All posts by Fr. James Lyons



HOMILY – 5 LENT [B] 2018

Did you hear the warning this week about the threat of plastic bags to marine life? Apparently, if nothing’s done to clean up the mess, by 2050 the weight of plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh all the fish!

News like this fuels the “carbon footprint” argument that we humans are polluting the earth at an intolerable rate, to the point where numbers of young people are increasingly pessimistic about the future. They feel their presence only adds to the problem, and that they shouldn’t have been born.

An appropriate thought for this stage of Lent. There’s a sense of foreboding in the words of Jesus as he speaks of the dark times ahead – giving us the image of the wheat grain that must die in the darkness and isolation of the soil, if it’s ever to find its fulfilment in harvest.

What starts as a negative – death of the seed – is shown to have positive results – a great harvest. Life, death, life flow in a natural rhythm. There’s confusion when some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Their request catches the apostles unprepared and they have to consult before they pass these newcomers on to Jesus: did he mean his message for Greeks? Didn’t they have their own religion? What are they up to? Can they be trusted?

I think the challenge to the apostles was, did they want to share Jesus? They had a tight little group. Racially and culturally they were united. Let’s keep it that way! None of us want to lose what we value. Those who feel they’re contributing to global warming and other pollution simply because they’re alive, don’t really want to die – they’re caught by their sense of helplessness in the face of global problems beyond their influence or control. The apostles, and you and I who follow Jesus, can feel comfortable in the ritual and practice we know and appreciate, and want to keep things that way. But also like the apostles, we must see ourselves as seeds, sent to be sown – buried alive, not dead! To quote Mahatma Gandhi: To find yourself you have to lose yourself, and when you lose yourself you find yourself fulfilled.

The “positive” to all this appears if you remove concern about the “footprint” you might be leaving on the ecosystem, and look at what your hands can do: weeding, planting, reaping, harvesting, embracing, comforting, holding, affirming… It is the work of human hands that we lift to God, that meet the requirements of the partnership role we’ve each been given. If my footprint scars the earth and stamps out life, my handprint can hold and heal and join me more firmly to life.

God speaks to our hearts – our instincts and feelings. Intellect and intelligence are not God’s primary concern. Jeremiah (1st Reading: J 31:31-34) makes this clear – I will plant my law, writing it on their hearts – and they will be my people and I will be their God. It’s our experience of love – the realm of the heart – that directs faith and motivates the desire to belong and to contribute.

Our throwaway world, symbolised by plastic, threatens life because it doesn’t care. By learning to read the law written on your heart, any hesitation to serve and to give disappears, because you discover a community with so many others. Heart and hand together guarantee sowing and reaping, helping those fearful of tomorrow to be convinced they can make something of today.


HOMILY – 4 LENT [B] 2018

I went into a room to get something during the week and then couldn’t remember what I was going to get. I did remember a few minutes later and went back and got it! The situation fitted perfectly something I heard not so long ago – that when older people go into a room, forget what they came for and have to go back later, it’s God’s way of making sure older people get exercise!

But, of course, we all have moments of forgetfulness, and moments of discovery.

Anyone who searches begins with a sense of loss – of not being able to find something, or of knowing something’s missing but perhaps not being able to say exactly what it is. The loss creates a gap that’s quickly filled with darkness. Maybe you’re floundering round over some puzzle or trying to understand someone’s motivation for a certain action… When the answer comes you’re likely to say, How could I not see it? How could I have been so blind?

The biggest loss, the one that hurts the most, is the loss that death creates. A loved one dies and you feel no light could ever pierce the darkness that surrounds and smothers you. The loss of a loved one is, in many ways, the loss of yourself.

People drawn to search for faith do not all search in the dark. Some have light to guide them. They know their life means something; they can see faith in others – and that can often cause them to seek faith for themselves. They know their life could be more fulfilled and they seek a stronger connection with a community of believers. Some seekers have come to recognize the darkness they’ve been living in for the emptiness it really is. They’ve mistaken the dark for light, believing the myth that the more you can make, the more you possess, the more powerful or independent you are, the happier you will be; or, the least responsibility you accept the freer you will be to enjoy life. That’s the cruelest darkness; it lets you pretend.

Nicodemus chose the dark of night to meet with Jesus. He was afraid and embarrassed to be seen with him. But Jesus shared with him the heart of his message -that God so loved the world that he gave his only son – and those who believe in him will have eternal life! Jesus’ mission was not to condemn or destroy but to affirm and build up. He did not come to make us feel guilty but to discover the freedom that forgiveness brings, the joy of friendship and the happiness of working together – being community.

Those who come to faith come along paths unique to themselves, and they join a community equally diverse. But they feel they have arrived home, just like Nicodemus, comfortable with themselves…


The only way to defeat the dark is to become the light. – Walt Disney film: The Wrinkle Line



HOMILY – 3 Lent – John, Chapter 4

Recent storms have literally muddied the waters in parts of Taranaki, making clean water very scarce.  Public interest in the situation rose considerably when the news broke that at least one McDonald’s fast food outlet had to close its doors because of the shortage.  They couldn’t cook the chicken properly!

