Category Archives: Homilies

Homily – Cardinal John Dew (Passion Sunday 9 April 2017)

Passion Sunday 2017

A few weeks  ago I saw the wonderful film “Hidden Figures” the story of three black women  – brilliant mathematicians – who worked at NASA – they were treated terribly and unjustly,  A – because they were women,  B – because they were black. They truly were hidden figures in the great adventure of conquering space and sending the first humans to the moon.

In recent years, two books were published:

Forgotten Voices of the Great War, and Forgotten Voices of the Second World War.

Sometimes in the Gospels there are hidden figures and forgotten voices. In these days of Holy Week we will hear proclaimed again the story of the trial and execution of Jesus. How can we hear something new in the Passion stories as we listen this week? It may be that there are voices in these accounts of Jesus’s trial and crucifixion which we have not heard before, or words we have never listened to attentively.

There are many voices to listen to …..

The voice of Jesus is not really hidden or forgotten. He speaks to his disciples after one of them has struck a servant of the high priest with his sword.  ‘Put your sword back; for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father who would promptly send more than twelve legions of angels to my defence?’

Remember this is the voice of the one who preached the Sermon on the Mount. There he said, ‘Do not resist an evildoer’. This is the voice of a teacher who is serious about what he teaches.

He also speaks of the very close relationship he has with the Father. ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.”  Remember too he has taught us to address our prayer to the same Father.

The voice of Jesus spoke of twelve legions of angels, now one of his own twelve disciples has used a sword; …go back to the Temptations of Jesus on the First Sunday of Lent…he refused the help of angels …… he does the same now and remains faithful to what he had earlier prayed; ‘Father, Let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’

There is the Voice of Pilate’s Wife “Now as he was seated in the chair of judgement, his wife sent him a message, “Have nothing to do with that man; I have been upset by a dream, I had about”  

Pilate’s wife sent her husband a message as he sat on the judgment seat. This is an ironical situation. The one who was to judge the world stands and waits for the verdict of a minor Roman official.

Her voice reminds us not to neglect the minor figures of the gospels, those who appear fleetingly and then withdraw back into obscurity. Some are Jews, some are Gentiles; some male – some female; some are slaves – some free: each of them has something to tell us about how we live as followers of Jesus.. Pilate’s wife is one of them.

She calls Jesus ‘that innocent man’;  ‘that just man’, it’s the voice of an obscure woman reminding us of goodness and truth.

The Voice of the Centurion and Those with Him   “Meanwhile the centurion together with those who were guarding Jesus, had seen the earthquake and all that was taking place, and they were terrified and said, ‘In truth this was a son of God.”.

The centurion’s voice was also unexpected, It’s not just one voice – but several…….others joined the centurion him in professing who Jesus was. Remember Peter, the Rock, confessed Jesus as Son of the Living God and then denied him. The voice of these soldiers teaches us about true conversion. Not only had they killed Jesus, they had dressed him in a purple robe, put a crown of thorns on his head, and knelt before him in mockery. Now they repent totally, and kneel before him in awe. We learn from their voices too.

In this Holy Week, there are many voices to listen to …..we pray that we can listen for the voices we will hear in these Passion stories..that we will listen and learn.



HOMILY – 5 LENT [A] 2017        [John 11:1-45]

Come out!  Jesus calls to Lazarus and life returns to claim the dead man from the grave.  Lazarus walks into the light and into the embrace of his family.  Come out!  It’s an ambiguous expression in our present Western society.  Come out for a walk.  Come out with me. Come out where I can see you.  These are common enough.

But “come out” or “coming out” now includes revealing your sexual identity. Those who for a long time, perhaps even a lifetime, have hidden their awareness of being different, are encouraged to “come out” into the full light of society and take ownership of the person they really are – not necessarily the person others thought they were or expected them to be.

The result is that many men and women are living more comfortably with themselves, and feeling less alien in day-to-day interaction with people generally.  Now gender equality and pressure to allow same-sex marriage are global issues.  The morality of these developments is exercising the minds of theologians, but the pastoral implications call for an altogether different approach.

Pope Francis is leading the way by pointing out that no one is to be judged for who they are.  He expects his priests to be ministers of compassion and mercy.  And, as a priest, I ask the same of the people I serve.  We are not in the business of condemnation; our role as Christians is to recognise the God-image in each person before we see anything else.

Our 21 century society is experience enormous change and change always brings turmoil and confusion as various factions struggle to find their place in the emerging newness.  The Church is part of society and cannot expect to escape the upheaval.

