Sunday, November 09, 2008

New blogsite

Future posts from me will now appear on Lux Vera blogsite
Hope to see you there.

Friday, October 31, 2008

All Saints and All Souls

Mass times for All Saints and All Souls Day:
All Saints, Saturday 1st: Sung Mass at 8.30am
All Souls, Monday 3rd: Low Mass at 7am and 12noon;
Sung Mass at 6.30pm

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Feast of Christ the King 26.10.08 Sermon

Feast of Christ the King 26.10.08

This feast was instituted in 1925 in a time of great trouble, to remind the world that they have one ultimate authority, Jesus Christ, Lord and King.

If He were given proper recognition there would be no more wars or revolutions, but peace and concord all round.

People often express a longing for unity among the whole human race. What better way than to begin with one Lord for all? In all the racial and cultural diversity there is one Lord and God who oversees it all, from whom and to whom all things come and return.

So today is a day for large vision, for rising above petty differences as all the peoples of the earth are invited to look upwards to the King they have in common.

Sadly many people do not accept Him as King, reducing Him to little or no importance in their scale of values.

He is not valued as He should be. This is partly the same problem as when He came to the earth 2000 years ago. Because He was humble people thought He could be dismissed.

Because He was crucified, they thought He was of no account.

They did not understand then, and still do not, that His humility and self-sacrifice is what demonstrates His greatness.

Anyone can be arrogant and overbearing and many earthly rulers have been, but there are not so many who will give their lives for their people, let alone allow themselves to be taken for a criminal or a slave.

‘When I am lifted up I will draw all men to Myself’, says Our Lord in John’s Gospel. The Cross becomes a kind of throne on which He mounts, to show His royal dignity and to unite all people with Himself.

It does not look dignified at first but we come to understand what He has done; and then we are drawn to Him. Drawn to imitate His love, something we appreciate even if we cannot do it. But He will enable us to love like He did. This is why He feeds us with His body and blood. He is transfusing His life into us.

If we all imitated His humility and self-giving then this is how we have unity among the peoples of the world. We learn to live in harmony, not by ignoring religion as some would suggest, but by actually being religious, imitating the perfect Man who has renewed our human nature.
We learn to behave like Him. And we learn to love Him. This is the next stage. He wants not just our obedience but our love.

How do we express that love? For one thing by acting out His commands. But He wants more than that. He wants us to adore Him, to commune with Him.

So we come to worship Him, to express His worth, which is infinite.

We do not normally worship kings because they are not ‘worth’ it (worth-ship)! But this King is worth it.

The acts of adoration we make go some way to expressing His worth, never quite getting there, but some way.

We may not ‘feel’ adoration. Liturgically, our bodies are adoring Him with such gestures as kneeling, genuflecting, bowing; we have to bring our minds and hearts along as well.

If He is the King of the whole world it is about time the world knew it. At least we know it, and can intensify our response to Him.

If we can obey Him, imitate His example, then that is a great start. If we can love Him, adore Him, be one with Him, better still. We would all do this if we only knew Him better.

Let us come to know Him for ourselves, and do everything we can to make Him known to the world.

Behold your king, said Pilate sarcastically. We say it without sarcasm. Even while - and especially when - covered in blood, He is our King. Come, let us worship.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

FSSP comes to Adelaide

Below is an announcement of the appointment of Fr Michael McCaffrey FSSP to Adelaide:
October 12, 2008

To the lay faithful of the Latin Mass Community in the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

I am pleased to announce to you that negotiations with the Fraternity of St Peter have now resulted in Father Michael McCaffrey being appointed your Chaplain as of November 4th this year.

I am delighted that the Fraternity of St Peter has made this commitment to Adelaide and I am most grateful to Father John Berg, Superior General of the Fraternity of St Peter for appointing Father McCaffrey to Adelaide.

I wish to thank very sincerely Father David Thoroughgood who has been your chaplain for some years and who has carried out his role with a great sense of loving service to you all.

Father Thoroughgood leaves the position of Chaplain and will now be appointed to a hospital chaplaincy role with the Royal Adelaide Hospital.

Father Thoroughgood will continue to say the Latin Mass in other locations in the Archdiocese according to the terms of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.

I am sure that the Latin Mass Community will join with me in thanking Father Thoroughgood for his service, and in welcoming Father McCaffrey as he takes up his new and important role. Father McCaffrey will reside at the Archbishop’s House West Terrace Adelaide.

With my continuing support for the Latin Mass community.

Yours sincerely,

Philip Wilson DD JCL
Archbishop of Adelaide

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 19.10.08 Sermon

23rd Sunday after Pentecost 19.10.08 Trust in God

The global financial crisis is claiming casualties in terms of despair and suicide. People are killing themselves and sometimes their families to avoid facing the shame of financial ruin.

This is terribly sad, of course, and something that should never happen. No matter what crises we face we should take refuge in God and He will deliver. If Job had committed suicide, what then? (His wife did actually advise him to... curse God, and die).

We do face a lot of crises in the course of one lifetime, and we are often tempted to lose hope, but God keeps reminding us that He is with us and that we should trust Him to help.

The two miracles in today’s Gospel show faith at work, particularly strongly in the case of the woman who reasoned that if she could just touch the hem of Our Lord’s garment she would be healed (and she was).

Almighty God seems to be saying to us, that if we only believed Him, believed in Him, and placed all our requests before Him with confidence then He would grant them immediately.

Why are not all prayers answered? It could be we did not pray with faith. It could be it is not God’s will to grant that particular request. It could be that it is His will, but that the thing we ask for needs more prayer over a longer period of time (eg world peace, the salvation of all souls).

Whatever the blockage, we should never conclude that God either does not exist, or does not care about us.
We must never doubt either His existence or His closeness to us. He has not gone away, He has not fallen asleep; He has not stopped loving us.

So we come back with more prayer, and we feel our way towards Him: Lord, I am not sure what is happening here, but I trust in You above all else. You are the one certainty in the midst of everything else. So I place my needs before You, knowing You will not abandon me.

How to believe, trust, and hope in the midst of adversity? We have to go by faith and not by feelings.

The woman had been sick for many years. Nothing had healed her so far. She could have easily given up hope of ever being healed. She had no answers but she went to the One who did have the answer, or who was the answer.

She did the crucial thing which we all must do – she went outside of herself.

When we doubt, fear or despair we are staying locked up inside ourselves, just churning up the same old ground and getting nowhere. We feel our own inadequacy and deduce from that that there is no solution. We are simply defeated.

But take a look outside of self and see the Saviour of the whole world standing before us, and we get a very different story.
I may be inadequate but He is not. I may not have the answers but He has.
I don’t have to know how He will help; I just know that He will. So I go to touch the hem of His garment. I reach out to Him and He will heal me.

Sometimes the solution will take longer and be more complex than for the woman. Some of our problems have many levels (eg an unhappy marriage, rebellious children, state of the Church). No matter, He is bigger than all problems, and able to solve them all.

I am sure the only reason the world is in such a desolate state is that so few people take Our Lord at His word (Come to Me etc) and instead languish in despair and doubt, often even killing themselves.

It is like starving to death outside a restaurant. The solution is there, but do we take it?

Well we do, that is those of us here now. We will touch His garment, open our hearts to receive Him, and let His power flow into us... Who touched Me? We all did!

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 12.10.08 Sermon

22nd Sunday after Pentecost 12.10.08 Give to God what is God’s.

Give to God what is God’s – how much belongs to God? Everything. Though not all of it is useful to Him, such as money. He has no need of our cars, houses, clothes etc, but He would like us to use them according to His will.

For one thing we should not make false gods of them, but see ourselves as merely stewards looking after God’s property. He wants us to use our possessions for the good of all. Thus the rich should help the poor; feed the hungry, shelter the homeless and so on.

If God does not want our property as such, what does He want from us? Our hearts. He wants our love, our allegiance, our homage.

He wants us to love Him to the point that we would readily do His will on any point, large or small, without argument or complaint.

This is the ‘tax’ He asks from us. It cannot be measured in money; it comes from the heart. It is a spiritual offering.

In this sense we can never pay Him enough; if there is any more we can give Him then He wants that too.

It might sound demanding, but remember we are made for this. We are created to know, love and serve God. It is our destiny, the thing we are most geared for. Like a racehorse to race or a bird to fly, we are designed to love God.

And God never commands something without also giving the means to carry out the command.

So if He says, I want everything from you, He will also make it possible for us to give that.

One major way He assists us to give everything to Him is through the Sacrifice of the Mass.

In the Mass we are praying in overdrive because it is not just our own thoughts and sentiments that we offer to Heaven, but Christ Himself. We offer God to God, the perfect
Sacrifice, pleasing to Him and an offering that does fully satisfy the definition of ‘everything’.

God the Son takes our offering and joins it with His own, so that we are truly giving to God what is God’s.

We are very fortunate to have the Mass, fortunate to be able to offer it freely in a place where we are not persecuted. When we think of the English martyrs and others who risked torture and death to offer the Mass, then we realize we have it easy.

We who are attached to the Traditional Latin Mass rejoice at its gradual and steady re-introduction into the life of the Church. We have discovered the beauty of this rite, and we hope others will continue to discover it.

It is a treasure that God has given to us, beautiful and useful at the same time. It is our way of giving to God what is His.

All we have to do is get on board. Like getting on an aeroplane. It does the flying; all we have to do is climb on – then we say we are flying.

So with the Mass. It does the work, we might say; all we have to do is climb on, attach ourselves and let our offering be taken up to Heaven.

The most beautiful thing this side of heaven, said Fr Faber of the Traditional Mass.

