Category Archives: Homilies

HOMILY – 17TH SUNDAY [A] 2017 – CARING SUNDAY – AMORIS LAETITIA

HOMILY – 17TH SUNDAY [A] 2017 – CARING SUNDAY – AMORIS LAETITIA

The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. This sentence opens Amoris Laetitia, and echoes the opening sentence of Gaudium et Spes of the Second Vatican Council telling us that the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the (people) of this age, especially those who are poor of in any way afflicted, are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ.
I find this a powerful expression of Pope Francis’ emphasis on reaching back to that Council and drawing its teachings more firmly into our consciousness. His post-synodal exhortation on The Joy of Love is one of the most caring documents to emerge from the Vatican. It is sensitive to the struggles that confront couples and families in today’s world, avoids words implications of judgement and condemnation, and is rich with comfort and consolation to the troubled and wounded in today’s frantic world. For one commentator, Amoris Laetitia “speaks of inclusion and affirms the Gospel as a word spoken to all people in every circumstance as a source of hope.” [Daniel Ang – Diocese of Broken Bay]
Today is “Caring Sunday”, asking each of us to give attention to the aspect of care in our individual lives. Who cares for you? Who or what do you care for? What does being a “care-giver” really mean – is it the same as being a “care-taker”? “Pastoral care” is another term we hear quite often these days, along with “care of the environment”. What do they mean and where do these fit in your view of life?
In my understanding, the word “care” relates to gentleness, being considerate and the sharing of yourself. Someone who cares is someone who takes an interest, goes out of their way and gets into your way – not as a nuisance, but to support, to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.
Pope Francis identifies “care” with a beautiful but challenging image. He writes of the power of tenderness. [AL308] He reminds us of the shepherd who, when he finds the lost sheep, does not beat it or treat it roughly, but lifts it on his shoulders and carries it back to the flock. Tenderness enables mercy to flourish and, as a foundation of the Church’s life, ensures that the Church makes a place for everyone, with all their problems. [AL 309-310]
This Sunday’s parables are about discovering, or uncovering, hidden riches: treasure buried in a field; a rare and valuable pearl. Jesus uses them as images of the kingdom or reign of God, but they apply also to insights that come to us as life unfolds. Solomon found he was blessed with the gift of wisdom and this quality became the hallmark of his leadership. [1st Reading] The true significance of “caring” can likewise be something you “discover” or stumble across – like a carpenter friend of mine who had a poor view of those he called “do-gooders” until he was contracted to work at a hospice. The care he observed there changed not only his opinion but himself as a person. I found a treasure I didn’t know existed!” He now volunteers his gift of carpentry in his free time.
As you may know the parish published a family prayer book centred on Pope Francis’ writing on the Joy of Love. The prayers of young and not so young contributors have produced a book that puts “Caring” at the top of the agenda in family life. In caring, we celebrate, love, forgive, enjoy and praise God in all phases of living. It was a privilege to gather these prayers and experience their beauty. If you haven’t a copy of There’s a time for… it’s readily available! Responses from those who are using it tell me it is a “treasure” waiting to be discovered.
“The family…where we first learn to relate to others, to listen and share, to be patient and show respect, to help one another and live as one.” [AL 276]

GOOD AND NOT SO GOOD – WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT THEM!

GOOD AND NOT SO GOOD – WE CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT THEM!

HOMILY – 16th SUNDAY [A] 2017                                [Matthew 13: 24-33]

Fiona, our Lay Pastoral Leader, has shared an important insight in today’s newsletter: that the good, the bad and the ugly in each of us need not be a barrier to living with or loving ourselves.  My mother used to tell us there was a saint and a devil in every person and that she loved both.  She explained to our puzzled looks, that it was only by loving the devil that you got rid of him.  “Devils can’t stand love,” she would say.  “You kill them with love!”

