Tag Archives: Homily

THE WAY TO A QUIET HEART

THE WAY TO A QUIET HEART

HOMILY – 2 ADVENT [B] 2017                                      [Mark 1:1-8]

Last Tuesday I joined other priests from the archdiocese for an Advent Retreat Day.  As part of the reflection we were asked to consider what we each find most life-giving on a daily basis, and also what we find as non-life-giving.  In other words, what inspires and encourages me and what threatens or discourages or holds back my life.

That’s not a difficult task, but if you’re serious about wanting to know yourself better then you can quickly feel challenged as the image you have of yourself gets peeled away by some honest soul-searching.  For any of us, what gives us life is what enable us to have and hold inner peace, and anything that disturbs or damages that peace does not contribute to life.  When you start probing your own motivation and experience, things can get a bit scary.

As we enter the second week of Advent, the readings call us to get rid of whatever blocks the way to a quiet heart.  There are two barriers that stand in our way: the time barrier that denies access to quietness and rest, pushing an exhausting pace; and the independent barrier that traps us into thinking that no one matters more than me – that my comfort, my opinion, my rights must always take priority.  Neither barriers lead to peace.

There’s a beautiful and tender intimacy in the prophet Isaiah’s description of God reaching out to the world, to console, to hold close, to reassure and to calm fears.  Like a shepherd feeding the flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.  We warm to such an image.  It’s affection, love, concern and caring unselfish attention that inspire confidence and trust, and through which we find peace.

A tv commercial has children saying what they would like for Christmas.

Many toys are requested, but then a little girl in hospital says, what I want for Christmas is to be able to go home.  To be at home for Christmas is another image that speaks to us of peace and comfort, being known and loved for myself.  Life doesn’t get better than when you’re at home with yourself.

There’s a new word in the building industry: deconstruction.  We see it in action close by as the Defence HQ building is carefully taken down; not pummelled and pulverised but carefully and painstakingly removed.  Making a straight path for the Lord, filling in valleys and levelling the hills, creating space for peace, is an exercise in de-construction.  The pressure of time and the social emphasis on independence are barriers that cannot be crushed overnight, but Advent invites us to think about priorities, to reach inward to reconnect with the loving, gentle shepherd, and to reach outward to touch whatever needs healing with an active concern to make things better, to be life-giving in every conversation and every contact with others.

Little by little you can de-construct what is not life-giving for you, enabling re-construction to be better planned, longer lasting… [Reconciliation opportunity]

One of the things that gives me life is my contact with people – with you – and the life you so generously share with me   What do I find non-life-giving? : my own lack of patience and the pettiness, that can so quickly create a problem out of nothing.  For me and for you there are many barriers eager to block the path to inner peace, to a fullness of life.  Don’t let Advent disappear without at least beginning the de-construction process.

Free the shepherd in you to show that your ability to care is much wider than the narrow band of self-interest.  With the barrier to inner peace overcome there’ll be nothing to hold you back from being home for Christmas.

CHANGE – AND WHAT IT BRINGS

CHANGE – AND WHAT IT BRINGS

HOMILY – ADVENT 1 [B] – 2017

If there is anything certain in life it is that nothing stays the same.  And the only certain thing about change is that it’s rarely easy.  We like what we’re comfortable with; we prefer to hold on to what’s familiar.  We’ve had a change of government; since Friday we are officially in Summer, and in worship we have changed to the season of Advent.  We Catholics have been experiencing change over the last 50 years at a greater rate than ever before – in the way we relate to other Christians and, more recently – with changes in the words of the Mass, the resignation of a Pope and the election of the first Pope from the Southern Hemisphere who, in four years has made unprecedented and good changes to the public image of the Church.  And now, this weekend, we start preparing for a change in our own parish leadership.

Change and life go hand in hand; always have, always will.  We feel it more acutely though when we find ourselves in the middle of it – and that’s exactly where we are.  In our country and in much of the so-called Western world there just aren’t enough priests to go around.  Yet, the Eucharist is our “bread and butter”; we can’t live without it. Perhaps we’ve had it too easy and are not equipped to cope when our multiple choices are suddenly reduced.

A change in Fiona’s family circumstances is forcing her to step aside from her role with us as Lay Pastoral Leader at the end of January.  I shall greatly miss her, and so will those of you who have witnessed her involvement in parish and school management these last few months.  My own personal circumstances are also changing and I accept that the administration side of parish life is demanding more than I can give.  As outlined in today’s newsletter, the time has come to prepare for new leadership at Sacred Heart. This will require patience, understanding and good will – from me, from all of us.

These same qualities for the basis for the season of Advent.  Today’s readings guide us into the advent season with indications that our approach to Christmas needs to be accompanied by change – a change of heart, a change of pace – if we’re to gain any value from the celebration.  Recognizing our dependence on God, as the clay needs the hands of the potter; acknowledging our need of one another, from an awareness that none of us can find happiness alone; knowing that we must wait for the Lord, so difficult in an age that expects and demands instant replies to electronic messaging, and instant solutions to problems.  All this signals that change is unavoidable if I am not to be swamped and battered by my own pride that requires me to be independent, self-sufficient, needing no one.

