Renovations continue at St Monica's, Walkerville. The Sunday Mass will be at the usual 8am time this Sunday (22nd) but weekday Masses are uncertain.
For the present, every weekday Mass (including Saturday) will be at Sacred Heart Church, Hindmarsh at 7am.
Thursday, 19 October 2017
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 8.10.17 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 1.10.17 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 24.9.17 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 17.9.17 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 10.9.17 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 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 27.8.17 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.
Thursday, 24 August 2017
11th Sunday after Pentecost 20.8.17 Holding firm
St Paul reasserts the basics in today’s epistle. In the light of moral crises and general decline we need to go back to those basics and hold on tight.
When we are in a battle, and seem to be pushed back, we tend to re-group, hoping to find new strength.
If we retreat it is not to admit defeat, but to rebuild and come back out again. The Church is in that state at present, and has been many times before.
We have our ‘backs to the wall’. We are probably losing more than we are winning, as far as influencing the world goes - though there is a lot of good happening which is under-reported.
But certainly if we go by the numbers we are declining in many key areas – Mass attendance, vocations, Catholic percentage of the population.
And the wrong numbers are going up - depression, abuse, suicides, atheism, general moral decline – addictions, abortions, homosexual behaviour etc.
The first thing for us is not to change sides. So many have left, having been baptised and confirmed, but still gone. This is part of the test. The real disciples will hold on. The weaker ones will take flight.
We worry about those who leave, for their own salvation; and also because we miss the contribution they could make.
And they serve as a temptation for those still here also to leave. Why am I still here when all my family and friends have gone\?
We are still here because the basic data of our faith are still true, and cannot become untrue.
God the Son became man, was born, and died, and raised, and ascended, and will come again.
In that process He has established the Church, which speaks infallibly for Him, and which makes Him present through the sacraments.
This is where we draw the line. No further retreat from this is possible. These things are the certainties on which we rely, no matter what else anyone says or does.
We do not go by polls, or by sentiment, or crowd mentality. Crowds are notorious for getting it wrong – crucify him, crucify him.
This will do wonders for our own faith; we will never leave if we dig in firmly enough.
And it should have a flow-on effect in retrieving the lost, and winning new members.
We have the responsibility to hold on in this present time of crisis.
We are confident of the ultimate victory because Christ will come again, even if only a remnant still believes.
We hold on, with awareness of the seriousness of the conflict, so we put all our energy to the task, much as if we were in a physical battle.
There is a certain desperation in the effort; but no desperation in the beliefs themselves, in which we can be serenely certain. There the truth is as clear and strong as anything could ever be.
We build up our knowledge of the faith, so that we can put in a good word when possible. We are usually outnumbered, but we do not let the numbers fool us. We will be mocked and ridiculed, but no amount of mocking and scorning can put Our Lord back into the tomb.
Nothing can keep Christ down, nor His followers, if we hold firm.
If anyone wants to say we are winning at present, the principle remains the same. We would then have to guard against complacency. We will have neither complacency nor despair. In all weathers we hold firm.
Thursday, 17 August 2017
10th Sunday after Pentecost 13.8.17 Pride
Many people, in these times, suffer from a lack of self-esteem, a sense of their own worth.
Many even commit suicide, thinking that nobody cares for them one way or the other.
We are supposed to feel good about ourselves. Even better still we are supposed to be good; and that is the surest way to feel good.
Being good, and feeling good, come as we learn how God regards us; when we see ourselves as created by God, loved by Him, and valuable to Him. If we are valuable to God we must be somebody, and so we are.
This is ‘good’ pride, when all we are and have is bound up with God. In due proportion we can take pride in our work, our houses, our appearance, our community etc. This is all fine as long as these things do not become false gods.
We are planets to God’s sun. He is the centre, and we revolve around Him. He is the reference point at all times.
Constant prayer and practice will be necessary to enable us to keep this perspective; to end any rebellion within us, and at the same time enhance our sense of worth.
We find ourselves happy to be created beings. We might bristle at first, wanting to assert independence; but we come to appreciate God's goodness, and are happy to be subservient to Him.
