Category Archives: Homilies


HOMILY – CLERGY JUBILEE MASS – 20 JUNE 2017 [2 Cor. 8:1-9; Matt. 5:43-48]

St Paul identifies suffering, cheerfulness, poverty and generosity when he describes his experience of the Christians of Corinth.  Two sets of opposites: suffering/cheerfulness; poverty/generosity.  And he matches them to the qualities found in the life of Jesus, who was rich but became poor for us, gifting his life, that we might become fully alive.

This combination of seemingly incompatibles becomes even more challenging when we hear Jesus calling his followers to pray for their enemies; not to hold grudges, not to seek revenge; to love, not just friends but all people, even – and perhaps especially – those least lovable.  A tough call!  If Christians generally are expected to buy into this recipe for living, the ordained ministers are called to be exemplary models.

The priests honoured today have been on stage for 25, 50 and even 60 years.  Our separate ministries have known a variety of twists and turns.  Sixty years ago the Second Vatican Council was not on the Church’s agenda; fifty years ago, the ordination ceremony was one of the last before the reforms of Vatican II took effect; 25 years ago there was confusion and disillusionment among the People of God and many were wondering if the Council had been a mistake.  Some were calling for a return to how things used to be.

But these generations of priesthood, exposed to multiple and continuing upheavals throughout the whole of society, have been given an enormous privilege: the opportunity to understand the dynamic qualities of suffering, cheerfulness, poverty and generosity as anchors to hold every priest against the swiftly changing currents of our 20th-21st century Church.

Many ordained with us no longer serve as priests and we suffer both their struggle and their loss; the sexual abuse scandals have shattered and scarred respect for priesthood and we suffer with both victims and perpetrators.  We are witnesses countless times to the sadness of farewells.  We suffer, too, at the failure of many to grasp, even now, the opportunities the gospel offers for joy and hope for individuals and communities.

Yet that suffering is uplifted by the cheerfulness of being loved and supported by our people, witnessing the sheer delight in the meeting eyes of bride and groom, in a group gathered for baptism, in the laughter and friendship of our many relationships, the wonder and beautiful quiet before the Tabernacle, the happiness of being welcomed into the lives of those we serve.

Poverty visits the priest from many directions.  He knows that, materially, he’ll not have much to show for his life; in his celibacy he’ll never know the love of wife, or children born of their love; he will try to hold on to a poverty of spirit, for only in this poverty will he recognise the power and richness of God’s presence in his life and work; he will experience the humiliation of poverty when immersed in the struggles of his people.

But it is in the affection of those with nothing else to give that the priest will discover the meaning of generosity.  A priest told me he felt “suffocated” by the goodness and love of his people, and it is certainly overwhelming to feel the love and faithfulness of those entrusted to our care.  We are called to show the way, but our people are models for us.  Living their suffering with cheerfulness and their poverty with generosity, they light our way!

Perhaps we can now see how Jesus’ vision of making forgiveness our identifying mark becomes the cost of discipleship and purifies our vocation.

It buys us into the mystery of God’s unfathomable love.  Then it becomes much easier to pray for enemies.  Suffering and cheerfulness, poverty and generosity are gifts from the people we serve and from the God who is love.  Receiving them is very much the reward of priesthood.

The final words of the once popular priesthood prayer of Lacordaire are – this life is yours O priest of Jesus Christ.  I rephrase them today, not just for the jubilarians but for every priest here:  this gifted life, wrapped in the beauty and challenge of God’s love, is ours, priests of Jesus Christ!  Would we want it any other way?




Two weeks ago my cell phone died.  The same day I discovered my car needed a little panel-beating.  Someone said to me, What’ll be the third thing?  Yes, I know, bad things happen in threes! – But a combination of three can have a very positive side: as we reflected last Sunday, our one God is a Trinity – Three Persons.  This Mass reminds of another 3-fold formula.

