Category Archives: Homilies

HOLINESS – A WAY OF LIVING

HOLINESS – A WAY OF LIVING

HOMILY – 7th Sunday [A] 2017             [1Cor. 3:16-23]

Holiness comes before perfection!  That’s an important statement.  We don’t label ourselves as “holy” because we know we’re not perfect and we equate holiness with perfection.   That’s so wrong!  People are not declared saints because they were perfect but because they took their “holiness” seriously and enabled it to shape their lives for the good of others as well as themselves.

In our first reading we hear Moses being told to be holy, just as God is holy, and we hear this echoed in the gospel words of Jesus: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  And there’s St Paul asking us to realise we are God’s temple!  Each reading carries a central guideline to help us reach our potential – to be perfectly holy – and that guideline aims to eliminate hatred and vengeance from our way of living, to be generous in the gift of our time and our possessions: to live, loving our neighbour as ourselves.

None of us gets anywhere wishing our life was somewhere else.  When you do that you end up stuck, disappointed and frustrated.  Everything that happens, happens NOW.  The past and the future have nothing concrete to offer – just memories and hopes!  Holiness works much the same.  A temptation is not only to want to be somewhere else, but to be someone else!

Advertisers play on this weakness.

They recognise that we often worry about not being as rich or as famous or as popular or as generous as others we know.  They tell us their products can change all that!

Jean Vanier – the Canadian who spent his life working with the disabled – pointed out that this kind of wishful thinking quickly turns to guilt, shame or jealousy – all of which are in opposition to holiness.  He writes, It is very important to realise that our vocation is hidden in where we are and who we are….We will never find our vocations by trying to figure out whether we are better or worse than others.  We are good enough to do what we are called to do.  We should spend our energy discerning our gifts, finding the treasure hidden in where we are and who we are.

Pope Francis, writing last year about the family, following the 2015 Rome Synod, catches this theme very well.  He writes, in the document, Amoris Laetitia – the Joy of Love, “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need constantly to grow and mature in the ability to love.” [par.325].

Our parish has taken up Pope Francis’ work and produced a book of prayers for families and individuals, to show the ordinariness of holiness!  There may not be any saints among us, but there IS holiness.

We have parishioners speaking about this publication at Masses today – if you are reading this online you can still learn about the book and view some of its contents through the parish website (this website): www.mcshwellington.org

Valentines Day Mass Homily – Cardinal John Dew

VALENTINES DAY MASS

25 years ago I saw this painting in a Church in Florence; I loved it and have thought about it many times over the years. Last October I had a few hours in Florence, I went back to have another look at this painting. It was painted by Pietro Annigoni in 1964. I found the Church and asked if there was a bookshop where I could buy a print of the painting, but no they didn’t have a bookshop, – while nobody was looking I whipped my phone out and took this photo.

When I saw it 25 years ago there were two things I loved

  • The big, strong , YOUNG St Joseph
  • -and – the little very blond Jesus intent on what he was doing at the carpenter’s bench.

You can’t see the look on Josephs face; there is pride, joy, patience, tenderness, a protective hand hovering just in case it is needed. It says something of family life, about the joy of family life; it captures what I see as a magical, mystical moment between father and son.

You parents have all experienced it, moments of joy and wonder and hearts bursting with wonder and pride in the things you observe, see and hear from you daughters and sons.

As husbands and wives experience that with each other. Recently I saw a wonderful You-tube clip of Michelle Obama, I then looked at some other clips of the Obamas, there were moments of great intimacy and tenderness, moments of deep joy and love -they were almost oblivious to the cameras and the audience of millions.

Those are the moments of joy that Pope Francis is talking about in this magnificent document AMORIS LAETITIA – on love and joy in the Family. He devotes a large part of this reflecting on tonight’s Reading which Paul calls his “Hymn to Love.”  We’ve heard that so many times, listened to it at so many weddings, so many times that the message can easily pass us by. I will come back to that because I first want to mention a phrase which comes much later in this letter.

