major feasts convey.

Their reality is so great that there is room for us, like a big house where one can move from one room to another.

We cannot exhaust the richness, the mysteries of Christ, and His coming among us.

We do not allow the difficulties we face to limit us to just a one-dimensional approach. Rather we let the mysteries of Christ lift us to a higher plane of understanding.

Our problems may remain, and may take a lot of fixing, but we ourselves will be focussed more on the goodness of God and how He blesses us.

So we have in the Christmas season some of the main truths of our faith, which we can enter more fully.

One of these mysteries is that of the Incarnation, where God became Man, or the Word was made flesh.

This has been likened to one of us becoming an insect, living with other insects. Would we like that? And what about being killed by them as well?

God has lowered Himself more than that to take on our human nature!

If we maintain a proper sense of the scale of what He has done we are less likely to dismiss it.

It is important to remember the divinity of Christ. Many think He is just another man, just another long-haired prophet!

Or they will say He was just another religious figure, thus downgrading His importance.

Or that He did not really know what He was doing.

No, He was fully aware of what He was doing. There was always a perfect balance between his words and actions.

His death was not a mix-up, or miscalculation; it was planned all along for His own purposes.

This is not just a good man, giving us a few good ideas how to live. This is God Himself come to live among us.

God takes our nature, firstly to live it properly, free of sin; and then to offer Himself in atonement for sins against that nature, before and after His coming.

There should not be any sins after His coming but there have been a great many.

Some do not know about Him. Others know, but somehow it does not sink in far enough.

We need more depth. We become more grateful as we consider what we would have been if He had not come.

The Church today says, Rejoice everyone, because this is a good day for you! And the people might say, Is it? Yes, because you are being lifted up to something better.

Nothing in human history can match this. No war, revolution, tragedy, discovery, advance, accident, disaster can come close to the importance of God's intervention in our world.

Despite all the attempts to suppress Him, then and since, still the message goes out.

This is the one truth that prevails over all falsehood or part-truth. This is light on the hilltop.

All this we celebrate here, and we allow ourselves to be taken up into it.

Christmas takes in all those who do not know its importance, or would even fight against it.

God means to reach every person, regardless of nationality. He is God of the whole world, even if the world does not know.

It helps greatly if we cooperate with the process. Behold, I stand at the gate, and knock. If any man shall hear my voice, and open to me the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Rev 3,20)

Today we open that gate; we let the Saviour in, to do His work among us. We give Him our full, conscious, willing assent to all that He has in mind to do. He has been resisted too much. No more by us.

Christmas Vigil 24 Dec 2017 Sermon

Christmas Vigil 24.12.17 Desire

This is the age of instant gratification. People take what is due to them before it is due, and even if it is not due them, there are many who will still take.

The idea of deferring pleasure to a later time is not an easy one to sell – even if the delay will bring more happiness overall. For example, food seems a lot more satisfying after a fast than if we have been eating all along.

The Church, in her wisdom, has established seasons of penance before seasons of joy, and vigils before major feasts.

This gives us a chance to cultivate a hunger for what the feast is offering us.

In the case of Advent (and the Vigil of Christmas) our hunger is for the effects of Christ’s coming among us.

Christmas must be the easiest feast to miss in terms of other distractions. To miss, that is, the spiritual richness of the feast.

Those who come to Mass only at Christmas are missing out on necessary preparation. We have to give time to God to understand more deeply how He is saving us, and what He wants us to know.

One or two Masses a year will not be enough.

So we are here now, seeking to get this right for ourselves, and atoning for the general lack of enthusiasm in the human family.

We let our hunger for God be deepened. Like a lover seeking the beloved (cf Song of songs, Hosea, where God uses marriage imagery to describe His relationship with His people.)

The lover goes looking for her Beloved – an image of the Church, as bride, seeking the Bridegroom. The eventual discovery of him is more joyful for the fact that there was a time without him.

God looks at us like that. He longs to be united with us!  And we respond with stony indifference (in the main) – a one-sided love story. We need the other side to turn up!

It is worth something when even one more person can get into this view of what is really happening. This is Christmas, much deeper than all the trimmings.

One theme of Advent is, Look out for the Master in case he returns unexpectedly and you are not ready. That is a true consideration.

But we could also say, Look out for the Master simply because He is desirable to know. This is apart from any thought of reward or punishment.

Somehow this does not happen. Our desire has been spent on other things, less than God.

We desire the forbidden fruit, but not the One who made the whole garden.

Our desire is generally stunted or restricted to too small an area, and we spend our time and energy on filling that desire, not realizing there is an infinity of delight and goodness beyond where we are looking.

People who spend Christmas just partying think they are happy, and to some extent they are; but they would be a lot more happy if they were seeking God for His own sake; losing themselves in Him, like the Lover and Beloved.

This is the language of the saints, and mystics, and the Bible itself.

Instead, people ignore God, except to tell Him off for not running the universe properly.

We are here to set matters straight. We will celebrate Christmas with an increasing awareness of what it means (always with God's help).

We pray for the right understanding to grow everywhere; that people will grasp with sufficient awareness the importance of His Incarnation and other events.

That they will develop a taste for God, which will be good for them, and the whole Church.

We need Him to come among us to save us from sluggishness, deafness, blindness, etc….

He needs us to recognize that we are sluggish, deaf, blind etc! Come, Lord Jesus.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent 17 Dec 2017 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 17.12.17 Spiritual progress

The human race goes on, one generation after another. In some ways we make progress:
Technology, transport, communication, medicine…

In other ways we make little or no progress: we still have hatred, violence, neglect, greed etc

Morally or spiritually, each generation repeats the mistakes of all the previous generations.

God has led us all the way, from Eden to the present day, making a series of covenants with us - with Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and finally Christ, each intervention showing a greater generosity on God's part; yet our response does not match it.

We should be smarter or more aware of moral matters than previous generations, but somehow we are not.

Why does spiritual progress differ from technological progress?

The spiritual aspect requires a deeper perception. Anyone can see the marvels of a mobile phone, but not everyone can see what is wrong with adultery.

Our Lord could have worked more miracles, even in our time, and keep people on track through frequent reminders of His closeness.

He is looking for something deeper on our part. He reveals Himself only to those who are humble, pure, and contrite enough to recognize Him – the poor in spirit, people such as Simeon and Anna, or John the Baptist himself. The last shall be first; the humble shall be exalted.

The proud are too preoccupied with themselves to see the work of the Messiah, let alone welcome Him. They are not looking in the right place, or in the right way.

Not recognizing the coming of Christ they do not change their lives.

