Thursday, 30 June 2022

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 26 Jun 2022 Sermon

 

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 26 June 2022 Furnace of charity

The Pharisees were complaining that Jesus ate with sinners,  to which He replied with this parable of the Lost Sheep. They had thought that God hated sinners, and loved only the righteous, which was their own approach.

Now they find they are being challenged to a very different view.

Blessed are those who have not seen (Jn 20,29) Our Lord said in another context.

It was not just His appearance that we do not see, but also the workings of His mind and heart, which take us to places we have never been before.

This is particularly so in relation to the question of Mercy. We have not grasped yet the depth of how far Our Lord would go to forgive sinners. He treats His enemies very differently from what we would do.

The more they reject Him the more He pursues them, never overriding their will but influencing them in the right direction.

We might manage to forgive enemies (meaning those who offend us in any way), but are not likely to go looking for them to make sure they are alright! This is what the Shepherd does in this parable. He goes to great lengths to save one sheep - one soul.

We might also find it very difficult not to take pleasure in some misfortune our enemies might suffer.

Meanwhile Our Lord could forgive those who were torturing Him at his passion! Father, they know not what they do (Lk 23,34).

This is a new kind of world, the world that God was bringing when He became incarnate.

He forgives not grudgingly but lavishly.

The angels understand this. There is more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than…  

We are supposed to be glad when someone is forgiven; it is not always the case.

We need some help to get into the right mentality.

It is hard for us to overcome long habits of wrong thinking; hard to get the desires lining up properly.

We borrow on God's immense charity and goodwill and we seek to spread it a little further.

We must not be ungracious like the ‘older brother’ (Lk 15,29-32) or the ‘unforgiving debtor’ (Mt 18,21-35).

That maybe about the level we start at, but we can improve upon it, and really take on the mind of Christ on this matter.

Has this ever caught on? Rejoicing in the forgiveness of enemies? The saints have done it and they show us the way. For example, St Stephen, St Maria Goretti, or Joseph in the Old Testament, and many others.

The key to the matter is that in the economy of God’s kingdom no one has to miss out.

There is enough happiness for all; we do not have to ration it out.

When our hearts and minds are fully free of any lingering malice and resentment towards those who have hurt us, then we will be ready for Heaven ourselves.

We must rise above the normal worldly response which is to hate those who hate us. This is plainly not Christian, tempting though it may be.

We adore Our Lord in His Sacred Heart and we let what is in that heart change what is in ours.

His heart is often likened to a furnace; there is no coldness there. All our sins can be burned away and all our unforgiveness of others too.

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy on us.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, 23 June 2022

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 19 Jun 2022 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 19 June 2022 Sacrifice and Sacrament

Invitation: God invites us to the banquet. At times God commands, and sometimes He invites.

When it is God inviting we can take that as a command. Either it will be good for us if we accept or bad if we refuse.

It is an offer we cannot refuse.

There are many reasons why someone might not respond to the will of God, to accept His offers.

It is so simple in essence. He offers eternal life beginning even here on earth and we disobey, disagree, hide from Him in general.

Caused by sin we want the wrong things and are repelled by the good.

Sacrifice: in this case we are invited to take part in the Mass, which is the Sacrifice of Christ for the sins of the world.

He offers the perfect sacrifice on behalf of us all, obtaining God's forgiveness for us, and disposing us to be more fully contrite each time.

The invitation is to come and see how we are set free from sin, and how we can live in holiness from now on.

He is demonstrating to us how the love of God works, and how we are included.

The more contrite we are for our sins, the more grateful we are for their forgiveness, the more fully we take part in the sacrifice of the Mass, with ourselves being victims with Christ.

He is the perfect offering, and we can go with Him if we choose.

In this sense we are invited to our own ceremony of liberation.

Sacrament: what do we eat at the Banquet?

We eat the Body of Christ, and this food works differently from other meals we have.

To eat the Body of Christ means to be united with Him in His saving activity.

As we are set free from our sins we are transformed within to become people like Christ, to be able to make reparation for our sins, to bring the perfect will of God into operation at our level.

We grow in our capacity to love, which means also the capacity to suffer for that love, to lay down our lives for others.

This also will depend on how fully we engage ourselves with the process.

It is possible to be at a Mass but not be personally committed.

It is also possible to be vitally interested in all that happens and willing those things to take full effect.

This we hope is our attitude as we gather here right now.

We accept God's invitation, we offer with Christ the perfect sacrifice, we receive as food the full effects of our salvation and sanctification.

We are brought in from the cold, we are welcomed by the Master of the feast, and then enabled to be like that Master, as disciples always should want to be.

