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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].

In our parish we are pleased  to offer for people both the Ordinary Form (English) and Extraordinary Form (Latin) of the Mass.

This Sunday, 17th August 2014, the 9:00am Mass at Mary Immaculate, Annerley will be a Missa Cantata, a form of the Latin Mass with a few more “bells and whistles” than the Low Mass that we normally have.

The servers have been practising, as has our wonderful choir that has been adding so much to our Masses.

The celebrant and homilist will be Father Paul Chandler.

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.

Our Lady of the Assumption, pray 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.

Year A - 17th Sunday (OT)Homily for Mass – Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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

3 August 2014

(Readings: Is 55:1-3; Ps 144; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21)

 

A story is told about four men who were adrift on the Atlantic Ocean in a lifeboat, near the equator. There were so thirsty that they were trying to squeeze moisture from the pieces of canvas on their small lifeboat. When rescuers finally arrived, the men were very weak from dehydration. After gradually reviving them, the rescuers informed the men of an incredible irony: All the while they were fighting for a few drops of moisture to drink, they had actually been floating on drinkable water! And that’s because they were near the Amazon River – a river so huge that it pushes fresh water far out into the ocean. The men could have reached down and drank the water that was all around them.

In many ways that story is a parable for many people in our world today – people who are thirsty, but unaware of a readily accessible source of fresh water. When Pope Benedict XVI visited Sydney for World Youth Day, he said in his homily at the final Sunday Mass: In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns in a desperate search for meaning…?

So, what is the source of fresh water, living water? The Pope answers the question in a single word: JESUS. Only with Jesus and the power of his Holy Spirit will we find the goodness, beauty and truth that we desire. Only he can give love that endures, and real freedom.

What’s more, what Jesus offers us costs us nothing! Come, though you have no money, come! cries out the prophet Isaiah. St Paul says NOTHING can come between us and the love of Christ. And he repeats, NOTHING can EVER come between us and the love of God. Do we let things get in the way? Or have things clouded our vision of God’s love?

The miracle of today’s Gospel shows that the age of the Messiah has begun. When the people of the Old Testament looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, they used the image of the messianic banquet: when the Messiah came, then there would be a lavish banquet at which God would feed all people; there would be food in abundance – good food, fine wine – no one would go hungry.

At first the disciples are anxious about how they could feed such a crowd – and rightly so! Impossible for them to do alone. However, with Jesus’ blessing, their efforts of sharing the little food they had achieve much more than they could have imagined.

So many of the problems we see in our world could be remedied if people came together, and if we shared what God has given us – our resources, our time, our love. And even when things seem impossible, if we do something and seek the Lord to bless and guide what we’re doing – God will help us find a way – God will make possible even what seems impossible.

And yet something keeps us apart – apart from each other, apart from Jesus. Something keeps us on our own. Something keeps us from dipping our hand and drinking from the living water of Jesus. This is what the Pope meant when he spoke of our societies, where alongside material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair.

The Gospel story of today has embedded within it echoes of the eucharist. Jesus TAKES the loaves and fishes; he BLESSES them, BREAKS them, and GIVES them … the same actions he will perform at the Last Supper when the Eucharistic meal is given to the church. And this highlights how important our gathering for the eucharist is for us to enter into the kingdom of Jesus, and to further that Kingdom in our world.

Here in the eucharist we are invited: COME! eat and drink! Partake of the meal which points us to the banquet of God’s kingdom. The eucharist gathers us together: instead of being isolated individuals, we realize that we are brothers and sisters, united by love. The eucharist keeps us from living with that unnamed fear: we are not alone … and NOTHING, NOT EVER, can come between us and the love of God. In coming together, and in sharing our lives, we realize that with the Lord’s blessing we can achieve things that we could NOT do on our own: we can help his kingdom to become a reality in our world.

Let us then enter into this eucharist with joy: let us drink from the living water of Jesus; may we be strengthened to share his life giving water – the love of God – with the world around us – so that they too may know, with us, the joy, the deep peace, of life lived in God’s kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

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