Tag Archive: liturgy


corpus christi cHomily for Mass – The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ [Corpus Christi] (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

2 June 2013

(Readings: Gen 14:18-20;  Ps 109;  1 Cor 11:23-26;  Lk 9:11-17)

 

As we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ there are so many different aspects of the Eucharist that we could meditate on.  We recall that in the Constitution on the Liturgy, the fathers of Vatican II taught: “the liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows. For the aim and object of apostolic works is that all who are made sons of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of His Church, to take part in the sacrifice, and to eat the Lord’s supper” (SC, 10).  Everything we do as a Church is meant to draw people into faith, into communion with the Lord, so that ultimately they will praise him in the midst of the sons and daughters of God, and share in the Lord’s Supper.  The same council fathers, in the Constitution on the Church Lumen Gentium, described the eucharist as the source and summit (or the fount and apex) of the whole Christian life (LG, 11).  Today is a good reminder to us of the esteem in which we should hold the celebration of Sunday Mass, and of our obligation to participate in Mass every Sunday.

Sunday Mass is the ongoing way that God shapes us as his sons and daughters.  We are kept in lively communion with our brothers and sisters in the faith;  we are nourished by the Holy Word of God in the scriptures;  we are assisted by the ministry of the Church’s pastors, and through them united with the church dispersed through the whole world – all in communion with the successor of St Peter.  The high point of our participation in Sunday Mass is our reception of holy communion – the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are nourished by his Body so that we can be his body in the world.  He gives us sacramental grace to assist us in all that we do, and to help us to live the virtues.

It has always been the Catholic tradition that Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is carried to those who cannot be present at Mass due to illness and infirmity.  Some of you share in that wonderful ministry of taking Holy Communion to the sick and the housebound, and you would know how grateful they are to be able to receive Our Lord, and to know that they are united with us in His Body and Blood.

Because of the desire of the Church always to be able to take Our Lord in Holy Communion to the sick, and even to the dying so that they may receive Him as food for their final journey to eternity, the Blessed Sacrament is kept in the tabernacles of all our churches.  What a consolation of the faith this is – that the sacramental presence of Jesus is always present with us in our churches, so that we can be near to him as he is to us.  It’s one of the things that makes our churches such special places;  places that we can always come to to pray, to bring our lives to Jesus, to cast before him our needs and petitions.

eucharist held in handsOur feast day today is an opportunity for us to remember the love that we should show to Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament.  The first thing we do upon entering the Church should be to greet Our Lord;  to pause for at least a moment in prayer before Him present in the tabernacle.  It is good to remember that whenever we pass before the tabernacle we are to reverence Jesus with a genuflection: bending the knee before him.  Those who can’t physically perform that gesture may of course make a deep bow from the waist.

The Archbishop wrote to the clergy recently about Liturgical matters, and one of the things he asked us to address is the “interplay between sound and silence” in the liturgy, and he noted that “our liturgy tends to have become wordy and noisy, with silence often minimal or absent.  [He said] this is particularly so before Mass when people spontaneously (and quite loudly) speak in the Church.”  The Archbishop invited the clergy to consider ways of inviting the people to a time of silence before the Entrance Song begins.  So we should be conscious that people have come to church to pray, and so we should keep a spirit of reverence in the church, and not distract people from prayer by unnecessary activity or talking (1).

Those who do carry the Blessed Sacrament to the sick and housebound should also consider what a special thing they are doing, and not show any disrespect to Our Lord while carrying him.  The Blessed Sacrament should be taken straight to the sick or housebound person.  If it is necessary to keep the sacrament for a brief time at home before visiting the sick, then it should be put in a dignified spot – perhaps on a prayer table or something similar – and you should always be conscious that Jesus is present.

if people spent an hour ... abortion would be ended (mother teresa) To conclude … Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta is well-known for her work amongst the poor.  The images of her tending to the sick, the destitute, and the dying, are very familiar.  What is not as often reported is that Mother Teresa – and indeed all her sisters –  every day spent many hours in adoration before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.  He was her strength for all she did, and she opened herself to him in the Eucharist – both in the celebration of the Mass, and in its extension through Eucharistic adoration (2).

When we stay close to Jesus in the ways he has provided for us to remain with him, then miracles will happen like the one that he worked through the hands of the disciples when they fed the five thousand from just a few loaves and fishes, and like what Jesus was able to accomplish through the work of a poor Albanian nun, Blessed Mother Teresa.

Today we give thanks to God for the gift of the Eucharist.  May we always show our thanks and love for this awesome mystery by our reverence towards Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament;  by spending time in prayer before Him;  by receiving Him worthily and to quickly have recourse to the Sacrament of Confession when we sin seriously so as not to receive Our Lord unworthily or sacrilegiously;  and above all, having received such great a gift, that we take his love and blessings to the world by living as His Body, and being the voice through which He speaks His love, and the hands by which He extends His love to those for whom He lived and died.