Pope Francis says: “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed.” So relax if you as a couple and your family haven’t actually got is altogether. The Pope is so realistic; none of us have got it all together yet! This is a key message of Francis writing. Our everyday family life can be messy at times, we are not perfectly formed, life is bumpy and difficult.

But family life – even in the midst of that is beautiful. it is where we learn to love and be loved, to forgive and be forgiven, it’s where we learn to laugh and enjoy life…all of that takes time, it takes an effort and it takes prayer and reflection.

That short phrase “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed,”   reminds us that we are growing and maturing; the ability to love and to be people of joy and peace takes time.

Joy is one of the hallmarks of Christian life, of married life. When our lives are filled with joy others want to have what we have. Your joy in each other attracts others, when they see that marriage – despite it’s bumps and messiness brings you joy and peace – others will want what you have.

I think what Pope Francis is saying in that phrase is that we need do be light-hearted in what we do so that we avoid taking ourselves too seriously- that also stops any of us becoming selfish and proud.  And all of that comes from discovering the love St Paul wrote about.

All of us, myself included would do well to let ourselves be guided by the inspired words of the Paul.

Saint Paul tells us that love is, above all, “patient” and “kind”. As we each learn to love in our own situations the more our hearts are to be like the heart of Christ, a lovely challenge is to expand our hearts according to the measure of the heart of Christ.

“Patience” means being able to love without limits, to be faithful in particular situations and with practical gestures. It means loving what is great without neglecting what is small; loving the little things within the horizon of the great things, the messy bumpy things as well. Patience means to love through acts of kindness. “Kindness” of courses always meaning and clearly deciding to always will the good of the other.

Love “is not jealous or boastful, it is not puffed up with pride”. This is surely a miracle of love, since we humans – all of us, at every stage of our lives – are inclined to jealousy and pride, since our nature is wounded by sin.

Love “is not arrogant or rude, it does not insist on its own way”. That simply means that those who live in love are not  self-centered. There will never be joy in life if any of us are self- centered

Love “is not irritable, it is not resentful”. Obviously for any of us there are plenty of opportunities to be irritable, to feel anger. It is love and love only that frees us. Love frees us from the risk of reacting impulsively, of saying or doing the wrong thing; and from the danger of pent-up anger, or smouldering anger.

Love  “does not rejoice at the wrong, but rejoices in the right”.

Finally, “love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”.

Here, in four words, says Pope Francis is a spiritual and pastoral programme of life.

Bear, believe, hope , endure…….

That’s how we learn, that’s what brings us joy

That’s what helps us know “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed.” 

We are all here to help one another, you as husbands and wives have the great privilege and joy of doing that as married couples.

 

FIRE AND WATER – GOOD CHOICES

FIRE AND WATER – GOOD CHOICES

HOMILY – 6th SUNDAY [A] 2017                       [Sirach 15:15-20;  Matt 5:17-27]

Fire or water?  Which do you prefer?  A difficult question?  Both are good and necessary: fire to warm and to cook; water to drink and to clean.  But both also can harm and destroy.  Just last week in New Zealand – seven drownings and part of the country declared a drought region; and several homes burned to the ground and a fire ban in many districts.  They’re even a threat to each other: fire and heat can evaporate water; water can extinguish fire!  Fire and water – we can’t survive without them; yet they are potentially very destructive.

It’s the same with love.  To give and receive love is to risk being hurt; not to love, or not to know love, is to risk a lonely, troubled existence.  Love neglected or abused can wreak havoc; love cradled and nurtured can fulfil life.

Jesus says in today’s gospel passage that he came to fulfil “the Law and the Prophets”.  His words do not allow for compromise when it comes to keeping the commandments.  That’s because the commandments are designed to help us hold the balance between too much and not enough, making them crucial to personal happiness and social harmony.

This weekend we have three baptisms in the parish and on Tuesday we acknowledge Valentine’s Day by honouring the gift of marriage.  Those who seek baptism for themselves or for their child, no less than those who freely marry, make a huge commitment requiring both trust and hope.  Both baptism and marriage begin a journey into mystery that, at its beginning no one wants to ever end, even though the way forward is not and cannot be clear.

