Category: Homilies and reflections


Homily for Mass – Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am, 5:00pm)

23 November 2014

(Readings: Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; Ps 22; 1 Cor 15:20-26, 28; Mt 25:31-46)

There are some who would scoff at today’s feast day. They would claim that it is a late addition to the liturgical calendar, and that its ‘ideological origins’ are all too plain to see. It is true that the introduction of the feast of Christ the King in the early twentieth century certainly was a response to the secularization that had swept European society, in a similar way to what happened after the Enlightenment and after the French Revolution.
Political liberalism, like Communism and Fascism, denies the public relevance of Christ to so-called secular society. Christ is banished, and we are told that questions must be argued only along secular lines. Religion is made out to be a quaint private practice (or to some, indeed a dangerous private practice), and we are told to keep our “religious views” to ourselves. The only acceptable “religious” view is the secular one. The great irony of people who say these things is that they fail to see that their secular ideology is as much a religion as anyone else’s, and yet it is somehow more acceptable for them to espouse their “religious” views simply because they don’t consider them to be religious views.
Whilst the liturgical feast of Christ the King may be new, and may have been introduced in the 1920s as a counter-claim hurled at the secularist viewpoint, what this feast celebrates is ancient in Christian terms. The Christian East has long placed the image of Christ, the All-Ruler, in solitary majesty in the mosaics in the apses of their Churches. In the Christian West, Christ has been shown as the Judge of all, surrounded by human figures, in the stone friezes frequently placed over the western door of the church – which you see in most of the great cathedrals and churches of Europe.
So whilst the feast may be knew, what it celebrates is what the Church has always believed about Christ, based obviously in what He said about Himself. Today’s celebration of the kingship of Christ is an extension of the feast of the Ascension, when we remember the exaltation of the risen Christ as Lord. At the Ascension, the disciples, who have just seen Christ lifted up into God’s glory, are told that he will return in the same way – that is, in the glory of his Second Coming. And so today’s celebration is also turned towards his second Advent, and this feast which closes our liturgical year points us to the season of Advent beginning next Sunday, when we will prepare for the celebration of his first coming, and think in hope about his second coming and all its implications.
The words of Christ himself in today’s Gospel show him to be the Lord and Judge of all people in all of history. “When the Son of Man comes in his glory … All the nations will be assembled before him.” There is no qualification to “all the nations.” That means everyone: from the first person to the last, from Adam and Eve through to the last person born. Perhaps some people will be surprised when they end up before Christ! Buddhists and Hindus, Jews and Muslims; Scientologists, New Age devotees, humanists, athiests, heretics, apostates and schismatics – they will all stand before Christ, the Lord and Judge of all. Every person who ever lived will stand before Christ. His will be the last face we see before we enter our eternity, of heaven or hell.
As we ponder that thought, we can see how evanglization truly is a work of mercy, as we say to our contemporaries, “Look, before you appear before Jesus seated on his throne of glory as Lord and Judge of all, and before he separates the sheep from the goats, sending the goats to “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels,” we just want to give you a little heads-up about some of the things Jesus is hoping to find in our lives!” This is another way of saying that our primary business is the salvation of souls, the “supreme law in the church” as the last canon of our Code of Canon Law says. And what are we saving souls from if not that fire that Jesus says is prepared for the devil and his angels, and the goats who either did wrong to him, or neglected to do good to him.
When we’re at school or university we always want to know what’s on the exam! Well, Jesus has told us what’s on the final exam in today’s Gospel. He says, what you did and what you did not do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did to me. When Jesus speaks of his people, he means the Church. We cannot separate Christ from His Church. Jesus identified himself with his Church. The great example of this is at the conversion of St Paul. When the risen Jesus confronts Saul, who had been persecuting the Church, Jesus says, “Why are you persecuting ME?”
The Church is the concrete presence of Christ in every age. Our fidelity or indifference to the Church is fidelity or indifference to Christ himself. Of course, for those who have never known the Church, the test for them is how they respond to any person in need.
The parable of today’s Gospel is the last parable that Jesus tells in St Matthew’s gospel. Its at once majestic and confronting. It speaks first of Jesus Christ, the judge of history: all of history and of each person’s history. It is about our responsibility for others in body and spirit, and how our performance in this regard is the most reliable thermometer of our loyalty to Christ. It contains the stark reality that we will be separated from God not just for doing wrong, but also for doing nothing when we should have acted.
Some might say that it is hard to see Christ in others. When that’s the case, we can at the very least be Christ to others.
The Entrance chant of today’s Mass sings that Christ the Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive power, and divinity, wisdom, strength and honour. Through this eucharist, in which we bow down in homage before the Lamb who is worthy, may we be given the grace to honour and glorify Christ as we serve Him in all our actions.

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This homily is adapted, with quotations, from two homilies found in the following books:
• Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour, A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays Through the Year (Balwyn, Victoria: Freedom, 2012); and
• S. Joseph Krempa, Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle A (New York: St Pauls, 2005).

