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HOMILY – 1 LENT [B] 2018

The Winter Olympics in South Korea is the current sporting phenomenon.  The Commonwealth Games in Queensland will be up next.  Back home, the Halberg Awards last week championed local high achievers in various sporting codes.  We admire the talent and applaud the commitment and discipline that gets people to the top of their game.  We know that success in any area of life does not come easy and is never guaranteed.

With this in mind we place ourselves once again in the arena of Lent – the training camp for Christian life.  There are six weeks ahead of us, offering space and opportunity to toughen up our spiritual lives, to become stronger and more reliable witnesses of the faith we profess.  The strength of one contributes to the strength of all.  Our whole community stands to benefit from each of us putting serious effort into this season of Lent.

Today’s readings evoke the image of baptism, the water that washed us in the name of our God and the promise of God to stay with us.  The desert experience of Jesus readies him for mission while reminding us not to forget or neglect the waters of life.  The training camp of Lent invites us to take the plunge anew and immerse ourselves in the mission to bring the healing that comes with forgiveness, peace, joy and hope into our world.

That’s what I ask you to occupy yourself with over these six weeks.  Begin the process now.  We’ll give ourselves four separate spaces, silently reflecting on how we might prepare ourselves to bring:  forgiveness, peace, joy, hope…

Forgiveness…  How good am I at forgiving?  What would make me better?

Peace…  What sort of peacemaker am I?  How might I improve?

Joy…  What joy do I feel in my life?  How can I bring joy into someone’s life?

Hope…  what do I find most hopeful about life?  How can I hold and share that hope?                                                                              God Bless our Lent!

The Cathedral Connection 18 February 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.


 ONCE AGAIN Lent is with us. From a time when the emphasis was on “giving up” and “making sacrifices”, we are now asked to see this graced season as an opportunity to improve ourselves and our relationships by

  • deepening our awareness of what it means to be a Catholic Christian in the 21st century;
  • examining our personal relationship with God, self, others and creation;
  • looking beyond our own needs to help alleviate suffering and hardship elsewhere.

Reaching these goals can be helped by taking time for quiet reflection or meditation and/or joining one of the archdiocesan adult education programmes. The Caritas Lenten initiatives open paths to developing faith and becoming more alert to the ways in which faith can be put into action.

The ash that signals the beginning of Lent is the banner that champions change.  It can make winners of us all.

Fr James


Burned palms
Echoes of triumph
Trampled underfoot
Squashed into ash

Smeared on foreheads
Lifted up for blessing
Hopeful new beginnings
With the sign of the

Runners on the mark
And forty days ahead
Ash defies the critics
Signalling glory
Going for gold

 The full newsletter can be viewed here.



HOMILY – 5th SUNDAY [B] 2018            [Job 7:1-4,6-7; Mark 1:29-39]

After all the hot weather of past weeks, a weather report announcing a depression settling over the country bringing lots of rain was very welcome.  Getting the tail end of a cyclone as well, was a bit too much!

But there’s a “Depression” we dare not welcome – the kind that is already among us, attacking healthy bodies, personalities and whole families.  This depression that has so many people on medication has been defined as a silent killer, the slow erosion of self. Today’s Dom/P front page – mental health services crumbling under enormous demand.  –  A person wrote of depression that, “It corners you at night or when you’re all alone and slowly eats away at any shred of happiness it can find.”

The cry of Job [1st Reading] is from one very depressed person.  Grief and sadness is all that he knows and laments, my life is but a breath, and my eyes will never again see joy.  You probably know someone like that, perhaps more than one: people who can see nothing but problems, who have nothing good to say about anyone, or who feel they have nothing to show for their life…

Another recent news item told of people who use public transport as though there was no one else with them.  A crowded bus in total silence.  No conversation, no eye contact, sitting so as not to touch the person next to you!  Headphones and cell phones signalling “keep away and don’t disturb me”!  The article suggested that, while we might be quite comfortable in that situation, isolating ourselves and block out awareness of others, could affect the ability to socialise and contribute to depression. – Yesterday (Saturday) the Pastoral Council and Parish Leadership team met to explore ways to encourage community growth during this year. Last year’s Archdiocesan Synod provided plenty of material, echoing Pope Francis’ call

to move outside the known and the comfortable, to take the message of the gospel into our social networks, people we work with and the society of which we are a part.  Our PPC has picked up on this and will assist the parish to develop a spirituality of service which will make possible a “reaching out” by individual parishioners – you and I – to bring others an appreciation of Christ.

As New Zealand continues towards becoming the most secular country, as individual rights become less and less linked to personal responsibility, as faith-based education gets swallowed up in a climate favouring no religion, the gospel message is either politely ignored or openly ridiculed.

People crowded round Jesus when they heard how he welcomed people, bringing healing to their lives through his listening ear and gentle touch.  They couldn’t get enough of him because he gave everyone a sense of being valued, of having something to offer.  Depression can’t defeat such an attitude.