Meanwhile they buy more gadgets for their home! They recognise one progress but not the other one.

The saying: Seeing is believing could be better put: Believing is seeing.

This is what God asks of us - to trust Him in advance, to believe His promises before we see them (such as the Second Coming), and then all manner of things can happen. Moses held out his staff and the waters parted. Five minutes before that event, it would have seemed highly unlikely, like most miracles. Miracles happen when someone obeys first.

If we can be like that we will escape the folly of the present and previous generations.

We will have the essential joy (Gaudete Sunday). Rejoice if you have such a stance with God, because you will directly experience His blessings.

Presently we are hemmed in by massive amounts of sin, doubt, fear, and the like, all of which threaten to submerge us.

It can be a battle to keep even our own faith, still more to try to convert others.

It is as simple as which road we take. So much depends on the decision.

It is all there if we want to know, the revelation of God, the story, the miracles - it is all there for public consumption.

There are mysteries in our faith, but the general thrust is clear. It is not classified information. Go to your local library, or to your very advanced phone! The data of our faith, the technical details are not hard to find.

The hard part is to be humble enough to recognize truth, and to desire it; to go down on our knees, from which position we are able to learn a lot.

Naaman the Syrian was told to wash himself seven times and he would be cured. He thought that was too easy. Yet, persuaded to do it, he was cured (4 Kings 5,1-19).

What we are asked to do to reach faith is not difficult, apart from overcoming one’s pride.

We pray we can unravel some mysteries, and finally we will get that long-overdue improvement across the generations.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Mass times

Christmas Mass times:

Monday 25 December: Mass 8am, St Monica's, Walkerville

Holy Name: Mass is at Midnight, 7am, and 9.15am
Days following Christmas:
At St Monica's, Walkerville:

Tue 26  6.45am
Wed 27 6.45am
Thu 28  8am
Fri 29    6.45am
Sat 30   8am
Sun 31  8am* 
Mon 1   8am

*Also on Sunday 31 December, there is 5pm Mass at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Latest on weekday Mass

Latest news on Weekday Masses, as at Thursday 14th December:

All weekday Masses are now at St Monica's, Walkerville, at the usual times.

The renovations are mostly complete, but further interruptions may occur after Christmas.

Sunday Masses continue as normal: 8am St Monica's   and 5pm Sacred Heart. However, just for one Sunday (24th December) there is no Mass at Sacred Heart.

2nd Sunday of Advent 10 Dec 2017 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 10.12.17 Salvation

There is a deep longing in us for things to be right, to be as they are meant to be. We have an instinct to want justice, for example, or an end to cruelty and violence. Certain things we see or hear will immediately bring a reaction from us.

The same longing applies to ourselves, though it may not be so apparent. We would like to be as we are meant to be. This comes from the fact that God has planted in us a desire to be at one with Him. to share in His created order.

When God created the world He naturally saw how all things would fit in with each other. Sin has ruptured that order, but it can be retrieved, and that is the essence of Our Lord’s saving mission.

Christ came to help us to sort out our desires, to steer us in the right direction.

John the Baptist was a part of that process. He told the people what they wanted, even if they did not know they wanted it. He awakened in them, from somewhere deep down, this desire that they could be better. Even the wicked Herod liked to hear John speak (Mk 6,20).

We are torn between the selfishness we have inherited and learnt, on the one hand, and on the other hand a new freedom from sin, and purity of intention.

We choose between self-indulgent pleasure-seeking, or the ability to exercise restraint, working to a higher goal.

We know we would rather be the latter. But it takes a certain effort to sustain that vision.

Still it explains how we can be attracted to a harder life. It is the not the ‘hardness’ we want, so much as the ‘betterness’. Thus we are inspired by the lives of the saints. They sacrificed so much, always driven by a higher goal.

Young people in particular feel this dichotomy. This would explain their willingness to make sacrifices, when sufficiently inspired: for example, the desire to join strict religious orders, and seminaries.

We get tired of too much pleasure, leading nowhere. As Our Lord points out to the crowd: You did not come out into the desert to see those who live in luxury. You came out to see a man who lived a severely penitential life, and who spoke the plain truth. This is what you are hungering for.

This applies to us with the same force as to the people in John’s time. We seek the better life, and we find it in more prayer, especially the Mass; doing penance, good works, pushing ourselves a little harder, and that continuously.

There is that inner voice calling each one to something great, or at least greater.

We can hear that voice if we turn off enough of the surrounding noise.

Whether old, young, or in the middle, we are always refining and deepening our response.

If we are life-long disciples (or most of our lives), it may seem a long time to stay faithful; but it becomes easier when the attractiveness of a holy life becomes apparent.

It is not giving up happiness to be miserable instead; but giving up one sort of happiness for a much better one.

John showed the way, and Our Lord took it further still. He shows us, and He equips us to take it.

We do not just admire holy people, as we might look at an exhibit in a museum; but rather we are stirred to imitate them, and so we present ourselves now, to be stirred into true discipleship of Christ.

To live a harder life for the sake of a better life.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

1st Sunday of Advent 3 Dec 2017 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 3.12.17 Welcoming Christ

It is very comforting, in the midst of all our troubles, to have the Faith, which enables us to believe that we will see victory in the end, no matter what reverses or disasters we might have to deal with first.

We have a Saviour, and a very active one at that.

He has come once, and done all sorts of good; and He will come a second time, and do even more good.

His second coming could be an occasion of joy or horror, according to each person’s stance towards Him. Some will be glad to see Him; others not so.

We want to make sure we are in the welcoming group.

The key to which group we belong is whether or not we are in union with Him.

Will He, in short, recognise us as belonging to Him? Or will He see us as hypocrites, or people who buried our talents; or who failed to forgive others…

Everything depends on Him. He is Creator and Saviour; meaning that the whole universe belongs to Him and all that is good comes from Him.

If we are in union with him we have access to all that is in His power, especially life. He keeps us alive now; He promises eternal life if we stay faithful to Him.

He is the resurrection and the life. To have Him is everything; not to have Him is the loss of everything, with the anguish of knowing what one has lost (thus, Hell).

If we are indifferent to Him, that equates with rejection.

Many think He is irrelevant, or can be kept in certain compartments (such as Christmas and Easter). No, He is relevant at all times, and in all places and circumstances. He is First and Last, Lord of the living and the dead….

This means our lives come under His dominion also. How we relate to Him is the most important characteristic about us.

We can classify people in many ways: gender, race, height, age etc; but the question that really counts is: how much do you love Jesus Christ?

