Thursday, 30 March 2017

4th Sunday of Lent 26 Mar 2017 Sermon

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 Mar 2017 Sermon

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 Mar 2017 Sermon

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 Mar 2017 Sermon

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 Feb 2017 Sermon

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.