 

purgatory-massHomily for Mass – Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi:  Saturday 6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am)

2 November 2014

(Readings: Is 25:6-9;  Ps 26;  Rom 5:5-11;  Mt 11:25-30)

 

Every Sunday we profess in the Creed, “I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” In the midst of our busy, earthly lives, we probably don’t linger much on those words each Sunday. However, when we come to a funeral then those ancient words seem to carry new weight and promise. A Christian funeral is not only a vehicle for the expression of emotions of grief. It is also a statement of faith and a time of prayer.

Today, as we celebrate the Commemoration of all the Faithful Departed – All souls – we remember our beloved dead. As we remember them we hear the words of faith in the scriptures, reminding us of the fact that one day the Lord will destroy death forever, and gather his faithful people to the heavenly banquet. We are reassured by the second reading that Christ died for us while we were still sinners. Our sins and weaknesses should not stop us from striving to follow Jesus, always coming back to him when we fall, always throwing ourselves on his mercy.

This commemoration is a day of memory. We recall those people whose lives have deeply touched us, people who have travelled a part of life’s journey with us. We remember them not as perfect beings, but as human people with limitations like ourselves. In the midst of that, we can see their goodness, their dedication and even their heroism. In remembering them, we are reminded that none of us is self-sufficient: as the book of wisdom reminds us, the life and death of each of us has its influence on others. Each of us has been helped, guided and supported in prayer by many others. And so on this day we remember all those people, especially those from our childhood days, who have assisted us in our life, and who have now gone to their eternal rest.

All Souls Day is also a day of faith. In the face of death, we affirm our belief in the eternal life that is ours in Jesus Christ. This world in which we were conceived and have grown is like the runway to eternal life with God. Death may be the end of our earthly life, but it is not the end of our soul. A great and glorious future awaits all those who are faithful to Christ. When we close our eyes to sleep the sleep of death, we will awaken on the other side, and the first Person we will see is Jesus Christ Who knows the full and deep truth about our life. He knows thoroughly the places of light and shadow in our life about which nobody else is aware. We come to Christ with all we have become in this life. This is a day to affirm our faith in eternal life.

Lastly, All Souls Day is also a day of prayer. When we feel powerless in the face of death, our faith teaches us that through prayer we can assist others in that time of mending and healing that the Lord gives to those, on their way to heaven, after death. This time of final healing and purification is known as purgatory. Prayer for those who have died is a wonderful way that we can remain connected to them. It can be an instrument of reconciliation with those from whom we had become distant or even resentful. It can be a way of showing gratitude to those with whom we have been close.

All Souls Day is a day filled with memory, faith, and prayer. It reminds us that we are part of a great alliance of grace that is stronger than death. We are joined in the communion of saints: those in heaven already, ourselves here living this earthly life, and the souls in purgatory undergoing their final cleansing and purification, freeing them from everything that keeps them from entering the presence of God. This alliance of grace is stronger than death. The example of those who have gone before us can be an inspiration for us. We are reminded that people before us have confronted the dilemmas we face.

If some of those who have died may have failed us, then they are most certainly in need of our prayers. And this can be a healing and reconciling grace.

Far from being morbid, All Souls Day is a wonderful day of remembering, healing and praying. It is a day rich in faith and hope, and a day of reconciliation, something we all need.

So let us pray for our beloved dead:
Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace.  Amen.
May theirs souls, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.

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(Taken from: S. Joseph Krempa, “Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle B.”  With adaptations).

 

 

 

Homily for Mass – Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi:  Saturday 6:00pm & Sunday 9:00am)

20/21 September 2014

[Readings: Isaiah 55:6-9; Philippians 1:20-24, 27; Matthew 20:1-16]

 

The parables of Jesus constantly challenge our misguided instincts! They are an excellent example of what the Lord said through the prophet Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.”

 

The parable we hear today is easy to relate to. In our day and age when people are so attuned to their rights and what they can expect (even demand) in employment, we naturally assume that someone who works longer at the same job will receive more pay.

 

And yet, we have the situation in the parable of tonight’s Gospel where every worker who went to work in the landowner’s vineyard gets paid exactly the same amount, regardless of when they started working, or for how long. In the first instance, the parable points out that the landowner has observed justice: he gave every worker the amount they agreed to work for. He has not done less than what is just. But he has also gone beyond justice to showing mercy. The workers who may have done less work, still receive the “usual daily wage” – in other words, they received what they needed to support themselves and their families that day. The landowner has attended both to justice and to mercy.

 

The word of God today challenges us to realize that the way we think can often be narrow, and we can often have difficulty seeing things the way God sees things, and the way God wants us to see things. It is a challenge for us to truly grasp God’s infinite love and mercy; a mercy which also attends to justice. “Most disconcerting,” says one commentator, “[most disconcerting] – to human ways of looking at things – [is] God’s unyielding inclination to forgive.” [Archbishop Terrence Prendergast SJ, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year A, Toronto, Novalis, 2010, p. 140] For human beings, generally, that is not our inclination.