Fiona’s insight and my mother’s home-spun philosophy fit well the parables of Jesus about the kingdom or reign or God.  Perfection escapes us in this life.  Success is always tempered by the realisation that I could have done better; reaching a goal only opens the path to another goal to strive for.  Complete satisfaction is an illusion.  So we must learn to live with incompletion – or at least appreciate that life does not always depend on everything going well.

In the story Jesus tells, good seed is planted but an enemy contaminates the field with “darnel”, which is described as a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat, making it hard to identify the good from the bad.  There is much here that’s helpful for our own life situations:  All relationships have to be worked at as we cope with differences of opinion, conflicting habits, understanding right from wrong and filtering out helpful from unhelpful advice.  We have to learn to live side by side with conflict, misunderstanding, and the fact that not everyone gets on with everyone else.

The servants wanted to weed out the offensive plants but the landowner told them to wait till the harvest.  It’ll be easier to tell the difference when the good seed has ripened.  This parable encourages us to live with our contradictions – just as last week’s Gospel encouraged us to live with uncertainty.

Last Thursday I was part of the first formal meeting of the New Zealand Roman Catholic/Lutheran Dialogue.  A small group came together to listen and learn; to study the history of our separation; to examine what keeps us apart and explore how what we hold in common can be further developed.  In recent years, the warming of relationships between Christian denominations and the opening up of pathways into each other’s camp, are perhaps showing us today’s Gospel parable in a new light.

500 years ago the Christian world found itself embroiled in argument and accusations that left it scattered and broken.  Over these five centuries this brokenness developed a life of its own, many offshoots resembling one another despite notable differences.  The opening up of dialogue and growing good will towards one another, could signal an approaching harvest where the goodness in each group allows the Spirit to help us in our weakness, enabling us to love the devil in us to death!

Waiting till the harvest is also a warning against making judgements about people.  How can we judge the actions or motivation of others when we so often struggle to understand or make sense of our own.  Realising the good and the bad are closely linked in my makeup, and that I cannot reach perfection before the harvest, can pave the way to tolerance and patience, the parents of kindness.

Treating one another with kindness may at first seem as powerless and pointless as a grain of wheat, a tiny seed or a piece of yeast – but what a harvest they bring!

 

SOWER AND SOIL – A PARTNERSHIP

SOWER AND SOIL – A PARTNERSHIP

HOMILY – 15th SUNDAY [A] 2017        [Matthew 13:1-23]

Some of the hillside on Ngauranga Gorge collapsed this week, blocking State Highway 1.  The Manawatu Gorge has been plagued by slips for years and now seems unlikely to ever reopen.  A medium size earthquake disturbed us on Monday morning, with a larger one near Invercargill.  The severe weather pattern with snow, wind and rain, has meant total chaos for much of the country.  There’s an air of uncertainty swirling around us these days; nationally and internationally, and not just with the weather.  We don’t like uncertainty; we’ve been conditioned by advertisers and salespeople to expect guarantees.

But we are being reminded more and more that we are tenants on this planet.  We don’t own it.  When the priest receives the bread and wine from you and places them on the altar table, he refers to them as fruit of the earth and work of human hands – an open reference to a partnership, a working and respectful relationship without which Earth would lie fallow and we would starve!  Whether we know it or not, acknowledge it or not, we are tied to each other and are one with Earth – our common home [Pope Francis].

Our bishops urge us to participate in the coming General Election; to get out and vote.  Their statement concerning the General Election in September lists a number of issues crucial to social well-being, such as cultural diversity, migration, housing and mental health.  Care of the environment is also listed and once again the emphasis is on the need to respect our habitat, our common home.  Election or not, we can sit back disinterested and uninvolved.

Today’s readings bring faith to the picture, securing God’s place centre stage.  The Hebrew prophet, Isaiah: linking the gifts of rain and snow to the word of God – equally necessary for life and harvest.  St Paul: the groaning of creation mirrors our own inner groaning for peace and fulfilment; freedom from chaos.  Then the section of Matthew’s Gospel: the powerful parable of Jesus about the  seed, scattered in many directions.  Some eaten by birds, some dried up by the sun, some choked by weeds, some surviving till harvest.