Now we will have another priest in Adelaide to offer this Mass every day. We rejoice in that,

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

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

Thursday, October 09, 2008

21st Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.08 Sermon 2

21st Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.08 Battle/Abortion

The epistle tells us that we are engaged in spiritual warfare. What is the nature of this warfare. It is not like other wars where we arm ourselves with weapons and go out and start shooting or bombing the other side.

The warfare of the Christian is essentially in the realm of ideas. It is a battle for truth. Seeing it, understanding it, living by it. Why should this be difficult? Because the evil forces, led by Satan, are very good at obscuring the truth and casting every kind of doubt and fear in our path; causing us to lose our certainty and grasp for false solutions.

The war is fought at the individual level as each of us tries to live by the truth at every level of our own lives, overcoming the snares and temptations of the evil one, and choosing what is right and good. It is easy enough when we are on our game, but very easy to fall if we are not vigilant.

The war is fought also at the communal level, involving our whole society and culture. The way we live, the way people think.

What a strange mixture that turns out to be. It is just like a war where you win some and lose some. People sometimes get it right – eg coming to the help of a family in need.
And sometimes get it wrong with widespread acceptance of evils such as abortion and euthanasia. So it is ok to kill a baby in the womb. But in other circumstances we go to great lengths to save the life of a child. We have to recognize these contradictions and iron out the wrong bits.

So the spiritual war means that we have to fight for own soul, and also to fight for the whole culture, to ‘redeem the age’ as we found St Paul telling us last week.

We have to change the way people think, including ourselves; it is a battle of ideas, harder to win than a sword fight.

If it were just a matter of proving a truth intellectually, but no, it is a moral battle as well as intellectual. Our fallen human nature just does not want to grasp the truth in some cases. We have become enslaved to sin and do not necessarily want to be set free from its grasp.

One particular battleground is abortion. We are asked to pray especially now for the situation in Victoria, where liberal abortions laws are being proposed.

We can fight this battle on two fronts, which might at first seem to be contradictory, but we come to see that they are complementary.

One is to assert the absolute wrongness of abortion, as a matter of principle.

At the same time and not in any way diminishing from the first point: we are worried about the wellbeing of the child, mother and all others.
We are concerned for the mother not just the child.
what we say to the mother is, Have the baby and you will be much happier, as well as other goods being achieved.
And the same to people who work there etc, You will be better off if you worked somewhere else.

The second point is mercy. We say abortion is wrong, and You can be forgiven for it.

We do not take the false step that many would recommend that we blend these two together, just fudging over the truth and letting everyone think they are doing a good job just to spare their feelings.

No, we seek God’s way and this is where the battle must be fought. We make ourselves very unpopular, but it is for the good of all eventually. We do not hate those who hate us. We extend to them the mercy of God (as in today’s Gospel, parable of unforgiving debtor).

A battle for the truth, for clarity. Clarity and Charity, we might say. Know what is right, and do it, but if you don’t do it, ask for mercy and get it right the next time.

21st Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.08 Sermon 1

21st Sunday after Pentecost 5.10.08 Forgiving others.

It seems so easy when we hear that parable. It is so obvious how foolish that servant was for not releasing the other servant from the debt. We feel the indignation of the other servants and the king. He deserved to be punished for his hard-heartedness.

Yet we are not just observers of the scene. We are in that parable. We are that unforgiving servant, whenever we refuse to forgive someone who has offended us.

Forgiving those who offend us is one of the hardest things for a Christian. Why is it so hard?

Something to do with wounded pride. How dare anyone do that to me?

Something to do with ingratitude. We forget how lucky we are; we take it for granted.
Imagine you are on death row and one minute from death a reprieve comes. How relieved we would be, how happy. We would be on top of the world.
Well, that is how we should feel all the time insofar as we are forgiven by God and reprieved from going to hell, which is where we really deserve to go.
We should be walking around on our knees in gratitude.

But we forget so easily. We can walk out of the confessional and forget how lucky we are, and then proceed to throttle one another with unforgiveness.
We expect God to forgive us. Yet we deserve to go to hell. It is only by God’s mercy that we have any likelihood of going anywhere else. So we need to stay grateful.

If gratitude does not work, let’s come from another level.

Some offences are very hard to forgive. For example, if the offence is still current and repeated, and likely to keep going.

It is all a matter of how we put the question.

We might say, I could never forgive that!
Or we might say, X has offended me. I pray for him to become a good person, to be the person God created him to be. Put the second way it does not seem so hard.

The point is that if he did change I would like him!

Think of the saints. Do you think St Stephen would be mad with St Paul for condoning his death? Or St Maria Goretti with the man who stabbed her? Or Christ Himself with those who crucified Him?

No, the offence is swallowed up in an ocean of love. The offence is seen to be very small in the context of eternity, of God’s infinite love.

They really ‘do not know what they do’. To a point they know, but if they really understood the love of God they would not offend.

We are just praying bad people become good. (By the way ‘bad people’ includes us insofar as we also sin, we also offend others).
Is it so hard to want bad people to be good? It is a lot better than if they stay bad.

We like to see anything deformed made good. We could discover great beauty or goodness in others. It is an exciting possibility.

Sometimes the resentment can be so deep that the repentance of the other is resented. How can he repent on his deathbed and get to heaven like that after all he has done? But again, we all deserve hell. So we cannot resent someone else escaping it. We can escape too. Think of that ocean of God’s love. It won’t seem so hard once we get to heaven.

It is better if we do this willingly. If all else fails then the fear of being condemned ourselves should jolt us into forgiving.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

20th Sunday after Pentecost 28.9.08 Sermon

20th Sunday after Pentecost 28.9.08 Redeeming the age

This may be a wicked age but your lives should redeem it...(Epistle, Eph 5). We frequently find ourselves in the minority if we are to be serious disciples of Our Lord.

It may be you are the only person in your family or workplace or club etc that is fully practising and believing the faith.

Then, when we confront the tides of public opinion we find that we are likely to be cast as one extreme, while everyone else is more ‘balanced’.

We must hold firm, realizing that it has ever been so. Even in ages when nominally Catholicism was the dominant religion there were still a much smaller number who would take the faith seriously.

If we do take it seriously we will begin this process of ‘redeeming the age’.

The spread of the faith has always been a matter of one person convincing another of the truth of the Gospel. This can be done partly by words, partly by action.

The words we speak invite all to have hope. There is wickedness about, but it does not have to be so. We can do things differently and do them better.

The actions we do – well, it helps if we can work miracles, but most of us cannot. So the next best thing, (or really the best thing) is to live good lives. To walk in the light of Christ and thus show the world how this religion is meant to work.

If enough people did this others would follow. It seems so far that it is very rare to have the majority of any population really switched-on to the faith.

No matter, we work with what we have. We may be few in number; we work all the harder.
Our history abounds with stories of the apparently weak taking on the apparently strong and winning.

From David and Goliath through to Mother Teresa, the one who puts his trust in God will have the strength and will win the battles.

We are weak now if we consider the numbers. We are just ones and twos here and there, battling against a flood of secularism, and within our Church an easygoing understanding of salvation which presumes it is easy to get to heaven.

As a result there are very few who see the need for repentance, fasting, atonement, the urgency of conversion. Those who do see it must be all the more energetic in telling and acting the message.
With God’s grace to assist us a few can conquer the many and bring the world (for the first time) to the kind of conditions prophesied in Isaiah (the readings we use around Advent and Christmas).

In any event, succeed or fail, we must still do what is right. If I am the last Catholic left alive I must still do the same things as I am doing now.

Always pray, believe, trust, work and thus exert an influence on the surrounding population and culture.

Learn the Church teachings, learn to defend them, learn the way other people think and why they are wrong (eg pro abortion, pro legalized prostitution).

Pray for the courage to be different from those around us. We don’t have to be one of the crowd, and cannot afford to be in these times.

Different not because you have green hair or wear outrageous clothes, but because you follow Christ, in letter and spirit. You are one of the few who do not ignore or insult Him, who do not try to tone down His teachings.

Some of our number have even died for Him. A powerful witness, and one that does not end with the person’s death.

We pray that we grow in numbers; in any event that we grow in faith and commitment. We believe these things to such a point that we cannot not make known the wonders we have seen.

19th Sunday after Pentecost 21.9.08 Sermon

19th Sunday after Pentecost. 21.9.08 Be angry and do not sin

‘Be angry and do not sin’ St Paul tells us. This tells us that anger is not always a sin. Let us explore further.

Anger is a frequent issue for Catholics. When is it alright to be angry, and how is it acceptable to express anger?

For divine inspiration we have the story of Our Lord’s cleansing of the Temple, and this reminds us that He was not always quiet and gentle.

On this occasion He was displaying a just anger; His anger was a righteous indignation at the lack of reverence being shown towards God.

He was not just ‘losing His temper’ over a trivial issue. There was justification for His position. It is right to be angry at evil; in fact it is a duty.

Anger, as such, is not a sin. It becomes a sin when it is unruly – either because there is insufficient ground for it, or its expression is excessive.

We speak of the anger of God; this is always a just anger.

God is angry with evil and with evildoers. This is not the same as being ‘mad with’ someone, wanting to pulverise them. God does not lose His temper.

His anger is perfectly balanced; it is something like a creditor calculating how much he is owed. It is the correction of an imbalance.

Here is a disorder; a correction is required.

God cannot abide disorder. He is perfect Himself and His creation is perfect. Disorder comes about through some kind of sin; God moves immediately to repair the damage and make all things well.

He deals differently with different people according to the situation.

