My Homily for 8th Sunday

Don’t worry so much; put all your troubles into God’s hands.

8th Sunday of the Year (a) 2017

The God we believe in loves and cares for us. Nothing is too unimportant or insignificant.

Standing outside headmaster’s door as an 8 year old; waiting to get punished. I prayed. I didn’t get punished. Did God really help me?

Years later I prayed again!! I was in my early 20’s and most of my best friends were married or were engaged to get married. I prayed fervently to God that I would find someone to marry. It could be said that he didn’t hear my prayer…

However, at the same time, I was praying for something else; to find a career that I really liked, that I was good at; something that I really wanted to do. I must have prayed for 18 months possible 2 years before the Lord answered my prayers.

God does listen to our prayers. He may not give us what we are asking for, but he does gives us what we want; only maybe at the time we didn’t really know what we wanted. If I had got my way, if God had given me what I was asking for, then I wouldn’t have become a priest. So, now, I’m glad He didn’t give me what I wanted at the time.

He listens to all our prayers. Some people don’t believe that: they say ‘you say a prayer for me Father…’ What they are really saying is that God won’t listen to my prayers, because I am not worthy to ask Him for anything. But We don’t have to be good to be listened to by God.

The Gospel tells us ‘do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.’ And yet people do worry about tomorrow. I suppose its normal to worry. We can worry about all sorts of things; about the children, about work, about finding work, about money, about health. All these things you could say are good things to worry about. And there are people who worry if they have nothing to worry about. Worry it seems is part of life.

But the Christian should not give in to worry. Don’t we believe in God; that He is all powerful, and all merciful. Haven’t we just heard those words of advice in the Gospel: ‘don’t worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and who you are to clothe it…’ So do not worry; do not say, What are we to eat? What are we to drink… Set your hearts on on his kingdom first and on his righteousness and all these other things we be given yo as well.’ In other words, trust God to look after your life; put all your worries into his hands. Take the millstone from around your neck, and be free again. Worry only leads to stomach ulcers.

The good Christian doesn’t lack reasons for worrying. However, he or she trusts in God, and so much of the worry is taken away. He is the one who is looking after us. We must let go of our worries and place them in His hands. It sounds simple but it can be extremely hard to do. But its a question of faith: do we really believe in an all powerful God who is looking after us? The answer to that question will help you so much to live life as it should be lived; not crippled all the time by worry.

My homily for 7th Sunday: It’s about loving yourself

7th Sunday of the Year (a) 2017

There are times when the gospel ideals seem unreachable; to be perfect as God is perfect, ‘turning the other cheek’ and what about ‘loving your enemies.’ Sometimes it’s difficult to love your friends never mind your enemies. But there is another challenge in today’s reading that I would like to focus on: ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ On face value it seem quite simple and attainable, but is it?.

‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Of course, the presumption is that we love ourselves. But do we? In my experience as a priest for 30 plus years there are too many people who not only don’t love themselves but don’t even like themselves. I am not just speaking about people who self-harm or abuse themselves in one way or another but a far larger number of just ordinary people, and many of these are Catholics.

And so I ask the question: why don’t some people like themselves? There are inevitably many reasons but I offer one from my own experience: because they see no good in themselves. When they look at themselves in the mirror, all they see is their selfishness, pride, greed, anger, impatience, jealousy; just to list some of my own! They don’t see any good. We tend to see the worst in ourselves, whereas others often see us in a much better light. God in particular sees us in a much much better light. He really does see the good in us, and so much so that when he looks at us he smiles. It’s not that he doesn’t see all our faults and failings. He does, but he overlooks them, at least He doesn’t focus on them, He sees our potential; He sees what we can become.

God smiles on us because he loves us; in spite of all our faults and failings. This is a truth that too many people find hard to believe: that God loves us, and furthermore, that we are lovable. On our journey through life God is helping us to discover this truth; but it takes a long time. Sometimes, when our life is a mess, when things go wrong, when we feel bad about ourselves it’s so hard to believe that anyone can love us, never mind God. And yet, all this apparent mess and darkness is part of God’s plan for us. Not that he wants us to mess up, but He respects our gift of freedom; even to be free to mess up.