Sadly so few understand all this, relative to the world’s population.

People refuse the invitation because they think they have better things to do. I am busy with my work or my house or my life or whatever. I have no time to be set free from sin and have my whole life put back on track! I have no time to thank God for creating me and then persevering in love even in the face of my sin.

Instead He has put in place a way of saving any sinner if only there is a spark of response.

Some are very weak as a result of being so far away for so long. God knows how to nurse those who are not ready yet for full sacrifice.

He knows how much He can ask of each person. He will not tax anyone beyond his strength, but He will make us all stronger over time.

We had better accept that invitation!

 

 

Thursday, 16 June 2022

Trinity Sunday 12 Jun 2022 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 12 June 2022 Infinite and Eternal

A question that often arises is Who made God? If anyone made God that being would be God.

God is the beginning of all other things, but He himself had no beginning. He exists outside of time; He created time.

Time is very important to us in trying to understand reality, but not all reality fits inside the time viewpoint.

We might think of eternity as a very long time, but more accurately it is no time, no change.

[It could be seen as comparable to how one could write a story and put whatever time frame on it, plus other circumstances. I could make my characters in any place or time etc. It would be my universe, and nothing that happened in the story could affect me in my real life]

God does allow people to override His will in limited degrees, but nothing can be forced from Him. He cannot be harmed in any way by humans or demons. It is His universe but He is separate from it. He does allow Himself to feel some of our pain, but again, that is only because He allows it.

He gives us a chance to share in his glory. We have a choice whether we accept His terms or try to do better for ourselves.

We need not fear Him insofar as He is benevolent. He is powerful but means well to us. unlike the demons and many people.

We try to understand God from our very limited perspective and we fall short. If we see it from His side it is easier to understand. He has it all in view at all times. He understands everything.

He is in complete control. He relaxes that control in certain circumstances but He always has power to take it up again (cf Christ, I have power to lay down My life and to take it up again (Jn 10, 18))

God shares His being with lesser creatures, without losing anything of His own being.

He could obliterate the whole creation if he wanted. Or He could make a thousand universes 

It should not bother us too much if we cannot understand some aspect of God's nature or actions. We can be sure that He understands, and that is enough.

God knows everything of what happens, of every detail. He would know how many grains of sand there are, for instance, because He put them there.

We cannot possess reality like that. We forget, get confused etc.. partly because our nature is limited in what it can do, and partly because of sin, which dulls our perception.

We would know a lot more if we had never sinned; we find our way back through repentance. We give God whatever response He asks from us. We hope this pleases Him, and that it will put us in a better state. The more we can interact with God the more we will receive His blessings. His pure and perfect life will continually enrich our lives.

Today we honour Almighty God as being the Blessed Trinity, where the three Persons live in perpetual and perfect love of each other.

As it is in the nature of love to be shared, so the Blessed Trinity invites us to share in their inner life.

God has no need of our company, but chooses to share what He has with us. It is like someone at a banquet who has every good thing available, and seeing a freezing beggar offers to bring him into the banquet. This is what God does for us.

In the end, whatever our level of understanding, we accept God as He is, in all His ways of revealing Himself to us. We accept a share in His life and thus we are saved. All glory to the Blessed Trinity!

Thursday, 9 June 2022

Pentecost Sunday 5 Jun 2022 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 5 June 2022 Zeal 

See how joyfully and powerfully the Church was launched on the world.

Somehow we have lost something along the way, with the rate of conversions slowing and the loss of so many who did believe but do not now. We have lost our spark, our zeal.

In the glory days just after Pentecost Peter and John were told not to preach about Jesus but they replied that they must obey God not man (Ac 5,29).

The word of God cannot be chained (2 Tm 2,8-10). The faith is explosive; it must come out.

Each year the feast recurs and we can review our position.

They say you have to work on a marriage; well the same applies to the faith. We have to make sure we are on the right path, and staying there.

It is all there for us - the Holy Spirit, Our Lady, the Gospel – none of it has gone asway but we have to dig for treasure usually, and certainly in  matters of faith we have to go deeper if we want to make progress. If we stay only with surface impressions we just get lost in minimalism or tokenism.

Instead of rising to the challenge of true religion people shrink it to a smaller size which they can then handle.

Hence the idea that religion is just being nice to others and not worrying too much about anything else. Or that the Catholic faith requires attendance twice a year, at Easter and Christmas!

Pentecost tells a very different story; it calls for centre stage and full commitment. God Himself calls for our response. He is not distant or impersonal; in fact He is vitally interested in each and every person.

He stands ready to give us a great deal if only we ask for it.