Corpus Christi is the day each year when we focus on the Eucharist – the gift that Jesus makes of himself in the bread and wine.  There’s a formula associated with this, coming from Jesus’ action at the Last Supper and repeated whenever he was involved in feeding the people: Jesus takes the bread, breaks the bread and gives it to the people.  This triple action of taking, breaking, giving, is a key to our understanding not only of what the Mass is about but how our lives as Christians are to be lived.

In today’s Gospel passage, many are unable to accept Jesus’ words about the need to “eat my flesh and drink my blood”:  How can this man give us his flesh to eat? they ask.   This is not so much a question about cannibalism, but a difficulty in accepting that anyone could give the whole of themselves for the good of someone else.  What Jesus is showing is that when you give what you’ve got you will never be without; when you hold back and hoard you will never have enough!  When Jesus says, Do this in memory of me, he doesn’t want us to simply repeat his action as a kind of memorial but to give ourselves as he did.

When you love as Jesus loves you will be taken, broken and given, and you’ll never be more whole.  The Corpus Christi – the Body of Christ -festival makes the point even stronger.

What exactly is the “Body of Christ”?  Is it just the consecrated bread and the cup held out to us by the priest or lay minister?  And what is the implication of the “Amen” we say as we receive?  As a title, the Body of Christ refers to the whole Church – the People of God – people like us living out our faith in the here and now of each day, as well as those who have died and for whom we pray at every Mass.  There are also the saints, our models of Christian living.  All of us, past and present, are part of the Communion of Saints – Communion hints at the significance of this body.

A community is a union of people – never a person alone.  Communion implies a togetherness which in turn implies some sharing, some giving of one another, some energy from each to keep the community alive. The Body of Christ is the entire grouping of those who follow the way of Jesus.  He is present in that Body.  When I say AMEN to the Body of Christ, I give my agreement, and therefore my commitment, to the belief that I do not receive Jesus in isolation from all of God’s people.

When I receive the Body of Christ, I receive all of you.  In being drawn into the life of Jesus, I am drawn into your life as well.  We are one in the Body of Christ.  Jesus indicated this when he placed the Eucharist in the context of the washing of his disciples’ feet.  Only in so far as we are hospitable and caring of one another, does the life of Jesus embrace us.

The 3-time formula: Jesus took the bread, broke it and gave it, happens in an action of thanksgiving.  We give thanks for what we know we have neither created nor achieved on our own.  Three: not an omen for bad things, but a formula for a fulfilled life.  Pope Francis: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort.”  Your AMEN to your communion can become both an act of faith and a willing self-offering, allowing yourself to be taken, broken and shared.

Homily by Cardinal John Dew for Central Pastoral Area Confirmation Mass

Confirmation Homiily 2017

Earlier this year I saw a wonderful YouTube clip of a few people telling the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, how much they appreciated her during her eight years as First Lady. It was a wonderful little video, they spoke to a portrait of her, and actually had no idea that she was standing behind it listening to them, then. She walked out and totally surprised them. One of the men, a man married with two young children told her that he loved to let his children listen to her speeches. He said there is always a theme and he said, “It is kindness, kindness, always kindness, nothing but kindness.”

Just a few weeks ago a new President of France was elected, in some of his campaigning to be elected he several times spoke about calling the French people to be people of kindness, each time he did that he made his arms into the shape of a cross.

A famous Roman poet of hundreds of year ago, Seneca, once wrote; “Where-ever there is a human being there is a opportunity for kindness”

Today (number) are being confirmed, are being gifted by God with the gift of the Holy Spirit….we know that when the Spirit of God, the same Spirit that was in the heart of Jesus, when that Spirit lives in our hearts as he will do from today onwards for all these young people….we will be different people. “What the Spirit brings is very different; love, joy, peace, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness and self-control.” We are all able to be all those things, because God’s Spirit is given to us at Baptism, and renewed and strengthened in Confirmation, and every time we pray.

I would be prepared to take a bet that like that father of two young children who thanked Michele Obama for her speeches with the thread of kindness running through them. That parents here today too would want the same for your children, for these children being Confirmed today.