We are happy once we have trimmed the excesses of minds and hearts; pulled heads in, as regards our self-importance; simply accepting what we are; just happy to be any part of God's family.
O Lord, my heart is not lifted up, my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things
too great and too marvellous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. Ps 130 (131), 1-2
too great and too marvellous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a child quieted at its mother’s breast; like a child that is quieted is my soul. Ps 130 (131), 1-2
Not everyone accepts the status of created being. Especially not the devil. The source of his sin was pride. He thought himself better than God, or at least more important. He wanted to be god himself; so he created his own empire.
This has been the problem ever since. All sin springs from pride, the wrong sort of pride.
Wrong pride is when we exclude God from the picture, and set up in business for ourselves; as though to say: I am the most important person around here.
This leads to lots of sin, and disorder. The world is so much infected with sin that we can take things as normal which are very much abnormal.
A world where most people lie, and get angry, have impure desires, carry grudges, cheat in business, and put themselves first – this is how it is, but is not how it is meant to be.
It is meant to be as it is in Heaven, where everyone is lost in awe of God, and obeying freely - Our Lady being the supreme example.
She can help us in this direction.
Pride can get at us even when we are doing the right thing. The Pharisee (Gospel) was too pleased with himself, thinking his goodness was the result of his own efforts.
Even if we do something virtuous, it is only by the grace of God.
The sins are our fault; the good we do is from Him.
Sins happen when we assert ourselves against God. Repentance is when we get back into right alignment with Him.
The publican got all this in his brief prayer: Lord, be merciful to me a sinner (Lk 18,13) .
On every point we have to be right with God – in thought, word, deed, ambition, desires, self- understanding, fitting in with others, taking our place in God’s overall plan.
All this follows from a true understanding of how things are set up – which comes with humility.
May the Lord keep us – or make us – humble, enabling us to appreciate our true worth in his sight.
Thursday, 10 August 2017
Feast of the Transfiguration 6.8.17
We can feel good and feel bad at the same time. How do you feel, we ask each other. It depends what we look at. We are happy if we think about some things; unhappy if we think about other things. Both situations apply, at any time.
It makes us happy to think about God and His goodness to us. It makes us unhappy to think about all our various problems, personal or more general.
The Transfiguration, which we celebrate today, is one time, comparatively rare, that God shows His glory to us below; a miraculous display making a very welcome relief to the usual humdrum of our existence.
Such a revelation will always make us happy. It is a reminder from God that our reasons for joy greatly outweigh our reasons for sadness.
The occasional moment of ecstasy lifts us above our normal patterns of thinking, and gives us new energy for the future.
We do not ‘see’ God very often.
This is, for one part, because He is so much beyond us, in His infinite glory. We simply cannot take Him in. It is like trying to empty out the ocean using a bottle.
Further limiting us is our sinfulness. We have spread darkness by our sins, thus making it harder still to perceive the presence of God.
Our perception being thus dulled, we spend much of our time feeling gloomy and miserable about our various problems.
God, having mercy on us in our miseries, throws us a lifeline. He assures us at critical times that what we have believed about Him all along, is still true.
The consolations may be short and rare, but they connect us with a reality that is permanent and always close – the goodness of God, and His saving will towards us.
The negative feelings can be dissolved in the greater reality.
We keep our eyes (the eyes of faith) fixed on Our Lord, as did Peter when he began to walk on water. When he lowered his gaze, he began to sink (Mt 14,29-30).
We cannot generate consolations at will, but there are certain things we can do to bolster our sense of God’s goodness, and closeness - lots of prayer, reflection, meditation, noting His miracles, small and large.
Thus we develop a level of trust in Him, that He will never leave us abandoned.
So if you ask me how I feel, I feel good and bad at the same time, but the good is much deeper and more enduring. This is how St Paul can exhort us to ‘rejoice always’ (Ph 4,4).
Drawing upon that reservoir of joy we can change our thoughts and feelings. A sense of order and peace descends upon us. Anticipation of better things to come will sustain us.
This is not just wishful thinking, or playing with words. It is a real fact - that God is close to us - from which we draw strength.
We are told, especially when nervous, to take deep breaths. Our breathing is generally too shallow. In the spiritual world, we take ‘shallow breaths’ when we pray hurriedly and in a distracted manner.