So, He was obviously angry with the pharisees at various times when they tried to trap Him and obstructed His saving work.

God can be angry and merciful at the same time. People sometimes reason that because God does not immediately and obviously punish a certain sinful action then He must not mind what is happening.

But God’s anger can take different expressions. He notes the disorder, the imperfection and immediately goes to work to fix it.

How He does that will vary, but we know that He will be doing it.

There will sometimes be obvious punishment; sometimes a chance for a change of heart; sometimes punishment will be just letting nature take its course.

One factor in this is the disposition of the offender. A proud or defiant person is more likely to receive a direct punishment, because that may be the only way that God can get through to the person.

A humble person is more likely to receive a gentle response because he is already well on the way to correction (as with woman caught in adultery, or Prodigal Son)

We can learn from God’s anger how to deal with our own.

We sometimes get angry with the wrong things. We might be more angry because someone cuts us off in traffic than with abortion; more angry with some personal slight than with blasphemy.

What do we get worked up about? It should be the things that really matter, things that God Himself disapproves of.

And how should we express anger? Again, take the cue from God: gentle with the contrite; stronger with the obstinate; all the while never losing our own self-control.

We are seeking to restore order, the perfection of God’s order – not just our own opinion or whim, but an objective reality.

And, Do not let the sun go down on your anger. Our anger must not linger and fester, but be confined to the point, always seeking what is best for the other person.
A just anger only, and always tempered by mercy.

May the pure and just anger of God cleanse us from sin and keep us in His favour.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Exaltation of the Cross 14.9.08 Sermon

Exaltation of the Cross 14.9.08

Today we exalt the Cross, that is, we honour it, give thanks for it, in every way try to grasp and express how important it is to us.

We are led to think of the Cross under two aspects. As it was on the original Good Friday and how it affects us now.

The epistle today reminds us of how momentous the Cross was in its original form. How many people would have expected God Himself to come down from Heaven even to be with us in any form, let alone to allow Himself to be executed as a criminal? Gods just don’t do that sort of thing!

(Even still the Cross is a barrier to some in believing in Christianity. It is a ‘scandal’; it just does not fit their expectations.)

Yet come He did, and allow Himself to be taken and crucified He also did.

We honour Him for that. St Paul goes on to explain that God the Father honoured Him by raising Him from the dead and all the way into heaven.

We honour Him in His resurrection and ascension, but we also honour Him in His crucifixion and that is the point we emphasize today.

At the time people laughed at Him and mocked Him. They said things like, He could save others; let Him save Himself. They reasoned that if He stayed on the Cross He was weak, and therefore not worthy of their respect. Whereas, if He came down from the Cross He would be powerful and invite respect.

What they did not understand is a point at the heart of God’s eternal plan – that He would make of Himself a sacrifice for the sins of mankind and then offer that sacrifice to Himself, thus reconciling humanity to God.

To do this He had to stay on the Cross; He had to see it through to the end. We honour Him for doing that. We say, Well done. If anything was ever well done this was. We could not express enough gratitude or appreciation for this event if we applauded and cheered for the rest of our lives.

He welcomes our adulation but He also wants something else – our imitation. He wants us to live the Cross ourselves. We do not just look at the Cross from a distance but rather from along side of Our Lord. We are on the Cross next to Him, more like the Good Thief.

The Cross is still happening today, in that Christ if being crucified in His members.
(Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?)

This is very difficult for us because it involves suffering. On the other hand every time even one disciple endures some pain on behalf of Christ... be glad when they persecute you ... it is a triumph for that disciple and for all of us, because it is making present the Love of Christ in our time.

Every blow received by Our Lord or by one of His disciples translates into Love, and Love heals. The more they load onto Him the more Love He shows in enduring it and the greater the fruit of the sacrifice.

If we are His disciples we join Him on the Cross. We change from crucifiers to crucified.
We become victims with Him, and this is helping to complete the process of salvation.

The more people on the Cross the better, the less people mocking the better. We must be one or the other.

Eventually the sufferings of Christ will be completed. The last nail will have been driven home, the last drop of blood shed.

Until then we exalt the Cross for what it means, for what it did, and still does in our time.

Monday, September 08, 2008

17th Sunday after Pentecost 7.9.08 Sermon

17th Sunday after Pentecost 7.9.08 Love of God

"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." So said St Therese of Lisieux. How could it be so?

What is important is not so much the action as the intensity of love with which it is performed.

Some fortunate souls are capable of mystical experiences of God. They are taken up into ecstacy when they pray. They experience wonderful feelings at such times.

But every saint and spiritual writer warns against making those experiences the centre of attention. What should be at the centre is the desire to please God, not just what is pleasant to ourselves.

Thus if to pick up a pin is my duty that day, or some other task, and if I do it with the motive of pleasing God, then the action takes on a spiritual value far beyond its physical usefulness.

So much of life is dull and routine. If we could learn that what we do in those routine motions of the day can be turned into spiritual conquest, then there is consolation in that.

It is why we do things, even more than what we do. If the thing I do is good and I do it for love of Him then it merits extra grace – reward for one thing, but also grace to achieve other good, such as the conversion of a soul.

This is how to be good without really trying! If we periodically consecrate all that we are about to do (eg in the Morning Offering) for the glory of God, and we then do those things with the prevailing intention – then grace is being accumulated, and we are doing a lot of good for the world.

If that is what He wants and you do it for love of Him then you are doing a great thing.

The command to love God is tailored to our capacity. God does not expect us to love Him as He loves Himself in the Blessed Trinity, but to love Him as much as we can acording to our limitations.

Loving God becomes: get the next thing you do right. And then the one after that, and so on. Avoid one sin, make one act of reparation, do one act of generosity etc. If we do these things we are loving God at that moment.

To do the will of God in that moment is pleasing to Him. Whatever He wants, even suffering, if I do that patiently. If He wants it then I want it, not at first perhaps but I come to want it. I value my opinion more than His to start with but I let His will take hold and that is big spiritual progress.

Even with the mystics, it is actually much harder to put up with a neighbour’s annoying habits than to pray. And more pleasing to God if we come through such tests.

Don’t confuse how you feel when you pray with how much you love God. You love Him as much as you are trying to please Him. Your prayer may be dry and not leave you feeling any better, but if you are sincere in wanting to please Him the prayer will be pleasing to Him and you will have succeeded in loving Him.

This is one reason He lets us feel dryness, to push us to that extra level of understanding, so that we do not seek just high feelings all the time.

Everything comes back to what pleases Him, even if it does not please me. Then eventually it does please me as well, because I have become one with Him.

So we look for pins to pick up! Well, any task, if it is a good thing to do, we do it for love of Him. And we can convert our neighbours in the process.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

16th Sunday after Pentecost 31.8.08 Sermon

16th Sunday after Pentecost 31.8.08 Reaching your potential

We have just had the Olympic Games where we see athletes striving to be the best possible at pole vaulting, swimming, running, etc.
It is very hard to be the best in the world at something like that. Should we even try? A lot of the activities, of themselves, would not seem to contribute much to the wellbeing of the human race. For example, if I can run very fast, what good does that do anyone?

On the other hand if no one ever strove for perfection at anything we would have no Mozart, no Shakespeare, no sporting brilliance... No exploring of new lands, no inventions, no medical progress... So it is actually good for the human race that people try to be the best at what they are doing, provided the thing itself is good, or at least morally neutral.

It then becomes a matter of vocation, of what God Himself wants from each person. In God’s wisdom He would, we imagine, call someone to do all the things that need to be done. And each one of us should try to work out what that is for oneself.
No use if I try to be the world’s best egg-and-spoon racer if God wants me to spend my time at something else!

But what we should all be trying to do is to be the best possible person we can be. Moral, spiritual goodness.
For example, to be kind. Sounds boring, but is it better to be the fastest runner in the world or the kindest person in the world?
To be genuinely good, heroic, self-sacrificing, that is the ultimate. We generally do not rank these things or have medal ceremonies, but this is how people are ranked in heaven.

St Paul prays not that we win the premiership but that we will learn the depths of God. If we do that we will each be the best person possible. We will have come to our full potential.

You could do a course on woodwork, cooking, Latin dancing, self-defence and countless other ways to improve yourself.
But we need a ‘course’ on how to love God and neighbour and how to keep in balance all our various desires and passions, so that we get everything right.
Don’t stop the other things but make sure you develop your spiritual self.

Saints it would seem took little or no recreation, preferring heavy penances, and self-denial at almost every turn. We can be intimidated by that when we study their lives. We think we could never forego all the pleasures the world has to offer.
Again it is a question of vocation. God does call some to a very hard life of renunciation, but not everyone. We must find our own level. Whatever else we do with our lives, we do not neglect the spiritual dimension. Don’t leave your religious life to be an optional extra.

If you are working on some project, ask God to confirm it is what He wants you to do. If so, ask Him to bless it. Above all, ask that it never take His place and become a false god.

Seek the living God first whatever else.

We will find Him through the other things if we get them in the right balance. This is why He gives us created reality and it is so beautiful in its different ways.... music, literature, the outdoors, sport, food and wine... .They all point back to Him if we only see it.

And we do not forget that some lives are called to perfection after only a short time on earth, either through martyrdom or sickness. So again it comes back to vocation. What God asks of you may be different from the next person. But if it comes from Him it is your fulfilment.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

15th Sunday after Pentecost 24.8.08 Sermon

15th Sunday after Pentecost 24.8.08 God comforts us in suffering

The Lord has compassion on the widow, the main motive for His miracle. He extends that compassion to us as well. He shows both how much He loves and how much power He has. Power and Love make a great combination.

