Homilies – March 2015
OPENING OF EMBRACE ASSEMBLY MASS
FRIDAY 20TH MARCH 2015
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
GENESIS 15:1-6, 21:1-3; LUKE 1: 39-56
The whole Archdiocesan family is here! Welcome everybody to the opening Mass of our Embrace Assembly!
It seems that we are all here. We have the Bishop, we have the Priests, we have the Deacons, we have the Consecrated Religious, and we have 99% of the Church ….. the lay faithful! Particular welcome to all married couples and families who come here in all their different shapes and sizes. Special thanks to those who have travelled long distances to be here.
We evoke the Holy Family to guide us tonight and in our gathering tomorrow at St Clare’s College. We pray that the Holy Spirit will lead us and will show us the way forward.
I’d like to offer you three words to reflect upon in light of today’s readings.
The first word is WOMB.
Pope Francis, in his comments for World Communication Sunday that’s coming up in May of this year, offers us a reflection on tonight’s Gospel: The Visitation.
He talks about the two wombs of this Gospel. The first womb is the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. Both women are pregnant. Already in the womb of St Elizabeth, St John the Baptist “Leaps with joy” at the presence of the Lord in the womb of the mother of us all Mary.
Already there is a language of the body present here. There’s a real primal communication between Elizabeth and John the Baptist and between Mary and Jesus.
Although two mothers, there are four human beings involved in this scene. There’s a complementarity between the primal relationship between son and mother. There’s a unity of the body yet there’s a differentiation of their beings.
It shows us that God doesn’t simply remain in Heaven. John’s Gospel reminds us “That the word has become flesh and dwells amongst us.” We are embodied with the love of God.
The second womb is the womb of the family.
Pope Francis talks about how the family is where we first negotiate forgiveness, love and prayer, even disabilities in families.
There’s a community of love and life here. The domestic Church is present. We all know that the family is the gateway to society. Indeed, if we weaken the family we weaken society. If we strengthen the family we strengthen society. It is in the family, in the initial years particularly, that we negotiate life in this special womb of married and family life.
The second word I’d like to offer you is the word THANKS.
Mary responds in the Gospel to the gift of God in the Annunciation.
When speaking to her cousin Elisabeth she says that all she wants to do here in this visitation to her cousin is to magnify the Lord. In other words she wants to make Jesus greater. She wants to give glory to God and not to herself. She sees herself as merely the handmaid of the Lord. She is the slave of God. And in her magnificent prayer of the Magnificat we see the joy of the Lord in her which inspires us all to respond with the Joy of the Gospel in married and family life. For all the lights and shadows, all the difficulties and real hardships in family life at times we give thanks to the Lord and hope in His healing touch. We know that mercy and love are permanent in the heart of God and will always be permanently present to all of us who struggle.
The third word I’d like to offer you is the word PROMISE.
In the first reading we hear of the promise given to Abraham and Sarah. They too had their family problems. They were infertile. There was no suitable heir apparent.
But God promises Abraham that an heir would be given. Abraham puts his faith and trust in God. He becomes the Father of Faith. And as we know a son is born. From this ancestry does Joseph and therefore Jesus make present the fulfilment of that promise.
When God promises He never fails to fulfil that promise. It may not be in our own time and our own way but the promise will be fulfilled if God gives us this promise. This is where our faith must be.
We do come to the Lord in our Assembly with all sorts of questions and ask the Lord to give us hope and the promise of His presence in the midst of all our challenges today. These issues, have been discussed throughout the Catholic world in these times of the International Synods. Here in Australia most of the Dioceses are seriously considering what are the challenges to married and family life. These are areas where we ask the promise of the Lord to be fulfilled in ways that give illumination to us.
Recently, I came across a list of questions from a Catholic Diocese in South Australia. I think they could be questions from any Diocese. I will just list them out to you now to help us to focus on some of the issues that might come to the fore tomorrow:
- How can couples living together before marriage or in de facto relationships be encouraged to choose marriage?
- What could be done to help people better understand the greatness and beauty of the indissolubility of marriage?
- How can the family be helped to become “the domestic Church “with a missionary vocation? How can we help develop a family spirituality?