All else that we regard as important – family, health, wealth, house, car, ambitions, interests…. These may be important, and they have their place, but all considerations are subservient to our union with Christ.

This is why Our Lord could say: if you love father or mother more than Me you are not worthy of Me (Mt 10,37).

We can love other people and things, but it must be less than we love Jesus Christ.

And the way we deal with every other person or thing will be in reference to Our Lord and His will.

This will serve to enrich everything else, not take away from it. We will love others more, not less, if we put Christ first.

So much human striving is off beam in terms of people’s setting the wrong goals, going about things the wrong way, misreading what is success and failure.

And this is all compounded by the fact that so many are doing the same thing, and have been for centuries.

All of this, however, can be set right with sincere repentance.

We realign ourselves with the true God, and then so much good can follow.

It is within our grasp. This is the message we put out to the world. Behold your God. You have ignored Him too long. He will still save, on request. Never mind what you have done. He has enough love to cover it.

All of which is why we welcome Him to come again. The closer He is the better off we are. If His coming interrupts our plans we will be going to something far better. We gain all happiness at once if we are ready to meet Him.

Our prayer for His coming will serve to make us more ready to meet Him. Come, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Last Sunday after Pentecost 26 Nov 2017 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 26.11.17 Warnings

At the end of the year we talk about the end of the world, rewards and punishments, the final judgment, and any related themes.

This is what it all comes to. We get used to things going on the same way, but there will be a distinct ending. History is not circular but linear. Time is running out. There will be a day of reckoning.

This fact does not have to be terrifying. The hope is that we would be aware of our need to be ready to face judgment; and that will remove most of the terror.

Admittedly we would have to be at least a little terrified about some of the cosmic events prophesied (such as stars falling from heaven).

But we will have a basic security in being united with Our Lord. We will be glad to see Him, rather than terrified.

The ‘threat’ passages (such as today’s Gospel, Mt 24) are a wake-up call to any who are not ready to meet their final end.

There must be a great many people who are not ready, if the general way of the world is any indication.

The Bible, taken as a whole, communicates to us God’s desire to unite us with Himself forever in Heaven. This is certainly good news.

The overall theme is a happy one. But it gets murky in the details. When sin enters the picture a great deal of trouble follows.

And that is where these threat passages come in.

God does not want to harm us, not so much as by one fiery missile, but He sees that often a wake-up is necessary.

The difficulty is how to get people to repent.

The fear factor is necessary sometimes. As with human affairs, health authorities will scare us with all the negative effects of a certain behaviour (such as taking drugs). If we weigh up those effects we will stay away from the dangerous behaviour.

This is the same in the spiritual order, only that the damage done by sin is not so easily traceable as in physical matters.

If we say: Don’t smoke - because it will do this and this to your body, even more so do we say: Don’t sin - because that will do far more damage.

Sometimes people need frightening, if it will save them from a greater evil.

It is an unpleasant necessity to warn people they might go to Hell. We would rather speak of more cheerful matters, but we have to keep beating this drum while so much of the world refuses to repent.

Punishment by God is not new. He has been doing it all along, beginning with Adam and Eve, expelled from the Garden; Cain sent wandering the earth; the great Flood. All this is in the very beginning.

When God punishes it is always for our good; only we do not always grasp the point.

So the punishments keep coming, with threats of even worse ones to follow.

If the punishments are simply to wake us up, let us be awakened! And we can make it a lot easier for ourselves.

We can remove the terror from the impending Judgment by making sure we are ready to meet the Saviour.

And we busily do all we can to help others to be saved.

As the Fatima prayer puts it: Save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who most need Thy mercy.

As God does not want to punish people, nor do we want them punished.

If enough people would repent, and align themselves with God, there would be no need for the terrors prophesied for the last times.

With a healthy fear, and a great deal of hope, we ask the Lord for mercy, and to bring to completion His plans for the human race.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

24th Sunday after Pentecost 19 Nov 2017 Sermon

24th Sunday of year (Readings 6th Sunday after Epiphany) 19.11.17 Evangelisation

The tiny seed becomes a great tree – an image for the Church, which began very small, and has spread out all over the world.

Not, we must say, as far or as deeply at it should have spread, but still a long way. And we give thanks to God for that much progress, praying for what still needs to happen.

The Church offers the word of life to a world which otherwise is drowning in its own folly and darkness.

We offer the word of life when we talk to people, or at least give good example - all the while hoping we can convey something of the goodness of God to them; that they will see in us some resemblance to Jesus Christ!

It is hard to convince people of the faith, just by talking to them, as we have probably discovered. But we can sow seeds, which can grow into something later.

It helps, of course, the stronger our faith is. The more we believe in, and love God, the more likely we are to convince others.

If we had enough faith and charity we would achieve the sort of success the Church had in the early days after Pentecost.

At the cultural level we see we meet strong opposition. The recent ‘same sex marriage’ debate (in Australia) illustrates how forceful the wrong side of the argument can be.

People are so easily swept along by the currents. Remember the crowd on Good Friday, probably decent people for the most part, found themselves calling out Crucify Him.

The day will come when people who voted Yes in this recent debate will wonder how they could have been so foolish.

We must not despair at this recent defeat. Nothing has changed as far as God's reality and goodness is concerned.

We may be outnumbered, but remember the seed, and how big the tree eventually becomes.

We do not follow the crowd; we follow a lonely figure carrying a cross up a hill. We follow Him as far as dying for Him, if necessary.

Some of our evangelising is by the ‘front door’. This is our direct proclamation of what is what; of the truths in which we believe, and by which we live.

More often we come indirectly, ‘around the back’. This is when we seek to change the way people form their values, which will in turn make their conversion more likely, but maybe later.

For example, the Church’s constant efforts to defend unborn babies, leads in many cases to a change of attitude (regarding just that one topic), and this paves the way to a more complete conversion.

It was always God's plan to save people internally as well as externally; not just taking them to heaven when they die, but transforming the whole person to become an image of Christ.

And to transform the whole society, so that it will be truly the Kingdom of God.

This will complete the prophecies - that swords shall be turned to ploughshares (Is 2,4), and the wolf and lamb shall dwell together (Is 11,6), and the like.

Our words and deeds, if anointed by God, will achieve this over time, as surely as the seed becomes a tree.

In the meantime we can help expose the false notions that people hold, forcing them to look for something else to believe in – such as the Truth!

This means we can all help. Not everyone has to get up and give speeches, but everyone can do something to influence the surrounding culture.

