Tag Archives: Homily

TENT-DWELLERS HOMILY – 10 SUNDAY [B] 2018

TENT-DWELLERS

HOMILY – 10 SUNDAY [B] 2018

My camping days are long over but I have great memories of summer nights under canvas at scout camps and on family holidays.  But for all the fun and adventure that filled those days we knew they had to end.  It was the tent that made that obvious.  The tent was just a temporary shelter.  It wasn’t our home.

St Paul makes this observation too, describing our life on earth as “tent-dwelling”.  The time will come, he says, for our tent to be folded up and taken home.  Linked to this is the image given in the first reading (Genesis) of God’s conversation with the “man” and the “woman” in the garden, and their consequent denial of responsibility: It wasn’t me who did wrong, they both say.

Camping out, under the canvas of God’s creation, excited by the new and fresh environment and the freedom given them to explore and discover, they mistakenly act as though they have permanent control rather than being only temporary residents.  Their failure to appreciate that everything they have is on loan; that they should be giving thanks rather than taking liberties, leaves them vulnerable to being manipulated, used and, ultimately, destroyed.

Let’s take another image.  This one comes from a British palliative care specialist, Dr Kathryn Mannix.  She points out that there are only two days with fewer than 24 hours in each life time: the day we’re born and the day we die.  They sit like bookends astride our lives.  One is celebrated every year, yet it is the other that makes us see living as precious.  [With the End in Mind, p.4]

Within those two shortened days we pitch our tent.  We are free to explore, to relate to others, to build friendships, to be part of a community, to use the natural world around us for our benefit.  We are not free to destroy one another, or ourselves, or the world around us; and, like good campers, we must try to leave the campsite in better condition than when we arrived.

What does it take to see living as precious?  If you’re like me, it probably takes a few mistakes, going down a wrong path or two, or letting pride dictate behaviour.  A 17-year old is starting a painting apprenticeship next month.  He said on radio this week he’d be in jail by now but for a training programme for troubled youth.  He suddenly sees living as precious.  I baptised a seriously ill woman in hospital last Thursday.  I don’t know why I didn’t accept this gift before, she told me.  Everything is so much clearer and more beautiful now.

We are tent dwellers, between two bookends of incomplete days.

Living is precious.

See it that way.

GIVING – WHY WE CAN’T HELP IT

GIVING – WHY WE CAN’T HELP IT.

HOMILY – ASCENSION [B] 2018

Why do you give?  Why do I give?  Why does anyone give anything at all?  The answer, I know, is pretty obvious.  It is impossible not to give.  We are born to give.  It’s in our DNA.  A gift might acknowledge affection, or gratitude.  It could be given to create a memory, or even an obligation.  The ultimate gift is the gift of self, and I witnessed that gift last weekend in the marriage of my niece.  Kathryn and Stephen, like so many of you, gave themselves to each other with the promise they intend to hold the gift in trust as long as they both live.

Gift-giving comes naturally to humans, but the practice is much older than humanity, with its origin in the One who said, before anything else was: Let there be light – and gave life to everything, displaying that life with the brilliance of colour and the wonder of variety.

The parish received a gift this week – the long-awaited, but still verbal, engineering report on the earthquake status of our Cathedral.  It carried news of a problem with the roofing structure.  We will probably have to close the Cathedral for the strengthening work to be done but, in the meantime, there is no restriction on access.  You are free to make your own decision about being here.  We will have further details when the written report arrives.

While we may not welcome this particular gift, it does come at a good time – as we reassess our own personal level of gifting to the parish.  117 years ago, the Catholics in this city gifted this church to their community and to future generations.  It replaced the original cathedral on this site, gifted by the first settlers; 30 years ago, the parish community gifted further beauty, with the addition of the chapel, the foyer and Connolly Hall.

