Thursday, 2 February 2023

4th Sunday after Epiphany 29 Jan 2023 Sermon

4th Sunday after Epiphany 29 January 2023 God is close

The apostles did not seem to do much wrong here, insofar as they were in trouble [storm at sea] and they asked for divine help to escape that trouble.

We do this ourselves, every day probably.

Our Lord did not mind that they asked. He wants us to ask for things that we need : Ask and you shall receive (Mt 7,7); and many other places, eg 1 Jn 3,22; Mk 11,24.

The problem in this case seems to be that they were asking without faith, letting their fear override their confidence in Our Lord. They had already seen countless miracles so why doubt this one?

Would Our Lord have let the boat sink, and everyone drowns? Not likely.

They thought He had forgotten them, which is what most of the human race thinks when it comes to God.

But it can never be so, that He would forget us… I have carved you on the palm of my hand (Is 49,15-16).

He may not tell us everything; He may leave us some things to dwell on; but He will never ignore one who calls upon Him.

In our sinful state, God will appear even more mysterious because sin clouds the mind. But as far as remoteness goes, it is we who are remote if anyone is.

Today let us consider the ways in which God makes Himself close to us, and how He encourages us to call upon His help.

He is present to us first of all in the Eucharist, the equivalent of having Him stand next to us, or even dwell within us. It is His strongest mode of presence to His disciples.

Then there is His word which gives life, sustaining us in all our troubles.

Then He is present through His general influence on us, helping us to have the right thoughts, desires, attitudes etc, whereby we become better and stronger people.

This influence is what we call grace; it can come through prayer, sacraments and good works, and will enable us to deal with crises (like sinking boats) with faith and not fear.

We want to feel His presence as strongly as we can, so we make use of whatever method of reaching Him that presents itself.

We have as much possession of Him as the apostles had. But we must be prepared to search a little.

It does depend a lot on attitude of each person.

Two people could both pray, or receive Holy Communion, or do a charitable act, yet one will benefit more than the other because he has a better attitude.

The attitudes required: humility, charity, trust, genuine sorrow for sin etc

The more of these things we have the more we are talking Our Lord’s language, and the closer He will seem to us.

Another element is that of suffering. To be really close to Our Lord we share in His sufferings. We do not ask only for an easy ride, though it is always possible to ask for relief from suffering.

However, as we come closer to the Lord we develop the ability to suffer with Him, a suffering which is one of the demands of charity.

He will make Himself known to us in the midst of our sufferings. He will not abandon us, no matter how great the adversity seems.

The Apostles went through other tests and generally failed, at least until the time of the Cross and Resurrection. Then they reached a new level of union with Our Lord and never again thought He had abandoned them.

We are each out there somewhere, straggling along the highway. Let us take this opportunity to call on the Lord for help, not in panic but in trust.

Friday, 27 January 2023

3rd Sunday after Epiphany 22 January 2023 Sermon

 3rd Sunday after Epiphany 22.1 Jan 2023 Hot coals

There is a saying: Don't get mad get even. For Christians neither will do. Don’t get mad or even – leave vengeance to the Lord.

In the epistle today: Do not repay injury with injury. Vengeance is Mine, says the Lord.

Our first reaction on being offended is to be like a vigilante committee, taking our own revenge. We are impatient to see those who hurt us suffer in some way.

On further reflection: we leave it to the Lord, as He says.

Even if we do leave it to the Lord we should still not delight in the prospect of their suffering.

I should not be pleased if my enemy is to suffer. What I should want is his conversion; that he be turned from enemy to friend.

As the Lord Himself says: He does not desire the death of the wicked man; rather that he turn from his evil way and live (Ezekiel 33,11). We must follow the same line. We want our enemies to know the love of God and be transformed.

It is easy in a general way to say I would not wish anyone in hell; or that I forgive everyone who has ever offended me. But when we recall particular people and offences the sense of resentment can return very strongly, even from many years ago. So we realize there is more healing needed.

We have to shift to a Christ-like way of thinking; enter the depths of the Sacred Heart. We are touching the edges of divine love here, getting to an intensity of love far beyond the usual understanding.

Human love tends to be limited. Thus we love those who love us or who have been good to us. God, however, loves those who are evil and have done evil to Him.

Christ wanted His enemies to be His friends, even those who crucified Him.

We draw fire from His heart, a capacity to love far beyond what we have known. It is a completely different way of looking at things.

Can we do this? Is it possible? With grace, yes.

We are already doing this to some degree, for example, during Mass and in some of our prayers - Our Father: as we forgive those who trespass against us; and the Hail Mary: pray for us sinners... We have to say those words if we are to pray the prayer, and if we say the words we have to mean them.

