Category Archives: Homilies

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.

BEING KNOWN IS BELONGING

BEING KNOWN IS BELONGING

HOMILY – 23rd SUNDAY OT [B] – 2018                                  [Mark 7:31-37]

What does it mean to feel at home?  Not just when you’re in your own house, but when you’re at work, or at school or anywhere.  What makes wherever you are feel homely?  I asked this question during the week and the answers:

I feel at home when I feel comfortable; when I feel I’m part of the group; when I know I’m wanted for myself; when I know and understand what’s going on.

Last week I touched on the issue of loneliness and the lonely most certainly do not feel at home.  Some of you may remember a very popular tv sit-com called Cheers.  It was set in a city bar and the very diverse and at times lonely characters were like family to each other, and that factor guaranteed the show’s success.  Its theme song became especially popular:

Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your name
And they’re always glad you came
You want to be where you can see
Troubles are all the same
You want to be where everybody knows your name. 

This year’s Social Justice Week begins today and there are several pointers for us in the theme that calls us to play our part in “Enabling Communities”. Homelessness is a current issue – meaning more than just a roof over your head.  Having a place to call home helps give me an identity, a feeling of pride and belonging.  But you are also homeless if you feel unwelcome or outside the group.  We are called to play our part in helping people to find a home – perhaps literally by assisting with housing and household needs; or here at Mass, by being welcoming to everyone, providing comfort and genuine friendship.  Yes, that takes effort, but keep thinking how lovely it is to be where everybody knows your name.

Endorsing today’s theme, our bishops write: “To be genuinely included is not just to belong, but to be missed when we are not around.  A responsibility rests on all of us to encourage and to nurture a sense of belonging and acceptance.”  And our scripture readings more than suggest the power and value of an engaged community:  St James cautions against discriminating between rich and poor; healthy and sick; those who have and those who need.  The gospel shows us a community recognizing the inability of the deaf and dumb man to plead for himself.  The people bring him to Jesus.

But it’s the section from the prophet Isaiah that I find most appealing: in the presence of God, the eyes of the blind shall be opened, the ears of the deaf unsealed, the lame shall leap like a deer and the tongues of the dumb sing for joy. [I recall a friend who, after hearing that passage, said “I think I’d prefer to remain deaf than have to listen to all the singing and shouting and leaping around!”]

However, the prophet may not be pointing to the blind actually seeing, or the deaf hearing, but rather to what happens when a community is honestly and generously engaged with their disabled.  Such a community says, It doesn’t matter if you’re blind or deaf or unable to fully participate – you are still part of us and we welcome and support you; we protect and encourage you…

Everyone in your life is there for a reason – each has a part to play – to teach you, to love you, to help you know yourself or to experience life with you.

LONELY AND AT RISK

LONELY AND AT RISK

HOMILY – 22ND SUNDAY OT [B] – 2 Sept 2012 – [MARK, 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23]

An item in yesterday’s paper highlighted loneliness as a creeping social disease. The General Social Survey by Statistics NZ reveals that more than half a million New Zealanders feel lonely all or most of the time.  Last year, the British government introduced a Ministry for Loneliness.  Could such a portfolio be needed here?

St James in the second reading tells us that – Pure, unspoilt religion is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.  He leaves us in no doubt that purity, cleanliness, in God’s sight is connected to efforts at ensuring the needy and vulnerable are protected.  Orphans and widows were the “at risk” people at the time of Jesus; who are the “at risk” ones today?  Are they the lonely people?

You might wonder why people need to be lonely with all the social networks available through technology today, but apparently it is precisely these advances – such as Facebook and Instagram – that are disconnecting people.  And the most lonely are not the elderly or the widowed but the 15-24 year-olds – the age group that is plugged into the electronic world.

Moses [1st Reading] tells the people that the laws and customs are like identity tags; they define the People of God.  A consequence of this was the love of neighbor – the practical application of the law that bonded individuals together as a people.  The tradition of washing hands and dishes was certainly good hygiene, but it lost value if relationships were contaminated.  And that is what Jesus is stressing: observing traditions is useless if you ignore any human need among you  Our tradition of gathering week by week to worship the God revealed by Jesus in Eucharist is important, indeed vital, for our spiritual nourishment. But what if we are neglecting those among us who feel alone and isolated?  Most of you come here knowing someone else; you sit with the people you know and you feel good.  But if you’re here on your own, has anyone spoken to you?  How welcome do you feel?  Our concern for the lonely must start in this gathering, right now! [introduce yourself to those around you]

The lonely are among the most “at risk” people today because the condition can be a prelude to depression and self-doubt and a precursor to suicide.  Why live, if I feel I’m a nobody and that I cannot connect with anybody?

A quality of true fatherhood is identifying with your family to the point where your own life is secondary to the good and welfare of each member.  If we all took that approach there’d be no room for loneliness.

 

 

EUCHARIST – THANKSGIVING

EUCHARIST – THANKSGIVING

HOMILY – 20th SUNDAY [B] 2018                                 [John 6:51-58]

Thank you!  Two small words.  But they can mean the world.  They spring from my heart today as I thank you for the great support I’ve received following recent hip surgery – and also for the way you have worked and stayed together to minimise the effect of our cathedral closure.  Thank you!  These two small words are the fruit of grateful hearts.

Gratefulness is both gentle and powerful.  It has a life-force that unites and consoles, softens what was hardened through neglect or oversight and can return joy that’s been stolen by pain or sorrow.

Gratefulness should be the main reason why we come together in worship.   We know that the word Eucharist means to give thanks, so our very presence here is a meeting with the wonder of thanksgiving.  God, through Jesus, says thank you to us, and we say thank you for the gift that is Jesus.

The last few Sundays have been taking us through the long discussion between Jesus and his Jewish audience over his claim to be the bread come down from heaven.  He is talking of himself as the bread of life and that unless this bread is eaten there is no life.  The teaching is difficult for his listeners, and even today there is dispute over what Jesus meant.

Our Catholic tradition is very clear that Jesus is truly present in the bread and in the wine that is shared among us.  Do you and I fully appreciate that reality? Our lives cannot but be changed through this encounter with the living bread and the cup of salvation.  Yet it remains mystery.  That’s why we should focus on thanksgiving – thanking God for being able to believe in this mystery; thanking God for the gift of Jesus and the nourishment he brings to our individual lives and to our community.  If we come giving thanks, we will leave with a joy strong enough to carry us through every challenge.

Last week I was in Auckland for the funeral of a niece – a sad and difficult farewell to a cancer victim of just 50 years.  A special moment in the service for Cheryl was the tribute given by her 13-year old son, Sam.  He spoke a beautiful thank you.  Thank you, Mum, for giving me life.  Thank you for loving me and making me feel special every day.  You are leaving me too soon, but I have a life full of memories and you are in every one of them.  I will love you forever.  Thank you, Mum.

The service for Cheryl was not a Mass.  But Sam’s tribute made it a powerful Eucharist.