He is not working a miracle just for that particular family. It is a sign for all of us that He has come for precisely that purpose... that the blind may see, the lame may walk, the dead may live.

He is Life Himself and gives life to others like a rich man throwing coins as He walks along.
Life is His signature, we might say. Wherever He goes He leaves a trail of life.

Giving life in general He also gives the particular aspect of life that we need at any given point... food if we are hungry, sight if we are blind, forgiveness if we are in sin etc.

And if we are in grief or sadness He will give consolation and joy.

Sometimes His help is obvious and dramatic, but not all the time. He does not normally bring the dead back to life as in this case. We understand that they come back to life in a different way, and much better than coming back to this earth. We would not wish our loved ones back here if they have reached heaven. It would be cruel to pull someone out of heaven and put them back here just to keep us company!

In this case our consolation is the hope/belief that the person concerned has gone to a better place, and we express our love for that person by unremitting prayer and penance.

Separation is painful but reunion in a better state is more than compensation.

The Scriptures tell us that God wipes away our tears. There are countless passages that make this point. (eg He will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more;mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.’Rev 21,1-6)

He will do so, either immediately as in today’s Gospel, or over the longer term gradually restore everything to how it should be.

He came to give life and life to the full. So, He does that. Sometimes it takes time, as in bringing people to resurrection and eternal life, but it is happening. Always He is acting for good on our behalf, and our prayers and sacrifices will accelerate that process.

So we bring Him all our griefs, sorrows, and hurts. The Church is like a hospital. Plaster, slings, crutches. We are hurt, sad, suffering. We take so many knocks and we want consolation. It will come. Did He not say He was like a doctor, coming for the sick?

It is important not to exacerbate each other’s pain by any unkindness. We are all in same boat and the boat often appears to be sinking. We need therefore to be sensitive to each other.
The people in the waiting room don’t fight and kick and punch. Nor in the Church.

It is OK to be sad sometimes. It is sometimes said that Christians should never look gloomy. Certainly we could be a lot happier if we had more faith. Nevertheless we cannot always be dancing in the street, not just yet. There are still too many disorders in the world for that.

We live the Cross as well as the Resurrection. Our Lord himself was not in a state of bliss on the Cross.

So we can acknowledge we are unhappy and we cannot be totally free from it in this life, this valley of tears, valley of darkness, this exile, this tent waiting to be folded up. We do not expect total bliss here; we just need enough consolation to keep us going. The bliss will be uninterrupted later.

The Lord, the giver of life, will carry us through until that point.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

14th Sunday after Pentecost 17.8.08 Sermon

14th Sunday after Pentecost 17.8.08 Trust in God

Our Lord tells us to trust in God to provide for us. Funny that we do not do that when we otherwise claim to believe in God and are happy to believe that He has rescued other people at other times, such as Israelites from Egypt, but somehow doubt that He will rescue me at this particular time – even though even in my own personal history He has rescued me countless times before!

And then we are happy to believe that He keeps the universe running smoothly, so we do not fear, for example, that the planets would get into the wrong orbit. We have perfect confidence that the sun will rise at 6.53 tomorrow morning but doubt strongly that God will find me enough money to pay my bills, or give me courage to face a particular ordeal.

Whom are we dealing with here? When we say we believe in God we are talking about the Supreme Being who can regulate the stars and planets, and who also knows how many sparrows are airborne at any one time, and all the fears and anxieties that might be inside your head. We are fine with the stars and the sparrows but not with the personal fears.

So we just have to move along a little bit further and trust Him with the little things as well as the big ones.

Little to Him if not to us. We have a twofold problem with this. One is that our personal needs seem very big to us, whereas to someone who drives the whole universe they must appear very easy to solve.
Secondly, that we do not pay sufficient attention to Almighty God in the midst of our troubles, because we are so absorbed by them we forget to call upon Him.

This is one reason our liturgical prayer so often recalls the greatness and reliability of God. The readings from Scripture, especially the psalms recall the wonders He has done, not just as a history lesson, but because He still does great things now.

The prayers give Him thanks for what He has done, and then glide into asking Him to do some more for us now.

Strengthened communally by recalling as the Church what God has done for us, we are then more able to face our own particular personal or family needs.

It is unthinkable that God would have forgotten you, or would not make some provision for your needs. Rest with that thought and then wait to see how He will deliver you.

A few practical steps: We need to be in a cycle of prayer whereby we constantly interact with God, calling to mind past blessings, and confidently placing present needs before Him. Not to tell Him what we need (because He already knows) but to tell ourselves that we need His help.

Resist the tendency to panic. Remember St Peter on the water, how he was doing fine while he kept his eyes on the Lord but started to sink as soon as he saw his position without divine help.

We can start off in a sinking position. We need to hold firm and just tell ourselves what we know to be true, that God does not forget His children, as He remembers even the sparrows.

One more thing: remember that everything that happens is for a higher goal, namely eternal salvation. We do not receive everything we want, exactly as we want it. We have to fit our plans in with God’s plans and this will mean we have to rearrange things.

Whatever disappointments we might feel will be compensated for as God will bless us beyond what we would have asked for.

This is what it means to seek first the Kingdom. Let God decide what He does with us and we will end up a lot happier than we would have managed for ourselves.

Our confidence might sink but God remains the same every day and for all eternity. He will provide for us. Do not fear.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

13th Sunday after Pentecost 10.8.08 Sermon

13th Sunday after Pentecost 10.8.08 Thanksgiving

When things go wrong we hear people say things like: ‘It’s just my luck; this would happen to me.’ Funny that so many say that. ‘Why is it always me that these things happen to?’ It is not actually true that we always get the wrong end of things. It is just that when we get the right outcomes we take it for granted. (For example, we notice parts of our body when there is pain, eg in the elbow, but otherwise would not think about that place.) And we notice and dwell on the bad things, and store up resentment.

Look at the balance sheet of life; is it worth being born? We had no choice. We just have to live with it. Your parents thought you deserved a chance. And their parents thought they deserved a chance. In any case God thought we deserved a chance. We were planned by Him. They talk of unwanted babies. Never unwanted by God.

Is it worth it? Well, for an eternity of bliss, millions of years of happiness. For such a reward just about any suffering is worth it.

Why are we so inclined to complain and be bitter and resentful. Because we are not quite right with God. We commit sin and it puts us in a bad mood, easily annoyed, all out of sorts.

The balance sheet shows that we face an eternity of bliss on one side and have only short-lived sufferings on the other. We are running at a profit!

But there is a temptation to be ungrateful, to blow up our troubles out of proportion. Ingratitude is at the heart of all sin. Sin is when we say to God: I do not like how You run things, so I will take it into my own hands! It is saying, ‘I didnt want any of this.I never asked to be born; I never wanted to get involved in all this etc etc’ It is like having a tantrum with God. (If it goes on long enough it can become eternal, and there we have a definition of Hell) We can be like that when we are bitter with God: ‘Lord, why did You do this to me? How dare You treat me like this, and I am one of your best people!’ The devil tricks us into copying his own attitude. It is such a waste, when all that happiness is there beckoning us.

So what we have to be instead is humble and grateful. Grateful for what? Everything. Being born, being baptized, having the gift of life and the gift of faith. For the sun in the morning and the moon at night, and all the blessings of nature around us. For everything that is not hurting, or that does still work.

And for what is going wrong, thankful that God among His many abilities can heal us, and can make things come right, bringing good out of every situation.
We will be far more sensitive to positive things if we have right attitude. ‘Give thanks in all circumstances’, says St Paul.

God makes things better; union with God makes things better. This is the attitude we need.
If we can’t stop evil altogether we can certainly reduce it and give it less space.
This is the balance sheet. We are running at a profit.

So we can be like the one leper who returned to give thanks. His salvation was not complete until he had done so. We are not fully saved until we have stopped arguing with God about how He should run the universe. Just be glad that you are here. It’s better than non-existence.

11th Sunday after Pentecost 27.7.08 Sermon

11th Sunday after Pentecost 27.7.08 Hearing the word of God

As Psalm 94 puts it: If today you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.

This, and countless other biblical references, exhort us to hear the word of God. Hear it and let it take root in our hearts, and then be expressed in action.

It seems, however, we are not inclined to hear the word of God.

Especially the words that tell us what to do, or not to do. We don’t like taking orders.

I heard once a member of a drug rehabilitation community explaining how his community works. One of the things this man said he enjoyed was to sit with someone at breakfast and receive any criticisms the other might have of him! I don’t think many of us would like to spend breakfast hearing our faults catalogued, but this man was humble enough and industrious enough to want to hear – so he could change.

We should all be willing to hear what God has to say about our faults, about what we could change to please Him more (breakfast or not). But this is just where we are likely to resist.
We do not hear the voice of the Lord because our fallen nature does not want to hear it.

Not at least when His voice puts demands on us (such as loving neighbour, or sharing possessions, or demanding strict chastity etc).

If we refuse to hear Him at this level we will probably fail to hear His other words to us – words of consolation and encouragement. Such as promising us eternal life, promising He will be always with us; promising He will provide for all our needs; watch over us carefully; forgive us readily of our sins... and countless other related promises.

We don’t hear these words either... well, we hear them, but they don’t sink in, because we are already too far from Him, having hidden from His commands.

We are like Adam hiding in the bush, when we should be like Zacchaeus coming down from the bush to welcome Our Lord.

Sin has made us ‘deaf’. We need the Lord to touch our ears as He did for the man in the Gospel, and open up the pipelines.

We will hear (perceive) the goodness of God, become aware of His love, and thus turn away from sin of our own accord.