Maybe a simple way to help one another to be kind, and certainly for parents to help their children to be kind would be at the end of every day to ask some simple questions. Questions such as “Who did you help today? Who were you kind to today?”   Or “Whom did you fail to help today, who were you unkind too?”

There was a Professor of Special Education in the United States who dealt especially with children with learning difficulties, his name was Leo Buscaglia. His writings all came down to something very simple and practical. He once wrote: “Too often, we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”

Most of us want to be able to offer a kind word, a listening ear, a small act of caring. Most of us want to be able to live by being people of kindness, kindness, always kindness, nothing but kindness……..but we can’t do it on our own. We need God’s help, the strength of God’s grace

When the new President of France spoke of the French people being “people of kindness” he used to stretch out his arms in the shape of a cross. It was only after Jesus stretched out his arms on the Cross that he was able to give us His Holy Spirit. Sometimes it is not always easy for us to be kind, we need to make and effort, to stretch out our arms and forget about ourselves…..put others first and show kindness.

Love and kindness are never wasted; love and kindness always make a difference. Love and kindness actually bless the Person who receives them from us, a family member, a friend, a classmate….but the very action of showing love and kindness to others bless us too.

Saint Paul gave us a list of words that we call the Fruits of the Holy Spirit…I have already mentioned them…, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, trustfulness and self-control……he tells us that they are the things the Holy Spirit brings into our lives. If the Holy Spirit brought only one of theism into our lives we would be people of great richness and blessings

Maybe a good thing to remind ourselves of and to ask the Holy Spirit to give us every day is that fruit of kindness

As was said of the former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama……”your speeches are always kindness, kindness, always kindness, nothing but kindness.”

And as the new President of France, Emmanuel Macron said “Let us be people of kindness.”

I have told you about Michelle Obama, Emmanuel Macron, a Roman poet- Seneca, I want to finish with a prayer Pope Francis said we all should be praying each day.

“Holy Spirit, may my heart be open to the Word of God, may my heart be open to good, and may my heart be open to the beauty of God, every day.”

If we pray that prayer every day the Holy Spirit will help us to be people of kindness.




Families were torn apart, people imprisoned and tortured, wars fought and religion and faith misused. Hundreds of thousands of people died.

This is not a report of the crazed, barbaric behaviour of 21st century Islamic extremists. It is a statement about what happened between Christians in the 16th century, when attempts to reform the Catholic Church got in the way of the political and economic interests of those in power.

For over 400 years Christianity suffered the consequences of division within its own family, weakening its influence in society, perpetuating a scandal by denying the fulfilment of the prayer of Jesus that his followers might be one. The thaw began about 60 years ago and since then we have seen a significant religious climate change. From antagonism to tolerance, Christians of different denominations began speaking to one another as friends, coming together for services in Lent or at Christmas and, in emergencies such as fire or earthquake that closed or destroyed buildings, sharing their places of worship. We have come to recognise that we have more in common than what keeps us apart and there are now formal dialogues aimed at bringing about reunion.

Last Sunday such a dialogue began between the Lutheran people in New Zealand and our Roman Catholic community. In a unique and historic ceremony commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a Lutheran bishop and a Catholic cardinal stood side by side in our cathedral and declared their desire and readiness to – in their words – work together to seek avenues of practical pastoral cooperation and support, and to explore joint worship and ecumenical hospitality for the sake of strengthening a joint witness to the Gospel in this land.

In a nearly full cathedral, Lutherans and Catholics prayed forgiveness for ways of thinking and acting that perpetuate divisions. We acknowledged that hatred and distrust grow from ignorance and intolerance, and lead to discrimination and violence. We knew we could have been referring to what is eating into our world today, and this underlined the urgency for Christians to open their arms to one another and truly move from conflict to communion.

