Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 2007 Sermon

Sunday in Octave of Christmas 30.12.07 Adulthood

Our Lord tells us we should be like children if we want to enter the kingdom of heaven. Some have explained this requirement for adults as meaning we should be child-like but not child-ish.

It does not mean all the adults must suddenly start playing chasey or hide-and-seek, but it does mean that we should all be innocent of sin, and retain or regain that sense of childlike wonder in the presence of the majesty of God.

When we look at the wonders God has done, we should be amazed (cf Psalm 8) and that should apply to any age group.

Children achieve this spontaneously; adults may have to work on it, because adults are subject to cynicism and tiredness. We can lose that sense of wonder and become bored and disenchanted.

Any adult who tries to explain this world without God has definitely lost the childlike quality.

St Paul in the epistle speaks of our being heirs with Christ. We have been like children in the sense of having to learn our lessons. Now we are moving into adulthood and ready to take over full responsibility for our inheritance.

We enjoy being children (we hope) but we must become adults. It need not be a sad loss of innocence. It should actually be a progression in holiness. With the innocence of childhood retained we can then take a more mature part in understanding and cooperating with God’s will for us.

The best part of being adult is that we have a more mature understanding.

Ironic that ‘adult’ bookshops or films means the opposite of mature understanding but let us talk about adult Christianity as meaning someone who has the wisdom of the years but still childlike wonder and innocence.

So with adulthood we develop our various gifts and talents. We take on new responsibilities such as marriage, religious vocations, studies, careers, missionary activity etc.

The saints will give us examples of adult fulfilment, and the variety of ways in which the will of God can find expression in different people.

God does want us to think for ourselves, but not in a rebellious way as that phrase is often taken. Think for ourselves how good and wise God is, and come to see His hand at work in all things. Think through His word to us; His providence for us; read the signs all around us.

Think how things could be different if we responded differently. Think about Christ at Bethlehem and being presented in the Temple, and how the humility of God should guide us.

Think about the people who reject God and why they do that, and think how to answer them. There is much need for Catholic apologetics in the present world.

You might say, I am no academic. I cannot read books, or in any case I don’t have the time. Adulthood does not mean you have to be an academic, only that you be mature and responsible in the approach you take.

Sometimes it is not the book answer that is required but the answer comes from straightforward charity. Look after the hungry man sleeping outside, and that is being adult in the true sense, and will answer critics of our faith.

Various answers to various questions, but all of them expressing the best of childhood and adulthood – innocence combined with wisdom.

But I have lost all claim to innocence, some will say. It can be reclaimed through repentance and Confession. And once reclaimed it can be retained.

We are forever rejuvenated in Christ. As we say at the beginning of each Mass: Ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. Unto God who giveth joy to my youth. All that we may have lost comes back to us; and without getting old we grow into our full stature as adopted sons of God.

Christmas 2007 sermon

Midnight Mass Christmas 2007

In all the busyness, the frantic activity, the vast array and amount of human suffering, there is a still point, a place of peace and we find it at Midnight Mass, transporting ourselves in spirit to Bethlehem.

The never-changing scene which transcends all time give us comfort and reassurance that all is well, and all shall be well, provided we take refuge with the Holy Family.

It is hard to switch on peace. We can tell each other to relax, calm down, but it is not so easy to stop the engine running.

If we are full of anxiety and have a hundred things going on at once, it is very hard to stop all of a sudden and contemplate divine Mystery.

Yet that is what Christmas invites from us. Stop, Look, Listen and become a child again.

Let the peace of Christ come over you like a wave and be refreshed.

It may take a while for the peace to sink in, but let it begin tonight.

St Paul says: Let the peace of Christ reign in your hearts. This would mean that even if we are frantically busy, jumping in and out of the car, on and off the phone – those things are only what the body is doing – but in the spirit, at the centre of our being we can be still, at peace with God.

The Bethlehem scene invites us to interior and exterior peace.

If we have peace in our hearts, if we slow down sufficiently, we will have time to consider our relationships with others.

One of the reasons people quarrel and are rude to each other is that neither party is at peace within, so tempers are quick and fuses are short.

But if we get ourselves right with God then we see other people in a whole new light. We see them as He sees them, requiring compassion and care.

Our Saviour came to the earth in a great act of love and sacrifice at a time when we were still sinners. We were not loveable 2000 years ago, and still not today. Yet He could feel sorry for us. He was more sorry for us than angry with us.

And this is how we must be with each other, with any people we have feuds or quarrels with. They are not so bad really; they just need a half hour or so before the Crib, drinking in peace.

And even if the other person does not change, we do, so we are Christ-like enough to be able to love, even when not loved in return.

It may take time; more than one Christmas Day, but at least we know where we must head.

It is nice to come to Midnight Mass; it is nice to have Christmas Day and all its trimmings – but to make serious progress in having peace within and learning to love like Christ, it will require that we work on this every day.

We must pray every day and confess our sins regularly, and take part in Sunday Mass, and seek to do good works in every possible way.

Christmas is about Christ, and Christ is all year long. If we don’t manage to achieve perfect peace in our hearts today, then tomorrow will do! Or six months time, or whenever we can. But achieve it we must, if we are ever to be His disciples or to have any hope of peace in the world.

Peace comes from the Christ-child who has descended into our midst. Let us honour Him tonight, in gratitude for His coming, and let His peace enter deeply within us.

Monday, December 24, 2007

4th Sunday of Advent 23.12.07 Sermon

4th Sunday of Advent 23.12.07 Enabling others

When someone wins an award he will make a speech thanking everyone who has made this award possible. He might thank his parents, his wife, his colleagues, his coach/teacher etc.

These people have all contributed something to his success. He is the shining light; they provided the platform for the light.

We prepare to celebrate the coming of Christ at Christmas. He is the shining light, but others have helped Him to come, through their own humble and faithful contribution.

John the Baptist paved the way for Him (just before His public life).

Our Lady enabled Him to be born, and St Joseph in his turn enabled her to perform her role.

This was Our Lord’s ‘team’ that He would wish to thank for making possible what He went on to achieve.

So we also are part of His team. Each of us has an irreplaceable role in the scheme of things, something which only ‘I’ can do. We may not be on the same scale as the great saints, but still we are needed. If an aeroplane needs wings to fly, it also needs nuts and bolts to keep the wings attached. If you are just the screw holding something else in place you are essential to the whole operation.

Maybe as our life unfolds the best contribution we make will be to enable someone else to make a bigger contribution.

St Monica is a saint in her own right, but what she is best known for is that she brought about the conversion of her son, St Augustine.

Her greatness lay in bringing forth someone greater (just as for St John the Baptist).

It could be your children, but it could be anyone that you have helped to develop or discover a hidden talent, or overcome a certain weakness. It could be an unknown word or prayer or example that has a flow-on effect.

In the Stations of the Cross, the eighth station is: ‘Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem’. Our Lord told the women to weep for their children, by way of inducing repentance. I think of the many mothers who come into churches to pray for their wayward children – those prayers do make a difference and many a ‘child’ becomes a fervent disciple as a result.

A lot of that prayer is performed in obscurity, non-recognition. No one knows the mother is praying, nor for whom, yet eventually the prayer hits home.

So we proceed, not just mothers, but all of us can contribute the enabling of others to find their true place in the Church, and in the scheme of salvation.

We might wish for a more spectacular role, one that will bring recognition and even fame.

But humility is the keynote of Christmas, and we are told repeatedly the humble are pleasing to God.

As we contemplate the Crib at Bethlehem we feel this is not a time for self-assertion, but for stepping aside. It is a time for good will to all men.

The good we wish on others is not just physical health or prosperity, but the ultimate good of being in union with God, and developing to the full the gifts with which God has endowed them.

What we yield in humility we gain from the benefit of the other’s growth. St John the Baptist benefited from the life and death of Jesus Christ. If John had tried to grab the glory for himself where would it have ended?

But because he made himself less, we regard him as great, and so for all the saints.

If we are to assess our lives, either looking back on what has been or looking forward to what is coming – what have we contributed? How many awards have we won? No, that is not the place to look. The real value is hard to determine and may not even be known to us, but the principle is clear: have we been humble enough and faithful enough to enable God’s will to be achieved in others (and in the process, ourselves)?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Christmas times

Christmas Day Mass times are Midnight Mass and 9.30am.

Extra Confessions are available: Friday 21st Dec from 7pm-8pm
and Monday 24th Dec from 11pm to Midnight.

A Happy and Holy Christmas to all!

Monday, December 17, 2007

3rd Sunday of Advent 16.12.07 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Advent 16.12.07 Joy

People have noticed over many generations that there is a certain cyclical effect to life. You are up one day and down the next. What comes around goes around. If your football team wins the premiership one year they may be bottom the next year, or vice versa.

No wonder that certain false religions developed along the lines of reincarnation – that we go around in one big circle and never get anywhere.

We of the Catholic faith also notice the cycles but we do not think they go on forever. We are conscious (and especially so in Advent) that things do come to a definite end.
There will be an end of sorrow and suffering for those who trust in God, but not an end of joy.

It may be that we have only ever known the cyclical effect, but that does not mean it will continue forever. It just means there is another reality (called eternity) which we have not yet experienced.

On a similar level we can identify that at any given moment we feel happy and unhappy about different things.

We might be happy that the weather is cooler, but unhappy that we have to go back to work.
Happy that we have passed an exam; unhappy that we have a headache etc.
Always we have this mixture. If someone asks us how we are, it is really a matter of what we focus on that determines the answer. I am happy and unhappy about different things.

