Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sermon for Octave Sunday of Nativity 31.12.06

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 31.12.06 Innocence

One of the features of Christmas is the theme of innocence. The Child, the Mother, St Joseph, the humble shepherds, even the animals, the peaceful scene, plus our own sense of wanting to be better and wanting a better world – all adds up to an admiration for and desire for innocence.

We want to be delivered from evil in all its forms and taste the goodness of the Lord.

Innocence is good in itself because it is a freedom from evil.

Innocence is also very useful because it is a powerful weapon in getting the desired result.

When we pray for things to happen we have much more chance of having our prayer heard if we pray with pure hearts.

For example we cannot sincerely pray for world peace if we have war in our hearts.

Then also when our hearts are pure we are in communion with God and we are close to Him. We do not have to shout our requests across a chasm but can whisper in His ear.

Lile children on their father’s lap (Abba, Father).

So we ask the Lord (and Mary) to give us pure hearts, to take the sin out of our system, so that we can pray with the innocence of children.

Unless you become like little children you cannot enter the kingdom.

Child-like but not childish. The quality of children that we seek is their relative innocence. And their capacity to trust. They just assume that they will be looked after.

So we should trust God in the same way.

When we look at the world in all its complexity we might propose various solutions. More study, more dialogue, more education, more meetings, more troops, more spending…

but none of those could match innocence. Be childlike; be good; trust in your heavenly Father, come to Him with all your needs.

See how we labour to find worldly solutions for worldly problems. We make the problem through our sin, and then we try to relieve the problem through worldly ways. eg education on how not to get Aids.

When all we need is pure innocence to avoid getting into trouble in the first place and then to get out of trouble if we are in it.

Simple to understand, not easy to achieve. How to get to be pure when we have been otherwise.

Ask the Lord to make us so, to cleanse our hearts of malice, envy etc and our minds of worldliness in all its forms.

Need to make frequent and heartfelt Confessions, and serious purpose of amendment.

Humble ourselves before the Crib now and before God all the time.

Wonderfully simple that we can solve all our problems just by acknowledging we can’t solve them!

When we pray like this we are getting in touch with a great power, without obstructing it with needless complication. Not being naïve but very smart. Not neglecting responsibilities but approaching them in right way. Doing what God asks of us, after all.

Abba Father! Call on Him, and the more fervently we do that, the more trustingly, the more He will hear.

Go back to the start, halt at the crossroads, look well what path it was that served you long ago. That path follow…(Jer 6,16)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sermon for Christmas 2006 (Day Mass)

Christmas 2006 Morning Mass. Total salvation

Jesus said to the messengers from John the Baptist: go and tell John what you see and hear – the deaf hear, the dumb speak, the blind have their sight restored etc

Signs of salvation. Are you the one to come? Jesus answers indirectly. Well, what does it look like?

Are these the signs of some ordinary person or does it look to you like salvation has been unleashed?

This was just the beginning. Restoring sight to a blind person is certainly a great thing, but that is just good for one person in one place. Jesus’ full plan was much grander than that.

He came to heal the whole person, going right to the root cause of the problem. And that is not that you can’t see or can’t walk, troublesome as that might be.

The root problem is sin, alienation from God. He came to heal that problem by reconciling us with God.

So that in our wounded humanity we would now be once more filled with the life of grace, would once more share in divine life.

This is a much more valuable healing than having sight restored. After all, if I was blind and then I could see – I would be happy for a while but then would be the same as everyone else – looking for meaning. I can see, but so what?

No, we need to be set right at the very deepest level of our being, and this means to be right with God, to receive His forgiveness and have His life in us.

Knowing who we are, where we are from, and where we are going.

This is a challenging level of healing because it might be further than we want to go.

We might be happy just to have our aches and pains removed and then left to live as before.

The Jews did not want to be saved beyond certain political changes – get rid of the Romans. Otherwise leave things be. Those who crucified Our Lord thought He was asking too much (or offering too much).

Thus it has been in every generation since. Help me, Lord, and then back off, please.

If we recognize Him for what He is, and what He wants, we will then both value His coming AND cooperate with it.

The Last Gospel is the main Gospel in this Mass – brought to a more prominent position.

He came to His own and His own did not receive Him.

They were so busy worrying about their aches and pains they did not see what was being offered to them.

