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.