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(1) Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s recent letter to clergy about the Sacred Liturgy can be found here: Abp Coleridge to clergy RE liturgy 2013 05

(2) See also: “When did Mother Teresa begin daily Eucharistic adoration with her Sisters?” http://www.eucharisticfamilyrosary.com/blog/mother_teresa_daily_eucharistic_adoration/

 

 

pentecost 2013Homily for Mass – Pentecost Sunday (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

19 May 2013

(Readings: Acts 2:1-11;  Ps 103;  Rom 8:8-17;  Jn 14:15-16, 23-26)

I was asked to say a few words about the arrangement of the altar [at Jimboomba] tonight.  We understand the altar to be the primary symbol of Christ in a church.  A church might lack many things but it isn’t a church if it doesn’t have an altar.  The altar is either blessed if it is movable, or it is consecrated if its fixed to the floor.  As a blessed or consecrated symbol of Christ, an altar is shown reverence whenever you approach or pass before it: and that is done by bowing to it.  Furthermore it is kissed by the priest and deacon at the beginning and end of Mass.  The altar should never be used for anything other than its purpose: when you’re carrying things in the church you should never use the altar as a convenient table or resting place.  The rubrics of the missal (GIRM 117) outline how an altar is to be prepared.  It is to be covered in at least one white cloth.  The law also asks for candlesticks with lighted candles to be placed on or next to the altar: always at least two, or four, or six candles.  A seventh candle is added when the diocesan bishop is the celebrant.  Candles have an obvious symbolism of the light of Christ.  Also a cross with the figure of Christ is to be placed on or next to the altar.  The presence of the crucifix is a reminder that the altar is not only the table of the last supper, but also the altar of sacrifice: the cross was the altar on which Christ offered his life.  As one of the prefaces reminds us: Jesus is at once the priest, the altar, and the lamb of sacrifice.  The Last Supper and Calvary are intimately united.  The body and blood that Jesus offers to be eaten and drunk, is the body that was nailed to the cross and the blood which flowed from his wounds.  Pope Benedict XVI made popular an altar arrangement that had six candles across the front, and a crucifix in the centre.  One of the reasons for the crucifix on the centre of the altar is for it to be a focal point, and to help everyone but particularly the priest, to focus on as the Eucharistic prayer is prayed to God the Father, with Christ, in the Holy Spirit.  When Mass was more commonly celebrated with everyone facing the same way, the priest could see the crucifix behind the altar.  But now that the priest normally faces the people, he can no longer see the crucifix behind the altar, and so it is useful to place one on the centre of the altar.  I personally find it very helpful to have the crucifix on the altar to help me keep focused on Christ as I pray the prayers at the altar.  The care and reverence that we show to an altar is reverence shown to Christ himself, of whom the altar is an important symbol.

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 One of the manifestations of God’s love for us is the sending of the Holy Spirit.  On Monday this past week in the Liturgy of the Hours, there was a beautiful reading from the instructions to catechumens of St Cyril of Jerusalem from the 4th century.  He speaks of the Holy Spirit as being the living water that Jesus promised to the Samaritan woman at the well, The water that I shall give will become in that person a spring of water welling up to eternal life.  Water always comes down in rain in the same form, and yet its effects are many and varied.

 The holy Spirit brings about many different effects of virtue among us:  the Spirit uses the tongue of one person for prophecy;  to another is given the power to drive out evil spirits;  another person has the gift of interpreting scripture;  the Spirit strengthens the self-control of one person, and teaches another how to be a generous almsgiver;  the Spirit teaches another to fast and mortify himself, and yet another person is taught not to focus on the things of the body but rather on spiritual things.  The Holy Spirit prepares one person for martyrdom, and another person for the slow and laborious work of many years.

 Part of the manifestation of God’s loving design is that the Spirit is given to us in ways that we need.  St Cyril says that the Spirit comes with the heart of a true protector: he comes to save, to heal, to teach, to admonish, to strengthen, to console, to enlighten the mind, first of the man who receives him, then through him the minds of others also.

 This last sentence is important.  God certainly cares for each of us personally.  Our own individual person and needs matter to God, and He sends the Holy Spirit to us accordingly.  But there is a superabundance of God’s love: the Spirit comes to us in the ways we need, but there’s more than enough to go out through us to others.  We’re meant to be a channel, so that the living waters of the Spirit bring life and healing to us as they then flow out to other people.  We’re not meant to be a dam, holding back the waters of the Spirit for ourselves!

 As St Paul says, “to each is give the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  God’s gifts – as useful as they are for ourselves – are always gifts to be shared.  At the first Pentecost, when the apostles were suddenly able to speak other languages – that gift of tongues was given to them not because “it’d be a neat thing to do.”  No, they were able to speak foreign languages so that they could go to foreign peoples and be understood when they preached faith in Jesus Christ.

 When we hear the words “New Evangelization” which we have been called to as a Church, this all about being open to the Holy Spirit, and being able to present the Christian faith in a way that people today can grasp;  so that through us they’ll actually come to meet Jesus Christ and be moved to follow him in their lives.

 Today on the Feast of Pentecost, let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to come to us in the ways we most need at this time, and let’s pray that the Spirit will help us to proclaim by our lives the Good News to the people of our times.  Let’s conclude by praying together the Pentecost Sequence (which you can find on the sheets on the pews).

Holy Spirit, Lord of light,

From the clear celestial height

Thy pure beaming radiance give.

Come, thou Father of the poor,

Come with treasures which endure;

Come, thou light of all that live!

Thou, of all consolers best,

Thou, the soul’s delightful guest,

Dost refreshing peace bestow.

Thou in toil art comfort sweet;

Pleasant coolness in the heat;

Solace in the midst of woe.

Light immortal, light divine,

Visit thou these hearts of thine,

And our inmost being fill:

If thou take thy grace away,

Nothing pure in man will stay;

All his good is turned to ill.

Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour thy dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away:

Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray.

Thou, on us who evermore

Thee confess and thee adore,

With thy sevenfold gifts descend:

Give us comfort when we die;

Give us life with thee on high;

Give us joys that ever end.

 (Roman Missal)

6ecHomily for Mass – Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

5 May 2013

(Readings: Acts 15:1-2, 22-29;  Ps 66;  Apoc 21:10-14, 22-23;  Jn 14:23-29)

 

In a recent homily, Pope Francis made the statement that some would find provocative:  he said, “one cannot believe in Jesus without the Church” (1)  You could write books on that statement … but underneath it is our belief that the Church – the organized community of believers – is part of God’s plan.  It’s not an accident that appeared in the aftermath of the Incarnation: but something intended by God and indeed begun by Christ.

In today’s Gospel Jesus is preparing his disciple for the fact that he is “going away.”  He is soon to return to his Father, having accomplished his saving death and resurrection.  This thought prepares our minds for the feast we will celebrate next Sunday: the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven.  As he prepares his disciples for when he will no longer visibly be with them, he promises the gift of the Holy Spirit to them, and he says that the Holy Spirit will remind them of everything he taught them, and also that the Holy Spirit will teach them everything.

What’s implied in this is that there’s more for the disciples of Jesus to learn.  Jesus could only say so much during his earthly life – he had a finite amount of time to speak, to act.  The disciples, for their part, had the limitation of what they could take in and understand.  And as we know from the Gospels, they were particularly slow to understand.  Jesus often expresses an amazement at how slow to understand they are.  But neither the fact that Jesus’ earthly, visible presence was limited by time, or the fact that the disciples could only take so much in – neither of those things would be insurmountable obstacles, because the Holy Spirit would both remind and teach the community of believers after Jesus had returned to the Father.

We see this in action in our first reading today.  Right from the beginning, the Church had to solve problems.  A dispute had arisen about what should be expected of non-Jewish converts to Christianity.  And so the first Church Council was convened – the Council of Jerusalem.  (The most recent Church Council, of course, was in the 1960s, the Second Vatican Council).  In this first Church Council at Jerusalem, the Christian community had to work out what would be required of Gentile converts.  It also, indirectly, had to deal with the issue of some people acting without the mandate or authority of the apostles and elders.  It is interesting to hear the declaration of the decision: “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves … .”  This is the very living out of what Jesus had promised: the Holy Spirit will teach you everything.  And so we have in our readings today an excellent illustration of how the Church is the living continuation of the mission of Jesus– and how the Church is a community of believers with a structure that includes leaders who continue the ministry of the first apostles;  and also the fact that the Church has the role – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – to answer questions faced at any particular moment of history, and to decide on matters of faith and morals.  “Christian identity means being a member of the Church … The great [Pope] Paul VI said: it is an absurd dichotomy to wish to live with Jesus but without the Church, to follow Jesus but without the Church, to love Jesus but without the Church” (1).

So if we’ve considered the origins of the Church, and the fact that the Church continues the mission of Jesus throughout time, always guided by the Holy Spirit, then we need to keep our destination in mind.  Because the Church doesn’t make sense, and indeed the journey of life doesn’t make sense, unless we always keep in mind where we’re heading.  Our Second Reading today presents us with the image of the heavenly Jerusalem.  The image presented is something of great beauty: radiant and shining;  something of grand and beautiful proportions.  A place where there will no longer need to be things and places pointing to God, because everything will be in God.  There’ll be no need for light from sun or moon because the radiant glory of God will be the city’s light.  We see a glimpse of heaven.  In the heavenly Jerusalem, there’ll be no need for Church councils to sort out problems … like the one that took place in the earthly Jerusalem of the first century recounted in our First Reading.

Jesus has gone before us to the Father, and we should be glad, because he will return to take us there too.  With a thought always for our heavenly destiny, we the disciples of Jesus continue along the paths of time, recognizing that Jesus has called us into the community of his brothers and sisters, the Church.  We rejoice at the consolation and guidance of the Holy Spirit who never leaves the Church, and who continues to remind us of all that Jesus said and did, and who continues to teach us the mind and will of God as we face the questions of our own day, as the Church has done from the very beginning.

As we offer Mass today, let’s ask God’s blessing on Christ’s Church and all her members, upon our bishops who are the successors of the apostles.  Each one of us is a part of the body of Christ, and so let us all do what we can to be vital parts of the body, and not to be parts that are malfunctioning or harming the rest of the body.  May we all work together to take the message of salvation to the world, which was Christ’s mission, and which the Church has attempted to continue in every age.

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(1)  Pope Francis, Homily, 23 April 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130423_omelia-san-giorgio_en.html.

 

good-shepherd-2[1]Homily for Mass – Fourth Sunday of Easter (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

21 April 2013

[Readings: Acts 13:14, 43-52;  Ps 99;  Apoc 7:9, 14-17;  Jn 10:27-30]

The Gospel that is heard on the 4th Sunday of Easter has led this day to be known as Good Shepherd Sunday, and it has also become the world day of prayer for vocations, especially for vocations to the ministerial priesthood.  In his homily for the Chrism Mass in Rome this year, Pope Francis spoke about the type of shepherd that Catholic priests should be.  He said that priests need to be shepherds who live with “the odour of the sheep” – the “smell” of the sheep (1).  In other words, priests need to go out and be close to their people, so that the light of faith, and the light of the gospel illuminates every corner of people’s lives.  The anointing with which priests are anointed is intended to overflow, so that no part of people’s lives is not touched by God’s word, His mercy, His healing.  The Pope urged the lay faithful to “be close to your priests with affection and with your prayers, that they may always be shepherds according to God’s heart.”