Water features in today’s readings – chosen especially as part of welcoming the adults who will be baptized at Easter – and emphasis, especially in the gospel is on being thirsty.  The story opens with Jesus admitting his thirst.  God thirsts for us even before we know what our thirst is all about.  The scriptures tell us that God has loved us with an everlasting love but, with the patience of a true lover, waits for us to come to the well.  What we think will satisfy us, meet our needs, make us happy and fulfilled – can never complete us more than our union with God, the source of living water.

In her conversation with Jesus, the woman discovers she is tasting the waters of rebirth, and feeling herself renewed and refreshed she has to tell others.  In the gospels she becomes the first missionary – the first convert.  Come and see the one who told me everything I ever did – who opened my eyes to the emptiness of my life and who filled it up to overflowing with the water of his truth, his love, his peace.  Jesus never gets the drink of water he asked for, but finds his thirst quenched in the woman’s openness to change; and she leaves her water jar behind – her own thirst quenched in in a way she never dreamed.

This story is not just for those preparing for baptism – it’s for all of us who’ve been baptized; a wake-up call to the gift we’ve been given.  If there is still yearning within you for completion; if you still thirst to feel fulfilled, then you should look more closely at the “well” you’re using.  The water may be muddied, even stagnant.  Rediscover the power of the “living water” of your baptism – and let others see what your union with God really means.

Water, whether the lack of it or too much, is always news.  We carry bottles of water to work and to school.  We know its value for life and we happily pay for it.  The only ones happy just now, with water in short supply, are McDonald’s chickens!  When Jesus says the water he brings is a free gift that will flow like a river within you, carrying you to eternal life, why would you not open your heart and drink as deeply as you could?



HOMILY – 2 LENT [B] 2018

Prepare for the unknown!  That was the message behind the early warning given by weather forecasters ahead of this week’s storm.  The advice to clear drains and secure property and be sensible with travel plans, hinted at the potential severity of what was coming.  We didn’t know for certain, but it seemed wise to trust the warnings and be prepared.

There’s an interesting connection here with the dilemma faced by Abraham when he heard the call to kill his only son, Isaac.  He had earlier heard his God promise that Isaac would be the beginning of a vast dynasty, and now this same God was demanding the boy’s life.  Prepare for the unknown, Abraham.  And he did.  He got everything ready, even convincing Isaac that God would provide.  His trust was tested to the extreme.  Some might argue Abraham was reckless, foolhardy – but his faith was enormous and what great image can be imagined for testing it?

The apostles are also challenged to prepare for the unknown.  On the mountain with Jesus they experience the inexplicable and receive a message beyond their understanding.  The change in Jesus’ appearance frightens them to the core of their being; his words about rising from the dead are met with blank stares – they had no idea what he was talking about.

It’s the same with us.  We don’t know what’s ahead in life.  We don’t always see or want to see what’s right in front of us.  We put our own interpretation on events and behaviour and get impatient if we have to wait for answers.  No one can fully prepare for the unknown and sometimes even what is obvious escapes our comprehension.

Lent is a large moment in time to prepare for the unknown, by getting closer to Jesus through prayer and service, and in this way developing a trust that takes the fear out of not knowing.



HOMILY – 1 LENT [B] 2018

The Winter Olympics in South Korea is the current sporting phenomenon.  The Commonwealth Games in Queensland will be up next.  Back home, the Halberg Awards last week championed local high achievers in various sporting codes.  We admire the talent and applaud the commitment and discipline that gets people to the top of their game.  We know that success in any area of life does not come easy and is never guaranteed.

With this in mind we place ourselves once again in the arena of Lent – the training camp for Christian life.  There are six weeks ahead of us, offering space and opportunity to toughen up our spiritual lives, to become stronger and more reliable witnesses of the faith we profess.  The strength of one contributes to the strength of all.  Our whole community stands to benefit from each of us putting serious effort into this season of Lent.

Today’s readings evoke the image of baptism, the water that washed us in the name of our God and the promise of God to stay with us.  The desert experience of Jesus readies him for mission while reminding us not to forget or neglect the waters of life.  The training camp of Lent invites us to take the plunge anew and immerse ourselves in the mission to bring the healing that comes with forgiveness, peace, joy and hope into our world.

That’s what I ask you to occupy yourself with over these six weeks.  Begin the process now.  We’ll give ourselves four separate spaces, silently reflecting on how we might prepare ourselves to bring:  forgiveness, peace, joy, hope…

Forgiveness…  How good am I at forgiving?  What would make me better?

Peace…  What sort of peacemaker am I?  How might I improve?

Joy…  What joy do I feel in my life?  How can I bring joy into someone’s life?

Hope…  what do I find most hopeful about life?  How can I hold and share that hope?                                                                              God Bless our Lent!