Homilies – July 2014
SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 11AM SUNDAY 27JULY 2014
1 KINGS 3:5, 7-12, ROMANS 8:28-30, MATTHEW 13:44-52
We continue to pray in this Mass for the victims of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines plane. We also keep in our hearts the situation that is escalating in the war zone in the Holy Land between the Palestinians and the Jews.
When we ask God to help us, God is never indifferent. Indeed, in the first reading today he asks Solomon an incredibly generous question. He says to Solomon “Ask what you would like me to give you.” What would you say if God asked you that question?
The answer that Solomon gives is very pleasing to God. He asks for the following “give your servant a heart to understand how to discern between good and evil, for you could govern this people of yours that is so great.”?
God was very pleased to answer Solomon’s question because he “did not ask for long life for himself or riches, or for the lives of your enemies, but you have asked for a discerning judgement for yourself.”
Solomon asks for something that wouldn’t help his own ego or his own personal needs. He asked for something deep down within him. He asked for something that would help him to serve God’s people. He had been given a responsibility by God. By asking for wisdom he wanted to be of greater service to the responsibility God gave him. God answered his request abundantly. We now even describe in our English phraseology “the wisdom of Solomon”.
Let’s think deeply on Solomon’s choice. Let us ask for gifts that help us to serve God’s people. “Inner gifts”, not just gifts that help us on the “outside!”
Over the last three weekends we’ve had readings in the Gospel from Matthew, Chapter 13. They are all about the parables. Parables generally only have one major meaning.
In today’s readings we hear that the kingdom of God is like “a treasure hidden in a field.” It is also like “a merchant looking for fine pearls.”
When a hidden treasure is found or when a fine pearl is discovered, people focus their whole life on possessing this unexpected gift.
We too have found a gift of the greatest treasure! We have found Christ, Our Lord Jesus. It is part of our life project to be able to centre our whole life on Him and only Him.
Whether one be rich or one be poor, the offer of Christ as the centre of life is given to everybody.
Let us think in our week coming up now, exactly how we can open ourselves even further to the gift of God’s treasure deep within us.
Let us be like Solomon and not think of it as something that would help us personally. It must also help us to serve in the advance of the kingdom of God in our midst. There’s a responsibility with every one of God’s gifts.
Let us pray in this Mass that we all might appreciate the great treasure of the Eucharist. In being fed by Word and Sacrament may we always place Jesus as the centre of our lives.
FIFTEENTH SUNDAY (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 11AM SUNDAY 13 JULY 2014
ISAIAH 55:10-11; ROMANS 8:18-23; MATTHEW 13:1-23
Today’s Gospel is the well-known parable of the sower.
There are two wonderful teachings in this parable.
I believe the first teaching is more important than the second. The first teaching refers to the primal and eternal life of God coming to us, not only in our humanity but to all of the cosmos.
The sower scatters the seed in almost an extravagant way. The sower doesn’t seem to be even looking at where he is throwing the seed; whether it be on fertile or non-fertile ground. That’s not the point. The point is that the sower of the word of God is generous almost extravagant in coming towards us in grace.
In the first reading today another image is used which is somewhat similar. It pertains to the rain and the snow coming from the heavens. These do not return without “succeeding in what it was sent to do.”
When I travel around the countryside here in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn farmers speak so much about the rain. Just at the moment they don’t seem to be complaining too much about the rain. They tell me there is just enough for them at the moment. It reminded me some years ago when I spoke to a farmer he spoke to me of the importance of rain. He said to me “Bishop I can do a lot with mud. I can’t do anything with dust.” I think God’s a bit like that. He can do a lot with the mud of our lives. He can take all our brokenness and our confusion and frustration which sticks on us like mud, and he can plant the seed of his love there. A seed grows in mud, grace grows in our feeble faith. This is our hope.
The second teaching of the parable of the sower is the necessity of us responding to the seed with good attitudes and actions.
We must receive this Godly life in a way which gives it growth. It must nurture the world. This is what faith is all about.
I remember reading once a learned article on what mercy is. There are apparently three biblical definitions of mercy. But one of them caught my eye. Here the biblical word mercy means “nurturing womb”. Our God has not created us with an abortive womb, he has created us with a nurturing womb. We must receive his Grace, his seed in the womb of our being so that it might create new life and give this new life to others especially those in the greatest need.
Finally, Jesus himself is both the sower, and the seed, and the nurturing womb. Jesus Christ is both the seed sent out by God into the world. But Jesus himself is also the perfect human response to God in all our feebleness. With Jesus at the very centre of gift and response we can never fail. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the seed of God. Jesus brings that seed a hundred fold in the hearts of those that allow God to use us to his greater glory.
NATIONAL ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS SUNDAY (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 11AM SUNDAY 6 JULY 2014
ZECHARIAH 9:9-10; ROMANS 8:9,11-13; MATTHEW 11:25-30
Today is National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Sunday. Our aboriginal Catholic leaders have chosen the theme of this weekend throughout Australia from the first lines of today’s Gospel. Here Jesus exclaims “I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth.” We pray particularly in this Mass today for all initiatives that help our first Australians to move away from feeling like refugees in their own country, towards taking their places with dignity and national respect in Australia.
I have come closer to the aboriginal people over the years. At the present, I am a member of the Australian Bishops Commission for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. This is a great honour for me. Whenever I come back from meetings with our aboriginal friends I feel richly blessed. Indeed, I feel a better Australian.
I remember once at a national conference speaking to an elderly aboriginal woman. She came from somewhere around Broome. I remember her complaining about her parish priest. She said that he had recently put a roof on the church. I wondered what the problem might be. I asked her. She said that there was no need for a roof to be placed on their beautiful church because God had already given us the roof! She explained that during the day when she was in the Church and looked up she could see God’s roof – the blue sky and the clouds. When she was praying in the church at night she could see the stars and the moon. How could human beings better this wonderful roof! AI do not think I would receive such a complaint here in Canberra! We’re in the middle of winter and we certainly need roofs on our churches! But in the northern parts of Australia she offered a hidden insight that was quite illuminating. Do we really need all the material things we say are essential? As always, you see from where you stand! This word hidden is an important part of today’s Gospel. Jesus exclaims that profound matters had been hidden from the “learned and the clever and revealed to the children.”
Also we understand that our aboriginal people are heavily burdened by all sorts of things that you and I would find totally unacceptable.
For example, suicide is at unacceptable levels amongst the communities. You may recall in 1986 Saint Pope John Paul II visited Alice Springs on his national tour of Australia. There was a famous iconic picture of him holding in his arms a small aboriginal boy. It’s a beautiful picture. I learnt just a couple of years ago that that beautiful boy grew up and tragically suicided in his early 20’s. Such great hope has been dashed in so many aboriginal families. They feel the burden of life so heavily. All of us feel this burden as well at different levels. What are we to do with this burden?
The Lord has given us the answer in the Gospel. “Come to me all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble at heart and you will find rest for your souls. Yes my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
Over the centuries spiritual writers have described God as the great “burden bearer”. He wants to carry our burden. That doesn’t mean our problems will disappear but the heaviness of the “sting” of that burden will be taken away, as we place our complete hope and trust in Jesus.
All of us carry burdens. Let us in this Mass ask Jesus to carry our burdens. Let St Christopher carry our burdens as he carried Christ across the river. I want to pray for everybody as your Archbishop Christopher in this Mass that all of us be given the faith in Jesus that will lighten our burdens.
I invite you now just to close your eyes and silently pray a simple prayer of trust and surrender to Jesus. Just quietly give over your burdens to him and ask him during this Mass to give us all deeper faith and trust in him – the great “burden bearer.”