 The Holy Father recalls that on the vestments that the High Priest wore, the names of the children of Israel were engraved on onyx stones that were mounted on the shoulder pieces of the garment that was the ancestor of the chasuble that the priest wears today: six names on the left shoulder-piece, and six names on the right shoulder piece.  The names of the twelve tribes of Israel were also engraved on the High Priest’s breast-plate.  “This means that the priest celebrates by carrying on his shoulders the people entrusted to his care and bearing their names written in his heart.”  The Pope suggested that when we priests today put on our chasuble for the celebration of mass, that it should make us feel – upon our shoulders and in our hearts – the burdens and the faces of “our faithful people, our saints and martyrs who are numerous in these times” (1).

 On this Good Shepherd Sunday we can pray that we will always have priests who faithfully live out the anointing they have received, that this anointing “may spread to everyone” especially to where people most need it and most appreciate it.  We might pray in a special way today for our seminarians who are preparing to live out this priestly calling.

 The theme of priests needing to live having the “smell of the sheep” on them is one that Pope Francis has used before becoming Pope.  Turning the image slightly, before he was Pope he issued a challenge to priests, and really to all in the Church.  The future pope said, “A church that limits itself to just carrying out administrative duties, caring for its tiny flock, is a church that in the long run will get sick.  The pastor who isolates himself is not a true pastor of sheep, but a ‘hairdresser’ for sheep who spends his time putting curlers on them instead of going to look for others.”  He said the situation today is the mirror opposite of the biblical parable of the shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep to find the one that is lost. “Today we have one in the pen and 99 we need to go looking for.” (2)

 This is certainly a challenge for us priests, and makes us question our priorities, and what we are doing.  But it’s a challenge not just for ordained priests.  What is said about priest-shepherds is true also – in varying ways – for all the faithful of the Church.  All of us, the baptised, are an anointed people – anointed with the Spirit in baptism and confirmation.  The mission of the Good Shepherd to care for his sheep is not something entrusted solely to the ordained, but is something shared by the whole body of the Church – all of us together.

 The whole Church – priests and people – continues the saving work of Jesus entrusted to the first Apostles.  It is through all of us – as the Church, that the “peoples of every land hear the Shepherd’s voice” (3) and can come to follow him.  It is through the lay faithful in particular – more so even than through priests – that the message of salvation can be proclaimed in every aspect of the life of the world.  Everywhere that you are, the Good Shepherd wants to use you so that his sheep may feel his love and hear his voice.  Through every single one of us the Good Shepherd wants to protect his sheep from those things that try to steal them from the Father.  Amidst many voices which promise illusions of happiness, and amidst many false-gods to which we can come to serve, the Good Shepherd wants to speak through us so that His sheep will hear the only voice that truly brings life and salvation.

 As we offer Mass today, let’s pray that “God the Father [will] renew in [each of us] the Spirit of holiness with whom we have been anointed” – at baptism, confirmation (and ordination).  May each of us be able to live in our own way the life and mission of the Good Shepherd, so that through the effort and sacrifice of each of us, and all of us together, the Church may truly be a light for the nations, so that God’s salvation may indeed reach the ends of the earth.

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(1) Pope Francis, Homily for the Chrism Mass, 28 March 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130328_messa-crismale_en.html

(2)  Carol Glatz, http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1301525.htm

(3)  Dr Scott Hahn, http://www.salvationhistory.com/homily_helps/april_21st_2013_-_4th_sunday_in_easter

crucifixionpaintingHomily for the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: 3pm)

29 March 2013

(Readings: Is 52:13-53:12;  Ps 30;  Heb 4:14-16; 5:7-9;  Jn 18:1-19:42)

 

Sometimes when we think of Jesus’ passion – his condemnation, scourging, carrying of the cross, and the crucifixion – sometimes we might think: look at this sad thing that his happening to him, this horrible thing.  And it certainly is horrible.  It’s confronting because it makes us see what aweful things human beings are capable of.

But it would be wrong to think that Jesus is just a passive victim, that his suffering is just an accident of circumstances.

On Palm Sunday, the King enters the royal city.  He enters the city accompanied by joy: the crowds are delighted: they spread their garments before him, they sing, they wave palm and olive branches.  “Blessed is the King who comes,” they sing.  “Jesus has awakened great hopes, especially in the hearts of the simple, the humble, the poor, the forgotten, those who do not matter in the eyes of the world.  He understands human sufferings, he has shown the face of God’s mercy, and he has bent down to heal body and soul.” (1)

Today, this same King, having entered the royal city, now takes his throne.  But what a throne it is!  Not of gold or marble: but wood.  The Holy Cross is Jesus’ royal throne.  Jesus takes his place on this throne willingly.  Perhaps this shocks us a little – it should!