It was not by chance that the service was held on Pentecost Sunday or that I should be speaking about it today, Trinity Sunday – for these two days that crown the Easter season celebrate the revelation of God as a Community of Persons, a family united in an eternal love that longs to embrace the whole of humanity and the entire creation.

St Paul’s words [2nd Reading] tell it all: Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. This is the God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.[Exodus 34:8] – the God who loved the world so much that he gave his only Son. [John 3:16]

As dialogue begins between Lutherans and Catholics, we should each look to our own personal relationships. Does anyone need to hear you say “Sorry!”? Do you truly feel at peace with yourself? Look for something you can do today to help the environment, and the world so loved by God. Make a home for tenderness, compassion, kindness and faithfulness in your life this week. And give thanks that we have a God so rich in these qualities, and so united for us.

“Let us offer each other a sign of peace:” – Homily Cardinal John Dew – 11 June 2017 (Commissioning of Fiona Rammell)

“Let us offer each other a sign of peace:”

We hear those words that at every Mass. The sign of peace is meant to show that we are at peace with one another, that we are one, that we are praying for peace and unity for the whole human family and that we are expressing our unity with one another before we receive Jesus in the Eucharist.

The Sign of Peace. Sometimes referred to as the Kiss of Peace. There is nothing very intimate about our kiss of peace at Mass. It’s a sign, intended to be a gesture of peace and goodwill, acceptance of others, of love of others. It is not an intimate sign even though strangely our world craves intimacy.

Unfortunately the word intimate has lost its meaning. Intimacy in its deepest meaning is much more about our spirits than about any physical intimacy or physical relationship. The word “intimate” is actually about closeness of heart and mind, the word means “to make the innermost known.

In saying that the world craves intimacy I am saying that we look for love, a love that’s completely trustworthy, that we know is safe, that we know is true, a love that won’t be betrayed or taken for granted.

When we make our innermost hearts open to others; when we put our fears, our struggles our pains out there, it can be very frightening, we are left vulnerable because we can be taken advantage of and our love betrayed or deceived.

Sadly most human heartbreak stems from a desire for love and closeness, the heartbreak comes when love and trust is been mishandled, and where making the innermost known doesn’t happen any longer.

Real prayer is intimate. Meeting God in our own personal prayer, the way we celebrate the sacraments brings us close to God, God whom we acknowledge today as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God offers us an intimacy that can only give of itself because the nature of God is to give and to love and to seek nothing in return. God says: “Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost.”

The Holy Trinity, the Blessed Trinity is perfect intimacy because the three persons of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in perfect love.

Very soon you will hear me say, when I commission Fiona as a Lay Pastoral Leader, that she is called to follow Jesus the beloved one, to reflect God’s very kindness in ministry to you, the people of God. Anyone who ministers in the name of the Church is asked to show God’s love to those they are called to serve. Whether a priest, lay pastoral leader, or any other form of ministry in the church….ministry is always about reflecting the kindness of God to others.

Over the last 12 years I have commissioned several lay pastoral leaders. At every commissioning I have done in the last 12 years I have emphasised the fact that our lay pastoral leaders work together with our priests. Therefore today I want you to know that Fiona is being commissioned to work with Fr James and not for Fr James. Fiona at the same time will not supersede your leadership, in fact she will help you to find ways to serve and to enhance your leadership because she knows that in being called to serve you she is to call forth your gifts. In doing that she will reflect the kindness of God.

We had a very short reading from St Paul to the Corinthians- “Be united live in peace in the God of love and peace will be with you.” When we look to serve one another in kindness, the God of love and peace will be with us. That reading also said, in a kind of a prayer or a blessing, “may the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

That is what Fiona and Fr James will be doing together. Whatever they work on, in whatever they serve this community of the Cathedral Parish they will be showing ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship or the communion of the Holy Spirit to each of you.”

If each one of us acknowledge the goodness and kindness of God, if we admit that our only true and deep intimacy comes from being at one with God, we will have no trouble being united, living in peace knowing that the God of love and peace is with us, and by our very lives we will show “the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit to each and every one of us.”