Tag Archives: Lent

Cardinal John’s Newsletter 27 February 2020

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Kia tau te rangimarie ki a koutou,

Last Saturday, 22nd February, was the Feast of the Chair of St Peter, a feast once described by Pope John Paul II as “shedding light on the special ministry of Peter strengthening and guiding the Church in the unity of faith which the Lord entrusted to the head of the Apostles.” he went on to say that this mystery of unity comes from “Fixing our gaze on Christ.”

The Lenten journey we have begun is all about “fixing our gaze on Christ.”

Lent is a time to hear again the call of Jesus to “repent and believe the good news.” The call to personal conversion is at the heart of the message of Jesus and is clearly at the heart of the ministry of Pope Francis. The Pope is very clear about the fact that ALL of us are constantly called to conversion of heart. In his first year as Pope, on the Feast of St Ignatius Loyola, he said in a homily: “The question ‘is Christ the centre of my life?’ is for us, for any of us, the ques-tion that cannot be taken for granted. It cannot be taken for granted because there is always the temptation to think that we are the centre; and when we put ourselves and not Christ at the centre, we err, we go astray”.

I think that sometimes the temptation for us is also to think that the call to personal conversion, to “fix our gaze on Christ” is for others and not for me. In this time of Lent when we are invited to pay closer attention to the Word of God, we know that is so we can personally focus on our relationship with Jesus, and not on all the other things that worry, distract or preoccupy us.

One of the strategies of Pope Francis in his work to reform the Church, and especially the Roman Curia (which was asked for in the Cardinals’ meetings leading up to his election) is to keep emphasising that this is always about per-sonal conversion. It is about a change of heart, putting Jesus at the centre of life and fixing our gaze on him. When Jesus is at the centre and the focus of our lives the relationships that we have with others improve, the things that worry us fall into place – even things like the question of Mass times, what will happen with “MY” parish, and how to cope with the many questions we are faced with today seems to fall into place.

The questions for Lent therefore are:

  • How do I keep my gaze fixed on Jesus?
  • How do I make Jesus the centre of my life?
  • How do I focus on Jesus in the days ahead?

Naku Noa,

+John

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The Cathedral Connection 16 February 2020

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Ecumenism and our Neighbours

This year the Parish Council is supporting a stronger relationship with our friends at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. We have enjoyed a good relationship with St Paul’s for many years and our two congregations have met together for many joint services, the imposition of the ashes on Ash Wednesday, to give one example. In 2020, there will be opportunities for us to meet more often.

So, who are Anglicans and how are we similar? Anglicans are Christians who have bishops and dioceses, like us. If you went to an Anglican eucharist, you might not notice much difference. The Kyrie eleison and Nicene Creed are the same. The communion rite is materially different, but mostly the words on the page rather than the celebration. If you went to Evensong (equivalent of our Vespers and Complan combined) i.e., you might notice that you pray for the Queen. There are some important doctrinal differences, but Anglicans like Catholics believe that salvation comes to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and as an expression of the Father’s grace.

So, what is there to learn? I suggest that we can learn a lot from each other. Some Catholics may benefit from Anglicanism’s focus on the scriptures. Anglicans might enjoy our rich practice of prayer and meditation. That is not of course to say that we do not read the bible and they do not spend time in prayer.

As we think of Ecumenism and our aspiration for unity among Christians, I invite you to meet our neighbours a bit more this year. We will keep you posted.

Nicholas Burley
Parish Council Member

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The Cathedral Connection 31 March 2019

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The Power of Repentance and Forgiveness

 The parable of the Prodigal Son is probably the best known and best loved of all of Jesus’ stories. The younger son discovers that, in spite of his sins he is deeply loved and forgiven by his father. Gandhi experienced this when he was fifteen. He stole something from his brother. However, he felt so bad about it that he made up his mind to confess it to his father. He wrote out his sin on a piece of paper, asking for forgiveness and punishment, while promising to never steal again.

At the time his father was very sick and in bed. Gandhi handed him the note and sat by his father’s bedside waiting for judgment and punishment. His father sat up in bed and began to read the note. As he read it, tears came into his eyes. Gandhi himself began to cry. Instead of getting angry and punishing him, the father hugged the repentant son, and that was the end of the matter.

The experience of being loved while he was in sin had a profound effect on Gandhi. He said years later, ‘Only the person who has experienced this kind of love can know what it is.’

Those who experience this kind of love, know something about the heart of God and in the power of repentance and forgiveness. God never closes his heart to any of his children. No matter what they do, if they return to Him, the one thing they can be sure of is an unconditional and generous welcome.

With every blessing

Fr Doug

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Cardinal John’s Homily – 3rd Sunday of Lent

3rd Sunday of Lent:

Today’s Gospel seems very harsh…Jesus gives a warning ‘unless you repent, you will all perish’ He was not giving a threat …he was speaking of God’s love and patience.

Part of today’s Gospel is chillingly like what happened in Christchurch…it’s almost the story of a terrorist  attack that we have heard so much about in these last day.  The Roman official, Pontius Pilate, had sent troops into the Temple in Jerusalem to brutally wipe out a small group of Galilean pilgrims who had gone down to Jerusalem, ‘mingling their blood with their sacrifices’, it has some dreadful similiarities to the Mosque attacks.

