Category Archives: Homilies

IN LIFE, IN DEATH – STAYING IN TOUCH

IN LIFE, IN DEATH – STAYING IN TOUCH

HOMILY – 32nd SUNDAY [A] 2017

As the family was moving away at the end of a recent burial ceremony, a small boy who had followed the proceedings with great interest suddenly became alarmed and asked, Are we leaving auntie here?   He’d seen the casket being lowered and had joined others in dropping flowers into the grave, but he hadn’t sensed the finality of it all.  I think it was his grandmother who said to him, Auntie’s now an angel; she‘s not down there anymore.  The boy got excited then – Oh good!  Auntie’s an angel!

We can learn so much that is good and positive from little ones.  This lad instinctively knew there was more to come after “auntie’s burial”.  Life cannot possibly just disappear in death.  There has to be more!  There is wisdom here, in the reaction of this little one – found so often in unexpected places – alluded to in our first reading: (Wisdom) walks about looking for those who are worthy of her and graciously shows herself to them as they go [Wisdom 6:12-16].

St Paul builds on this when he advises Christians not to mourn like people who have no hope.  None of us can escape grief – it is a natural and necessary response to loss, especially the loss of those we love.  But if your grieving detaches you from your faith – or, if your faith is just a thin veneer that peels off with the slightest tug – then loss becomes unbearable, pointless, cruel, even unjust, and anger, bitterness, resentment can quickly take its place.

This weekend also includes Memorial Day – a time for the world to remember those who gave their lives in times of war.  There is gratitude here for what their sacrifice meant.  They give us reason to keep hoping and working for respect and peace, not only between individuals but also nations.

A gospel reading often chosen for a funeral is John 14, with Jesus telling us there are “many rooms in my Father’s house.”  Another is from the prophet Isaiah who speaks of the banquet awaiting those who die in the Lord.  These are themes of security and comfort.  They relate to homecoming and help reinforce hope – and show the importance of “home” as a place of support and friendship, where we should learn the value of sharing and of hospitality.

In a real home there is always more than enough, and even a stranger is welcome.  Home is where I want to be more than anywhere else.  We can learn more about heaven at home than at church – if home reflects the presence of the One who teaches that heaven is a home.

But each of us knows that no home is ideal, and no one is perfect.  We learn more from hindsight than foresight and wisdom often comes too late!  So, while faith enables us to hope, it also brings us to pray for ourselves and our beloved dead.  The gospel parable about the bridesmaids who didn’t bring enough oil for their lamps and missed out on the banquet offer us an image that can help us in our prayer:

I believe our prayer for one another can help fill up what is lacking in our readiness to meet God.  Perfection comes slowly and I can put many obstacles in its path.  My prayer for those who have died helps top-up their oil flasks.  Darkness cannot compete with lamps fully lit.  Bathed in light, God has no difficulty recognising his children, assuring their entry to the wedding feast!

Our tradition of honouring the memory of those who have died especially during this month of November, is precisely because we do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope.  We remain connected and important to one another; we can help them complete their journey into the presence of God – and, when our turn comes, they are there to help us.

NEEDING ONE ANOTHER – IN LIFE AND IN DEATH

NEEDING ONE ANOTHER – IN LIFE AND IN DEATH

HOMILY – 31st SUNDAY [A] 2017                                 [Malachi 14; Matthew 23]

The death of Fr John Berry last week was followed only days later by the death of Fr John Heijen, an Assumptionist priest connected with Tawa parish and Viard College.  These deaths make a total of 12 priests who have died this year. Yes, they were mostly retired, but their absence deprives us of a presence and a witness to the vocation of service and the strength of faith.

Even in retirement priests remain concerned for the good of God’s people.  Their prayer, their offering of the Mass, and the encouragement they continue to give those who have known and served with them, all contribute to the life of the faith community and the light is darker when they leave us.

In today’s first reading, God sends a warning to priests through the prophet Malachi.  Though it’s aimed at priests of the old covenant, the Hebrew leadership that had proved itself unworthy, there is never a time when it does not have some relevance.  You have strayed from the way, the prophet cries.  You have caused many to stumble.  Such behaviour is hypocrisy that Jesus has no hesitation in condemning. [Matthew 23]

Every priest is aware that he is not a saint.  He holds a privileged position as spiritual guide and intercessor for his people, but he remains human, and is not immune from failure or sin.  So, every priest needs the prayer of his people to keep him worthy of his privilege; this priest needs your prayer.  And, when a priest dies, your prayer should continue, that whatever kindness and generosity that shone in his priesthood, might light his way to eternal peace.

