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.