Jesus carries the burden of the Cross, and takes this throne upon himself because “Jesus takes upon himself the evil, the filth, the sin of the world, including the sin of all of us, and he cleanses it, he cleanses it with his blood, with the mercy and the love of God.  Let us look around: how many wounds are inflicted upon humanity by evil?  Wars, violence, economic conflicts that hit the weakest, greed for money that you can’t take with you [when you die] … love of power, corruption, divisions, crimes against human life and against creation!  And – as each one of us knows and is aware – our personal sins: our failures in love and respect towards God, towards our neighbour and towards the whole of creation.  Jesus on the Cross feels the whole weight of the evil, and with the force of God’s love he conquers it, he defeats it with his resurrection.  This is the good that Jesus does for us on the throne of the Cross.” (1)

So yes, there is a sorrowful aspect to contemplating Jesus’ passion, but there is an even more powerful joyful and hopeful aspect as we consider what Jesus is actively doing: cleansing evil, filth and sin; and conquering every death-dealing force with God’s love in his resurrection.  Because we have to remember: the story doesn’t end today!  In the body of Jesus, death and evil come face to face with the power of God’s love in the resurrection, and death, sin and evil are conquered forever, and their ultimate power over us is undone.

Today as we pause for a moment at the Cross, the royal throne of Jesus, we have a chance to name and to bring to God all those things in ourselves, our families and loved ones, our communities, and indeed our world – all the things that we want to be transformed by the power of God’s love in the resurrection.  We’ll take a few moments of silence now just to bring to mind those things – suffering in its many forms: sickness, sin, addictions, estrangement and alienation, hurt, violence, infidelity.  As we pray the Solemn Intercessions we exercise our role as a priestly people, and intercede for the many needs of the Church and world.  And then as we come forward to adore the Holy Cross by touching or kissing the wood of the cross, may that be our prayer that those things and situations we are praying for will be transformed by God’s love and mercy in the resurrection of Jesus.

 

(1)      Pope Francis, Homily Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, 24 March 2013, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/homilies/2013/documents/papa-francesco_20130324_palme_en.html

 

palm sunday 4Homily for Mass – Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

24 March 2013

(Readings: Lk 19:28-40;  Is 50:4-7;  Ps 22;  Philippians 2:6-11;  Lk 22:14-23:56)

 

Today’s Liturgy is a little different than normal, and that signals that we are entering into a week that is different than normal.  Holy Week is a special time of grace when we return to the central mysteries of our faith: the heart of what we believe, and what we’re about as Christians.

This week we’re called to draw close to Jesus, and re-live with him the final days and hours of his earthly life.  We’re always called to be close to Jesus, but this week is different.  As the Liturgy unfolds almost in slow motion over Holy Thursday, Good Friday and ultimately Easter Sunday, we reflect not just on historical events but on our life today as disciples of Jesus.

Like the disciples of old we follow Jesus in all our weakness and imperfection.  We may fall asleep in the garden instead of keeping vigil.  We may strike out clumsily “with a sword” and miss the real foe.  We might follow at a distance, and even pretend that we don’t know Jesus.  Maybe we will only join him at the last moment. (1)

In journeying with Jesus through his final days, we see important reminders about who he is, why he came among us, and what we are to do in response.  When we refer to Jesus’ “passion,” that word comes from a Latin word meaning “I suffer, to suffer.”  We know that passion in English also refers to “enthusiastic love,” that which drives a person or even consumes them.  What Jesus suffers was motivated by a “double passion:” his love for God his Father, to whom he was obedient unto death, and his love for us whom he wants to save. (2)

The first and second readings today shed light on the inner attitude of Christ.  Isaiah foreshadows the suffering of God’s servant, but shows his determination to undergo all that will happen, and his trust in the God who is his help.  Saint Paul shows the humility of the son of God, who set aside equality with God and embraced the human condition totally, even to accepting death.

In the passion of Saint Luke we see some touching moments of Jesus’ mission of salvation.  Even in the midst of his suffereing and degredation, he reaches out and comforts the women of Jerusalem.  In the midst of the agony of the cross, he welcomes one of the criminals crucified with him who turned to him in repentance, promising to share paradise with him today. (3)

On the Cross, Jesus shows a profound understanding of human frailty, praying for God’s forgiveness for faults committed out of ignorant human weakness. (3)

As we journey with Jesus in these days, we are invited to see that our lives are a sharing in his life, death, and resurrection.  All of us, in differing ways, live some share of Jesus’ passion.  As we live our lives then, we’re called to grow in the attitudes of Christ, and to live with the same love of God the Father that Jesus shows, the same humility and obedience.

We’re also called to grow in that same love he had for others, to have in ourselves that same desire that Jesus had that all people would be saved and come to share fully the life of God.  In living Holy Week, as we look to Jesus and reflect on our own lives, we should be moved to realize that we share in the ongoing passion of humankind.

We are called to see that Christ’s passion continues to unfold in the events of our world, and just as we journey with Jesus in Holy Week, all the time we are called to embrace and lighten the burden of Christ whose passion continues to be experienced in the hungry, the poor, the sick, the homeless, the lonely, and the outcast. (4)

 

References:

(1) The Word Among us, 24 March 2013.

(2) 365 Days with the Lord: Liturgical Biblical Diary 2013.

(3) Archbishop Terence Prendergast, SJ, Living God’s Word: Reflections on the Sunday Readings for Year C.

(4) Bishop David Walker, Lectio Divina: Praying the Scriptures in Lent, Year C, 2013.