So here again we can be resigned to a kind of perpetual mixture, and think that this arrangement will go on forever.

But not so. At the end of the day, or the end of Days, all the temporary things will come to an end, and when all is said and done, when the dust has settled, what have we left?
When you pull away all the layers, what is there going to be? Some would say, Nothing.
We would say, God.

At all the different levels of reality, the last word is that God Is, and knowing that, we can say that all will be well.

Today, Gaudete Sunday, we consider the bedrock of reality, the Last word on the subject. It is very important to know.

Is there God or is there Nothing?
If God then we are truly joyful; if nothing then we are despairing.

We put all our trust in God, and what we lack in trust we turn into a prayer that He will supply the faith, hope, and joy we presently lack.

If we are joyful it may be we do not know it or feel it, and indeed it is hard to feel what is at the deepest level.

We are more likely to feel the last thing that happened, the surface impression, the most current emotion at the time.

This can lead us to think we are unhappy when in fact if we peel it all away we are actually and always happy at that bedrock level.

What’s the use of being happy if you can’t feel it? Well, it is very useful to know that when it is all over, when we wake up from this dreamlike state called life on earth, that there is something better, and a whole lot better.

It would be nice to feel that now, granted, but knowing we are headed towards it is the next best thing.

It also helps to stabilise our emotions and our general sense of purpose to know we are going somewhere definite and not just around in circles.

The pleasure-seekers, those who have abandoned themselves to living for the moment, are acting out of a kind of desperation. They do not have to be desperate. Relax, there is a whole eternity of bliss waiting for you if you can just be a little bit patient.

So, let us rejoice, cultivating the deeper awareness of what we have, union with God the source of all Joy.

Monday, December 10, 2007

2nd Sunday of Advent 9.12.07 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Advent 9.12.07 Standards of holiness

The figure of John the Baptist is both appealing and repelling. He is appealing because fascinating. Here is someone who obviously takes seriously what he does.

Even Herod, whom John was attacking for living in adultery, liked to hear him speak.

It reminds me of the old days when people would crowd churches at parish missions, to be told by a fiery preacher there was a good chance they would go to hell.

What did you go out into the desert to hear? Someone that would tell you there is no sin; that everyone goes to heaven; that life is easy and you should go out and enjoy yourselves. No, you went out there to be told that you are a sinner, that you are on the way to hell; that there is still a way out, however, if you repent quickly.

There is something appealing about high standards, the desire to do better.

The religious orders that are strict will attract converts, even in today’s easy times. The orders that make no demands attract no one. Why?

There is something instinctive in us that makes us want to do better, to aim for the highest standard of perfection.

We see this clearly in other fields beside the spiritual. Someone who plays a sport, for instance, wants to play as well as possible.

It would be no fun playing basketball if we just threw the ball any old place, and ignored the narrow target of the goals. All sports have an inherent difficultly about them. If it were not difficult it would become meaningless.

Yet, when it comes to the spiritual life there are those who will say that the standards set by Christ (and conveyed by the Church) are too strict and too demanding, and should be relaxed.

But we know there is something dishonest about that; some kind of self-deception.

Our admiration for St John the Baptist and other holy men and women tells us that they were onto something good.

Our Lord spoke of the pearl of great price. The kingdom of God was such a good thing to discover that if you did come across it, you would sell everything you owned to be able to possess this kingdom. It was the precious pearl making all else seem worthless by comparison.

The exacting moral standards put before us by Christ - such as loving one’s neighbours, and forgiving one’s enemies - are part of this desirable kingdom.

The very difficulty of these commands is a clue that there is something here worth striving for. If the kingdom were to be proclaimed as a place where everyone does exactly what he likes and no one thinks of the needs of anyone else – we would say we’ve got that already! We don’t need to strive for that place.

God has planted within us a share in His own desire for perfection. He saw what He had made and it was good. Would God settle for an imperfect universe? Of course not.

He allows sin and imperfection to come in as a byproduct of freedom of will, but He does not want imperfection, and continuously sets about trying to restore perfection.

The Saviour came to give sight to the blind, to make the lame walk etc, signs of the Kingdom of Perfection taking hold. There is something obviously pleasing about a blind man suddenly being able to see. In just the same way it is pleasing if someone who has been slack morally suddenly becomes disciplined and self-sacrificing in his approach to life.

He has been ‘healed’ of something that was wrong.

So we keep coming, to be told we are sinners, that we need to repent. It does appeal because we are geared for perfection; and it does help because it gives us a way out. May John the Baptist continue to inspire each new generation and the Saviour he introduced continue to bring to perfection.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

First Sunday of Advent 2.12.07 Sermon

1st Sunday of Advent 2.12.07

We are told in today’s Gospel that when the events of the Last Day come upon us, far from being afraid, we should, as faithful followers of Our Lord, go out to meet Him, with our heads held high.

Not for us the terror of those who have rebelled against Him.

The teaching of the Second Coming of Christ is a rather neglected part of our tradition. Perhaps because it is something that has not happened yet, it is much harder to talk about than some of the other events which have happened.

Nevertheless it is part of our belief and we reaffirm it in every Creed: He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

On that day every person who has ever lived will come back to life; will bodily rise from the grave. It will be a day like no other. If we think the Olympic Games and World Cup soccer are big, this event will far eclipse them all.

We are told to look forward to this day. It all depends on the wording. If we told someone we were looking forward to the end of the world, they would question our mental stability; but if we say we are looking forward to the return of Christ – well, that is alright. Yet the two events are the same. The coming of Christ will end the world, at least as we know it.

We should not fear this day. If we do fear it the only possible reason is that we have Sin dividing us from Our Lord. So, the remedy in that case is to remove the sin, and perfect love will cast out fear.

We will be glad to see Him simply because we love Him, not to mention that He will be setting everything right.

What about all our plans? Will He not be interrupting our plans to get married or start a new job, or build a new house, or just plain holidays?

But anything He interrupts – we need not worry – He will give us something far better in its place.

When will this event occur? Every generation has wondered, and thought that perhaps they would be the last.

We understand from the Scriptures and with the help of the Fathers that there will be certain signs preceding the Last Day.

These include: disturbances in nature; a major conversion of Jews; the return of Enoch and Elijah; widespread apostasy (we have already qualified for that one!); the coming of Antichrist.

We will have some warning, but Our Lord does not want us to be too absorbed in when it will happen. Rather, He wants us to be on our toes, like the wise bridesmaids or the faithful servants of the Gospel. Not knowing when helps us to engage more fully in the task before us.

And that task is to fill every available minute with love for God and making Him known to the people around us.

The ending could come in two ways: before it comes things could get worse or they could get better.

Worse: will the Son of Man find any faith when He returns? Things could get to the point that even the elect would be tempted to lose their faith. If so the Son of Man will return in time to save them.

Best: we could, by the grace of God, succeed in spreading the Kingdom and bringing people in from all directions. Then we will be hastening the coming of the Lord and the Last Day will not be a terrifying event but one that most people will be welcoming.

We hope things get better but even if they do not, we who hear or read these words can resolve to hold firm. By His grace and our mutual prayer and example we can hold each other to this resolution. All the while we make our own the prayer of the second last verse of the Bible: Amen, Come, Lord Jesus!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Last Sunday after Pentecost 25.11.07 Sermon

Last Sunday after Pentecost 24.11.07 Punishment.

It may seem strange that we preach that God loves us, and if we love Him in return we will have great blessings --- so far, so good – but if we fail to love God in return we will be boiled alive in both temporal and eternal punishment! Or words to that effect.

But how can it be that if God loves us He would punish us so severely for not loving Him?

Well, a comparison might help. If I am lost in the desert for three days I would become very thirsty. I lack water. I am deprived of something I need and eventually I would endure agony for not having that thing. Yet we still say water is good.

So if I lack God, I am deprived of something I need. It will cause me agony eventually. It is not a neutral thing to lack God, any more than to lack water or air. It must do me harm.

The various ways the punishments of this life and the next are portrayed to us in Scripture and preaching are attempts to bring home to us that we have a vital need for God, and if we do not possess Him we will suffer agony.

God does not throw missiles on us because He suddenly loses His temper - His patience suddenly snaps and He turns from being benevolent to malevolent. No, it is impossible that God could have moods.

What is happening is that, after a certain point, if we deprive ourselves of God’s grace there will be a reaction. There will be trouble in this life and the next. There will be anguish and distress as the soul realizes its loss, like the pain of grief multiplied a thousand times.

So God in His love gives us readings like today’s Gospel, not to frighten us but to call us to repentance, so we will not have to go through such things.

We don’t need a lecture on the horrors of thirst to realize we need something to drink; but we do apparently need a lecture on the horrors of being without God to realize we need to be with Him.

It is not that God suddenly ceases to love us, rather that our lack of love for Him will at some point start to register.

God, for His part , will remain faithful and always willing to receive the repentant sinner. He will exert His grace to bring about change of heart and replenish the love which has been lacking in us.

When this happens we will avert all the disasters as simply as a good drink takes away thirst.

People say, I don’t believe in that kind of God, that would punish like that. But they are missing the point. It is the same God as they want to believe in, the God of love and mercy, who desires the best for His children.

The point they are confused over is the human response. If God loves us and we do not love Him in return, we are dying of thirst, hunger, cold... you name it.