I officiated at one wedding where the bride was baptised the day before her wedding.  She had been preparing through the RCIA for baptism at Easter, but the groom was terminally ill and they wanted to seal their love in the celebration of the Eucharist.  He died before Easter.  I saw them as living witnesses of a joy-filled love – one that was able to embrace both sides of fire and water and hold them against all odds.  Their commitment produced a joy that dispelled any sense of sorrow or disappointment.  Joy recognises compassion, kindness, humility and patience – the clothes which God offers to dress each of us if we commit to love.  Joy is love fully dressed.

C S Lewis wrote: We are born helpless.  As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness.  We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.  The Hebrew prophet, in our first reading, gives us the dual image of fire and water, saying the God has set these before you: put out your hand to whichever you prefer.  Of course you need both, fire and water, and from time to time your choice will be different.

The wisdom of the prophet is telling us that whenever your choice is for fire, and whenever it is for water, it must only be because you wish a good outcome.  Your choice must never harm or hurt, but only help and serve and encourage.  In commanding us to love, Jesus held out the keys to joy.  They’re wrapped in fire and water.  Say YES to them both and you will be able to say, as I heard my newly married couple say, I can find pleasure on my own.  I can only know joy with you.

 

 

WITH SALT AND LIGHT YOU ARE SENT!

WITH SALT AND LIGHT YOU ARE SENT!
HOMILY – 5th SUNDAY [A] 2017
Cardinal John has announced an Archdiocesan Synod for September. Our Prime Minister has come in behind him and announced a General Election for the same date, September 23. So the Synod dates are now the week before: September 15-17.
A synod is an opportunity for a diocese to take stock of itself – to look at what’s holding it together and to discern any possible threats; to sharpen its vision, to reaffirm its commitment to the mission and to decide what needs to be done to stay relevant to that mission and effective in what we do. What will all that mean to you and I. In what way will it affect my life as a Catholic and as a parishioner? I want to explore that a little.
The last Synod was in 2006. Cardinal John had been our Archbishop for just one year and he called the Synod to help him get to grips with his responsibility as our pastoral leader. John Paul II was still Pope and he had been emphasising the importance of collaborative ministry – of working with and for each other as a means of making the Gospel more credible and therefore more attractive.
The theme for that Synod was Salt and Light Together –and we’ve just heard it echoed in today’s scripture. Salt preserves and enhances taste; Light helps us see and makes us less afraid. We were called to be salt and light for our neighbourhoods and our world, but we could only do this together.
This was the thrust of the 2006 Synod and it led to adopting the principle of Stewardship as a way of life for the Archdiocese – the sharing of our time, talent and treasure, to strengthen our community, and make us more confident, more daring and more positive about our Christian identity.
Ten years on, our 2017 Synod ushers in a new focus for Stewardship action.
The theme this time is GO, YOU ARE SENT. It follows directly from awareness that we are salt and light. Both are useless if they’re hidden away. When Jesus first sent out the disciples it was to prepare the way for him to come. They were to open a path along which he would be recognised and welcomed. The disciples were to be “lights”, beacons to attract and reassure; they were to be “salt”, announcing a message of substance, one that would delight, taste good, and endure.
GO, YOU ARE SENT, tells us that the message needs to be heard in our own day. It presumes we are primed and ready for the task. So there will be opportunities for you and I to update ourselves, to explore issues relevant to those seeking faith, or troubled by doubts, or who have never considered the spiritual dimension of their life.
You might think you’ve got nothing to offer, or that you don’t actually want to be sent. Jesus does not choose the most competent of messengers, [see 2nd Reading – St Paul’s credentials – 1Cor.2:1-5] but those who recognise God’s love for them and who feel they can respond to that love by gifting something of themselves. God can do marvels with whatever we have to offer…
Preparation for the Synod is going to occupy every parish over the next few months. We begin today by offering the Synod Prayer. This will be prayed at every weekend Mass until the Synod. I invite you to keep the prayer given with today’s newsletter and include it with your daily personal prayer.
As a way of formally beginning our preparation, I invite you to stand and pray together our Synod Prayer:

God, whose power is at best in weakness:
You have entrusted us, in our frailty, with the awesome privilege
of being your presence in our world.
You say to each of us: Go, you are sent.

