Tuesday, January 30, 2007

4th Sunday after Epiphany 28.1.07 Prayer

When the apostles woke Our Lord as He slept they were engaged in an act of prayer. Save us, Lord, we are going down. Straight to the point! Prayers in emergencies tend to be very short and very sincere.

‘Get me out of this, Lord, and I’ll be good for a month’ etc

Yet they were rebuked by the Lord. There was something wrong with their prayer. It lacked real trust in Him. They were panicking when they should have remained serene.

So they received one more lesson in prayer on that occasion. Our Lord was constantly teaching His disciples about prayer. May He teach us something today.

Lord, teach us how to pray.

Prayer presents certain difficulties for us. We often do not feel much like praying. It can seem like a chore or a task that has to be done, like washing the dishes.

We would rather be outside playing, or inside watching television, or a dozen other activities, but not many people would regard prayer as one of their favourite things.

Prayer sometimes brings emotional uplift but often not not. We don’t always feel better after praying; we don’t always see much result to the prayer.

The world seems much the same whether we pray or not, so we can become discouraged and pray less (this is why many no longer pray, even though they were brought up on it.)

Also prayer is an open-ended reality. There is no clear end point. If I have another task, like washing the dishes, I know when I am finished, but with prayer there is always more that could be done.

Because of the lack of emotional stimulation and the lack of clear results, we tend to measure off our prayer on the lighter side, and pray less rather than more.

This is not a good idea. Prayer is not a task; it is communion with one we love and who loves us.

Romeo did not regard time with Juliet as a chore. He would have liked more time. This is how we should be with God. It is a meeting of lovers.

And think of all the things we pray for. What is enough?

We could take any one aspect of prayer, eg asking for mercy, and if we did that every second of our lives, it still would not exhaust the need for mercy.

Or the praise of God. If we did that every second of our lives there would still be more to be said in praise of God’s infinite glory.

Always more prayer is possible and always more prayer is better than less.

Two Hail Marys are better than one (presuming always sincerity in the one praying).

The more Masses the better; the more people at Mass the better. We want to establish a chorus of non-stop prayer. Praising, Thanking, Interceding, Asking for mercy.

The whole Church prays around the clock, but we can still do a lot more and a lot better.

Because it is not a chore this is not something that should alarm us. Prayer will reveal to us its own delights. If we are not ready just yet to see prayer as exciting and rewarding it will become more obvious as we go.

God makes Himself known to those who seek Him (remember the wise men).

And then we do not count the prayers like getting through some task. It is a communion of love. Time stands still when we pray.

The apostles were rebuked because their prayer was from shallow roots. They had not established a communion of love and trust with Our Lord. This is what we need to do.

We don’t pray just when the brakes fail or the boat starts to sink. We pray all the time, so that when a crisis emerges it is just a matter of gently turning to the Lord and He will help us deal with it. Son, they have no wine…

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sermon for 3rd Sunday after Epiphany 21.1.07

3rd Sunday after Epiphany 21.1.07 My soul shall be healed.

It is a lot harder to heal a soul than a servant. Because a soul has so many moving parts.

We can be forgiven a sin, or tackle one particular fault only to find it is leaking somewhere else.

Overcome selfishness today and lust tomorrow and you are still not perfect but becoming so.

If the Lord can heal it by a word, we wish He would.

But we start to realize the complexity of the matter. We sense that by ourselves we are never going to be able to plug all the leaks.

So we ask the Lord to speak the word. He does that and He also enters our souls despite our claims of unworthiness.

He comes inside us and starts to tidy up the house. He restores order just as He dined among sinners and the castoffs and brought order to them.

Cleaning up a room means putting everything in its proper place. Jesus helped the sinners to put their desires in order. They sensed His mercy and kindness and desired those qualities more than money or pleasure or whatever else they had known so far.

They may not have known how they were going to achieve this new vision, but they knew they wanted it above all else. (This is the essence of repentance and conversion – the detail comes later, but at least we know where we are pointing.)

This is what happens for us also. The Lord heals us by offering us a new way of looking at things.

It is all a matter of desire. We desire the wrong things. We chase after false gods.
The soul does not know its own sickness, only that it is restless. So it dangerously goes in all directions looking for satisfaction and often makes things worse.

Our Lord heals the soul by giving it the right object to seek – Himself, and His kingdom.

He will draw us to Himself like a magnet makes all the little filings point the same way. He will ‘fix’ our gaze on Him so that we will not look away again.

Then all our various desires and passions will be in place and our souls will be running like new engines.

We will want what He wants. Simple as that. That is what a ‘healed soul’ looks like!

It doesn’t sound so hard when we put it like that, does it?

In practice it will take a while because we are not used to this, and it takes a lot of learning.

We have been thinking and desiring too long in worldly ways. It is not easy to change the way we think. But the lesser will give way to the greater.

And the way the Lord ‘heals’ us, changes us, is to draw us to Himself. By revealing His own beauty and goodness we are drawn irresistibly to Him.

(This is why they cannot sin in heaven. They still have free will but no one would want to use it against God’s will).

So this process goes on until we are fully healed. Like repeat visits to the doctor.

He is the Doctor after all, and He called Himself as much.

It is our very sickness (sin) that makes us unworthy to receive Him, but in removing the sickness He makes us worthy, restores us to His friendship and gives us a share in His glory.

My soul shall be healed, and also guided, led (custodiat) into eternal life.