He wants the Church to be full of faith and zeal and all related qualities, especially charity.

So that internally and externally we preach the right thing and we practice what we preach.

We resist the temptation to lower the bar, to make it so easy that no one can see the difference between being a Christian or not.

We must not water down the faith; rather turn the water into wine!

Or we must be like fire, which spreads everywhere and offers light and warmth. This was and is the Church’s mission, without losing intensity.

We have different gifts and different callings. We do not all have to do every single thing, just whatever God has put it in our path, and in our power to do (cf 1 Cor 12,4-11).

Everyone has something to do, and we can all pray.

We pray for those who don’t pray. And when they start praying that will activate others.

Many want to put out this particular fire, or contain it. We must not settle for that.

We may not know how to change hostile opinion but we can at least avoid being drawn into agreement with it.

Seek and you will find (Mt 7,7). And having found then be ready to go where the Spirit leads.

We do not know how it all holds together, but then we don’t need to know, just take our part in the process.

One thing we need that the early apostles did not need so much, is perseverance. They were destined to leave early, but we linger on. A special grace needed for that.

To persevere we simply need to keep referring back to Pentecost and other landmarks in our history (such as the Cross), and starting afresh. We do not feel weary once we have been recharged with heavenly energy.

Think of when your faith was strongest, and reclaim that moment. It is as true now as it was then.

The Holy Spirit will keep us motivated at all times if at all times we are praying to Him.

Come Holy Ghost!

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Sunday after Ascension 29 May 2022 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 29 May 2022 Battle of wills

The Apostles were waiting for something from Heaven; they did not quite know what was coming. We now know it was the Holy Spirit.

Much of our experience in  dealing with the Divine is like that. We do not know what will happen next, but we trust it will be something good, if requested in faith.

We know that God likes to surprise us favourably, and we can fit in with that. We are like children being sent to bed with the promise that there will be presents in the morning!

We do not let the passing of time decrease our faith. There is no reason why it should, but we see that it does affect many people. They just get tired of waiting and stop asking for miracles. We give up too easily, generally.

God wants us to learn trusting submission to His holy will. We want some things so much that we can push against God, seeing Him more as an adversary than a friend. This leads to distortions.

It means we put our trust in certain outcomes rather than in God Himself. God wants certain things, so do I. And mine are more important!

Our Lady and the apostles were praying for the Holy Spirit to come. This coming was not just an external event - something happening outside of ourselves, that we can watch like a spectator.

It was necessary also that they would pray for an interior transformation.

This would be a deep transformation, more than minimal Catholicism. More than Mass on Sundays!

God wants His disciples to be like Himself; that was always the main aim.

The Holy Spirit was the transforming agent, changing from within those who receive Him.

When we have been transformed enough we will prefer God's will to our own. That is a major breakthrough. Not my will, but Thine (Lk 22,42)

We pray to know His will and to embrace it. Whatever He asks of us He will give the necessary grace for us to put it into effect.

Even when we want the same things as God does, His plans would have a lot more depth. He will grant us what we ask but at a deeper level than we were asking.

We don’t know all the complexities of people and situations. There are lots of subtleties that we could not know: for example, that God may be calling a particular person to a particular task.

We are just a small cog in a very large machine. However, as with machines, every part is necessary, and so are we, when God calls us.

We learn what to want, and with real desire. This is what the apostles had to learn .

If we think God is inactive – never! It is human resistance to His will that causes delay to prayers being answered. Imagine how much more smoothly things would run if most people prayed as they did in the Upper Room.

We pray for the Holy Spirit to come on the whole Church. We see how difficult this is if most people are locked in dispute over His holy will. There is much to overcome before the whole process can work as it should.

If we cannot get the whole world right, nor the whole Church, we can work on our own limitations. Come Holy Spirt and transform me, not just someone else, but me too.

God's will might bring us more than we wanted, but once we have had time to absorb it we will see how right it all is.

The more we pray and believe, the more God can achieve in our midst. Let us ask and ask again, Come Holy Spirit!

Thursday, 26 May 2022

5th Sunday after Easter 22 May 2022 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 22 May 2022 Divinity of Christ

At the Last Supper Our Lord is preparing His disciples to carry on what He has started.

He has nearly completed  His mission in coming here. soon He will return to Heaven.

He wants us to understand that He is God, not just some lesser presence.

Many have denied His divinity. Why so much denial? There are various reasons, but they all amount to an attempt to make the truth more palatable, less challenging.

It is easy to believe that God would send someone to do His bidding. But to believe that God Himself would come from Heaven and take on human nature – well, that is more demanding.

