Tuesday, February 26, 2008

3rd Sunday of Lent 24.2.08 Sermon

3rd Sunday of Lent 24.2.08 Demons away

We pray to St Michael to cast down to hell, Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Because evil spirits are invisible we are not sure how many there are, or exactly where they are. We hope our prayer to have them moved somewhere else is successful.

It would appear from the amount of trouble we experience in this life that there are quite a few devils at least hovering around us.

Not just that things go wrong, but there is the difficulty we experience in avoiding sin, and the severity of the temptations we undergo.

Not the least part of which is the state of our whole society, which is infested with sin in so many ways – but public indecency for one, if you need an example.

So why is the devil so hard to shake off? Why does God let him roam about like that? If Jesus could deliver people in His time, why not now?

Clearly He can still deliver, and it may only need more prayer for such to happen.

Our Lord’s parable about the seven demons gives us insight into what is going wrong. We do pray (sometimes); we do make some progress in holiness, but not enough to drive the devil away altogether.

We do one good deed, or overcome one temptation and we think we are doing a great job. No, we must be like soldiers. We win one battle; we do not relax but consolidate the victory and guard against any sort of enemy reaction.

How many people have experienced a conversion in their lives but then relapsed at some later point. (Many catechumens just don’t make it. Some don’t even get off the ground.)

It is harder than it sounds to make a complete conversion. It seems easy at first because the feeling is so good, but there is a lot of hard grind to follow. Thus complacency.

There is also discouragement. The demons will attack us in weak places and at weak moments.

As regards weakness, we must recognize it and stay humble. It is one reason God allows temptations to force us to be humble; otherwise we would think we were gods.

It very much requires living each moment fully attentive to God’s reality and His will. If we forget Him even for a time the sins will start flying in. We will be like a sheep walking down the main street, highly likely to be hit by something.

This is why we structure our prayer: Frequent Masses, rosaries, Confessions, acts of contrition, morning offerings, resolutions, grace with meals, divine mercy, and a hundred other things we can do to keep the spiritual reality before our minds.

Our religion is not something we switch on and off. The devil prowls around like a roaring lion (or like flies at a barbecue); he does not sleep; he does not forget his purpose. Nor can we. We do have to sleep but even our sleep can be guarded by prayer.

The more we do these things the stronger we become personally, but also the more we drive the devils away in general.

He has so many footholds in our present world, he can attack more comfortably. There is such a thing as a communal resistance. We do not fight alone. We can help drive away each other’s demons by giving a common front of trust in God, obedience, humility etc.

We really can drive the demons away. It is not just wishful thinking. Granted there will always be some around somewhere but 99 demons is better than 100, and the more we restrict their influence the better.

And we must keep driving them, or they will come back (like the seven in the gospel). Keep that prayer to St Michael going, and of course Deliver us from evil.

Solemn Profession (Margaret McHugh)

Sr Frances Teresa a Jesu Hostia will make her solemn profession at the
Carmel in Valparaiso on the Feast of Corpus Christi. She asks that Latin
Mass priests make this known to the faithful so that people can pray for
her. All of course welcome to attend if that be possible. details are as

Solemn Profession of Sr Frances Teresa a Jesu Hostia OCD (Margaret McHugh)

May 22, 2008 - Feast of Corpus Christi

9:00am Pontifical Mass celebrated by
The Most Rev. Fabian Bruskewitz,
Bishop of Lincoln

Carmel of Jesus, Mary & Joseph
9300 W. Agnew Rd
Valparaiso, NE 68065 U.S.A.

Sr Frances' mother will be visiting/attending from Canberra until May 23.
Accodingly, Sister asks visitors to consider arriving as close as possible
to May 22. In this way, if they wish to stay a few days, Sister will have
more time to visit with them after Mrs McHugh departs.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

2nd Sunday of Lent 17.2.08 Sermon

2nd Sunday of Lent 17.2.08 Transfiguration.