At a later date we’ll hear how we can send the gift of this Cathedral forward into the next generations, strengthened and refurbished, but today we begin by checking how we can share from our own personal resources, to keep the parish vibrant and relevant in this largely secular city.  As priest I have always been reluctant to talk about money – but even the apostles had to accept its necessity for pastoral survival.  Today’s newsletter carries the first of some printed information to help your understanding of our situation and to assist your personal response.

Today is also Mothers’ Day when we especially remember and honour each of those who have given themselves in motherhood.  Gifting the world with new life and nurturing that life, often at great personal cost, can only come from a loving heart.  Motherhood – a gift to cherish and protect above all else.

We speak of the Church as Mother: called to be a welcoming, safe haven, with a heart for compassion and mercy, with an unconditional love, a centre for peace and healing.  Perhaps that’s the best focus for you and I as we think about how best to support our parish.  If we want Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish to reflect qualities of motherhood, we each have to gift from ourselves to enable this to happen.

Gift-giving is part of our nature.  When our gifts contribute to life and support community, they are helping us to meet our commitments to the God who called us into a partnership – to care for one another and the creation of which we are a part.  In this regard, there is a mothering instinct in each of us.  Now is the time to let it shine.

FRUITS OF THE VINE!

FRUITS OF THE VINE!

HOMILY – EASTER 5 [B] 2018                                                    [John 15:1-8]

The drinking culture in New Zealand has broadened over the last 30 years or so, and a taste for wine has taken hold.  Wine is proving itself productive in places formerly disregarded, like Central Otago and gravel pits in Hawkes Bay.

But much of the wine quality depends on the protection and care of the vines – their sturdiness and ability to cope with the toughest conditions.  Without the vine there can be no wine!  Jesus chose well in describing himself as the Vine.  We are the branches.  He is our starting point; he has broken through terrain and established firm roots, gifting life and energy to the branches, which in turn support the fruit.

And the fruit of the vine – the grapes we, the branches, are empowered to yield, come from the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control.  How does such fruit mature – very much like good wine.  There is more to winemaking than picking the grapes.  Much discernment is required to identify and select the right strains to create a wine that is unique yet complex.  Winemaking is a challenging craft that must take into account elements as diverse as the weather, temperature, soil, pruning, light and shade, timing the harvest…

In Jesus, the vine and the branches are the Church.  We are called to bring the differing characteristics of each branch into a community, working together.  We are people with different backgrounds and abilities, different ways of thinking and doing.  But our differences are not meant to hinder or threaten, but to be seen as gifts for blessing and bringing about a wonderful harvest.

Next Saturday afternoon you can come and experience the variety that makes us who we are.  The gift-discernment time will be your chance to identify the gift that is yours and which you might bring to the creation of a rich, powerful and beautifully complex wine – our community of faith.  Your gift will help mature one or more of the fruits that the Spirit brings through your branch.  Winemakers tell us that all the senses play a part in producing and enjoying wine.  So, ask yourself, what do love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control, smell like, taste like; how do they feel to touch; what do they sound like?

Think seriously about this and the identity and purpose of your gift will start to clarify.  I hope many of you will come next Saturday.  It is a way of thanking Jesus, the Vine, for wanting you to be part of him.  Gift yourself into the mix of a great vintage.

LITTLE STEPS TO HOLINESS

LITTLE STEPS TO HOLINESS

HOMILY – 4 EASTER [B] 2018                                        [John 10:11-18]

Three years ago, the cover story in National Geographic magazine named Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as “the most powerful woman in history”.  Most Christians would agree with that, but why would an international non-religious publication that draws subscriptions and sponsorship from the general public support such a claim?

It was Mary’s enduring influence in history, her universal appeal across diverse cultures, and the fact that she is the hope and comfort of so many people, including Muslims.  The Muslim appreciation of Mary caused the writer to propose that Mary is an ideal “bridge that ought to be explored” as the world struggles against the reality of extreme terror.

