Homilies – March 2014
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 30 MARCH 2014
1 SAMUEL 16:1, 6-7, 10-13; EPHESIANS 5: 8-14; JOHN 9:1-41
The key to today’s wonderful reading of the miracle of the man born blind can be found right at the end of the Gospel. Jesus says “those without sight might see and those with sight turn blind”.
One of the extraordinary things of the Gospel is that so often those who should have faith find it difficult to express it. And those who have little or no faith often show great faith.
This is suggested in the first reading from 1 Samuel. The Prophet Samuel goes to the house of Jesse and asks to see all his sons. He does not feel the call of the Lord to anoint any of the sons and then Jesse says that there is the youngest, the one left out, who is looking after the sheep. Jesse insists on him seeing the son before they have their meal. As soon as the young boy David arrives Samuel hears the Lord say to him “come anoint him for this is the one”. The unlikely one, the one who is deemed to be immature and too young, is in fact the one to be anointed.
Such a scenario is seen in a much greater form in the Gospel. We have the encounter of Jesus with the man blind from birth.
There seems to be two miracles involved here. One is the physical miracle – he is healed of his blindness. Using almost sacramental signs, Jesus places paste on his eyes and the man is told to wash in the pool of Siloam. Once doing this his sight is restored.
It is interesting that he has little faith at this time. He doesn’t even know who healed him.
Immediately he has difficulties with the theological leaders of the time. They indicate to him that a sinner could hardly produce signs like this. They also challenge him in a very aggressive manner. Eventually they ask for his parents to come to see them. A tense dialogue is summarised in the Gospel. In the midst of all his difficulties on being healed Jesus eventually comes to him once again. There is a lovely expression here in the Gospel that “Jesus found him”. This is the beginning of the second wonderful miracle in this man’s life.
The healed man says of Jesus “Sir tell me who he is so that I might believe in him”. Then Jesus says to him in a beautiful response “you are looking at him he is speaking to you”. This enables the man to make a very profound credo of his life in the presence of Jesus when he says “Lord I believe” and the man worshipped him.
This second miracle, the miracle of faith, is a miracle that will bring the man into the light of eternity.
On this fourth Sunday of Lent let us make a thorough scrutiny of our own faith life. On the externals do we show great faith? Is great faith shown on the day to day encounters that we all face? Or are we more humble and penitent like the man blind from birth? Are we eager to say to Jesus “Lord I believe”. When we come to Mass and celebrate the sacraments we say to Jesus “Lord we believe” and we worship Jesus.
The Lord’s mercy is forever. As we move from a posture of arrogance and pride to a posture of humility and contriteness, let us always place at the merciful and loving presence of Jesus who is our Saviour and Lord. Jesus says to all of us today gathered here at Mass “you are looking at him, he is speaking to you”.
FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (YEAR A)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 9 MARCH 2014
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
After beginning our Lenten period on our journey towards Easter last Ash Wednesday, we now celebrate the First Sunday of Lent.
In the Mass, in particular, we welcome all those from parishes around the Archdiocese who are here today for the Rite to Election. I particularly welcome catechumens and candidates their sponsors, families and parishioners.
The image in the first reading from Genesis today is a wonderful symbol of our Lenten period towards Easter.
We read in Chapter 2 of Genesis “God breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and thus man became a living being”.
What a beautiful image! God breathed into human beings God’s life breathe itself. By so doing, we are given a dignity beyond all compare. This life breathe of God in us sets us apart from all other animals and wildlife and plant life. Because God breathes into our very being, we become God’s favourites.
Let us particularly be thinking in this Mass that this hasn’t just happened in at the beginning of creation: it happens every moment of our lives. God continually breathes into us his life breathe. It is all grace. It is a permanent grace of God breathing into us his life.
Through Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist we become temples of the Holy Spirit and are fully initiated into God’s family, the Church. As we begin Lent, let us ponder on this wonderful image frequently. This will give us a new attitude to life. We cannot be the same if we truly believe that God lives in us and we are his temples – the temples of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, we are tempted to think otherwise. Even Jesus himself was tempted to think otherwise when he came out of his 40 days and 40 nights of fasting. It is from this image and the Gospel today that we receive the ancient teaching of a 40 day penitential season of Lent as we progress towards Easter.
Jesus is tempted with three temptations by the devil. The first temptation is where Jesus has come out of his fast very hungry. The devil tempts Jesus to turn stones into loaves of bread. Jesus dismisses this temptation outright by saying “man does not love on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”. We too are tempted to selfishness as well. We are tempted to give into our own passions and appetites to the neglect of all else. This is something during Lent that we must be vigilant against.
In the second temptation the devil takes Jesus to the parapet at the temple. Once again, the prince of liars tempts Jesus to throw himself down from the temple and challenges the angels to support Jesus as he falls. Once again Jesus dismisses the devil by saying “you must not put the Lord your God to the test”.