Those preparing for initiation as Catholic Christians need to understand that this is the path we travel: holding fast to the truth of Jesus and trying our best to live by that truth.  Weakness will appear, failure will happen, but the love of God in Jesus will carry us through, provided we keep travelling together, supporting one another by accepting the differences between us; loving, not judging; caring, not avoiding; and listening, that we might hear the pain and distress that affects us all, in order that we might bring that suffering into the light and bless it with life.

Come out! Jesus calls – not only Lazarus, but every person.  Come out and be seen.  Be proud of who you are.  Be present to one another.  Live your dignity with the confidence that you have been called.  So what, if you don’t agree with everyone, their opinions or their lifestyle!  Be assured that everyone has a part to play.

As a Christian you have been embraced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Embrace it is return, with thanksgiving in your heart; and watch the turmoil cease as your heart finds peace.



HOMILY – 3 LENT [A] 2017                    [John, 4]

Last Tuesday our school held its annual swimming sports.  Most of the children were in the pool at some time and their obvious enjoyment and competitive spirit told me they’re very comfortable in this environment.  Less comfortable were the thousands of people caught up in the torrential rain that caused havoc and flooding as it swept through much of the North Island last week.

Water is a great mystery.  Life is lost without it; yet too much water can also destroy life!  [Record number of drownings in NZ this year]  Jesus speaks of “living water” and identifies himself as its source.  As God promised Noah that the world would never again be destroyed by flooding, Jesus promises an even flow – a stream of life-giving water that will hold in balance our self-serving survival instinct and our need to be connected with others.

We enter this stream in baptism and the refreshment of this new life provides the energy to ease the tension between self-serving and self-giving, between wanting and sharing, between loving and avoiding, between forgiving and wishing the other person harm.

(Today) the parish welcomes three people who have spent that last several months preparing to commit to the life that baptism begins: a whole-hearted following of Jesus Christ.  Their welcome is accompanied by an anointing with the Oil of Catechumens – consecrating, or making holy, the steps that have brought them to this point in their lives.  This marks their formal entry into the stream of living water, and as it carries them towards Easter they invite each of us, already baptised, to renew our own commitment, to feel anew the strength of the current urging us to live more fully the Christian life.  You do not have to witness this anointing to sense its impact and to be part of the movement.

The woman who encounters Jesus when she comes to draw water from the well has a thirst far greater than the well-water could satisfy.  Her reputation labelled her as a woman to be avoided.  That’s why she comes to the well at midday, a time when normally no one else would be there.  She has no expectation of being spoken to, as Jews and Samaritans avoided each other.  But Jesus is blind to any differences people and cultures might impose on each other and opens a conversation that in a short time would quench the longing she had for acceptance, understanding and inner healing.  She becomes the first missionary, taking the news of Jesus back to the very people that despised her.

This Eucharist is our “Well”.  Not a sun-baked opening in the ground, providing water for desert dwellers, but a spring of living water that rises in our hearts when we gather in the name of Jesus.  The refreshment available here is given to brighten our lives to the point where we become visible missionaries – making it obvious to others that we are people at peace with ourselves, loved for ourselves, having had our thirst for peace and love fully satisfied by a God who comes to us in the food and drink that is Jesus.

Those who will join the community at Easter, have been attracted by something or someone that spoke to their need for belonging and for peace.  We each have to ask ourselves what is the image of Christ that I show in my public life?  There are still people looking for the spring of living water.  Will they find it in you?

Be “Water Wise” is the advice to all who enter a pool, river or sea.  Know what you’re doing.  Work with the water as a team; serve each other.  The same wisdom will carry you through the stream of living water.  Enjoy the ride. Enjoy your faith!  Your enjoyment will be your witness.



HOMILY – 2 LENT [A] 2017                    [Matthew 17:1-9]

Hindsight! I love the taste of words, and “hindsight” has a mouthful of flavours.  It’s a word that captures its meaning in a flash!  Yet it’s not a “flashback” – not a recreating of a past event or experience, but rather a gradual unfolding, through a series of experiences that may be spread over many years, taking you back to a point in your life that you hardly noticed at the time and certainly did not understand or appreciate.

Hindsight opens your eyes to a truth that for a time lay hidden, but was always meant to contribute to your life.  Hindsight can be likened to a good parent who knows how much the child can take in at any given time and can judge whether total disclosure of something is appropriate or not.

That’s what happened with the experience of the three apostles, Peter, James and John, on the mountain.  What we call the “transfiguration” was their extraordinary meeting with Jesus when he opened to them something of his divine essence.  They could not take it in, understand it or even express what it was like.  Only later, much later, after the resurrection, would they be able to look back and grasp the significance of what they witnessed that day.

