Sunday, May 22, 2022

Asking for reality

Sermon for Rogation Sunday

What are you asking God for?

Our Lord tells us that 
whatever we ask the Father for 
in Jesus' name, 
He will grant us.

It sounds like 
a licence to print money,
but you know that it's not.

St Paul is in prison.
If God would give Paul
whatever he wanted,
then he might be free from prison.

If God gives us what we want,
then why is St Stephen stoned to death?

If God gives us what we want,
then why does He not take 
the cup of suffering from 
His Only Son,
even when His Only Son
begs Him 
to let the cup pass from Him?

[PAUSE]

We worship God 
and that means
not treating Him 
like a genie.

We may ask for 
the things that we want,
but we cannot expect 
our prayers to be answered
in the narrow prison
of our own desires.

We can expect 
our prayers to be answered.
We should expect 
our prayers to be answered,
but they will be answered in a way 
that makes us more real.

St James tells us
that it is not enough
to say the words.
We have to do the work.

Doing the work
makes what we believe
obvious.

Doing the work 
takes our faith from
the vague clouds
of fact and theory in our heads
and shows the world
that we do have faith in God.

We are not saved by faith alone,
because faith is never alone.
A faith that exists just in the mind
does nothing for the body.
And we are to be saved Body and Soul.

Faith is the gift of God.
Free will is the gift of God.

And free will makes 
what is in our mind
become real.

Faith and free will go together.
And Faith also comes with 
Hope and Charity.
And it is Our Lord present
in body and soul
Who saves us 
Body and Soul.

If Faith saves
then it never saves us alone.

[PAUSE]

Whatever we ask God for 
requires faith in God,
but faith must be worked out.

Faith is the paper on 
which God has written 
His covenant with us
in the blood of His Son.

That covenant needs working out.
We need to play our part.
And God will play His.

And what does God promise us 
in this Covenant?

[PAUSE]

He promises
our hearts' desire.

He promises 
the one thing 
that will give us true joy
more than cars 
or money
or health
or wine, women and song,

more than 
freedom from prison,
freedom from persecution,
freedom from a painful, miserable death,

He gives us the one thing.

Himself.

And, in order to give us Himself,
He makes us more real
than we can know,
so that we can
enjoy his presence
for Eternity.

[PAUSE]

But this means
seeing the things that we desire
as not being the things 
that will make us happy
but as being the things
which show us 
what we really need from God.

If we want a fast car
then we might really want
a sense of exhilaration
of fresh air
and speed. 
It's not really the car
we want, 
it's the experience that
having a car might 
give us.

If we ask Him,
God will give us
His Holy Spirit
to thrill us,
give us a blast of the clean air
from Eternity
and the sense of His power
rushing through Creation.
But this means 
that we must 
be prepared to go 
wherever the Holy Spirit
leads us.

If we want to be healthy
then we might really want 
a life free from pain.
But God can give us this life
through His Son
in our own resurrection
from the dead.
But this means we cannot
be satisfied with 
our own relief from pain
and must work to relieve
the pain of others.
Their pain must become
our own pain.

If we want the company
of a pretty woman or handsome man,
then we might have a longing
for the company of someone
who truly loves us
and whom we find able to love.
God loves us
and, if we ask Him,
He will show us His beauty
which will go beyond anything
created.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord Jesus Christ says that, 
if we ask,
we shall receive.

We can ask for the universe.

But we cannot be satisfied with that
because we can have
the Creator of the Universe
Himself.

What do you really, really want?

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Grace and favour

Sermon for the fourth Sunday after Easter

What is grace?

You hear a lot about grace 
in the Church, 
from the Gospels, 
in the sacraments 
and from the pulpit. 

Have you ever stopped 
to think about what 
grace actually is?

[PAUSE]

Tuesday's child is allegedly full of grace.

A good ballerina is graceful.

What does that mean?

Is it because she has 
complete control over her limbs?

Is it because she can
display the music in her body?

Or is it because we find 
her movements beautiful?

[PAUSE]

The Greek word 
we translate as grace 
can also mean favour. 

If something is graceful 
then it is favourable, pleasing, fitting.

Grace is not something
the ballerina possesses.

It's something we see in her,
something good.

[PAUSE]

The Angel tells Mary that 
she is full of grace.

Actually, he says something stronger 

In a single Greek word, 
Gabriel says 
not only that she is full of grace,
but that the act of filling her with grace
is complete, finished, done.
She is perfected in grace.

She has God's complete favour.

She is completely good!

This sounds very alien 
to ears two thousand years distant
and two thousand years sinful.

How is Mary good?

Only God is truly good.
So where good is, God must be.

"Hail Mary, full of grace,
the Lord is with thee!"

[PAUSE]

If God finds favour
in something He has created 
then He is present with it.

We now know that grace is 
nothing less than
the active presence of God.

Grace is a good gift,
and a perfect gift
that comes down to us 
from the Father of Lights.

It is something He wants us to have.