Throughout this grouping of scripture, the partnership between ourselves and Earth becomes increasingly clear and significant.  The seed needs to be sown for the soil and the rain to do their work, but has the sower been careful enough?  So much seed wasted on rocks, among thorns and on the edges of the field – places where it can’t grow.  The partnership collapses!  Perhaps the sower was in a hurry, anxious about another problem, or just lazy…  So much potential for good literally tossed away!

Where are you in this partnership scheme?  You might be making real efforts recycling or using less power or plastic; but are you applying the same care in your personal relationships at home or at work; and in your relationship with God? Are your simply going through the motions, doing the minimum, not bothering too much or distracted with your own concerns?

The care of our common home requires giving care to everything about us: looking after yourself and those who depend on you; then others who perhaps cannot properly care for themselves, and the wider world, the environment.  Quite a job!  You don’t have to do everything, but each one of us has to do something.  Otherwise the uncertainty just gets worse.  Make an effort this week to improve or heal a relationship in one area of your life – to ease the groaning of the earth, or the anxiety someone feels, to place yourself at the service of others or the community.  Be a sower who takes the work seriously, planting on good ground for a fruitful harvest.

HOMILY – 14TH SUNDAY [A] 2017

HOMILY – 14TH SUNDAY [A] 2017

Wellington city is often defined by reference to its harbour – and rightly so!  Every day this spread of water presents us with a different colour or mood as wind or rain disturbs the surface.  The sea sparkles in sunlight and takes up a sombre tone on cloudy days.  The harbour influences the life of the city in quite spectacular ways.

Given this influence, and the fact that we are a nation isolated by and dependent on the sea, it’s appropriate that we pause in our worship to remember and pray for seafarers and others who make their living from the sea.  Theirs is often a lonely and dangerous life, the vastness of the sea unpredictable in its temper, exposed and vulnerable to nature’s wiles and mysteries.

Sound carries across water and Jesus often preached from a fishing boat off the shore of Lake Galilee.  Perhaps his reassuring words in today’s Gospel that we would find rest and peace in his company, were first heard across the “gentle and humble” lapping of the water playing with the shore!  Many of the apostles were fishermen, and a fish became an early symbol of Eucharist.  So, it’s not surprising that the Church has been described as a ship, with Peter as the helmsman.

The image hit home hard this week as the ugly spectre of child abuse by clergy raised its head again.  Australia’s Cardinal George Pell is returning from Rome to face historical abuse charges and the barque of Peter finds itself in stormy waters.  As Catholics we are stunned and embarrassed by this news.  Hurt and anger may cause some to leave the ship; others might question whether the Church is the Titanic and how big is the iceberg we’ve just hit.

No matter the outcome, our ship will have to ride out some heavy seas before it comes in sight of a safe harbour.  We must pray sincerely for our helmsman, Pope Francis, that he will continue to stand resolutely against the wind of criticism and unfaithfulness.  We need to look carefully at our own position: am I helping to steady the boat or is my attitude contributing to its instability?  Do I have a sailor’s pride in our ship, or am I half-hearted, not fully committed?

Statistically, the Church is not the worst offender in the world-wide sex abuse scandal, but the Church is a huge promoter and defender of moral values making her fall from grace the more terrible.  Even the hint of immoral behaviour in the Church, true or false, harms and scars the body of Christ.

It’s the pattern of every life that tragedy and disappointment, heartbreak and loss weave their way into excitement and gladness, contentment and success.  Our human ups and downs closely resemble the playful and dangerous ways of the sea.  The expression “making waves” indicates our ability to cause trouble can be very deliberate.  The sea is merciless to the foolish.

