Mass on Friday 23rd June 2017, the Feast of the Most Sacred Heart will be at St Monica's Church 6.45am.
Holy Name Church will have Low Mass at 7am, and 6.30pm Sung Mass.
Thursday, 22 June 2017
2nd Sunday after Pentecost 18.6.17 Eucharistic banquet
Think of some of the best meals you have ever had, and you can probably recall many good ones, with enticing food and drink, and a general feeling of coming away satisfied.
The Mass is often described as a Eucharistic Banquet. Today’s Gospel: God invites everyone. Many think they are too busy – too busy for the One who made the whole universe!
The Eucharist challenges us to believe beyond the power of our senses to detect. Our sense of sight cannot see the divinity within the consecrated Host. Our sense of taste cannot detect the wonder of this special food.
Yet we believe in faith that Holy Communion is a far more enriching meal than any earthly banquet. St Thomas Aquinas refers to it as: … the banquet where [the Father], with [His] Son and Holy Spirit, are true and perfect light, total fulfillment, everlasting joy, gladness without end, and perfect happiness to [His] saints.
We could say of the earthly banquet that it will not make you a better person, whereas the Heavenly banquet will, if properly undertaken. One banquet will make you feel better; the other will make you actually better, as a person.
The Heavenly food will make us more at peace, and generally able to handle things in a better way. It will have a healing effect, transforming us, enabling us to overcome faults, to grow in virtues, to have a clearer understanding of everything relevant.
People will say: I can do all that from home. I don’t need the Eucharist, the Church etc. I can just think about my life, and decide to be a better person. But without the grace of the Heavenly food the human will power runs dry.
We are too bound-up with sinful patterns of thought and behaviour; too many bad habits and generally suffering from mediocrity in terms of doing God's will. Without much to inspire us we will fall flat.
Not every reception of Holy Communion will necessarily bring about change in the one receiving. A lot will depend on one’s disposition, level of faith, the desire for holiness, the recognition that change is possible. The more we want to benefit, the more likely it is to happen. We cultivate the spiritual hunger.
The satisfaction of a good dinner is immediate, but it wears off quickly. The satisfaction from Holy Communion is less obvious, but lasts a lot longer, insofar as it prepares us for eternity.
The Eucharist unlocks or enables many things. We can be in control of all our various emotions and desires. This is true freedom - not the freedom to do as we like, but freedom from slavery to disordered desires.
We are free to go anywhere or do anything the Lord directs. We can be content with poverty or plenty, full stomach or empty (Ph 4,12).
If we lack faith that can be supplied by the Eucharist. Come and be fed, and let the Lord work on us, and within us. If we are even half-interested He will show what is necessary and possible, and the changes will happen.
We will be cooperating, but most of the energy comes from God Himself.
Faith can be supplied, as can enthusiasm, and the ability to persevere. Just as food restores strength, so with spiritual food. This is why we must come repeatedly to this Banquet.
We come every Sunday (at least), and we come with the preparation to appreciate the more subtle workings of this Heavenly food.
This is the best place to be, offering the best food to be found anywhere!
Thursday, 15 June 2017
Trinity Sunday 11.6.17 Praising God
Who made the world? God made the world.
But who made God, the question sometimes follows. No one made God because He had no beginning. He always was.
Or, better to say that He exists outside of time and does not change. It was He who created time, with its past and future. For Himself there is no past or future; only an eternal Now.
This is hard to grasp, but no less true for that. Many falter on belief in God because they cannot understand His infinity, His eternity, and they settle for some view that they find more manageable – like saying there is no God at all; or forming a lesser god, such as an animal or something of one’s own making (eg golden calf, Ex 32).
Dealing with God we have to start with what He tells us, not what we tell Him! We have to deal with reality as it is, not how we might shape it.
So today we acknowledge our belief in God, and all He has revealed to us.
Today is God's own feast day, a day for reflection on His own self. On this day especially we give Him praise and thanks.
Our main purpose for existing is to know love and serve God. This we might find difficult: for one thing we are tempted to ignore God and go our own way. For another thing, even with the right intentions, we find it hard to hold concepts of God in our mind, being creatures who rely so much on what we can see, hear, touch etc.
We can work our way to the mysterious world of God through prayer, sacraments, and holy lives.
We have the liturgical worship of the Church to help us along because the Mass and Office and Adoration are direct praise of God. We do not have to rely only on what we can produce in our own minds.
God the Son, having human nature, helps us greatly because in that human nature He worships God also!
We are very small players here, being lifted to great heights, to which we could never ascend without God’s own help.
We are finite beings and we cannot hope to exhaust Infinity. It is sufficient if we can just get within His range (comparable to getting sunlight, without needing to go to the Sun).
We must avoid the temptation to skip the worship of God, and go straight into asking Him for things. He wants us to ask, but we should position ourselves correctly before we do that.
Yet while we honour Him for His infinite goodness, we can still claim His direct attention in our tiny lives.
He can be micro as well as macro.
We can talk to Him, without even needing a phone! But we must not forget His greatness and take Him for granted. We can be close but never disrespectful.
Our requests will come out of a proper perspective, humble and expectant, able to adapt to whatever He decides.
What He most wants from us is that we learn to love – firstly, to love Him, in awe of His wonders, and in gratitude for His goodness to us.
Then, to love one another, which is the natural consequence of a proper relationship with God.
Considering God as Trinity we gain some insight into His nature: that He is within Himself a community of Love.
We are striving to get everyone to love one another down here, but God does it perfectly.
There has never been a single argument in His own community. The Church on earth should be as harmonious as the life of the Trinity in Heaven. Obviously we have to do a lot more work on that point, but at least we know where we are headed.
It is an insult to God if we introduce discord into His perfect creation – We owe it to Him to get this right.
All glory be to God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Thursday, 8 June 2017
Pentecost Sunday 4.6.17 History
Our Lord once lamented the fate of Jerusalem (Lk 19,41-44). If only they had realised the true position, and believed in Him. then they would be spared the destruction which was building up over them.
So much depends on human response as to whether a situation will get better or worse.
History is full of situations where we could say: if only this had happened instead of that. A certain battle, or choice of king, or revolution - might have happened or not happened as we would want.
The way the Church has gone over the last 2000 years is a case in point. We have a very mixed report card.
We started well – at this first Pentecost. For a brief time there was complete unity in the Church, and miracles galore.
