Monday, May 28, 2007

Sermon for Pentecost Sunday 27.5.07

Pentecost Sunday 27.5.07

They each heard the apostles speaking in their own language! - one of the miracles associated with Pentecost.

It was truly an example of how far God will go to reach the human race. He adapts His communication so that each one has a chance to know Him and to respond.

This miracle of languages was also a foreshadowing of the Church’s role in occupying every nation and reaching all the peoples of the world.

If we pour water into different shaped containers the water will flow into whatever shape is there. The Holy Spirit will likewise adapt His coming to the one receiving Him.

He will make allowances for the particular needs and dispositions of that person – taking into account the degree of willingness the person has to receive Him, and the plans God has for the person.

The Holy Spirit will know all these things and will ‘flow’ accordingly.

If we are more willing to receive Him we will receive more. If He calls us to higher things or more difficult things, we will receive more help accordingly.

Today, especially, is a time for us to ask Him to come. We ask Him to come to each of us, individually, and to the whole Church.

We do not know what exactly God is going to ask of each of us as individuals.

Take the apostles as an example. They were just ordinary men, several of them fishermen.

They would have had no idea they would end up world famous for centuries to come! How could a Galilean fisherman become so important?

Yet it happened, simply because they allowed God to use them according to His plans.

In the Church we are encouraged to be humble. Unlike say the political world, or the business world where we are encouraged to sell ourselves. If I apply for a job, for instance, I should go into the interview with reasons why I am the best person, and not those other applicants.

In the Church, however, we are not supposed to put ourselves forward for high office. A priest, for instance, should not be saying: Vote for me to be bishop, or Pope!

We are supposed to be aware of our limitations and lack of talent.

If we should not put ourselves forward, however, we should let God put us forward if He so desires.

So the apostles did well to respond to Our Lord’s call to follow Him.

Various saints did not want to be made bishop or pope, or head of the order, but humbly obeyed when it was clear this was God’s will.

They let God put them forward. They were willing to let Him decide the course of their lives, and trusted that He would provide the necessary graces.

This is Pentecost in practice, in everyday life.

We are aware of our own weakness, our own limitations. But we do not apply those limitations to God.

If He wants us for some purpose, to do some work for Him, then let it be done. (Remember someone else who said that?)

And then, apart from the jobs we have to do, there is just the matter of how good we can become.

Pope or postman, bishop or bartender, we all have an obligation to be as good as we can be – in terms of faith, hope, charity, and the various gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

Here also we don’t know. Just how good can I be? I may think I have reached about as holy as I’m ever going to get, but how do I know that? Chances are, if I say that, that I am thinking only from a worldly wisdom. I do not know what miracles of grace God might work in me. I should leave room for those miracles and never cease expecting or striving to improve as I cooperate with His grace.

Pulling out a vice here, building up a virtue there. Pulling up weeds; planting flowers.

Come Holy Spirit, and make Pentecost happen in each of us, in the Church, and in our time.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Prayer for faithful departed

Please pray for Stephen Greenslade, of Mt Barker, who died tonight (Saturday 26th May). Stephen and his wife Frances, were regular members of our community. May he rest in peace, and his family be consoled.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sermon for Ascension Thursday 17.5.07

Ascension 17.5.07

Our Lord leaves us, blazing a trail to heaven. His intention is to come back and to take us by the same path to Heaven.

This feast opens up a strong light on our mundane lives.

We go about trying to find enough money to pay the bills, going to the doctor, taking children to soccer training, going to bed, getting up again… so it goes on.

We barely make ends meet, only just keep our heads above water.

Into all this we have this glorious light shining. It is almost more than we know what to do with.

Heaven is so far out of our daily thoughts that we find it hard to fit in when it does intrude.

Heaven is in a way more happiness than we want. Most times we are happy with just a slight improvement.

If we move from a small house to a bigger one, we are happy. If we get a slight pay rise at work we are happy. If our football team wins, hooray.

It does not take much because we do not expect much. We have become accustomed to being beaten about by life and we welcome any relief, or any scrap of good news that comes our way.

We come to mistake the difficulty of this life for the full product. We think it is meant to be difficult, and will always be like this.

If Jesus offered us, not eternal life, but say another 50 years of reasonable health, we would be delighted with that.

But no, we have to settle for eternal life, in heaven. It strains our imagination beyond breaking point. We cannot take it in.

No matter, we will discover the fulness of joy as we encounter it.

The fact is we are more blessed than we are capable of realizing, happier than we would ever presume to expect.

The present life, with all its pains, difficulties, sorrows, will pass away and only eternal glory remains.

This feast reminds us of how richly blessed we are.

It should cheer us up considerably and also help us to live in a more realistic way.