The rest of our lives is a constant process of being healed and strengthened, finding the right order in our souls, preparing for eternal glory.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sermon for Feast of Holy Family 7.1.07

Feast of The Holy Family 7.1.07

Many committed Catholics find themselves at larger family gatherings over the Christmas period. And what can happen is that discussions start over religious matters, and this can often turn ugly as various lapsed or dissenting family members poke fun at those who still believe these things.

This is what Our Lord referred to when He said that He had come to divide a family, three against two, father against son etc.

It was not Our Lord’s will to have people quarrelling but that He knew there would be division as a consequence of the different reactions that would be made to Himself.

In every family here, no doubt, there are non-practising, non-believing members, and we pray for their return to the faith (or first coming).

Ultimately so we can be reunited and find the true source of all human unity – Christ.

No use being a close family if we are all in the wrong place!

So we pray passionately for union with Christ, and through Him with each other.

Unity in belief; unity also in peace. In the Holy Family we find both. Total union with the will of God in belief and practice.

we might feel excluded from such exalted company. How could we hope to set foot in that house, where holiness burns like a fire.

It is as though they are on top of a mountain and we are down far below just looking up and wishing we could be where they are.

After all, in our houses, there is quarrelling and nasty comments being made, and a lot of inconsiderate and selfish behaviour.

How could we hope to have a house like that where everyone is thinking of the other first?

Rather than be discouraged and just declaring that we can’t do it, we can try another approach.

If we spend some time in their house, we can allow the effects of their holiness to rub off on us.

When we spend time in the company of others we are influenced. Ever visit a convent or monastery where there is a holy atmosphere, and you feel different? Or even a quiet church full of statues and stained glass windows.

The atmosphere affects us and we feel a little bit holier. Not saints all in one day, but just a slight improvement.

Well, the same principle applies here. Let us visit the house at Nazareth in our prayer and meditation.

Praying the Rosary is one way, especially the Joyful mysteries.

But every Mass, every time of quiet prayer is a chance to enter this holy environment and draw a lesson or two.

I emphasize ‘quiet’. The Holy Family would not have been listening to Triple X, Y or Z, would not have been playing on the computer all day and night, would not have turned the television on as soon as they stepped in the door – they would have lived in tranquil silence, we imagine. It is hard to imagine any noise more discordant than the sound of carpenters’ tools.

And no shouting matches either! What sort of a place is this?

Not boring as some would venture. Another dimension altogether. Getting in touch with ourselves. You pay a fortune to go on a course to ‘find yourself’.

You could find yourself at home if you turned off enough gadgets.

Just try a little silence and a little kindness. We cannot do this just by willpower, but we don’t have to.

We can drink in this shower of grace that comes from a higher place.

Take this drink and it changes from being ‘don’t argue’ to you ‘won’t argue’. The nastiness simply goes out from us and we actually become holy.

Not a dream, just reality waiting to happen.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sermon for 2nd Sunday after Epiphany 14.1.07

2nd Sunday after Epiphany 14.1.07 Cana

We have been celebrating in the Christmas season that God the Son took on human nature, joining it to His already existing divine nature.

Today’s miracle at Cana has been traditionally understood as an epiphany, a showing forth of God’s glory, the first public miracle worked by Our Lord.

An epiphany requires to be ‘seen’ to have its full effect. Can we see what is happening here? Have we eyes to see?

The symbolism of this miracle can teach us much. Water is turned into wine. And it is the very best sort of wine.

In every Mass we pray that through the mingling of water and wine we may come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled Himself to share in our humanity.

If divine is wine and human is water, the lesser is taken up into the greater and enriched forever.

Once God has taken on human nature humanity can never be the same.

We have been upgraded. Our Lord said on another occasion: we cannot put new wine into old skins. The skins would burst and the wine would be lost.

New wine, new skins. If our human nature is to hold divinity we must be remade, be new people.

The ‘epiphany’, the point we must see, is that we cannot be new humanity if we continue to live in the old sinful ways.

We cannot be lazy, lying, lustful, bearing grudges and rages, and still hope to be sharing in the divinity of Christ.

This is old skins and the new wine will not hold.

Nor can we fulfil this new state just by ritual observance (such as going to Mass once a week)

Nor by minimal observance of the commandments, cutting corners at every possible chance.

What is required is no less than a complete makeover, a complete new person, like a new building from the foundation up.

To be incorporated into divinity is no small thing.

We must rise to the occasion.

How do we do this?

Just think that you probably came to this Mass in a car. How many came on horseback? A hundred years ago everyone would have come on a horse, or pulled by one.

We have upgraded. We do this for every area of our lives except the most important.

When it comes to our human nature - when an upgrade is available – we stay with the old. We stay with our sins because we are used to that way of living.

Hard for us to change, even if we do see the need, because old and bad habits die hard.

How to dig them out? Gradually it can be done.

One more prayer, one more act of penance, one more good deed, one little bit more exertion, one more sacrament…

Just push ourselves a little harder and we find new doors to grace opening and we become stronger.

We can reach a new platform from which other progress can be made.

Supposing we overcome one bad habit. If there was a certain sin we were committing five years ago, but are not committing now, this is progress. It gives us another starting point.

We don’t go back to the old ways and we can head further into new territory, the land of holiness.

Living in union with divinity is a skill to be learnt, but we can practise it and get better.

At least know what is required. ‘See’ the revelation, grasp the point, and don’t try to pretend that nothing has happened at Cana.

You are marked for greatness; don’t settle for less.