If we really allow ourselves to be still and know that He is God (Ps 45,10), we will see more with the eyes of faith, and perceive with the heart.
We will not let sadness prevail. We must not be like the millionaire living as a miser. We call upon the riches we possess. We find consolation for every trouble, while troubles still last, eventually entering our own share of transfigured glory.
Thursday, 3 August 2017
8th Sunday after Pentecost 30.7.17 Means and Ends
In the movies the bad guys will use bad means to get their desired objective. They will shoot you in the back if it suits them. The good guys would never do that!
As Christians we have to be good all the time, so we cannot use evil means to get to a good end. Many think that the end justifies the means, but no, it has always been Church teaching that we cannot do evil to achieve good.
For example, Euthanasia. We hasten someone’s death to spare him pain. A good end but the wrong means.
To achieve good we must do good all along the way. The end and the means converge.
All our actions and intentions must be good, as being united with the will of God, who is incapable of evil, either intent or action.
The temptation will come to us to bend the rules, to cut a corner, so that we can reach the desired objective more easily. We are tempted to improve on God's way. Recall Moses, who was told to speak to the rock and it would bring forth water. He hit the rock instead, trying to improve on the instructions – for which he was severely punished (Num 20,8-12).
Whereas, if we go with God's way, slow as it may seem, the overall effect will be far better.
They even tried to tell Our Lord how He could improve on things (Mt 16,23-26). Peter is trying to talk Our Lord out of His prophesied death. It does seem a natural response, but not the right one.
Our Lord took a longer route, giving up His power (temporarily). How can it be better to be nailed to a cross, than to be doing miracles? But it was better.
Constantly, we are tempted to break God's commands: Thou shalt not commit adultery. People say that is too hard altogether, so they do commit adultery in one or other form of impurity.
Thou shalt not steal: the people defraud and cheat each other, and all to gain some sort of temporal advantage.
We all lose out when God’s ways are ignored. Repeated sin brings trouble on the whole society, making us insecure (for example, having to lock our houses, being afraid to go out at night).
If we would obey instead, we would save ourselves a lot of trouble.
Better to be honest, and wait for the daily bread that has been promised.
We have to exercise some trust here - just try it and see what happens.
I will not steal, cheat, lie defraud. I will treat everyone as I would want them to treat me. With integrity, justice etc.
It can go two ways for us if we obey God in all matters. It might lead to prosperity, an increase in our fortunes; or it might lead to adversity and apparent failure, in which case the blessings will be in another form, less obvious, but sooner or later it must come good.
There must always be a way out of every problem without resorting to sinful behaviour. People will say this is not the case. But it has to be true, whether we can see it or not.
So we are going to do this from now on – live in the spirit not the flesh (epistle). We will be the good guys, not shooting anyone in the back.
It is highly possible someone will shoot us in the back, but even that will be made right by God.
As Scripture puts it in many places – for example - The last shall be first (Mt 20,16); those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever. (Ps 124,1); those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy (Ps 125,5-6); many are the trials of the just man but from them all the Lord delivers him (Ps 33,19).
Thursday, 27 July 2017
7th Sunday after Pentecost 23.7.17 Character
We are promised a very great reward at the end of our lives, eternal joyful life.
But we would like a little more happiness before that. We might have a feeling that we are not being sufficiently compensated in the short term.
We love the idea of heaven, but is there anything sooner?
Well, reward comes in many forms. Our Lord promised His disciples that if they forsook father, mother, etc they would be repaid a hundredfold …even in this life (Mk 10,29-30).
Not a hundred times more assets, but in terms of satisfaction we would be a hundred times happier than if we remained attached to all those things.
We find that in this life we can have a workable level of happiness. While we do not usually feel like dancing in the street, there is a steady sense of contentment that enables us to proceed in hope of better things coming.
If we do things God's way we will experience love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Ga 5,22). We will have these things in ourselves even if they are not in surrounding circumstances.
If we need extra incentive we are told (epistle): the wages of sin are death. Sinful life leads to sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy (Galatians 5,19-21).
We keep a slow and steady pace, realizing that whatever difficulties we encounter are permitted by God for our purification.