Every good that we do, or evil we avoid, even if it seems in isolation. But nothing is isolated; it all holds together.

As sin unravels everything, so repentance puts it all back.

The more people we convert the easier it gets. It will be the new ‘normal’ to belong to the Church – the only logical choice when we see it all laid out before us. 

Thursday, 16 November 2017

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 12 Nov 2017 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 12.11.17 Persistence in prayer

In childhood we hear stories which have happy endings. Then, as we grow older we learn that happiness does not come so easily.

This is part of the painful process of growing up, when we discover the jagged edges of reality, and experience various disappointments in our lives.

We learn that we cannot have everything we want.

We can, however, overdo this ‘growing up’, to the point of becoming cynical about life, rejecting happiness in all its forms, as even being possible.

Thus we lower our expectations, of how happy we can expect to be. We are glad for any improvement, but not daring to hope for much.

This can have an adverse effect on our faith, and our prayer. If we have only a limited expectation of how good things can be, we will not ask for much when we pray.

The Bible is full of exhortations for us to pray: Pray constantly…If there is anything you need ask for it in prayer… Ask and it shall be given to you … But we can be too much weighed down by ‘reality’ to pray. We have lost the childlike wonder that enables us to believe in miracles.

Things may not be perfect, but we are still allowed to want them to be perfect; in fact we are supposed to want it.

When we ask for things to be as they should be, we are doing no more than asking that God's kingdom come among us… and that is something He taught us to pray.

God wants things to run as they should, even more than we want it.

He wants us to be happy in this life as well as the next; to experience the happiness that comes from living in union with Him; from cooperating with Him in establishing His kingdom in the world.

Happiness, or God's order – it comes to the same thing.

The Kingdom of God: where every sickness is healed, every injustice is set right, peace reigns everywhere.

Never say it is no use praying for these things. Prayer is precisely the way to bring them about.

This leads to another point of disillusionment – that we are tempted to blame God for what goes wrong in the world; or at least for not doing more to fix things.

People who are angry with God for some misfortune are not likely to pray to Him, or at least not with much conviction.

We have to re-assert at such a point: God never changes, or loses any perfection. He is always the same; always available to help us. No misfortune can in any way subtract from His goodness and glory.

So we train ourselves to focus on God as He is; not on our misfortunes, but His perfections.

If we would trust Him more we would behave better, commit less sin, and a sense of order would return to our world, meaning less things going wrong, less suffering.

If our faith were strong and straightforward enough we would simply ask and receive (Mt 7,9-11). Bread not stone, fish not serpent, egg not scorpion.

We should be asking Him for blessings all day long (Pray without ceasing, 1 Th 5,17).

It is the discouragement that allows the problems to continue. Lack of vision, lack of hope, lack of prayer. So we languish.

We can still believe in miracles. The more we want, the more we pray, the more likely to see miracles happening.

Our Lord responded simply and directly to requests for miracles. He invites from us the same simplicity and directness. So we can be like the woman who reasoned that any contact with Our Lord would be enough (Mt 9,21).

All we can do is pray, as the saying goes. And that is doing a lot!

Thursday, 9 November 2017

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 5 Nov 2017 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 5.11.17 Readiness for death

Certain people, we say, are alive, and other people are dead. The ones still walking around are alive.  It may be debatable just how alive they are.

Physically yes, spiritually maybe not.

In terms of knowing what is really going on, beyond what we can physically see, the dead probably know far more than we do about the true state of things.

The one thing all the dead could tell us (the saved and the lost) is that God is supremely important. Having Him or not having Him is the difference between life and death, happiness and misery.

We, the living, can be distracted from the main event.

We can learn a lesson, from contemplating death, that we should not wait till we die to discover how important God is. Why not discover that now, and apply the knowledge to our present lives?

We have the gift of time. The dead have no time; they cannot add or subtract from whatever they did in their earthly life.

But we can add a great deal to our lives while the time lasts.

Thus we prepare for death, so that it will not take us by surprise. We might be surprised physically by death (accident, sudden illness etc), but not spiritually. We will be like the wise bridesmaids keeping their lamps lit; or the servants who were at their post when the Master returned.

So it does not all flood in on us when we die, we can start doing these things now - like valuing the people around us, forgiving consciously those who have offended us, developing our prayer life, using our talents in God’s service, generally seeing the urgency of the task.

There will still be things that surprise us at death, but we will at least be familiar with the main points.

The more actively we pursue a life of holiness, the more likely we can be comfortable with the idea of dying, and of making the transition from one state to another.

Thus death will not be seen as an ‘interruption’, rather a fulfilment.

Time passes so quickly. We get used to certain events coming and going, and one rolls into the other – Christmas, New Year, Easter, various sporting events, and memorial days…and around we go again. We can just barely keep up with the way things whizz past.

Many things we can ignore, but the one thing nobody can afford to ignore, is the certainty of death and judgment.

Every person has to stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and answer this question: did you take Me seriously or not? (or words to that effect).

Every day of all the seasons He is supremely important. Every day of our lives.

He is our first thought, obligation, hope, destination. First and Last.

This is normal. The people who do not do this are the strange ones!

So we do not let death take us unawares. We come to terms with the Master now (cf Mt 5,25), seek His mercy for not doing it better, or earlier, and we pray that His grace will move as many people as possible to the same state.

Death does not have to be as mysterious as it presently seems. We can take the sting out of it. The sting of death is sin (1 Cor 15,56). Remove the sin, and we become like the saints.

The saints could teach us much about death. Far from fearing death they longed for it; not out of depression, but out of joy, wanting to be with God.

The saints, and the holy souls, probably all wish they could have their time again to do more. We still have the time. Let us use it with the help of the saints and holy souls, to be as ready as we can be for the next phase of our lives.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Feast of Christ the King 29 Oct 2017 Sermon

Feast of Christ the King 29.10.17 Dominion

A certain priest has suggested that same-sex ‘marriage’ should be allowed civilly, but not in the Church. This is an example of exaggerated distinction between Church and State.

That Church and State should be kept separate is actually a false idea. We can separate things for the sake of order and efficiency. The Church does not have to be visibly involved in every activity. We do not expect the Pope or Bishop to be running the Treasury or the Law Courts.

However, no part of the universe is outside God's authority, and no one who is running things has the right to act in a way contrary to God’s laws.

He rules it all by virtue of having made it, and keeping it in being. It is His universe!

It may look like things run themselves, but that is only because God has designed them so well. Being infinitely intelligent, the processes He puts in place are naturally very efficient. Still He has the right and the power to intervene at any point, and in any way.