While Fiona will leave us at the end of January, my own situation will probably not change till mid-year.  Hopefully we will have another Lay Pastoral Leader early in the year and my transition to what is more appropriate to priestly ministry as opposed to administration will not greatly impact on your pastoral care.

As you and I adjust to these changes, my prayer is that we will give priority to sensitivity and respect – along with patience, understanding and good will – recognizing that this is exactly the way we should approach Christmas – sensitivity and respect – not because a baby is born in a manger but because God chooses to come among us as one of us; the Potter coming to breathe life into the clay: and bringing about the greatest change of all!

NOTHING PRIVATE ABOUT COMMUNION

NOTHING PRIVATE ABOUT COMMUNION

HOMILY – CHRIST THE KING – 26 November 2017             [Matthew 25: 31-46]

Through this month we’ve been honouring our departed loved ones.  Of course our memory of them is not confined to just one month.  They’re never far from our thoughts or our conversation.  There is, deep with us, a feeling that identifies with those we love; when they suffer we suffer with them, and when they die I sense that something inside of me has died as well.

This weekend 17 children celebrate their First Communion – another occasion easy to identify with.  People say, I see these children and I see myself on my First Communion day.  It’s a graphic reminder of a significant moment in our faith journey and a powerful example of how we see ourselves in others.  This feast of Christ the King brings this out with remarkable intimacy.

Jesus identifies with people in any kind of need: the sick, the homeless, prisoners, those empty of food or hope, the unloved and the unwanted.  These are the ones whose circumstances hold them in a deprived, powerless state, unable to thrive.  Their human dignity damaged, their connection with others severed or severely weakened, they exist rather than live.

Last Sunday was the first World Day of the Poor, and in choosing the date Pope Francis was promoting a link with today’s festival of Christ the King who came to bring good news to the poor.  By stepping into our human existence, Jesus offers a life-line: a way to reconnect, to re-identify – to rediscover the wonder of who we are.  What a great gift to be able to offer – restoring dignity, recognizing uniqueness.  I was hungry and you …; I was sick and you …!  We miss someone because part of us goes with them; helping someone can lift our spirits because, in a real sense, we’re helping ourselves.

Pope Francis provides a very helpful insight when he asks us to see the “Our Father” as the prayer of the poor.  He says: Our asking for bread expresses our entrustment to God for our basic needs in life.  Everything that Jesus taught us in this prayer expresses and brings together the cry of all who suffer from life’s uncertainties and the lack of what they need.

The Eucharist is our gateway to the Bread of Life, but entry is conditional on our being consciously aware that we are with others – connected and committed to serving one another.  The action of receiving Communion is not private or personal.  When the Host is placed in your hand or on your tongue, you are receiving not just the Risen Christ, but everyone with whom he identifies – especially those who for whatever reason feel inadequate, lost, afraid or useless.  These are the ones you embrace in your Communion with Jesus; this is the death Paul writes about [2nd Reading] – you lose yourself in them and you find yourself in the presence of Jesus.  –  Yes, we rejoice with our children on their First Communion Day.  We are proud of them and glad for them.  And we see ourselves in them.

But we must also be prepared to help them grow to understand that the real wonder of the Eucharist takes effect when it draws us into situations of need, where we become a listening ear or a forgiving heart, a welcoming word or a loving smile.  We must let our Communion open us to the brokenness or hurt, suffering or rejection that lies in our path, or within ourselves, every day – that’s where the Eucharist ceases to be mystery and becomes PRESENCE.

Just as our beloved dead remain present to us, because they are part of us, Jesus comes to us in the form of food – identifying with something everyone needs for life, drawing us into one another’s company that we might in turn identify with him, his presence and his purpose, to love and to serve.

CELEBRATING POVERTY

CELEBRATING POVERTY

HOMILY – 33rd SUNDAY [A] 2017

Pope Francis chose this Sunday for the first World Day of the Poor, because it is followed next week by the festival of Christ the King, whose purpose in coming was to bring good news to the poor, give the blind new sight, to set the downtrodden free.  So, today, we remind ourselves of this mission, renew our stand against all forms of poverty, and say YES to the call of Jesus to be part of his reign.  This will mean, of course, recognising our own poverty before God.

Our Archbishop, Cardinal John, has prepared a presentation on can be viewed through the link provided.  In it he asks us to approach poverty in its widest sense – realising that we are all poor without the gifts with which God blesses us.  These are found in the earth and atmosphere that support life.  They belong to everyone.  Living justly and lovingly, destroying meanness with kindness and prejudice with friendship, are the surest ways of making everyone rich.

Perfection, as the Book of Proverbs, claims, is unattainable if your concern is only for yourself.  The reading speaks of the perfect wife, but it applies to everyone: She holds out her hand to the poor, she opens her arms to the needy…  This concern for others comes from awareness that we cannot survive on our own.  We are connected to all life, including earth, sea and sky.  When those bonds are broken, poverty is released to cripple and scar relationships.

The parable of the talents tells us that whatever we’re given, however little, is not meant for us alone.  Our gifts are on loan, to be grown and developed for the good of all creation.  Letting them lie fallow contributes nothing to growth and only invites decay.  As you listen to Cardinal John’s presentation and watch the scenes illustrating the message, identify in your heart the gifts that are yours, and think how quickly and positively you might respond.

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.