- What could the Parish do to offer more effective marriage preparation?
- How can we respond better to people of same-sex attraction and their families?
- What more can be done to promote a sense of parenthood as divine vocation? What more can be done to help parents in their educational mission, especially in transmitting the faith to their children?
So as you can see we have many questions to ask the Lord. I am sure He has many answers to give us, in His own time and place. However, we do trust in His promise that He will be with us till the end of time. The Lord will not abandon us in our needs, particularly in the community of love and life which is married and family life.
Let us now proceed with our Mass invoking the Holy Spirit to guide us over these days and the days ahead. May we particularly ask the intercession of the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to guide us and to guide the whole Church in these important days.
FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT (YEAR B)
150 YEARS SESQUICENTENARY 1865-2015
ST PATRICK’S CHURCH, BEGA, 15 MARCH 2015
JEREMIAH 1:4-9; ACTS 13:46-49, LUKE 10: 1-12, 17-20
It’s great to be with you all. I’ve been here for the last three days on pastoral visitation. This time together now is bought to a summit at this much anticipated Mass to celebrate the sesquicentenary of St Patrick’s Bega.
I particularly welcome the parish priest, Fr Michael Lim and the con-celebrants, Fr Paul Bateman who was ordained in this Church as a priest and Fr Henry Byrne who spent quite a bit of time as a young man here as a parishioner in this parish.
Much preparation has gone into these days. I thank all those in the parish who have met for many months to make sure that this day is a day which will be memorable for all.
Over these days of intense listening to you on my pastoral visitation, I’ve noticed the great witness of the profound bound between the spiritual family and the natural family here at Bega.
By this I mean the natural family of parents and children over many generations profoundly sharing their family life with the parish family or the spiritual family. There’s a great bond between the Church, the family and the school. I met quite a few parishioners who were telling me that their parents and their parents’ parents’ have been attached to this parish over many years, especially the school.
That’s exactly what a parish is. It’s to make Christ in His Church present in the local area. You do this magnificently and we thank God for His many blessings over so many years.
Two parish publications are now available regarding the Catholic history in the Bega Valley over 150 years. We will launch the newest edition at the end of this Mass.
As I look through the two publications I notice the huge number of priests who have served you in the parish over the last 150 years. We pray for those who have died and we thank the Lord for the crucial importance of priests in parish life. We pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
There’s always a profound link between the priest, the Eucharist and the parish. We all know that without the priest there can be no Eucharist and without the Eucharist there can be no parish.
I’m also aware of the very many Religious Sisters who have assisted in the parish over the years, particularly in education. I’m thinking particularly of the Charity Sisters and the Josephite Sisters. We’re so proud of the fact that St Mary of the Cross MacKillop visited Bega during her life and encouraged us all. May she intercede from heaven to us now.
It’s the families and their belief in married life that have really made this parish grow over the years. Beginning with both Irish and German families they have bought together not only the parish, but have served so well the Bega region. I noticed many war memorials in Bega. So many of those who died in the service of the nation and in particular the Bega Valley have typically Catholic names. We pray for them all in this Mass.
I notice at the school there is a big sign saying St Patrick’s School is “A School with a View.”
On one level this is certainly true. The scenery around here is unbelievable. God must have been in a very good mood when He made Bega Valley! The four parishes here in the Bega Valley all are sited in beautiful scenic spots. This parish of St Patrick’s is built on the top of a hill. This is not just to capture the view but also to represent not only the horizontal view of God’s beauty but also the vertical response that we ought to make in our relationship with God.
When I went for a walk yesterday morning I noticed so many beautiful poplars lining the streets. They all seem to be like spires reaching vertically to the sky. They were almost saying “Don’t forget about God! Make sure that God has a place in your lives!
So as we celebrate 150 years of St Patrick’s Bega we look back with great thanks but we also look forward with much hope. We don’t want today to be just a sentimental looking back alone. The parish is never a museum but is also a hope for future glory because it radiates the presence of Christ for future generations as well.”