 

5lcHomily for Mass – Fifth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm, Sunday 7.30am & 9am;  Saint Joseph’s, Kangaroo Point: Sunday 5pm)

17 March 2013

(Readings: Isaiah 43:16-21;  Ps 125;  Philippians 3:8-14;  John 8:1-11]

 

“No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before.  See, I am doing a new deed, even now it comes to light;  can you not see it?”  The theme of the “new thing” God is doing runs through the Word of God today.  It’s a theme I think we’ve lived in a very particular way this week, with the election of Pope Francis.  We had been praying intensely for the election of a new pope, and then early on Thursday morning (our time) we saw the fruits of our prayers.  As the world was introduced to the new successor of Saint Peter, and as we heard him speak and even just saw his image, I think we had a real sense of the “new thing” God is doing for us in our own day.  When Jesus gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and established him as the rock on which the Church would be built, he gave a great gift to his followers.  Christ continues to speak to his people through his Vicar on earth, and through him we can hear afresh the message of God’s love, and the call to life in God’s kingdom.  It’s a message that essentially doesn’t change, but it is presented anew to us.  And when it is presented to us anew, we have the chance of seeing and hearing things that we haven’t heard before.

God has always been doing a “new thing.”  From the freeing of his people from slavery in Egypt;  to the sending of prophets to recall his people to their true calling;  to the ultimate “new thing” in the incarnation of his Son as a human – as one of us.  God is constantly working, constantly bringing people from where they were, and calling them to enter more deeply into the fullness of life with him.

Saint Paul, in the second reading, recalls that in his own life God called him firstly to leave behind his life of persecution of the Church, and then to live a life seeking “only the perfection that comes through faith in Christ.”  Saint Paul recognizes that this call on his life from God is ongoing.  He acknowledges that he hasn’t reached that perfection found in Christ yet;  he hasn’t yet won the race and gained the prize.  But he feels the call from God to “forget the past” and to keep straining “ahead for what is still to come.”  That acknowledgement from Saint Paul that he hasn’t won the race yet I think is a wonderful encouragement to us to keep striving.  We ourselves would – I’m sure – admit that we haven’t reached that perfection yet;  there is still work to be done in our lives;  God is still calling us to leave the past behind and to embrace his will more fully.

When the scribes and Pharisees bring to Jesus the woman caught in the very act of adultery, her life was over.  She had no future any more.  The law was clear: the punishment for that action was death by stoning.  When Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger, this action recalls when God first gave the law to Moses: He wrote it on the stone tablets with his finger.  So now, in Jesus, the divine law-giver acts again.  Jesus doesn’t abolish the law;  he doesn’t say that what the woman did wasn’t that bad – that everyone else does that sort of thing too;  he doesn’t change the law.  But what Jesus points out is that, while the scribes and Pharisees knew the letter of the law very well, they didn’t know the heart of the law-maker.  Without altering the law one bit, Jesus acknowledges that the woman (and the man she was with) had indeed done the wrong thing, and the punishment was clear.  But in revealing the heart of the law-maker, Jesus simply says: let the one who has no sin be the one to execute punishment.  Jesus is the only one there who is without sin, and he does not condemn the woman.  She’s given a new start – her life is now not over.  Jesus gives her a future.  God will continue to do new things in her life.

As we look at our own lives, perhaps we’re conscious of real falls we’ve had – times when we’ve fouled up badly.  Perhaps memories of those events niggle away at us.  Sometimes those memories are simply the work of Satan, who tries to discourage us by making us focus on our weakness, and to doubt the love and mercy of God.  Sometimes our conscience rightly makes us aware of sins so that we’ll repent.  It’s good to remember that there is a difference between making a judgment about the rightness or wrongness of an action, and condemnation.  The Gospel teaches that Jesus doesn’t condemn – he doesn’t write people off.  He doesn’t write us off, no matter what mess we’ve got ourselves into.  He certainly judges: what is sin is sin, no two ways about it.  But he doesn’t condemn.  In God’s mercy there is always a future.  If we repent, God always forgives.

The Word of God today invites us to suspend the condemnations we make of ourselves and others.  We are certainly to be intolerant of sin: beginning with our own sins.  We must never forget Jesus’ words: “Go away and do not sin any more.”  But while we are intransigent with sin, we are to be merciful, even “indulgent” with others (1).  In God’s plan, there is always a future for sinners.  We have those encouraging words: every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.  God is always ready to do a new thing in our lives, to give us grace to leave the death of sin and live in the freedom of his sons and daughter.

We ask Mary, the holy mother of God, who was without sin, and who is the mediatrix of graces for every repentant sinner, to pray for us and help us to be open to the grace of repentance, and to keep striving ahead for what is yet to come.

 

(1)      Benedict XVI, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20100321_en.html

 

4lcHomily for Mass – Fourth Sunday of Lent (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

10 March 2013

(Readings: Joshua 5:9-12;  Ps 33;  2 Cor 5:17-21;  Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)

 

Today we hear again possibly one of the greatest stories ever told.  We are drawn to the figure of the father in the story, who is an image of the true Father of us all, the one of whom Christ is the living face.  Juxtaposed with the loving and merciful father, we have two vivid illustrations of estrangement.

The younger son has run off with a distorted view of freedom.  He wants to live the high life … he doesn’t want to be constrained by the rules and regulations of living in his father’s house … he doesn’t want to be subject to the authority of others … he wants to live for himself, to enjoy his freedom, to feel free of constraints.

