Homilies – October 2015
29TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 18 OCTOBER, 2015
JEREMIAH 31:7-9; HEBREWS 5:1-6; MARK 10:46-52
In today’s Gospel we have the delightful encounter of Jesus Christ with Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was a blind beggar who sat on the side of the road. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he did something that shocked the people around him. He began to shout out, “Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me.” The crowd around him was embarrassed by him and scolded him, insisting that he keep quiet. However, this had the opposite effect on our dear Bartimaeus. He shouted all the louder, “Son of David, have pity on me.” I love the next expression from the Gospel, where it says that, “Jesus stopped.” I think that’s a beautiful expression. Jesus, wherever he is going, cannot resist the call of faith from the poor and the marginalised.
Jesus asks people to bring Bartimaeus to Him. All of a sudden the crowd change their disposition. The fickle crowd are a bit like a flag in a wind. They now do the opposite to what they said before. They encourage Bartimaeus to go to Jesus. They say, “Courage, get up; he is calling you.” Eventually he does get up and follow Jesus. So the blind Bartimaeus runs to Jesus. Jesus asks him the question of all great questions in the Gospel, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man responded, “Master let me see again.”
Isn’t it interesting that the crowd are able to see physically, but they seem to have little or no faith. In contrast to this, Bartimaeus cannot see physically, but he seems to have a great deal of growing faith in Him.
Indeed it his faith that saves him. It is his faith that Jesus works the miracles. Jesus rarely works a miracle in Scriptures unless there is some form of faith shown beforehand.
The last part of the Gospel is interesting. Once Bartimeaus’s sight was restored, he followed Jesus along the road. He didn’t go in front of Jesus or even beside Jesus. He lagged behind Jesus like every good disciple does. It’s always the Master who leads us and we follow Him. Never the other way around.
So in this Mass today, let us mediate carefully on the beautiful Biblical scene of Jesus with the blind Bartimaeus. Let us call out in faith to Jesus for our needs and know that in our deepest needs He will stop too, and come towards us and ask us, “What do you want me to do for you?”
FEAST OF POPE ST JOHN XXIII
28TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
10.30am MASS, JOHN XXIII COLLEGE, ANU, 11 OCTOBER, 2015
WISDOM 7; HEBREWS 4; MARK 10
It is providential that the Gospel today is of the rich young man encountering Jesus. It is possible that this young man is of university age. It could be any one of you. He has the world in front of him. He has a good education, he is well dressed and has all sorts of capacities that others would not have. But the question to be asked is as follows: what will he do to earn a living? It’s not so much the “earn” that’s significant, but what will he do to help him in “living”. That’s the real question. It’s not to do with material possessions. It’s not to do with the car, the good university qualification and the expertise in a particular area. It’s really to do with the wisdom he will carry into life.
In the first reading, wisdom and understanding is given such a high priority. We see it in the Scriptures, “And so I prayed, and understanding was given me; I entreated, and the spirit of Wisdom came to me. I esteemed her more than sceptres and thrones; compared with her thrones; compared to her, I held riches as nothing.”
It’s almost as if this rich young man feels he lacks this without being able to articulate what it is.
Therefore he comes to Jesus and asks the pivotal question, “What must I do Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus gives him a matter of fact answer to this basic question. He talks about knowing the Commandments, he talks about the basic ways that a religious person would respond. Then the rich young man, in a somewhat arrogant way, says, “Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.”
Then we have the truly beautiful sentence from the chapter of St Mark. “Jesus looked steadily at Him and loved him, and said, you need to do one thing more. Go and sell what you own, give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven, and then come follow me.”
But the young man found that was a challenge too great for him to respond to. “His face fell at these words, he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.”
All of us see ourselves in this rich young man. To have Jesus look steadily at us and love us is something that would be a transformative experience for the rest of our lives. Although this rich young man will go away sad, he would certainly go away with an awareness of God’s presence in him for the rest of his life. Maybe later on in his life he will come to a complete self-renunciation of surrender of his life in the way Jesus advised.