Therefore no law of the state can go against the law of God. Same-sex ‘marriage’, abortion, euthanasia, IVF, and all similar issues are answerable to God, not just the civil authorities.

Today is the Feast of Christ the King. On this day especially we acknowledge that God the Son has dominion over all creation. All authority has been given to Me (Mt 28,18).

As God, He is creator. So He has complete power in that capacity.

As Man, He has changed the whole script, re-fashioning the human race in Himself. This gives Him far more right to rule the world than winning an election, or inheriting a throne would do.

It falls to those who know how important He is to proclaim that importance; to worship Him (that is, to express His worth, which is infinite).

At least someone is taking Him seriously on this crazy planet! While others are saying He does not exist, or does not count; or that He has no say in this or that part of the world - we uphold His importance, and will proclaim it. Most of all, we will live by it.

It is vital that we who profess to be His subjects must obey Him ourselves.

Our disobedience has done great damage to the cause. This has enabled so many errors to take hold; and so much disenchantment with the true faith. Rival religions and philosophies have sprung up everywhere, which just makes it harder for the Truth to be discovered.

(On the matter of false philosophies, we note the hundredth anniversary of Communism, a massive evil, based on the denial and hatred of religion.)

The power of Christ is infinite but it can be impeded by human resistance. Our Lord respects our freedom of will, and will not necessarily override us when we choose wrongly.

He wants His people to be His disciples, friends even; to obey Him in all things, but not grudgingly, as though it were a burden, but willingly and joyfully. He wants us to rule with Him, in a derivative way, to make the earth better than it was at Eden. And with still better to come in Heaven.

He waits on our free response. He could easily override us at any point, even to bring the world to an end.

He holds back, to give us time to repent (cf Mt 13,24-30 the wheat and the tares).

And if we do repent, then to give us time to build up His kingdom.

Eventually, He will come to claim what is His. Everything is His but He will claim only that which acknowledges Him. Those who reject Him to the last, will be themselves rejected.

We want to be in the right state to receive Him then; but we receive Him already insofar as we align with His will.

And meanwhile we pray for the conversion of those who presently oppose or ignore Him.

That they will see Him whom they have pierced (Jn 19,37), and proclaim Him Lord of all creation; not just of Church property, but all places and all times.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

20th Sunday after Pentecost 22 Oct 2017 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 22.10.17 Incarnation

The nobleman’s son was healed instantly, and from a distance. The word, or even the thought, is enough for Our Lord.

As the centurion in another story realised, Our Lord did not need to be in the same room to heal someone. Just give the command and that will do it (Mt 8,8).

More frequently though, Our Lord does work miracles close up. He touched the sick, placing hands on them; or spoke to them directly. He did not have to do this. He could have healed everyone from a distance.

We pause to consider the extent of this power, and this goodness; to let ourselves be overawed.

Why then does He come to us physically? The physical is to be taken up into the spiritual, and thus enriched.

We might wish sometimes we were like the angels, and did not have frail bodies. However, to translate the spiritual into the physical domain is a great achievement, and is why Our Lord did exactly that Himself.

If we can achieve spiritual glory in our physical condition we give more glory to God, and we will be rewarded with a glorified body (Ph 3,21).

Our Lord wants to bless us in our humanity, body as well as soul.

This is why the Sacraments were established.

Many say they do not need sacraments. They can just think about it, at home and that is enough (so they say). But it is not enough. We do not possess the faith or charity or other related qualities. We are simply not strong enough to do this on our own.

In any case it is God's will that we come together to support each other as in today’s epistle – singing psalms, mutual encouragement etc.

We need as much help as we can get.

God can always act outside of His own structures, but generally He wants us to respect those structures and practices, thus to make the Church stronger by our participation and enthusiasm.

Many Catholics have fallen away from sacramental practice. It could be they do not think they need any extra help. Or that the Church and its processes cannot help them. Or just loss of faith and clarity of thought.

Whatever the reason anyone who refuses to engage in the sacraments is likely to fall into one or other of the many snares that are possible.  And the longer they stay away the more ensnared they can become.

It is vital that we keep close to the Church, and thus Our Lord. We keep the beliefs and the practices.

We know the Lord can heal us from far off but that does not mean we can stay far off!

We need to be in there, as close as possible, realizing His infinite power, but respecting also His will, that things normally happen in a certain way.

For example, Holy Communion is the normal way we receive him most strongly. He may come to us some other way, but we do not presume on that.

We want to keep all the entrances open as far as letting God intervene in our lives - the normal, the unusual, the everyday, the once in a lifetime, the public, the private, the individual, the communal - we will take it all. We receive with gratitude and with expectancy.

Many do not put themselves in the way of God’s blessing. What’s the use, they say? A great deal of use if done consistently and humbly.

So we bring our frail mortal flesh into submission to the great healing power of Christ, and we hope with due humility to share in His glorious Resurrection. 

Thursday, 19 October 2017

19th Sunday after Pentecost 15 Oct 2017 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost 15.10.17 Miracles

The age of miracles is not past, despite advances in human knowledge.

Many would say that only primitive or uneducated people believe in miracles, and that everything can be explained by science.

However, science only describes what usually happens. Science does not itself make things happen, nor can it stop them happening.

If God decides to intervene in some way in His own creation He has perfect liberty to do that!

It seems He usually abides by the normal processes of things, but He can make exceptions.

When He causes things to happen outside of the normal range of experience, that is what we can call a miracle.

(Every Mass contains a miracle, when the bread and wine change substance to become the Body and Blood of Christ.)

God will work miracles according to His plans, not necessarily ours. However, He will listen to our requests for miracles. Sometimes He will work them, sometimes not.

He will do whatever is best according to His infinite wisdom.

The overall principle is that God desires our salvation, and all His actions and plans are geared to that objective. He will grant or refuse our requests according to whether or not it helps us (or others) to final salvation.

At Fatima God decided to show His hand in a very dramatic way. The miracle of the sun may be the most spectacular miracle since the time of Christ.

People have still managed to ignore it, however, in a world so submerged in its own limited vision, seeking only what this life can offer.

Miracles indicate the great power and goodness of God, who is their Source.

If we experience a miracle it is meant as an invitation to look more closely. Where does this power come from? What must I respond? How can I reject such obvious goodness?

If we do come closer it amounts to accepting the invitation to the wedding banquet (today’s Gospel).

If we accept, we must do so on His terms not ours.

This is the ‘wedding garment’ which has to be worn. We have to conform to whatever demands made of us as disciples of Christ.

