Category Archives: Homilies

Midnight Mass 2017 Homily – Cardinal John Dew

Christmas 2017

Do you have a Christmas heart?

A few days ago, I prayed with a meditation which was written for people with Christmas hearts.  It said, “these are songs to be sung in today’s over commercialised world, they are to help people to remember WHO Christmas is.” Jesus Christ is not a written text or an abstract idea, Jesu sis a living person.

A few weeks ago, I posted on my Facebook page a photograph of a life-sized Nativity scene in a supermarket at Petone.  I was astounded at the number of people who saw that Facebook post.  Thousands of people saw it, dozens of people commented on it. They made comments such as –

  • it’s good to remember WHAT Christmas is all about”,
  • “it’s time to think about WHAT we are celebrating”,
  • “it’s time to stop and think WHY we do all these things.

We could reflect on Christmas in terms of WHAT or WHY – but it is more important to reflect on WHO Christmas is.

In the very first homily Pope Benedict gave as Pope he said, “each of us is a result of a thought of God, each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.  There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, to be surprised by the encounter with Christ.”

That means being surprised by WHO not a what or a why.  The WHO is Jesus – Jesus born at Nazareth.  We are surprised when we meet Jesus.  We meet, we encounter Christ tonight.

Pope Benedict also once said “being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with a person which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”

When we meet Jesus, when we hear his words and try to live by those words our life is given a new horizon and a decisive direction.

It is usually easy to relate to babies – like all babies Jesus grew up. That means we don’t spend our life relating to the baby Jesus, we spend our lives listening to the adult Jesus who speaks to us, who lived, who died, who was crucified and rose again.

However, this night, this day is to remember when the mystery of God’s presence in our world began. St Paul, in his letter to Titus reminded us that God’s grace has been revealed, made known to us through Jesus born into our world.  God’s grace, God’s kindness has made salvation possible for the whole human race.  God’s grace did not make a WHAT or WHY known, God’s goodness and kindness made a person known, Jesus.  “Today a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord.”

In one of his first Angelus messages after being elected Pope Francis was talking about the love of God.  He said “the one who sows love in our hearts is God.  But what is God’s love?  It’s not something vague, some generic feeling.  God’s love has a name and a face, Jesus Christ.  Jesus, love for God is shown to us in Jesus.” Do we know Jesus who has a name and a face?

My greatest wish and prayer for you, for each of us this Christmas, is that we will carry Christmas in our hearts, that we will carry Jesus in our hearts, and like God be kind to each other.

One of those of meditations which prompted me to reflect on Who Christmas is said

“more than anything else

I want to give you Christmas this year,

it’s a gift

an offer. 

You can take it,

if you like,

but I can’t really give it to you

like a wrapped-up package,

it’s deeper than that.

It is warmer, brighter, lighter,

it is more personal. 

Christmas is more challenging

than a wrapped-up package

it is an offer,

it is a mystery,

it is birth,

it is hope,

it is Christmas

and God can never be born enough.”

God can never be born enough in our world….you and I bring Jesus to life.

God could be born a thousand thousand times in Bethlehem but if he is not born in our hearts it would all be a waste of time.

Christmas is about who came to live in our world, about who continues to come and be born in our hearts.

“Today a Saviour has been born to you he is Christ the Lord.”





Among the greetings cards I received this Christmas was one thanking me for the support that has come through my priesthood.  On the front of the card was this photo [little boy with shopping cart] and the caption: He took the road less travelled.  But he brought a helmet and a tiny shopping cart, and that made all the difference!

Inside the card was printed, No one travels through life quite like you.

The image and the message have caused me to reflect over these days about my life and about the priesthood that has carried me through 50 of my 76 years.  Yes, it has been along a road less travelled, as the role of the priest and his place among the People of God has greatly changed over this time, and at present very few people give any thought to becoming a priest.

But it remains for me an exciting and vibrant ministry, despite there being fewer priests, and despite the uncertainty and controversy surrounding many of the changes and also the painful realisation that the priesthood, like any other life, is prone to scandal.

What has made all the difference for me is the helmet and the tiny shopping cart I acquired along the way.  And what are they?  The helmet is my protection and strength that come from my prayer, and from the community that supports me, encourages me and gives me a reason to get up in the morning.  You are my helmet, covering me with your love, sheltering me, making me taller than I really am, keeping me close to God.

And the tiny shopping cart?  This carries my gold which is the wisdom I’ve learned along the way, from the good times and the bad.  It also holds the incense of your faithfulness and generosity, and the myrrh – the anointing that seals relationships formed and valued through shared experiences of grief and joy.  I push the little cart ahead of me so I don’t lose sight of these treasures.  They – you – are my compass and the star that guides me!

