Monday, September 25, 2006

Sermon for 16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.06

16th Sunday after Pentecost 24.9.06 Pride

The sin of pride is said to be at the root of all others, and therefore the worst of sins. It is of all the sins the most obvious denial of God, of His existence, His reality, His importance.

The first sin ever committed was the sin of pride. Not the Original Sin - the one before that - the sin of Lucifer and the fallen angels.

They were creatures of great beauty, but they could not accept their creaturely status. They wanted to be gods to themselves. So they rebelled against the true God and have been suffering ever since.

The crucial issue is: can we accept that we are created beings, created by one greater than ourselves? Or must we think that we just came into existence on our own merit, by evolution or some other process?

The fallen angels were right about one thing: they were beautiful. God had made them so.

Part of their beautiful condition was that they had the gift of free will. They had that extra capacity to decide for or against God.

This is a gift from God, which offers extra dignity to those who receive it. God makes many things which are beautiful, like stars, planets, trees, rivers, animals… but these do not have any freedom to decide for or against Him. They must do simply what their role in nature is.

We have this extra quality. (Sometimes we wish we did not, so difficult is it to handle).

If we do decide for God it makes our glory greater and gives greater delight to Him.

If we decide against it makes us wretched and grieves Almighty God.

If we do a bit of both (which is what does happen) then we are in a confused state of hope and anguish (which is what we are).

In the Gospel today Our Lord calls us to be humble, to take the lowest place and let Him invite us higher.

Taking the lowest place means not asserting ourselves against Him. Not demanding, not complaining, not disputing – simply accepting and trusting whatever He deals us.

We have just enough intelligence and understanding to be dangerous. We are tempted to use our little bit of knowledge to challenge the infinite knowledge of God.

The stars and the trees have more sense than that. They do not argue.

But we are glad we have this knowledge and we give thanks to God for sharing His wisdom with us.

We just need a little extra wisdom so we will not get carried away with our own importance.

If we can get this right, stay humble, He will exalt us higher still.

Heaven is for those who can remember they are created beings, that they exist only because God keeps them in being; for those who have enough sense not to bite the hand that feeds them, or cut the rope to which they are clinging.

Hell is for the rest, for those who follow Lucifer’s example and want to argue the impossible, who are carried away by their own reflection in the mirror and say they also are gods.

This life and this world have become very tangled because of repeated sins of pride. God has allowed a great confusion to come upon the human race as part of our punishment. There is a way out of this confusion, and it is simple: Repent of your pride, and return to the bottom place at the table, and from there await further instructions!

May the Lord guide us all back to the simple obedience that He receives from the good angels and the rest of creation.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pilgrimage Picnic in Adelaide

A Christus Rex Pilgrimage information picnic is being held on October 15 at Holy Name Church.

For more info, please visit:

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sermon for 15th Sunday after Pentecost 17.9.06

15th Sunday after Pentecost 17.9.06 Avoiding the death of mortal sin

Queen Blanche of Castile told her son, the future St. Louis IX of France (13th century), that she would rather see him dead at her feet than that he would commit one mortal sin.

A strange thing for a mother to say? Perhaps there are not many mothers who would be capable of making the same statement.

Yet it makes perfect sense, once we look at it in the light of truth.

Physical death is not such a disaster if the person dies in a state of grace. It becomes just a passageway to eternal life.

But mortal sin is the end of everything; it kills the life of the soul, the very centre of the person, and leads to eternal death.

Queen Blanche just saw this more clearly than most people do; so matter of factly passed this on to her son.

Today people put everything on physical health. If a baby is to be born, they will say: I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl as long as it’s healthy.

Ever new regulations come out about physical safety, as more and more signs appear telling us where the exits are, where the assembly points are.

But where are the signs to say: Do not commit a mortal sin. Do not offend the living God. Do not destroy your soul.

When Our Lord restored the son of the widow to life, He was relieving that woman’s grief, but also giving us a symbol of His power over life and death.

He does not normally raise dead people back to life, not to this earthly life at least, but does often raise people back to life spiritually.

Every time He forgives sin He is raising back to life. We should rejoice in sin forgiven even more than we would rejoice if someone came back from the grave.

But we should also learn from the lesson, that sin is a deadly thing, to be avoided in future.

So let us say with Queen Blanche that it is better to die than to sin.

We can understand this as a concept, but how can it be so real to us that we would actually think this way?

We need help with our motivation. It is one thing to know the commandments and understand what they mean.

But to have such a revulsion for sin that we would rather die instead: this is something more.

For this we need the grace of God, to give us that extra motivation.

Here also the saints can help us. They could see clearly the personal dimension of sin, that it was not just breaking a rule, but actually wounding Christ in His crucified body, and also doing great damage to one’s own soul.

Imagine you are a bystander on the way to Calvary and Our Lord stumbles at your feet. Would you strike Him another blow, jeer at Him? Of course not. You would want to comfort Him.

Well, when faced with a chance to do good or evil, if we choose evil we are striking Him one more time, one more lash or nail for His flesh.

Think of it in such personal terms. Our sin is wounding another person, namely Jesus Christ - and we become less inclined to commit that sin.

Think of harming your own body, and you recoil from that. Well, if you sin you are doing worse.

We just need to be able to see this, to feel it. It is the truth but it is obscured from us because we are too much body and not enough spirit.

May the Lord Himself give us the grace to perceive what is really happening when we sin, and so help us stay alive in the soul. May Mary, in her Seven Sorrows, give us her vision of sin and holiness and we will never stray again.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sermon for 14th Sunday after Pentecost 10.9.06

14th Sunday after Pentecost 10.9.06 Seek first the Kingdom

People often ask Almighty God for certain things. Please do this, grant that, prevent something else.

