Category Archives: Homilies

Chrism Mass 2018 – Homily by Cardinal John Dew


Go, you are sent.” We heard those words many times last year in relation to our Synod. It is easy to connect the Synod theme to tonight’s Gospel:

“The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me,

for he has anointed me.

He has sent me to bring good news to the poor,

to proclaim liberty to captives

and to the blind new sight,

to set the downtrodden free,

to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

Jesus knew he was sent to the poor, the captives, the blind, the downtrodden……..we are too. Our task is to work how, who, and where they are today and bring them Good News. We are all sent to continue the mission Jesus was anointed for, the mission we are all anointed for in Baptism, Confirmation and Holy Orders.

We are sent into and live in a messy world, and a messy Church. We live in messy families. Pope Francis wrote in his document on the Family “No family drops down from heaven perfectly formed; families need to constantly grow and mature in the ability to love.” A L 325   Those words seemed to give families permission to be themselves, knowing that they are not perfect and that is okay. It’s into that world, where all need to grow and mature in the ability to love, that we are all sent. We journey together, supporting and helping one another throughout life in all its ups and downs.

Almost 30 years ago, in July 1989 Cardinal Tom Williams wrote a Pastoral Letter to the diocese, it was about the 1988 Synod; He wrote – “The outcome will not be revolutionary. I have to be a realist like yourselves and accept that the most telling image of the Church is an untidy caravan struggling across the desert, not a regiment of infantry marching in perfect step across an immaculate parade ground. We are, after all, the People of God, and people are imperfect and contradictory. To know it we have only to look at ourselves.”

The world is not perfect, our Church is not perfect, families are not perfect. There are poor, captives, blind, downtrodden people everywhere, people who are struggling to live, people living without dignity and hope. ….we are anointed to take good news to them, and be good news for them.

In October 2016 there had been some devastating earthquakes in Central Italy, 159 people were killed in Amatrice. Pope Francis visited Amatrice, he visited a makeshift school, spoke with emergency and fire personnel. He wandered through parts of the city sitting with people, exchanging hugs and kisses, and just spent time with people who needed support. He said: “Since the beginning I felt that I had to come to you, simply to tell you that I am close to you, nothing else, and that I pray for you.”

He was just “being with” those people. It’s something he is good at, it’s something he wants us to do. It’s also often what Jesus did…. He was WITH people. Pope Francis has emphasized this to bishops and priests several times,  “We are promoters of the dialogue of encounter, dialogue is our method.”

Pope Francis tells us that our lives, especially as priests, is to be with people, walking with them, listening to them and accompanying them.  In Evangelii Gaudium (169) he wrote: ‘In our world, ordained ministers and other pastoral workers can make present the fragrance of Christ’s closeness and his personal gaze. The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity – into this “art of accompaniment”. The pace of this accompaniment must be steady and reassuring, reflecting our closeness and our compassionate gaze which also heals, liberates and encourages growth in the Christian life.”

He’s encouraging us to be close to and to accompany the poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden. Anyone in ministry today is sent as Jesus was sent …and what did he do, he walked with people, sat and listened. We are asked and are privileged to understand, forgive, accompany and integrate those with messed up and difficult lives into the life of the Church.

Pope Francis is a Jesuit. He would have known some of the things written and said by that great Jesuit Theologian, Karl Rahner. Rahner once asked the question “Why would a modern man want to become or remain a priest today?”  He then answered his own question with stunning simplicity.

He said that for him it is not the great works of the church in the service of justice and peace, the great universities and the great movements and programs. “Rather,” he said, “I still see around me living in many of my brother priests a readiness for unselfish service carried out quietly, a readiness for prayer, for abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.”

The Church of Wellington is blessed to have priests who continually show a readiness for  unselfish service carried out quietly, a readiness for prayer, abandonment to the incomprehensibility of God, for the total dedication to the following of Christ crucified.

As your priests renew their priestly promises this evening, pray for them, pray that they will be sent with renewed enthusiasm and know these words of Pope Francis:

What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”

What we invest in love remains, the rest vanishes.”





Palm Sunday 2018 – Homily by Cardinal John Dew

Palm Sunday 2018

We are invited today to plunge whole-heartedly into the Gospel and imagine ourselves among the crowds that came to Jerusalem, as it says in John’s Gospel, “to learn that Jesus is coming.”

We are invited to imagine ourselves “the hordes of people who spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread leafy branches they had cut in the fields.” We pray about that today and try to connect spiritually with this event as closely as possible.

Who is this Galilean arriving in the Holy City?

Would you be among those who strode ahead to meet him or those who followed?

Would your voice join those who sang out “Hosanna in the highest” or would you have been among the silent onlookers startled by the scenes of excitement when they saw this man coming into Jerusalem on a donkey?