Sometimes I think of being in heaven, and how good it would be to look back on this life with all its troubles, and say, Well, I’m glad that’s over. We cope with present troubles by looking forward to a better time.

The Transfiguration was meant to fill the apostles with hope; and since it was to be recorded in the Gospels it was meant to give hope to the Church in every generation.

The Transfiguration gives us a way of bringing the future into the present. Not only has Christ risen, but He knew before His crucifixion that He would rise. This is very important because it is exactly how we are meant to understand our present position.

We are sharing in the victory of Christ which is operative even before the final result. He knew He would rise; which was as good as actually rising.

Think how Moses must have felt standing on the edge of the Red Sea with the Egyptians storming up behind and an impassable sea in front. (caught between the devil and the deep red sea)

And God says: No problem, just lift your staff and the sea will part. Did Moses doubt? There is no mention of it. We do not doubt either because that story is in the past, and we don’t have any trouble believing past events, but we have a lot of trouble believing future ones.

No trouble believing that God used to work miracles, but trouble believing He will still work them now.

Yet it is all one to Him – past, present, future. The same God, undiminished in power, and unchanged in purpose.

Do you believe in Him at such a point? The Transfiguration says you can and should. Our Lord Himself says you should. He knew He would rise, and He knows He will raise us.

It is just like the movies where we are the hero/heroine up against all the odds, and we know if it is a film that everything is going to be alright and it is. We call that fiction, but it is actually true, because that is what happens to us. Everything is going to be alright.

We may not be able to do the physical feats of Luke Skywalker and Robin Hood and all the other heroes, but we will achieve glory. We will get from this mudpit to the eternal shores of peace and joy.

And the same principle applies to our communal identity as the Church as to our individual position.

We might believe that God can rescue me from this or that problem, but we must also believe He can rescue the whole Church from persecution, division, and every danger.

He can bring the Church home just like any one of us. Size is no problem for God. He is victory in action. No job too small or too large for Him.

As the Church also we must believe and hope. We see the glorious beginnings we had at Easter and Pentecost, but now we see ourselves racked by every possible difficulty.

Can we still believe? How can we not, if we have the Risen and Transfigured Lord standing in our midst?

Hope is a gift; a very practical gift to those still on the way to the final state. To believe before things happen is the ultimate act of trust, and this is what hope enables.

Resurrection is the victory over sin and death, the final victory. Transfiguration is the victory of hope over despair, the interim, ongoing victory.

We are transfigured in hope, preparing us to be transfigured in actual fact when the time comes.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

First Sunday of Lent 10.2.08 Sermon

1st Sunday of Lent 10.2.08 Setting forth

We have some young people in our community (Ruth, Aaron, Natasha) setting off for other fields. This must happen in every generation. It is a sad thing insofar as it means separation; hopeful insofar as it leads to other things, and very much in line with being ‘sent’ which is a characteristic of an apostolic church.

We must at times take risks and step out to new and unexplored territory.

Our Lord went out into unexplored territory (the desert) to pray. A kind of cleansing experience, though He did not need cleansing.

But we do. And Lent presents us with a chance to be cleansed, to clean out all the rubbish from the spare room and make a new start.

The stepping out into new territory does not mean we have to move to another city. It could mean just that we try something ‘new’, as in adopting a new attitude.

Our Christian life is essentially a battle at the interior of our souls for which vision we adopt.

How do we look at life? The question is that simple. Between what the devil offers, and Almighty God offers there could not be greater difference. They literally are the difference between heaven and hell.

The temptation scene contains the essence of the different views: The devil’s view is take as much as possible as you can for yourself.
God’s view is give as much as possible as you can from yourself.

Would you rather take or give? Jesus says (cf Acts 20,35) that it is better to give than receive.

His death on the Cross is how He put those words into practice. He gave His life. He came to serve and not be served.

He is the One we are following, thus imitating.

It is certainly easier to take than receive, so the devil has something of a head start with his view of things.

