Category Archives: Homilies

SEEING WITH BLINDNESS

SEEING WITH BLINDNESS

HOMILY – 30th SUNDAY [B] 2018                                                               [Mark 10:46-52]

Fr Bill Clancy, a priest of our Archdiocese, has been retired in Whanganui for many years.  I visited him last Wednesday for his 93rd birthday.

I was an altar boy when Fr Bill came to my hometown of Dannevirke as a young priest, not long out from Ireland.  Like the aging parish priest he had come to assist, also from Ireland, he left home and family to give his life in service to the Church in New Zealand.  He has been a priest for 66 years.

I remember marvelling at their generosity and courage.  They both greatly influenced my decision to apply to prepare for priesthood.

The week before, I officiated at the Requiem Mass for another 93-year old Bill, Bill Maher.  It is eight years since his wife, Patricia, died and they had been married for 62 years, parishioners among us, faithful witnesses in their devotion to the Eucharist and in their love for one another.  Until just a few months ago, Bill was a regular at our weekday Mass.  He told me he owed everything to his faith.  It’s got me through some tough times!  He was recalling not only the death of Patricia, but also the premature death of their son, Kevin.

Generosity and courage are standout qualities in these lives – and I’m sure you know people who display them.  These qualities are directly related to today’s gospel and the central character, Bartimaeus.  A blind beggar whom the people try to shut up and shut out!  Jesus hears the commotion and calls him over.  What does Bartimaeus do?  He throws off his cloak, jumps up and goes to Jesus.  His blindness doesn’t stop him because he hears and recognises the voice of Jesus and is drawn to it.  He throws off his cloak – as a beggar it would be his most secure possession, his protection.  He lets it go, to follow Jesus.

Much more than the apostles did (last Sunday) – they wanted to hold on to power and prestige, and wanted to follow Jesus without giving up anything.

My 93-year old friends learned early in their lives that they couldn’t hope to see everything ahead of them.  They were comfortable with their blindness, seeing with the eyes of faith, responding to the inner voice they knew to be Jesus, trusting the way he would lead them.  Generosity and courage.

The blind man asked Jesus: Master, let me see againThat tells us he was once able to see.  How many among your family and friends have let faith slip away from them; or allowed some tragedy or setback blind them from the trust they once had in the company of Jesus?  Pray for them today; don’t shut them out.  Very likely they would love to see again.

And pray for yourselves and each other – for the generosity and courage to throw off your cloak, or whatever it is that would limit your trust, or your ability to follow Jesus, all the way.

Pray, with today’s Psalm, that we might all be filled with joy, knowing what great things the Lord has done for us!

TO FOLLOW JESUS IS TO DIE WITH HIM

TO FOLLOW JESUS IS TO DIE WITH HIM

HOMILY – 29th SUNDAY [B] – MISSION DAY – 21 October 2018

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who lived as a devout Christian and died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945.  His writings on how Christians are meant to live in a secular world have carried great influence, especially through his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  A quote from this work seems to flow from today’s scripture readings and is very apt for this Mission Sunday:

When Jesus bids us to come and follow him, he bids us to come and die.

The disciples chosen by Jesus and named apostles had no intention of dying.  Their aim was to hold the power, to be in charge; prestige and position were their goals – even though Jesus had been telling them that he himself was to be rejected, humiliated; that he would suffer and die.  They were deaf to that message and certainly didn’t hear what followed – he would rise to life again!

Whenever we are focussed on ourselves we cannot hear the cries of others.  When you’re busy or stressing over some issue, you won’t be interested how others are getting on, or let them near enough to offer you help.  We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see.

An ancient Arab proverb says: I pointed out the stars to you, but all you saw was the tip of my finger!

It took a long time for the apostles to really hear the message of Jesus.  How well have you and I heard it?  What might be blocking the way?

Pope Francis makes the point that, because we didn’t choose to be born, there must be a reason why we are here.  We’ve been put here as a mission, he says – to continue the presence of God made visible in Jesus; to announce that presence by our way of life.  “I am a mission on this earth!”  How does that sound?  If we’re going to be that mission, we have to copy the pattern given by Jesus.  God, in Jesus, came not be served but to serve; God kneels before us to wash our feet – and expects us to do the same for others.

