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.