But soon the trouble started, and there were people teaching false doctrines, people looking out for themselves first; and just plain old sin. The Church experienced division, and the weakness that follows from that.
Since then we have had good and bad times. We have never managed to recapture that first blissful time of Pentecost.
We should have done better than we have done. If only… if only more people had prayed; if only they would pray now. Our Lord must weep now as He looks over the world, and sees the disasters which must come if there is not some wide-scale repentance.
God is so much disobeyed, denied, ignored. People try to bury Him altogether. All this is increasingly blatant. People used to be ashamed of their sins. Not now!
Why have we not made more progress? Each generation should learn from the mistakes of previous ones, but it seems they do not, even getting worse in some cases. We are slow to learn.
No matter how many disasters, it seems people will continue to rebel against God, and even use those disasters as ‘proof’ there is no God (according to them)!
Here we come in, and say like the prophets of old: Behold your God! He has not gone away; His arm is not shortened. He is the same God who came down on the apostles at Pentecost.
He has all the same love, goodness, power, as ever. And He is just as willing now as then to transform us in faith, hope and charity.
This is our time. We are the people alive at the present moment. It is up to us to turn the ‘if only’ into reality.
If they look back on us in the year 2017 they will see disciples of Christ who were willing to pray with real perseverance and intensity, as at the first Pentecost.
We need more on deck, more prayer, more faith, more fervour.
We are very much in the minority at the moment. Minority in two senses: that most people in the world do not believe in the true God. And that even many who profess faith have only very faint belief, and are not contributing at present.
What massive potential for good there is if this sleeping majority of Catholics would awaken?
Well, we are awake, and we must pray, like never before.
Even one person praying can achieve much (eg Moses saving Israel from destruction in the desert because of its disobedience eg Ex 32,30-33).
We must pray then, alone, with others, with the whole Church, for a lot of saving that needs to happen.
We pray that the hearts and minds of many will be turned to the one true God, and all that follows from that. This will avert the disasters which threaten us, and bring us salvation – now and in eternity.
Come Holy Ghost!
Thursday, 1 June 2017
Sunday after Ascension 28.5.17 Heaven
We have just celebrated the Feast of the Ascension. At the Ascension Our Lord leaves us, and we might grieve about that. But on a little reflection we see that He has to go to His proper place, which is Heaven.
Heaven is also our proper place (in God’s plan), and Our Lord is paving the way there for us. He goes to prepare us a place (Jn 14,3).
Heaven can wait Curiously for such a good place we do not necessarily want to hurry there. It is best to leave the timing to God. We are with Him here or there, and that is the main thing. He will call us when the time is right.
The credibility of Heaven. It is hard for us to visualise Heaven. We have not seen it; and we find we do not have the vocabulary or the concepts to understand it.
It is no less real for that. The reality of something does not depend on our ability to understand or explain it (eg the intricacies of weather, or flight, or outer space).
Some will refuse to believe for just this reason - that they cannot understand it, or have not experienced it. But that is to try to fit the ocean into a bucket. Finite beings must give way to Infinity.
(It is not hard, at least, to imagine a place better than earth!)
The beauty of Heaven. Heaven is often caricatured as people sitting on clouds and playing harps. Or in films, it is portrayed as a slow-motion sort of place, with a ghostly atmosphere – a place with less life and vitality than here on earth. In fact Heaven is far more alive than earth. Sin and death have no place there. There is nothing to impede the flow of life.
Even this earth, with all its sin, still staggers us with its beauty. Yet we are just one planet in a universe with billions of stars. Do we doubt that God, who made all this, can come up with something better than we have seen so far?
The happiness of Heaven is also oversimplified when understood as merely the continuation of the same pleasures we had on earth. The happiness of Heaven far exceeds that of earth.
The greatest happiness of Heaven is union with God. The Creator must be greater than the things He has created. If we enjoy those things we will enjoy Him even more.
In Heaven we shall see Him face to face. We will perceive Him directly, though still not penetrating all the mysteries.
It will be like being thirsty all the time, but able to relieve that thirst at the same time.
Appetite and satisfaction will always be at their fullest.
What do we do in the meantime For now we must pursue our everyday lives, just doing our duty, as well as we can, with as little complaint as we can manage. We find God amidst this life, through prayer and sacraments, and we see His handiwork among us.
St Paul tells us we are already in Heaven with Christ, and our thoughts should be on Heavenly things (Col 3,1-4). We have to reprogramme our minds to be less attached to things of this earth.
We live by Heavenly thoughts, applying what we learn from them to this earthly life.
We have the Heavenly currency, called ‘grace’, to enable us to live earthly life in a Heavenly way – for example, being charitable, patient, forgiving - instead of the opposites.
May the Lord bring us all safely to that place, which is our true home (Ph,3,20).
Thursday, 25 May 2017
5th Sunday after Easter 21.5.17 Praying through Mary
Our Lord, in today’s Gospel, is encouraging His disciples to pray to Him directly. They had been praying to the Father; now they can pray to the Son.
He is opening another avenue for them to reach Heaven with their prayers.
God wants us to pray, which is to communicate with Him.
He wants us to feel the assurance of His closeness to us. He does not want our prayer to be like a desperate shouting in the void, hoping someone is going to hear it.
He wants us to see ourselves as part of His family; somewhere we belong. So we can pray to the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, the saints, the angels; and we have each other to intercede for our needs.
Sometimes we pray with other people; always we pray with the communion of saints, the citizens of Heaven, who join their prayer with ours, especially if we ask them.
We need not fear that prayer addressed to someone less than God in any way takes away from our duty to put God first.
Seeing the Church as family - if I speak to my mother, does that mean I love my father any less? No, in a happy family people can talk to each other without any fear that someone else is being left out. All feel comfortable with each other.
This is how God wants us to be. With increasing faith will come increasing charity, whereby we all believe and want the same things.
There is a concern for many Christians that prayer to Mary, in particular, is somehow in opposition to God.
If we pray to Mary, however, the prayer will be improved not weakened. We can be assured that any prayer directed to her goes also to God; made more pleasing to Him because it is now her prayer as well as ours.
If we include her in our prayers we will benefit as we reach a deeper maturity in praying. We are not just asking for things all the time; and not just wanting material or physical blessings. Instead we learn to value the spiritual qualities that are so much better for us.
We come, in short, to be more like Mary herself, totally conformed to the will of God, and joyful in that state.
She will teach us to be humble. Our prayer is confident, but it must also be reverent and deferential, never demanding.