Then we find that the prayer is not always granted as we had hoped. At which point many become discouraged and lose their faith in God – either He does not exist, or He does not care, they conclude.

The Gospel today (about the birds in the air and the lilies in the field) encourages us to trust in God for every need. Why worry, Our Lord asks, when it is plain that your Father is looking after you?

He encourages us to ask for what we need, but He also gives a vital clue. To get everything we need we have to seek first the kingdom of God.

This is an essential step which is often overlooked. Many just charge in and start asking for things.

As we learn from other areas of life: when faced with a puzzle or problem we have to get to the root of the problem to solve it.

If you are struggling to turn a key in a lock, for instance. It could be the wrong key, so you could be turning all night, but the door will not open. Sometimes things unravel suddenly and with great simplicity. Ever tried to untangle a knotted cord, and it seems hopeless, then suddenly it all falls open for you?

If we get the crucial knot, the key point of the problem the rest is easy. All of life is like that, including the spiritual life.

The key point is: if we want something from God we must give Him first place in our lives. This is what seeking the Kingdom means.

We may not want to do that, but unless we do, our prayers of request will bounce back unanswered.

Thy will be done, Thy kingdom come… We say it a million times; now we have to mean it.

We really have to make that act of trust that God knows what is best for us.

We then ask simply that He put into effect whatever He wills. Sometimes it will be the same as we want; sometimes different; but always the best thing.

His will is not something to be feared. Go back to the lilies of the field. God’s will is essentially simple and straightforward. He likes to bless His creatures to the fullest possible extent.

The only complication is that sometimes to give us a greater blessing He has to withhold a lesser one.

So, for example, He might withhold a physical cure for the sake of purifying us spiritually. Or He might prevent us from getting a particular job because He knows there is something better coming down the line.

Always He is seeing and working for what is best for us.

So when we give up praying in vexation we are both insulting Him and frustrating the solutions He is working out for us.

It’s no use trying any other remedy. Like the man who had lost his wallet outside but was looking for it inside because the light was better! He was never going to find it. We can turn the wrong key in the lock all night but we we will not get in.

So: we can be asking for the wrong thing – eg to be rich without any work - blank response.
We can be asking for the right thing but in the wrong way – eg world peace but without any effort to amend our own anger – blank response.
We can be asking for the right thing and in the right way – and still not get through, because other people are blocking the result eg conversion of a sinner, and the sinner does not want to know.

We have to keep praying – just fine tune these various points – and results will come.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Sermon for 13th Sunday after Pentecost 3.9.06

13th Sunday after Pentecost 3.9.06 Giving thanks

There is a story of a man who was on his deathbed, and when prompted to ask God’s forgiveness. The man snapped, ‘God! What did I ever do to Him?’

The man was suffering from self-pity and bitterness. In his mind it was God who should be apologizing to him. It was God who had allowed this sickness and was depriving the man of life.

Many have a similar attitude to Almighty God. They focus on the negative in their lives, and think of God in terms of blame. Why does God allow this or that to happen? Why did He not prevent it?

This is the beginning of hell. The whole essence of hell is ingratitude. A permanent grudge against God, for getting it wrong, for doing it wrong. I never asked to be created; I don’t like the world I am in; I should have better treatment etc etc etc.

In hell are the bitter. And the indifferent. People who could not care less. The sort of people who don’t see any need for ‘going to church’. Has God saved me? I didn’t know I needed saving. These people are in the beginning of hell, the place for the ungrateful, the unheeding, the couldn’t-care-lessers.

When all the time we should be in awe at how good God is to us and how lucky we are to be alive. The story of the ten lepers calls us to a true evaluation of our good fortune.

Knowing we need saving is the key. The nine lepers were closed to anything beyond their physical condition. The one leper knew beyond his physical healing. His gratitude opened up his soul to the deeper question of his whole relationship with God. So the nine stayed at the physical (non-spiritual) state, the beginning of hell. And the one leper was on his way to heaven.

Knowing we need saving. Grasping firstly how much trouble we are in because of our sins, and then grasping how lucky we are to be freed from sin and made sharers in the life of grace.

Many people do not grasp either; we must grasp both.

The ‘leprosy’ is the disfigurement of sin; being cleansed is our forgiveness.

It is the difference between heaven and hell, between eternal life filled with joy and gratitude, and eternal death filled with bitterness and indifference.

We are playing for the highest stakes. We need help from heaven to appreciate what we must do.

It is so easy to be buried in just the physical and material world around us. I am grateful for lunch because I am hungry and I can feel the hunger being satisfied. But forgiveness of sin? Not so easy to feel, especially if we have allowed our consciences to be blunted.

We need heavenly aid. We need grace. And we have it – right here in the Mass.

The Mass is amongst other things an act of Thanksgiving. Gratias agamus Domino Deo nostro… Dignum et justum est… Vere dignum et iustum est…

We offer the sacrifice of the Divine Victim in the hope of receiving mercy and salvation. At the same time as we do that we are giving thanks for past mercy received, for future mercy anticipated, and for the whole gracious disposition of God by which He is merciful.

The phrases ‘I can never thank you enough’ or ‘I’m eternally grateful’ take on literal truth in this case. An eternal blessing needs eternal gratitude.

The cherubim, seraphim, powers and virtues, angels and archangels lead us in this great act of thanksgiving.

We may not feel grateful at the personal level but we know we ought to be. No matter, taking part in this act (of the Mass) will make us grateful. We are swept up into a higher world, and we learn to feel at a deeper level.

Ungrateful brats we might have started out, but we are transformed into loving, faithful children. For all eternity.