And to increase our capacity to enjoy eternal life. This can be called the building up of a Christian character. The suffering enables us to direct ourselves to longer term goals. We recognize the transient nature of earthly happiness, so we look beyond for something better.
Christian character means that we understand doing good and being good, not just as obligations, but arising from a purity of mind and heart which seeks to please God.
In such a person there is a consistency between thought, word and deed - all of which are designed to please God, whether they be public or private, and whether or not they will receive approval from others.
This is our reward! If we are developed to this point we find that goodness will flow naturally from a proper relationship with God – like a branch from a tree (Jn 15, 5).
Or like a tree which bears good fruit (today’s Gospel). We bear good fruit because we are good all the way to the inside.
The goodness asked of us is more than just doing a few helpful deeds around the place, like bringing in the neighbour’s rubbish bin, or lending the lawn mower.
The good asked of a disciple of Christ is much more demanding. It requires us to love God above all else, meaning to put His will ahead of one’s own at all times.
This requires all sorts of things, like forgiving enemies, helping the poor, never losing our temper, always being humble etc.
It takes constant prayer and interaction with God to be like this; to get the right perspectives, so that we are not looking for instant delights all the time, but able to go the whole distance.
And to see that our religion is our whole life, not just a part thereof, or an external gloss.
The wages are coming. Not in money, but in interior joy; simply being good, and the peace that comes with that.
We are then like a bird in flight, or a fish swimming. We have discovered our true identity - a child of God, a disciple of Christ, operating at full capacity, as we were always meant to be.
Thursday, 20 July 2017
6th Sunday after Pentecost 16.7.17 Multiplication
There are so many things to pray for. We could not even list all the situations that need prayer, let alone make the prayer. Even just one person, picked at random, would provide us many things to pray for, as every life has its dramas and crises.
Accordingly we can feel overwhelmed by the size and number of the problems we face, and give up before we start, as far as praying goes.
We feel with the apostles: How can we feed so many? And as to five loaves and two fish, what use is such a small amount of food?
Our own helplessness can work in our favour by forcing us to look elsewhere for solutions.
We look to God because only He can supply the power needed.
How much prayer is not made because of discouragement, or lack of faith? If that prayer had been made, who knows what would have been achieved? There is nothing to lose, at least.
When we pray for a person or situation we are handing over the five loaves of our faith and trusting in Our Lord to multiply that offering, making it abundant in its results.
Every prayer we make has implied in it another prayer: that what we pray will be taken to God by Our Mother Mary and the saints, and so made pleasing to Him.
Our prayer becomes more credible and our small offering becomes more formidable. Multiplied in its intensity the prayer will be more likely to make things happen.
Five loaves become thousands of loaves, enough to feed thousands - an image of the abundance of God, and His ability to make more from less, or something from nothing.
We should never allow discouragement to hinder our prayer. Rather we keep that prayer coming, day and night.
We bring what we have. There is much in the world we cannot control, but we can control our own attitude, our generosity of heart, our expectancy of God's help. These are things we can increase.
A lot of the situations we pray for involve the free will of other people, and that is a very hard thing to harness (even God finds that difficult!) But I can at least bring my own free will to comply with God’s will, and that is the recipe for success.
Our prayer has to be constant, filled with faith and hope, and made from a pure and generous heart – all things which themselves need prayer. If we are serious, God will help us at all levels at once - our own personal disposition, and the actual things we pray for.
We pray for everything at once - large and small, spiritual and material. Simply that God’s goodness be evident everywhere.
We pray for big things, like salvation of souls – the dead, the dying, all who most need the mercy of God; conversion of sinners.
For physical needs, like freedom from war and disaster.
For everyday things, like finding the car keys, safe travel.
It is hard work, but life is short and in the context of eternity who can object to a little bit of exertion.
The scene of the Gospel is repeated a thousand times in our lives: we see a big problem and we do not see the solution.
We bring forth what we have (faith, hope, trust) and we let God work the miracle that is needed.
We remember to thank Him and make sure that each miracle goes into the stock of our memory for the next time we need faith.
With the apostles, we say: Lord, teach us to pray (Lk 11,1). And then, hear our prayer.
