Homily – May 2018

SUNDAY 27 MAY 2018
Dt 4:32-34. 39-40, Rom 8:14-17, Matthew 28:16-20

Who is God? This is the primal question of humankind. This great Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity describes who God is and our relationship in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

God is God. We will never fully embrace and understand the mystery of the Trinity in this life but we are to allow our God to love us and to embrace the Trinity in us fully.

There have been many theological and almost scientific explanations of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons over the centuries.

But I prefer to take a descriptive definition from one of our great Church Fathers of the 5th Century, St Augustine (354-430). In reflecting on the Trinity St Augustine said the following “Whenever there is love: There is a Trinity. – A lover – the beloved and a fountain of love.”

Let us look at these three aspects.

First of all, according to St Augustine, the Trinity must always have The Lover. This is our loving and merciful God who is so close to us.

In the Gospel today Jesus himself tells us this in saying that the Father, Son and Trinity are “with you always; yes, to the end of time.” In the First Reading today God our Almighty Father, is described as our God who provides for us in our every need.

After offering many examples, the author of Deuteronomy says, ”signs, wonders…outstretched arm…all this that the Lord your God did for you”

God our loving Father is the lover of humankind. He provides for our every need and is with us till the end of time.

Secondly, the Trinity needs a beloved – the one loved.

Because of God’s Amazing Grace, we are the one loved – the beloved.

In giving his disciples their Missionary mandate before he ascends into Heaven in today’s Gospel, Jesus tells them to “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” We are to baptise into the love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

For this reason, Christianity is radically communitarian.

I remember a lovely little expression that goes like this “God doesn’t love us because of what we’ve done: God loves us because when he sees us he sees his Son.” Of course God loves each one of us individually. Indeed, he “knows how many hairs are left on your head” but he also loves us as a people – the people of God. Here we are in this wonderful Cathedral, all gathered together but it is not us alone. You have an indication of this by the stained glass windows portraying so many of the Saints of the Catholic Church. We are praying in this Mass with the entire Church throughout the world and in the world to come. We are radically communitarian in our prayer to God and more importantly God is feeding us in Word and Sacrament in this Mass. Indeed our relationship to God is described in the Second Reading as – “Abba, Father!” We are all through our baptism, sons and daughters of God and it is this spirit of adoption that “makes us cry out, Abba, Father!   The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God. And if we are children we are heirs as well: heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.” This is our great vocation, through the love of our Trinitarian God, we are caught up in our Triune God in a relationship that will never end.

Thirdly the Trinity requires “a fountain of love.” Through our baptism we are not simply acquaintances with God but we are, “coheirs with Christ”. Some of the Fathers of the Church and in particular those that have made beautiful Icons of the Trinity over the centuries have described this graceful relationship we have with God as a dance of love.

It’s not something static or academic. It brings us all close to a dynamic experience of extraordinary hope and immense joy. It reminds me of a natural spring from which a great river is sourced. It might seem small and refreshing, but it goes out down through the mountains and valleys to become a mighty river. There is the image here of not simply a dance but a great movement of life and love and forgiveness. That is the life of the Trinity shared amongst us.

We must never think that our relationship with The Most Holy Trinity is something abstract. Indeed, every time we begin prayer we begin in the Trinity by saying “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

All Christian belief is Trinitarian. In a few moments we are going to recite the Nicene Creed. It really is a wonderful description of our belief in the Trinity.

So let us continue our Mass now alive in the Trinity of our God and always ready to say to God “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.


SUNDAY 20 MAY 2018
Acts 2:1-11, Gal 5:16-25, John 15:26-20; 16:12-15

Today we celebrate the great solemnity of Pentecost.  We reflect on the Holy Spirit in our lives and we also reflect on the birth of the Church at Pentecost.

I would like to focus particularly on a passage in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles which many would find rather bewildering.

St Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, makes the comment that on the day of Pentecost the devout in Jerusalem were “bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language.”  They asked “How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? …we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.”

Over the centuries we’ve reflected on many important aspects of this first passage.  I wish to share with you just two.

This first point is that the Catholic Church is Universal…it is Catholic.  It means that the Spirit of God embraces all nations and indeed the entire cosmos.  All here are able to receive the common power of the Holy Spirit poured afresh upon the universe.  It gives way to our common creed, the statement that we all believe in God.  There is a oneness (a common language) in our beliefs.  We pray one of the creeds at every Sunday Mass.  We have a common language in our faith, despite the fact that we have different languages and cultures of the earth in our midst.  There is a unity in our great diversity in Christ Jesus risen from the dead and now poured upon the earth with the gifts and the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

A second point has been the observation that this passage, of all hearing the one preaching in a common language, could refer back to the Book of Genesis. 

You might recall in the first eleven chapters of Genesis there are the great Bible stories of God’s graciousness and our conversion.  There are stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Ark and also the Tower of Babel.  In the Tower of Babel, (Genesis 11/1-9) you may recall, the people of the time had a noble intention but exercised a very self-absorbed response to this intention.  They wanted “to make a name for themselves” (V.4)

The intention was that they wished to have greater access to God.  They therefore decided to build a city and a tower between Earth and Heaven to enable this noble gesture to take place.  The trouble with the whole thing was, however, that they made no reference to what God wanted.  It was all a human project. 