This is why temptations usually seem initially attractive, and why the good alternative can seem rather dull.

But the first horse out of the blocks is not always the winner, and we could say that temptation in general makes the early running, but is not much good in the final straight. Only later on do we see where the true strength lies. We want to develop the ability to see the end result before we start on the wrong path.

If we look at the three temptations undergone by Our Lord we can see various elements that would apply to us:
First – self-indulgence, flesh before spirit, gluttony
Second – self-assertion, wanting to be the centre of the universe
Third – greed, power, again wanting everything for self.

The sin is taking (or at least grasping for) everything for self. I want it and I want it now.
The remedy is giving, not grasping but letting go, yielding - humility, generosity, gentleness.

Give it all away. Glorious freedom. Look at the saints, many of whom left all their possessions or made them available to others. Reckless, but good.

Which vision will be ours? If we give rather than take we will be much happier and do much more good than if we just live on the surface, grabbing and snatching at whatever goes past.

The more we give the stronger we become. We are drawn more and more into Christ’s orbit, into the life of grace. We will leave behind the way we were, and go on into unexplored territory (the desert experience). Our Lord was paving the way for us.

The desert becomes a garden - of good fruit, good works, good lives.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Quinquagesima Sunday 3.2.08 Sermon

Quinquagesima 3.2.08 Fasting

Remember what Israel used to do when about to be invaded...they would suddenly get serious and put on sackcloth and ashes. Why did they do that, and not just say they were sorry. We can consider as we enter Lent the usefulness of penance: there are 3 main fronts:

1) Penance adds intensity to our prayer: we do not pray just with words, as though casually, but we pray with the whole body and soul. We are praying like we really mean it. The prayer is more convincing to us, this way, and more likely to be pleasing to God. It is proven through the Bible and the lives of saints that fasting is effective for bringing about the desired intentions.

2) Penance atones for past sins. As sin is taking what was not allowed, penance is not taking what is allowed. It is a kind of reversal of steps, a change of direction, indicating and effecting a change of heart. (Mary-Eve)
Admittedly it may only be symbolic but it does help us take a humbler, and less grasping approach to life. (Put back what you have stolen)

3) Penance improves self-control. If I can control my desires by denying myself things which I really want, then I am going to be stronger when tempted to deny that temptation.
If one never denies self, there is likely to be a weakness of will making us easy prey for the evil one. Self-denial is like exercising a spiritual muscle.

Penance is not very fashionable these days.
We have so much emphasised that God wants us to be happy that we have become hazy about time and place and modes of that happiness.
He does want us to be happy, but that does not mean this life is one long party.
The party never stops at the casino (the advertising slogan says), but we cannot have one long party yet in the Church. There are still too many things wrong.

Happiness is when we get things in the right proportion and use them the right way. Penance and Lent is all part of that process, getting things the right-way-up when they have become distorted.
How much penance is enough? We are tempted straight away to think that if we do one thing, even a small thing, that we have satisfied Lenten observance but we are talking about love. We do more penance than we have to, just as we pray more than we have to.
We do not measure out our love for God like medicine by the milligram.

We give like the woman who broke the whole jar and poured out the perfume over Our Lord.

Penance can be little mortifications, even unplanned and unrecorded. Just giving up one extra bit of food...

It can be little extra things, and it can also have a certain recklessness, as in the lives of saints.

Sometimes it is easier to give something up altogether than to dabble with it on a daily basis.
Put it right out of your mind. People often find, having given up something for Lent, they never go back to it.

Should we not just be good and do good, and not get caught up in these other details? The details are important lest our ‘goodness’ be self-defined and lacking any real difference from the ways of the world.

It is obvious that the world does not know God very well and does not love Him very much. Therefore, if we are to do better than that we must adopt unworldly ways, try something different.

If we indulge every sense on every possible occasion we leave little room for any improvement. So eat less, drink less, sleep less, whatever it is, but do it for all the above reasons and then don’t be surprised if things get better.