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The Cathedral Connection 1 April 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Dear Parishioners and visitors to our Cathedral,

The first Easter dawned under a cloud of betrayal and great loss.  During the week we now call “Holy Week”, nerves cracked and courage failed and, in moments of great fear and panic, friendship was forgotten.  Those closest to Jesus found their loyalty strained to the limit.  At his arrest they abandoned him and fled.

None of us is free of guilt when we consider our personal faithfulness to the way of Jesus.  Not one of us is perfect enough to cast the first stone.  How come, then, that those same cowardly and unreliable followers of Jesus became the strong, dependable foundation stones of the Christian community?  Because the death of Jesus was not the end of Jesus!  The discovery of the empty tomb was the beginning of an undying hope – and you and I have inherited that same hope.  The memory of his love linked the hope of life with the hope of forgiveness, making renewal possible.

May you know in your heart that Easter is the realisation that every act of love {and every loving action, word or gesture} is a further and constant witness TO love and to the life love brings.  We are never more alive than when we are loving.  It’s love that heals relationships, forgives hurts and enables personal growth.  It’s also love that lets us die to ourselves so that others might feel life in themselves – and this kind of dying actually enhances your own life.

The resurrection of Jesus tells us we can never be so lost, or so afraid, so disappointed or disillusioned, so alone or so troubled, that we are beyond the reach of God – or that we are beyond discovering, or re-discovering, the wonderful peace that is not only in the name of Jesus but in every word that comes from his lips: life-giving words from a self-giving love – given, for the life of the world.

Happy Easter – everyone. Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SHARE JESUS

DO YOU REALLY WANT TO SHARE JESUS

HOMILY – 5 LENT [B] 2018

Did you hear the warning this week about the threat of plastic bags to marine life? Apparently, if nothing’s done to clean up the mess, by 2050 the weight of plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh all the fish!

News like this fuels the “carbon footprint” argument that we humans are polluting the earth at an intolerable rate, to the point where numbers of young people are increasingly pessimistic about the future. They feel their presence only adds to the problem, and that they shouldn’t have been born.

An appropriate thought for this stage of Lent. There’s a sense of foreboding in the words of Jesus as he speaks of the dark times ahead – giving us the image of the wheat grain that must die in the darkness and isolation of the soil, if it’s ever to find its fulfilment in harvest.

What starts as a negative – death of the seed – is shown to have positive results – a great harvest. Life, death, life flow in a natural rhythm. There’s confusion when some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Their request catches the apostles unprepared and they have to consult before they pass these newcomers on to Jesus: did he mean his message for Greeks? Didn’t they have their own religion? What are they up to? Can they be trusted?

I think the challenge to the apostles was, did they want to share Jesus? They had a tight little group. Racially and culturally they were united. Let’s keep it that way! None of us want to lose what we value. Those who feel they’re contributing to global warming and other pollution simply because they’re alive, don’t really want to die – they’re caught by their sense of helplessness in the face of global problems beyond their influence or control. The apostles, and you and I who follow Jesus, can feel comfortable in the ritual and practice we know and appreciate, and want to keep things that way. But also like the apostles, we must see ourselves as seeds, sent to be sown – buried alive, not dead! To quote Mahatma Gandhi: To find yourself you have to lose yourself, and when you lose yourself you find yourself fulfilled.

The “positive” to all this appears if you remove concern about the “footprint” you might be leaving on the ecosystem, and look at what your hands can do: weeding, planting, reaping, harvesting, embracing, comforting, holding, affirming… It is the work of human hands that we lift to God, that meet the requirements of the partnership role we’ve each been given. If my footprint scars the earth and stamps out life, my handprint can hold and heal and join me more firmly to life.

God speaks to our hearts – our instincts and feelings. Intellect and intelligence are not God’s primary concern. Jeremiah (1st Reading: J 31:31-34) makes this clear – I will plant my law, writing it on their hearts – and they will be my people and I will be their God. It’s our experience of love – the realm of the heart – that directs faith and motivates the desire to belong and to contribute.

Our throwaway world, symbolised by plastic, threatens life because it doesn’t care. By learning to read the law written on your heart, any hesitation to serve and to give disappears, because you discover a community with so many others. Heart and hand together guarantee sowing and reaping, helping those fearful of tomorrow to be convinced they can make something of today.

BECOME THE LIGHT

HOMILY – 4 LENT [B] 2018

I went into a room to get something during the week and then couldn’t remember what I was going to get. I did remember a few minutes later and went back and got it! The situation fitted perfectly something I heard not so long ago – that when older people go into a room, forget what they came for and have to go back later, it’s God’s way of making sure older people get exercise!

But, of course, we all have moments of forgetfulness, and moments of discovery.

Anyone who searches begins with a sense of loss – of not being able to find something, or of knowing something’s missing but perhaps not being able to say exactly what it is. The loss creates a gap that’s quickly filled with darkness. Maybe you’re floundering round over some puzzle or trying to understand someone’s motivation for a certain action… When the answer comes you’re likely to say, How could I not see it? How could I have been so blind?