To understand the scope of the salvation which is offered is a necessary part of receiving it. Many sell Christ short in all sorts of ways – just free bread, physical comfort, ticket to heaven, nice non-threatening religion, ethical teacher, another religion to go with all the others… but He is so much more and will never be understood unless given centre stage.

We must see further. We read that Gospel so often to remind ourselves that His own should have received Him.

And just in case we haven’t been receiving Him we can always start now.

If we do receive Him His salvation will take deeper hold in us and gradually extend to the whole world – which was always His plan. (also alluded to in the Last Gospel).

He came for the whole world but still it has not happened.

He needs people like us to receive Him so that progress can be made.

Enjoy your Christmas but don’t reduce it to just a nice day with family and friends. It is the key to the renewal of the whole world. Christmas is about Christ!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Mass times at Holy Name

Christmas Mass times:

Sunday 24th Dec 9.30am
Midnight Mass 12.00am Monday 25th
Mass of the Day 9.30am Monday 25th.
Happy Christmas to all!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sermon for 3rd Sunday of Advent 17.12.06

3rd Sunday of Advent 17.12.06 Getting out of prison

In the Hail Holy Queen we describe ourselves as ‘mourning and weeping in this vale of tears’.
In Psalm 23 we mention that we are walking in a ‘valley of darkness (or death)’.

St Paul describes this earthly life as an exile… we are exiled from our true home at present and we long to throw off this earthly tent. (2 Co 5)

There are other references to the same import. (Hebrews 11,15 hoping to reach our true home) Our true home is in heaven (Ph 3,20)

These are strong images and when we take them together we seem to be getting a message. We notice already that this earthly life is not always a bowl of roses. Now from the above references we can conclude that it is not meant to be a bowl of roses.

In a valley of tears, a valley of death, a land of exile… one can expect to be unhappy, at least to a certain extent.

Today we traditionally express reasons for our joy. We have just established why we are not joyful! In what way can we be joyful in a valley of darkness?

a) because there is a better place
b) and we are coming out of the valley and going towards this better place

Our present condition is temporary; we will not always be suffering like we are now, and we are looking forward to a future of unalloyed bliss.

This perfect happiness will arrive when we leave this state of exile; when we arrive in the place where there is no sadness or darkness, where every tear will be wiped away, our true home.

We are like prisoners chalking off each day on the wall and longing to be set free.

Many people allow themselves to despair in this life. They see the misery around them and their own misery, and they conclude that this is all there is. Some even go as far as killing themselves because they see no other way to escape the misery.

We who have faith, also have hope. We see the misery too but we are not overwhelmed by it. Because we also see the place where misery is no more, and we see there is a way to get there.

Reflecting on the limitations of this life actually will help us to find true joy.

The important thing is not to try to find all our happiness here. It cannot be done, so we should not try.

Many do try to build up an earthly paradise and they do it through money and power and status – and they end up in the grave. The psalms tell us this and they were written 3000 years ago! We can be slow learners.

We pass through this life like flowers, like grass on the roof. We bloom for a day and we are gone.

This could be depressing, but it really is the key to great joy, because we don’t want to stay here, remember. This is a prison. We want to get out of here and get to the place where there is real and permanent happiness.

Naturally, in a prison we try to make things as comfortable as possible. We decorate the cell, we take some recreation. So we live in nice houses and we play sport etc. But this is only peripheral to the main desire to get to freedom.

Our joy is that we are getting out of here soon. We make the best of it while we are here but we do not cling to it, nor to each other, as we wish each other speedy and safe passage to this better place – our true home.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Sermon for 2nd Sunday of Advent 10.12.06

2nd Sunday of Advent 10.12.06 Repentance

What did you go out to see? Our Lord asks the people. This is not just any old prophet. This is someone bringing in a new era, a new state of things.

How much difference is there to being a Christian? What amount of change is required. When John preached repentance how much change was he asking for?
Is repentance a minimal adjustment or a major transformation?

You might think from the way some people talk that the only difference between being a Christian and being anything else is that the Christian goes to church for one hour a week.

The Christian has one hour less golf, or shopping, or dog obedience class but otherwise the two lives are exactly the same.

This is not how it is meant to work.

The Christian is one who is like Christ. Filled with His Spirit, overflowing with good works and transformed in his whole attitude.

It is inconceivable that the Christian could be the same as everyone else when we have received a whole new kind of life.