An endorsement for this view of Mary came last week when Pope Francis published his fourth major document, this one on holiness.  Titled, “Rejoice And Be Glad”, he hopes his words will renew in the whole Church the desire to become holy.  The Pope turns to Mary as the supreme model who “rejoiced in the presence of God, who treasured everything in her heart, and who let herself be pierced by the sword… She teaches us the way of holiness as she walks ever at our side.  She does not let us remain fallen and at times she takes us into her arms without judging us.” [GJ 177]

Rejoice and be Glad reminds us of the universal call to holiness, and today, Good Shepherd or Vocations Sunday, this timely announcement should shake each one of us to a conscious awareness that our primary goal or purpose in life is, in the words of Jesus, to become holy “as the Father is holy.” [

Don’t think holiness is an impossible dream or just for saints.  It is very reachable.  The road to holiness starts with an openness to love, and love grows with small steps.  Being on the lookout for ways of helping, for offering a little extra, going out of your way – these are stepping stones to holiness available to everybody.

Pope Francis points to some of the moments in the gospel story where by noticing a little detail a big difference was able to be made: the little detail that wine was running out at a party; that one sheep was missing.  Mary’s visit to be with her older cousin, Elizabeth, despite her own pregnancy and the difficult journey into the hill country – generous, loving human actions, no different from ones we can do ourselves – all steps to holiness.

Draw strength from our Eucharist to live your vocation to holiness this week, being alert to details as you walk through each day.  Walk alongside Mary, the most powerful woman in history.  Take her hand and follow her example of kindness.

The American author, Mark Twain, wrote, Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see!  Kindness is the language of holiness.  Speak it from your heart in everything you do.

 

Easter Vigil 2018 – Homily by Cardinal John Dew

Easter Vigil 2018

A week ago on Palm Sunday I suggested that we look at Jesus entering Jerusalem, look at him carrying his cross, look at him dying on the cross and hear him saying “Do you see anything here that is not love?”

“Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” -i Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Lord Jesus, you have shown us the way to the Father.

What follows is an overview of the Holy Week liturgy through the lens of those words that we use in the Penitential Rite at Mass.

We are people of the Way, an ancient term for the first Christians which is found in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus showed us that way throughout his whole life on earth, but this way becomes particularly clear and calls to us most profoundly in the events of Holy Week, not only by Jesus’s words, however striking they are, but by his actions and what he suffered, beyond words. Those events invite us to enter upon this way interiorly, through the words, actions and silences of the liturgy. Through that liturgy we make a commitment of faith to know Jesus more clearly, as individuals, but also as pilgrims together. We are drawn into ancient traditions of contemplating these events.

It is a way of humility in obedience and commitment to the Father

We begin with the Palm Sunday procession, to re-enact the journey of Jesus with his disciples and those who followed him from Bethany to Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-11). We follow him as our king, but one riding on a donkey in humility and in obedience to the Father’s word through the prophet Zechariah (Zec 9:9). As we proceed into the Mass the readings prepare us to focus on this obedience. From the Third Servant Song of Second Isaiah (Is 50:4-7), we hear that the Servant has been given,  ‘a disciple’s tongue…Each morning [the Lord] wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple.’ The second reading, from the kenosis hymn used by St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians (Phil 2:6-11), tells us that Jesus,

emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross.

This leads us into the dramatic account of the Passion. This year it is according to Matthew, which, as in the infancy narrative and other places in the gospel, focuses on fulfilment and obedience to God’s plan as the evangelist conceives it.

It is the way of the Servant

Just as in the Mass of Palm Sunday, so in the following days of Holy Week we prepare to hear about the events leading to the Passion by listening to the Servant Songs in Second Isaiah (42:1-7; 49:1-6; 50:4-9 – the latter repeating the Palm Sunday reading). On Good Friday we hear the Suffering Servant Song (Is 52:13-53:12) after the prostration of the celebrants in silence and the opening prayer. It serves as a meditation on the Passion according to John.