What helps me in my journey as priest is the image St Paul gives us in our second reading [1 Thess. 2:7-9,13].  He sees his ministry through the eyes of motherhood, feeding and looking after her own children.  The devotion and protection every mother brings to her role is her saving grace.  She sees her child as her treasure and her first priority, a sacred privilege, unique and unrepeatable.  She is prepared to forget her own needs, give all for her child.

I’ve often thought of this image when troubled or upset; or when I know I haven’t measured up to my responsibilities.  I remind myself of the beautiful diversity among the people entrusted to my care, and their uniqueness; of the privilege that is mine to feed and look after others.  In this I am much more a mother than a father!

Baptised, we are created anew, a true child of God.  This marvellous reality, though clouded in mystery, enables us to recognise one another as sister or brother.  It’s a relationship that outshines every other connection: husband/wife, mother/father, teacher/student, priest/lay person, all cease to matter when placed alongside the free gift of God’s love brought to life in baptism.  This is the good news, the greatest news, that St Paul slaved night and day to proclaim.

Our faith in Jesus Christ unites us; the family connection carries us despite the circumstances of our personal lives; our prayer for one another is our fuel for the journey home.  Alive or dead, we belong to the Lord. Surely then, as Jesus so often insisted, there is no need to be afraid.

HOMILY – 28th SUNDAY [A] 2017

HOMILY – 28th SUNDAY [A] 2017

When you’ve had a holiday, as I’ve just had, you usually return grateful for the time away, grateful to be back safely, and grateful to return to the life and friends that supported your time away. This, for me, is highlighted in today’s First Reading – the banquet of rich food and fine wines, signalling that all is well and couldn’t be better.

There’s another level to returning home that requires some thoughtful readjustment: nothing stays the same in your absence. Two of my brother priests died while I was away – Frs Des Moosman and Eric Urlich, both with whom I lived and worked – and two special parishioners, Pattie Blackmore and John Douglas.

Pattie: a most gentle and faithful person, with a wonderfully close bond with her grandchildren, one of our volunteer Guardians who cared about this cathedral as her own home. John Douglas: a thoughtful and generous person who, despite a serious sight disability, was a skilled pianist and broadcaster and a person of deep faith and trust. I brought Communion to John and anointed him two days before I left,though aware of the extent of his illness. He commented on the gift of faith – I don’t know where I’d be without it.

I returned to learn another parishioner, Frank Fox, had just died. Frank’s funeral was Friday. At least two further parishioners have required major surgery over recent weeks, and on the wider community front, our Archdiocese has had a Synod and our nation a General Election. Homecoming is a graphic reminder that nothing stays the same.

Using the image of the banquet – food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines – the prophet Isaiah is presenting the ultimate in comfort to a people at the mercy of drought and crop failures, and often separated by tribal warfare and territorial disputes. He tells them it is the Lord God who prepares and provides the banquet, and until they recognise this they will not find peace or fulfilment.
At the heart of any banquet is community. You cannot have a banquet on your own. Rejoicing and celebrating makes no sense if there’s no one with you! The changes we experience in life are almost always linked to relationships. Family, friendship, work, and our inner relationships – the way we experience God and things of the spirit. We cannot live unrelated!

Jesus uses a similar banquet image to present the kingdom of God: a wedding feast, to which everyone is invited. Some will choose to decline the invitation; some will be so distracted with their own affairs that they will ignore the invitation; and some will simply take it for granted – like the person who turns up not dressed for the occasion. He receives what we might consider a harsh punishment, but Jesus is emphasising that though the invitation is open to all, and the banquet is without cost, you must choose to be part of it.

Accepting the invitation places you at the table with others! The wedding garment identifies the community. Not to wear it is to stand apart, to cut yourself off – to become unrelated! From what I’ve learned of our recent Synod, it is an empowering moment for the Church of Wellington: a definite call to place ourselves at the service of one another and the wider community, especially those at the outer edges. To be part of this is to be part of the banquet, where there is no mourning or weeping but only harmony and joy.

Homecoming is like that, too. Coming back into the fold, and feeling you belong there, carries a sense of harmony and joy – even if some things have changed while you were away.

Homily from Synod ’17 Closing Mass

 Final Synod Mass- 17th September 2017

I have never been to the Convent of the Sisters of St Joseph in Mission Bay, Auckland.  I have seen a photo of the stained glass window in their chapel. As you leave Mass today-  as you are sent out from this Synod you will be given a card with a photo of that window, what is more important are the words inscribed on the window. They are words attributed to Nano Nagle the Foundress of the Presentation Sisters.