It is only because we do not perceive Him clearly that we sin as it is. We turn to the false gods (the golden calves of the world) because we feel the real God has abandoned us.

But we only think that because the sin has clouded our vision (or our hearing). The problem is of our own making.

Once He touches us; once He opens up a new awareness of His presence we rise easily to a higher level of holiness.

This is what He wants to do for each one of us. The Gospel miracle symbolizes God’s desire to make it easy for us to hear Him.

What a tragedy when He has so much goodness to offer the world, yet people turn away in fear and distrust, and so much more trouble follows that.

We need not worry if He tells us our faults, or tells us we have to change some aspect of our lives. He also tells us of the rich rewards that await us if we only let Him give them to us.

What He wants to give us far exceeds what He asks from us.

Amen, amen I say unto you, that he who heareth my word, and believeth him that sent me, hath life everlasting; and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death to life. (Jn 5,24)

So we claim that eternal life, in the process freeing ourselves from the anguish and misery of sin.
“I don’t want to hear, but make me hear. I don’t want to trust You, but make me trust!” This is our prayer. It will be heard.

10th Sunday after Pentecost 20.7.08 Sermon

10th Sunday after Pentecost 20.7.08 Status

Much is made of self-image among youth. They worry what people think of them.
Much is made of appearance. The hair, the clothes, the look. The Pharisee in today’s parable worried about appearance too much. He was more worried how he looked to others than how he looked to God.

Man looks at appearances; God looks at the heart.

The Publican had the right heart. He may not have looked much but he had the one thing that mattered – union with God.

To the Youth – looks don’t matter much. What is in your heart? That is what counts. (One thing: if your heart is pure you will probably look better anyway.)

Search for the true God and you will find yourself. True self-identity is found only in relation to that true God. No other basis for life can deliver a proper self-understanding.

I must have some god even if only myself, but what god can lead me to my true self other than the true God?

WYD is quest for true God. For some perhaps it will be only the buzz of being part of a large event, but for some at least it will be an encounter with the living God.
He makes Himself known in different ways: He can be spectacular like Fatima or subtle like the gentle breeze.
Some discover Him in big rallies; others in the quiet of their own room. Same God.
We discover true self in humility. The first thing is to die to self. Like the seed. Then we bear fruit.
To be humble enought to say that I am not God; I am not the centre of the universe. No. I am a satellite of God. I revolve around Him.
To see myself as branch of the tree. I draw life from Him. I cannot exist by myself. I would not have the power to create myself or sustain life; nor can I do anything useful apart from Him.

But if I connect with Him then I come to life; then I have my true identity and the joy of that we see in some of the pilgrims. And we may have had that experience ourselves at some earlier time.

We become somebody the moment we say we are nobody.

Not nobody so I go and kill myself, but nobody by comparison with God who then raises me to be somebody.
If I had won Wimbledon and had been a war hero, and had academic brilliance and so on... impressive? We are in awe of people for the wrong reasons. Earthly status does not mean two straws if the person is not in union with God.
Conversely the tramp in the street is a royal personage if he is in union with God.

But we don’t waste time saluting each other, rather directing all our praise and attention to God Himself, knowing that we shine brighter when we do that.

We sense our weakness and vulnerability. Some are crushed by that. In reality it is a sign of hope. It means we are on the way to discovering true identity.

Also it means identity with each other - which in turn delivers us peace and joy etc, no small by-product.

So we have much to hope from WYD. It is in the end just one more way that God can reach people; it will do more good to some than others.

We continue in the large and small events of life to seek union with God more fully and to pray it and show it for others.

12th Sunday after Pentecost 3.8.08 Sermon

12th Sunday after Pentecost 3.8.08 Loving God (and neighbour)

The first and most important commandment is this: love God with your whole heart and soul and mind...

We find this one hard because God is invisible, and inaudible, and intangible... and we are creatures of flesh and blood and we find it hard to love in the abstract.

So God, knowing this, comes to our help. He sends us countless blessings and good things which He hopes will remind us of what He is like and in turn will lead us to love Him.

Things like food, wine, music, sunshine, life itself, sport, sleep, fishing ... not everyone enjoys all these things, but everyone enjoys at least some things that God provides.

Trouble is, that we enjoy these things so much we may become attached to them and not do the extra bit of thinking to follow through to where the blessings come from.

These things are just ‘messengers’, signs and glimpses of a much greater glory beyond. Whether we look beyond is another and crucial matter.

We love the blessings of God but not the God of blessings.
God wants us to love Him for His own sake, and not just for what He can do for us. He wants to give us good things, but that we would still be able to see beyond them to Himself, and be happy with just Him even if there are no obvious blessings.

Thus the true Christian can love God in a rat-infested dungeon, facing execution the next morning! Only God is the possession at that point. There are no frills, no comforts, but God is enough.

To help us along this path of discovering Him, God makes sure that our possessions will not satisfy us completely. Sometimes they are removed from us; sometimes we become bored and restless with them. We never feel completely right if we focus just on earthly things.

This is for the good reason that we are designed to love God and without Him there is always a void, a yearning. God’s command to love us is also a teaching about how we are put together.

If we get this first commandment right the other ones will fall into place.

We break all the commandments (between us) but the others all come down to this one, that we do not love God enough, if at all.

Many will say – when they lose their possessions or similar setback – that there is no God. Precisely the opposite. The fragility of earthly delights proves there is something more solid behind it all.

So we seek out that which is solid, immoveable, unchangeable – how we long for happiness which cannot be taken away. We have it in God (and nowhere else).

When He has brought us that far we have the key to everything. Ultimately Heaven itself is the possession of complete union with God. We talk of getting to heaven as the end of our journey, but we really need to get to heaven in our hearts before we can go there when we die.

We go there in our hearts when we give first place to God. We love the God of blessings more than the blessings of God.

And what of the love of Neighbour? It is the second command and flows from the first. If we love God we will automatically love neighbour because we will be thinking as God thinks. We will value what He values, and we know He loves the neighbour in question, so we must also.

The selfishness, laziness, greed or whatever prevents us from loving neighbour are all in their way a denial of God. Affirm Him and those things disappear. We cannot fail to keep the other commands which include all our obligations to other people.

What God commands He also enables. He enables us to love Him and Neighbour.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Delay in posting

Sorry for the delay in posting recent sermons. I have moved house and have been out of internet connection for some time. Will be back to normal soon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

9th Sunday after Pentecost 13.7.08 Sermon

9th Sunday after Pentecost 13.7.08 Strength in trial

In the epistle we are told we are never tested beyond our strength. However, we often feel as though we are so tested!

God is telling us that whatever we are called upon to suffer in this life, no matter how hard it is, or seems to be – He will give us the grace necessary to cope with that suffering, and turn it to a fruitful outcome.

We hear that, and we believe it, but we still often feel we are at breaking point. According to God, however, we are not ever going to ‘break’ because we have grace to sustain us. Twenty times the present suffering would be no problem if we have twenty times as much grace to deal with it.

We have to ask for that grace and it is easy to panic at that point, but if we do ask we will receive.

(St Rose of Lima said that we would never complain again if we knew how carefully God measured out the cross for each one of us.)

Knowing our cross is tailor-made is a great comfort. No longer do we feel randomly cast out on the universe, but can feel secure that we are working through our troubles in direct consultation with God Himself!

No longer are we expecting God to be an efficient administrator siphoning off the sufferings, letting only joys come through to our desk (like a spam filter) .

So, should we pray for good things to happen, or should we just leave it with God, or even ask for suffering to save souls? St John Vianney would come back from heaven to suffer more to save souls. Amazing! A totally different way of looking at things. God will take advantage of such goodness and load suffering onto such a person. It is an honour as Our Lord said: be glad when they persecute you...

Do we pray for specific outcomes or just sit back and say, Lord send me anything You like.

In practice it is a mixture. We ask for good things, then say that if it does not come I will deal with it; with God’s help I will turn negatives into positives. Just make the best of it; adapt all the time.
Pray the house does not burn down, but if it does build another one!

Constant trust in God. We don’t always know why things go wrong, and don’t essentially need to know. Just reaffirm belief in God, get back on the horse, pick up the pieces and carry on.
If we all lived like that it would remove a lot of evil and that would clear up the mystery to some extent.

What if one person suddenly becomes better: still suffering but nature of suffering changes. Not so much the self induced punishments, but the purer mystical identification with Christ, and also persecution. It still hurts, maybe even more, but more grace available as well.
(St Faustina once asked for the pain of one thorn in Our Lord’s head – she received the thorn and it hurt, but she was glad to share His suffering.)
We pray simultaneously, not sure how it comes out in the wash: Thy will be done and Deliver us from evil.
His will is to deliver us finally, certainly, but not necessarily from all evil just yet.
We must expect some blows but we can at least raise the tone of the suffering, and give it that quality of identifying with Christ. Thus opening up so much more grace.

We must be prepared to suffer in that purer sense. It will be no more than we can bear because we get stronger all the time. Actually we are much happier this way because we trust God, and do not feel angry with Him for apparently deserting us.

Not only can we bear the suffering but we sense we are doing something useful as well – no less than helping to save souls.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

8th Sunday after Pentecost 6.7.08 Sermon

8th Sunday after Pentecost 6.7.08 The smart thing to do.

Our Lord praises the dishonest steward, not for his dishonesty, but for his astuteness – that he used his brains. Beyond that He does not comment.

The reason He is telling us this story is that He wants us to use our brains also. Or more theologically, to use the gifts of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and counsel – all graciously provided by the Holy Spirit.

