Thursday, 25 May 2017

5th Sunday after Easter 21 May 2017 Sermon

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 May 2017 Sermon

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 May 2017 Sermon

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 Apr 2017 Sermon

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!