In all of this, the photo reminds me that I remain a child of God and can do nothing on my own.  Without my helmet and tiny cart, and all that they mean, my priesthood would quickly become lonely and ineffectual.

But this image can be yours too!  As Christians, we follow the way of Jesus and, in our secular New Zealand society, it is becoming increasingly a road less travelled.  Like the Wise Ones who sought out the Christ of God, and despite great difficulties and attempts to mislead them, succeeded in their search, each of us must be prepared to take the path not frequented by popular choice.

Because it IS less travelled, the road may not be easy, but with your helmet of support and companionship and the faith that guides your hope, you will go safely through any obstacle.  Consider carefully the treasures you choose to pack in your shopping cart.  They will make all the difference to your journey and its outcome?

To have others say, No one travels through life quite like you, is a wonderful blessing; the greatest compliment – and a powerful witness, if the love of God and neighbour has been your focus and the reason you have for everything you do.  That DOES make all the difference, and a very attractive one.



HOMILY – 3 ADVENT [B] 2017                          [Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11]

David Attenborough and the BBC’s BLUE PLANET programme has caused international headlines with its depiction of the bleaching of coral reefs, threatening the balance of all life on earth.  The programme shows how the changing chemistry of the atmosphere is making the oceans less capable of supporting life.  Human behaviour is doing irreparable damage to our common home.  A climate change summit in France this week endorses this outlook.

Another kind of “climate change” is being proposed locally as parliament debates a bill that would make it easier for us to die.  Suddenly our social atmosphere has an acid taste to it, suggesting it is more important to help people to end their life than ensuring all can live well until they die.

It’s both strange and sad that two weeks from Christmas we are presented with evidence of a dying planet and the necessity to debate how long a person should be expected to stay alive.  Perhaps it is not so strange – because the more we downplay life, the easier it becomes to forget what Christmas really means.  Do you sense the change?   Happy holiday!  Happy festive season!  Even the word Christmas is disappearing in our most secular of countries.

Yet, this is the world God loves, and continues to love.  Christmas points to a great visitation when God became visible in a human person, identified with a human family, and became vulnerable within His own creation.  God does not give up on life and neither should we.

Today’s Isaiah reading is the passage Jesus said was fulfilled in his coming: The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives…  His was a mission to champion life and from the outset he knew it would not be an easy task.  Jesus did not eliminate poverty, broken hearts or imprisonment.  [He said the poor would be always with us] The reality God encountered in Jesus remains today’s reality.  Tears, powerlessness and despair cast a shadow over joy and freedom and the popular vote goes to anything promising pain relief.

The promise of Jesus was not to relieve us of pain, disappointment or even failure.  These are just part of the natural world and our human condition.  He gave us a way of lessening the impact of pain, disappointment and failure, and of turning them to our good, by drawing us closer to one another.  Love one another as I have loved you, became the command for those who followed.  His way of loving was to put others at the centre of his life rather than himself.

He also said, many times, do not be afraid, and gave another promise that he would be with us, always – especially in the love and care of other people.  By trusting that promise, letting Jesus accompany you through the good and not-so-good times, life will remain a gift rich with potential and linked with all life.

Christmas means that God is with us, in every situation.  Whatever is imperfect in your life, whenever you feel your heart breaking, whenever you don’t have an answer for what’s happening in your life, know that God came in Jesus to be part of that with you.  For Joseph and Mary, their relationship and their journey was uncertain and unsettling; their life as a family never assured – but their faithfulness and hope never wavered.  They knew they were not alone.

Life is hard.  Life is nothing like the brochure! We cannot make life easy simply by claiming “rights” for ourselves because before long my “rights” will clash with someone else’s.  To share one another’s burdens is to put others at the centre of your life and so share the mission of Jesus.  This is the coming of God, making every life so worthwhile.

To claim something as “my right” is to assume that my life belongs to me and has nothing to do with you, or your life.  “Rights” carry “Responsibilities” and exist to link us to one another, not to keep us apart.





HOMILY – 2 ADVENT [B] 2017                                      [Mark 1:1-8]

Last Tuesday I joined other priests from the archdiocese for an Advent Retreat Day.  As part of the reflection we were asked to consider what we each find most life-giving on a daily basis, and also what we find as non-life-giving.  In other words, what inspires and encourages me and what threatens or discourages or holds back my life.

That’s not a difficult task, but if you’re serious about wanting to know yourself better then you can quickly feel challenged as the image you have of yourself gets peeled away by some honest soul-searching.  For any of us, what gives us life is what enable us to have and hold inner peace, and anything that disturbs or damages that peace does not contribute to life.  When you start probing your own motivation and experience, things can get a bit scary.