God has a plan for each and every one of us. We may not see it but it does exist. What seems to be a mess to us is all part of a much bigger, better, more beautiful plan. I like to use the image of a carpet. If you look underneath a woven carpet all you see is a colourless jumble of threads, with bits hanging out here and there. And this is often the way we see our lives. But turn that same carpet over and you see something very different: now you see a neat pattern and bright colours; that is how God sees our life. See how very different it is.

What we have to do is trust in God; that he is guiding us and leading us to himself. As we look back over the years we now recognise the hand of God, the master weaver, in our past. When we know we are loved by God, then we begin to love ourselves; and as God has forgiven us for the things we did wrong, so we forgive ourselves. When you love yourself then you also can begin to love not only your neighbour but also your enemies.

Vocation’s Trailer About To Appear

I have just begun a vocation’s trailer for may own Order: Discalced Carmelites. I’ve seen these trailers on ‘You-Tube’. They are short and to the point. Some are better than others, but most of them have a lot of views. This is why I wanted to do one. Made a start yesterday. I had prepared a text but found it difficult to relax when I was being filmed. Holywood is not beckoning. I didn’t do a brilliant job but I tried. Not seen the edits yet but will soon. I have a friend who did the filming. He will edit and publish it. I have every confidence in him. His contribution will be enormous. I am expecting the trailer to be moving and beautiful, with imagery and music;  as I have seen this man’s work and he is good. So can’t wait for the final result. Not sure how long it will take, but as soon as it is ready I shall put it on ‘You-Tube’ and just hope and pray that many, many people will view it.

My Homily for 6th Sunday

6th Sunday of the Year (a) 2017

This Gospel can make many people feel uncomfortable. Christ tells us what we should and shouldn’t do, and we know we fall short: does our virtue go deeper than the scribes and Pharisees; or are we, like them, hypocrites at times; have we ever got angry with our brother or sister, called them a fool or worse? Do we always keep our eyes under control? Not let them wander where they shouldn’t sometimes so that our thoughts are not always pure? Do we always keep our promises and the vows we make?

If we use this as an examination of conscience I am sure that most of us will have something to confess. A priest’s life is kept busy with confessions; at least it used to be. Not so much these days Today, it seems that people don’t sin as much. When I was a child I used to go to confession twice a month. There was a long queue. Another feature of confession in those days was people used to travel to confession see ‘strange’ priests; obviously they didn’t want to confess to their local priest. My mother used to travel up to Westminster Cathedral; I know because she used to take me with her sometimes. She must have been bad. But if people stopped sinning we priests would be done out of a job. However, don’t keep on sinning just to give us something to do.

Have you noticed how our sins become habits? We repeat the same things in the confessional time and time again. Some people have been confessing the same sin for decades. Others who never go to confession will admit that they have sins, and sometimes those sins recur over and over again. Sometimes these sins can be really big ones, try as one might they can’t seem to stop. And they do try, it’s not as if they don’t try. There are people who simply feel out of control; in other words that they cannot stop themselves doing things they know are wrong. They feel powerless to stop sinning.

For these people the first words of this morning’s reading, from Eccelesiasticus should help: written a long time ago; it says, ‘If you wish you can keep the commandments.’ And then the next line reinforces that statement: ‘To behave faithfully is in your power.’ I know that most people really do wish to keep the commandments, really do wish to lead good and sinless lives. Well, God is telling us that if we really wish to then we can. The secret is in the second statement from Ecclesiasticus: ‘to behave faithfully is in your power.’ In other words, you have within you the strength and will to overcome whatever your faults and failings are, your life time habitual sins, even those sins you feel you are powerless to overcome. What is this power within?

Notice first of all what it isn’t. It isn’t self-control or self-discipline, as if the power to overcome sin lies in us being more self-controlled or more disciplined. These virtues are good and important but they are not sufficient. The person who is always self controlled and disciplined can be critical of others who are not like them; who do not have their strength; such a person can suffer from pride; and it was never truer to say, that pride comes before the fall.