All the more reason we should believe in Him. Like saying we don’t believe in water because it hurts so much if we don’t have it. All the more reason we should appreciate it.

As we prepare for Advent, and more contemplation of the end of the world, let us be clear where we stand. Looking down the barrel of eternity we can spend it with God or without Him. One is very joyful, the other is very awful. The choice is clear. At least let us be clear that it is no fault of God that we need Him so much!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

25th Sunday after Pentecost 18.11.07 Sermon

25th Sunday after Pentecost 18.11.07 (6th Sunday after Epiphany readings) Growth through humility.

The power of the humble prayer. The littleness of the seed symbolises the powerlessness we feel as we confront the huge obstacles around us. Yet just as the seed turns into a tree, so our contributions, however slight they may seem to us, can also turn into a tree and bear fruit.

So all you widows and mothers praying away for your children and all of us as the Church, herself a Mother, pray day and night for the return of all the lost sheep and the claiming of those sheep who have never had a home.

We must never be discouraged by the apparent odds against us but press on just as a seed does what it has to do and does not stop to ask itself whether or not it can!

Humility is one of the primary virtues we need and seek for our own spiritual growth anyway, but it is also necessary for the growth of the Church.

We pray realizing our own nothingness alongside the majesty of God and we ask Him to supply the power we could never produce of ourselves.

The power, that is, to convert sinners and convince people that their true life is found in the fold of the Church.

This power expresses itself in us, most of all in the ability to do what we have to do. Not so much in spectacular things, though they will happen sometimes, but rather in the faithful attention to duty over many years.

It is this sub-structure of the Church’s life - millions of Catholics doing what they have to do – that will enable the tree to grow.

After all, the growth of a tree is not a quick thing, but every time you look you see that it is bigger. So with us: just keep doing what we have to do and every time we look the Church will be bigger (and better).

Humility is the key to recognition of the desirability of God. Once we see that we cannot provide all our own needs we look to something higher and we find it in Him.

Our simple, faithful, humble devotion to Him will keep us on course and will enable others to discover Him.

The miracle of conversion. God wants to be known by all, and loved by all, yet He will not reveal Himself in full glory. He reveals Himself subtly and gradually. He wants us to find Him by reading the signs and by obeying Him step by step.

Here again, this appeals to our humility. We might assume that God, having all that power at His disposal, would just work miracles until everyone believed in Him.

He could do that, certainly, but He does not want to overwhelm people with His presence, rather work gently and quietly to call them to Himself.

Those who are pure and humble of heart will find Him and will come to know Him more fully – slow growth, like a tree.

The proud and the self-sufficient will scoff at such subtle realities and want quicker solutions. Either God works a miracle in front of me now, or I will not believe.

This is not the way a tree grows, nor the way God operates. Trees do grow, and God does make Himself known, but not usually all in one day. The unbelievers just have to look more closely at how the system works.

We, meanwhile, maintaining our humility, and praying day and night, will be doing the best possible work in allowing His grace to work, bringing about change, adding branches to the great tree, which is His Church, His kingdom on earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

24th Sunday after Pentecost 4.11.07 Sermon

24th Sunday after Pentecost 11.11.07 Good and bad

The problem of having wheat and tares side by side is that the wheat might be corrupted.

So many Catholics have lost their faith by following the lax ways of the world around them.

What we have to do is keep the fire burning, maintain the intensity of our faith, without becoming insular, ghettoish, holier-than-thou, or writing people off – in fact we have to convert them.

If you put good and bad people together it can go either way. In fact what we have in practice is that some bad people become good and some good people become bad, and others stay where they are.

What we want (and obviously God wants) is that the bad people become good, and the good people stay good.

We have to stay good to such a degree that we not only are strong enough to resist evil, but to overcome it.

That takes a lot of faith, a lot of prayer and a lot of application.

There are two obvious areas where we are breaking down in the Church as of now:

One is that churches are empty most of the time, locked most of the time. Every church should be open, people say – to which the answer is that we cannot do that because there is too much vandalism around. To which the answer is that vandals can only operate in an empty church and there should be someone praying around the clock in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

In other words we need more people in churches, praying, atoning, adoring. This chorus of prayer will reach heaven and bring many blessings upon the earth.

The other breakdown area is that Catholics are not sufficiently involved in the cultural, moral aspects of our society.

When an issue arises like abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, cloning, same-sex marriages, we have to rise up and be counted.

Bad men flourish when good men do nothing.

There are so few who attend meetings, vigils, rallies etc. Not everyone can, not every one can go to every event or deal with every issue. But speaking generally, we are an apathetic lot.

The two areas of breakdown are related. If we don’t pray we will not act. We gradually lose any sense of outrage. If we don’t act our prayer will become remote from our ordinary lives and we will see ‘Church’ as just something we do on Sundays.

I say outrage, but then we have to balance all this with charity. We are not meant to kill or harm evildoers, but rather win them over.

People will go with the flow and be influenced by what others around them are saying and doing. If most people went to Mass, most people adored the Blessed Sacrament, then others would join in. They would feel they were missing out if they did not.

How can we heal these areas of breakdown? We have to pave our own way here. Our first thought is to let others start something and we might join it. Each of us has to be first to cultivate enthusiasm. We cannot all run out and start a movement and that is not required. We are not all called to do everything. Each one must take stock and discern what is required of ‘me’ at this point.

The main quality lacking is zeal for the cause. We must pray more, and from that foundation we must all do more. Doing precisely what will become clearer from the prayer.

Never losing sight of the overall point that we must try to convert others, without despising them. We share the compassion of Christ for the sheep without a shepherd. We want what is best for others and the best is Christ. On the Last Day may there be only wheat and no weeds.

Monday, November 05, 2007

23rd Sunday after Pentecost, Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 4.11.07 Resurrection

They laughed at Jesus when He said the girl was only sleeping. But who had the last laugh? We have since learned to call death ‘sleep’, as when in each Mass we pray for those who have gone before us and ‘dormiunt in somno pacis.’

Jesus has power over life and death and to Him it is just sleep. He can call forth life as easily as waking someone up. Death might look permanent to us but to God it is no more than falling asleep.

We have to let our view of death be absorbed in His and let ourselves be freed from the prison of lack of faith.

In that prison we are overcome with fear and doubt, but once outside in the sunlight we can see a lot further, and we see that death dissolves like morning dew in the face of God’s majesty.

Death looks permanent because it is as far as we have experienced so far, but that is just our limitation not God’s.

God has times and places for His miraculous work. He had told us clearly that we will rise again, and He has made it known that this earthly pilgrimage is only a short phase to a much longer eternity. It is therefore not His normal plan to bring people back to life on earth. There has to be a time to leave this life and go to the final place.

When He does work a miracle of resurrection or healing it is to remind us of His power. He could easily go through the entire local cemetery and bring everyone there back to life, but that is not in the best interests of everyone. (especially not the ones who are already in heaven - they would definitely not want to come back).

So we should not wish the dead back with us, but rather wish we were with them. All in due time.

The main point for us now is to realize that God has complete power over life and death. Death is no more of a stumbling block to Him than it was to create the universe, which He did by a mere word. If He can create from nothing just by a word, then bringing back to life is another mere word.

Many sceptics would say there can be no resurrection (because they have never seen one). But looking around at all the other signs of God’s creative power we can infer that resurrection is highly likely to be within God’s reach.
If it did not happen it would not be because God lacked the power, but simply that He did not want to raise people.

As we see He does not generally want to raise people back to this earthly life, but He does very much want to raise them to eternal life.

And He wants us to believe in His power and desire to do so. So that we do not let the sadness of death diminish our faith in Him nor our desire to reach heaven.

Our problem is just that we cannot have everything all at once, and we are like children impatient for their birthday gifts as we wonder why this, and why that; instead of just letting God take control.

As the woman in the crowd demonstrates, it only takes one touch to receive a blessing from God. He is not difficult to extract favours from; the difficult part is getting us to believe in Him and not be imprisoned in worldly thinking.

So as we begin November let us believe in God as Lord and giver of life: cf Creed… Dominum et vivificantem. And pour out prayers for life to return to those who sleep in death, that they will not only rise in body but in soul, free from sin and every form of suffering. And for the living that they will rise in soul. Death in any form can be overcome and will be if we but ‘touch the hem of His garment’, approaching in simple faith.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Christ the King 28.10.07 Sermon

Feast of Christ the King 28.10.07

We have a federal election looming, so there is much talk of who is going to govern us for the next three years. Will there be a change of government?

If we get right down to the matter there can be no change of government while God is still King of heaven and earth. In other words it is God who rules Australia (and every other country). He rules us in the sense that He has absolute authority over everything, and will have the last word on everything.

Of course, He delegates authority to earthly rulers, so we do not have Almighty God deciding the interest rate, or which roads to repair – but all such decisions should be made with Him in mind, and nothing should ever be done against His will.

So an election cannot change who is our ultimate authority. In another way, however, we could hold an election, or a choice has to be made by each person –and the question is not who shall rule us, but whether we will obey the One who does rule us.

Joshua put the same choice to the Israelites when they were about to enter the Promised Land. He reminded them of all that God had done in setting them free from Egypt, and he said: are you now going to serve this God who has set you free and given you every blessing, such as manna from heaven and water from rock – or are you going to serve one of the false and useless gods that the local people worship? (Joshua 24)

It was a deliberately loaded question. He wanted them to understand that really there is no choice. It is like choosing between life and death, happiness or misery – your happiest dream or your worst nightmare.