Thursday, 13 July 2017
5th Sunday after Pentecost 9.7.17 Generosity
There is a general tone set in today’s readings, and many similar passages, that we (as disciples of Christ) should put in more than we take out; give more than we receive.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. (Lk 6,32-34)
This is the whole nature of God Himself, in creating us; and then further, in saving us. He is giving more than He could ever receive from us.
To be His disciple we have to adopt the same pattern: we lend without expecting to receive back, we bless those who curse us (Rm 12,14); we go the extra mile for the sake of the other person (Mt 5,41). Above all, we forgive those who offend us (Mt 6,12).
This was the way Christ lived on earth, and the constant lesson He gives us who seek to follow Him. He came to serve, not to be served (Mk 10,45).
We are tempted to say that all this is too hard; and it is not fair either. If someone comes and robs me, and bashes me up, I am supposed to bless him?
Too hard it may seem at first, and many simply dismiss these teachings as poetic ideals.
But God does not command the impossible. The difficult maybe, but not the impossible
We can find our way into this by drawing upon the much greater love that God has given us. cf parable of unforgiving debtor (Mt 18,21-35).
I can forgive because God has forgiven me a lot more. I can love because God has loved me a lot more.
We draw the extra ‘fuel’ from Christ Himself, as we receive from Him in the sacraments, and through prayer. This is our daily nutrition. This is how we become strong enough to find such seemingly unlikely qualities.
At the same time we nourish our minds also. We keep at the forefront of our minds the teaching of Our Lord. We do not dismiss it as an impossible ideal. Nor do we just drift away from it, following worldly wisdom instead.
The world keeps religion for just a few ceremonial occasions, and then goes back to pursuing its own goals, without a thought for God.
It is our job, not only to live like this, but to show it to the world; to be a light on the hilltop (Mt 5,14).
We have become accustomed to the idea that the disciples of Christ are very different from Christ Himself. The disciples of Christ are a kind of mixture of the spiritual and the worldly, good and bad at different times.
This is what it has become, but not what is supposed to be.
We have to raise the standard; keep the vision where Christ Himself put it.
And then draw upon the grace and power of God to lift us to the required level. This will maintain in us the constant willingness to give rather than to receive.
As to our enemies, those who do not love us: we hope that the love of God will act on them and transform them. So enemies become friends.
We are ready to disperse God’s blessings generously. How can we be stingy with His gifts?
Why be envious because I am generous? (Mt 20,15)
Even if others do not change, there is great benefit for us to have these attitudes, to draw from the wellsprings of Christ. His charity nourishes and sanctifies us.
The blessings from Heaven are like rain - which falls anyway, not because of our efforts, but for our benefit. Grace is like that, with the difference that we can guarantee receiving it on request - which may not happen with rain.
May His blessings fall upon us now, as we call upon Him.
Thursday, 6 July 2017
4th Sunday after Pentecost 2.7.17 Conversion
Peter is overawed. He sinks to the ground before the Lord. He is doing what we should all do. In every Mass we say Domine, non sum dignus.
It is true. None of us is worthy, even if we were sinless, because we are still so inferior to God.
We humble ourselves, primarily to glorify God. It is His goodness we are acknowledging, and how far He is above us.
As to us: we will never be worthy but we can go some way to be less unworthy, to give God the best we can give.
Grasping the goodness of God, we are more likely to behave according to His will; to behave not only in external compliance, but with an internal desire to please Him. Because we are so caught up in wonder, we do not, or would not, seek to overrule Him,
Some sort of revelation is required - a ‘Peter’ moment. Leave me, Lord, I am a sinful man.
This is a moment of clearer than usual insight into the state of things. I have been doing the wrong thing, or been on the wrong track for a long time. Maybe I can come back.
This could happen in various ways. God has the whole universe and all its forces and processes at His disposal. He is an artist with many brushes and paints to call upon.
For Wisdom is mobile beyond all motion, and she penetrates and pervades all things by reason of her purity.Wis
A bad conscience is hard to live with, but it can be buried under a lot of transient experiences, and false gods.
The noise of our present society is partly to drown out the voice of conscience, and the voice of God. All the noise in the world, however, cannot avoid coming to terms with God at some point.