There is in prevailing secular opinion an idea that religious faith is more or less the opposite of intelligence. [An academic recently conducted a survey among other academics and found that most of them did not believe in God. His conclusion was that since academics are generally more intelligent than the average population belief in God shows a certain lack of intelligence.]

Many see the loss of faith as a kind of graduation to maturity. You believe those things as a child but shed them on reaching adulthood. Many do follow that path, but that does not prove it is a wise thing to do.

Firstly we need to say that intelligence is not the same as wisdom. A person of low intelligence could show far greater wisdom by humbly accepting the truth of the Gospel than a highly educated person in rejecting the Gospel. Wisdom is the smart thing to do; it is what we really do with our lives. It is the practice and not just the theory.

The main proof of possessing wisdom is the unquestioning belief in God – not only His existence, but His importance and centrality for every aspect of life. Then, putting into practice what one believes, so that there is no gap between the theory and the practice.

We show lack of wisdom when we commit any kind of sin, because then we are acting in a way which contradicts what we believe - and this is a fundamental split in our lives, which has a lot of negative consequences (guilt, fear, depression, anger, addictions...)

The lifelong challenge we face is to close the gap between what we believe and what we do, or to put it another way, to believe what we believe to such a degree that there is no room for any other action.

Our problem is that we do believe but not enough in all the truths of our faith, and that ‘not enough’ leaves us room to look for other things to compensate. That is when we turn to false gods, the golden calves of the world, to fill up the void.

Sin is always a misjudgment of some kind; a false assessment of value.

In the intellect (mind) we know what we have to do, and that seems easy enough, but in the will (heart) we find we are not always motivated to do what ought.

There is a split between heart and mind. How can we fix it?

By asking for more light for the intellect, so that we are flooded completely with the light of Christ, the wisdom of the Holy Spirit; to the point that there is no possible room for any alternative view of reality.

Then the will follows automatically what is in the intellect. As things are the will is wobbly because the intellect is cloudy. We do not fully grasp what God is putting before us, so we do not fully accept it.

For example, chastity is God’s will, and we can see what is good about chastity, yet we are still dabbling with impurity.

There is no sin committed in heaven, because everyone there is fixed on the vision of God and seeing Him there is no possible alternative.

If we are to be free from sin (epistle) we must ask to see God more clearly in this life; see His will; see the wisdom of His laws.

The smart thing to do is to pray to be smart. Smart (wise) enough to see the truth and where it comes from, and then (as a matter of course) to live that way.

Sts Peter and Paul 29.6.08 Sermon

Sts Peter and Paul 29.6.08

We honour these men for who they were, as individuals, but also for what they symbolize.

There is a saying about what happens when an irresistible force meets immoveable object? If the two are opposed it is hard to say what will triumph. But what if the force and the object are on the same side, working together? What if someone or something could be both an irresistible force and an immoveable object?

The Catholic Church is just that. Of course, we have to call on the divine part of our identity for this to be true.

At the human level we can be like Peter on the night of the Last Supper, still largely talk, but not yet substance.

But reinforced by divine grace we are then like Peter after Pentecost, ready to suffer and die for Our Lord, rejoicing to suffer in His name.

So the Church – an immoveable object. Some would say stubborn. [I note that one group wants to arrest Pope Benedict when he comes to Australia for crimes against humanity... for not allowing condoms.]

The Church does not change its dogmas despite receiving plenty of advice that we should do that. But of course they are not ‘our’ dogmas in the sense that we did not make them up. They are from God Himself. Tell Him to change them!

So we are very confident in what God has revealed to us, and this is what gives us the appearance of being stubborn, when we are really just being loyal. As solid as a Rock, the rock of Peter.

At the human level there is much rebellion within the Church, but the remedy for that is not to change the doctrines, but to change hearts, till everyone can bow before the greater wisdom of God.

So we stand like a rock. But enter St Paul. It is from Paul that we learn the importance of being all things to all men.

Paul symbolises the Church's ability to reach into all cultures and all ages.

Christ is for the heart of every person, and so the Gospel is for every one.

Paul understood this and was an irresistible force as he proclaimed Christ risen.

For us the symbol of Paul is that we must be prepared to share our faith. We must be willing to make known to our neighbour the riches of Christ.

So we are not just a defensive fortress, in splendid isolation, but on the attack into the world, attacking with truth and love to uproot falsehood, and replace darkness with light.

We can do this without relaxing the truth itself. We are still rock-like but also like the wind in moving in all directions at once.

We need to be both Peter and Paul - rock-like, and all things to all men. In season and out, conveying word of life to all comers.

As individuals we have different gifts; we are made up differently. No one of us can do all that the Church needs to do.
No matter, if we each do what we are good at, others will do the bits we cannot. The Church will have its teachers and preachers, its missionaries, its footsoldiers – all united both in doctrine and zeal.

We need Peter to hold firm to the truth; we need Paul to make it known.

So the immoveable object is itself moving with irresistible force.

The Church will expand, drawing others in, without losing anything of what it already has.

Sts Peter and Paul pray for us!

Monday, June 23, 2008

6th Sunday after Pentecost 22.6.08 Sermon

6th Sunday after Pentecost 22.6.08 Bread of Life

There is no need for anyone in the world to be hungry, it is often claimed; there is enough food for all; it is just a matter of distribution. There are things like civil wars, and brutal regimes that keep the food from the people.

So we could say in the same way there is no need for anyone in the world to be spiritually hungry. There is more than enough food. The miracle of the loaves is Our Lord’s way of demonstrating that He is the Bread of Life; that He is food for all people, and that no one who comes to Him will go away hungry. I know all the grief you are going through. I can offer you a way out of that. I don’t want you to suffer like that. Be fed by Me. Receive the goodness I am offering you.

It is the devil who keeps food from souls of people. Life is meant to be a lot easier than it is.
People say that God is cruel for making it so hard. But He makes it easy; the devil makes it hard. He tempts us to sin, and we give in too often.

Every sin creates disorder. Imagine a factory where half the workers are doing the right thing but the other half are sabotaging everything. What sort of item comes out at the end?
That is exactly what the world looks like – millions of sins every day throughout the world. Thus murder, hunger, rape, grief, hatred, even natural disasters upsetting cosmic order.
Where is God? He has not gone anywhere.

The whole of human history has been a battle between acceptance and rejection of this Bread of Life.

There is a difficulty for us who believe: we might accept His offer and draw upon the infinite supply of grace, and we will benefit greatly from doing that.

Others however will not do so and we continue to live in a world torn apart by sin. But there is at least this difference – that our own lives will hold together, which gives us some peace.
Keep sane and retain peace of mind by living out the commandments, turning towards the light. Lord, Your word is a lamp for my feet.

Life still not easy but a lot easier if we take control of our own destiny.

Even when things go wrong at least we know why they go wrong. It is the fallout from all the sin.

We seek to unravel the tangled web. Apparently hopeless, but not actually hopeless.
There is a way out. We did not have to have all this trouble, all these wars, even the Crucifixion. We do not have to have those things in the future. Now is the acceptable time; this is the day. I will not sin again. We can all say that.

The whole nation rises, or rather goes down on its knees, and says we will not sin again. As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.

The door is open; you are not locked in.
The Devil meanwhile will be keeping us bound, but we don’t have to believe that.

What we can believe, with St Paul, is that creation is waiting to be set free from its slavery, and this will happen when the sons of Adam wake up to the promise that is staring them in the face.

We are that close at all times. We say, Oh when, Lord... as though He were a million miles away and not listening.
But always He is there and any person can reach Him with a few adjustments.

The grace is available and it is within reach. Take, and eat. Reach out your hand for salvation and eternal life.

5th Sunday after Pentecost 15.6.08 Sermon

5th Sunday after Pentecost 15.6.08 Perfect Offering

I suggested one time that there should be a brass band playing when a sinner emerges from the confessional, because we can celebrate the return of a prodigal son, or the finding of a lost sheep.
Well, if that is too noisy for you, how about each penitent breaking into a highland jig in sheer joy for being forgiven from a terrible debt they would never have been able to pay?
Neither is likely to become common practice, but we really should make more effort to appreciate the magnitude of the blessing we receive when God removes our sins.

It is the difference between eternal death and life. We can get so used to the idea that we take it for granted. Oh yes, God forgives my sins... We say it like, Oh Uncle Charlie never expects me to repay him money... We don’t normally get such gentle treatment from our creditors, like the phone company and the electricity company, even the government. Somehow they expect us to pay up.

What if you put in your tax return and the government wrote to you and said, You owe us $2000, but we forgive you; you don’t have to pay it!

God runs His own economy, the economy of grace, where things are given but not paid for.

More accurately, there is a payment made, but by Someone else – the Paschal Lamb, the Saviour who died in our place. We incurred the debt; He paid it.

Knowing that someone else paid our bills should make us grateful to that person, and that is one of the reasons we gather here at Mass, to express that gratitude.

If only we knew... if only we could feel the appropriate relief, we would then be able to do the next thing we have to do, which is to forgive those who offend us.

This we seem to find very difficult.

The Gospel says that we should be reconciled with those who have offended us, and be resolved to live in peace with everyone. How can we offer the sacrifice of reconciliation if we are not intending (or at least seeking) reconciliation within and among ourselves?

We can take some steps towards that before the sacrifice, and we do what we can.
However the sacrifice will itself release the necessary graces in our hearts to be able to forgive.

Come as ready as you can be, but let Christ carry you the rest of the way. He has enough love for everyone and everything - that is everything that anyone has ever done to anyone else.