So with us. We do get a vote whether to serve God or not, but there is only one possible way to cast that vote - if we have any desire to live for ever, or to make sense of our lives on earth.

We vote in this case by recognizing the supreme rule of Jesus Christ, King of kings, and Lord of lords, the First and the Last, the Word of God, the Judge of the living and the dead.

When we say God rules us, it is specifically in the Person of Jesus Christ, who has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.

We are voting our acceptance of His kingship. Unless we accept Him as our King we cannot have eternal life. To enter His kingdom we have to be something like the King, which means we have to imitate His obedience and humility, and His love for the poor and lowly.

He is a very different sort of king than the usual earthly ruler. He is both more powerful and less arrogant. He has genuine concern for each of His subjects, even the lowest and the least. Yet He is more deserving of honour than any earthly ruler.

We give Him honour by the normal means of liturgical and other worship, but also by learning to be concerned for the least of our brethren. In every possible way we cast our vote for Him. Not to put Him in power, which cannot be changed anyway, but so that we are in full alignment with Him, and able both to benefit from, and extend His power to those places and people who have not yet received Him.

Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925 in a time of turbulence in the political world, in the hope of calling nations and individuals back to the central truth which cannot change - that in the end it is only Christ to whom we must answer; only Christ who can give us the guidance to live our lives well, to exercise good stewardship over His creation; and also the power to put His will into effect. Praised be to Him, King of kings and Lord of lords.

All Saints and All Souls

Masses for All Saints Day: Thursday 1st Nov: 7am and 6.30pm

All Souls Day: Friday 2nd Nov: 11am and 6.30pm

at Holy Name, Stepney.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sermon for 21st Sunday after Pentecost

21st Sunday after Pentecost 21.10.07 We cannot do it alone

We give thanks to God for the recent mission which has revived our awareness of certain key points, particularly the value of and need for the sacraments.

We cannot do it alone, we might say is the message from the Mission. We need God to help us, just as we needed Him to create us, and to provide an eternal dwelling for us.

There are two aspects to how God helps us: a) He communicates love to us b) He tells us what to do.

Experiencing His love will give us the wisdom and the motivation to carry out His commands.
So it is not a burden to love our neighbour or even our enemy, once we feel the joy of communicating in God’s nature. We rejoice to extend His goodness and love to others, cf in today’s call to forgive others as we have been forgiven.

He will not and did not leave us orphans but comes to us every moment and in every necessary way to help us cope.
We might feel alone, but that is only because we have not called upon Him sufficiently, or have not developed our faith sufficiently. Even when there is no feeling there can still be faith.

So there must be strength when we need it even though we do not feel it likely or see how it is possible. (Every one of us feels like we are on the brink at times; but He is always there)

Even if we feel too weak to call upon Him, or our faith is too weak to be able to believe in Him, enter (stage left) the Sacraments. These will take us to a higher level. God is bigger than we are, after all. He can do a lot more than we can.

A sacrament is an infusion of power and love that we could not generate by ourselves, could not find within us. It is divine, therefore infinite, and totally gift. We cannot produce it by our own strength, nor can we do without it. If we receive it in the spirit in which it is offered we will be capable of great things.

The sacrament of Penance especially will give us the power to forgive others. We hear that we cannot be forgiven unless we forgive others. If we cannot manage to forgive others first off then going to the sacrament, even imperfectly, will help us to meet that requirement.

Think big, as with all things to do with God, and see His mercy sweeping over everyone, including your enemies.

The sacraments help us to break out of the prison of our limited perception. We see only very little of the total reality. When we meet God in the sacraments we are receiving new vision, and it sets us free, free especially to love, even our enemies.
We need to bring all our grievances with others to the Heart of God and let His power take over.

What God commands, He also enables. Somehow we get lost between these two points. We hear the commandment, declare it impossible to our frail human nature, and don’t bother to ask His help. If we would simply hold on long enough to receive His help the execution of the command would be easy.

What power awaits the human race if only we would follow through on both the command and the promise.

Some of you are going on the pilgrimage which will be more inspiration. If there is no big event to look forward to, we have to make our own excitement. The sacraments are there for us, and every one of them is exciting, and if only we let them – will make a big difference.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Sermon for 19th Sunday after Pentecost 7.10.07

19th Sunday after Pentecost 7.10.07 The Mass

Think of it, that somewhere in the world at any given time a Mass is being offered.

Each Mass is an outpouring of God’s love on the world, so there is from the rising of the sun to its setting a constant giving and receiving of God’s love in the world.

There is a lot of bad stuff happening too, of course, but it is good to know the Mass is there, holding us above water so to speak.

If it were not for the Mass the world would have disintegrated a long time ago. We are worse now than at the time of the Flood, but the constant appeal to God’s mercy buys us more time. This much tells us how important it is that we offer Mass, and as many as possible take part in it.

The more taking part and the more part they take – the better. It is not just a matter of coming inside the door. We can be physically present but absent in spirit or heart.

To come to the Mass, to take part in the banquet, requires that we be fully engaged in what is happening here, and fully committed to whatever is required.

The offering of the bread and wine symbolises our desire to offer ourselves to God. We offer the Son to the Father, but we cannot do this in an impersonal offhanded sort of way. To make such an offering requires that we be involved in it.

(Like if I gave you a present which I had bought – is different from handing you a present from someone else. We are offering Christ to the Father not as though it were someone else doing it, but I/We, fully engaged in the process.)

This partly addresses the question of who is offering the Mass. It is not just the priest, as though the congregation is not involved. If you were at Mass and just watching as a spectator, the offering would not be yours.

The congregation is not the audience; you are taking part in this. You are jointly offering with the priest. The priest has a cultic role which is unique to him, but as far as the spiritual sentiments and aspirations involved, the Mass is just as much yours as his.

There is not a lot of physical movement in a Mass for the congregation, but the movement of the heart and mind is meant to be intense.

It is like getting married all over again, each time you come to Mass. You are being asked to sign your life away each time. Father, I offer you Your Son, and with Him, because it is my offering, I offer myself, and all that I have and am.

That’s all done without leaving your seat! Because there is not much movement or obvious activity it might be easy to miss what is happening. One could just go through the motions and shuffle out of the church as one shuffled in.

No commitment or engagement whatsoever. It happens too often.

Partly it is ignorance of the Mass, partly a fear or refusal to engage. Simply too much trouble to take God that seriously.

This determines whether we are actually AT the banquet or not. How awake or asleep we are, how alert, how interested, how likely to change anything about our lives.

It is not as easy as we might have thought. It never was a matter of just turning up to Mass. We have to be switched on, both in heart and mind, and then the power of God can work change in us.

Not as easy as we thought, but what blessings if we take the invitation as fully as it is given.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sermon for 18th Sunday after Pentecost 30.9.07

18th Sunday after Pentecost 30.9.07 Social justice

It is often pointed out that there should be no contrast or contradiction in the way we behave in church to the way we behave outside. What we profess in here should be the way we live out there.

On a similar line there should be no contradiction between what we profess as our own personal morality and the way we deal with larger social or moral questions.

Recent Church history is sometimes crudely divided into pre and post Vatican II, and the story runs like this:
Before Vatican II Catholics were worried only about individual salvation. Get your soul to heaven was all that mattered.
After Vatican II we worried less about personal salvation (which turned out to be easier than we had previously thought), and more about the state of the world - social problems like refugees, hunger, and more recently the environment.

Thus we find ourselves today, relaxed about salvation, worried about the world.

The real history is more complex, but in any case there does not need to be opposition between these two aspects.

We can and should worry about the state of our souls. There is still a Hell. Vatican II did not close it down; all the threats, all the pitfalls are still in place.

We can and we should worry about the state of the world. If a man is dying of hunger on my front doorstep then I should feed him (cf the parable of Lazarus and Dives).
And the last judgment scene: you neglected to do this to Me.

Concern for our neighbour will improve the state of our soul. So the one concern helps the other.

To be worried about the state of one’s soul is not selfishness. Genuine holiness could not possibly shut our concern for one’s neighbour. Above all we should be concerned for the neighbour’s soul.

This is another dimension. If I want to relieve world hunger or poverty, the biggest hunger is lack of knowledge of Christ. People do not know their Heavenly Father; they do not know their Saviour; they do not know the Virgin Mary as their Queen and Mother. This is the most urgent void which needs to be filled.

Am I getting too abstract? No, because people have souls, even starving people. Of course we should feed them with normal food before giving them doctrine, but they need the doctrine more. They need to receive and live in the grace of God. This is the real life which God wants every person to possess.

I came that they might have life and have it to the full.

We still want to relieve physical suffering whenever we can, but we always realize the spiritual is paramount.

Jesus would heal the whole person, body and soul, to demonstrate His compassion for all human need.

But as He said: better to enter heaven with one hand or one eye, than hell with two, thus acknowledging the greater demand of the spiritual.

So the Church has not really changed anything post-Vatican. We need reminding of our neighbour’s needs; we need to be challenged out of any too-selfish view of salvation, but this is no more than the Gospel itself warns.

There have always been sins of omission, and they are harder to detect than sins of commission.

A true concern for my soul will impel me to be aware of my neighbour and to help in whatever way I can, only with the proviso that my perception of what another needs might not equal his own perception.

Some would say the Church is only useful for its charitable works, but should leave religion out of it. We would say, sorry, but ‘religion’ is central to the whole works. It is the only way to make sense of what another person is, and what we are doing on this earth.

