Category Archives: Homilies

SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS – A CELEBRATION OF HOPE

SOMEDAY AT CHRISTMAS – A CELEBRATION OF HOPE

HOMILY – 4 ADVENT [C] 2018

Radio cricket commentators talk a lot.  They have to.  There is no place for silence on radio; no pictures to fill any gaps.  Even so, the constant cricket talk got to me on Monday and I switched programmes.  I think I was meant to, because there was an interview with a Year 12 Papatoetoe High School student, Silika Isaia.  This very talented singer had been invited to perform a Christmas song and she chose a Stevie Wonder composition, Someday at Christmas.

Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys
Playing with bombs like kids play with toys
One warm December our hearts will see
a world where people are free.

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no wars
When we have learned what Christmas is for
When we have found what life’s really worth
There’ll be peace on earth.

Someday all our dreams will come to be
Someday in a world where people are free
Maybe not in time for you and me
But someday at Christmas time.
 
 Our first reading names the place where the promised One would be born: Bethlehem.  It’s the prophecy later quoted to Herod when he heard there were royal visitors looking for the new born King of the Jews.  It terrified him that he might have a rival.  Bethlehem was not a name that gave him hope.  Herod is that part of each of us that puts self on the top shelf.  Nothing and no one can get in the way.

The gospel gives us the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth – a picture of calm celebration, despite it being for them a time of deep uncertainty.  Mary is still grappling with the circumstances of her pregnancy; the hill country she travels through does not guarantee safety.  Yet her concern for her elder cousin, together with her dignity and faith, has Elizabeth proclaiming: Of all women you are the most blessed.  –  a proclamation of hope.

Someday at Christmas man will not have failed
Hate will be gone and love will prevail
There’ll be a new world that we can start
With hope in every heart.

Someday at Christmas there’ll be no tears
When all people are equal and none have fears
One shining moment, one prayer away
From our world today.

Is what we are yearning for – peace and togetherness – is it just a prayer away?  Then what’s stopping us?

Mary, Elizabeth and the others we meet in the Christmas story were very ordinary people, but they show a deep level of trust – and a willingness to accept what for the moment doesn’t make much sense – that impels them well beyond their individual talents.

The cricket was washed out, but Christmas stays through all weathers, giving us chance after chance.  There is wonder and hope in this most incredible story: the God of all creation becoming one of us!  Just as every birth rekindles hope in humanity, every Christmas tells us that the world is not lost, and neither are we.

Hold that hope.  Someday at Christmas…

CHRISTMAS MEETS OUR HUMAN HUNGER

CHRISTMAS MEETS OUR HUMAN HUNGER

HOMILY – 3rd SUNDAY ADVENT – 2018 [C]

When Air New Zealand engineers and other staff signalled a three-day strike starting tomorrow, one week before Christmas, tragic consequences were immediately obvious.  Hundreds, perhaps thousands, would likely miss out on a long-anticipated family reunion.  Christmas would be empty for many.

The strike is not happening, but I caught a glimpse of what a strike would have made very unlikely yesterday, travelling back from Auckland after visiting my 99-year old aunt.  The passenger next to me had just arrived from a long-haul flight from her home in Holland.  She was coming to be with her family in Wellington.  She was very tired but very excited.  She had not seen her son and daughter for a few years and had yet to meet some of her grandchildren.

The welcome she was given at the gate was amazing.  She was engulfed in hugs and kisses; children’s drawings were held high.  It was as though they had the whole terminal to themselves.  Nothing else mattered but a family united.

This is the call coming out from our third Sunday of Advent: cry out with joy and gladness.  I witnessed it yesterday; it’ll be repeated through the coming days as families gather, celebrating each other, creating new memories.

Here’s another approach: a little boy outside a supermarket announced in a loud voice, Mum, I’m hungry!  His mother said, We’ll be home soon and you can eat then.  And the boy replied, quite agitated, But I’m hungry now!  It might have been the smell of food around him, but he was certainly anxious to be fed.  There was a sense of urgency in his cry and I found myself thinking about the wider implications of hunger.  What do you and I hunger for?