Two Sunday’s ago, I mentioned the British Parliament’s initiative in setting up a Ministry of Loneliness – one of the primary sources of depression.  In the current euthanasia debate, we should not be surprised to see loneliness feature as an incentive driving people to want their life to end.  Our PPC aims to equip each of with the incentive to turn the tables, by being proactive in helping people feel good about themselves, wanted for themselves.

The newsletter item inviting your involvement in assisting a new group of refugees settle among us, is a most practical way of beginning that process.  Jesus came that we may have life.  There should be no “Jobs” among us, feeling they’re on the scrapheap!  We are children of a loving, merciful God who wants nothing but our happiness.  Live that belief and see the difference.

The Cathedral Connection 4 February 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Dear Parishioners

The sadness and disappointment many of you expressed at the news that our Lay Pastoral Leader, Fiona Rammell, was leaving us next month, match my own reaction. Although she has been with us less than a year, without the opportunity to cover every parish situation, she has had a most positive influence and our partnership in ministry showed great promise. Fiona will continue to assist until mid-February when the Parish will bid her farewell.

We are fortunate, however, that Cardinal John is providing us with another Lay Pastoral Leader. Debbie Matheson will join us in March. Most recently she has been Consultant in the Parish Leadership Ministries for the Archdiocese and comes from Plimmerton Parish. Some will already know Debbie through contact with the Catholic Centre and in Stewardship workshops. She will be a welcome addition to our pastoral team and, like Fiona, will bring her love of people and commitment to the Gospel to her service among us. Cardinal John will Commission Debbie at the 5.30pm Vigil Mass on Saturday 7 April.

We must not underestimate the privilege that is ours to have this assistance. Lay Pastoral Leaders have received spiritual and academic formation over several years to equip them for leadership roles in parishes. They are commissioned to administer a parish in the absence of a priest, and to serve as partners with priests in every aspect of pastoral care. Every parish contributes to their financial support, even though they serve in only a few parishes.

As I have some health issues to deal with this year and am approaching the retirement phase of my priesthood, Debbie’s appointment is a wonderful blessing. I know you will welcome her as you did Fiona, and as I certainly do.

Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.



HOMILY – 3rd Sunday [B] – 2018                       [Jonah 3:1-5,10; Mark 1:14-20]

As a society, New Zealanders are worried about the high rate of suicide, notably among our youth – but also among farmers facing economic ruin.  How terrible to judge the only way out of your trouble is to kill yourself. Historically, society has regarded suicide as an offence against the community, emphasising no one has the right to decide when and how to end their life.

David Seymour’s “End of Life Choice Bill” now before Parliament and the public, lifts dying to another level.  It tells me that I do have a right to decide when I will die and, if I can’t make it happen on my own then I will also have a right to get someone else to help me.  But that person will have to be a “medical practitioner”, someone who has spent years training to be able to help me live.  Conflict of interest and of conscience meet in a state sponsored Bill that, if passed, will allow that medical practitioner to intentionally kill me.

With my permission, of course!  But how that permission is obtained, and how competent I might be to give my permission are very murky areas.  And should society be encouraging its members to drop out when the going gets too tough?  The proponents of the End of Life Choice Bill, are no doubt well intentioned, providing for a situation where a person can ask to have their death hastened when their suffering becomes intolerable.  But need it be?

An unexpected news item this week announced the appointment by the British government of a “Minister for Loneliness”.  It’s in response to a report finding that as many as nine million Britons are often or always lonely.  NZ has no plans to do anything similar – but think what loneliness does to a person: it cuts you off, isolates you, affects your identity, you’re in the way, valueless.

The elderly left and forgotten in a Rest Home; the disabled or deeply troubled, left to fend for themselves…  Without family, friends, or any quality company; when you can’t see more to life, it would be so easy to choose to die; with no one to help you understand your sickness, live with you through it, or help you harness it and make it work for you, then why wouldn’t you ask for help to die?

I have been with many people struggling with the news that there is no treatment for their sickness, and I have witnessed remarkable transformations as people seemingly without hope have responded to the care of those committed to helping them see more to life make the most of remaining time.

The Hospice Movement is an essential component of this kind of care, offering not only pain relief, but emotional, personal and spiritual support to every member of the family – ensuring the sick person can live well until death.  We should be taking loneliness more seriously.  I’m sure it features in making the end of life feel like the only choice.  Great public education and more resources in hospice care could make the End of Life Choice Bill unnecessary.

If we’re worried about suicide, we should be even more worried about everyone having a legal right to decide when they will die.  Over time such a right will become easy to manipulate and difficult to control.

Jonah was sent on a mission to help the people of Nineveh turn their lives around – to see more than self, and recover their sense of community.  Jesus called his first followers to a similar mission.  As fisherfolk they knew the importance of working together; they were to put those skills into building a community where the care of one another took priority.

To care is to love, and everyone responds to genuine, unselfish love – especially the sick, even someone who seems to be beyond reach, unresponsive.  None of us really wants to die.  Love helps us live beyond death.