Still, we won’t force it on you, just offer the way to eternal life. If you don’t want eternal life, just a bread roll, then so be it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Sermon for 17th Sunday after Pentecost 23.9.07

17th Sunday after Pentecost 23.9.07 Love God

Every problem in the world can be traced to a 'disconnection' from God. The solution to every problem is to re-establish that connection.

The Gospel today brings before us the command to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind.
We find it hard to remember God, or easy to forget Him.
God is abstract, not immediately reachable through the senses. That’s one reason.

And the other reason is that we are distracted by current concerns. We have things weighing on our minds and we don’t have that freedom to soar aloft as we would like.

So when we come to pray we are easily distracted, and find it very hard to get into depth of prayer.

Yet we believe that God exists, that He is eternal and infinite and omnipotent. He can work any miracle, provide for any need. So why do we find it so hard to connect with Him if we believe these things?

Because we don’t believe them enough. We don’t have them locked into our hearts and minds to the degree that would block out every distraction or contradiction.

We need to get to know God better; to approach Him with such familiarity (reverent) that all other messages fall away.

St Paul shaking the snake into the fire is a good example (Acts 28,3-5), not to mention the martrys who died singing and joking.

God is real and His reality will win out over any other, but we have to get onto the right channel.

Once we are locked into Him we can deal with everything else. The hard part is getting that peace, that stillness before Him. Be still and know that I am God.

Loving God is to be in relationship with Him. It is like a relationship between people who love each other.

There is not always an intense emotional feeling; sometimes there is disagreement, and correction. A lot of the time it is just duty without any obvious reward, but the overall desire to please is there.

So loving God is like that. We don’t feel much most of the time; we just do what is right and trust that it is going somewhere, pleasing to Him.

Being a relationship it goes all the time. It is not something we switch on and off.
Thus we are not Sunday Catholics.

Nor are we only Catholics in church. Our whole lives must come under this relationship and God’s influence.

The fact that I love God must colour everything I do, and how I interpret everything that happens.

We can progress in this only if we make some effort. It will not happen by itself any more than I will learn to play the violin without doing anything.

The effort is that we must seek God out, think about Him, obey Him, call upon Him, meet Him in the sacraments, worship Him, pray to Him, listen to His words...

and if we do all this and we do it every day (or at least make some contact every day) we will come to love Him and all that goes with that.

(People think that because it is ‘religion’ it looks after itself. Like Religion in school was a bludge class because there was no exam. Oh yes there is an exam - the day we die.)

Prayer is not optional, any more than eating or sleeping. To neglect prayer is to lose the love of God, to die spiritually. Neglect your spouse and your marriage will suffer; the same for your spiritual life.

From that dead position many will declare that they still love God, but they know God only as a concept, not as a real Person.

We must not allow ourselves to become that dead; instead we come to life discovering the nature of God, entering a deeper relationship with Him. He will help us.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Mission October 2007

Here is the timetable for the Latin Mass Mission 11th - 14th October 2007
All events to be held at Holy Name, 80 Payneham Road, Stepney, South Australia

Thursday 11th October:
7.30pm Low Mass
Talk: The Eucharist in Scripture
9.45pm Conclusion

Friday 12th October:
2-3pm Session for young children (7-12 years)
'Youth Night'
7.30pm Low Mass
Talk: The Eucharist in the Lives of the Saints
9.45pm Conclusion

Saturday 13th October:
9am Low Mass
10-11am Repeat of one of the previous talks
7.30pm Talk: The effects of the Eucharist
Procession of the Blessed Sacrament
9.45pm Conclusion

Sunday 14th October:
9.15am Solemn Mass
Noon: BYO shared lunch in Ellangowan Hall.

Mission priests will be Fr John Rizzo and Fr Michael McCaffrey of the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter.

We pray for a successful Mission and many graces.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sermon for 16th Sunday after Pentecost 16.9.07

16th Sunday after Pentecost 16.9.07

Sometimes the Church is accused of making people feel guilty. Well, is that such a bad thing? If someone is guilty it is better that they feel guilty than not feel it.

If they feel guilty they might then humble themselves before God and seek His mercy, and resolve to correct whatever is causing the guilt.

Nobody likes to feel guilty but it is often the first step to freedom, and therefore something to be welcomed rather than avoided.

Granted there are people who feel guilty when there is nothing to worry about, and we don’t want everyone having scruples, but nor at the other extreme can we have everyone thinking all is right when it is not.

These days, in the Church, there is a trend to emphasize the goodness of people, and avoid talking about sins altogether. We remind people that they are ‘special’, that each person is unique and precious to God.

And it is true. So you are special, but you are also a sinner. There is no contradiction; both statements are true, and we need to realize both.

The specialness will be an incentive for us to act according to our status, like being a member of a royal family, so we must not live like tramps.

And if others also are special we must treat them with suitable respect.

But we cannot confuse specialness of status or identity with actual moral goodness. They are entirely different subjects.

I could be the Prince of Denmark but still be capable of mortal sin. Being prince will not make me innocent. In fact the higher my rank the more guilty I become if I misbehave.
Specialness without morality actually makes the guilt worse, because we are then more culpable.

So how shall we handle our guilt? There are two ways of removing guilt: denying it and confessing it. We need to take the second way.

Confess humbly to the Lord that we have sinned, and He will raise us up. Even if we don’t think we have the strength to break free from the sin, His mercy will flood our souls and give us new strength.

Humility is the key. Yes, I am special, but not as special as God. Before Him I go face down on the ground, and stay there.

For practical reasons He allows me to stand up and walk around in His presence, but in spirit I am still down there with my nose pressed to the ground. That is how we all must be. Humble in spirit, taking the lowest place in today’s parable.

He forgives us. We should never forget, however, that this is a privilege we do not deserve. That we do not deserve to be still alive even, and we should be very grateful for being allowed another chance.

This abundant mercy only raises our status and specialness even higher. Because why would God bother with such insects otherwise?

And this attitude heightens a sensitivity to sin and a revulsion for it, so that we feel more guilty if we do sin, and more grateful for being forgiven.

The great danger is that we will allow the real specialness to lead to a false independence as though we can break away from God (as Lucifer did).

The specialness should bring us closer to God and learn to fit in with His will, in a partnership of trust and obedience.

Appeals to guilt are never an attack on the dignity of the person nor on God’s fidelity to us, but rather an appeal to our better nature.

So let us take the lowest place, before God, prostrate before His majesty, and we trust that He will ask us to come up higher.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sermon for 15th Sunday after Pentecost 9.9.07

15th Sunday after Pentecost 9.9.07 Becoming religious

Our Lord restores the young man to life and gives him back to his mother.

This can be taken as a symbol of Our Lord’s restoring the sinner to life and giving him back to his mother (the Church).

The Church is naturally solicitous for all her children and many of them are dead at any one time, dead in mortal sin.

How to bring them back to life is a perennial problem, and one which we all have, as we all share in the maternal role of the Church.

You worry about your children and grandchildren, and so do I, because they are my children too. As priest, but also just as member of the Church, we have a collective interest in each other’s children (and of course adults).

I say to some mothers who pray for their children’s conversion without any apparent success that maybe their prayers are helping convert someone else’s children, and someone else’s prayers may convert yours. In any case keep praying because that is always what is needed.

Why is it so hard to convert people? One would think we were taking them out and shooting them for the resistance that it meets. People don’t want to be converted.

Conversion is not a fast-selling item. It needs a bit of better advertising.

Going back to raising people from the dead, if we could do that as a regular thing imagine how much demand there would be.

We can’t bring dead people back to life physically, but we can do it spiritually. The Sacrament of Penance restores divine life to a soul which is dead in sin (or at least wounded).

This is a moment to be celebrated. There should be a brass band outside of every confessional to celebrate the return to life of the penitent.

But because forgiveness is not usually visible and not something that can be filmed or measured, it passes largely unnoticed.

Conversion, however, is more than being forgiven. People like being forgiven, but they don’t want to change the way they are living. That is, they want to be forgiven but they also want to keep sinning.

True conversion will lead to sorrow for sins to the point that we want to get rid of them completely, to live in a better way.

The joyful discovery waiting to be made is that if we do change to the point that we no longer sin we will actually be much happier, even in this life.

The general belief is that holiness of life is a drag, a real wet blanket, and something to be avoided as much as possible.

This is why your various children will shift uncomfortably if you raise religion with them. They will sense you are trying to get them back to Mass and the next thing they will be in the choir and praying all day.

How boring, they think. We know of course that being ‘religious’ is not just walking around all day with our hands joined. It is a whole way of life, where we give God His proper place and refer all things to Him. It does not mean we cannot enjoy life or do normal things, but just that whatever we do is for His glory and in proper balance with His will.

We have to get this message out, that being converted is fun, that it is the best thing anyone could do, that if you are not converted you are square and not one of the crowd. It won’t be easy, because there are more people resisting than who believe this, and also the devil will be in there spreading confusion and doubt in all directions.

But it is worth the battle, and the cause is urgent. Collectively we make one Mother, always concerned for her children. We cannot cease from that concern until every child has been rounded up. May Mary, Mother of us all, Mother of the Church, assist us with her maternal love and prayers.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sermon for 14th Sunday after Pentecost

14th Sunday after Pentecost 2.9.07 Trust

Why does God want us to ask Him for things, when He already knows what we need?

His will is that we ask. For example supposing He wants to send rain upon us. We pray for rain, but we might say, well, if He wants to make it rain He can, so what’s the point of asking Him?