When it comes to repentance, we cannot just mean mentioning a couple of sins in confession, but otherwise everything is ok.

We are not comparing ourselves with our neighbours but with Christ.

If we are to compare ourselves with others we will come off well and will be able to say truly that we are not so bad.

But we belong to Christ and we draw our light from Him.

When we compare ourselves to Him we have to say we have not been so good at being ‘other Christs’.

So Repentance has to be a clean out of the whole system, and being drawn into the life of Christ.

We can say the same thing in two ways:

Repent, behave yourselves, keep the rules (and all true, too)

Or, Come to the water, receive the abundant love that is being offered to you.

We all would like to receive more love, but may not all want to change our lives.

In fact, though, the receiving of love will move us to change our lives. By that stage we will want to change and it will not be a burden.

Take Scrooge at Christmas. He was so transformed by his dreams that he wanted to be generous.

It was not just that he knew he had to change, but he wanted to. So the change was delightful to him.

Zacchaeus another example. He spontaneously wanted to give back four times as much as he had stolen, so great was his joy at discovering the new life.

Repentance is not a burden but a path to new joy.

but we need help to keep the vision of what is expected and what is possible.

We stop both too soon.

We have little faith and we do not expect God to work miracles.

We have low expectations of our own behaviour so we do not ask for or exercise the grace which enables higher things.

We settle for ‘one hour a week’ or ‘two hours a year’ for those who go only at Easter and Christmas, and call ourselves religious.

The invitation is there for us to break into a new layer of life, to discover the better air the other side of the fog. So we seek a deep and complete repentance. We will not try to minimise our response.

Let the grace of Christ carry us beyond minimalism or technical Christianity. Let Him change us on the inside so that we each become a new person in Christ.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Sermon for First Sunday of Advent 3.12.06

1st Sunday of Advent 3.12.06 Being ready

While praying in front of the tabernacle once, it occurred to me that I felt at peace to be in the Lord’s presence, but that if I were to die suddenly I would be afraid to meet Him face to face.

How could this be: that I would be at the same time at ease and not at ease in His presence?

It must be that I am in some degree of union with God but not yet complete union. There is love but there is also fear. As St John says: Perfect love casts out fear. I do not yet have perfect love for God. So I ask Him to bring me to that state of perfect love for Him.

Supposing I am on an aeroplane and suddenly the plane starts plunging towards the sea below. What would I do? Make an act of contrition; ask the Lord to have mercy on my soul.

If I tell the Lord I am sorry when my plane is plunging into the sea, why not tell Him I am sorry now?

It is fear of punishment that makes me sorry in that case. We want to reach a state of perfect contrition whereby we are sorry anyway, and do not need an emergency to bring on an expression of that sorrow.

So we come to one of the main themes of Advent: that in this season we should seek such a degree of union with God that we are ready to meet Him at any time, whether He comes in the third watch or the second… later or sooner.

That we will be so much at ease in His presence we will not care if we are alive or dead – it is all the same to us, so long as we have Him.

There is always the temptation for us to put off complete repentance till ‘the last minute’.

There is the (false) assumption that we will get more enjoyment out of life if we break a few rules, that sin is ‘the only way to enjoy oneself’.

But the truth, waiting to be discovered, is that the greatest source of enjoyment in this life is to live as closely as possible to God Himself.

To live a life of grace is to experience the full joy of being like a bird in flight, every part of our being working as it should; for the first time a round peg in a round hole.

This explains why the saints were such happy people, when to the world, they appeared to suffer so much, and miss out on so much of earth’s pleasures – but they had the one thing that matters, the pearl of great price.

The epistle refers to living in the daylight and not being dissipated with strong drink.

People sometimes seek refuge in drink as a way of numbing their sense of reality.

But when we discover what Reality is we seek it. We should be wearing T-shirts with ‘I love Reality’ written on them, because the true reality is Union with God and all the joy that comes with that.

The solution is not drugging ourselves against reality but entering it more fully.

Thus we seek a fuller union with God
– a union that will mean both more perfect contrition, and a greater desire to do His will.
-A union that will mean we are ready to be with Him, either in this life or the next;
that will enable us to discern His presence in time of plenty or poverty, full stomach or empty.

To be with Him is everything; to be without Him is unbearable.

This is what we seek in Advent – we seek God and He will not be slow in making Himself known to us.