Son, they have no wine, is the model! Not telling Him what to do, but in the security of a loving relationship, able to mention a problem.
The demanding approach is to hold God to ransom. Hear this prayer, or I will stop believing in you!
With Our Lady we learn to trust God in all things at all times, so apparent disappointment can be absorbed in a larger hope.
We feel her gratitude to God, her humility, in short, all her good qualities. We benefit more from that, probably, than if we are granted whatever we are requesting!
Our prayer will become increasingly a natural expression of an existing sense of trust.
We ‘pray’, not just ‘say prayers’. We know we are being heard. There is no shouting across the void; no fretfulness or impatience; no grumbling. Only trust.
This is how it should work. If we have not reached such an ideal, that itself becomes matter for prayer.
Our Lady will help us to pray, as she helps us with all our needs.
Thursday, 18 May 2017
4th Sunday after Easter 14.5.17 Truth
Truth can be objective, as in 2+2=4, a fact which remains true whatever anyone says or thinks.
Or it can be subjective, as in ‘spinach pie is the best food anywhere’, which may be true for one person but not another.
In the spiritual world, at the level of faith and morality, the objective truth is more likely to apply.
For example, God exists, whether or not anyone says or thinks so. And so with other truths in our creeds and catechisms.
The Holy Spirit helps us to believe these truths, convinces us of them; confirms us in them. He also helps us to think in the right way, and to see how one truth fits in with another.
It can be hard to perceive the truth amid so much falsehood; and harder still to hold onto that truth when put under pressure, such as persecution or ridicule.
We should be so immersed in these beliefs that we know them and trust them, as well as we can count from one to ten, or say our own name.
Just as we learn certain things by repetition, so we repeat over and over the wonders God has worked in our midst. This the Church does in the psalms and the Liturgy.
Why do we say the same things all the time, re-tell the same stories? Because they are true, and we take them to heart, claim them for ourselves.
Then we can be like the apostles and martyrs, who could face anything for the sake of Christ, even torture and death.
We build up a store of faith, from which we can draw as needed. We do this in the quiet times, so we can deal with the turbulent times. Built on rock not sand (Mt 7,24-27).
We have enough material to draw upon – our history, rich in miracles and saints; so many great teachers and writers; it is all around if we are discerning as to what we take in. And there also the Holy Spirit will help us separate the wheat from the chaff.
Our belief should be strong enough that nothing will shake it; and we have enough left over to share it with others. Go out to the whole world… (Mt 28,19).
The Truth will assert itself, and continue to do so until either people repent, or there is the final separation of sheep and goats at the end of time (Mt 25, 31-46).
We are warned how difficult it might be. We have hit the turbulence. You may be the only one in your family or workplace who believes the truth, and you will be subject to ridicule, but this is part of the process.
Hold on anyway because it is the truth, and there is nowhere else to go (Jn 6, 68). And you may help someone else to convert.
We have to get those memory cells working. We repeat and repeat the wonders the Lord has done. He has set His people free; He has watched over them at every place and time.
Many have forgotten where they started or where they are going. They have lost their way, but the way is still there.
The casualty rate is very high, but many can still be retrieved. This is the Fatima message.
We keep the memories alive, and we will have the strength we need for any need.
Thursday, 11 May 2017
3rd Sunday after Easter 7.5.17 God hiding
Godhead here in hiding - the beginning of a hymn by St Thomas Aquinas - is an echo of today’s Gospel: in a little while you will not see Me, but then you will see Me again.
Does God hide from us? In a certain sense, yes.
He wants everyone to know Him, to live in union with Him. Yet He does not make Himself as obvious as He could, for example by working more miracles, spectacular undeniable miracles like at Fatima.
And He permits obstacles to arise for those who seek Him, such as persecutions or temptations.
He cannot reveal everything about Himself all at once. It would be like trying to put the ocean into buckets. He has to wait for us to reach certain levels of spiritual maturity before revealing the next stage. We don’t give beer to three year olds; we don’t let five year olds drive cars.
There is a certain maturity needed before people can do these things. The human adult has a long childhood, and this suggests that the same would apply in the spiritual world.
It takes time to mature. In fact, spiritual maturity is harder to achieve than general maturity.
Spiritual maturity means getting to know God at a deeper level, and coming to appreciate at least some of the richness there to be found.
In the initial stages of the spiritual life we might see things from a self-interested perspective: I expect God to provide what I need, and on my terms.
With maturity I learn to be more concerned for others, not just myself. And as far as the goods I seek, it is less of the material or physical blessings, and more of the spiritual. We come to see that to be kind, generous, self-sacrificing etc, is more desirable than to have lots of money or status.
This is what God wants of His children and disciples. So there is that note of incompleteness in today’s gospel - for a while you will not see Me and you will feel alone, and even abandoned; and you will struggle with all sorts of pressures, and you will be tempted to abandon belief - but if you can hold on through all this, I will be with you, only in ways not visible.
He is trying to increase - not decrease - our happiness by bringing us to be the full image, the full potential of what He had in mind when He created us.
It is a bit of a rough ride, and a lonely one, but worth it a million times over once we understand the plan. There will be joy like that of a mother who gives birth (Jn 16,21).
If we are prepared to trust in God, in His wisdom and goodness, we can take life as He unfolds it to us, and give Him the best we can.
For what we get right we give thanks. For what we get wrong we ask His pardon.
All the while we are achieving a deepening maturity of spirit, so that we are able to recognise the interference and the temptations; all the bumps and turns in the road. We do not lose sight of our ultimate goal, as we cling to God, acknowledging His centrality, absolute power and goodness.
Once converted we still need a lot more conversion. There are many layers. And many chinks and cracks have to be fixed. A lot of restoring is required for these works of art. To restore one human being to the fulness of what God intended is a big operation.
How will we know when we are fully restored? When we desire only what God wants for us.
Then we will have found the ‘hidden’ God!
Thursday, 4 May 2017
2nd Sunday after Easter 30.4.17 Church and Christ
We have an image of Our Lord with the sheep around His shoulders, and that sheep is each of us, finding safety.
Where is He bringing us? It is not so much a place as a way of life. The sheepfold of the Good Shepherd is where the sheep behave like the Shepherd (cf today’s epistle).
The Catholic Church is often accused of being narrow and exclusive, but in fact it is extremely inclusive. Our invitation list is every name in the world. We want people to join us. We are as welcoming as could possibly be.