“Go Out …you may not rest secure for need calls loudly.

You must seek God there.

Loving shall be your flame. “

120 recommendations have been made to me from this Synod, some of them are directly related to the life of the Church. Many of them are to do with where our mission is – out there!

As Nano Nagle says

“need calls loudly, you may not rest……seek God there…..

We will find God in the sick, the lonely, poor and homeless, the stranger…….we will find God out there….!!!

We are sent out because our Eucharist is supposed to pass over into concrete acts of love!

St Paul told us today that “The life and death of each of us has its influence on others.  It we live, we live for the Lord and if we die, we die for the Lord.”

When we live our whole lives through, with and in Jesus we are able to influence others.  That is what we are sent to do. Not to manipulate, never to control, but to influence with goodness, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and love. “Loving shall be your flame. “

Reflect on today’s Gospel, the servant who was forgiven much by his master, missed the whole point.  If he had deeply known the mercy of God he would have shown the same to his fellow servant.  It is only when we experience the power of the Gospel, that we can show it to others and influence others with it. The Gospel invites us to take forgiveness into the world we are sent to, rather than a desire for revenge – our world needs love and forgiveness.

We can bring a different value into the world. Today’s Gospel shows us that the face of the world can be transformed by forgiveness. By offering ourselves – you are the Church’s greatest resources – by offering ourselves – including our capacity to forgive, our Christian communities become – in the very midst of the world- the sacrament of God’s mercy. We don’t just offer ourselves – we offer who we are because of who we are in Jesus Christ …………. “I have neither silver nor Gold but I will give you what I have, in the name of Jesus the Nazarene……”

“Go Out …you may not rest secure for need calls loudly.

You must seek God there.

Loving shall be your flame.”

HEART AND HOME

HEART AND HOME

HOMILY – 20th SUNDAY [A] 2017                                            [Isaiah, 56:1,6-7]

Housing is a big topic in debates leading to next month’s General Election.  A forum of candidates last week, jointly sponsored by Cardinal John and Anglican Bishop Justin, heard accounts of anguished tenants and desperate homeless and social service providers.  All focussed on the absolute necessity of affordable and safe housing for everyone.

But there is also an awareness that the greater need is for a home.  A house does not automatically become a home.  This was illustrated by a homeless man who had been provided with an apartment, but felt more at home on the streets because he said, “that’s where my friends are”!  His reaction tells us something about the meaning of the expression, Home is where the heart is!

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been emphasising the importance of family life – not just the nuclear family of parents and children, or even the family of nations.  He has been reminding us that the whole of creation is linked together; that everyone and everything share a common home.  As people of faith, we have a particular responsibility to take this reminder seriously, because we are privileged to know the God revealed in Jesus Christ as the Creator of all life.  We of all people should love our common home, care for it and make sure it is truly a home for everyone.

Pope Francis points out that where we live our lives affects us.  “In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity.”  Disorder, chaos, noise and ugliness, disfigure the environment, and make happiness difficult to find. [cf LS147

Today’s readings provide some helpful reflection on all of this.  God speaks through Isaiah, assuring us that the house of God is not closed to anyone.

Do what is right, care for justice, act with integrity – and I will make you joyful in my house of prayer.  My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It’s as though the Canaanite woman – someone outside the Jewish community – is reminding Jesus of this promise when she begs for a place for her daughter at the table – even to snatch a few crumbs!

What is God’s house, but all that God has made!  Working with the Creator, as we’ve been asked to do, we can turn that house into a home, by caring for it, showing pride in it, being welcoming and responsible.  As a house of prayer we are also ask to reverence what we find here, to respect the uniqueness of each person and each thing – not to ridicule, or bully, or intimidate…

All of us here have somewhere to live: a house, a flat, an apartment; shelter and privacy.  Turn where you live into a house of prayer by the way you live in it, and pray in it; even if it’s just your own room.  Pope Francis insists that love always proves more powerful that any anti-social behaviour or violence.  [cf LS149]  Love’s ability to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness can turn even the dullest or neglected environment into a haven of safety and peace.

While the housing crisis persists, each of us can determine to do some “home-making” in the way we relate to others: a smile, an offer of help, visit a neighbour, an extra parcel for the Food Bank, being careful not to waste or leave a mess anywhere in the home we all share.