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.