Do you stand back in admiration of the strange new Messiah or are you influenced by those who were prejudiced against him?

Would you have been a pilgrim or a dawdler?

Have you ever thought on Palm Sunday which kind of behaviour you would have shown towards Jesus on this day?

It can be quite easy to think about the change of heart and behaviour in those who were present in that week…it is easy to think about THEM and not even think about the call to conversion – and a change of attitude and behaviour in ourselves – Holy Wek Invites us to think of where we are in all of this. In all humility we too know that our hands would have carried palms and shouted in welcome, AND THAT on Friday would shout out “Crucify him, crucify him!”

This week, we again have the chance to begin to allow Christ’s unconditional love to bloom in our hearts.

We cannot judge the crowds at Jerusalem as if the crowds in Jerusalem were never were never completely clear in the way they felt about Jesus of Nazareth, sometimes for him, sometimes against him. We too have doubts and lack faith at times. Our own belief and our prayers are occasionally weighed down by scepticism and fear.

We change, we are believing and yet unbelieving, we are enthusiastic and then tired and weary; we shut out in welcome and excitement, and then call ‘Crucify him.”  Whatever we are…. changing and fickle ……. HE is always the totally loving and compassionate shepherd, teacher and healer. The “Hosanna” is now ours.  Our hearts may vibrate today in fragile faith, but we pray that this week our fragile faith will still lead us to keep our gaze transfixed on Jesus.

Today and throughout this week we respond to the invitation of Jesus “Look at me,” we will look at him and we will hear him say “Do you see anything that is not Love?”



HOMILY – 5 LENT [B] 2018

Did you hear the warning this week about the threat of plastic bags to marine life? Apparently, if nothing’s done to clean up the mess, by 2050 the weight of plastic in the world’s oceans will outweigh all the fish!

News like this fuels the “carbon footprint” argument that we humans are polluting the earth at an intolerable rate, to the point where numbers of young people are increasingly pessimistic about the future. They feel their presence only adds to the problem, and that they shouldn’t have been born.

An appropriate thought for this stage of Lent. There’s a sense of foreboding in the words of Jesus as he speaks of the dark times ahead – giving us the image of the wheat grain that must die in the darkness and isolation of the soil, if it’s ever to find its fulfilment in harvest.

What starts as a negative – death of the seed – is shown to have positive results – a great harvest. Life, death, life flow in a natural rhythm. There’s confusion when some Greeks ask to see Jesus. Their request catches the apostles unprepared and they have to consult before they pass these newcomers on to Jesus: did he mean his message for Greeks? Didn’t they have their own religion? What are they up to? Can they be trusted?

I think the challenge to the apostles was, did they want to share Jesus? They had a tight little group. Racially and culturally they were united. Let’s keep it that way! None of us want to lose what we value. Those who feel they’re contributing to global warming and other pollution simply because they’re alive, don’t really want to die – they’re caught by their sense of helplessness in the face of global problems beyond their influence or control. The apostles, and you and I who follow Jesus, can feel comfortable in the ritual and practice we know and appreciate, and want to keep things that way. But also like the apostles, we must see ourselves as seeds, sent to be sown – buried alive, not dead! To quote Mahatma Gandhi: To find yourself you have to lose yourself, and when you lose yourself you find yourself fulfilled.

The “positive” to all this appears if you remove concern about the “footprint” you might be leaving on the ecosystem, and look at what your hands can do: weeding, planting, reaping, harvesting, embracing, comforting, holding, affirming… It is the work of human hands that we lift to God, that meet the requirements of the partnership role we’ve each been given. If my footprint scars the earth and stamps out life, my handprint can hold and heal and join me more firmly to life.

God speaks to our hearts – our instincts and feelings. Intellect and intelligence are not God’s primary concern. Jeremiah (1st Reading: J 31:31-34) makes this clear – I will plant my law, writing it on their hearts – and they will be my people and I will be their God. It’s our experience of love – the realm of the heart – that directs faith and motivates the desire to belong and to contribute.

Our throwaway world, symbolised by plastic, threatens life because it doesn’t care. By learning to read the law written on your heart, any hesitation to serve and to give disappears, because you discover a community with so many others. Heart and hand together guarantee sowing and reaping, helping those fearful of tomorrow to be convinced they can make something of today.

Homily – Fifth Sunday of Lent – Cardinal John Dew

Fifth Sunday of Lent, 18th March 2018, Cathedral

“See, the days are coming” they were the first words we heard from the reading from the Prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah was saying that v-because the people had been unfaithful to God that something new was about to happen…..he talked about a New Covenant that would not be an external Law, but that would be planted in the people themselves and through God’s mercy they would have a personal and direct knowledge of God.