I can see by listening carefully to you over these days that there’s still much to be done in the future. Married life and family life need to be supported, particularly with passing on the faith to newer generations that seem somewhat indifferent to participation in the Sacraments. This is an important work of evangelisation for the present and the future.
Also I notice the important need for adult education. There are so many resources available today. I encourage small groups to use these resources to make sure that our Catholic faith life is well understood and able to be articulated in a very sophisticated world of today.
All these works of evangelisation are well supported by the readings today.
From the book of Jeremiah in the first reading he has given the command from God “Go to whom I send you.” It reminds me of Pope Francis and his insistence in “The Joy of the Gospel,” Apostolic Exhortation, to be missionary disciples for this world of ours.
And in the second reading Paul and Barnabas express our vocation in the following words from the Lord “I have made you a light for the nation so that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” This is not just a geographic evangelisation but its also the great movement deep down into the human heart. Here we are to encounter Jesus like never before and radiate the fragrance of God’s presence to the world.
We are never to feel that we are using our own resources for this work of evangelisation. The Gospel today gives us the important expression from the Lord: “I have given you power.” The power is the Holy Spirit coming upon us to place us in a situation of trust that God will be with us, not only in the past, but in the 150 years still to come.
In conclusion, could I remind you that St Patrick’s is built on top of hill! It can be seen from all around the area. So let us bring people home to the light on the top of the hill. Let them feel the warmth and the comfort of God and then to be sent out as modern day missionaries in our world. Let us now pray together the parish prayer of St Patrick and ask for His missionary intercession.
THIRD SUNDAY IN LENT (YEAR B)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 8 MARCH 2015
EXODUS 20:1-17; 1 CORINTHIANS 1:22-25; JOHN 2:13-25
Recently I turned on the television to listen to the news. Before the news there was the end of a quiz show. The final question in the quiz was interesting. To answer the question, you had to know the difference between polytheism and monotheism.
To a certain degree we have to know that difference to understand today’s readings.
Polytheism is the belief in several Gods. Monotheism is the belief in one God.
In the first reading today in the book of Exodus the Ten Commandments are articulated.
Of the Ten Commandments the First Commandment is the most significant. “I am the Lord your God who bought you out form the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no Gods except me.” We must recall that the people of Israel are coming from a culture of many Gods. The insistence here that there is only one God, and our God is to be worshipped alone.
Indeed the other Commandments are resultant of this primal Commandment. The first Four Commandments deal with our relationship with God and the Fifth to the Tenth Commandments largely relate to our relationship with others.
In Australia today, we think of Commandments in a very legalistic way. We feel that they are restrictions on our freedom. In fact, in the Biblical world, such Commandments are tickets to freedom! They are boundaries around which human freedom can be expressed fully. To go outside these boundaries is to end up in some form of human slavery. Let us think, particularly in our Lenten pilgrimage to the Easter mysteries, of the Ten Commandments as a great gift from our merciful God. Let us think carefully of them and be always aware that our God is merciful and loving. This is particularly important during Lent. We all should think seriously about going to the Sacrament of Reconciliation in this Lenten period. There can be found God’s merciful freedom.
In the Gospel today, we find Jesus going into the temple in Jerusalem and upsetting the situation which has evolved. The Lord’s complaint is “Take all of this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.”
It appears that the people of Israel, although monotheistic in theory have become somewhat polytheistic in practice. They have allowed the God of money and trade to distract them from worship of the one true God. This makes the Lord angry. We diminish ourselves when there is a division in our heart and we divide our attentions away from God.
The arising question is, do we do the same in our lives? In today’s world, we too would say that we are monotheistic but there are many other “Gods” that can distract us and in fact make us polytheistic in practice.
Jesus presents himself in this Gospel as the new temple of Jerusalem. In His life, death and resurrection it is not simply a temple built of stones but the temple of His resurrected body that is the very centre of our worship of the One true God.
This makes sense of His words “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up.”
So let us now continue with our Lenten pilgrimage to Easter. Let us look particularly to the words of St Paul in the second reading where he sent us all Christian devotion onto the focus of Jesus Christ. He describes Christ as “The power and the wisdom of God.” May these words be our strength in the days to come.