It is better to listen to Him than to try to hide from Him. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made. (Ps 145,9)
When we pray for conversion of sinners this is what we mean – that each person will have a moment of truth, a realization of his own nothingness, and the infinite goodness of God.
Then, when humbled enough, they will be ready to be filled with His grace and live a new life.
Post-conversion brings other problems. If we have been converted we have to keep working on our level of holiness.
We need to be always in a state of readiness, like a well-maintained vehicle that can be used at any moment.
There are so many points to consider, so many moral demands, and situations we meet.
There are so many ways to go wrong; but also so many opportunities for growth.
We may be going well in one area of our lives, not so well in another one.
We need to maintain an intensity of commitment, not giving way to discouragement.
Whenever we need encouragement we go back to the basics such as in today’s Gospel.
We recall God's power to do anything.
We recall His willingness to engage with us; indeed it is all for us in the first place.
Note that Peter requested Our Lord to leave, but He did not leave. Nor does He leave us.
He is prepared to stay, and work on the sinners! He hopes that each sinner can be turned into a saint. This was the whole idea of His coming in the first place.
We are continuously converted towards Him, growing in holiness; thus being more likely to draw others into the Church – fishers of men.
Thursday, 29 June 2017
3rd Sunday after Pentecost 25.6.17 Mercy
The mercy of God is our foundation and security. We do not like having to ask for mercy all the time, but still we are glad it is there – like a safety net for the trapeze artists.
Even if we fall many times, He will forgive us ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18,22).
It is amazing that He perseveres with us. But this is His Sacred Heart, which burns like a furnace with love for man.
Or the Good Shepherd, who goes out to seek even one lost sheep, when others might write off the loss.
We are grateful to Our Lord for His mercy, and we resolve, with His grace, to amend our lives as needed.
We want also to make positive contributions as part of our atonement - to help save others, which we know is His great desire.
We must want what He wants, that other sheep be saved. The ninety-nine sheep should be rejoicing when the lost sheep returns. As should the older brother have rejoiced in the return of the Prodigal Son (Lk 15, 25-30).
The Sacred Heart burns with love for mankind. When it comes to us, it can be that the only ‘burning’ is that of anger against those who have offended us!
We know we are supposed to forgive others, but we can be very grudging on that point.
Not many would have a burning love for their neighbour, especially the neighbour who has offended us - but that is just where God is different. This is one of His mysteries, and one that really hits home to us, because we find it so difficult.
God is infinitely merciful, but we can be more interested in the claims of justice than mercy. We feel acutely any wrong others do to us, and we share the general rage against wrongdoers – murderers, terrorists, thieves, rapists etc.
God goes so much further and deeper than we do. We need to let more of His way sink in, and it will change us for the good.
We have just been asking (at Pentecost) the Holy Spirit to inflame our hearts. This is part of the process – that our hearts be inflamed with the merciful love of God, giving us a desire to forgive others.
It is easier to understand at the physical level. We are glad to help someone who is in some physical difficulty – trapped in a fire, fallen in the river etc. At such times a common humanity comes in, and we feel compassion for the one in need. We do not stop to consider: is this a good or a bad person? We simply want to help.
We just need to stretch that compassion to the moral sphere as well. We feel sorry for the sinner; sorry that he has taken whatever wrong turnings to get to where he is; anxious to help him back to the right path.
Seen in this light we have goodwill, after all, even for bad people, even those who offend us. We just want to rescue the one in need.
We draw warmth from the Sacred Heart. Only He can open our hearts to the sort of charity to which He calls us. We are capable of it, because that is how we will be in Heaven. In Heaven no one ever has an uncharitable thought. We will be delighted to see our worst enemy there with us.
If that sounds unlikely just yet, it means we are not ready for Heaven. That is what Purgatory is for, to purify us of all wrong ways of thinking. We can begin the process in this life.
We are made in God's image; and through the sacraments we share His inner life. We cannot keep attitudes which are alien to Him, and still expect to live with Him.
We look for the good in people; we want to see them restored by God's mercy.
Meanwhile He wants it far more than we ever could. And we have to be grateful for that.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us.
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!