Of course all human projects without any reference to God in the Scriptures are disastrous.  The Tower of Babel was a purely human project.  Indeed, rather than forging a common language towards God they could not understand each other.  There was a complete “Babbling” of languages to the point that one was incomprehensible to the other.

The exact opposite happens now on the day of Pentecost.  This is God’s Project.  It is God’s Grace and Initiative.  Human kind responds in faith but it is the Grace of God who makes the Initiative.  This is forever the theological truth of our Scriptures and Tradition. 

Let us reflect seriously on this.  We must make sure that in our own days and times that we do not “Babble” with our own projects in our Parishes or Schools or our outreaches to others in need.  It is important to reach out to others but is must be as a response to all that God does in us.  Otherwise no human hearts will be converted to the Lord.

To do otherwise will make us fall into the trap from the Second Reading of today from St Paul’s letter to the Galatians.  We must heed his warning clearly: “You cannot belong to Christ Jesus unless you crucify all self-indulgent passions and desire.”  The deepest of all self-indulgence is the rebellion in our heart to feel that we can respond to our circumstances better than God himself.

Let us now move on with our Mass completely open to the Holy Spirit pouring upon us in a fresh manner today in the “New Pentecost” of this Mass.  Only then can we be the witnesses to the Resurrection when the Holy Spirit comes.  Indeed Jesus says this in the Gospel: “When the Advocate comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who issues from the Father, he will be my witness.”


SUNDAY 13 MAY 2018
Acts 1:1-11, Ephesians 1:17-23, Mark 16:15-20

We celebrate today the Great Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.  It is “the taking up” of the Resurrected Jesus into Heaven.  It also celebrates the Lord’s promise of the “coming down” of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost-the Solemnity of next Sunday.

Looking at this great Solemnity 2000 years later, the Ascension fills us with joy.  We know that the Lord’s “coming up” will surely usher in his “coming down” of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  However, we see this “after the great Saving Event”.  2000 years ago, the Apostles with Mary, must have been very perplexed about what happened on this day.

They seemed to be left between a promise and the fulfilment of a promise.  In the First Reading from today the Lord says to them “John baptised you with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit…you are to wait there for what the Father had promised.”

You can see from the comments of the Apostles that they were bewildered by what was happening.  They asked the Lord “Lord, has the time come? Are your going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He replied,” it is not for you to know times or dates…”

So there is a promise that God will provide for all in his Church but it requires radical trust and total commitment to his promises.

We too are in this period between promise and fulfilment.  We are between the Lord’s First Coming (His Life Death and Resurrection) and the fulfilment of all this in his Second Coming which we still await in hope.

All we are left with ultimately in the Ascension is the promise that when Jesus says “I will be with you until the end of time.”

Perhaps our response is best seen in the person that Luke writes about in the Acts of the Apostles.  We see this at the beginning of today’s First Reading when he says “In my earlier work, Theophilus…”

The name Theophilus means “Lover of the Lord.”  The name could aptly represent all of us in this in-between time.  We are to be “Lovers of the Lord” as we wait in hope for all that God has promised.

Particularly in this May month of Mary and on this Mother’s Day, we see what being a “Theophilus” really means.

For Mary the Mother of God it was a real “tough love.”  She is the mother of the Crucified, the mother of the Church and, for all Australians, she is Our Lady Help of Christians, our Australian patroness.

Last Sunday I was privileged to be at a special Mass in St Patrick’s Church, Church Hill in Sydney. 

We were celebrating 200 years of Eucharistic Devotion in Australia.

The beautiful story is that there were about two years in the early colonial days of Australia were there was no Priest present.  The priest that exited quickly, Fr Jeremiah O’Flynn, did lead the Blessed Sacrament in one or two families.  So it was, presumably in both the Dempsey and the Davis family that for two years lay Catholics gathered spontaneously to pray the Rosary and to pray Vespers and to be silent before the Blessed Sacrament as they waited for another Priest to be sent to them.  Our first Australian Bishop, Bishop Bede Polding, described this as the real birth of the Catholic Church in Australia.  It was certainly a Marian moment were they “treasured and pondered” all the God had done for them as they waited in joyful hope for the continuation of their Sacramental life by the arrival eventually of other Priests.

On this Mother’s Day let us pray for all mothers and indeed the Marian dimension in our beloved Catholic Church.  We pray that Mary will protect all Mothers and protect us, with her motherhood in the Church, from all the challenges that are in front of us in the present moment.

May I conclude by offering each one of you, but especially the Mothers in the Church at the moment, a lovely prayer from St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa)  It is a prayer which calls upon Godly Grace in challenges that face us on a daily basis.

Mother Teresa said that this prayer never failed her and she prayed it often on a daily basis.  So here is my gift to you.

Mary Mother of Jesus, be a Mother to me NOW.”