Rejoice, heart and soul…Shout with gladness – This is the cry of Zechariah in the face of hardship and opposition.  It’s our first reading today and echoes the constant theme of Jesus not to be afraid, not to lose confidence in him.  We stumble and fall; our humanity is prone to weakness, even betrayal.  But the victory is assured if we follow the way of the Spirit of God living in us [2nd Reading].

Today we pray for seafarers, for their protection from stormy seas and human exploitation.  And we pray for ourselves as people of faith and hope, travelling the sea of life in the ship of Peter: heal our wounds merciful God; keep us sea-worthy, help us find rest for our souls.

HOMILY – ORDINATION ANNIVERSARY, 2 JULY 2017 – 13th Sunday [A]

HOMILY – ORDINATION ANNIVERSARY, 2 JULY 2017 – 13th Sunday [A]

As the seminary opened its gates to release a batch of students ready for ordination mid-1967, the Beatles were well on the way to converting the world to their unique brand of music.  I began my ministry to the beat of their hit single, All You Need Is Love.  It seemed a great anthem for a new priest in the immediate post-Vatican II environment.

In the exciting glow of that amazing Council, signalling long-awaited reforms within our Church, I was convinced that all I needed was love and everything else would take care of itself.  The Second Vatican Council opened doors and windows to the world, asking Catholics to engage confidently with other Christians and with issues that concerned people generally.  There were to be changes in the way we celebrated Mass; the priest would face the people for the entire liturgy, and English was to replace Latin so that everyone could understand and participate.

I found these changes exhilarating and did not appreciate till much later the anxiety and troubled conscience they meant for many of the older priests and parishioners.  Another song came to haunt my priesthood.  One of the early rock-operas explored the personality of Jesus:  Jesus Christ Superstar!  The song of Mary Magdalen, I Don’t Know How To Love Him, pushed me back to reality.  It was easy to love Jesus in the security and protection of the seminary, but in the cut and thrust of parish life, beyond the hype of change and novelty, meeting the pain that people carry in broken relationships, terminal illness, anxiety and grief, did I really know how to love him?

A personal wakeup came in a Retreat in the early 80s, and it centred on today’s second reading [Rom 6:3-4].  When I was baptised in Christ Jesus, I was baptised in his death!  How could I not encounter suffering, or have doubts, or become disillusioned?  Jesus endured all this, and more.  Unless I entered his death how could I expect to enter his resurrection?  Soon after the Retreat a third song made its mark on me: one of Andrew Lloyd Weber’s: Love Changes Everything.  There have been other songs since, but this is the one that helped cement my priesthood in the lives of the people I served.

When God told Adam, It is not good for man to be alone, he wasn’t just referring to the partnership of marriage.  God was pointing out the inescapable fact that no one can exist alone.  We are made for community; we need others in our life.  A priest cannot be a priest just for himself; his priesthood only grows and matures and makes sense in relationship with those to whom he is sent.  It is the love he meets in this relationship that changes everything.

It took me a long while to understand that this love does not exclude affection for family and friends but enriches them.  The cross of Jesus is only a burden to those who limit their love to themselves.  By “losing” or “sinking” your life into the life of Jesus, you discover yourself constantly renewed and refreshed.  As the prophet Elisha [1st Reading] gifted the couple who befriended him with new life, all your giving, and all my giving, far from depleting our resources, will open new avenues, new wonders.

The Beatles told me All You Need Is Love!  But it took a while for me to see that truth.  I first had to learn what love really meant.  I stumbled a few times trying to follow the footsteps of Jesus, and I reacted with I Don’t Know How To Love Him.  My family, and my friends in and outside the parishes I’ve served, have shown me Love Changes Everything – not in the sense of altering, but transforming – enabling me to recognise my faults, value my gifts, and honour my priesthood.  In the end, love IS all you need.  For whatever part you’ve played in my 50 years, I bless and thank you.  You are my life, my treasure.