Hindsight brought them to see the full picture.  The revelation of Jesus as Son of God, to whom the prophets (Ezekiel) and great leaders of old (Moses) paid homage, would affirm and endorse the faith of those three apostles who were to lead the first Christian communities and be confronted with enormous opposition, hatred and persecution.

When Peter, James and John looked back from the horror of Calvary and the burial place of Jesus being found empty, they realised that moment with Jesus on the mountain was preparing them, transforming their minds and their hearts, to understand the impact and implication of resurrection.  Peter, who found the message of Jesus difficult to grasp and who would make the horrible blunder of denying he knew Jesus, would later write, in his first letter, that it was on the holy mountain that we saw the glory of Jesus and heard the voice of God. [cf 1 Peter 1:16-18]

When you look back at your own life, I am sure you can now see explanations for happenings you couldn’t understand or appreciate when they occurred.  The lack of clarity or the inability to make sense of something can frustrate and anger; it takes the patience and trust that grows in a loving heart to accept the waiting time.

Abraham [1st Reading] was called to leave his country, his family and his father’s house and take a direction which appeared far from certain.  Abraham, with his wife Sarah, became our ancestor in faith, stepping into the unknown with only their faith to guide them.

You and I may not have to encounter such a radical mission, but you will have met situations – perhaps you’re facing one now – where all you can do is trust. Hindsight, I believe, is a blessing that may not always solve issues, but will at least help us appreciate that, yes, there is a reason for everything.    In the end, that’s what helped the apostles.

With patience, hope and trust, whatever we can’t make sense of, or whatever seems too hard, can bring us joy and peace and life – letting doubt take care of itself.

Homily – Cardinal John Dew – Sunday 5th March 2017

Homily Sunday 5th March 2017

“Do you renounce Satan? And all his works, and all his empty promises?’

Those words are asked at every Baptism. They are asked of everyone, not just the person being baptized or his or her parents.

“Do you renounce Satan? And all his works, and all his empty promises?’

Those words are also asked every Easter when we renew our Baptism promises…they are asked of everyone.

Those words are asked at every Confirmation ceremony, they are asked of everyone, not just those being confirmed.

We need to be reminded to renounce evil and bad things.

We don’t talk much about the Devil, Satan, the Tempter, Lucifer; but we do need to face reality and admit that the devil is real. I am not talking about some figure with horns and a pitchfork – but an eveil spirit.

Jesus faced the devil in the desert, and had to make a choice , Jesus had to choose His path… If Jesus faced evil it is clear that we too have to face evil and make good choices.

It is a fact that we are tempted or lured by a power beyond ourselves that tries to lead as away from God, away from Jesus and His Gospel.

In the first homily he delivered as Bishop of Rome Pope Francis spoke of the devil, he has continued to do so and regularly reminds us that we need to be on guard.

In that first homily he said, “ The devil is real and doesn’t want our holiness.” Then he went on to say:  “It is enough to open a newspaper and see that around us there is a presence of evil, the devil is at work. And then I would say in a loud voice “God is stronger,” do you believe that, “God is stronger?”

There is a presence of evil in our world, in our lives who tries to lure us away from God. In another homily later in the same year the Pope said “Please let us not do business with the devil – be always with Jesus, be always with Jesus.”

This Lent is the time for us to choose, to choose to be always with Jesus, to choose our own path, and to know that our path makes no sense without Jesus…so we to Tell his Truth, to Live his Life and to Walk his Way.

Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the Spirit of God, where he fasted and prayed for forty days and forty nights…… the tempter, the Devil came to him. We can be sure that if he tried Jesus out then he will also try us out too. He tempted Jesus to live a quick and easy lifestyle, tried to get Jesus to turn away from who he really was.

It happens to us all the time…something says to us:

“this will be the easy way…it doesn’t matter if I don’t help someone else today”

 “it wont really matter if I tell this lie and someone else gets blamed”

 “will it really hurt if I spread some gossip about someone else when I know it’s not true.”

 The quick and easy way is not the path to choose, because it empty and meaningless.

This happened to Jesus in the desert just after he was baptized. When he was baptized he found his real identity, his true self….He and everyone else heard the words “This is my Son, the Beloved.”

The same is said to us at our Baptism; “This is my daughter, my son the Beloved”……but the spirit of evil tries to get us to forget that and to choose another – a quick and easy path.

Lent is a time to remember who we are – the Beloved daughters and sons of God….and to be grateful for God’s choice of us.

Lent is a time – with the Spirit’s help to choose our path.

To go back to Pope Francis, in another homily in 2013 he said:
The presence of evil is on the first page of the Bible (tonight’s first reading) and the Bible ends well with the presence of the devil – with the victory of God over the devil.”

 In prayer this Lent choose your path and you and God will be the winners.