The grandmother arriving from Holland hungered for her family; St Paul in the second reading today, hungers for the happiness of his people.  We all need more than bodily food, we need the food that makes life worthwhile.

When the people ask John the Baptist, What must we do? he says, share what you have with others.  Jesus would later build on that and say, hunger and thirst for what is just and right and good.  To be given and to give food of welcome and acceptance and tolerance – this really is the heart of our yearning, for it opens the path to Bethlehem – the world’s first real encounter with joy and gladness.

QUESTIONS! QUESTIONS!

QUESTIONS!  QUESTIONS!

HOMILY – CHRIST THE KING – [A] 2018

What would you like to ask God?  That question was put to a group of under ten-year olds.  They were given time to think and then asked to write down their question.  Here are some of them:

  • 7-year old: How many miracles have you done in your life?
  • 5-year old: When can I have the wine?
  • 4-year old: How do you feel when somebody falls over?
  • 5 years: What do you do in the rain?
  • Three nine-year olds: Why do sins happen?
    • How does prayer get up to you? Do you love me?

Wonderful, thoughtful, challenging questions.  They show an easy relationship with God – a personal connection, and also a deepening faith. The older ones starting to think more deeply:  Why do sins happen?

Everyone has questions.  We’re created to ask why and what and where and who and how.  Life is lived from question to question.  Mostly we ask questions of those we can trust; those who’ll take us seriously and won’t make fun of us because our questions seem simple or silly.  We learn by questioning.  And nearly all our questions have to do with finding our way in life: What’s my life about?  What’s it for?  Where’s it going?

Pilate has a question for Jesus: Are you the king of the Jews?  It’s a serious, probing question from a mind filled with anxiety, uncertainty:  Who is this Jesus?  Why is he causing such division?  Why is he not afraid?  Why am I so troubled about this case?  Pilate’s restlessness allows Jesus to identify himself.  He takes Pilate’s question seriously and answers clearly: Yes, I am a king!

But Pilate can’t get much further.  His understanding of kingship is modelled on his own culture where power is strength, not weakness.  So he can only conclude that Jesus is deluded.  He feels sorry for him, but he can’t help him.

What questions do you have for Jesus?  Especially relating to his claim to be king.  Whatever you’re asking, you’ll find answers right here in our Eucharist: the faith we share in Jesus, and his presence in our midst; his compassion and mercy, urging us to go from here to love and to serve, all point the way to a joy and fulfilment that cannot be found anywhere else.  This time together is our centring point.  In terms of confidence, trust and hope, we can do no better than respect the bond of our communion with one another.

You and I have the advantage over Pilate, because we know more of the story.  We know the followers of Jesus were so convinced he came back to life after his crucifixion, that they overcame their fear to spread that conviction throughout the known world.  They gave their own lives for that belief!  All that must mean something!

The children’s questions, simple and honest, came out of their own young life experience.  They really wanted to know.  You and I are older.  Can we be as honest as the children and only ask because we really want to know?  You ask such questions only of those whose love and tenderness you trust, because your heart tells you you’ll never have any need to fear the answers.

THE COST OF GIVING

THE COST OF GIVING

HOMILY – 32nd SUNDAY [B] 2018

My mother was a widow for 35 years.  I never knew what that meant for her until a few years after her death when I visited a parishioner, also a widow, who told me the death of her husband had meant the loss of her greatest treasure.

For a long time I was very angry with God, she said.  He’d taken my best friend without asking; and gave no apology!  But I’m ok now.  After I heard the gospel story about the widow putting everything she had to live on into the Temple treasury, I knew what I had to do: I was able to let the death of my husband become my gift to the Lord.  I’ve had such peace since then.

Her words helped me realise the struggle my mother experienced, losing her best friend while their marriage was still young.  She was a woman at peace with herself and I had taken that for granted, not appreciating the sacrifice her peace had cost her.  My mother had also been challenged by the news, less than one year after their marriage, that her husband was missing in action in North Africa during the Second World War.  He was later found to be a prisoner of war.