You are following Jesus by the fact that you are here, at this Mass.  So, in what way are you giving your life?  One commentator notes that, like Jesus, we are to give our life as a ransom.  “To ransom is to exchange something for another – in this case our abundant life for the lack in the lives of others.” [Megan McKenna]

This may seem a bit harsh, but it’s doable!  Believe in the strength of the gift of God within you; believe in the power of the Eucharist shared among us here.  You have already died with Christ in baptism.  Live in the light of the resurrection, and be very surprised at the good you – each of you – can make happen.  Say to yourself this week, over and over, I am a mission on this earth!

Look beyond the point of the finger and discover the stars – see beyond what is, to what could be and, like those early disciples of Jesus, learn that serving is not that difficult and that dying is not the end.

When Jesus bids us to come and follow him, he bids us to come and die.

LOVE LIFE – LIVE LIFE

LOVE LIFE – LIVE LIFE: HOMILY – 28th Sunday OT [B] – 14 October 2018  – [Mark 10: 17-30]

Over the last three weeks visitors and locals have been “wowed” by the World of Wearable arts displays – mesmerised by the creativity, beauty and originality of the many entries.  Every session is sold out; people gasp and applaud in amazement at what human talent can achieve.

I find myself asking whether this fascination with ourselves and what we can do distracts our attention from the natural beauty in every moment.  The wonder of earth and sea; the wearable beauty of the heavens, plants and flowers; and especially, the magnificent gift of life, original and unrepeatable in each person.  How terrible not to notice this wonder, or to ignore or forget, or take for granted the fragile treasure that is life.

Tomorrow morning I have five minutes before the Justice Select Committee hearing submissions on Parliament’s End of Life Choice Bill.  I’ll question how this Bill respects life, and the honesty of the proposed legislation.  Many pushing for the “right to die” play on our natural fear of pain and suffering and overlook the kinds of pressure that can lead a person to choose death.  And I’ll ask what helping someone to die has got to do with the medical profession whose sole purpose is to help people to live.

We are appalled at the high rate of youth suicide in NZ, yet our legislators are proposing a law that will allow people to be helped to take their own life!  In the present social climate, it is not too fanciful to see a time ahead when a person may have to argue their right to live!  Already the unborn no longer have that right!

In his conversation with the rich young man in today’s Gospel, Jesus asks: what do you value more than anything else?  What do you?  Our first reading [Wisdom 7:7-11] teaches that the greatest value is not power, not gold or silver, not even health or beauty.  The greatest value is wisdom, understanding.  Surely that is what is most needed in this our own time.

I spent a few days last week with my family in Napier, celebrating my birthday – giving thanks for the gift of life.  While there I met Johnnie Isaac, a 58-year old Maori from Wairoa who spent his first 40 years in and out of foster homes and prisons.  His life was beer and drugs and sex.  He killed his infant son and his only experience of discipline was being violently beaten.  He knew nothing of God until 18 years ago when he heard an inner voice say, I love you!  He remembered his sister, who was a Christian, telling him that Jesus was the God who is love.  This was the turning point for Johnnie Isaac.  I had never really felt loved.  How different life is with love in it.  He has found his way, his greatest value.  For him there’s no turning back.

Pope Francis, in his powerful Letter about the care of our common home, strongly illustrates how each life affects every life.  He urges us not to wait for the next tragedy before reaching out to assist and serve one another.  We are “endowed with intelligence and love” to protect and respect life, not to mutilate or destroy life. [Laudato Si, 83] – Tomorrow is International Infant and Pregnancy Loss Remembrance Day.  I believe those who suffer such loss – an infant death – have the deepest respect for life.  Their nurturing love unfulfilled, they know the purpose and value of life more than anyone else.

Love life – the life in you, and the life in everyone you know and meet.  Keep saying WOW to yourself because you share in the gift of life; and live that gift in such a way that you, or anyone around you, will never feel the need to get rid of it.