Just let if flow.
I cannot forgive you, perhaps, but God can, and I agree with Him. I will not stop the flow of the Precious Blood. I will not block that river; I need it too much myself.

Grievances can be petty or major. Either way He can cover it. How? Well, His love is infinite, and infinite must always be enough. There could not be any evil that He was incapable of forgiving. The only limit is lack of contrition.

We can make progress by being more aware of what He has done for us. Let it take hold. The Mass is not just a formal ceremony to be got over with. It is a clearing of debt, my debt, which I could not pay otherwise. I have to pause long enough to realize what that means.

How can I hold to my grudges and grievances in the face of such a torrent of love and mercy? It would be like being caught in a tsunami and still wanting to keep things just the way they were. No time for that now. Get with the flow; this time with a positive meaning that mercy will forgive and reconcile all who want to receive it.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

4th Sunday after Pentecost 8.6.08 Sermon

4th Sunday after Pentecost 8.6.08 Unless the Lord build the house

The miraculous catch of fish reminds us that we rely heavily on the power of the Lord to get things done. If we have access to that power miracles can happen. If we are apart from God we are as much use as a branch that has fallen off the tree.

Refer the story of Gideon and the shrinking army. God made Gideon reduce the size of his army so that the Israelites would know that it was only by the power of God that they had won the battle. (Judges 7)

There are many similar such stories. We need constant reminding of our frailty.

There are two aspects where we need to remain humble.
One is that we have no strength apart from the Lord.
The other is that we don’t know what course to follow without His guidance.
We cannot win the battle without Him and we do not know which battle to fight.

We need both His wisdom and His power, and He freely provides both.

One lesson is that nothing should ever seem too hard for us. We face some very difficult things in life, but if we recall that God is infinitely powerful we can then laugh at whatever the difficulty is. With Him on my side I can do all things.

It is very hard to be so confident, but we can get there with practice.

This is one reason why God lets us feel we are all alone – not to torment us, but to force us to go to Him for help.

If we get into the habit of calling on Him then we will not feel overwhelmed by any crisis.

The whole Church also works on the same principle. We pray constantly for the grace we need to stay afloat in every kind of storm.

We cannot do just any miracle (casting mountain into sea) but only those God wants to do.

This makes miracles less common, insofar as God generally wants us to get by without seeking the spectacular. We would be moving mountains all day long if we had the power, so He wisely withholds that power from us, again so that we have to rely on Him. I can only move a mountain when I ask Him, and then He has the power of veto.

So with our projects and plans. How easily we slip into worldly patterns and just do what the world does. We try to live as long as possible and make as much money as possible and have as much fun as possible. All of which might not be God’s will, or in any case we don’t ask Him.

We hold conferences and seminars and all the rest, but do we ever ask Him what He wants?

When the world holds conferences on climate change, disarmament, health matters... does anyone acknowledge Almighty God? No, because that would offend the unbelievers.

If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labour.(Ps126) How many useless or harmful projects has the human race launched, when they could have saved the trouble by asking God first.

So we need to develop a calm and orderly dependence on Him, seeking His will in every situation; offering up each new day to Him, letting Him decide the course of events. Only He knows what is best, and only He can provide the power to make things happen as they should.

The habitual dependence will enable us to remain serene in all circumstances. He never has and never will abandon us. He will let us see some scary things, but we are not scared if we are close to Him (cf Ps 90: He will set His angels over you, lest you strike your foot against a stone).

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 1.6.08 Sermon

3rd Sunday after Pentecost 1.6.08 Seeking out the lost sheep

Staggering that with all the people in the world, God can know every one of them, and everything about each one, better than they know themselves – every word they have ever spoken, every thought, every hope, dream, desire, fear, longing, sin, suffering etc etc.

And He loves each one better than they love themselves. Self-love is usually distorted by wrong desires, but God’s love is pure and perfect, knowing exactly what each person needs for complete happiness.

This is the true answer to anyone who asks whether God has abandoned us or not. A common question. In reality we have abandoned Him. We have allowed sin to drive a wedge between us, and this leaves us feeling alienated and out of sorts.

Many people do feel like that, so that even if they believe in God, He seems very distant, and they have trouble finding Him.
Yet He says, Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.

In our desolation we should go towards Him rather than away from Him. That is the crucial point of decision. In distress do we cling to God more tightly or do we move away from Him in bitterness and disappointment?

The devil is raging seeking to devour us (epistle). He has ‘devoured’ us when he can destroy our link with God, that sense of trust that we are loved, and all is under control. So we must be vigilant on that very point.

So, God’s love for each other person should awaken us to a greater value of those around us which we might otherwise regard as just a herd of sheep, and if we lose a few here and there it won’t matter.

We have to value each person greatly. Granted we don’t have time to get to know everyone, and God does not expect this, but at least we can be aware in a general way of the spiritual value of each soul, and cooperate with God’s saving will.
If He wants to save them, then we want them saved.

This means even our enemies, those we have trouble forgiving, those generally held in contempt like murderers, rapists, general undesirables. These are souls; lost lambs, that God goes out to look for, while we would be saying, Don’t bother.

We don’t have to like or approve of everyone, but we must at least grasp their importance.

In reality each person (many of whom feel themselves isolated and unloved) is as though on a raft surrounded by an ocean of love, but they do not see it. It is because they do not give enough attention to God, that eventually they lose sight of Him altogether. They are too busy being either bitter or just distracted by worldly things. It must not be so for us. The world is full of the glory of God, once we put on the right glasses!

Is the world a cruel impersonal place, swallowing us up? Or is it a place which sings in every valley and height of the glory of God? On some days we think the first, other days the second. It is always the second.

So we (also lost sheep) need to look for Him. Don’t make Him come searching over valleys and rivers, but rather go straight to Him. Volunteer for service. As we are comforted we are immediately enlisted to gather in other sheep.

The first thing is to want what He wants for those other people, and the other first thing is to entrust ourselves entirely to Him for our own welfare. We have no ambitions or plans other than whatever He wants for us.

Friday, May 30, 2008

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 25.5.08 Sermon

2nd Sunday after Pentecost 25.5.08 Banquet

Preaching would be a lot easier if we could say, ‘You are all wonderful and you are all going to heaven. You are all welcome to Holy Communion, just come, whoever you are, wherever you are from.’ It is harder having to say, ‘Everybody come, but not if you are in mortal sin, or if you are not a Catholic.’

It is understandable that people have gone simplistically, saying things like: ‘I don’t think Jesus would refuse me. The Church might, but they are out of touch.’ There is no division between Jesus and the Church. How could there be, between the Head and the Body? What the Church says is what Jesus says. ‘Those you bind on earth, they are bound in heaven’.

When all said and done everyone is welcome and everyone is meant to go to heaven.
So in the end we are inclusive after all. It just means we have to take a few turns here and there to get an exact sense of how it works.

The welcome works like this: Of course Jesus wants you to come. Now if you are a Buddhist, or a Lutheran, or you are living an immoral lifestyle you can’t receive Holy Communion and you could take that hard and feel rejected, but we (the Church) are saying we love you, but you cannot have this sacrament today, because it would harm you, but with a few adjustments in your life you can have the sacrament soon, and then it will do you a great deal of good.

We won’t make you change your life; that is your freewill at work, your privilege, but you are certainly welcome to change it and join us at the altar rail.

If anyone expects to receive Jesus it must be on His terms not ours. He is not some piece of plasticine to be bent into whatever shape we like. We have to wear the ‘wedding garment’.
As with a real wedding reception, it is obviously assumed if not stated that you would have to wash first and wear clean clothes. So for the Church, Come but not just anyhow, clean yourself up morally spiritually, and understand that the invitation does not mean just anyhow, but according to certain established rules.

So all you out there are not being rejected. You are being offered happiness beyond what you could find in any other place, because God loves you and so do we.

The parable might sound like it’s just a matter of dragging people in off the street, with no further change required. This is how some see it. But we can’t do it quite so simply.

A doctor would like to be able to say you are going to live another forty years, but if you have only two weeks to live he must say so.
A spiritual doctor would like to say you are going to heaven, but if on current form you are more likely to go to hell, he must give warning.
This doesn’t mean we don’t like you; in fact we like you so much we are offering you another solution.

We are all One as commonly claimed, but usually wrongly understood. The human race is one insofar as we are all called to union with Christ, and actually one if we all answer that call. And He is beckoning us to the banquet.

Those of us here who are Catholic, and in a state of grace, are very fortunate. We do not think ourselves better than everyone else. Luckier maybe, but not better. We know how much we need this heavenly food, and how easily we could be on the outside instead of the inside. We do not want to turn down the best invitation we will ever receive.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Trinity Sunday 18.5.08 Sermon

Trinity Sunday 18.5.08 Trinity and Unity

There are so many special days in the year. Volunteer Day, Secretaries Day, Nurses Day, Environment Day, etc....

Is it not reasonable to have God’s Day? Today’s feast is just that. It is a day to contemplate the nature and identity of God Himself.

One God, three Persons – it is hard for us to understand because in our dealings with everyone else it is only one person at a time.

The plurality of Persons does not in any way introduce discord. This is the perfect religious community. There are no arguments among the Three Divine Persons.

In our experience of community we cannot imagine that much harmony. To have threee persons at anything there would have fighting. It is bad enough with just two persons, and even if they love each other they still can fight like cat and dog.

We discover in the Blessed Trinity that human conflict is not natural. It may be common but it is not natural.

Our human nature was created from God’s nature. We come from Him, we are established in Him. Only our fallen human nature makes us want to fight.