The temptation we all face is to try to accumulate as many pleasures in this life, like beggars looking for scraps.

This is not the way for those who are honoured to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

We are called to much higher things and we will not debase ourselves or insult Him by grasping only for earthly pleasures.

We will calmly endure certain privations here, knowing that a rich reward awaits us if we stay faithful to Him.

And such earthly consolations as do come our way we will not overvalue, but see them just as foretastes of much greater happiness to come.

Where He has gone we hope to follow. In the meantime we focus on Heaven. We look to it expectantly, for His return.

We make all our earthly decisions with Heaven in mind. We do not have to think about it every moment, just be habitually aware of its presence.

Never again must we complain about this life and how hard it is. What do we expect in a war zone? The war, however, is coming to an end. And we are on the winning side.

Sermon for Sunday after Ascension 20.5.07

Sunday after Ascension 20.5.07 Prayer

The apostles spent a whole nine days praying between the time of the Ascension and Pentecost.

They were waiting for something to happen. They did not quite know what it would be but they prayed for it to happen anyway.

By this time they trusted Our Lord and His instructions.

We know what they were praying for and what happened – the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, knowing this, we are not much wiser than they in terms of what happens next.

We also, as the whole Church, are constantly in a state of expectation and waiting for further activity from Heaven.

Waiting for instructions, waiting for grace, waiting for the right time.

When we look at the Scriptures we see a lot of examples of waiting (accompanied by praying). Times of fasting, long vigils of prayer (cf David for the life of his son; the Jews in Esther’s story; Hannah seeking a son)

Our Lord Himself waited 30 years to begin His public life. He began that public life by another 40 days in the desert.
Now we see the apostles waiting nine days for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

In all this we might ask: why doesn’t God speed things up. It took nearly two thousand years from the time of Abraham to the time of Our Lord. All that time the Israelites were waiting for a Messiah.

It has taken another 2000 years, and still counting, for Our Lord to come again.

Why does everything have to take so long?

One part of the answer must surely be that He is waiting for us to realize something.
To realize that we are meant to be a part of His plans, and not just leaving everything to Him.

He will act when we act. When we show that we have the maturity to trust in Him, to obey Him, to respond to Him – then the time is right.

The apostles had to wait for Pentecost because any earlier they would not have been ready.

It was not just when God was ready (which might have been sooner) but when the Church was ready to receive Him.

(The same no doubt could be suggested for the Incarnation and the Second Coming).

The apostles were praying, not so much to hurry God along, but to bring themselves to the boil, so God could take the next step.

And the same applies to us. We pray for all sorts of things to happen, and we sometimes wonder why they don’t happen. Where is God? Is He asleep? No, He is waiting for us to grow in maturity, to ripen in faith.

So we continue the prayer. Long, faithful, persistent prayer. Acknowledging God’s greatness, calling to mind His many favours of the past, and confidently expecting future blessings.

All the while, promising Him that we will be responsive to whatever He asks of us.

This is the tricky part. There are no limits to His power and goodness, but all sorts of limits and unpredictables about us.

Prayer is stating the obvious until it is obvious to us!

But even when it is obvious to us we still have to keep praying. We pray to get what we need, and then we pray in thanksgiving.

They still pray in heaven, and not only for us, but just for the sake of praying. Prayer is ultimately a state of union with God.

We cannot rest from prayer until we attain what we need. We cannot rest afterwards either.

The whole Church, in heaven and on earth, prays - in praise of God and for the fulfilment of His plans. Come Holy Ghost!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sermon for 5th Sunday after Easter 13.5.07