There are certain conditions of entry, but even they are only to enhance the happiness of those who do accept the invitation.
We do not have a ghetto mentality or a holier-than-thou mentality, but a let’s-seek-Christ mentality.
Wherever you are at this moment in your life, as near or as far from God as imaginable, He is calling you.
As to whether we are clean enough to come into His presence, He will make us clean. His presence sanctifies us as we draw close to Him. cf converts like St Matthew, Zacchaeus, Mary Magdalen. When we encounter His goodness our attachment to sin will fall away like an old rag.
When He calls a sheep He calls a sheep; He does a complete job.
He intends more than just physical protection, He is seeking the complete transformation of each person in Himself.
So He calls each of us. We are called as sheep, and to share in the role of shepherd.
As sheep, we are to submit ourselves to the healing merciful power of God, and to let him do in us whatever He wants to do.
And then, ourselves to take on the shepherding view, as we seek to bring in others.
We offer to others the hope that they can be saved, and find the joy and peace that can be found only in Christ.
In all the false and misleading religions and philosophies of life, this one is True, and this is the way to come.
We do not say this with any sense of superiority to others.
We are aware of our own unworthiness.
We do not say, join us because we are such good companions, but because He is here!
We offer the truth, and the sacramental power to back it up.
In the Saviour we find Love and Truth working together, without friction.
We can have truth without being smug and superior. We can have love without obscuring the truth.
The truth as taught by the Church, is meant to shed light, not to make it harder. So many plead with the Church to ‘make it easier’ by discarding much of the teaching. This would only obscure the face of Christ, and the Church would be submerged with all the false ideas around
We can have it all at the same time – the theory and the practice, the light to light up our way, and the grace to motivate us to travel that way.
Christ wants this for everyone, and knowing us inside and out, He can help with precisely what is needed in each person’s case.
In the meantime He goes out looking, offering moments of grace if the person is sensitive to the moment. May everyone grasp that moment of grace, leading to conversion, when it comes looking for them. When He knocks, may He find us at home!
Thursday, 27 April 2017
Low Sunday 23.4.17 Forgiving
God is gracious and abundant in His dealings with us. He turns water into wine; He heals the sick, forgives the sinner, raises the dead – what is wrong He sets right; what is right He makes even better.
We can become so accustomed to God’s goodness that we take Him for granted. So if the sun rose this morning did we thank Him? We could not think of every detail to thank Him enough, but we need to keep in mind how dependent we are upon Him.
His generosity to us is especially strong in His treatment of the sinner.
Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven….
Forgiving is giving-with-extra-boost. It is when one party is prepared to go further than strict justice requires.
This is how God treats us - by creating us, which He did not have to do; then by saving us - which again He did not have to do.
And He gives us chance after chance to get things right.
God, in justice, could have wiped us out any time in the last few thousand years. Somehow we are still here, and talking about His mercy.
This is possible only because He is giving more than He has to.
He did not have to become Man, nor be crucified. He simply wanted to do it.
It should make us, at each step, more and more grateful that He has given us such special attention, and treated us so much better than we deserve.
It should cure us of complaining of the way God treat us; whenever we tell Him He is actually not looking after us very well.
We have various sufferings we don’t deserve, according to us anyway. We say we have been good, so He should reward us.
We make the mistake of dealing with God as though He is a business partner, someone of whom we can make demands.
We cannot demand anything from God, only appeal to His generosity.
We forget how infinitely small we are in relation to Him. Or how much power He has.
Mostly things just go on the same, but that is only because God’s will is underlying the whole creation.
Yet there are people who say, Who is this God? What is it to Him what we do?
This is ignorance combined with ingratitude, for which also we must ask forgiveness!
This feast is a chance for us to go back to the start. Like re-doing the scene for a film. We have needed to do the scene millions of times to get the human response right – if we have succeeded yet.
Gradually, we develop a sense of gratitude, getting to know God better, enabling us to have a clearer relationship with Him.
We will find He is on our side. All the while we have been trying to get around him, now we can go straight to Him.
What has God got to do with it? Everything.
We need to change our tune. Instead of a chorus of complaint, we sing His goodness.
Those who are attached to the Divine Mercy devotion, are hopefully already saying the right things.
More of, Lord have mercy, and less of, Lord, why did you do this?
More of a discovery of the goodness of God, which has always been there, but sometimes has to be discerned as to its depths.
If we are prepared to work with God, and manage to be patient with Him, we will see it all in due time.
He is doing everything for our good. More than we realize, more than we deserve. All thanks to Him!
Thursday, 20 April 2017
Easter Sunday 16.4.17 Good prevails
We need to know that the good prevails over the bad. It happens in the movies; it needs to happen in real life!
One of our troubles is that we are surrounded by bad news. This is accentuated by the media which is so efficient at picking up anything around the world.
First thing in the morning I hear the news and that is usually the worst bit of news that they can find. Any bombing, shooting, accident, disaster. So the last thing I want to hear is the first thing I do hear!
Then there is the personal news. Did you know that X died suddenly? Or that so-and-so has cancer? And someone else had an accident? etc.
And this is all the time. Bad news travels quicker than good.
It can wear us down, and can easily lead to a reduction or even loss of faith.
Can we still believe and hope through it all?
As with so many aspects of our faith, appearances are not all there is.
You could tell me ten bad things that have just happened, and I can still say: Christ is risen alleluia!
This piece of news is true, and remains true, and cannot be changed by any amount of time, or any amount of things going wrong.
There is a serene certainty in this, which consoles us, and even makes us joyful.
Easter Sunday is the greatest feast of them all. It is compulsory to be joyful today!
This feast puts everything in perspective. Though the bad news items might outnumber the good, the weight of the good news greatly exceeds the bad.
St Paul: I reckon that the sufferings of this time are not worthy to be compared with the glory to come, that shall be revealed in us (Rm 8,18).
I don’t expect the 6 o’clock news to say every day that Christ is risen.
Yet, if they did say it, it would be as ‘new’ each time. It would qualify as ‘news’ - always true, relevant, and applicable to the way we feel, and the way the world is.
We hold the strongest card, which can beat all the other cards in the world. You can play your bombings and massacres, and I can play the Christ card, which beats all the others.
God has power to control His own creation. He allowed us to think that on Good Friday He was finished, defeated. It would look like He had failed. Whatever He was trying to do, it looks like He has not done it.