Far too many families have faced these kind of challenges in wars of the past century – which makes our remembrance of today’s 100th anniversary of the ending of World War I so important.  Going without, making do with less or giving up their greatest treasure, was the mark of those at home, while their loved ones fought overseas.  Death is the coinage of war; those who returned home were never the same, making the sacrifice of those who loved them and who went without while they were away, a price beyond measure.

Jesus observed the widow giving everything she had; the prophet Elijah

asked the same of the widow with scarcely enough to feed her and her son.  Both widows were blessed in their giving; their lives prospered in peace.  The real measure of any gift is not what is given or what it means to the receiver, but what it cost the giver.  Every widowed person has given all they had to live on, making them very precious in the eyes of God.

For some time now, we’ve been promoting the principle of Stewardship, where the gifts of time, talent and treasure, from each person according to their ability, build up the community by creating a real sense of ownership.  We were doing quite well until the cathedral had to be closed.  Our Sunday numbers have dropped by a half.  Consequently, the people available to serve in the various ministries have dropped, putting more pressure on fewer people.  And with less of you, our income is suffering.  For the first time in the years I have been here, the parish can no longer meet its weekly financial commitments, and ahead of us is the expense of strengthening the cathedral!

So, while we give thanks for those who gave everything in wartime for the freedoms we now enjoy, I urge you to look at your own response to the sacrifices required today.  None of you has nothing to offer.  All of you have something to give.  If you’ve not been in the habit of giving anything, even a few coins or offering to serve as a volunteer will make a positive difference.  Remember, whatever the gift costs you, will be the measure of its value.

GIVE YOURSELF A HUG!

GIVE YOURSELF A HUG!

ST MARY’S COLLEGE – THANKSGIVING MASS 2018

No two people are the same.  Everyone is different.  Everyone of YOU is different.  In fact, the greatest similarity you shared, when you arrived at St Mary’s was your difference.  College life is designed to help you appreciate your difference and so to discover your uniqueness because that’s what makes you YOU!

When you and I were born, we were honoured and claimed for our specialness.  Each of us is a one-off, never-to-be-repeated person, who will be forever like no other.

Just for a moment be very selfish.  Close your eyes and think about YOU.  Identify your uniqueness, and give it a hug!  This is who you are, and college life has played a big part in helping you come to that awareness.  Your individuality took on new significance when you reach St Mary’s because this is where now you were given the opportunity to become truly yourself, and to become true TO yourself.

In this Mass we give thanks for another year of college life, and those of you leaving college have the opportunity to give thanks for your time here.  My prayer is especially for you seniors as you step on to the road beyond the college gates.  A new journey begins and the way you have taken ownership of yourself here at St Mary’s will now be fully tested.

Here you have been challenged not to follow the crowd or the loudest voice or the sweetest tongue; and to never let yourself believe that you have nothing to offer.  125 years ago, a group of New Zealand women became a light to the world [Gospel, Mt 5:14-16] in gaining the vote for women.  Their efforts helped change the way the world sees women.

How will your light shine?  What difference will you make?  A Synod on Young People concluded this week in Rome and one statement says it is a “duty of justice” that women become involved in decision making in the Church.  You could be among the new suffragettes helping to shine new light on the face of the Church.

To be thankful for who you are does not mean you stay as you are and never grow or change or bring about change. You are truly thankful when you have not only recognised your uniqueness, but have learned how it can be used for the good of others – that’s gifting yourself.  If you aim to live justly, love tenderly and walk humbly with your God – 1st Reading – you’ll find yourself glimpsing something of the amazingly wonderful life God makes possible for you just because of who you are.

  • Living justly means you will always seek what is best for the other people in your life, respecting diversity;
  • Loving tenderly means that the way you love will be faithful and will put the needs of the other person ahead of your own – in loving service;
  • Walking humbly will be possible because you are comfortable with yourself and have no need to be anyone else – the humble celebrate unity in diversity.

A Jewish Rabbi, named Joshua, nearing the end of his life, wrote this:  When I meet God he will not ask me if I lived like Moses; he will ask me if I lived like Joshua.  That’s what you and I must remember.  God will not ask us if we lived like anyone else, he will want to know if we lived the uniqueness that is ours alone: did you live like you?