It is still true, however. The bolder claim is not false simply because it is bolder.

People generally do not like being under authority, so here again, if Christianity can be reduced to just one among many religions, without having any special authority, then we are free to adopt a more relaxed view of the moral law. We can do what we like, in effect.

The right position -  we say He is both God and Man. That it is a great honour to mankind to have God come and join us.

We know we do not deserve it but we marvel at God's generosity in doing that.

We will not try to deny it or say that it cannot happen.

We welcome His teachings and the discipline that goes with them, because they help us to find the right course and stay on it.

This way we can get all our thoughts and desires into the right place.

Our Lord is appealing to us to have the right idea of Him (Gospel) and this will make the Church a lot stronger.

He knew the wolves would come (Mt 7,15), and the cunning serpents, who would tempt the faithful (cf Mt 4,1-11).

He needed the Church to be strong. He promises to send the Holy Spirit, who will bring that strength.

Again, we are tempted to downplay the scope of salvation by offering excuses. I am not a saint; I cannot be that good; it is too hard.

But His mercy will forgive and empower us to live at a higher level of holiness.

He wants all His disciples to be at top strength, interacting with Him and processing His will revealed through trusted means (Scripture, Tradition, Magisterium).

If we give due prominence to Our Lord’s divinity we will have a stronger sense of obligation that we really need to take Him as seriously as He expects from us, and a stronger sense of the power that we can call upon. It is a life-changing, life-defining realization

The words at the Last Supper are for us now, as for disciples then. Ask in His name and good things will happen (Jn 16,24).

We have not been at top strength but even so a lot of good things have happened.

If we pray seeking to believe, we will receive the faith and it will become clearer.

There will still be mysteries but we will know enough to know which path to take. We develop a more reliable sense of what God wants, always of course keeping within the boundaries of the faith.

The Lord has left us in terms of visible presence. But in so many ways we can still reach Him. Let us take Him as He is, God and Man, and not try to change the truth to suit ourselves.

May the Lord guide and bless His Church in the years ahead. Amen

 

Thursday, 19 May 2022

4th Sunday after Easter 15 May 2022 Sermon

4th Sunday after Easter 15 May 2022 Resistance to grace

Imagine you are on a sinking ship and you fall into the ocean. Most people in that situation would be glad to grab onto a passing plank, or lifeboat. Thus they might be rescued (saved).

This level of salvation is easy to want, but in spiritual terms it seems to be more complicated.

Save my body if I am drowning, but leave my soul out of it! No, the soul is more important than the body. It is worse to sin than to die. We can pray for both but if you had to save one, take the soul.

There are various reasons why people resist the  mercy of God.

There is a very strong sense of individualism in the world today. People are reluctant to follow any particular creed or teaching regarding moral matters. They dispute that anyone or anything can tell them what to do.

They might say they do not need saving, in the spiritual sense. They are going along quite well, in their own estimation. They have no sins that need forgiving, nothing to answer for before God, they say.

It may be simply that they do not want to give up their sins, being enslaved to them.

Or it may be that they want to be set free from sin but cannot imagine how that would be possible. They are lacking in hope.

There are many impeding factors at work. Behind it all is the devil himself. Any way he can confound and confuse he will do so.

Many have responded to the offer of mercy, and for that, Thanks be to God. There is joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. (Lk 15,10)

Some of those people go on to be great ambassadors for God's mercy (eg St Mary Magdalene, St Augustine)

The Church continues in the name of Christ, to cut through all resistance, trying to get to the heart of people, so that they will see the truth and come to full spiritual life. No more argument or dispute but humbly accepting His mercy.

Truth can hurt certainly, but it brings joy once we get through the tentacles of resistance.

The captives break free and are glad of it.  (cf Ps 125 (126))

To be the bearer of good news should be easy but because of all the resistance it tends to be hard, and even dangerous. See how many missionaries have become martyrs.

History shows that instead of repenting it is easier to kill the messenger, cf John the Baptist, or Christ Himself. They tried to keep Him quiet because His message would upset the status quo. Countless other martyrs have had the same experience.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord is explaining that we need to be patient and work with the subtle activity of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will make clear what we need to understand.

There is so much to be discovered about God, and what it means to live in union with Him.

Once ‘pulled from the water’ we then have to live our whole lives on this basis, that our true life is with God, and our true home in Heaven.

We do the best we can, starting from wherever we are now, and growing with God's help into a deeper understanding. We live the truth, proclaim it, and are even prepared to suffer for it.

We want to help save people, not just bodies but souls, where it really counts.

May the Holy Spirit continue to guide everyone to wisdom and holiness of life.