It is a way of self-giving and sharing

The self-giving of Jesus and the sharing in our humanity, and we with him, is very dramatically yet simply portrayed by the Washing of the Feet on Maundy Thursday. This follows John’s account (Jn 13:1-15), which is a sort of prologue to the Passion. It can be viewed as an insight into the self-emptying of the cross and the giving of the Eucharist. Bare feet make us aware of human vulnerability. Stooping to wash and dry them carefully is a sign of delicate respect for our neighbour, especially in that neighbour’s weakness and poverty. ‘If I, t hen, the Lord and master, have washed your feet, you should wash each other’s feet.’ In its place in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, this surely points to the self-giving and sharing of Jesus in the Eucharist.

It is a way of deep silence

The liturgy of Good Friday is embraced by deep silence, at the beginning and at the end. The cross is beyond words. We begin with the silence of the congregation; on Good Friday, the congregation is usually large, so the silence is particularly moving. The opening silence in which the celebrants prostrate is underlined by the bareness of the altar and the open, empty tabernacle. After the readings and the enacting of the Passion according to John, in which we all take our parts, the best response is silence, perhaps preceded by just a few brief words to present one aspect of the story we have just heard for some minutes of quiet reflection, to let it sink in. After the ancient prayers, which encompass the needs of the Church and the world, there is adoration of a large cross, gradually unveiled.  Our response is to file up and show our commitment to the Saviour with a wordless kiss, a very personal act which speaks for itself. The service is completed with a very simple reception of Holy Communion without a Mass, like the way we receive when we are sick or bedridden or approaching death. In all this, silence is our most fitting response to a death by crucifixion. The nature of that intense pain and increasing difficulty of breathing allowed very few words to be uttered.

It is a way of renewed promise of the Covenant

The long and complex liturgy of Holy Saturday begins with a very basic symbol of promised light, the Paschal Candle, lit from a blessed fire and illuminating the darkness of the church. Our own individual candles are lit from the great candle and light is passed from person to person, a simple action of solidarity. The promise of new life in Christ is rooted in the Covenant, and the readings, responses and prayers are staging posts on the journey of God’s relations with his people. The promise is realised in Baptism and the renewal of our baptismal promises, through which we are engaged in the risen life of the One whose journey we have been following throughout this solemn week. We receive the Easter sacrament with alleluias.

We have been shown the way to the Father. We are invited to continue to walk in that way.

Holy Saturday, too is a day on which we ‘stay’: a quiet day, a day at the tomb. Jesus is dead; the one who loved us unto death is gone. Ignatius invites retreatants to spend this day with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, to be with her at this time; to use all of our senses to experience what this day was like for her, before we move, as the sun sets, into the time of great rejoicing.

Rejoice

In the evening of Holy Saturday, when all goes dark, we gather together to celebrate the Easter Vigil. This liturgy re-tells the story of our salvation, from creation to resurrection.

We begin outside or in the porch of the church, with the Liturgy of Light. A fire is lit and, from that, so too the Easter candle. Bit by bit, light spreads throughout the Church and in a beautifully symbolic way, we see the victory of the Light of Christ over the darkness of the church and, symbolically, our world. The vestments are once again white (or gold), holy water is back in the stoups and the bells will ring again. We hear in the Exultet, the song of praise after the Liturgy of Light, that ‘this is the night’, and so it is: the night above all others when we celebrate our redemption, our freedom from sin and death and our joy at being children of the resurrection. In the Liturgy of the Word we are reminded of our covenantal relationship with God that has been sealed with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. If there are new members of the Church to be baptised, this also happens at this Mass, and they are welcomed into the body of the Church as it is revitalised through the new life of Easter. The Easter Vigil is a liturgy of great joy, a joy that cannot only be ours. We must share it and so at the end of the Mass we are sent out on mission, to ‘glorify God by our lives’. Do we do this? Can you, having heard and lived the story of your salvation and mine, be transformed by it this Easter?