Fallen human nature is capable of great violence, hatred, as we see daily. But St James teaches us that only good things come from the hand of God. (Epistle StJames, 1)

To find out how things are meant to run, we go back to the maker. And we find that God Himself achieves this feat of living in perfect harmony with three Persons.
So much are they one , that they are not just like a good team, but actually one identity.
Each of them is fully God without in any way detracting from the others. Three people normally would have to share things around, but in God’s case each has all, without taking from the other two!

And to this union we are called. Union with God (Salvation), union in every way, heart, mind, body will etc. This is our task, quest, pathway to eternal life. Union with God and necessarily with each other. There are no fights in heaven. We would not get into heaven if we were going to pick a fight.

We rejoice in this unity of God. Yet unity is not narrowing of God in sense that there is less of Him. Unity takes nothing away from the glory of His variety, His many ways of manifesting Himself, His attributes, such as Creator, Saviour, Sanctifier...

One of the objections to religion is that it would take away our individuality. Actually, it enhances our individuality, as we are now purified of all fault, developing our own greatness.
Not in a worldly way where we win at the expense of others, but now all can be winners.

Nor do we just declare that everyone is wonderful, sins and all. No, purified of sin we really will be wonderful by the time God has finished with us.

What is the key for us to reach this? Recognition of the good, being drawn by the beauty of God, the irresistible attraction.

As we worship the Trinity and the Unity, we are being formed into one people, one with God with ourselves and each other.

This is not some ‘new age’ thing, not just a pleasant feeling, but an actual unity.
God will engineer it and guide it. He clearly wants it (Ut unum sint -that they may all be one).

In every way this is good for us, developing our personal identity and enhancing everyone else’s; creating true peace on earth, and even in the home!
All glory to the Trinity.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Pentecost Sunday 11.5.08 Sermon

Pentecost Sunday 11.5.08 Experiencing God

In a previous parish one Pentecost Sunday a young lady came to Mass to provide music for the singing. She did not usually come, so I thought she must have been converted for Pentecost, but it turned out she had only come because it was Mothers Day! Well, coming for Mothers Day has some value too, but it does reveal how we can operate at different levels with God, often relegating Him to second place after secular values. It should not shock us to hear that we must love God more than father or mother, or any human love. In fact, if we do love God first the other loves will also be stronger as a result.

It is along these lines that Our Lord promises the Holy Spirit to His apostles.
Don’t be sad that I am leaving you; there will be another just like Me and He will fill you to satisfaction. You will want nothing once you have met Him.

Yet the Holy Spirit is an invisible Person and that normally would not satisfy us.
Still, visibility is a small consideration if we receive an influx of love and wellbeing greater than we have ever known before.

Only those who have done a bit of preparation in terms of humility and patience are going to be able to perceive the presence of God, let alone how important He is.

The great saints could tell a consecrated host from an unconsecrated one. Only love (or demonic hate) can do that. The heart has eyes of its own.

Jesus was preparing the apostles for this more perceptive approach. It is no use just walking around next to Him if we have not learnt the basic attitudes required.
It is not physical closeness that wins the day, but closeness of the heart.
Attila the Hun could stand next to a tabernacle but it might not do him much good.
Or one can generate communion with God in a concentration camp (like St Maximilian Kolbe).

If we can get used to the idea that we have access to the greatest love possible, and relatively easily, then we are on the way to being much happier people.

We just have to dig a little bit to get into this new understanding. We have to look further than the superficial ways of the world.

As God offers Himself He also demands a change of heart from us. He both provides the change and He demands it.

Thus we have to make an initial display of interest, and then He can go to work to bring about the rest of the change.

So, come and pray, and as much as you can spend time with Him, inside or outside of a church.

Set up new patterns in your life. Force yourself to seek Him out and you will discover this great love, which otherwise will be only academic.

God has different ways of making Himself known.
Many have had a ‘baptism in the Spirit’, a term which loosely conveys an infusion of heavenly love. This experience has the good effect of accelerating conversion and launching one on a path of holiness. It has to be handled carefully because initial enthusiasm can evaporate very quickly. Also because the more external elements can be over-emphasized.
He gives us a taste, not the whole lot, which would be impossible, but something to get us going.

Or, if we have never had any strong experience of God, it may be coming, or there are other ways of getting to the same place. A thousand small steps will get the same place as a few bigger ones.
If you did not give you life to Jesus at a Billy Graham rally, no matter, you give yourself each day.

You seek Him out, and He seeks you out, it is not too much to hope that one of these days you will meet! Your faith will then be as strong as that of those first disciples at Pentecost.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Sunday after Ascension 4.5.08 Sermon

Sunday after Ascension 4.5.08 Praying in depth

The Church is watching and waiting, as we re-live the time of the Jerusalem cenacle.

Not just this time of year, but all the time the Church prays for help from God to deal with all the crises we face, and to be able to do the good things He asks of us.

The apostles at Pentecost had to pray only for nine days for the fulfilment they needed; most of the time we have to pray a lot longer than that, and we can become discouraged.

How long, O Lord? Why do You sleep, O Lord? (typical passage from the Psalms).

Not to be discouraged is itself something to pray for. It is itself one of the fruits of the Holy Ghost (longsuffering, perseverance).

We must never give up praying. That so many have given up is part of our present problem. We are like an army with five thousand soldiers suddenly whittled down to one thousand.

Each of us has to resolve to stand firm: If I am the last person left in Australia still praying, I will continue. This is how we develop the toughness we need.

The waiting is good for us, because it forces us to become stronger.

Having resolved to stay, how should we pray, or what should we ask for?

It is likely that we do not yet ask enough. Provided our requests are not frivolous we should be asking for the whole world, asking what God Himself wants, the salvation of every person, the complete renewal of the face of the earth.

Maybe we stop short of asking for certain things because we do not see how they could happen; we cannot imagine such things becoming reality. So we do not seriously ask for them.

Yet the Scriptures constantly prophesy widespread renewal of faith, especially in the prophecies of Isaiah.... the nations will come streaming towards Jerusalem as the summit of all that is good (a clear reference to the Church, the new Jerusalem).

We must pitch our hopes high when we pray.

It would be a mistake to pray only for what we can visualize as likely. This would be to confuse our own limited faith with the power of God Himself.

It would be a mistake to pray only for our own needs.

We have to take a larger vision, see the ecclesial reality.

Praying only for our own needs is like seeking a comfortable room on the Titanic. We might have everything we need for a short time, but the whole system in which we live is collapsing around us.

Praying for the Church is praying for the whole life system which we need to survive.

What we can learn from the personal is the need to pray urgently.

When we have a really pressing personal need we are inclined to pray much more fervently, while that need lasts.

So, when we come to pray for the larger reality of the Church, we need the same fervour, because the need is just as great.

When we sense this need we are moved to a deeper prayer; we ask for more.

This is why we ask the Holy Spirit to come. He will come and make all things right. He will set straight the doctrinal errors, the liturgical abuses, the divisions and enmity within the Body of Christ.

He will change the bad into good, and the good into better. He will reclaim the lost and put new strength into the faithful.

Come, Holy Spirit and renew the face of the earth!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

5th Sunday after Easter 27.4.08 Sermon

5th Sunday after Easter 27.4.08 Prayer

The apostles had the power to heal, such that even their shadow would heal those on whom it fell. Also clothing which had touched people had healing effect.
And people will flock to see Padre Pio, St Bernadette and other incorrupt saints.
Why? Because they feel they are getting closer to God, through these holy people and objects.
The place where Our Lady appeared is a better place than the equivalent place up the road, because it has been blessed or used by God in a special way.

So we make use of such aids in our own quest for healing.
Also we would ourselves like to be a source of healing for others. This is not so pretentious as it might sound, when we consider today’s Gospel. Our Lord points to His own exalted status. You can ask the Father for whatever you need, but then you can ask Me too, because I am so close to the Father that it comes to the same thing.

The degree of closeness to God is the crucial factor. A place where God (or saint) has appeared is valuable because it has been close to God. Padre Pio is valuable because he has been close to God. When close enough to God it becomes the practical equivalent of meeting God Himself and He acts through the person or place.

This tells us two things about our own prayer: that it will ‘work’ better if we are closer to God than further away. Sixty seconds of prayer from a saint is better than sixty minutes from a sinner.

Also that the objective of prayer is not just to get something to happen, but rather as an end in itself to come closer to God, to be united with Him.

When we pray we are aiming at a state of being rather than a particular outcome.

So if I pray: Lord, please make it rain; I am really saying, Lord, please bring me closer to You. (Then I can make it rain myself! Well, almost)

It is not how many minutes or how many Hail Marys,but how much do you love God; how ardently do you seek Him? Not how much prayer but how close to God?
It is a matter of intensity.

The more we pray (measured in intensity) the more God-like we become, and the more likely we are to work miracles, or at least facilitate them.

Sermons frequently exhort to more prayer, but it is difficult to say how much more.

It varies from person to person. Some live alone in an almost monastic atmosphere; others are drowning in other people and busy-ness.

So now we can see that less minutes spent in prayer might not be a problem if the genuine love of God is present.

Of course, we could all squeeze out a few more minutes if we really looked – turn off the television for example; but the intensity is what we really seek.

Prayer is the best remedy for whatever the situation is:

praise and thanksgiving for what is working as it should;

penance and supplication for what needs to be different.

And miracles waiting to happen, or better still, to become normal. Why can’t it be normal to call upon and receive the grace of God in both good times and bad?

Can we recapture apostolic fervour? We don’t know, but we do know we can always improve on where we are.

So everyone of us, pray more - more deeply if not more time, and don’t be surprised if a lot of good things start happening.