Category Archives: Homilies




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.



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.




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?



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!



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.