‘Becoming conscious changes you’, writes Louis Savary,[iv] and so it should be with the Easter Triduum. Our understanding of and being with Jesus in his suffering, and then sharing the joy of his resurrection, should change us, it should change me. I can choose not to engage with what I see, hear, experience in the liturgies of the Easter Triduum, but that in itself is a response – and that changes me, too.

So what will your response be this Easter? What do you desire it to be? Talk to God, as a friend talks to a friend, about the days you are about to spend together.

On Good Friday, there was no Eucharist – simply a communion service, with the Body of Christ from the Holy Thursday Eucharist.  On Holy Saturday, there is no liturgy at all.  The liturgy this evening is the vigil – the preparation for and entry into the celebration of Our Lord’s Resurrection.  It is an Easter Sunday liturgy.

On Holy Saturday we enter into the mystery.  Today we contemplate Jesus, there in the tomb, dead.  In that tomb, he is dead, exactly the way each of us will be dead.  We don’t easily contemplate dying, but we rarely contemplate being dead.  I have had the blessed experience of being with a number of people who have died, of arriving at a hospital shortly after someone has died, of attending an autopsy, and of praying with health sciences students over donated bodies in gross anatomy class.  These were powerful experiences because they all brought me face-to-face with the mystery of death itself.  With death, life ends.  Breathing stops, and in an instant, the life of this person has ended.  And, in a matter of hours, the body becomes quite cold and life-less — dramatic evidence, to our senses, that this person no longer exists.  All that is left is this decaying shell that once held his or her life.

Death is our ultimate fear.  Everything else we fear, every struggle we have, is some taste of, some chilling approach to, the experience of losing our life.  This fear is responsible for so much of our lust and greed, so much of our denial and arrogance, so much of our silly clinging to power, so much of our hectic and anxiety-driven activity.  It is the one, inevitable reality we all will face.  There is not enough time, money, joy, fulfillment, success.  Our physical beauty and strength, our mental competency and agility, all that we have and use to define ourselves, slip away from us with time.  Our lives are limited.  Our existence, in every way we can comprehand it, comes to an end.  We will all die.  In a matter of time, all that will be left of any of us is a decomposing body.

Today is a day to soberly put aside the blinders we have about the mystery of death and our fear of it.  Death is very real and its approach holds great power in our lives.  The “good news” we are about to celebrate has no real power in our lives unless we have faced the reality of death.  To contemplate Jesus’ body, there in that tomb, is to look our death in the face, and it is preparation for hearing the Gospel with incredible joy.  That we are saved from the ultimate power of sin and of death itself comes to us as a great relief, as a tremendous liberation.  If Jesus lives, you and I will live!  The mystery of death, which we contemplate today, will be overcome – we will live forever!

Today’s reflection will lead us to the vigil of Easter.  This night, communities from all over the world will gather in darkness, a darkness that represents all that we have been reflecting upon today.

The God who created us, who led a chosen people out of slavery, raised Jesus from death.  We can rejoice that death has no final victory over us.  Then we celebrate the Easter Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Tonight we celebrate our faith — that we have been baptized into the death of Jesus, so that we might have everlasting life with him.

As we behold the body of Jesus in the tomb today, and as we contemplate the mystery of our death, we prepare our hearts to receive the Good News of life.  We know that tomb will be empty and remain empty forever as a sign that our lives will not really end, but only be transformed.  One day, we will all rest in the embrace of Jesus, who knows our death, and who prepares a place for us in everlasting life.  Our reflection on this holy Saturday, and our anticipation of celebrating the gift of life tonight and tomorrow, can bring immense peace and joy, powerful freedom and vitality to our lives.  For if we truly believe that death holds no true power over us, we can walk each day with courage and freedom, in the grace being offered us – to give our lives away in love.

Brothers and sisters: 
Are you unaware that we who were baptized into Christ Jesus 
were baptized into his death? 
We were indeed buried with him through baptism into death, 
so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, 
we too might live in newness of life.

For if we have grown into union with him 
through a death like his, 
we shall also be united with him in the resurrection.

Rom 6:3-11