That He could so easily and comfortably emerge from the tomb in His own time and own way, shows He was always completely in control. I have power to lay [My life] down: and I have power to take it up again. (Jn 10,18).
Sunday morning is the time He chose, thus giving us every Sunday a feast of the Resurrection, and Easter Sunday the primary one of all.
We have to be consoled by this. We have the winning card up our sleeve the whole time.
We have access to the infinite power and goodness of God, which begin to work on us here and now, enabling us to have a first taste of the Resurrection, overcoming sin, and discovering holiness - a liberating experience.
We need to cultivate this experience, not just today, but every day, enabling us to feel better and to live better.
There are many things which could drag us down, but we rise above them, clinging to this best news of all.
We can reflect that if enough people would believe in the Resurrection there would be a lot less bad news! Everyone would be living in an orderly and productive manner. Till we see better days we can cope with an imperfect world, and a perfect God.
Saturday, 15 April 2017
A shorter sermon than usual, because of the long Passion reading.
Happy Easter to all visitors to this site!
Palm Sunday 9.4.17 Holding firm
We do what the crowd does, for the first part but not the second.
That is, we cry Hosanna but not Crucify Him.
We welcome him the first time, and every time.
Most of the time it is not easy for us. Sometimes our emotions carry us, and we feel triumphant. But for much of the time it is somewhat uphill, a narrow winding way.
We can even be tempted to think that God has abandoned us, but it is never that. Still it requires application and perseverance on our part to hold firm
We have to dig in deep to keep the faith, not just showing jubilation when the feeling is on us, but in all weathers and circumstances.
When the soldiers come we do not desert Our Lord. We are proud to stand with Him.
We falter maybe, but always regroup, going back to base.
This is all by His grace. He calls us, establishes us, and keeps us faithful. We would not last long without Him, but we are with Him, and we will last.
It is just a matter of remembering which side we are on.
We have set our hopes on this Man, and will go with Him wherever He goes.
He leads us in dark ways, but we come out into the light.
May this coming week be rich in grace for us, as individuals, and the whole Church.
Thursday, 6 April 2017
Passion Sunday 2.4.17 Sufferings of Our Lord
The ‘Passion’ of Our Lord means the suffering of Our Lord. We can spend the next two weeks especially, contemplating His sufferings.
He suffered and died for us. His death saved us; the sufferings added value to the death as a perfect sacrifice.
The more we love, the more we are prepared to suffer for the beloved.
In which case, Our Lord’s suffering shows a great deal of love, not just for one person but the whole human race, from start to finish.
He suffered in different ways. There was the physical suffering. We might think this is the worst; certainly it was bad enough.
But worse still was the spiritual suffering. He allowed Himself to feel what it was like to be a sinner; and not just one sinner, or one sin. He felt the guilt of all sin of all time, at the one time! Imagine the weight of that. It was this anguish that caused Him to sweat blood.
This is Passion on a grand scale.
Then there is emotional pain, being insulted and ridiculed. He allowed Himself to feel that as well; to be treated so badly by so many people.
Especially painful was the ingratitude. He was doing all this for people, yet they would still not welcome it.
And this would continue to the present day. There are still people who will refuse to be saved; who will reject Him.
Seeing His figure on the cross should move anyone to instant change of heart, but often does not. It can even be an occasion for further mockery and contempt.
All this He took on Himself. So we see His pain comes from all directions and many levels.
It is the clearest possible statement, on God's side, of His love for us, and His desire to save us.
It is up to us, who do not reject Him, to deepen our grasp on the meaning of Our Lord’s Passion and Death.
When we see a crucifix, or make the Stations, or pray the Sorrowful Mysteries, we pray to be moved to a fuller identification with Our Lord and all His intentions; that we can respond with suitable awe, gratitude, and a desire to imitate; making us more sorry for sin, and less likely to sin again.
And to an increasing extent willing ourselves to suffer… cf response Oh Sweet Jesus who for love of me didst bear Thy cross to Calvary, in Thy sweet mercy grant to me to suffer and to die with Thee.
We fill up what is lacking (Col 1,24) – what is lacking is the number of people who care.
This will reduce His pain, as He sees people awakening to what He is doing, and supporting Him in His suffering.
The two weeks of Passiontide are a time of special intensity, the climax of Lent – which then leads to a fuller understanding of Easter.
We could say that the Passion of Our Lord was designed to move the heart of God, as Judge. At the same time, it was meant to move the heart of Man, turned hard of heart in his sins over many years.
He succeeded in the first, but only partially the second point. God was impressed with the sacrifice, but Man was not (speaking generally).
What more could it take than God Himself to come down here, and live as one of us, then be put to death for other people’s sins?!
They will look on the one whom they have pierced, and weep for him as for an only son (Zech 12,10; Jn 19,37).
It is just a matter of when people wake up to the immensity of this event – the Passion of Our Lord. God is ready; we are still thinking about it!
Thursday, 30 March 2017
4th Sunday of Lent 26.3.17 Our daily bread
The fact that we have bodies makes life hard for us.
Our bodies give us a lot of pain and anxiety, and they leave us very vulnerable. They have to be fed and clothed, and generally maintained.
There must be a good reason for it all, because this is how God has created us, and we cannot improve on His plans.
One consolation is that we look forward eventually to having glorified bodies, never hungry or sick, able to move at the speed of light, and many other attractions
But what to do about now, with all our pains, and worries?
One thing God must have had in mind, was to make sure we would be aware of our dependence on Him.
The prayer He taught us contains a plea for our daily bread. It is part of learning to love Him, for which purpose we were created.
The daily recurring needs of the body remind us of our dependence, and force us to turn to Him for help; something we might not do if we did not feel the need.
It is not just food, but every need, physical and spiritual, which is encompassed in that prayer for daily bread.
We can ask for all that we need, all at once, understanding that some needs are more important than others.
God wants us to ask. He wants us to remember to thank Him; and to try to get the asking in perspective, so that we concede to Him the right to refuse or modify our requests.
God might withhold certain things for good reasons. We can trust that He is aiming at the greatest happiness possible for us.
We see that He is leading us beyond the merely physical to a spiritual understanding, while not forgetting the physical.
And then there is the Eucharist itself, the ultimate food, not meant for physical hunger but for the whole person, the whole process of salvation, with all the richness that goes with that.
We are asked to seek this special food. Many reject it because they do not see that it does them any good.