The biggest loss, the one that hurts the most, is the loss that death creates. A loved one dies and you feel no light could ever pierce the darkness that surrounds and smothers you. The loss of a loved one is, in many ways, the loss of yourself.

People drawn to search for faith do not all search in the dark. Some have light to guide them. They know their life means something; they can see faith in others – and that can often cause them to seek faith for themselves. They know their life could be more fulfilled and they seek a stronger connection with a community of believers. Some seekers have come to recognize the darkness they’ve been living in for the emptiness it really is. They’ve mistaken the dark for light, believing the myth that the more you can make, the more you possess, the more powerful or independent you are, the happier you will be; or, the least responsibility you accept the freer you will be to enjoy life. That’s the cruelest darkness; it lets you pretend.

Nicodemus chose the dark of night to meet with Jesus. He was afraid and embarrassed to be seen with him. But Jesus shared with him the heart of his message -that God so loved the world that he gave his only son – and those who believe in him will have eternal life! Jesus’ mission was not to condemn or destroy but to affirm and build up. He did not come to make us feel guilty but to discover the freedom that forgiveness brings, the joy of friendship and the happiness of working together – being community.

Those who come to faith come along paths unique to themselves, and they join a community equally diverse. But they feel they have arrived home, just like Nicodemus, comfortable with themselves…

 

The only way to defeat the dark is to become the light. – Walt Disney film: The Wrinkle Line

The Cathedral Connection 11 March 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

WATER – LIGHT – LIFE

Last Sunday, seven adults and two children were welcomed into our community in preparation for their baptism at Easter. The adults have been meeting regularly with a small group of parishioners since last September, praying, studying and discussing about all things relating to Christianity and our Catholic tradition. The process is known as the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA).

Their formal introduction to the community included an anointing with the Oil of Catechumens, consecrating them to the Lord and commending them to the prayerful support of the whole parish. This happened at the 5.30pm Vigil and 10.30am Masses and in the context of Chapter Four of St John’s Gospel – the account of Jesus’ meeting with the woman at the well.

The theme of Water calls attention to baptism; the “spring of living water” offered by Jesus sparking a transformation in the woman. She becomes the first “missionary”, eager to tell others what she has found in Jesus. This Sunday (11th) and the next, our “Catechumens” will deepen their connection with Jesus through the themes of Light (John, Chapter Eight) and Life (John, 11). They will affirm their commitment to the Creed and will be presented with The Lord’s Prayer as their anthem and link with the Christian family.

Water, Light and Life are images most closely associated with the message of Jesus Christ. As they help pilot the journey of those soon to be baptised they offer refreshment and renewal to those ahead on the road. Pause and take stock of your response to the call to have “life in its fullness”.

Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

THIRST QUENCHING

THIRST QUENCHING

HOMILY – 3 Lent – John, Chapter 4

Recent storms have literally muddied the waters in parts of Taranaki, making clean water very scarce.  Public interest in the situation rose considerably when the news broke that at least one McDonald’s fast food outlet had to close its doors because of the shortage.  They couldn’t cook the chicken properly!

Water features in today’s readings – chosen especially as part of welcoming the adults who will be baptized at Easter – and emphasis, especially in the gospel is on being thirsty.  The story opens with Jesus admitting his thirst.  God thirsts for us even before we know what our thirst is all about.  The scriptures tell us that God has loved us with an everlasting love but, with the patience of a true lover, waits for us to come to the well.  What we think will satisfy us, meet our needs, make us happy and fulfilled – can never complete us more than our union with God, the source of living water.

In her conversation with Jesus, the woman discovers she is tasting the waters of rebirth, and feeling herself renewed and refreshed she has to tell others.  In the gospels she becomes the first missionary – the first convert.  Come and see the one who told me everything I ever did – who opened my eyes to the emptiness of my life and who filled it up to overflowing with the water of his truth, his love, his peace.  Jesus never gets the drink of water he asked for, but finds his thirst quenched in the woman’s openness to change; and she leaves her water jar behind – her own thirst quenched in in a way she never dreamed.

This story is not just for those preparing for baptism – it’s for all of us who’ve been baptized; a wake-up call to the gift we’ve been given.  If there is still yearning within you for completion; if you still thirst to feel fulfilled, then you should look more closely at the “well” you’re using.  The water may be muddied, even stagnant.  Rediscover the power of the “living water” of your baptism – and let others see what your union with God really means.

Water, whether the lack of it or too much, is always news.  We carry bottles of water to work and to school.  We know its value for life and we happily pay for it.  The only ones happy just now, with water in short supply, are McDonald’s chickens!  When Jesus says the water he brings is a free gift that will flow like a river within you, carrying you to eternal life, why would you not open your heart and drink as deeply as you could?