 

In many ways, we can see a parallel between the grumblers in the parable we’ve heard today and the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son. The grumblers seem to see their work in the vineyard as a heavy affliction. They say to the landowner: “[we] have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” We hear echoes of the elder brother of the prodigal son, remonstrating with his father that he had slaved for him for many years and had never had a party thrown for him! If we move beyond the parables, we might say that some people in the kingdom of God are not working with a JOY of being God’s sons and daughters, but rather are working with the ill-temper of slaves or servants.

 

We might go further and say that some people mistakenly see faith (and the church even) as something that binds and enslaves, and they see conscience as something that restricts and constrains. Such people might be secretly envious of others who seem to “live life” without such constraints. They don’t see faith and conscience as something that allows us to truly gain our freedom as God’s children.   Some people might even feel that they’re entitled to salvation, or that they’ve earned it; and so they then feel a jealousy toward others who seem to be blessed by God, and who appear not to have earned it or deserved it.

 

The word of God reminds us of the Father’s generosity, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of truth. He calls everyone to work in his vineyard. The psalmist reminds us, The Lord is good to all, compassionate to all His creatures.

 

I think a central question we might ask ourselves in response to today’s scripture: are we ministers of the generous mercy of God? What is in our heart as we do what God wants? As we live our faith, do we do so joyfully as God’s sons and daughters? Do we seek out and live God’s will as a glad duty, as contributing to our salvation and eternal happiness, or has it become a restrictive burden?

 

Perhaps we may discover in our hearts the grumbling that we hear in the parables. Perhaps jealousy. If so, we have a wonderful antidote in the celebration of Mass. As we come to the eucharist we have in our very celebration a wonderful example of the generosity of God: Jesus comes to us as a gift to nourish us in word and sacrament. He comes to be our spiritual food. He comes to us whether we’ve been working in his vineyard all through the day, or just for the final hour.

 

As we welcome and receive Christ we pray that he may change us, and change our hearts, to be more like him. Like Christ, may we become more generous ministers of the mercy and love of God.

 

 

 

 

Homily for Mass – Twenty-Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi:  Sunday 9:00am;

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 5:00pm)

7 September 2014

(Readings: Ez 33:7-9; Ps 94; Rom 13:8-10; Mt 18:15-20)

 

Over the years, campaigns to stop drink driving have reminded us of our responsibility towards others. “Friends don’t let friends drink and drive,” and such like. If we truly are friends with someone, then we have a responsibility towards them.

Christians have a responsibility towards others as well. And each of our readings today reminds us of that responsibility. We could summarize those responsibilities as the responsibility to speak, to respect, and to heal.

In the first reading we hear of the responsibility to speak. The prophet Ezekiel speaks of being appointed by the Lord as “sentry to the House of Israel.” The role of a sentry, or watchman, was to warn of danger. This reminds us of our Christian responsibility – and indeed our moral duty – to speak the truth about right and wrong, whether to society collectively or to individuals. There are a variety of modes in which we can do that, but as Christians we can’t sit back and be silent when there are attacks on innocent life, or when society is heading in the wrong moral direction, or when we see people we know damaging themselves. The Lord says, through Ezekiel, that we have a duty to speak. To say nothing makes us morally complicit in the wrong another does. If we speak and the person doesn’t listen, then we have done our duty. But we have a responsibility to speak the truth to each other.

Then there is the duty to respect each other. In the second reading today we hear Saint Paul naming some of the obligations that are summed up in the command to love our neighbour as ourself; he lists: do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not covet, and so on. We could restate these in the positive: we have the responsibility to respect other people’s life, to respect other people’s marriages, to respect other people’s property, and to respect other people’s integrity.

The gospel today, then, gives us another responsibility: and that’s to heal; or as is described in the Gospel, tl deal with conflict constructively. In these paragraphs of Matthew’s Gospel we have an outline from Our Lord about how to deal with conflict. It is suggested that since St Matthew’s Gospel was written a little later than then others, the teaching it contains reflects the fact that the Christian community had moved beyond the initial – we might say – “honeymoon” period. The Church had to, very early on, grapple with the fact that conflicts would emerge between believers; even between good people, there would be disagreements. Whilst we might be disenchanted at first that the Church community is not perfect, we can take some consolation from the fact that Our Lord has provided us a way to deal with conflict. As Pope Francis has reminded us, the Church is like a field-hospital of wounded people – or, as others have put it, a school for sinners … the Church is a place where we seek healing, and strive for the holiness that is also ours. We know well that the Church – you and me – is at once holy, and yet also at the same time, always in need of purification.

So Our Lord has enumerated several steps to deal with conflict. The first is to put our complaint into words. “If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves.” Jesus first urges us to sort the problem out privately. We know how easy it is to give into the temptation, when in a conflict situation, to speak to everyone else except the actual person involved. We gossip, slander, complain, engage in detraction, rather than actually speaking with the person who is the cause of our complaint.

Next, if speaking privately with our opponent doesn’t work, Our Lord urges us to find a third person who can help to bring about a resolution. Sometimes another person, who perhaps has no personal interest in the situation, can be a bridge between those who are at odds.