“See, the days are coming”…that is what Lent is all about for you and I, God is doing something new for us as we listen more deeply to His words, as we through God’s grace grow in the way we respond to God and others every day. Lent is a time of personal renewal, a time to be more aware of the fact that God has written his law in our hearts

The days are coming when God will do all those things for us, are we ready for what God wants to do in our hearts.

Last weekend he whole world observed 24 hours of Prayer for the Lord. This year our 24 Hours of prayer was observed at Sts Peter and Paul Church, Lower Hutt. I went out late on the Friday night, I had hardly sat down and opened my little book of reflections and prayers when I read these words.

“Our Father, we have wandered and hidden from your face;

In foolishness have squandered your legacy of grace.”

I have been pondering ever since about how I have been using Lent and asking myself the question “have I squandered God’s grace? Am I squandering this time of renewal God has given me? This graced time of Lent? Have I realized that the Days are coming when God wants to write his law of love in my heart?

Jeremiah says “See, the days are coming” in some ways the response to that is found in Jesus words in the Gospel “now the hour has come.” “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” We know now that the way Jesus was glorified was to be lifted on the cross and then to be lifted up again in the glory and wonder of the Resurrection.

Jesus said:  “Now the hour has come

for the Son of Man to be glorified.

I tell you. Most solemnly

unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,

it remains only a single grain;

but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.”

Last year I happened to end up with several of those “little garden” pots from New World. Every $20 you spent you were given another one. I think they were really to get little children interested in gardening. I was like a little kid and had a whole lot of them. It was hard to think that what looked like a little piece of cardboard, and a couple of tiny dry looking seeds could actually produce flowers and fruit…I had tomatoes and sunflowers, sweet peas and Nasturtiums, kale and beetroot. And cucumber!

We all know that if you open a packet of seeds and find tiny looking withered pieces of matter that for all intents and purposes look dead. We know that if you plant at the right time, weed often, water frequently and have the right amount of sun, you will be blessed with a bumper crop to enjoy and share with family and friends, or to provide colour and scents in the garden.

Could it be that Jesus’ focus on the wheat seed falling to the ground and dying may have actually been on the process it takes to produce the fruit– to diligently prepare the soil, plant, water, weed and constantly tend to the seeds…….in order to produce the wheat!!

During our Lenten renewal, are we willing to be like garden seeds and risk being split apart so that we can renew ourselves and grow into a life rich with abundance to share with others? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to growing our faith and our relationship with Christ so that we are not squandering God’s grace?

Equally as important, are we willing to let this be the time, let this be the hour for us …for God to nurture us, not by sun and water, but by His never-ending love and his promise to us each and every day?

“See, the days are coming” for God’s grace to enter our hearts.


HOMILY – 4 LENT [B] 2018

I went into a room to get something during the week and then couldn’t remember what I was going to get. I did remember a few minutes later and went back and got it! The situation fitted perfectly something I heard not so long ago – that when older people go into a room, forget what they came for and have to go back later, it’s God’s way of making sure older people get exercise!

But, of course, we all have moments of forgetfulness, and moments of discovery.

Anyone who searches begins with a sense of loss – of not being able to find something, or of knowing something’s missing but perhaps not being able to say exactly what it is. The loss creates a gap that’s quickly filled with darkness. Maybe you’re floundering round over some puzzle or trying to understand someone’s motivation for a certain action… When the answer comes you’re likely to say, How could I not see it? How could I have been so blind?

The biggest loss, the one that hurts the most, is the loss that death creates. A loved one dies and you feel no light could ever pierce the darkness that surrounds and smothers you. The loss of a loved one is, in many ways, the loss of yourself.

People drawn to search for faith do not all search in the dark. Some have light to guide them. They know their life means something; they can see faith in others – and that can often cause them to seek faith for themselves. They know their life could be more fulfilled and they seek a stronger connection with a community of believers. Some seekers have come to recognize the darkness they’ve been living in for the emptiness it really is. They’ve mistaken the dark for light, believing the myth that the more you can make, the more you possess, the more powerful or independent you are, the happier you will be; or, the least responsibility you accept the freer you will be to enjoy life. That’s the cruelest darkness; it lets you pretend.

Nicodemus chose the dark of night to meet with Jesus. He was afraid and embarrassed to be seen with him. But Jesus shared with him the heart of his message -that God so loved the world that he gave his only son – and those who believe in him will have eternal life! Jesus’ mission was not to condemn or destroy but to affirm and build up. He did not come to make us feel guilty but to discover the freedom that forgiveness brings, the joy of friendship and the happiness of working together – being community.

Those who come to faith come along paths unique to themselves, and they join a community equally diverse. But they feel they have arrived home, just like Nicodemus, comfortable with themselves…


The only way to defeat the dark is to become the light. – Walt Disney film: The Wrinkle Line