Homilies – June 2014


ACTS 12:1-1; 2 TIMOTHY 4:6-8, 17-1; MATTHEW 16:13-19

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.  These two great saints of the Church have been twined together for several reasons.

Firstly, they are seen together because they died martyrs’ death in Rome approximately 67AD.

We know that St Peter was crucified upside down.  He didn’t feel worthy to be crucified in exactly the same manner as the Master, the Lord Jesus.  After his crucifixion he was buried at a nearby cemetery on a hill.  This hill we now know as the Vatican hill.  Upon this hill is built St Peter’s Basilica, the biggest Christian church in the world.  Even more recent archaeological discoveries have found that indeed he was buried underneath the Cathedral in an ancient cemetery that has been excavated fully in recent decades.  In this gigantic Church on the inside along the walls where it meets the ceiling we find in ribbon form the words of today’s Gospel: “You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church.  And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.”  It is Peter’s confession of faith that the Catholic Church sees as our confession of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

Approximately the same year and on the outskirts of Rome, St Paul was be-headed.  Ancient tradition says that when the head left the body it bounced three times on the ground.  Immediately three water fountains gushed forward.  There is even a Church in Rome today called the Three Fountains (Tre Fontaine).  It is near the great Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, dedicated to the life of St Paul.

Both Peter and Paul testify to sacrificial love in imitation of Christ’s love for us.  For so many over the centuries it has in fact ended in martyrdom.  We remember well that, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.”  The Church grows where sacrificial love is given out.  Let’s always remember that this is the sort of love that is the basis of all evangelisation and mission.

Secondly, not only did Sts Peter and Paul share a martyr’s death but they also shared in their apostolates and writings the same foundational message: “All is grace from God”.

Although their efforts towards God were mighty, we must never forget that these two were changed men because of the grace of God.  We all know St Peter as the impetuous Galilean fisherman.  He is the one that denied Jesus three times when the Lord needed him most in the time immediately before his crucifixion.  And St Paul, we know as the one who was persecuting the early Christian Church and ordered the death of so many followers of Christ.

Yet,  in both men, the grace of God shone through.  This grace was unexpected, undeserved, and a sheer gift from God himself.  These two men experienced Pentecost in an incredible way.  The Holy Spirit flooded into their life.  They were changed men.  After a period of trying to understand what had happened to their lives they both began the great missionary apostolates upon which the Church has built its missionary activity for over 2,000 years.

Thirdly, they were very different men.  They both had gifts and charisms that were similar yet very different.  Although we don’t want to take this as a stereotype, St Peter is often described as the “Confessor the Faith”.  In confessing Christ he is the one upon which our doctrines and our beliefs and our hierarchical structure have eventually been formed over the centuries.

St Paul, however, is seen as the great missionary evangeliser to the pagans …… the gentiles.  Again let us avoid stereotyping, but the particular charism of St Paul was that he was one of the greatest Christian missionaries the Church has ever produced.

So St Peter and St Paul, united in the sacrificial love of Christ, shared their complimentary but different gifts and charisms for the building up of the Church over the centuries.

We too are to continue this missionary impulse in the midst of all the chaos and humiliation of our present times.  We think particularly of the Royal Commission’s Enquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse and all the shame this gives the Church.  In the midst of all this chaos, however, we never cease to proclaim the holiness of God in the midst of the sinfulness of the Church’s members.  We have different gifts and different charisms but we use all the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us to the building up of the body of Christ in our time and in our place.

Let us ask the intercession of Sts Peter and Paul in our time and place to have the deep awareness of the grace of God in the midst of all our feeble efforts to build up Christ’s body here on earth.



EXODUS 34:4-6, 8-9; 2nd LETTER ST PAUL TO CORINTHIANS 13:11-13; JOHN 3:16-18

Dear friends,

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.

The Holy Trinity represents one of the great Holy Mysteries of our faith.  By mystery I don’t mean a puzzle.  By mystery I mean its depth is so profound that we mere humans cannot embrace a full understanding of it.

Nevertheless, the readings today do point us to some important elements of what we understand as the Trinity.

Our first reading from the book of Exodus is best understood if we remember that our Fathers in the Faith, our elder Jewish brothers and sisters evolved out of a culture which was polytheistic (worshipping of many Gods).  Judaism was radically monotheistic (worship of one God).

In this first reading we have the encounter of Moses with God on the Mount of Sinai.

The passage of the scripture that I think is so beautiful is that “the Lord descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there”.

What a magnificent expression……..  “Moses stood with him there”.

It brings up the important point that the one God who we worship stands with his people.

Not only does God stand with his people but he is not aloof or vengeful or indifferent to us.  On the contrary, he is full of love towards us.  Moses was so correct in proclaiming God as “a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness”.  This is such an important point.  So many people have a non-biblical image of God.  Despite what they’ve heard for many years they still feel that God is aloof from them or, at worst, out to punish them.  This is totally contrary to the description of God from the Scriptures.  Our God is compassionate, he is merciful.  God is love.

God is so much in love with us that he cannot remain indifferent to us when he sees us fall and in need of him.  The Gospel today indicates that in his loving mercy he sends out his Son to us.  As Jesus said to Nicodemus “God loved the world so much that he gave us his only Son.”

The one God sends out himself to us.  Love cannot love itself.  Love is communitarian.  Love gathers.  Love goes out to those on the margins and those who struggle.  God comes to us in the life death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  God makes himself completely known through Jesus Christ who is the one God.  The Father and the Son are one.

After Pentecost, when Jesus returns to the Father he sends us his Holy Spirit.  We celebrated this in the great Feast of Pentecost last weekend.

You and I now live in this Holy Spirit time.  We are the community of the Holy Spirit.  We are in the time between Pentecost and the second coming of Christ at the end of time.  It is the time of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit “is the Lord and giver of life” as our Creed proclaims.  The Holy Spirit is …. the love between God the Father and God the Son.  The Holy Spirit leads us to God.  The Holy Spirit continues to communicate with us as the God of mercy kindness and compassion.

So our belief is that there is one God.  There are three persons to the one God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This is a belief very confusing to our non-Christian brothers and sisters.  Yet it’s the very basis of our faith.  It is like the skeleton of a human body.  It draws absolutely everything together.  Although seeming impenetrable as a mystery it is at the very essence of our faith.  Our only appropriate response is to give glory and praise to God for the great gift and grace he gives us in his Holy Trinity.

Our dear Irish friends over the centuries, have shown us a practical way of trying to understand this profound mystery.  They refer to the Trinity as like a shamrock…..  The three parts of the one leaf indicate the one God in three persons.  Maybe this can help us as we now continue our Mass and always give “Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.  As it was in beginning it is now and ever shall be world without end. Amen”.