This is the temptation towards power. It is not a power that serves but a power that attracts others. The devil is suggesting that Jesus becomes somewhat of a celebrity. That he uses his Godly power for his own pride and fame amongst people. We too are to always see that any power that we seem to have through our abilities is a power to serve God and others alone. We must never use any Godly power for our own self-satisfaction and self-recognition. To do so is an assault against the dignity we’ve been given.
In the final and third temptation the devil takes Jesus to a very high mountain and once again lies to him by saying that all this beautiful kingdom of the world is his own. He then challenges Jesus to fall on his feet and worship him. Jesus once again and in a very brief way says to the devil “be off Satan…. you must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone”.
This temptation is to be recognised by everybody as it were an owner of all that has been given. It is as if all were his own personal property. It causes people to simply stop at Jesus and not to give glory to God the Father.
We too are tempted with such pride. Let us always be self-effacing and give any praise and glory that we receive straight to the Lord as the giver of all gifts that we have. We are only ‘stewards’ not ‘owners’ of that which we have been given.
As we now in this First Sunday of Lent begin our Easter journey, let us be strengthened by today’s Gospel in particular. Our life is full of temptations. But Jesus has conquered all temptation. Let us stand alongside Jesus and ward off the devil on all his temptations by claiming the blood of Christ upon us and the power to serve God alone. Let us allow God to breathe afresh his life within us deeply. Only then will our practical responses in everyday life be truly pleasing to the Lord – especially those responses to “the least” in our world.
8TH SUNDAY (YEAR A)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 2 MARCH 2014
Isaiah 49:14-15; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; Matthew 6:24-34
In this Mass I’d like to particularly welcome all the youth leaders from the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. You’ve gathered here in big numbers and I thank you for your attendance and the service and ministry to our youth throughout the Archdiocese to which you wish to serve. We will pray a special blessing for you shortly. I’d also like to welcome the Serra Club of the Archdiocese who at the end of this Mass will launch a special Eucharistic Devotion initiative. Prayers for Vocations to the priesthood, Diaconate and religious life before the Blessed Sacrament will begin today with a special monstrance processed around the Archdiocese in the times ahead.
The Lord knows us so well. He knows that we forget him so easily because of our wandering hearts. It’s amazing how often in the Scriptures that Jesus reinforces that he will never leave us even if we “forget” Jesus.
We see this immediately in the first reading when he tells us “does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish a son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.”
And then in the Gospels we hear so often Jesus say ‘do not be afraid I am with you”. Jesus continually reinsuring us that he is with us till the end of times.
The scriptures today offer us the way to keep our hearts eternally young. Sometimes you can meet an elderly person who is very young at heart. His or her eyes are fixed on the Lord and no matter what is happening in the ageing process they still have the smile on their face and the twinkle of eternity in their eyes. They know that God is with them. On the other hand sometimes you could meet even a very young person who seems to be so depressed and downward looking. He or she might be young physically but already become very aged and elderly deep down within their hearts.
Jesus knows all in the human heart! Eternal youthfulness in Christ begins and ends in the heart.
This is such an important Gospel message today. Jesus says to us all as if he is speaking to us individually “do not worry, do not say what are we to eat, what are we to drink, how we are to be clothed……. set your hearts on his Kingdom first and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own!”
Recently I have been reading a series of beautiful reflections by Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan.
Cardinal Van Thuan was imprisoned in Vietnam for about 13 years – nine of them in solitary confinement. Over many years of imprisonment he was able to smuggle out of the prison little thoughts that he composed. Over the yeas these thoughts became numerous. They are now put into a book called ‘The Road of Hope’.
In one of these little reflections he says something that can help us who so easily forget the nearness of God.
He says “Where is God? God is in Heaven”. There is something missing when we teach small children the stock reply in their Catechisms. We should add, “God is living in me”. (n.231)
He also gives us a very beautiful prayer exercise to help us to remind ourselves that God is not simply in Heaven but God is so near to us. Perhaps we could all use the Cardinal’s simple prayer now for our daily prayer today and in the days ahead. This would be a beautiful prayer as Lent begins next Wednesday – Ash Wednesday. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make this simple prayer part of our Lenten response to God as we journey towards Easter.
The Cardinal advises us to “put your hand over your heart often and tell yourself: God is living with me and in me. Little by little God will give you a taste of that happiness which his presence brings”. (n. 230)
Perhaps we could pray together now. So please place your hand over your heart and let us repeat a few times the following beautiful prayer that the Cardinal gives us ……”God is living with me and in me. Jesus is living with me and is in me”. (silence)
So we’ve made a marvellous start to Lent. May this prayer be something that we repeat often. It is surely a key to eternal youth in Christ. May we never take our eyes off Jesus. But in the midst of all the problems and cares that we have may we know that Jesus is in us and with us carrying our burdens and we are never left alone. This must start in the heart. So, let us set our hearts on his Kingdom first.