The journey of the younger son is fairly prototypical of what happens in the relationship of children and their parents.  Children, when they are young, depend on their parents for everything.  As they mature they assert their independence, they want to “grow up.”  And if all goes well, when the child has grown up, they’re able to relate to their parents as an adult who has come to stand on their own feet and make their own decisions.  Having journeyed through dependence and then rebellion, the child and parent can come to a relationship based on gratitude and authentic love.

This pattern is seen, too, in our relationship with God.  At first we see religion that is prompted by our needs.  Children probably think of God as being like some celestial Santa Claus, giving us what we want and ask for.  As a child gets older there is naturally and typically a desire to be free of submission to God in order to become – what we see as – “free and adult”.  Perhaps at this stage there is even the thought that we can do without God: certainly without his laws, and the perceived threat they pose to our idea of freedom.

In the parable, the two sons act quite differently, and yet both of them equally have immature relationships with their father.  In the younger son, his estrangement distorts in his mind the way he thinks about his father.  He imagines that his father has written him off;  that he wouldn’t be wanting him to return;  that if he goes back, the best he can hope for is to be a servant.  In his mind, he can only see his father as his master.

The older son, despite the fact that he didn’t physically go away, is just as far away in his mind.  While the younger son hopes to come back and settle for being a servant (to come back to a state of childish submission), the older son has felt like a slave for years (he never grew out of childishness).  And the years of resentment and bitterness come pouring out when the younger son returns.

The only way the two sons can come to life is by an experience of mercy.  They’ll only “grow up” and enter into a properly adult relationship with their father if they realize that they’re loved freely by a love that is greater than their wretchedness;  and loved too by a love that far outweighs anything they might have done to earn or merit it.  It’s a gracious and free love that only wants them to enjoy life in their father’s house.

The two sons invite us to look at ourselves.  In what ways are we estranged from God our Father?  In what ways are we trapped in a childish relationship with God?  Are we in the throes of “teenage-like” rebellion against God?  Is our image of God distorted in our minds?

As we think about ourselves, we invited all the more to think of the image of God portrayed by the parable.  God’s faithfulness never fails – his love never stops – even when we distance ourselves and get lost by following our own desires and wills.  He looks out for us, he comes searching for us, he comes running to us when we make even the slightest movement towards him.  God speaks to our conscience from within in order to call us back to him.  God forgives our mistakes, and our selfishness, and delights in our return to live in his house.  This parable shows us the heart of God – a heart which is an ocean of mercy, compassion, forgiveness.

Interestingly, the father doesn’t force or compel his sons.  He certainly calls, entreats, waits – but he respects the very same freedom they had to leave him.  In the psalms we hear that well known refrain: if today you hear God’s voice, harden not your hearts.  If today you hear the voice of God within you, calling you to come back to him – to turn away from some sinful situation … then let us go to his outstretched arms that are waiting to enfold us.  He wants us to be regenerated by his merciful love.

We ask Mary, Mother of Mercy, to pray for us, and to help us return to the arms of the Father.

 

References:

Robert Ombres OP, http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5731

Benedict XVI, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20100314_en.html

Scott Hahn, http://www.salvationhistory.com/homily_helps/march_10th_2013_-_4th_sunday_of_lent

http://www.ordopraedicatorum.org/2013/03/04/preachers-sketchbook-fourth-sunday-of-lent-laetare-sunday/

 

3lcHomily for Mass – Third Sunday of Lent (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm, Sunday 7.30am & 9am)

3 March 2013

(Readings: Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15;  Ps 102;  1 Cor 10:1-6, 10-12;  Lk 13:1-9)

 

The way the Sunday Mass readings are assembled invites us often to see a contrast or parallel between the first reading and the Gospel, and this is certainly true of today’s readings.  In the gospel we have the parable of the fig tree, and in the first reading we have the story of Moses’ encounter with God in the burning bush.

Moses is going about an ordinary day of tending the flock of his father-in-law when he sees a strange sight:  a bush that was on fire, and yet was not being consumed by the flames.  Moses is moved to investigate, and God calls to him from the bush.  The bush that was burning yet not consumed speaks of the mystery of God.  “The life of God is one of total self-emptying, pouring forth without ever running the well dry” (2).  It speaks of God who “paradoxically finds strength in weakness and plenitude in poverty” (2).  In Jesus we see this essence of God lived to the full: his strength and saving power was found by embracing human weakness, he brought life through death, and he showed that the abundance and fullness of life is gained by thirsting for love and truth (2).

This all stands in contrast to the barren fig tree in the gospel parable.  For three years the fig tree had given no fruit.  “The life of the fig tree was one of total self-gratification, leeching off the ground while giving no return” (2).  The man who planted the tree quite reasonably decides that the time has come to cut it down.  “Why should it exhaust the soil?” – always taking and never giving (2).

In considering the two images, where do we find ourselves?  It’s easy to become like the fig tree.  We can get so caught up in ourselves and our own desires that we become unwilling to sacrifice a little bit of our own comfort for the greater good of our family.  Husbands and wives can withhold themselves by contraception and so fail to offer the total gift of self to each other.  Those in public office can see re-election as their main goal, and so they put aside other considerations in the name of gaining votes.  Priests can fall out of the practice of prayer and lose their zeal for ministry, “becoming more vigilant for their own interests than for the welfare of their parishioners” (2).