We cannot be dictating to Him what He should be doing. Today, as then, people think they can tell God what to do.

What we should be doing instead: be awestruck in His presence; keep reverent silence; do not argue or complain. Wait upon Him while expressing gratitude for past miracles and mercies; reaffirm our absolute loyalty to Him, no matter what does or does not happen.

And stay in that state permanently, awaiting further instructions.

Those who do not argue we call saints! It takes a lot of discipline to control our words and thoughts.

A big miracle like Fatima calls us to these attitudes. The response of our generation has been very lukewarm, as with other generations before us.

The same old sins keep coming.

And the same doubts, objections, and the constant demand for another miracle, because the last one was not enough.

An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, said Our Lord (Mt 12,39).

He could make the sky turn upside down every day – that is easy for Him. But He is hoping for another ‘miracle’ – that His children will have enough wisdom to submit to His will and so discover great happiness.

He wants us to accept the wedding invitation with full commitment; to become the ‘new man’ (epistle).

May He continue to show His great power in whatever way He chooses; and may we have enough humility and wisdom to respond to the signs.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

18th Sunday after Pentecost 8 Oct 2017 Sermon

18th Sunday after Pentecost 8.10.17 Life to the full

Our Lord restores the young man, spiritually and physically.

He said once: I have come that they have life and have it to the full (Jn 10,10).

It is commonly said of people who have died that they ‘lived life to the full’ - usually meaning they were adventurous and had lots of experiences.

But Our Lord was not referring to physical activity. He meant life in the spiritual sense – being and doing good; good as defined by God, not merely human wisdom.

The spiritual measure of life is very different from the physical. One could be elderly and unable to move, yet have more life than a young person in the bloom of physical health.

It is not something we can see or measure. We do not even know our own degree of life. We can talk about ‘more’ alive or ‘less’ alive.

How alive am I at this moment? It is the same as asking: how much do I love God? Or, how much am I in union with God? How much do I let God achieve His will in me? Do I belong to Him totally, or am I a part-time visitor, or a stranger to Him?

All this we cannot answer exactly, even for ourselves, and less still for others.

We do not need to know precisely. We can just look for ‘more’ rather than ‘less’.

Every time we do something which yields more grace then we are more alive. Every time we sin we are less alive.

This life (grace) can be lost or gained in one action. Lost through mortal sin. Gained through contrition and confession.

Knowing what can happen will help us make the right responses. We are less likely to throw it away if we have given the matter enough attention. We are more likely to make progress into further life if we are aware that such a thing is possible.

When we are in a state of grace we will be more likely to ask for the right thing, to seek the spiritual element, because we recognise that is where the essence of life is found.

If we are alive, we build on it; if dead, we come back to life (through repentance), and then build on it.

We live ‘life to the full’ in this redefined sense.

The more we are alive the greater glory we are giving to God; the more we are getting to His purpose in creating us.

We reject the minimalist mentality, that seeks to do only what is necessary to avoid hell. We are not trying to sneak into heaven, just making the cut.

No, we run for the prize, while yielding forth a harvest of good works.

We can change for the better. Many will say they cannot get any better, and just rest with their faults.

But any sin can be removed, and any bad habit can be overcome, as Christ comes to dwell in us. He had no faults, so neither will we, once we become sufficiently united with Him.

He re-makes us, re-forms us. we are not the same person year after year. We can take on new ways of thinking, of desiring, which will pass into our daily life.

This is to be alive in Christ; we have His nature acting in us. We are copies of Him!

This is really something to hope for.

The gates of Heaven are coming into view. Don’t throw it away.

Abundant prayer is necessary if we are to hold on to what we have, and increase.

Our Lady also came ‘that we might have life’. She came to Fatima 100 years ago. It was a simple message, but not yet sufficiently accepted by the human race. May she move us now to complete that acceptance on our part.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

17th Sunday after Pentecost 1 Oct 2017 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 1.10.17 Our Lady

We come to the month of October, the month of the Holy Rosary; and, this year as well, the 100th anniversary of Fatima.

It is a good time to give honour to Our Lady, and to reflect on her unique role in the plan of salvation, in God’s plan, and in our lives.

In Mary we have such a rich source of help available to us, yet sadly she is not as well-known, or as often called upon as should be the case.

Most of the world does not know her at all, and most Catholics do not give her due attention.

We must ensure that we do not add to the neglect.

There is no opposition between the attention we give to Our Lady, and that we give to Our Lord. She loves God with her whole heart and soul (today’s Gospel), and she will help us to do the same.

It would be the last thing in her mind to divert anyone away from the worship of God; which worship she offers constantly herself.

She wants all her children to worship God as much as she does - because God deserves it; is right and just; and is good for those giving the worship.

Love does not have to be measured out so sparingly that we can love only one person at a time. The gospel today tells us to love both God and neighbour, so there, straight away, we have more than one object for our love.

In fact, we can love God, and Our Lady, and our neighbour, and even ourselves, all at the one time; and so we are commanded to do.

It is just a matter of getting the right proportion.

We love God the most, because He is the greatest, and deserving of the greatest love. We are forbidden to love anyone or anything more than Himself.

We love our neighbours because of their being created in the image of God. It is their God-given dignity which we honour; and the same for loving ourselves.

We are all very lowly creatures, by comparison with God, but treated by Him with great dignity, and that dignity must be respected at all times.

We love Our Lady for her own sake, for her immense goodness; but all the more because she is so special to God; that He has given her such status and power.

We express our love in prayer. Prayer to Our Lady has always been strongly advocated by the Church – by all manner of saints and mystics. Especially recommended is the Rosary, as a source of miracles and general spiritual health.

We cast ourselves at her feet, acknowledging our smallness and vulnerability; our fear and sinfulness. To be able to associate with someone who has all the good things we want to have, is very refreshing - like finding clear water in a desert. We still have life in us. Hope is restored. We have a taste of Heaven.

Our Lady loves us because she loves God first. The intensity of one love flows onwards to others.

She certainly loves more than one at a time, and so she can teach us. She will help us with all the right things, like growing in faith, hope and charity; and help us offload all the wrong things, like sin and false attachments.

She goes about her work in a quiet unobtrusive way – as she lived her earthly life.

She will do what she can for each person, even those who do not know her, or who would reject her. Much more she will do for those who actually call upon her – as we do.

What power Mary has, waiting to be released. Fatima is still new insofar as largely untried.

