Tag Archives: JamesLyons

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.

The Cathedral Connection 16 September 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

Dear Parishioners,

Nearly 200 priests from around New  Zealand met in Christchurch this week reflecting on what it means to be a priest today in a time of unprecedented change.  It has been a dramatic and challenging few days.

Canadian priest, James Mallon, asked the question, “If your church closed tomorrow would anyone who doesn’t go care?”  He then reminded us that international companies, such as Kodak and Swiss Watches went out of business because they didn’t read the signs of the times and change.  The last 20 years have seen incredible change in all aspects of society, demanding new models of ministry for the church and new ways of engaging with an increasingly secular world.  We have to understand that the ”Christian world” no longer exists!

Bishop Vincent Long, a former Vietnamese refugee now Bishop of Parramatta Diocese, NSW, echoed this when he said the Church must return to the “raw canvas” of the Gospel and follow more closely the way of Jesus – the way being modelled by Pope Francis – humility, trust and courage.  Clericalism has betrayed the Gospel!  The priest can no longer act as though the people didn’t count or had nothing to offer. “We must not see ourselves as being ‘apart from’ the people, but being ‘a part of’ them!

Over the next weeks I will be inviting you to reflect with me on these wonderful presentations, and to look with honesty at how we each regard our place in the community and what God in Jesus might be calling us to become.  What really has to change, to enable survival?  If the Church as we have known it has to die, what will be its legacy, and what will remain of the old to give life to the new?

Fr James

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

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.

The Cathedral Connection 9 September 2018

The full newsletter can be viewed here.

PLAYING A PART

The annual Social Justice Week opens today.  Its theme, “Enabling Communities”, reminds us that everyone has a part to play in making our communities safe, inclusive, fair, welcoming and compassionate. This “Week” was established in 1997 by our New Zealand Bishops to encourage reflection and action on particular current issues in the light of Catholic social teaching.

Promoting this year’s theme, the bishops state, “Each of us, with our unique gifts and challenges, is interdependent.  By becoming involved in each other’s lives by our presence and service, we grow together as the body of Christ. … To be genuinely included is not just to belong, but to be missed when we are not around.  A responsibility rests on us all to encourage and nurture a sense of belonging and acceptance.”

This has special relevance for us since the closure of the cathedral, our worship centre.  In our adequate but less than ideal temporary “shelters”, we need to be alert to assist the elderly and disabled, to enable visitors to appreciate the different surroundings, to be extra welcoming of one another and to make sure no one feels lost or disoriented.  If we each play our part our community will remain strong and focussed.  We will certainly not lose heart.

This local application of the 2018 social justice theme will surely open our eyes to the wider community where safety, inclusiveness, fairness, welcome and compassion are even more desperately needed.

Fr James Lyons

The full newsletter can be viewed here.