5th Sunday after Easter 13.5.07 Fatima
On the thirteenth of May 1917, after Sunday morning Mass, three children (Lucy, Francisco, and Jacinta) chose to lead their sheep to a property called Cova da Iria. After eating their meal at noon and praying the Rosary, the children began to play. Suddenly they saw a kind of lightning, making them believe that a storm was approaching, and they began to descend the hill to make for home.
When about halfway down the slope there was another flash of light, and a Lady appeared above a holm-oak tree. Lucy says that the Lady was "all dressed in white, more brilliant than the sun, radiating a light clearer and more intense than a crystal glass filled with clear water pierced by the most burning rays of the sun." The children stopped and found themselves in the light that emanated from Her. Lucy describes the apparition in this way:
Then Our Lady said to us: ‘Do not be afraid. I will do you no harm.’ ‘Where is Your Grace from?’ I asked Her. ‘I am of Heaven.’ ‘What does Your Grace want of me?’ ‘I have come to ask you to come here for six months in succession, on the 13th day, at this same hour. Later on, I will tell you who I am and what I want. Afterwards, I will return here yet a seventh time.’
…Are you willing to offer yourselves to God to bear all the sufferings He wants to send you, as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and for the conversion of sinners?’ ‘Yes, we are willing.’ ‘You are then going to have much to suffer, but the grace of God will be your
So began a great story, which still affects us, and is today 90 years old.
Fatima was a special message for a new century, in which new technology combined with ancient evil would make possible a scale of destruction never before seen.
It was an age of blocs. Which bloc would you belong to? Not so much east or west, as Heaven or Hell.
Our Lady was warning that, as bad as things were in 1917, they would get a lot worse if men did not repent. If the requests of Our Lady of Fatima for the Consecration of Russia and the First Saturday devotion are not honored, the Church will be persecuted, there will be other major wars, the Holy Father will have much to suffer and various nations will be annihilated. Many nations will be enslaved by Russian militant atheists. Most important, many souls will be lost.
Well, things have got a lot worse, but Fatima was also a message of hope – springing from the fact that God is greater than the devil; good is greater than evil.
There is a remedy provided for all this evil. It is the remedy of mercy. Mercy can be obtained from heaven. Sins can be forgiven; the hearts of sinners can convert; bad people can become good.
If the requests of Our Lady of Fatima are carried out "My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will Consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to mankind."
If we repent, if we make sacrifices, if we pray – then there will be peace and a time of great progress for the Church.
So we find ourselves between warnings of destruction and promises of deliverance. It is in our power to make things better by doing what Our Lady asked us.
We can be so discouraged by things going wrong that we lose heart in our prayer and no longer dare to ask for these good things.

Not everyone has ignored the message of Fatima. There are always a faithful number praying away and making reparation, and we are among that number.

Who knows what disasters we have helped to avert by the prayer and the sacrifices we have already made. We might have had World War 3, 4 and 5 by now, but for the faithful response of at least some percentage of the world to Mary’s warnings.

So much comes down to just how many people are doing these things. The more join in the better it gets. The urgency is just to get YOU to join in.

Sin is still with us, bigger than ever, but so is Mercy and the grace of conversion. It needs every hand on deck, every shoulder to the wheel to bring off this great change – the conversion of the whole world, the Triumph of the Immaculate Heart.

Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Sermon for 4th Sunday after Easter 6.5.07

4th Sunday after Easter 6.5.07

Is there life on the new planet they have discovered 20 light years from earth? I hope not, for their sake!

Life is too much trouble, is it not? At least that is what we tend to say, taking a look around us on this very troubled planet.

But it is not meant to be so. The epistle today (James) reminds us that only what is good comes from the hand of God – only good, and every good.

Somehow we manage to make much heavier weather of life than God meant it to be.
It is all because we have rebelled, goaded on by the father of lies, and in the darkness which sin brings upon us, we declare there can be no God, no purpose to life.

The denial of God in theory follows from the the denial of God in practice.

In this Easter season we are reminded of the reasons for our joy. Life is a precious gift, and we should be glad to be alive.

If we had just taken God at His word we would have saved ourselves a lot of trouble, but it is still not too late to reclaim this basic simplicity of taking life as a gift from the hands of a loving Father, and using this gift as He means it to be used.

So we repent of our sins, we get our lives back in order; we get rid of all the false attachments and rebellious attitudes. We clean up our act.

We apologise for making the earth such an unpleasant place to live, and we re-instate Jesus Christ as King, promising to do things His way from now on.

It is only our sin that makes this seem difficult or unlikely. If we would turn from our sin we discover a new clarity, a breathtaking simplicity – God is right after all. It has always been so.

His creation is good, and would run perfectly if only we obeyed Him!

So we set about recovering what we have lost. We will struggle to cast off our sins, but we will keep that central and all-important focus, that God is good and only what is good comes from His hands.

If He lets us suffer, that also is part of His goodness because He is forcing us to turn back to Him.

We turn back to Him in prayer. God is a God of infinite power and love, and is just waiting for our prayer to exert that love on all the parts of His creation.

We might ask, why doesn’t He just do that anyway? Because part of the gift of life was that we would be stewards of His creation. He is waiting for us to reclaim this role. If we turn to Him He will act; if not, He will not, at least not as directly.

A large part of the process is just to relax and fully enter His presence. We tend to pray only on the surface, not getting into the prayer, because too much distracted, or resenting the need to pray, or lacking in faith etc.

If we can cultivate the habit, keep the vision of His goodness, and just let the power flow. This would happen if we stayed at it long enough. That father of lies will be trying to discourage us, but we are too smart for that.

So, life is good. If we heed this message from St James we will see that it gets better still.

(I hope those people on the other planet have done better than us).