Later, if there is still no resolution, Our Lord says to take it to the authority. There are situations that must be brought before whatever official body that has a right to know about it.

In the end, if there is still no solution, we must pray for the person with whom we are in conflict, and we must leave them to God’s justice, to His judgment and His grace.

Whilst we may wish it to be otherwise, conflict is part and parcel of being human, and it will therefore be part of the life of the Church. But what the Gospel reminds us of today is that there is a Christian way to deal with conflict: a way that does not seek revenge, but rather the healing of conflict and the restoration of all parties to God’s peace and grace. The effort to heal both the discord itself and our opponent is a way of showing Christian maturity and Christian responsibility.

Our readings today teach us that we have a responsibility to others: a responsibility to speak, to respect and to heal. One thing that today’s readings can remind us is that Christian love is not an emotion or a feeling, but a responsibility and obligation. It is something we choose to do, empowered by God’s grace – realizing that alone we can do nothing.

May this eucharist sustain and help us to engage our Christian responsibilities as we navigate the often challenging situations of life.

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(Adapted from: S. Joseph Krempa, Captured Fire: The Sunday Homilies, Cycle A (Staten Island, NY: St. Paul, 2005).

 

 

 

Homily for Mass – Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am & 5:00pm)

31 August 2014

(Readings: Jer 20:7-9; Ps 62; Rom 12:1-2; Mt 16:21-27)

 In choosing words to describe the people of our generation one word that certainly fits is “entertained.” We must be one of the most ‘entertained’ generations of human history. We have TVs that bring free-to-air and any number of paid stations; the internet can bring before our eyes practically anything; anyone who fears silence can carry around an i-pod or the like; – not to mention the omnipresent mobile phone, more than just a symbolic link with our network of contacts.

With the exception of the i-pod, I’m no stranger to any of the above. I do consider myself, lucky, though, to be just old enough to remember a world before email, and before everyone carried a phone around with them. At the moment I don’t get to watch much TV, but over the years, I have – like most of you, I’m sure – had my favourite shows on TV that I didn’t like to miss. I must admit, though, sometimes after sitting in front of the television for an hour or two, when I have got up and go to do whatever it was that had just been put on hold, I have said to myself, “Gee, there’s an hour of my life that I’m never going to get back!”

Today’s readings issue a real challenge, I believe, to a generation like ours that is completely saturated by the influence of “social” media, both the older and it’s newer forms. In the middle of the second reading, Saint Paul says: “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind” [that is, the mind of Christ]. In our day, almost 24/7 we are under the influence of what is coming into our minds through the TV, through the internet, and on our phones. And we have to recognize the force that that has on us and on our thinking, and believing. With that subtle pressure, it’s so very easy to just BE like everyone else. To think like everyone else – to believe like everyone else. When sociologists give reports they give the rather unfortunate statistic that on almost everything, Christian people (Catholics included) pretty much share the same values as everyone else. That should be an alarming statistic – unless our world has suddenly reached perfection! We should well ask the question, then: “have we modeled ourselves on the behaviour of the world around us? Have we failed to let our behaviour be modeled by Christ?”

There is a temptation to soften the hard edge of Christianity. We see this when we romanticize people like St Francis of Assisi. What Francis did was absolutely shocking to his family and most of his friends; shocking too for many in the church, priests and bishops included. The sight of Francis and his companions in their poor clothes, begging for food, earnt them heaps of scorn, suspicion and ridicule.

But those things are nothing new for followers of the Lord! We have, in our first reading today, the lament of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah is ruing the day he accepted his vocation. He says that, as a result of following the Lord’s call, he is a daily laughing stock, everbody’s butt! As the prophet of the Lord he had to speak what God told him. And far from being some cosy, comfortable, message, God made him speak hard words, difficult words for the people to accept. Jeremiah summarizes that he had to speak “Violence and ruin!” to the people in God’s name. And so all that this has earnt him is insult and derision.

Jeremiah tries to ignore the Lord; to ignore his vocation as a prophet. He said to himself, “I will not think about [the Lord]; I will not speak in his name any more.” In other words, for Jeremiah it would have been far easier just to conform with the world around him – to go with the flow – rather than to speak the challenging words that the Lord asked him to say to His people. BUT, poor Jeremiah, ignoring his vocation wasn’t going to work. The effort to ignore the Lord “wearied [him]” he said, “I could not bear it.”

When we are living our lives, going about our daily things, perhaps doing what everyone else is doing, from time to time we’ll feel a gentle nudge inside ourselves. Perhaps it won’t be like “fire imprisoned inside our bones” like it was for Jeremiah. It might be as simple as that thought that I’ve felt after wasting too much time in front of the TV.

The gentle call of God in our hearts will force us to make some choices. The first choice we have, is like Jeremiah’s: we can ignore the call of God, or at least we can try to! And I think, our modern entertainment culture allows us to quite successfully drown out most of the subtle movements of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

But if we don’t ignore the movements of the Holy Spirit, then we need to wrestle with St Paul’s command to let our behaviour be modeled – not by the world around us – but rather by our new mind (that is, the mind of Christ). Jesus himself rebukes Peter for thinking in a purely human way, and for not being willing to accept the way that Jesus was presenting – a way that includes suffering and death.