He wills us to ask for the rain and then to send the rain. The ‘asking’ is important to Him as it shows we have come to recognize our dependence on Him, and also our power to make things happen in union with Him.

Our Lord points out that we are the only creatures that disobey the Creator! The birds and the flowers just go about their business and receive what they need, while we rage and struggle against the One who provides everything.

If we would obey, trust, come into alignment with the will of God things would flow much more smoothly.

We can learn another lesson from the birds, that is how they fly. The principle of flying is that if the object keeps moving enough the air currents will keep it airborne. A very heavy plane can fly if it keeps moving, but it cannot park in mid-air.

St Peter could walk on water as long as he wasn’t thinking about it, but as soon as he stopped to think he started to sink.

The lesson for us: Keep moving, keep our eyes and hearts fixed on God and let Him do the thinking.

Our role is to trust Him and do what He says. Yes, we can think but only in union with Him not against Him.

He wants us to exercise our creative intelligence – that’s why He put it there – and He wants us to exercise our free will – because it is all the more to His glory and our happiness if we do this in union with Him.

Everything that is wrong with the world is because there is division between the creature and the Creator.

We must reconcile this division, and learn to go with His creative flow. The difference will astound us.

So Jesus tells us to ask for what we need and we shall receive it. He also tells us to seek first the kingdom and all else will be given to us.
Not contradictory advice, but when we ask for individual things it must be in the context of the kingdom, guided by God’s overall will.

We want what He wants. We do not understand every detail of our lives and where we fit in with God’s plans – as regards other people or the longer term of the future. He may, for example, require us to make some sacrifice for the good of others, so in that case He may not give us every physical comfort we might prefer, but His will is for good in a wider sense.

We can come to see this and be comfortable with His will, less selfish in our outlook.

Ultimately we come to be satisfied with His will, not seeing it as a threat to our own happiness but the very source of our happiness. God is on our side. We are a bit afraid of His will because it might upset our plans, but if so only to give us something better.

When we trust Him that much we will obey His every wish and the world will have been restored because like all the rest of creation we will obey.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Sermon for 13th Sunday after Pentecost 26.8.07

13th Sunday after Pentecost 26.8.07 Thanksgiving

People often complain about life and how hard it is. One of the suggested remedies is to count one’s blessings.
Go out and smell the roses, and get in touch with beauty again. This will ease the stress and remind one that life is worth living.
The Gospel of the ten lepers is a standard reminder of the need to give thanks to God for His many blessings to us.

Giving thanks is not just good manners.
Nor is it a cunning way of wrangling another blessing: Thanks for that one, Lord, now can I have another one...

It is more fundamental. It is part of our whole alignment with God in a state of union of being. We are one with Him, and thanks comes naturally in a loving united relationship.

Thanking Him will flow from an attitude of trust that whatever He allows or causes to happen is somehow the best thing for me at that time.

We tend to complain about a lot of things that happen, and we drift back to the question: Why would God do that to me? A loving God? Many reject God at this point.

If we do manage to stay around we can deepen our grasp on His presence in our lives, and this is surely one of the most crucial things to get right. We can’t be in a position where we might have lost the faith by next week if enough things go wrong at the same time. We need to be so cemented in the faith that nothing can move us and all that happens is absorbed in the deep trust between us and God.

This is what St Paul meant by thanking the Lord at all times and the message is repeated many times in Scripture.

We might think it is pious exaggeration, but no, they mean it. We thank the Lord at all times, at any given moment, for His providential love which is shining upon us and working for good.

This puts us in a much better frame of mind, but that is not the main reason we do it. We do it because it is true and because the doing of it actually restores the harmony necessary between Creator and creation.

The very act of thanking Him opens the channels of communication and the love of God can enter in more freely.

It is hard even for God (who can do everything) to answer prayers when they are put in such a complaining and doubting way.

The hardest thing for us is to hold our nerve when things are going badly. At such a time we need to make an affirmation of faith and trust (the Scriptures are full of them) and then wait to see the improvement.

If we go the other way and abandon hope things will continue to go badly and worse still.

But if we hold firm, just like in a battle, then we start to turn the tide.

We could do this for the whole world if enough people would take up the same message.
Our problem as the human race is we have never been united enough. A few people are praying in faith at any one time; the rest are charging like the Gadarene swine.

Yes, some terrible things happen but we can reduce those things by keeping a very close united front with God. It is because we have not stayed close that so many things have gone wrong.

If we do stay close there will be a general improvement in both our attitude and in the things that actually happen.

We must not be distracted by what goes wrong, but keep focused on the simple and unchanging truth that God is Good. All thanks to Him.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sermon for 12th Sunday after Pentecost 19.8.07

12th Sunday after Pentecost 19.8.07 Love of neighbour

It is too hard to love our neighbour we might say, aware of the many faults that neighbours have, which make them hard to love.

But it would be no use trying to convince God it is too hard to love neighbour because He already does. He loves all the people we don’t.

He loves them so much He died on the Cross for them.

So we will make no headway if we want Him to change His commandment. The only remedy is to ask Him to help us love our neighbours. From the abundance of His love can He send a little our way and enable us to love where we previously could not.

This will enable us to have mercy for the weakness of others, and at the same time wanting them to reach their best (which is how God deals with us).

There are two kinds of people, a man once said to me: those who put people first and those who put the system first.

The ones who put the system first are the ones who go by the rule book. They insist on everyone conforming to the rules. Break the rules and you’re out.

The ones who put people first are the ones who overlook the rules and let people find their own way.

Both approaches can be taken too far; excesses lie in every direction.

If we insist on the rules too much we run the risk of crushing the bruised reed. If we punished everyone with every fault we would be back to hanging people for stealing sixpence.

At the other extreme (which is pretty well where we are in our present society) if we let people do whatever they please we are doing them no favours. One man’s freedom is another man’s injury. And this way people will not achieve their full dignity or status as sons of God.

We want to get things exactly right. To love neighbour as God does is to want what is best for that person ( not whatever he might feel like, but what God wants for him).

This does require a respect for the ‘system’ which happens to be God’s system and therefore the best for all concerned.

Granted we don’t trust systems in general, finding them impersonal and arbitrary etc, but when God has made the system it is a different matter.

So we do not have to lurch from one extreme to the other. We can have the best of both approaches.

We can have absolute respect for both the dignity of the other person and the rightness of God’s order.

And the truth in both the theoretical and practical sense is found in a meeting of the two.

I love my neighbour best when I am introducing him to God. This can be done in a number of ways, but basically means that God is working through me in some way in every interaction I have with another person.

People will protest, Why bring God into it? Indeed how can we leave Him out, because only in Him does the whole system make sense.

Only through God can we have that exalted understanding of human dignity. Otherwise we are just ‘collections of molecules’ as a politican recently asserted.

Knowing how important people are, but without going to the other extreme of letting everyone be his own god, we can then get the right bearings.

We love one another by obeying God ourselves and by encouraging (forcing in some cases, eg children) others to do the same.

So we realize that the command to love neighbour is not so far out of our reach; it just requires a gradual convergence on what is true and good in each person and each circumstance.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Sermon for 11th Sunday after Pentecost 12.8.07

11th Sunday after Pentecost 12.8.07 How to work a miracle

There is a certain stand-off between Almighty God and a sizeable part of the human race.

Many people challenge God, as to His existence, His will, His reliability in a crisis. They will say that they prayed for something at a certain time and God did not hear them. So they cut ties with Him. If He comes back on track and works a miracle for me, fine, I will reconsider. Otherwise not.

Today: How to work a miracle. The answer can be put in just two words: Obey God.
The human race says to God: You work me a miracle and I will obey You from now on.

God, for His part, says: You obey Me first and then I will work you any number of miracles.

This is the dilemma. Unless one of us gives way we will continue to be at odds, and the world will continue to limp along in all sorts of disease and disorder.

God can and wants to do all sorts of good things for us. The Gospel story of the healing of the deaf and dumb man is, like the many other miracles of healing, a symbol of the complete work of salvation that Our Lord came to achieve.

Yes, He delighted to cure sickness, to restore order, just as we like to repair something damaged or broken.

But He wanted to do much more for us than just to get our hearing back to full volume.

He wants to heal us in such a way that we regain all that Adam lost, and share in all that He, the second Adam, has won for us. No less than full union with God in our souls.

He came that we might have life, and have it to the full.

In His determination to give us this fullest blessing He will sometimes withhold lesser blessings, by way of forcing us to look further.

So, for instance, when He worked the miracle of the loaves and fed the multitude, the people thought this was great, and pursued Him because they wanted more food and wanted to see signs and wonders. He, however, wanted them to look further than just bread for the stomach, physical comfort, and to look at their lives and the way they were living – loving neighbour, forgiving enemies etc.

Why does God not grant every prayer? Because if we could have everything we wanted we would be asking for the wrong things. We would just have free food, free beer, no work, all sport, and so on. We would all be like Samantha in Bewitched and just conjure up whatever we felt like.

God knows better. He does not want us all to be magicians. He wants us to be faithful children, trusting in Him, submitting all our needs to Him, accepting His decisions as to what is good for us, what is necessary for the greater good.

In a word: obey Him. If we only do that the whole world opens up before us. We cannot tell Him what to give us, but He will bless us beyond our expectations. We will see miracles. Healing, transforming, above all conversion of life. We will be like the charcoals in the thurible, red-hot with the love of God and able to send off sparks in all directions.