Mary has it 
because she chooses to receive it.

And we need to receive the gift, too.

Every sacrament the Church possesses
is a means of grace,
and gives the active presence of God
to all who receive it.

[PAUSE]

Our Lord enters the waters of the Jordan
to be baptized by St John.
His active presence in the water
means that the water in the font
is transformed into the same water
in which He bathes 
and washes away our sin,
and draws us into his family.

Our Lord breaks bread and says,
"This is My body".
This means that the bread is transformed
 into His body, and the wine, His blood.
And we are given His active presence
to nourish us
and prepare us for life's journey.

Our Lord blesses a marriage 
with His presence
and so sanctifies every marriage.

He is handled by His apostles,
and so gives them the power 
to bestow the Holy Ghost
for confirmation and ordination.

He is anointed with oil for His burial.

He forgives sins and tells His disciples to.

It is the active presence of Christ
in each of these actions
that make the sacraments 
not empty symbols,
but real displays of God's favour
and desire to be with us,
live with us,
love us,
forgive us,
heal us
and perfect us.

[PAUSE]

St James says:

"Every good gift 
and every perfect gift 
is from above, 
and cometh down 
from the Father of lights, 
with whom is no variableness, 
neither shadow of turning. 

Of his own will begat he us 
with the word of truth, 
that we should be 
a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

God does not change and so
God's grace does not change.
The sacraments that we receive
are the same sacraments
that are received by 
St James,
St Paul
and anyone they give them to,
provided that 
we do not change how 
these sacraments operate.

God's grace begets us
with His Word of Truth
because 
Christ is the Word of Truth.

To be favoured by God
is to have Him with us
as we live our lives.

The Church is the means
by which every human being
may receive God's grace.
That is her purpose.

While we are with her,
we do receive God's grace
- grace which we can give
to those others
who dearly need to know
not only that they are lovable
not only that they are lovely
but they are also truly 
and completely
loved.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

Mirror, Mirror on the wall...

Sermon for the third Sunday after Easter

What do you expect to see 
when a mirror is broken?

It depends 
how badly it's broken, 
doesn't it?

It might be completely broken, 
glass shards everywhere, 
but you will still see yourself
 in any single one of those shards.

What if it's just cracked?

Well, then something 
interesting happens.

 If you look at yourself in 
an uncracked piece, 
you will appear normally. 

But, if your reflection 
goes across a crack, 
or even a missing piece, 
then there will be distortion 
or even gaps in your reflection.

 It's only when there is 
a crack or a warp in the glass 
that your reflection looks odd 
and doesn't behave in the way 
that it should.

What a broken mirror doesn't do 
is show a reflection of anyone else
other than the person looking into it.

[PAUSE]

When something is broken, 
it does not behave in the way 
it's supposed to. 

If it's just cracked, 
then it may well work 
reasonably normally for a time 
until something widens that crack 
and bits break off. 

The same is true for us. 

We are broken because of Sin. 

There are cracks in our being 
and we do not work properly. 

Look at our wills. 

If there is a crack in our will 
then it causes a split in 
what we want to do. 

We can want to do good and, 
yet, 
at the same time 
want to be utterly selfish. 

St Paul recognises this fracture 
when he sees in himself that 
he doesn't do the good 
that he wants to do
and that which he doesn't want to do, 
he does.

This is why even the very best of us 
are confused by 
our own sinfulness. 

This is why the people 
whom we revere most 
fall and sin and disappoint us.

Essentially the problem comes 
when the reflection of God in our lives 
falls over our cracks 
which distort our view.

[PAUSE]

It's seems as if we have two wills, 
but we don't. 

One part hunts for the things of the Spirit, the other for the things of the World. 

Both bits of your will 
want the same thing 
- to be happy, 
but you are confused as to 
how to get there. 

But, the more we follow 
our lust for worldly things, 
the bigger the crack gets 
and the more the reflection distorts.

Whose reflection?

It isn't yours!

[PAUSE]

Each one of us is 
supposed to be a reflection of God. 

The more we sin, 
the more the crack 
in our being widens. 

When we confess and repent, 
the more we focus 
on the unblemished part 
of the reflection of God in us.

 What we cannot do 
is close and repair the crack. 

That needs God's creating Grace. 

The will of the Flesh pulls away 
from the will of the Spirit. 

So St Paul tells us to focus on 
that part of our will 
that seeks the spirit 
because we can still see God 
reflected in that bit, 
despite our fragmentation. 

The more people see 
God reflected in us, 
the more will they see 
how to be good 
and seek the things of God. 

The more we recognise 
the will of the Flesh and reject it, 
the more will we show up the world 
for being silly and foolish 
- not by violence, ridicule or shouting, 
but by simply being obedient 
and quiet for God.

[PAUSE]

God looks at you 
and sees Himself. 

That surely is a wonderful 
and frightening privilege. 

Rejoice and reflect Him 
as best you can 
for the world needs it!



Tuesday, May 03, 2022