The parable of the fig tree is meant to be a warning to us: this is not what we are meant to be like, and we shouldn’t settle for this type of existence: of taking more than we give.  Rather, each one of us, no matter what our particular vocation is, each one of us is called to come closer to the Lord, and to become more like him.  We are called to resemble more the image of the Lord in the burning bush: of taking less and giving more.  God wants us to respond to his graces and to bear fruit.

Just as the man tending the vineyard gives the fig tree another year to bear fruit, with the promise of digging round it and fertilizing it, God is merciful, and God is always “at work within each of us.  He draws us slowly, and subtly, away from our fig tree tendencies … [and] draws us silently and steadily closer to himself” (2).

The Lord wants us to be “on fire” with his love, “burning” with his Spirit, and bearing the fruits of the spirit.  “Each one of us has the power to make small, daily decisions to make ourselves resemble the burning bush more than the fig tree” (2).  We are called not just to avoid sin, but to bear those fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (4).

This period of Lent is a graced time when God wants to do that work of “digging and fertilizing” so that we will bear fruit.  Lent is a time when “we let ‘the gardener,’ Christ, cultivate our hearts, uprooting what chokes the divine life in us, strengthening us to bear fruits that will last into eternity” (5).

For our part, we need to open ourselves to God’s work in us.  Our extra attention during Lent to prayer, fasting, and generosity are ways that we can allow God to “get into” our lives and to fill us with his graces.  Let’s pray this [morning] that we will open ourselves to what God wants to do in our lives, so that we can live the life spoken of in today’s Psalm: blessing His holy name, and giving thanks for His kindness and mercy (5).

References:

1. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2010/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20100307_en.html

2. http://www.hprweb.com/2013/02/homilies-13/

3. http://torch.op.org/preaching_sermon_item.php?sermon=5730

4. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 736, 1830-1832). http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/para/736.htm

5. http://www.salvationhistory.com/homily_helps/march_3rd_2013_-_3rd_sunday_of_lent

 

2lcHomily for Mass – Second Sunday of Lent (Year C)

(Our Lady of the Assumption Church, Park Ridge: 8am;  Saint Catherine’s Church, Jimboomba: 5.30pm)

24 February 2013

(Readings: Gen 15:5-12, 17-18;  Ps 26;  Philippians 3:17-4:1;  Lk 9:28-36)

On the mountain of the transfiguration, Peter, James and John saw a vision of Christ in glory:  they saw, for a moment, the glory that is his before all ages, the glory that is his in his resurrection, and a glory that he never lost, although it was hidden from human sight.

Between this sight of the Lord’s glory at his transfiguration, and the sight of his glory in his resurrection, the disciples of the Lord would have to face another sight: and that would be the disfiguration of Christ.  The beauty of Christ in his transfiguration stands in contrast to what the disciples will see in his Passion: the scourging at the pillar, Jesus carrying the wood of the cross through the streets, his flesh pierced when the crown of thorns is forced on his head, his hands and feet brutally nailed to the cross, and him being hung in the sight of people to die in that humiliating way.  The movie, The Passion, a few years ago, rammed home the reality of the disfiguration of Christ.

The disciples are given a glimpse of Christ’s glory to prepare them for the dark days ahead.  Despite all appearances, Christ would never lose the glory he shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, and moreover, after experiencing the shame of crucifixion, his glory would be manifest once more in his resurrection and glorious ascension.

The Gospel of the transfiguration is always read on this second Sunday of Lent.  It’s placed here to do for us what the transfiguration did for the disciples.  It is meant to strengthen us for the days ahead; to remind us of the Easter mysteries that we are journeying towards.  The forty days of Lent is meant to be a time when we look a little more honestly at our lives;  a time when the Lord calls us to conversion of mind and heart:  to repent and believe in the Gospel.

The truth is that our sins disfigure the image of Christ in us.  Our sins inflict injury on us, and Christ living in us suffers as he did in his Passion: the blows of those who struck him, his flesh pierced by nail, reed and thorn, leaving him bruised and bloodied.  Mortal sin even leaves our soul dead, just as Jesus was truly dead on the cross.

Just as Christ faced this in his earthly life he lives it again in our lives, in our very bodies.  But, all the while, the Good News proclaimed to us is that the glory of the Lord will be seen again.  Just as the Father restores his Son to life in the resurrection, and the glory of the Lord is seen again in the Risen Christ, so too new life can come to us through penance and reconciliation.  The image of Christ in us that is battered and bruised by our sins is restored in all its glory by God through the sacraments.  Lent is a most appropriate time to approach God’s mercy and to express our contrition for what our sins do to Jesus in us, and to allow God’s healing love and mercy to breathe new life into us, and to restore the glory of the risen Lord in us.  In our second reading we can take great consolation from Saint Paul’s reminder that Jesus comes to us and he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.

Our first reading reminds us that we are descendents of Abraham who entered into the covenant with God.  In that covenant Abraham promised that he would have only one god, and that he and his descendents would worship only the One, True God.  It’s good for us during Lent to look at our lives and examine:  have I made anything else in my life “a god” in the place of the only True God?  Is there anything that I seek after, that I spend more time on, than following God’s will?  Lent is a graced time for us to come back to God, to acknowledge the things that have come between us and Him, and to ask His healing and liberating power to free us, and to make us live for Him alone.

As we offer Mass today, may we feel the Lord’s power working in us in a special way, calling us to repent and return to the Lord, so that the glory of Jesus may be restored in us and may shine in us and through us anew.