As we enter the second week of Advent, the readings call us to get rid of whatever blocks the way to a quiet heart.  There are two barriers that stand in our way: the time barrier that denies access to quietness and rest, pushing an exhausting pace; and the independent barrier that traps us into thinking that no one matters more than me – that my comfort, my opinion, my rights must always take priority.  Neither barriers lead to peace.

There’s a beautiful and tender intimacy in the prophet Isaiah’s description of God reaching out to the world, to console, to hold close, to reassure and to calm fears.  Like a shepherd feeding the flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.  We warm to such an image.  It’s affection, love, concern and caring unselfish attention that inspire confidence and trust, and through which we find peace.

A tv commercial has children saying what they would like for Christmas.

Many toys are requested, but then a little girl in hospital says, what I want for Christmas is to be able to go home.  To be at home for Christmas is another image that speaks to us of peace and comfort, being known and loved for myself.  Life doesn’t get better than when you’re at home with yourself.

There’s a new word in the building industry: deconstruction.  We see it in action close by as the Defence HQ building is carefully taken down; not pummelled and pulverised but carefully and painstakingly removed.  Making a straight path for the Lord, filling in valleys and levelling the hills, creating space for peace, is an exercise in de-construction.  The pressure of time and the social emphasis on independence are barriers that cannot be crushed overnight, but Advent invites us to think about priorities, to reach inward to reconnect with the loving, gentle shepherd, and to reach outward to touch whatever needs healing with an active concern to make things better, to be life-giving in every conversation and every contact with others.

Little by little you can de-construct what is not life-giving for you, enabling re-construction to be better planned, longer lasting… [Reconciliation opportunity]

One of the things that gives me life is my contact with people – with you – and the life you so generously share with me   What do I find non-life-giving? : my own lack of patience and the pettiness, that can so quickly create a problem out of nothing.  For me and for you there are many barriers eager to block the path to inner peace, to a fullness of life.  Don’t let Advent disappear without at least beginning the de-construction process.

Free the shepherd in you to show that your ability to care is much wider than the narrow band of self-interest.  With the barrier to inner peace overcome there’ll be nothing to hold you back from being home for Christmas.



HOMILY – ADVENT 1 [B] – 2017

If there is anything certain in life it is that nothing stays the same.  And the only certain thing about change is that it’s rarely easy.  We like what we’re comfortable with; we prefer to hold on to what’s familiar.  We’ve had a change of government; since Friday we are officially in Summer, and in worship we have changed to the season of Advent.  We Catholics have been experiencing change over the last 50 years at a greater rate than ever before – in the way we relate to other Christians and, more recently – with changes in the words of the Mass, the resignation of a Pope and the election of the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere who, in four years has made unprecedented and good changes to the public image of the Church.  And now, this weekend, we start preparing for a change in our own parish leadership.

Change and life go hand in hand; always have, always will.  We feel it more acutely though when we find ourselves in the middle of it – and that’s exactly where we are.  In our country and in much of the so-called Western world there just aren’t enough priests to go around.  Yet, the Eucharist is our “bread and butter”; we can’t live without it. Perhaps we’ve had it too easy and are not equipped to cope when our multiple choices are suddenly reduced.

A change in Fiona’s family circumstances is forcing her to step aside from her role with us as Lay Pastoral Leader at the end of January.  I shall greatly miss her, and so will those of you who have witnessed her involvement in parish and school management these last few months.  My own personal circumstances are also changing and I accept that the administration side of parish life is demanding more than I can give.  As outlined in today’s newsletter, the time has come to prepare for new leadership at Sacred Heart. This will require patience, understanding and good will – from me, from all of us.

These same qualities for the basis for the season of Advent.  Today’s readings guide us into the advent season with indications that our approach to Christmas needs to be accompanied by change – a change of heart, a change of pace – if we’re to gain any value from the celebration.  Recognizing our dependence on God, as the clay needs the hands of the potter; acknowledging our need of one another, from an awareness that none of us can find happiness alone; knowing that we must wait for the Lord, so difficult in an age that expects and demands instant replies to electronic messaging, and instant solutions to problems.  All this signals that change is unavoidable if I am not to be swamped and battered by my own pride that requires me to be independent, self-sufficient, needing no one.

While Fiona will leave us at the end of January, my own situation will probably not change till mid-year.  Hopefully we will have another Lay Pastoral Leader early in the year and my transition to what is more appropriate to priestly ministry as opposed to administration will not greatly impact on your pastoral care.

As you and I adjust to these changes, my prayer is that we will give priority to sensitivity and respect – along with patience, understanding and good will – recognizing that this is exactly the way we should approach Christmas – sensitivity and respect – not because a baby is born in a manger but because God chooses to come among us as one of us; the Potter coming to breathe life into the clay: and bringing about the greatest change of all!