Homilies – April 2016

Acts of the Apostles 5:12-16 Revelations 1:9-13, 17-19 John 20:19-31

 What a graced moment it is today! It is Divine Mercy Sunday and we are in the middle of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy. How much the steadfast love of the Lord Jesus, raised from the dead, would want to touch all of us today on this Divine Mercy Sunday.

It is always the Lord in His grace coming towards us even before we go towards Him. Surely, for the Divine Mercy to go deep within us, we need to be empty before the Lord. You cannot fill a full glass of water. The water glass must be emptied for the water to come in. The same occurs with us before the Lord. We must start with our vulnerability, where we feel very empty inside, for the Lord’s mercy to come and fill us with Easter life.

Indeed, this is precisely the purpose of the Scriptures. We see at the end of today’s Gospel from John, this made quite clear. St John, writing his gospel about 100 years after the Resurrection, makes the following statement. “There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.”

There is a great summary of the Gospel! The Gospel of God’s mercy is there so that we might believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that we might have life through His name. It is all about belief and life.

So let us prepare ourselves to be freshly blessed with the Lord’s mercy in this Mass by presenting our vulnerability to the Lord. There is a very popular hymn in Australia that focuses on this precise point. The opening words are as follows. “Come as you are, that’s how I love you. Come as you are, feel quite at home. Don’t be afraid, love sets no limits. Come as you are, why stand alone?” As we are singing these words, let us believe that it is truly the Easter Lord who is deep within our being.

This indeed has happened to St Thomas in today’s Gospel. In many respects, St Thomas is like an Australian! He wants “evidence-based, scientific proof” before belief occurs.

For St Thomas to have life through the name of Jesus, he places a condition.

The incredible thing is when the Lord does appear to Thomas, He accepts him just the way he is and moves him along. This is today’s Gospel. So here we find the risen Lord, who is neither a resuscitated corpse, nor a ghost, presenting himself to St Thomas and the other apostles. The Risen Lord presents His arms and side to Thomas and asks him to place his fingers in the wounds of His body. He then says to Thomas, “Doubt not longer, but believe.” St Thomas’ demand for scientific certainty tends to crumble with his encounter with the Risen Lord. He simply says to the Lord, “My Lord and My God.” We thank Thomas for this summary of Christian belief. We all feel like St Thomas. We have the need for both historic truth and an encounter with the Risen Lord simultaneously. And the Lord answers us on both these two levels!  This is called grace!

So as we now proceed with the Mass, may we have a moment of silence? I ask you to gently in prayer, place before the Lord the deepest vulnerability of your being and ask the Lord’s healing mercy to be like divine medicine. As you receive the Lord in Word and Sacrament, may you feel this healing medicine transform the sufferings in your life into the Lord’s wounded and resurrected body! Let us have a foretaste of what will happen to us at the end of time, when Christ will be all, in all. Let us recall what the Scriptures tell us. “If we die with the Lord, we will rise with the Lord.” Let us now die with the Lord afresh and wait for the fullness of His Resurrection to take place in our lives in the future.

This is the source of our great joy. This is the source of great hope. We are not abandoned. The Lord comes to us in our needs and transforms us into His Easter people. Alleluia!

Acts of the Apostles 14:21-27 Revelations 21:1-5 John 13:31-35

What really motivates people? For some it’s power. For others it’s possessions. Sadly, these are self-serving goals and may lead to much pleasure, but very little happiness in life.

The Gospel today shouts out that the motivation for all human action and attitudes is love. It is disinterested love, (not selfish love) that the Lord proclaims. Hence, the Cross.

On this ANZAC Day long weekend, I came across recently a beautiful story told by the famous war historian Charles Bean.

He talks of a moment just prior to the assault on Lone Pine in Gallipoli in the First World War. Well over two and a half Australian causalities resulted at this time. Over seven Victoria Crosses were awarded for bravery.

At any rate, Charles Bean relates this story. “An Australian soldier approached the front trench. To the men in it he asked ‘Jim here?’ A voice rose from the fire step, ’Yeah, right here Bill.’ “Do you chaps mind moving up a piece?’ asked the first voice. ‘Him and me are mates, and we’re going over together.’”

This expression “We’re going over together” is the nonchalant Australian way of saying that we’re going to die together in service of Australia. This attitude is most sorely needed in Australia today – the need one for another.

The source of unending motivation for Christians is by embracing the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the end the Second Reading today we hear “The One sitting on the throne spoke: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’” God makes all things new. With the God of love infusing His presence in our very beings, all things are made new.

In this liturgical Easter Season this does not mean that we are moving towards a problem-free life; quite the opposite. You only have to read the Acts of the Apostles over these weeks to see that problems abound for the early Church. But it is tough love. There will be still great problems in our life, but there will be an incredible, hope joy and peace in the midst of these problems.

This was the imperative theme of the early preachers of the Church. In the First Reading today we hear Paul and Barnabas going through what is now Southern Turkey, preaching the Death and Resurrection of Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel message of love of Jesus Christ to all. The aim of their preaching is stated explicitly in this First Reading. “They put fresh heart into the disciples, encouraging them to persevere in the faith.” This is the Early Church’s imperative. They wanted to put “fresh heart” to those struggling in the new-found Christian faith. They are to encourage them to “persevere in the faith.” In other words, to trust in Jesus no matter what the persecution involving them entailed. It is almost as if, taking the story from the ANZACs, they are saying to each other “We’re going over together.” In other words, we’re going to join the Easter Jesus in heaven, but via Calvary. Suffering and martyrdom even may occur, but their destination was Christ Jesus in heaven. This is the encouragement that they received and the fresh heart that was given by the early Christian preachers.