And the whole of the Mass is about praying for the salvation of others as well as oneself. His blood is shed for many... Have mercy on us (not just me).

We let these powerful words and rituals take us to a higher level. We can do whatever God can do insofar as we are joined to Him. The new way of looking at things becomes natural to us in the process.

In any case no one can get into heaven who has not been through this. Every trace of malice or resentment has to be burnt out of the system.

This is where the hot coals of the epistle come in. Those who offend us will have to go through a certain amount of pain even if they are converted. True contrition does mean pain, as we come to an awareness of the evil we have done. It hurts to think back on these things, and those who have offended us will have to suffer that much pain. But the sweetness of being forgiven is far greater.

We all need forgiving; we always need mercy from God and sometimes from other people. Let us not begrudge it to anyone who needs it from us.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

2nd Sunday after Epiphany 15 Jan 2023 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Epiphany 15 January 2023 Cana

The abundance of Our Lord’s miracles show God’s desire to bless more than we expect.

So much wine and so good, more than needed. It reminds us of the loaves and fishes, where there were twelve baskets left over.

Dare to ask is one lesson. God will not grow tired of our asking; He might teach us how to ask more effectively, but as to the asking itself He wants us to have an ongoing trust in Him.

He wants us to love Him more than anything He can give us.

In Heaven it is our love for God which will be our greatest source of happiness, not the abundance of food and drink, or other pleasures.

We might envisage Heaven as a place where all our needs are met, but our needs go beyond pleasure. Our greatest need, though we may not know it, is to be united with God, to share in His divinity, as He has shared in our humanity.

This sharing in God’s nature will mean that we have the same objectives as He has. God wants to save sinners, to bring as many people as possible to union with Himself.

And this union is an active conscious union, culminating in being able to share in His sacrifice, to give of oneself for others.

When we are sufficiently united with Him in faith hope and charity we do not cling to this life but are prepared to go to the fullest extent that God would ask of us.

This is not something we would have thought of at first, but we can grow into the role. God consecrates us through Baptism and the Eucharist to be united with Him.

When we receive Holy Communion each time there is a question implied. Would you follow Me to Calvary? Our acceptance of His Body and Blood is an implied answer that we are putting ourselves in His hands to make of us what He will.

If we are not ready today or tomorrow we will be at some future point.

What to ask for if we pray? Yes, we can still pray for the temporal needs, like having enough money to pay the bills, but we do not stop with those needs, going further into the heart of the matter.

When we ask for things we are asking in a higher realm than self-satisfaction.

Everyone is hiding, trying to avoid sacrifices, but we are given vision and capabilities beyond what we knew before.

This explains why we do not get everything we ask for because God interprets our prayer in terms of what is best for us, going into the future.

They have no wine… it is enough to say this. God knows what we need before we ask Him, but He wants us to ask for it so that we can interact with Him.

We do not seek to change God’s will so much as to bring ourselves into line with it.

This is hard if we are really emotionally invested in a certain outcome, but we come to see that God always knows best.

God knows that we don’t know what to ask sometimes. He asks us to trust in Him to bring about the best possible result.

We can also make professions of trust in Him in a general way, apart from any particular crisis, but just to deepen our relationship with Him.

It is only sin that makes it so hard as it has become. Once we are fully reconciled with God, it all falls into place. 

Thursday, 12 January 2023

The Holy Family 8 Jan 2023 Sermon

Feast of Holy Family 8 January 2023 The epistle calls us to live in mercy, goodwill, humility, modesty and patience,  bearing with one another, forgiving one another (Col 3,12-17)  . 

This might sound easy, but how many actually do it?  All these words could be summarized under the one word Charity – the bond of perfection.

We need to be reminded of the place of charity especially in the family setting, and parish setting, or any other form of community.

These requirements can be very challenging for Christian life. These are mostly lesser sins, but somehow harder to avoid. It is easy not to rob a bank, but can we get through a day or a week without some nasty remark, or unkind thought?

With a little effort on our part, and calling on the infinite charity of God Himself , we could greatly reduce these sins against the community.

It is not in our own strength that we have to do these things; we are carried by the grace of God. It is not just that God inspires us to better things, but actually gives us the power to do and to be whatever is required.

Our unity is grounded in faith and charity. We believe the same things, and those beliefs translate into our behaviour.

Through prayer, sacraments and good works, we will gain insight into God's way of seeing things, and be moved by that.

The saints show us the way, and no more so than today’s Holy Family. How much charity was to be found there?

Today’s Gospel reveals some of Our Lady’s suffering as she was put through a test of trust, and a chance to grow in that trust. God would not want to see her suffer, but she would gain from this experience.