He used another and spoke of the tragedy where eighteen people had been crushed to death when a tower in the city’s old wall had suddenly collapsed on top of them.

Hearing of these calamities, Jesus asked: “why did these dreadful things occur?” Was it because the people who lost their lives were terrible sinners, worse than other people?

There was a view among Jews, which is not unknown among believers even today, that disasters are a punishment from God for sinful behaviour. That is not so.

When Jesus commented on the sudden massacre in the temple and the accidental crushing to death of people by the collapsing tower, he was making it clear that this was not because of their sins……. that was not the point. He was saying was that the victims of the atrocity in the Temple and the disaster of the tower’s collapse meant they had all died suddenly and without having the opportunity to repent and make their peace with God. I am not saying that about the people in the Mosques.

To help his listeners Jesus told a parable  … The owner of a garden had a fig tree, but year after year he never found any fruit. In frustration and exasperation the owner told the gardener to cut the tree down: it wasn’t bearing fruit, it was taking up good space. But the gardener asked his boss to give the tree one more year …… ‘If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down’. In other words, the gardener said, “give it one more chance.”

It’s the same with God, God never gets tired of giving us another chance. This is about God’s patience with us.

God’s patience with us is God’s decision to show us respect, and allow us ‘space and time’ to develop and grow. There is no limit to God’s patience with each of us. There is no limit to God’s patience, but there is to the space and time we have to keep turning back and focussing on God. There are endless opportunities for us to profit from God’s patience;

When this Gospel was written it was to help and encourage believers who might have sinned seriously to turn back to the Lord and be reconciled with the community in preparation for Easter; that’s the purpose in Jesus’s saying ‘repent or perish’.

So, today we review our Lenten programme, and think about how we have been able to keep up with whatever prayer, penance or good works we decided on for Lent. If we have slipped, for whatever reason, there is nothing to prevent us from starting now, starting again.

The prayer for today is highly appropriate too: ‘Father, you have taught us to overcome our sins by prayer, fasting and works of mercy. When we are discouraged by our weakness, give us confidence in your love.’  Any of us can be disappointed with our weaknesses, we have to learn to be patient with ourselves too.

Maybe at this stage of Lent – halfway through- we might have to admit that this Lent is not all we had hoped for.  On Ash Wednesday, we intended to make some changes in our lives, now we might be disappointed in ourselves.

Jesus “gets” us, understands our hearts and knows that our instinct is to give up when the tree bears no fruit.  Today we learn not to give up  the hope that we can be better.

A good question to ask God is, “What is it you want to give me this Lent?”    Such a question could lead to heart to heart conversation with God …..

What is it you desire to free in my heart so I can love better?
How can I be more loving to my family? 
Where can I be a peacemaker with my children, with others?
How do you want to soften my heart from being harsh with others to being more loving – in the way you have loved me?
How can I be less judgmental and see others as you see them?
What would it cost me to slow down my life so I can listen to you more deeply?

When I fast, it can focus my attention more clearly on Jesus and how he wants to heal my heart.

Lent is what Pope Francis calls, “a journey of preparation, preparation to know God the gift of God’s patience and mercy.

The Cathedral Connection 17 March 2019

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Prayer – Being in the Presence of Love

Today’s Gospel passage – the Transfiguration – would have been a ‘moment to be treasured’ for Peter, James and John. No wonder Peter wanted to prolong the moment – “let us build 3 tents…” He didn’t want the moment to end. Prayer is that meeting place with God. Our Catholic tradition has a richness of ways of encountering God in prayer. What they have in common is that they join in the prayer of Jesus to the Father. All prayer is through, with and in Jesus.

This Lent can be a good time to look at our prayer life. I would like to mention 2 forms of prayer that you may have heard mentioned recently.

Lectio Divina: The Latin phrase “lectio divina” means “divine reading.” It is a way of praying with the Scriptures. As one reads and invites the Word to become a transforming lens that brings the events of daily living into focus, one can come to live more deeply and find the presence of God more readily in the events of each day. The method follows four steps: lectio (reading), meditatio (meditation), contemplatio (contemplation), and oratio (prayer).

Meditation: Whereas most forms of prayer involve words and song, either written, memorized, or spontaneous, meditative prayer concentrates on just ‘being in God’s presence.’ Meditative Prayer began in the earliest centuries of the Church, when men and women went into the Desert to find God. Cassian went to meet them with them. He asked them ‘What is prayer and how do your pray?’ The answer he received was simple and profound. Go to a quiet place and spend time with God. Take a word or a phrase, and gently say it over and over. When distractions come, return to your word. Cassian wrote about what he had been taught.

St Benedict, who began the monastic tradition, knew Cassian’s writing, and used it in his directions for his monks. Through the centuries, the practice of meditation continued through monasteries and convents. Many are rediscovering meditation and Lectio Divina as wonderful forms of prayer, seeing them indeed as a “moments to be treasured.”

Fr Ron

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