What the power within is, is grace. And grace is a free gift from God. Given to those who ask Him. So, if you are troubled by your sins, then pray about them. Pray in such a way that you believe you have the power within you to overcome any sin. Now, I know some people will say that they do pray; that they have been praying for years to overcome habitual sins. And it just doesn’t seem to work; they keep on sinning.

But the Lord tells us over and over again, do not give up. Keep on praying and keep on believing. Nothing that is worthwhile comes easily. And who knows, if you overcame sin too easily would it be helpful; supposing you prayed once and all your problems were resolved. Wouldn’t it not only seem all too easy, but also, what would we have learned from this? We need to learn one of life’s hardest lessons, that is: all is grace; all the good we do, all the times we don’t sin, all the temptations we manage to overcome, is not down to self discipline alone, but above all to a free gift from God which we call grace. And we must pray for this grace, and continue to pray for it. For most of us it takes a lifetime to begin to understand that all the good we do is gift.

So, when you are struggling don’t give up. The Lord has given us his commandments, but he has also given us to power to fulfil them. We have within us the power to overcome our sins.

My homily for the 5th Sunday

5th Sunday of the Year (a) 2017

Jesus tells his disciples: ‘you are the salt of the earth’, and ‘you are the light of the world’. He doesn’t say you will become these things; but here and now ‘you are the salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’. They have already become these things, without realising it. When Jesus speaks in this way he is speaking metaphorically; he doesn’t mean that there is literally a light that shines out of their bodies; like a torch or a candle. He teaches them that there is something about the way they live that shines out. It’s not a light, but it can be compared to a light. People will be helped by this light. Just like in a home a lightbulb helps in the dark; if there was no light then it would be difficult to find your way around, or to work. People will look up to them and admire them, but Jesus says ‘your good works give praise to your father in heaven’. It is God, the Father, who is to be praised and thanked for the light shining out in these men.

Jesus explains that it is their ‘good works’ which will shine out. What are these good works? The Prophet Isaiah tells us clearly what they are in the first Reading: ‘Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor, clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin’. These things are quite practical; it’s practical charity. It is not just praying for your neighbour it is also doing something for them. And if we do this we too will be a light or salt to the earth. The Responsorial psalm said: ‘the good man is a light in the darkness for the upright’ (Ps 111). Once again we’re back to the theme of light. Only this time it’s a light in the darkness.

What Jesus told his disciples he repeats to us: ‘you are the light of the world’, ‘you are salt to the earth’. Notice again, the tense: ‘you are’, here and now you are these things. The day we were baptised the Holy Spirit was given us; the Spirit inspires us to do these good works. It is then, the Holy Spirit ‘s light that shines out in us.

A good person is like a light. Others are attracted to that person. The person who cares about the poor of our world, who does something practical for them. Such a person is kind and generous. Others will want to be with them, because of their goodness. I have known many people like this, and seen the light shining out of them. It’s in their eyes, it’s in their smile. It’s very attractive.

We live in a world which badly needs such people. So much in our society isn’t good: there is much darkness. Darkness, like light, can be understood metaphorically. It means the absence of light; in other words the absence of goodness: when there is always greed and selfishness. It can touch an individual person, or a group, or a country or even a region. People who are out for themselves alone, who don’t really care about others; they have become very materialistic. In such a society there is a lot of darkness, but equally the good person will shine out even more.

People are attracted to goodness, even bad people. It’s not for nothing that Christ compares goodness to light. Light is good; it’s the opposite of darkness. As Christians people should be attracted to us; they should say to us some times: ‘you are a good person’, ‘you are kind’ ‘you are generous’. We should hear more than once people thank us for listening to them. People should say to us: ‘you are a good friend’, or ‘I value your friendship’; again, the good Christian should not be embarrassed when others say that they are trustworthy, people of integrity. These things the Christian should expect to hear. Because Christ said to us, as to the Apostles, ‘you are the salt of the earth’, ‘you are the light of the world’. It is the Holy Spirit given us at baptism who is doing these things in us.

So there is no need to worry about getting a big head when people say nice things to you. Remember it’s ultimately God working in you and through you that they see. So thank God. And when some one compliments you for your goodness, don’t be embarrassed, just say ‘thank you’. In this way they and you will give the praise to your Father in Heaven’.