So much goodness is there, just waiting to be called upon. Each and every person is called to union with God through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

We can hasten her victory - and help others to share in it - by our willing response.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

16th Sunday after Pentecost 24 Sep 2017 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.17 Pharisees

The Pharisees were among the leaders in the Jewish religion at the time of Our Lord.
They generally rejected Our Lord, and His claims to be Messiah and God.

There are countless times where they tried to obstruct Our Lord in His work, as in today’s Gospel, where He heals a man on the sabbath.

They are more concerned about what day of the week it is, than about the wonder of a healing miracle right before their eyes!

The word ‘Pharisee’ has come down to our time for one who misses the point of Our Lord’s teaching; missing the main point while making too much of details.

People like us, who go to Mass, and who hold certain moral opinions are accused of being Pharisees because we think we are better than others; or that we are hypocrites.

We do admit to human fault, and if we do not practise what we preach, we resolve to do so -  not, however, changing the message, because that comes from God.

Those who attack the Church have a little of the ‘Pharisee’ in them insofar as they can miss the obvious message from God, trying to manipulate it to suit themselves. The Pharisees were not afraid of a little dishonesty, for example, steering the whole process of Our Lord’s crucifixion.

There are many today who want to crucify Him again – and His followers.

Why is He so much hated? For the same reason as then – that He represents the truth, and truth requires a change of heart; requires humility and chastity; trust in God; surrender of one’s will to God - and other things along these lines.

And we are tempted to the opposite of all these things – to be our own god, to set our own objectives. In short to build our own kingdom, instead of letting God be King.

The real problem is in the will (heart). People will say they do not believe in God, making it an intellectual exercise. But really it is more they do not want to believe in Him.

They do not want to be under His authority, so they pretend He is not there.

Religion, particularly the Catholic religion, is seen as too demanding. People like the idea of Heaven but not the idea of self-denial. They want it all now.

It just needs humility (also in today’s gospel), to make peace with God, to listen without arguing back.

The positive side of the argument. Just look around and see the bounty of God and respond with gratitude and obedience.

It’s a beautiful world. Or it would be if more people came into proper relationship with God.

You can have anything in the garden except the forbidden fruit. Much the same applies to us as Adam and Eve, except there are more than one forbidden tree. But the idea is the same, that if we do not sin we will have everything we want.

Agreement and obedience are the best response.

If the positive argument does not work there is a negative one too. Rejecting God means rejecting the source of all happiness, and that leads to extreme unhappiness, summarised in the word Hell. Hell as a final destination, and as a description of this life as well.

It is not so hard as we have made it. The Pharisees teach us what not to do. Let us take a different course. Let Our Lord heal us on any day of the week, meaning, let Him pour out His blessings on us, without telling Him what He should be doing instead!

We will not be Pharisees. We get the main point, which is union with God, and we hold on to it with great tenacity.

He will save us, if we let Him.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

15th Sunday after Pentecost 17 Sep 2017 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 17.9.17 Battle for souls

We can find ourselves becoming absorbed with interest in the lives of other people, whether real or fictional. Films, books, and documentaries can draw us in, and we take a certain sympathy with the people portrayed.

Most people do not have a book written about them, yet they would be interesting all the same; even if they have not done anything spectacular.

We could see someone at random, and say - he is just like anyone else. But we do not see the raging battles that might be going on inside, his hopes, fears, joys and sorrows.

The interior is more interesting than the exterior. The visible raising of the widow’s son caused great excitement. Yet still greater is the invisible forgiveness of sins. We tend to make too much of the physical and too little of the spiritual.

Forgiveness of sin is a more remarkable event, because it is God pardoning sins against Himself. If we were to throw fruit at some royal figure we would not get off so easily!

Forgiveness is more remarkable too, insofar as it pertains to eternity, whereas the physical rising is only a temporary reprieve from death.

What is most interesting about each person’s life is the battle going on for the soul.

This battle goes on between God and the devil, each trying to claim the soul, for heaven or hell.

The battle is fought over every person in the world. We do not see it, because it is interior and mysterious. We do not know what is going on in each person, but we know it is intense.

Many today would have little or no idea of all this - that they even have a soul, or that they could go to hell, for instance.

For many it is not a major issue. Yet it is major, and it is urgent. How to convey that urgency is our problem. Even many within the Church no longer regard this as important, vaguely presuming that everyone goes to heaven.

This indifference to the question makes it harder to save people.

When there is a health scare people will be careful what they eat, or how long they spend in the sun etc.

Packages have warnings on them about health risks. You will never see a warning about mortal sin on the side of a container!

We need to have a kind of do-it-yourself urgency which we carry with us. No one is going to tell us. We have to keep our own awareness of these ultimate questions.

Urgency on our own account, and for others – we have to pray for them because they are not praying for themselves.

They might receive mercy and be saved, and that is what we are asking for; but we cannot just presume it will happen. Someone has to shed some tears, and put in some work.

We know from many stories that the prayers of one can help save another, eg a mother praying for her son.

God wants us to step in and take part in this process, praying day and night - for those who have the faith, to keep it; and for those without faith to discover it.

Then they can take part in their own salvation, and shape their own destiny; making a serious decision for God.

This is also more in keeping with human dignity, that they can participate actively in their own salvation, not just being oblivious to it all; not just living in pursuit of pleasure.

It is a heavy responsibility for us to help in this process, but a joy to know that we can.

May the story of our lives, in every case, have a happy ending – the raising of both body and soul.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

14th Sunday after Pentecost 10 Sep 2017 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 10.9.17 Holiness

Seek first the Kingdom and all these other things will be given to you.

Our Lord is exhorting us to get things in the right perspective. Are we right with Him?  This is the main question to be addressed.

Am I ready to meet Him if I were to die today? Is my soul in a fit state to go before Him?

This is more urgent than whether or not I have enough to eat, or to wear.

The soul is more important than the body; eternal life more important than food and clothing.

So we set about being right with Him. If we are living good lives we continue with that, and still seek to improve.

If we are living lives of sin then we repent, the sooner the better.

We need mercy if we are bad, and grace if we are good. In either state we cannot do it without God.

Grace will enable us to live good lives, helping us to want goodness for its own sake; and seeing through the temptations of the devil.

We will see that the rules God places on us are not burdensome restrictions, but actually a source of joy.

We generally distrust rules and laws when they come from human authority.

But when they come from God it is another matter.

He is always going to be right. If He says thou shalt not something we had better shalt not!

This is not widely known. Many are trying to be happy by getting around God's laws.

No, it is holiness that leads to happiness. Holiness is the new thing. Purity, truth, kindness, gentleness; these are the qualities everyone is looking for. Sin is obsolete!