She came to new depths of love for her Son, realising more fully how important He was, for herself and the whole human race.

God stretches our faith sometimes -  at which times He asks us to trust that the shadows will turn to sunlight again. We thank God for each experience of His providence, although we might still doubt the next time.

Eventually, we will drive out the doubts and the fears.

All this can come from talking kindly to each other! It may not look like an obvious connection, but the basic charity between us will enable the grace of God to act more powerfully upon us, and this will mean more trust, more faith for the next time.

We are at the beginning of the way back. Family life needs a lot of healing, particularly in current times when almost every aspect of traditional morality is defied.

God was in no apparent hurry to begin His public ministry. He gives us the Holy Family to absorb us into a longer-term view of His salvation. Salvation is not always today or tomorrow. It can take years to come to full fruit.

Remember, patience was one of those qualities we need.

Our Lady found her Son, and ever since has been helping people to do the same.

To find Him and to find His commands come to the same thing. We no longer need to be told what we must do; it will be obvious once we spend enough time in His company.

Did the disciples fight with each other on Easter Morning or Pentecost morning? Of course not, but why not? because they had better things to do.

Charity was just about automatic by that stage, as they were all consumed with the same objectives. So it can be for us.



Thursday, 5 January 2023

Octave Day of Christmas 1 Jan 2023 Sermon

Octave Day of Christmas 1 January 2023

We pause on New Years Day to think on the passing of time, how quickly it goes and for that matter how fast several years together can go.

From a Christin point of view two things are clear: that time is a gift from God in which we can learn to know, love and serve Him with all our hearts and minds for as long as He lets us do that.

Secondly, that God gives us time to convert all sinners (starting with ourselves).

Not everyone wants to convert, but many will do so, and we need time for that to happen.

Because we have day and night, and seasons of the year, we could conclude that time is circular, and this could give us a sense of resignation that it will go on forever. This view encourages a more relaxed approach – there is no urgency to do anything, least of all repent! There is no judgment or accountability under this view. Time is impersonal and has nothing in particular to teach us.

For Christians, however, there is a real urgency about our handling of time.

Our view is linear not circular. We have a sense of purpose; we are on a mission to do God's will.

Our purpose in a word: to reach personal holiness, and to bring the kingdom of Heaven to the earth.

We do not just drift – we press! Many things we do not understand fully, but we keep on that straight line.

We go from birth to death, and then eternity. The earth will not always be like this.

We do not have all day! We never know when something dramatic is going to happen.

Our view of time is highly personal, insofar as we believe every person is created by God, and He takes an intense interest in each person.

We may be just a grain of sand in terms of our relative size to the rest of the universe, but we are loved by God and called to take our part in His plans.

This is one of our remarkable beliefs - that every person does matter.

We pass through this life, and can be forgotten (by most) but not by Him.

We have only one life (we do not come back as someone else!), and it may be a short one (in earthly terms).

We want to get it right for the Master, as soon as possible, and as intense in our commitment as possible. We are the faithful servants who will be found at their work when the Master calls Time. (Mt 24,46)

Those he finds working will be the branches to His vine, and they will continue to bear fruit. (Jn 15,5)

New Years Day gives us a reference point. We can repent any time of year, and make resolutions any time, but New Year has a certain pulling power on us, and gives us one more reminder.

Although we must keep a tone of urgency in our service of God, we will not always be doing anything spectacular. Much of what God asks of us is patient fidelity, humility, and service, and related qualities.

We can be a quiet presence, like a seed becoming a tree.

We offer every prayer, good intention, and suffering, and pray that it can be used for God's overall plan.

The saints exhort us to give the most we have. The way of the world is to slacken off and just live for the moment.

The circular view of time is that nothing is worth too much effort. We say, no, we can apply God's grace and bring about necessary change.

We accept God's wisdom to bring everything around to where it needs to be.

Soon enough there will be no more time as we know it now. Only Eternity.

Friday, 30 December 2022

Christmas Day 2022 Sermon

Christmas Day 2022 Salvation

Salvation means the reversal of whatever is wrong and making it right.

The blind see, the lame walk, the evil repent. Even nature can turn from arid to fertile, hostile to friendly.

The moral sphere is the most important - sinners become saints.

But the saving work of God can be seen at all levels. Whatever the problem He will bring us closer to Himself, the source of all goodness and right order.

Everything from finding a lost object to the salvation of souls, God has it in His nature to heal, to bless, to restore.

He heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds.(Ps 147, 3)

He casts down the mighty from their thrones, and raises the lowly (Lk 1,52)

I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh (Ez 36,26)

Salvation goes on all year. At Christmas we focus a little more as we contemplate the Crib scene and the peace and order which emanate from there.

Christmas is partly celebrating what we already have in the way of salvation, and partly praying for what still needs to happen. The world is still sadly short of where it could be in receiving the Saviour in its midst.

Those who have faith cannot rest out of complacency or despair.

Complacency is thinking all the necessary work is done; there is nothing left for us to worry about.

Despair is thinking that we are beyond salvation; there is no way out of here for the human race.

We keep pressing on, to bring the knowledge of Christ to all of creation.

Many do not know where to look for salvation. There are many false turnings and dead ends. Only in Jesus Christ can salvation be achieved.

We cannot do this without Him. With Him, however, we can do much, and we must do that which falls to us.

Salvation is God's initiative, but does need our responsiveness. It is a gift that must be opened,

Mercy is not forced on us, but is there as long as there is daylight left to us.

We seek by our prayer, good works, good example, to bring others to where they can be healed of whatever ails them; whatever is out of place to its proper place.

The Church at the human level does not always give the best example, but it is Christ we proclaim, not ourselves.

If He is sought after then there will be abundant blessings in all directions.

For whatever reason we might not ask, but if we would persevere there would be a flood of grace and mercy.

We call down mercy first of all; then a change of heart for each person; then that those who do experience God's mercy will be willing to make Him known to others.

Those He touches will be his disciples. We can assume that all those people Jesus healed would have lived better lives as a result.

We still pray for other things of moment, such as protection from fire and flood, and a hundred other evils.

And peace on earth, the weapons to be used for peaceful purposes (swords into ploughshares).

The Crib scene strikes us with its peaceful appearance. Everyone in that scene was striking the right note. There was no ego, no competitiveness; only goodwill to all.

This is how we are invited to respond. Bury our grudges and our pride; put away the desire for revenge, the quest for earthly riches and recognition.

We empty ourselves to be refilled with something better.

In a word, salvation changes us for the better, and so for all who seek it.



Thursday, 22 December 2022

4th Sunday of Advent 18 Dec 2022 Sermon

 4th Sunday of Advent 18 December 2022 Incarnation

 And the word was made flesh…. And dwelt amongst us.

 And became man.

 These phrases are familiar to us, perhaps too familiar insofar as we could take them for granted, without appreciating their massive importance.

 As often as we say those words we must never allow ourselves to forget the enormity that they contain.

 Given who God is, and who we are, we can say with the psalm, what is man that you should make so much of him…You have made him little less than the angels. (Ps 8,4-5).

 It is one thing that God would even  create us, when He had no need of us. God is perfectly happy within Himself.

 We understand that He wants to share His glory with us. Like a rich man opening up the grounds to the peasants and then feeding them. He takes pleasure in their pleasure.

 But rich men are not likely to want to become poor; they give from their excess. It does not bother them much because they still have so much left over.

And the rich are even less likely to take on the punishment due to the sins of others.

This is what God the Son did, when He came down from Heaven.

He did not have to come at all. If He did come he did not have to become man; He could have simply acted out of His divinity, and pardoned us without actually dying in our place.

It seems that God must love us a great deal to put Himself to such trouble.

Many are scandalized by the assertion that God would do this, and they therefore deny the divinity of Christ. They will say he was a good man, but no more.

However, God can do as He decides, and it is not necessary or helpful for us to dispute His actions.

He became Man without ceasing to be God. He has from the moment of His conception been both God and Man, and this is a fundamental belief to being a Christian.

By becoming Man He upgrades human nature, purifying it and raising it to a higher standard.

As Man He can do all the things which we were meant to do, but cannot unless we are freed from our sins.

For example, As Man He can love God with perfection of heart and mind. He can love neighbour without the usual restraints we would put on that obligation.

He understands the mind of God much more clearly than we would otherwise be able to do.

He can draw down the power of God to intervene in human affairs, eg working miracles.

He has restored human nature to the favour it had before the sin of Adam

He can claim a place in Heaven which was always God's desire that we could share.

He has perfect control over His human will, which is always in perfect union with the Father, whereas we struggle to keep our will on course.

He gives us a focal point as we come out of this struggle. Submit our wills to His and we have great peace.

All this is what He did and why He did it. At Christmas we celebrate that His coming to birth in humble circumstances was a major step along the way of our restoration to God's favour.

Christmas gives us great hope, and at the same time a lesson in humility. If we are to share in the new humanity of Christ we must imitate His humility.

We see ourselves as life-long disciples, with so much to learn. We take every chance to draw from the humanity of Christ and so share in His divinity.