When Jesus asks us to renounce ourselves – he’s asking us to renounce all that is false; all that the world makes us that is contrary to the way of God. He’s asking us to renounce our misuse of freedom; to renounce our selfish tendencies; to renounce all those things that have covered over the original beauty we had when we were made in the image and likeness of God. Renunciation – according to Jesus – is not about surrendering freedom, but in truly finding it, in the way God intends.

So, let’s be open to the challenge of the word of God to us today. If you are hearing the Lord speaking to you, calling you, inviting you in some way, to a deeper life in Him, what are you going to do in response?

Homily for Mass – Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Saturday 6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am;

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 5:00pm)

23/24 August 2014

[Readings: Is 22:1-23; Ps 137; Rom 11:33-36; Mt 16:13-20]

 In our first reading today we hear of Eliakim and Shebna, who were the chief stewards – or like the prime minister – under King Hezekiah, the king of Judah. “The king had many servants … but one man was chief among them and stood between the king and his other ministers” [1]. We are told, in the first reading, that this prime minister would “be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah,” and as a sign of his office he would be given the keys of the kingdom, the key of the House of David.

The keys held by Shebna and Eliakim, as prime ministers, were not to a city gate, but to the royal palace, the house of David. The keys would “grant access to a throne room where the king may be petitioned, and to a treasury from which that king can reward his subjects, [and] to the royal granaries from which his people will be fed” [2].

Our first reading and Gospel sit side by side, and in the Gospel we hear Jesus giving Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Peter is to be a “prime minister” of sorts – a chief shepherd. The keys that Peter holds “grant access to the throne of God in prayer, to the treasury of grace, [and] to the granaries of the bread of heaven” [2].

In the first reading Isaiah is prophesying that a time would come when one prime minister would replace another. This holds true for the ministry of Peter: there is a succession of Popes, so that the same ministry that Peter exercised at the beginning, given to him by Christ, continues to be exercised in the Church by his successor, the Pope.

Caesaria Phillipi, where today’s Gospel scene is set, was the place of the shrine to the pagan god Pan. His shrine was a series of rocks, in fact a whole rocky hillside, which had been consecrated to Pan [3]. It was here, in the place of the rock shrine to a pagan God, that Jesus establishes a new kingdom, his Church, one based on his rule, his authority, “Jesus builds a church, a new people, on the rock of his apostle” Peter [2].

The first thing Jesus says about his Church is that “the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.” Right from the beginning Jesus indicates that his Church will be in a battle with the forces of hell, but that his Church would prevail. In Jesus’ own lifetime, he had to struggle with the forces of death, and he had to be killed before rising to new life. “His Church is caught up in that same struggle, [and] will know persecution, suffering and death.” The Church currently suffers “terribly in Iraq and Syria; but the Church, too, will overcome death to share in the risen life of Jesus” [2]. Christ’s Church will face this battle with the forces of death on many fronts. But, the gates of hell will not prevail.

Today we are invited to reflect on Christ’s gift of the papacy to his Church. Every Pope is different, and we see in each of them the particular ways that God blesses and guides His people in each moment of history: sending Popes with particular gifts at particular times. The Pope strengthens the faith of the brothers and sisters of Jesus; he is the Shepherd who leads the whole community of the Lord’s disciples. The Papacy is a permanent structure of Christ’s Church, and the succession of the papacy is based in the city of Saint Peter’s martyrdom – Rome. The Pope, like Peter, is to sacrifice himself for the sake of Christ’s bride, the Church.

Saint Peter’s successor promotes and defends the unity of faith and the communion of all believers (1). Just as Peter, at Caesarea Phillipi, correctly named who Jesus was, so too his successor continues to articulate the Church’s faith, and to help believers come to Jesus and understand who Jesus is, and what mission he has entrusted to us. Our Popes, above all, call us to prayer, and they communicate to us “something of the infinite grace of God that will feed us and give us everlasting life” [2].

Let’s pray especially today for our Holy Father, Pope Francis.

May the Lord preserve him, give him a long life, make him blessed upon the earth, and may the Lord not hand him over to the power of his enemies. Lord, may your hand be upon your holy servant.   And upon your son whom you have anointed.

 Let us pray … O God, the Pastor and Ruler of all the faithful, look down, in your mercy, upon your servant, Francis, whom you have appointed to preside over your Church; and grant, we beseech you, that both by word and example, he may edify all those under his charge; so that, with the flock entrusted to him, he may arrive at length unto life everlasting. Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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[1] Fr Jason Mitchell, LC: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/sunday-homily-i-will-give-you-the-keys-to-the-kingdom-of-heaven?

[2] Fr Richard Finn, OP: http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5820

[3] Fr Aidan Nicols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour, A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays Through the Year.