And so in the midst of all this, we also remember Pope St John XXIII. He is the patron of this college. It is his feast day today. If he was alive today, he would be about 134 years of age! He was born in 1881 in Northern Italy, just like Pope Francis’s parents. Indeed, the similarities in the personalities of Pope Francis and John XXIII have often been commented upon. St John XXIII died in 1963. Throughout his life he wrote a journal. We now know it as the “Journal of the Soul.” We see the progress in the journal of his spiritual life. He allowed Jesus to look at him and love him. This had a profound effect in the way he continually gave his life over to the Lord in all the different chapters of his life.
We particularly remember him this year at the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican II Council. We would not have the Second Vatican II Council if it wasn’t for the spiritual inspiration of John XXIII to convoke such an extraordinary council.
His motto as a Bishop was “Peace and Obedience.” He tried to live this out all his life. He tried to be a peacemaker with those that he came in contact. He chose the human characteristics of a sense of humour and a smile to make sure people could be at peace with each other. And there is of course obedience. He listened carefully to the heartbeat of Jesus in his life. This is true obedience. He never missed an opportunity of surrendering to the Lord, no matter what his situation was.
So let us continue our Mass now. I want you to feel by my coming here today a sense of importance that I have for the presence of this Catholic college in the midst of an internationally renowned university – the Australian National University. Be courageous Christians! Bring Christ into your lives and into the life of this university. Allow Jesus to look at you and love you. Don’t go away sad and dejected like the rich young man. Be like John XIII, and through peace and obedience come to the Lord in all the many invitations he is and will offer you in your life.
CELEBRATING THE CANONISATION OF FR JUNIPERO SERRA
6.30pm MASS, TRANSFIGURATION PARISH, NORTH WODEN, 8 OCTOBER 2015
MALACHI 3:13-20; LUKE 11:5-13
I am sure that St Junipero Serra, in his long life, would have meditated many times slowly and profoundly on today’s Gospel. When we hear Jesus say to us “Ask and it will be given to you: search and you will find: knock and the door will be open to you,” we are all called to trust in faithfulness in God who leads us.
St Junipero Serra was completely open to God’s lead in his life. He therefore gives us great saintly example on how to live the Christian life in today’s world. A world far different from his own.
St Junipero Serra (1713-1784) was beatified in Rome on the 25th of September 1988 by St John Paul II. He was canonised in Washington USA a few days ago on the 23rd of September 2015.
He seems to have had a vocation within his vocation as a Franciscan Friar. He was born in Mallorca (off the coast of Spain) in 1713. After becoming a Franciscan Friar he began to teach philosophy. But having reached the age of 36 years he responded to a deeper call within him. This was to become a missionary in far off lands.
John Paul II described him in the beatification ceremony in 1988 as the “Apostle of California.”
At the end of his life he was the founder of twenty one missions in the California area between 1769and 1782.
His life as a missionary was characterised with great holiness. He began his missionary life in 1749 by beginning in Mexico. He started with many challenges. He was an asthmatic all his life and soon after arriving in Mexico suffered a chronic leg wound that was with him for the rest of his life and caused him to limp. Arriving in Mexico by ship after 98 days from Europe, he was stung by an insect. He scratched it, which led to an open wound that never healed. It caused serious pain and a limp when he walked for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he would always prefer walking despite these difficulties. His determination was a sign of great holiness in trusting God.
As a missionary he was also a great evangeliser. He was particularly sensitive to the needs of the indigenous people of Mexico and California. Indeed, he is often called an apostle to the Indigenous people of that area. He learnt their local language and was very sensitive to their needs. This is despite present generations who see us looking back on his contribution in a negative manner. It always seems unfair to judge past generations with the eyes of the present.
At the age of 70 years he died after thirty five years of service in the Alta California, the second mission that he established, the St Charles Borromeo Mission.
A few days ago at his canonisation ceremony in Washington USA, Pope Francis reflected on missionary life. He gave a beautiful definition of mission. He said ‘Mission is never the fruit of a perfectly planned program or a well organised manual. Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.” This was exactly the type of missionary that St Junipero Serra was.