They are thinking probably too much at the merely physical level. The Eucharist feeds a deeper hunger, and transforms a person in subtle ways.
The impatient will not give it time to work. They want instant gratification, and the Eucharist is aimed at a much longer time and scope.
God is taking us into an unexplored world, the world of total trust in Him, and total cooperation with His will.
To hunger for Him, to search Him out, is the highest level of spiritual growth.
Everyone needs Him; not everyone knows it.
Those who stop at the needs of the body are not seeing the whole story.
A whole life can be built around the body. There is not just eating, but vanity of appearance, seeking sexual pleasure, excessive quest for fitness – all of which can make the body into a false god.
Any who do this will lead a distorted life, a life of sin and darkness - either obviously so, such as a drug addict; or less obviously, a ‘respectable’ person piling up riches but neglecting the soul.
What we should do, is attend to the body, within reason, but realize that some sacrifices are necessary for the good of the soul, and preparation for eternal life.
Voluntary penance can be very helpful, as it helps us to see the higher needs we have.
God has foreseen all our difficulties, and patiently helps us find our way into the light.
We learn as we go, all the time.
May the Lord give us our daily bread, in all its forms, making us truly at one with Him, body and soul.
Thursday, 23 March 2017
3rd Sunday of Lent 19.3.17 Spiritual warfare
The greatest command we are given is to love God with our whole hearts and minds (Mt 22,37).
This should be easy, given that God is the source of all that is good and loveable, and therefore should be attractive to us.
But sin has entered the world and clouded our vision; and we make some very poor decisions, many of which are further sins, clouding matters even further.
People are not born loving God (Our Lady a notable exception). Original sin means that we love ourselves first, and others (including God) as we can fit them in. There is not much love for God, not to start with anyway.
We follow Israel over the desert in this Lenten season. In our case the arrival point is a fuller knowledge and love for God.
We have escaped from Egypt, crossed the river, and we do not look back.
We are free, but not yet out of danger. Just as the Egyptians chased the Jews into the desert, so the devil chases us.
He fights hard. Today’s Gospel describes how he gathers reinforcements after one defeat, and comes back even harder.
The enemy will attack in waves. He will not let up. He wants our soul; to drag us down to hell. We must remember that at all times.
It does not look like a furious battle. We cannot see it. But we go too much by physical appearances, and in this case more than ever.
If the sky is blue and the grass is green, we say all is well. No sign of trouble.
Out of our sight, but all around us, the good and evil angels are fighting over each one of us. Over our souls, for the will, the soul of each one, our basic loyalty.
Till the hour of our death.
For us at the ground level, it amounts to trusting and obeying God.
Trusting Him that as He has rescued us a million times before, He will do so into the future.
Obeying Him in all things whether we like the command or not, or whether we can see the point of it; but conceding that God is likely to know better than we do!
This is progress across the desert for us. This is our part in the battle. We fight just like lower ranked soldiers by immediate and complete obedience to whatever command we receive.
(as did Our Lady and St Joseph).
We come to love God as we see the beauty of His will, and how doing things His way makes sense of everything.
If the Israelites had obeyed and trusted God, they would have crossed the desert a lot faster than the 40 years it took.
As we grow stronger, the way becomes clearer, and the Church becomes, as we are supposed to be, the light of the world (Mt 5,14).
Presently the devil runs rings around people. He should not have so much freedom. We have given it to him; we have made it easy for him by questioning and complaining about everything.
The whole society is infected. For too long the devil has had his way.
Everyone is vulnerable. Anyone can fall, even if previously strong. We have to keep up the vigilance, all the way to the end.
The Church as a whole, and each member, has the obligation to love God first, to seek Him above all things. To give clear teaching and example to all, especially the young.
We will not let the devil back in. It is all the way forward from here.
Thursday, 16 March 2017
2nd Sunday of Lent 12.3.17 Believing is Seeing
Why did the apostles run away, when the mob came to arrest Our Lord?
The apostles did something we are frequently tempted to do – to doubt our faith.
We think we believe something, but when put to the test we find our belief is only partial.
If the apostles had really trusted in Our Lord by this time, they would have stood there with Him, confident that He would look after their interests, as He always had done.
Countless times He had shown His power. Why should this time be any different?
We have the advantage over the apostles that we know how the story continued; that He had not lost His power; that He let Himself be captured and crucified, but all the while had power to break free; and even when killed, had the power to come back to life any time He chose.
So why do we still doubt?
For one thing, we are too heavily influenced by our physical nature. We put so much weight on what our senses tell us, and so little weight on what our spiritual nature can tell us.
People will say: Seeing is Believing. They demand proof – of God's existence; of promised blessings, such as eternal life; of any claimed miracles.
Many things cannot be proved in the sense that we can go to a laboratory and make precise measurements.
That does not necessarily make them untrue, however.
Reality goes much deeper than physical reality. People who demand physical proof are presuming that the material or physical is all there is, but there is no way to prove that claim!
We know there is a lot more than can be seen, heard, or touched. For example, love, or peace or courage- not just religious matters - are entirely beyond physical measurement; yet we know they are real.
For another thing, we let our feelings dominate our reason. The apostles felt afraid, so they ran away. Disciples of Christ have been running away ever since.
If we feel good, then our faith is high; if we feel bad, our faith is low. This is to be ruled by our emotions. If we are worn down by too many disappointments, we can lose hope, cease praying, and eventually even believing.
We need to have a faith which is so strong that we can believe, in all weathers, all circumstances, no matter how unfavourable they look or feel.
Our faith is in God, not in appearances or circumstances.
Which brings us to today’s Gospel: Why did Our Lord give His apostles a glimpse of His glory? It was to fortify them against what they would soon experience, in seeing His degradation.
They were to be strong enough to survive the crucifixion, and go beyond.
And, knowing the event would be recorded for later disciples, it forms a reference point from which we can all benefit.
You may be face down in the dirt; despised by all; no money, no friends etc – yet the glory of God has not diminished, and it is all around us. So we can trust in that same God who has always rescued His people from trouble.
Believing is Seeing. When we believe it enough we will behave in such ways as to enable miracles to happen, and the good to prevail.
We do not seek the signs or consolations for themselves, but understand they will be more frequent, as side effects. What we really want is the certainty of a faith that will never waver.
We will not run away.
Thursday, 9 March 2017
1st Sunday of Lent 5.3.17 Values
The Lenten fast is symbolic of our need to hunger for the right things.