 

 

20oaHomily for Mass – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 5:00pm)

10 August 2014

[Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7; Ps 66; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28]

 

On first hearing today’s Gospel, it’s easy to be shocked by what we hear! Did Jesus just say that?! Perhaps it’s just as shocking today as it was when it was first uttered … and perhaps that’s precisely the point. But, what if we could actually see the scene – where everyone was standing – and more importantly hear the voices – how did Our Lord say what he said – with what tone, and with what demeanor, and facial expression? Unfortunately, “[t]he Gospels do not come accompanied by tape recordings and photographs” [1] Whilst we don’t know these things, one thing we do know is that there was a very real link “between the Divine Perfection and the human nature assumed by the Word” in Jesus, and so we can know that Jesus’ face was kind, and his tone gentle. “The Sacred Heart was inevitably a gentleman in the special sense of the word defined by Blessed John Henry Newman: someone who never gives offence unnecessarily” [1].

Its quite possible that Our Lord was taking the known prejudices of his day, and using them in such a way as to challenge them: deliberately juxtaposing these thoughts with the reality of a woman trying to get help for her daughter.

The disciples wanted this Canaanite woman – a non-Israelite – sent away. She was causing a scene by shouting out after them. The disciples are obviously embarrassed. “Give her what she wants,-they say, – because she is shouting after us!”

It seems that almost as soon as Jesus starts speaking the woman is kneeling at his feet – and so Jesus must have seen her earnestness – and what he later says is her faith. As Jesus responds to her, he speaks those attitudes of his day that would have been accepted by many: he gives voice to the bigotry between Jew and gentile; chosen and not chosen – and starts giving the reasons why he shouldn’t help this non-Jewish woman. In other words, He starts saying what others would have been thinking.

The fact that he says what we might judge to be unthinkable only highlights the irony. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” … “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs” By this time the disciples – and anyone else who shared in the bigotry – must surely have realized that Jesus was having a go at them.

If Jesus could see the earnestness and faith of the Canaanite woman – she too could see what Jesus was really saying. And so when Jesus, with irony, compares the gentiles to dogs – she plays along, and enters into the dialogue that Jesus has begun – she knows he’s not putting her down – and so with equal irony she answers, “Ah yes, but even the house dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.”

And at that moment pennies must have been dropping everywhere! And Jesus says what he (most likely) knew the whole time, “Woman you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.” And, in one sense, thankfully he didn’t say that straight away. Because we would have lost this great teaching moment; the shock value of which means that this passage holds its power even to our day.

What are we taught then? We’re taught that God’s love is for all people. Whether other people tell us we’re not worthy, or whether we tell ourselves we are not worthy, this does not change God’s attitude to us. The truth is we are all unworthy! However, despite our unworthiness, God loves us and wants our good and our eternal salvation.

Secondly, in faith we need to come to the only one who can change things for us. “LORD, have pity on me;” “LORD, help me.” These were the prayers of the Canaanite woman. She inspires us to have the same faith – to come to the Lord, and to place before him our cares and our needs.

Thirdly, there is the element of perseverance. This element is perhaps the one that puzzles us more. We persevere not because God has to be beaten into submission to fulfil our desires. That’s not a loving God. We persevere because faith is a relationship with a personal God. God is not a vending machine. We persevere because we don’t always understand how God is answering our prayers; we persevere because it’s only over time that we start seeing things from a divine perspective, rather than just our own perspective (which can get blinkered and limited and selfish, perhaps without our even realizing it).

Let’s learn today from the relationship of faith between the Canaanite woman and Jesus. May we persevere in faith, day by day and year after year, growing ever more deeply in relationship with our Lord.

[1] Aidan Nichols, OP, Year of the Lord’s Favour, A Homiliary for the Roman Liturgy, Volume 3: The Temporal Cycle, Sundays Through the Year, [Balwyn, VIC: Freedom, 2012].

assumption-of-mary-1642Homily for Mass – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley

Friday 15th August, 2014 – 9:00am (School Mass)

Perhaps you’ve seen in the news the pictures of the terrible fighting happening in places like Iraq, Syria, and the Holy Land. We need to pray very hard for peace in those places – that people’s hearts will be changed to stop hurting other people. As we see those stories, we also realize that a lot of people have died in the fighting – and that’s very sad.

Through our lives we face the fact that our loved ones do die. Facing the death of people we know and love is probably one of the hardest things we have to face in life. It is natural and normal for us to be sad when those we love die; when they are no longer with us to do all the things we used to do with them.

The feast that we are celebrating today has something very special and important to say to us about death. We know that Jesus came to free us from the power of death. He came to bring us life: a good and abundant life here on earth, and life forever with God in heaven.

We know that Jesus did this by himself dying on the Cross, and then by being raised to life again by God the Father. And so, in Jesus himself, we see that death didn’t have the last word. Dying wasn’t the end of the story. He rose again, and he lives forever. Jesus is alive! And the risen Jesus is here with us!

Mary, Jesus’ earthly mother, was the first and most important disciple of his. More important even than the apostles. Mary loved God very much, and she said ‘yes’ to God when the angel came and told her that she was going to have a child who would be the Son of God. Not only did Mary say “yes” on that occasion in answer to the archangel, but she said “yes” to God all through her life. She always wanted to live the will of God: she always wanted to do exactly what God wanted her to do. And so, God had preserved her from the stain of sin from the very moment she came into existence.