This is the ultimate blessing from Him, when we are living in union with Him. He will withhold other things until we realize and accept this fact. Let us end the stand-off and come to Him readily.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Sermon for 10th Sunday after Pentecost 5.8.07

10th Sunday after Pentecost 5.8.07 Our true identity

The epistle (1 Co 12) exhorts us to develop a communal sense of identity. We each have our place in the Body of Christ, different gifts, different roles. Strictly we have no identity of our own. We are automatically included in the team. We were never meant to have a separate agenda, any more than a part of an engine would think of itself separately from the rest of the engine.

Where we differ from parts of an engine is that we do have separate consciousness, but if we submerge that to the common good then we will reach our highest point. It is like being told: You have a separate mind, will etc, but submit that to the good of everyone else, and be humble and obedient enough to go along with whatever that requires. If you do that you will be exalted. If you try to go your own way you will come to nothing.

It is a test, and we are sorely tempted to go the individual road. The one who tempts us did go that road. Some of the glorious angels could not submit but wanted to assert their own individuality; so they crashed. If Lucifer had stayed loyal, how powerful he would have been.

The team identity actually enhances us. If I played for Manchester United everyone would be impressed, but if I just wore a red shirt and kicked the ball around the park by myself it would not count for much. So we actually gain prestige from belonging to the Church. The most powerful outfit there is, because the only team with God as captain and actually playing for the side.

The only hope for being ‘somebody’ is to converge with others in being the Church, as it is meant to be.

Thus Our Lord teaches us: humble yourself first and then the exaltation will come.
This requires a major shift of thinking.

We are so accustomed to thinking of ourselves as individuals – what suits us, what it cost us etc.
And then it is harder to join the ‘team’ when we can see that other ‘players’ are not thinking of the team identity either. We can sense the selfishness of others and we don’t want to join with them. So it gets very complicated.

Only remedy is that we all come in from the outer; we all climb down from excessively individual positions, and start to find out what we can do as the Body of Christ.

The main point is not to fear that we are losing anything of our precious ‘identity’ if we submit to Christ. No more than a branch lying on the ground would lose out if it suddenly became joined to a tree.

Catholics are accused of ‘leaving their brains at the door’ when they come into worship. Is that true for you? Do you feel you are not capable of thinking because you submit to the Magisterium? Of course not. We use our power of thinking to conclude that the Magisterium
is right. We choose what we believe as much as any freethinker.
We are free thinkers too. Free to pursue and embrace the truth. It should not come as any surprise if the truth has been largely codified in an existing body such as the Catholic Church. God intended us to look for the truth, but He did not intend to hide it from us. The truth has been looked for and it has been found.

We are fortunate to come in somewhat later on the scene and find out that other people have done a lot of the hard thinking for us (establishing things like the divinity of Christ). We can think those things through, but we will find they are right anyway.

No, if we are to use our brains, it will be to recognise that our true identity is found in a larger body than our own individual one – found in the Body of Christ.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sermon for 9th Sunday after Pentecost 29.7.07

9th Sunday after Pentecost 29.7.07 Atonement

Our Lord weeps over Jerusalem, knowing its obstinacy and the punishment it is going to reap. If only they would repent, come to the party, then they would know happiness like never before.

So we sigh and weep over the current world, for much the same reason. It doesn’t have to be like this.

Some would argue that religion should be a cheerful affair and will not admit any kind of gloom. So we have to put a bright and breezy interpretation on whatever is happening.

Our Lord said once that there was a time for feasting and a time for fasting. When the Bridegroom is taken from them, that will be a time for fasting.

We agree that we should be joyful, cheerful, hopeful in general. But this cannot be in any sense a flippant denial of obvious reality. We cannot just say, Don’t worry, Be happy. We need to have at least a section of our lives where we are mourning for Jerusalem, weeping for our sins, and positively making atonement.

It’s as if in the Church, we have different tasks, and at any one time at least some part of the Church needs to be mourning, praying for mercy, atoning for all the sin going on.

This would restore some balance. Of course we can weep for sins without denying the joy of our faith, or the basic goodness of Creation. It is the goodness of God that we affirm when we lament that He is not known and loved.

Someone seeing a Christian weeping might say: So much for that religion; it obviously does not bring happiness. But that would be simplistic.

The weeping is part of the process of bringing things around to where they need to be.
We still have Good Friday, or indeed any Friday, as part of our whole scheme of things. We can stop weeping only when everyone stops sinning. We will not have complete happiness until that happens.

Granted we should not be gloomy and miserable beyond this precise theological sense. We cannot excuse grouchiness and grumpiness just on the basis that there are sins going on.

But a measured sense of grief, an awareness of the offended majesty of God, these are essential to the life of the Church. Thus we have Fridays and Lent, and psalms of lament, and constant asking for mercy.

Not least the Mass itself which is first and foremost a plea for mercy.
Is it not a celebration? Certainly, but we can never (not yet anyway) have ‘just’ celebration, because there is still the need for fasting.

Fasting, reparation, penance, weeping for sins – these are not just outpourings of emotion, but powerful spiritual weapons which will actually change what is happening. When we really get into the prayer we can change the course of events.

It would be an insult to God to expect Him to be happy with how things are now. We will pay Him greater honour by setting about fixing things. The first stage in that is focusing on what is wrong, and committing it to prayer. It is not lack of faith, just pinpointing the problem.

We might be tempted to feel overwhelmed by all the things that are wrong, but we submit everything to the infinite mercy of God.

The fact that in every age there have been atoners for sin, at least some people who have recognized the need (cf story of Abigail and David, 1 Kings 25 (or 1Samuel 25)), is what has kept this world afloat.

May it float a little longer and even start to sail a little bit, with the help of our tears of repentance.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sermon for 8th Sunday after Pentecost 22.7.07

8th Sunday after Pentecost 22.7.07 Conversion

This corresponding Sunday in a year’s time the World Youth Day will be on in Sydney. There is much excitement and build-up to the event.

The Latin Mass will be represented by the Juventutem movement.

Some traditionalists are sceptical of such events, worrying about such things as irreverence to the eucharist, hosts being left on the ground etc.

While some of the things that happen will be far from ideal, we can still expect good things to come from such an event.

There will be conversions to the faith, and that is always a major priority.

The Church, wisely looking ahead (to 2028) is hoping to hold those conversions and help those presently young to grow old without losing any of the fire.

A conversion is not meant to be a supernova, a brightly exploding star, beautiful for the moment but then darkness.

It is more like the bottom row of bricks on a wall, that can be built on continuously and get better and better with time.

If you are converted at 20 and filled with enthusiasm you should be twice as good at 40 and four times as good at 80.

The good thing about the big events is the expectation is higher and people are more inclined to go beyond their usual cautious responses.

The Pentecostals have been doing this for years with their altar calls. It is not wrong to capitalise on high emotions, if the end result is conversion and salvation.

But we have to make sure that the good resolutions made at such times will stick.

How to do this? The readings today call for a clear grasp of the relationship of the flesh and spirit (epistle), material world and spiritual world (Gospel).

The essence of the matter is that we need to live in the flesh and material world with a totally spiritual understanding.

If the flesh is operating outside of the spirit’s control then our life is out of control.
If we put money (or any material thing) above the life of heaven, then we are in danger of losing our soul.

We can look for help to those who have done it best – the saints. During each week we celebrate saints who have left everything to follow Our Lord. The consistent feature of these saints is the totality of their conversion.

They literally left everything to follow Him. They turned their lives upside down and never looked back.

Many of them were rich, young, of noble birth, looking at very comfortable lives, and they gave it all away to work with the sick and the poor. Or they left their palaces and lived in caves. Many of them gave away their lives either in martyrdom or strenuous service.

Overdoing it, many would say, but not really ‘over’, just doing what Our Lord said.
The rest of us are ‘underdoing’ it!

Conversion calls for a life which maintains that sense of drastic realignment. We cannot just tinker around the edges of things if we have been converted. We have to grasp the new life with our whole being - dive into the pool, not just put our toe in.

This means making significant breaks with patterns of sin. If we have lived in the flesh, addicted to sinful behaviour, we have to break completely with those things, not just reduce them a little bit.

The saints show us the way. Renounce altogether impurity, gluttony, vanity, 7 deadly sins, and seek only Christ.

We don’t all have to be monks and nuns, but we do all have to be holy. We cannot all live in caves, but we can all keep our hearts and minds pure for God alone.

The main point is to grasp the totality of what conversion means. We do not look back to Egypt; only forward to Heaven.

So everytime we hear of World Youth Day, all of us of whatever age can think of conversion, seeking it for others, renewing it for ourselves, living it like the saints.

Monday, July 16, 2007

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15.7.07

7th Sunday after Pentecost 15.7.07 Sing to the Lord

In welcoming Latin Mass choirs to Adelaide this weekend let us consider the place of sacred music in the liturgy and in our lives.

Why do we sing? For our own pleasure, yes, but when it comes to sacred music a lot of other things are happening.

We enjoy singing and hearing sacred music, but it also gives glory to God.

We can never exhaust the praises of God. He is infinite in glory and we could never say or sing all that can be attributed to Him.

The angels in heaven sing ‘sine fine’, without end, and our singing is just switching into their chorus.

Our singing has the further effect of lifting us to heaven, helping us to transcend our normal daily lives and filling us with inspiration.

This helps us to think better thoughts, and live better lives.