We forego the immediate delights of the sense of taste, to remind ourselves there is something better to eat if we are prepared to wait for it.
The something better is no less than God Himself. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps 33,8). Are we hungry for union with God? We should be, but it may take some working towards such a state.
We are very physical creatures, heavily influenced by the present circumstances. We are uncomfortable with the metaphysical and the remote.
Many reject religion for just such reasons. They cannot wait around to find out if it is true or not; they must have their desires fulfilled here and now.
Even concepts of life after death can be limited by our earthly viewpoint. Funeral notices talk of the deceased going to be with loved ones; or engaging in the same activities they enjoyed while alive, such as sport, or food and drink.
Heaven is perceived as a vague state of paradise. Interestingly, such notices rarely mention God.
We will be with loved ones in Heaven, and there will be enjoyable things to do, but there is something far better still. The real joy of Heaven is the possession of God.
He is the basis and source of all our happiness. He it was who created the people and the activities we love.
All He has created is as a drop in the ocean compared with Himself. So to possess Him is to have more than the whole world at once.
Thus Our Lord can say: Man lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4,4); and Seek first the kingdom of God and all else will be given you (Mt 6,33).
The mistake of the human race all this time has been to stop too soon; to stop short of God Himself by becoming too absorbed with something He has made.
In this life, and even in the next, we have sought our happiness in lesser things.
Admittedly it can be hard to acquire a taste for God, but He will help us to do that.
Fasting is one such way we approach this taste. When we fast (or do any form of penance) we are training ourselves to see that we can actually survive without the things we thought we needed.
We train ourselves to see beyond immediate physical or emotional sensations, and seek the Divine Infinity beyond what we can see.
It has to be a daily process - prayer every day, sacraments when possible. We work God into the normal flow of our lives, not just restricting Him to certain times and occasions.
We have to keep doing this, just as we do with other acquired tastes or talents. If we do three French lessons and then stop, we will never talk French. If we pray only when we need something, we will never get to know God.
A clue to finding the centrality of God is when we face things like danger of death. If we are on the Titanic as it is going down we will be thinking of larger issues, not just passing pleasures.
We might promise God that, if He spares us, we will serve Him day and night from now on.
We just need to make that promise when there is no crisis; to see it as a normal part of our existence.
The longer we stay on the right path the clearer the reality will become. It is vital that we not give up too soon, as so many do.
Thursday, 2 March 2017
Quinquagesima Sunday 26.2.17 Human side of Church
Peter opposes Our Lord in His plan to allow Himself to be crucified. Human wisdom is seen to be deficient as against the Divine Wisdom which sees all things. Humanity, in general, gets a lot of things wrong. It is only when humanity is coupled with divinity that it can operate properly.
Many have left the Church, or refused to join it, because of such human faults eg lack of charity, sexual sins, hypocrisy…
But to judge the Church only on the human side is a mistake.
The Church is the Body of Christ and He is its Head. The Church has Our Lady as Mother, and she is also a member of the Church.
If we look at the Head of the Church we see miracle upon miracle, and total love and goodwill operating. Look at the Holy Family, the saints – and we see order, peace and every good quality.
If we look at some of the members of the Church we see selfishness, scandal, fighting, unforgiveness etc etc.
It is easy to see why people would want to leave the Church if we see only the faults.
But we must see the whole picture. The Church is instituted to make humans share in the divine; so that we can rise above our faults and gradually be Christ-ianised, made copies of Jesus Christ Himself.
There will be a lot of ugliness evident in the meantime but we are processing to the final stage. It is like a building site where all looks chaotic now but will eventually be a nice straight building with gardens and pathways. So the Church is in process of becoming the perfect Bride of Christ, the City of God.
We, who are still in the Church, have two tasks.
One is to remain faithful. We do not allow any negative experience to cause us to leave the Church or lose our faith. We do not always know why God allows certain things, but we entrust the government of His Church to Himself, and keep our own place within it.
Nothing is improved by jumping ship. Better to stop the ship from sinking.
Two, we must try to improve our own humanity. We may be human but we do not have to be hopeless! We can improve with a little application and lots of grace.
God knows we are human; and He even knows what that is like, because He has taken on human nature.
But when joined with the divine we see that humanity can be freed from its usual failings and reach greater heights.
This is exactly the idea of the Incarnation and what it means for all humanity.
Some suggest that we make the Church’s commands easier, so that we have more chance of keeping them. This is an appeal to the Church to be more ‘human’.
It is really a selling short of what humanity can achieve. God the Son did not become human so that we would continue to wallow in our sins; and then try to say that they are not sins anyway!
He came that we may have life and have it to the full (Jn 10,10). This means that our human nature would be perfected by contact with the divine; and that the whole Church would be a place of intense holiness.
Much better than making the rules easier would be to keep the rules as they are, and live by them, with divine grace acting in us (which is what sacraments enable).
The rules - at least the most important ones – are divinely instituted so we are not free to change them anyway.
We hold firm, to our beliefs, and our hope. We improve the human, at least for ourselves, and we hope the same for others.
We see the divine, and this helps us cope with the human.
All the while the Lord forms us to be His Bride.
Thursday, 23 February 2017
Sexagesima Sunday 19.2.17 Perseverance
St Paul knew that whatever strength he had all came from Christ.
He tells us how weak he is; while we would be saying he is a great deal stronger than the rest of us!
But the point still holds: we can get by only with the help of God's grace.
Whoever we are, whatever the task or the problem we face, it is always and only by the grace of God that we can hope to make progress.
St Paul had remarkable perseverance. How many people would keep on the same path after all that suffering - shipwrecks, floggings, imprisonments etc? (2 Cor 11 and 12)
He was being motivated by a higher power, no less than the love of God. The love that God has for the human race was overflowing onto Paul, and enabling him to do these things, and willingly. He did not count the cost: For me life is not a thing to waste words on (Acts 20,24). He was never afraid of dying, on the contrary looking forward to being with Our Lord (Ph 1,23). Full stomach or empty – it was all the same to him (Ph 4,12).
He was centred on God, to a degree which is extraordinary for its rarity; but logically, he is doing only what we all should, but hardly anyone actually does.
This is what saints do, and what they teach us – that faith in God is the most important reality in our life, and it is only logical and natural that it should take precedence over everything else.
We are not all called to be as important, or as good, as St Paul, but we can each fulfil whatever role God has for us.
So that we can say at our final judgment: I did not bury or neglect the talents I was given. I did not refuse the call; I did not simply seek my own comfort.