And so when Mary was older, and when it was time for her to face death like we all have to, God once again showed how much He loved her. Immediately after Mary died, God took not just her soul, but her body as well to heaven. So now, Mary is with her Son, Jesus, in the glory heaven. She didn’t have to lie in the grave after death; she was assumed straight away – body and soul – to heaven.

This is certainly a wonderful thing that God did for Mary. But it’s not just good news for her, it’s good news for all of us as well. Like Mary, we are the disciples of her Son, Jesus. We too love God, and want to follow him. And we say that we are part of Jesus’ body on earth.

So, just as Jesus was raised from death to life, and just as Mary shared in that rising from death to life in her Assumption, this is what we can look forward to, and all who love God. Jesus has given us a promise: whoever believes in him, he will raise up on the last day.

And so, yes, we are sad when those we love die. They are no longer with us in the same way. Our lives are different without them being around. However, that sadness gives way to a much greater joy that Jesus has promised us. He wants to bring us all to live forever in the wonderful peace and joy of heaven – a place where all evil is gone, where no one is sad anymore, where no one is hurt, where there is no sickness, no disasters, and where we can never die again.

He has done this already for Mary, by assuming her – body and soul – into heaven at the end of her earthly life. As we celebrate this wonderful gift given to Mary, we pray that we may look forward, even now, to that same gift being given to us and to all our loved ones. That when our earthly life is done, Jesus will come to take us to our heavenly home – where we will see again all those whom we have known and loved here during this life.

Let us celebrate this Feast, therefore, with great hope and joy.

assumption-of-mary-1642Homily for Mass – The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley

Thursday 14th August, 2014 – 7:00pm

At the beginning of his homily for the Chrism Mass in Holy Week a couple of years ago, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI recalled a short story of the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. In the story, a harsh sovereign asks his priests and wise men to show him God. But they’re not able to do it. A shepherd coming in from the fields then volunteers to take on the task. He tells the king that his eyes are not good enough to see God, but the king persists in wanting to know at least what God does. So the shepherd says, “Then we must exchange our clothes.” The king is reluctant, but curious, and so he consents. He gives his royal robes to the shepherd and has himself dressed in the poor man’s simple garments. “This is what God does,” says the shepherd.

St Paul writes that, indeed, the Son of God did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men; and being as all men are, he became humbler yet, even to accepting death on a cross.   The early fathers of the Church spoke about the sacred exchange that happened between God and people. God took on what was ours, SO THAT we might receive what was God’s and become similar to God.

The assumption of Mary into heaven is a wonderful fulfillment of the effects of this sacred exchange. Of all believers of Jesus, Mary is the most perfect. God had preserved her from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception. For her part, she engaged her will and completely aligned it with God’s will. Her response to the angel Gabriel encapsulates this: I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me.

For the benefit of all who would follow Christ, the Lord has given the Assumption of his blessed Mother as a sign of what the effects of the exchange between God and mankind are: Mary is taken body and soul to heaven. Her assumption to heaven is meant to be a sign of hope and comfort for God’s people on our pilgrim way.

It is a reminder that whatever we experience here – whatever hardships and trials we might experience during this earthly life – this is not the end of the story. If it were, we would be a hopeless people. This is the message that is to be proclaimed as we stand at look at situations like Iraq. We are destined to be raised above all of this. God has become one of us, to make us like himself – God has made us so that we might share his life – the life of glory that the Blessed Trinity has enjoyed from all eternity. As the psalmist sings to God: You have made us little less than gods, with glory and honour you crown us!

The challenge to us, in all of this, is that the way to glory, the way to becoming like God and sharing the divine life fully, is to embrace the way of lowliness and self emptying. This is what Jesus, the Son of God, did. And this is what we see Mary doing – she who is the FIRST among all believers of Christ. We become divine, we advance to glory, the more we humble ourselves; the more we let go of our self-will, and cling to God’s perfect will.

Many important themes echo in today’s celebration. Every Sunday we profess in the Nicene Creed: I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. When we renew our Baptismal promises in the Apostles Creed we affirm that we believe in the resurrection of the body.

The Christian idea of heaven is not of some collection of floating, disembodied spirits or souls – but of a bodily life – in fact, a glorification of the bodily life we have already begun. Our life in heaven, in the fullness of God’s kingdom, has a real connection with the life we live now – such that it could not be conceivable without our bodies that are such an important part of who we are.

In the rites of preparation for the baptism of infants we ask God to make the little ones temples of his glory, and to send his Holy Spirit to dwell within them. God fills us – our bodily selves, with his spirit. We are dwelling places, temples, of the Holy Spirit. Our bodies are destined for eternal glory – Mary’s assumption, body and soul into heaven, is a sign and promise of the glory that awaits us.

Our bodily, earthly, lives are therefore important – and what we do in our bodies matters. Our bodies are the vehicles through which we receive God’s grace in the sacraments. Our daily living is not a trivial thing, marking time until the better life of heaven comes … our daily living, filled with God’s spirit, is made holy by God, and invested with a divine meaning.