We can dismiss it all as ‘religious’ language, just the right thing to say, but it is meant to be lived out; waiting to be discovered.

See also the epistle: the fruits of good and evil (Ga 5,19-23).

When we keep God's commands everything falls into place. Like a machine where every part is doing its job.

We can discover this for ourselves individually; and even better if it becomes communal – the kingdom of Heaven, where there is no angry word, no violence, no theft, no impurity, no evil of any kind.

If we do not enjoy such a state it must mean we still need mercy. Mercy will restore us to a state of grace, if we sincerely seek it.

The truths of our faith should be obvious, but we still manage to miss them. The devil obscures the truth and we can miss it.

The present world is filled with confusion as to right and wrong.

We have to clean out the sin, not just partially but completely. Flesh v Spirt, we must decide. Realise there is more to this than most people think about.

To get into Heaven we have to be purified of any and every trace of sin.

We claim the present moment: this moment, and from now on. I will not delay any further.

Either we have lived a good life, or we are sorry we have not. But if we have not, we will keep that firmly in the past, and make a new start at this moment.

It is not just saying ‘Sorry’, but changing attitudes and behaviour.

If motivated by fear (eg on a sinking boat) it may be difficult to generate heartfelt sorrow at that point. We may be too hardened to turn back.

We have to cultivate a spirit of contrition now.

Such that if we did survive a shipwreck we would live differently for the rest of our lives. God knows if we are sincere or not, but if not, He can help us to be so.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

13th Sunday after Pentecost 6 Sep 2017 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 3.9.17 Thanksgiving

In these troubled times… where is God? People ask this from different angles. The unbelievers are mocking… where is this God of yours?  The believers are pleading with God to show His hand (maybe not too much all at once!).

We can find God in the midst of all the smoke and confusion.

We can follow the example of the one leper who returned (today’s Gospel), loudly glorifying God. This is what we are doing at each Mass, and in general throughout our lives.

We praise God for His goodness, a goodness which is infinite and unchanging. If He hides His hand it is never because of any malice or weakness on His part.  He is supreme at all times, supreme in goodness and in power.

 Every best gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change, nor shadow of alteration (Jm 1,17)

He is never arbitrary. He does not push a button, saying, I think I will give so-and-so an extra rough time today.

He does let things go to some extent. He does not intervene at every point where we might think He should. We tend to want a quick fix, like instant coffee. Fix it, Lord, don’t make me work through all the hard stuff.

He does offer us other ways out of trouble, such as obeying Him, trusting and praying, and doing penance.

Much as we are inclined to throw down tools and have a tantrum with God, we must resist such a course. We can express anguish with Him, tell Him how hurt we are, shed tears before Him. We can do all that, but in a respectful way that affirms our ultimate trust in Him.

Constantly we realign ourselves with Him, reaffirming His reality, His goodness; recalling that He did not have to make us, or save us, and does not have to take an interest in us. But He does all that simply because He wants to.

Then He pays us the further compliment of expecting us to be active disciples in His service. He is giving us a position of responsibility, not given to all His creatures.

We can thank Him for that too, even though it makes life harder.

Our thanksgiving is not an awkward add-on but an expression of trust so that thanking and asking are woven together and go with each other

Just to see the trouble in the world makes us immediately turn to prayer of petition.

At the same time we thank Him, in advance, because we know He hears us. Our Lord put this in His own words, praying through His humanity: Father, I know that You always hear Me (Jn 11,42).

If we complain, it is like tramping in with muddy boots, when we need to be very quiet and still, if we want to find out what is happening. Be still and know that I am God. (Ps 45 (46), 10).

If we sin (worse still) we are breaking this vital connection, cutting the rope to which we cling, biting the hand that feeds us.

If we have union with God, all else falls into place. If we give Him the time we would see that He does prove Himself, with a lot more to come.

Like the leper, we come before Him extolling His goodness. We would extol Him even if we are not healed, because He is who He is. If He does not give us one kind of blessing He will give us another. Always good, because that is His nature.

All glory be to Him.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

12th Sunday after Pentecost 27 Aug 2017 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 27.8.17 Word and Deed

The challenge to us as Catholics is to live out in reality what we believe in the abstract.

It is easy to imagine good things like a perfect world where everyone is friendly, honest and kind, and there is not an angry word spoken all day.

We find that reality falls so far short of this. Yet we believe the gap between reality and belief can be closed.

In the Church we have word and sacrament. The word tells us what is in Heaven, and what ought to be on earth.

The sacraments bring Heaven to the earth, and begin to transform reality as we have it.

So we feel good when we go to Confession or Holy Communion, for example. We are not just thinking about good things; we actually receive them.

We feel better, and we behave better.

Our religion is not just words or concepts, all hot air as some would have it; but actually translates into action.

If we find a man lying bruised and battered by the side of the road we help him.

It is at such times we find how committed we are. We think we are loyal and faithful disciples, but when put to the test we may not come through as well as we expected.

The Master we follow will make us stronger disciples.

We ask Him, in the first place, not to give us too many hard situations to deal with!

If something difficult does come upon us, to give us the grace needed to deal with it, to rise to the occasion.

We do not know our own depths, either good or bad. What we can say for certain is that we will be strengthened by prayer and sacraments, and thus be far more likely to come up with the right response when the test arises.

So we do not just talk about feeding the hungry, but actually feed them; not just talk about justice, but live justly.

We learn from books, and can learn a lot from holy books; but our faith has always been orientated to the practical. If we cannot make it happen there is something missing.

The grace of God, working in us, will carry us over the divide between theory and practice.

By this grace, whatever is commanded is also made appealing.

With the help of grace we will think the right thoughts, and want the right outcomes. Our affections will be properly ordered.

We reach a point where we want to help the ‘man by the side of the road’, more than we want our own comfort. This much the saints demonstrate to us, always wanting to do more in the Lord’s service, even if it meant more suffering.

We might say we will never be so advanced as the saints, but if we let God take possession of our hearts and minds we will change.

The part-time Catholic never sees this and begrudges even the most minimal observance.

For us, who do seek to go more deeply, it is still possible to be just drifting, not fully engaging with the presence of God.

It is easy to relegate our faith to a corner of our lives. Given that we are dealing with God Himself it has to be the central issue. Anything else we do has to fit in around this most important of realities.

We still do other things, like getting married, going to work, buying and selling - but the perspective is always from God's point of view.

We are dealing not just in ideas but actual reality. We make the ideas happen and this gives our words more authority, and our actions more power.

All of which makes a stronger Church, which is good for us and everyone else, as we hope they will come to know.