The epistle today reminds us that the wages of sin are death, and the Gospel that we must be like good trees, bearing good fruit.

One reason we sin is we do not see God clearly enough. If we could see His face we would never think of sinning.

We are like the Israelites who became bored and distracted when Moses left them for a time, and they made the golden calf. This symbolises all sin. We make false gods when we lose sight of the true One.

So we need ways of staying connected to God. Our worship is one of those ways.

It takes discipline to push ourselves out of bed in the morning, to pray a little longer, a little harder, to come to extra Masses - yet if we do these things we will feel a lot better and stronger. We are then fortified to go back to the outside world.

Our singing/worship is part of the effort we make to worship God. It is re-connecting to God, drinking from the source.

The way we feel when we hear this music is how we are supposed to live the rest of the time. There are times when we are really inspired that we feel like we could love all humanity; we are filled with goodwill.

Those feelings can die down very quickly. We want to lock them in so that the good feelings become good habits (virtues). And we become like the tree – firm under pressure, and bearing good fruit.

So our singing is more than just a nice sound. It is vital in making contact with heaven, in receiving help from heaven, and in gaining entry to heaven.

All the while giving glory to God, and pleasure to us.

It is something worth doing to the best of our ability. Any mistakes we make in singing will, we trust, be absorbed by the angels in their perfect and never-ending praise.

The psalms are themselves songs to God, and they exhort us to sing constantly. For example, Ps 95: O sing a new song to the Lord, sing to the Lord all the earth. O sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Summorum Pontificum

6th Sunday after Pentecost 8.7.07 Summorum Pontificum (released 7.7.07)

Today we celebrate the Pope’s Motu Proprio enabling a freer celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass.

We hope the Mass will be celebrated more widely, and now free of any taint of being considered somehow disobedient, divisive, subversive.

Hey, we are only praying after all!

The clarifying of the status of the Mass will, the Holy Father hopes, lead to an increase of unity within the Church.

Everyone should be happy. The traditionalists are gaining something; the moderns are not losing anything (along the lines of ‘You are not losing a daughter, you are gaining a son’).

There is in the end a fundamental unity between Catholics of every opinion and taste: that we want God to be glorified and souls to be saved – ever the two ends of the Church.

We believe here in this community that this particular form of the Mass (and other sacraments) does give both glory to God and certainly helps souls to be saved, not least our own souls.

We have discovered the beauty of this rite, and we hope now that many others will also.

I will not go into all the technical details here, but review rather how we can understand this Mass and benefit from it.

The Mass is transcendent. It lifts us out of ourselves and our daily routine; taking us to the very courts of heaven. One day within Your courts, Lord, is better than a thousand elsewhere.

If this is escapism it is the best kind, because we are escaping to a real place, and better than here.

One hour of heavy duty contact with the Power, Love and Goodness of God, with Mary and all the angels and saints. It is a good way to fill in an hour.

And the benefits are immense: Grace for every kind of need; a Sacrifice which atones for all human sin; a Communion with the Body and Blood of Our Lord, which sanctifies us.

A lot of what happens in the Mass is Mystery to us. We don’t know the inner workings of God’s mind, but we get used to entrusting things to Him.

Whatever happens we must be better off after one Mass than otherwise.

So we hope to take full advantage of this new freedom for the Traditional Latin Mass.

We hope it does appear in every parish, and that every priest will learn to say it, thus enriching their own priesthood.

But we cannot be confined just to counting numbers of people or Masses. Sure, the more the merrier,

but we know we have to live the Mass as well as go to it.

We have to make our own interior participation in the Mass as worthy and complete as such a great event requires.

We have to be as humble as we look as we bow and kneel before the Almighty.

We have to be as charitable as Christ Himself, who pours out His life for us.

We have to be as joyful as the angels, worshipping before the Throne of God.

We have to be as zealous as the apostles; as hopeful as the prophets; as long-suffering as the martyrs, as pure as the virgins.

We are mixing in all this company; we have to play the part!

We live like citizens of heaven to prove we are worthy to go there, and to bring some order to this troubled planet. Not to mention that heaven is our true home, so we have to get used to it.

The most beautiful thing this side of heaven, said Fr Faber of the Traditional Latin Mass. It is a good deal the other side (that is inside) of heaven as well.

May it be multiplied indeed, in its frequency, and its fruitfulness to the world.

Long may it live and flourish, until it merges into the heavenly liturgy which knows no end.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Sermon for Feast of Most Precious Blood 1.7.07

Feast of the Most Precious Blood 1.7.07

Some people faint at the sight of blood. It is impossible to see blood with indifference. It has such importance. It represents, and in a sense is, life itself.

We can die from loss of blood. If we do start to bleed we instintively try to arrest that flow. We are holding on to life itself.

The loss of blood is death; the receiving of blood is life (as in a transfusion).

Today we honour the Blood of Christ. In doing that we recall how His blood was lost, and how regained – lost on Calvary; regained in the Resurrection.

The loss or shedding of Our Lord’s blood was part of His sacrifice for our sins.

He made Himself the sacrificial lamb, a perfect sacrifice both in His humanity and divinity.

It is pleasing to the Father, not only because of who/what is sacrificed, but the generous impulse behind the sacrifice.

Not many lambs will volunteer to be killed but the Lamb of God does.

It makes the sacrifice (already perfect) more impressive still.

This blood is precious because it is divine, and because it is given from a motive of love.

God is offended by human sin, but more than appeased by this supreme act of love and generosity.

It would be like breaking someone’s front window and then buying him another house (and better one) as a recompense.

We do not deserve this from Jesus, but we are grateful for it.

His death saves us from death – eternal death. He therefore wins life for us. If we do not die eternally we must live eternally.

But there is more than that. It is not just that now we go to heaven when we die. He changes us, changes the way we live, makes us more alive, starting now.

He gives us a blood transfusion when we receive Him in Holy Communion.

By our communion with His blood, we learn to become like the One we receive. That is, we become people ourselves willing to lay down our lives for others.

If we let His blood mingle with ours we are going to be changed, for the better.

Ever wonder why the Church has so many martyrs? They are the ones who have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb, who have learnt to love as Jesus did.

This is a natural consequence if we let things go that far. (1 John 3,16: We know the love of God in this way: because He laid down His life for us. And so, we must lay down our lives for our brothers.)

Of course we are always tempted to limit our participation in the sacrifice of Christ’s blood. We are quite happy to be forgiven; not necessarily happy to be changed.

When we are willing to die for the brethren, able to love like that, we are fully alive.

Dying for others can also mean just the daily round of doing what we have to do, putting up with others’ faults, misunderstandings, insults etc.

This is probably harder in many ways than being eaten by lions.

In any event we are enabled to love by offering and receiving this Precious gift, the Blood of Christ. And each time we hope to be more pleasing in the sight of the One we have offended, and who is calling us to union with Himself.

We offer His blood to be saved from death; we drink His blood to become more fully alive.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sermon for Birth of John the Baptist 24.6.07

Birth of John the Baptist 24.6.07

The human spirit often shows great resilience in time of crisis. The way people survive things like wars, attempted genocide, and natural disasters is impressive.

For example, people went on having babies in the midst of World War II.

Some people ask, how can you bring children into a world which is so marked by trouble and which faces such a bleak future?

But there in the midst of it all, we still have children – expressing hope for the future.

Today the Church celebrates a birth, a birth of a very special child.

It is also an expression of hope. We know the path this child took, so his future is past to us.

However, we relive this event so that we can recapture the feeling of hope and wonder which the people of that time felt.

Here a special child is born, accompanied by all sorts of signs and wonders – the angelic appearance to Zachary; who is struck dumb; the advanced age of Elizabeth; the mysterious choice of name; the meeting (in the womb) of John with Jesus, and the recognition of Mary by Elizabeth as Mother of the Lord.

These are all very familiar to us and may be dulled by repetition, but if we face them in their full freshness we can experience some of the excitement of the time.

And that in turn will revive our own sense of wonder at God’s providence, and our own hope for the future.

We know the story of our salvation, but do we let it fill us with hope?
Or do we in fact let the adversities of our time weigh us down and lead us nearly to despair?

Do we not feel with the psalmists that God’s mercy is past, that He may have worked wonders in previous ages, but where is He now?

We face the present world in all its complexity and its denial of God.

We look for signs of hope and they can be found.

They can be found at any point of the long story of salvation which stretches from Adam, Noah, and Abraham to the present day.

When we look at any part of this long chain we can celebrate that particular thing and all the rest that goes before and after – and be revived in hope.

Where we stand right now it is (as usual) unclear what the future will be.

But by expressing and renewing our hope in God’s power to save, we are going a long way to making that future take the right course.

We can form the future by the response we make now to God’s will.

John the Baptist did this himself by being faithful all his life. Other saints also.

‘John’means ‘God is gracious? Is He ever, with unmerited salvation being offered so fully.

John’s life did much to introduce and facilitate the flow of God’s grace. He lived his own name.

His death was also glorious, (prefiguring that of Jesus) and so he remains one of the most revered saints in the Church.

He will help us follow our path from birth to death, straying neither right nor left.

Hope - as solid as the One in whom it is placed - will be the foundation of our lives.

Whatever difficulties we face, they are as nothing compared with the power of God.

Even if bombs are falling, salvation is still found in Christ.

So we go on having children, gaining degrees, ordaining priests, living lives – all time is in God’s hands. We must be faithful and watchful stewards making the most of whatever time we have.

We thereby prepare the way for the Master to return.