Thursday, 29 June 2017

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 25 Jun 2017 Sermon

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

Sacred Heart feast

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.

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 18 Jun 2017 Sermon

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 June 2017 Sermon

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 Jun 2017 Sermon

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 May 2017 Sermon

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).