WE are reminded today that we are body and soul. We are not just souls (and eternally we will not just be souls) and we are also not just bodies. For this reason human life can never just be reduced to the level of mere physical bodily existence. From the very moment of our conception, we are body and soul: called to share the divine life; body and soul created in God’s image. The life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb can never be spoken of as simply a body, a physical thing. It is a body and soul, a human person – divinely called into being.

The assumption of Mary into heaven turns our focus to the heavenly glory that awaits us and that God calls us to share … a life of joy, freed from the effects of sin and death that mark our lives here below. Whilst turning us to heaven, this feast also in a real way points out the sacredness of our bodily earthly life. A bodily life that will not be discarded in eternity, but rather glorified and perfected.

God has given to the church the visible gift of Mary’s assumption into heaven. Through it God says: this is why the Son took on humanity … that people might be brought to glory for all eternity.

As we offer Mass today, recalling the glorious event of Mary’s assumption into heaven, let’s be grateful for this sign of hope and comfort: let’s be reassured of what God wants for us [our eternal destiny]. For what the Lord has done in and for Mary, the Lord wants also to do for us.

http://stephencuyos.comHomily for Mass – Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

(Mary Immaculate Church, Annerley: Sunday 7:30am, 9:00am & 5:00pm)

10 August 2014

(Readings: 1 Kings 19:9, 11-13; Ps 84; Rom 9:1-5; Mt 14:22-33)

 

In our readings today we can find plenty of stuff that we can relate to as we struggle on through the challenges of life.

In the first reading we have the story of Elijah. To understand this story we really need to take up our Bibles and read this bits before and after what we’ve just heard in the First Reading. Elijah the prophet had been working hard defending the true faith against the pagan prophets. He’d actually been quite successful. This success, though, infuriated Queen Jezebel – and she threatens to kill him. He flees and that’s why he ends up on Horeb, the mountain of God. He’s there in fear for his life; but he’s also exhausted, and confused about what he’s meant to do next. Upon reaching the cave, God asks him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” And Elijah pours out his soul … he has come to the end of his tether – he’s the only one left [doing God’s will], and now they want to kill him.

And then the encounter happens that we heard in our first reading: the wind, the earthquake, the fire – but then the voice of the Lord in “the sound of sheer silence.” God then again asks Elijah why he’s there, and Elijah explains again. But then the Lord gives directions to Elijah and what he’s to do.

The story is a beautiful description of how God comes to meet us, particularly in our darkness and confusion. Humanly speaking we’d say that Elijah was “running away” from his problems – but in this instance, God helps him to run away, because God provided food so that Elijah was able to make the long journey to Mount Horeb. And when Elijah gets far away, in the solitude of the mountain, God comes to speak to him.

The story reminds us that we need to “get away” – we need times of silence and solitude so that God can minister to us. It’s why it’s such a good practice to make a spiritual retreat, where we physically go away from our normal activities, even for just a short time. But it doesn’t have to just be a physical removing of ourselves. Right where we are, we can “enter that private room” of our hearts and be with the Lord. Something that was said of Blessed John Paul II was that in the midst of his busy activity, his pastoral visits here and there, he could be right in the midst of all sorts of activity and be able to – then and there – enter into deep prayer and contemplation – he was able to “go to that place” where he could speak with God, and God could speak with him.

This theme is reinforced in today’s Gospel. We note that the beginning of today’s section indicates that Jesus himself had sent the disciples away in the boat while he went up the mountain by himself to pray [even our Lord retreated]. Later, when the boat is struggling because of the waves and the wind, Jesus walks on the water towards his friends. Peter, inspired by the sight asks Jesus to allow him also to walk on the water. But we see that the moment Peter takes his attention off Jesus, and starts thinking more about the strong wind, he begins sinking.

It’s so easy for us to become obsessed by the things around us. We can become totally focused on the problems we face, and on how we’re going to solve them. We soon realize how powerless we are, and so we become afraid. All the while, though, we’ve taken our eyes off God – we’ve forgotten that God alone can save.

This again reminds us that we have to keep our eyes focused on Christ. Our world holds up as values “self-sufficiency” and “independence,” but if we take that too far, we end up like Elijah and Peter … we end up afraid and in the dark when our own insuffiency becomes apparent to us. We start sinking beneath the waves.

It’s so important that we come to Jesus every day. Physically, we can come to him in the Church where we find his sacramental presence. Every day we can worship him in the sacrifice of the Mass and receive him in Holy Communion. And if we can’t physically come to him, we can still go to him spiritually, wherever we are.

Brothers and sisters, let’s savour this hour that we have now with the Lord as we offer Mass. In this time of quiet and reflection, away from our daily toil and tasks, let’s ask the Lord to give us a heart that is capable of really trusting Him, able to recognize Him and follow Him. May we have a heart like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a heart that never remains absorbed in its own sadness and weakness, but rather a heart that turns always to the Lord with trust.