In naming and sending, you honour our ability to serve.
Yet we know our need of you, even as we travel in the
echo of your voice: Go, you are sent.

Bless our Archdiocese of Wellington as we set out
and, as you have done for so many,
strengthen our weariness, steady our trembling.
May we never forget that you are with us
and joyfully your call: Go, you are sent.

We go, gifting your mercy, proclaiming your truth,
and celebrating your goodness;
our words and actions revealing your face
to all we meet.
Blessed are you, God of the journey. Amen.

DAMASCUS – CAPTURING PEACE: HOMILY 4TH SUNDAY FR JAMES LYONS

DAMASCUS – CAPTURING PEACE

HOMILY – 4th SUNDAY [A] 2017                                               [Matthew 5:1-11]

Damascus, the capital of Syria has become the symbol of fear and oppression after years of civil war have torn to the nation to shreds. This week the warring factions in Syria finally sat down to address their differences but began by trading insults more than peace lilies. Don’t expects an easy reconciliation.

During this same week, on Wednesday, Damascus came into view for another reason. The Church’s calendar gave us the Conversion of St Paul. Here was a man intent on destroying a new religious sect that was growing around the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. With zeal and hatred in his heart, he spearheaded the earliest persecution of the Church, rounding up believers for prison and torture; doing all in his power – which was considerable – to root out this infectious disease threatening the purity of Jewish faith.

It was at Damascus that peace captured Paul. Arriving there for another round of arrests, he encounters a truth he can neither deny nor fully understand. He suddenly realises that, the human enemy he wanted to destroy was in fact the God he worshipped! Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? The change in Paul would turn him into one of the great foundation members of the Church.

Our second reading today shows something of that transformation. Paul, writing to the people of Corinth, has faced his own nothingness before God, giving God the credit for everything we have: It was to shame the wise that God chose what is foolish by human reckoning, and to shame what is strong that he chose what is weak… Paul is echoing the beatitudes of Jesus who highlights the littles ones, the merciful, the gentle, the pure of heart and those who withstand persecution, as having truly blessed and fulfilled lives.

Pope Francis was in Sweden for All Saints Day last November, at the start of the 500th year since the great split in the Church, known as The Reformation. Together with Lutheran leadership he addressed the sad divisions within Christianity noting, like Paul, that our historical persecutions of one another was – to our shame – the persecution of Christ himself.

The Pope said that new situations require new energy and a new commitment, and he offered a new list of beatitudes for modern Christians:

  • Blessed are those who remain faithful while enduring evils inflicted on them by others and forgive them from their heart.
  • Blessed are those who look into the eyes of the abandoned and marginalised and show them their closeness.
  • Blessed are those who see God in every person and strive to make others also discover him.
  • Blessed are those who protect and care for our common home.
  • Blessed are those who renounce their own comfort in order to help others.
  • Blessed are those who pray and work for full communion between Christians.

A life characterised by these qualities might seem out of reach to us and unrealistic. Maintaining a focus on forgiveness while being mistreated yourself, or putting aside your own comfort to ensure others are looked after, is surely expecting too much from people for whom just getting through each day is a huge burden. – That’s only the case if you think it’s all down to you!

St Paul grasped the truth that God works through us, using our weakness to confound the strong, uncertainty to confuse the over-confident. That’s what Paul learned in Damascus; those seeking to end conflict there today can still learn the lesson. And – if we accept that God works in and through our efforts – you and I will reach our own Damascus, and we also will learn that forgiveness, healing and peace are not only possible, they’re certain outcomes!