Could I conclude by giving a little story that puts this great Easter message in perspective?

For a few days last weeks, I was in Alice Springs, Australia. I was there joining about 30 Aboriginal Catholic leaders with about 30 priests, brothers, nuns and lay people, who are full-time in the Aboriginal apostolate. We were encouraging each other to persevere in the faith and offering fresh heart in the continuing struggles that Aboriginal people have here in Australia. These continuing troubles are exemplified in one of the Aboriginal women lamenting that an eight year old girl in her community had recently suicided. Can you imagine it? An eight year old girl suiciding!

In the midst of all this suffering there was immense joy and hope in our gathering.

One morning, when I drew back the curtains from my window, I looked outside at the magnificent MacDonald Ranges as the morning sun bathed them with light. And there they were; three great eagles of Central Australia. The wedge-tailed eagles were circling nearby above the mountain looking for breakfast!

The wedge-tailed eagles are some of the biggest eagles of the world. As I was looking at them, I was marvelling at them. They were simply gliding and riding the drafts of winds coming up from the desert floor along the mountain ridge. They knew how to keep still and look, with their wings out-stretched, being held totally by the wind. They were riding the wind. They were not flapping their wings. They were holding their wings right out and gliding, almost like statues.

This is a great symbol of Christianity. John’s Gospel often is linked with the eagle. We are called to be eagle Christians in the difficulties that surround us. We are to put our lives out and allow the wind of the Spirit to guide us wherever God wants us to go in His love. This requires total trust in God’s providence. We need each other to find encouragement and a fresh heart to trust the Lord no matter what happens.

As we go on with our Mass now, let us be nourished afresh by the Body and Blood of Jesus and His Living Word. Let us persevere in our lives and say to each other in one form or another “We are going over together.”


Time dims the memory of ordinary events, but not great events!

In our nation’s history, great events- whether in peace or war- live in our memories regardless of time. They are deemed great not necessarily for what they achieve, nor for whether they are reckoned to be victories or successes.

Rather, the great events are distinguished by their quality of human spirit, by the examples of living they create for ordinary men and women and by the legend they inspire into the future.

And so it is with ANZAC Day.

The young men of Gallipoli were the first ANZACs.

Young Australian and New Zealanders who were simply doing their best against great odds in a military campaign of intense ferocity.

The first reading this morning from the Book of Wisdom described their service well: “God has put them to the test and proved them worthy to be with him; he has tested them like gold in a furnace and accepted them as a holocaust”. We are told that this Gallipoli campaign saw some 8,000 killed and 78,000 wounded.

By their commitment, courage and comradeship, the ANZACs set standards that have inspired their countrymen for generations to come. That spirit and tradition not only sustained our forces in the other military theatres of the 1st War but throughout the succeeding 100 years where our nations have served in military conflicts and peace keeping.  The legend they established gave fresh voice to new feelings of national pride in both our young nations, and the news of their suffering, on reaching the homes of anxiously awaiting families, brought people together in ways they had not experienced before.

We remember on this day those who fell in both World Wars, in conflicts such as Korea, Malayia, and Borneo, Vietnam and recently in the Middle East and Afghanistan and those on service with International Peace keeping Forces. We remember those who return from conflicts with physical and mental wounds and for those families who devotedly cared for them over so many years and continue to care for our recent veterans.

It is significant that this ANZAC Day occurs within the celebration of the Easter event – the Death and Resurrection of Jesus – with its occurring themes of new life and hope.

In today’s second scripture reading, St John uses the example of the seed which can only be productive if it falls into the ground, germinates and in this sense, dies.  John also speaks to us of “loving” or “hating” one’s life in order to save it for eternal life. Whilst our Christian spirituality is based on accepting one’s life as God given and therefore made in God’s image and likeness, these expressions refer to living one’s present life with an attitude that goes beyond mere self preservation at all costs. It points to an attitude of being ready to embrace a self sacrificing spirit in the service of our God and human community.

In this remembrance of ANZAC, we see very poignant examples of this self sacrificing life for others. We also clearly observe this time and time again within the fabric of our community; every day our National and State Police Forces face critical challenges, in the exemplary dedication of our ambulance services, in professionalism of our Australian Defence Force personnel, in emergencies services, hospitals and schools, in government and various social welfare agencies and within the dedication of our many volunteer organisations.

This year we are reminded of this spirit of self sacrifice in the response of victims and the community at large to the siege of Port Arthur on the 20th anniversary of this tragedy, and more recently in response to the tragedy of the Sydney Lindt Café siege December 2014 and in the aftermath of natural disasters in Australia and New Zealand.

As we gather today, along with many thousands of others in cities and townships throughout New Zealand and Australia, to honour men and women, and a living tradition, may our current  generations not only acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone before us but may this day serve as a powerful reminder of the legacy that is now in our hands and assist us in continuing creating both our nations as just, peaceful, harmonious and compassionate societies.

And so we pray in this Mass; may their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.