HEALING OUR WEAKNESS

HEALING OUR WEAKNESS

HOMILY – 25th Sunday [B] – 2018

Over the last few Sundays you’d be excused for thinking the readings were chosen to fit the time and season the Church and the world are in right now.  You’d actually be correct because the Word of God is alive and active and does speak to us in whatever situation we find ourselves.

As well as the scandal of child abuse within the Church and the shame this brings, there is also the horror of “jealousy and ambition”, spoken of in the Second Reading [James 3:16-4:3], as some senior prelates in the Church turn against Pope Francis.  There is uncertainty in not knowing the consequences of all this.  Disharmony and disunity are always unhealthy outcomes.

Jesus sees all this happening within his own group of friends in their leadership battle; their wanting to be first, in control and being given preference.  As he does with so many world-minded principles, he turns their expectation upside down, telling them that leadership is about serving and that seeds of greatness will get their best start in little containers – as in the hearts of children.

Jesus brought a child into their circle and into his arms.  Then he said: if you want my attention, if you want to be part of my life, to share my dream – then embrace weakness, vulnerability, uncertainty – everything this child and all children experience.  Don’t shun disappointment, don’t avoid situations where you’re not in control, don’t even try to escape disability or ill health – until you take the time to see what these weaknesses might contain to benefit your life, to make you a better person.  Learn, like a little child, to trust.

With the recent exposure of historical clerical abuse and the factions ranged against Pope Francis, the Church’s credibility in the world is probably at an all-time low.  But it also brings an opportunity to learn from this grave weakness, to admit our need of the strength of God’s mercy, to submit to a renovation with humility and a greater respect for one another.  Even the weakness coming from our own diminishing numbers while the cathedral is closed, can motivate us who remain to strengthen our sense of community and create a vibrant platform for regrowth.  Weakness can help us connect.

The abuse of children and the abuse of trust are bringing the Church to its knees.  Jesus, in his reverse strategy, points the way ahead by telling us that we must become like little children – appreciate their weakness, their vulnerability, their dependence and their willingness to trust – and only then can we expect to enjoy a recovery.  With his arms around us we see our smallness and we find hope in his love.

Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to apply the medicine of prayer and penance to the open wounds in both the victims of abuse and the Church for its failure to protect.  The priests of our Archdiocese have chosen Friday 5 October as a Day of Fasting to emphasise their role in the healing process.  With the disciples may we all learn that greatness comes through service, and service means care, respect and the giving of self for others.

MORE THAN APPEARANCES

MORE THAN APPEARANCES

HOMILY – 24th SUNDAY [B] 2018

The sport I’ve most enjoyed playing is tennis.  After a game, and still in tennis gear, I often called on friends nearby who were after-school caregivers for their 7-year old grandson.  They told me, after several visits, that they’d explained to the young lad that I was a priest.  He said, Oh, is that what he is.  I thought he just played tennis.

When Peter identified Jesus: You are the Christ! he was going by appearance without knowing the real Jesus.  The Christ – God’s anointed one, the Messiah – was expected by the Jews as someone who would rise up as a champion leader and return the nation to its former glory.

Peter and the other disciples thought they’d found the Messiah in Jesus.  That’s why James and John would rush in with their request to be at the right and left hand of Jesus in is kingdom.  They all wanted positions of power and control.  But they didn’t know Jesus at all – shown so clearly when Jesus explains his mission as one that would bring division and rejection, suffering and death.  The shell-shocked Peter tries to talk sense into Jesus, only to be told:  You’ve got it all wrong, Peter.  Don’t tempt me – follow me!

How well do you know Jesus?  Who is he for you?  There’s always a risk that we make Jesus into what we want him to be – or expect him to be.

This week I’ve been in Christchurch with priests from our six dioceses reflecting on this and related questions.  In this time of crisis in the Church we have to ask: have we forgotten Jesus?  Have we put down the cross and let others carry it for us?  Have we been more concerned with authority and control rather than service?

The crisis, though very sad and sorrowful, brings an opportunity to re-examine our relationship with Jesus; to link action with our faith; to see Jesus for who he really is, and to follow him through the rejection and the cynicism of our secular world, to renewal, new life and boundless hope.