Paul ran to the end of the race; so must we. He was one of those alluded to in the Gospel who persevered to the end, bearing manifold fruit.
We can be a little more like Paul, and a little less like everyone else.
We could be that, we feel, if we had the strength of conviction that Paul had… but where do we find that? Again, the grace of God. God gave Paul special revelations to drive home the point, and then expected him to live out that certainty.
We are not likely to have anything so dramatic as a vision of heaven; but in more subtle ways God will give us what we need, at least for each day as it comes (daily bread).
We go back constantly to first principles: We belong to God, we are answerable to Him; we are here to do a job for Him. None of this is for self.
This is what Paul knew all along.
Our life situations vary. We cannot be all travelling on ships, proclaiming the Gospel. Most people marry, and live in a house, and have babies. That is God’s will for most of His children. Only that we should not become so settled in such a life as to forget that we are pilgrims – we, and those who belong to us.
This is not our true home (Heb 13,14).
Every day we must go back to first principles, and re-position ourselves. Lots of prayer and reflection are needed. We do this every day because, as we see, so many fall away (cf Gospel - Parable of Sower); lest we become complacent.
If we do these things, our faith will grow, and our enthusiasm. It will seem more and more the natural thing – to put God first. That is all it takes.
May St Paul, and all the saints, help us to do as they did.
Thursday, 16 February 2017
Septuagesima Sunday 12.2.17 Working for God
Imagine a town where everyone is suffering from poverty. A rich man comes and seeks to alleviate the poverty of the town. He could just give them all a pile of money; or he could give them work, for which he would pay them. It is this latter way that God takes with us.
He could simply put us in Heaven, but He wants us to work our way there.
The work itself does not save us. What saves us is that by working we are putting ourselves in an ongoing lifegiving relationship with God. Like a branch to the vine (Jn 15, 1-17).
And we do this for as long as we have - from the moment of conversion to the moment of death. All time belongs to Him, and we fill it with our response.
Once we start we do not stop: He who has put his hand to the plough, does not look back (Lk 9,62). The servant should be still at work when the master returns (Lk 12,37). From now on you will be fishers of men (Lk 5,10)
And St Paul, in the epistle, speaks of the need to run to the end, not slacken off.
We must not be alarmed by all this talk of work. Work is not a burden when motivated by love.
The love of God will act on us; will motivate us so that we want to do what He wants us to do. People put themselves out for those they love. As Christians, we love everyone; or at least Christ does, and we are learning to do as He does.
No one is unemployed in God's kingdom. The old, the sick, the disabled – all can contribute. It is simply a matter of doing, or enduring, whatever is required.
‘Work’ in this sense is much more varied than paid work. If someone asks you, socially, what you ‘do’, you could reply ‘I work for the Lord’. This could mean, I cheerfully offer up my sufferings; I pray for the conversion of sinners; I go to Mass to glorify God – it is all work.
We know there is a reward for this, and in fact it is far more than we deserve.
We are doing only as we should (cf the servants (Lk 17,10)). We are obliged to be and do good, even if there were no reward.
But there is a reward. It is represented by the denarius of the parable. We all receive the denarius whether we come in early or late. It is eternal life, and happiness.
Applying the parable to our situation, we could say that all the workers are paid ‘too much’; even the ones who came early, and worked all day.
We might be tempted to envy those who come in late, and find Heaven. But we are all being treated better than we deserve, since we are nowhere near good enough (by our own merits) to go there.
We are all the latecomers in that sense. Only by the grace of God are we saved.
First He forgives us; then He gives us work to do, for which He provides motivation; then He rewards us with more than we deserve.
All we have to do is turn up for work, to show enough interest for Him to do the rest.
We are more fortunate than we usually think ourselves.
So let us work on, not counting the days or hours, until the time of reckoning.
Thursday, 9 February 2017
5th Sunday after Epiphany 5.2.17 Judgment
There will be a judgment at the end of time. Many are probably very hazy about the idea that their lives are to be judged by a higher power.
Today individualism is the dominant creed. People think they have the right to set their own course, and define their own end as well (eg the right to suicide).
Most people fear death, but there are probably not many today who fear judgment after death.
When we talk of judgment, immediately the question arises, But what about Mercy? Is not God merciful? How then we talk of an adverse judgment?
God wants to be merciful, certainly. He wants all people to be saved (1 Tim 2,4).
Judgment is what remains when mercy is not accepted. It is on offer, all the time, to everyone. For various reasons a person might not accept the mercy. In such a case Judgment (adverse) is all that remains.
There are many reasons why people might not accept mercy from God.
They might be hard of heart, refusing to repent, to turn away from a life of sin. If they persist in this state to the end of their lives there can be only Judgment, not mercy - not because God has suddenly become harsh, but because they do not want any fellowship with Him.
God will not force union with Himself. There has to be that moment of consent from each person before the salvation process can take effect.
God will not override free will but He will put a lot of things in front of each person to induce repentance.
He has been putting things in front of us since the Fall, with extra intensity from the time of the Incarnation. He has given us His Son, the Church, the Sacraments, the Saints, and time for each one to repent. These things are given generally to all, and also He gives specific signs to individuals, according to their circumstances. To ignore all the signs right up to the end is indeed hardness of heart.
Or people might be presumptuous. They believe in God, and hope to go to Heaven, but do not make any serious effort to please God in their lives.
This shows a disregard for God, which is certainly not ‘loving’ Him - the first commandment.
Or they might be despairing – feeling so guilty about their lives that they dare not approach the throne of mercy. But no sin can be greater than God’s mercy. There is no sin unforgivable if there is genuine contrition. Like the prodigal son we are welcome to approach Him.
God does not love evil but He does love evildoers - not because they do evil, but because they are in need of being saved.
Those of us trying to be good can feel that God is being too patient with evildoers, but we have to remember that salvation is His main aim.
It is better for the good to suffer for a time, so that more of the (presently) evil can repent; better this than to wipe out the evildoers before they have a chance to repent.
Then, of course, some of us would have been ‘evildoers’ of one sort or another in the past, and now we can be glad we were not wiped out!
Mercy is there for all who believe in it and want it. And God wants it more than we do! Yet, sadly it is easy to miss the urgency of the whole thing and live as though there were no tomorrow, or at least no hell.
We do have to face Our Lord in judgment but it will not be terrifying if we live constantly in His grace during this life.