Towards the conclusion of His Homily, Pope Francis drew direct attention to St Serra’s motto. In Spanish it is “Siempre Adelante.” In English it means “keep moving forward.” This was the heartbeat of St Serra’s holiness and missionary endeavours. Let it also be something that we can learn in our daily lives. Let us keep moving forward. Despite all the obstacles and the challenges of life, let us keep moving forward, knowing that God is with us at all times in our sincere but humble efforts to be His presence in our world today.
May I take this opportunity of thanking all of those in the Serra Club here in Canberra and beyond. I know that you are doing so much to promote vocations to the priesthood and religious life in your prayer intercession and practical ways. I’m most grateful for all of this. May we call upon St Junipero Serra as a Canonised Saint to help us even further in the times ahead. Let us keep moving forward!
RESPECT LIFE SUNDAY
27TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR B)
11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 4 OCTOBER, 2015
GENESIS 2:18-24; HEBREWS 2:9-11; MARK 10:2-16
Welcome to everybody on this inaugural Respect Life Sunday. I’m very keen to build up a new tradition in the years ahead in our Archdiocese. The idea is to focus and pray at least one Sunday in the year on this vital topic of respecting life from conception to natural death.
As always, the Scriptures give enlightenment on all challenges facing us in our lives including the one to protect life at all stages of its development.
The readings today seek out the ideal of good human living. It becomes the truth of what it means to be a human person. In regard to marriage, the expression in the first reading and the Gospel are keys to understanding this. The word is “ONE BODY”.
From the Book of Genesis we hear in the first reading the following “This is why a man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife, and they become ONE BODY.
It’s an expression that Jesus returns to in the Gospel today, when He says unambiguously the following “But from the beginning of Creation, God made them male and female. That is why a man must leave father and mother and the two become ONE BODY.”
The radical complementarity of man and woman is seen both in the New Testament and in the Old Testament. It is one of God’s greatest creations. In today’s world it continues to be a radical teaching. There is so much confusion with complementarity in marriage.
But it is something very beautiful for us to cherish on this Respect Life Sunday. In recent days I’ve been entertaining some guests. We visited Floriade. Both my guests and the voices that I could hear around me of the many hundreds of people visiting Floriade was the word “Beautiful.” The beauty of floral arrangements and colours soften the heart and we appreciate the beauty that God gives us. If we appreciate the beauty in created life, let us not ever down grade the beauty in human life. As Pope Francis would say its all part of “integral ecology.” This is the ideal and the truth we should seek.
Without compromising in any shape or form, this ideal, we show healing mercy at the same time to those who stumble in embracing such a truth.
In just a few days Pope Francis will open the Synod on Marriage and Family Life in Rome. We pray for this Synod in this Mass today. Pope Francis is such a great parish priest of the world. He understands that merciful kindness must also be shown to those who find it difficult to embrace the ideals of our Christian living.
So let us particularly remember those who find themselves in all sorts of difficult situations in human life – whether they be in marriage difficulties, divorce, abortion, depression, or in suicide.
We pray for them, but in no shape or form do we dumb down the incredibly important ideal that life is precious at all stages of life’s spectrum. It’s this particular ideal that we Catholics do champion, and will continue to do so in the years ahead, however difficult they might be.
On this Respect Life Sunday, particularly in marriage and family life, I want you to feel my encouragement for all that you do in supporting human life. Our world is so fickle and fast moving it can often be very superficial in its responses to life’s challenges. But we stand alongside those who are defending life in its most feeble stages. We offer options of counselling and adoption for those who find themselves with unwanted pregnancies. Abortion should never to be seen as something that is an option. It’s a great tragedy, and we should do all that we can in the first instance to decrease the huge numbers of abortions that take place in Australia. Then at the end of life, the growing political discussion regarding euthanasia should be resisted as well. Palliative care is the way to respond with the very complex issues of end of life.
So in our Mass today let us pray for God’s blessing on all human life from conception to natural death. The Catholic Church’s response is always from womb to tomb in acclaiming that Christ Jesus is the fullness of life, and that life should be seen with great dignity. The image of God is in every human life, no matter how small or how feeble it is. I thank all those here present at this Mass today, who in any shape or form are active in respecting life, in all its stages in practical ways. Do feel in my Mass today that my thoughts and prayers are very much with you.