Homily – July – 2022

17 JULY 2022

 Readings:  Gen 18: 1-10  Col 1: 24-28  Gospel Luke 10: 38-42

 Last Sunday’s Gospel was the Gospel of the Good Samaritan. The major question this parable asks is, “Who is my neighbour?” Jesus gives the definitive answer – Your neighbour is anyone in need…ANYONE!

Today we have the follow up of this parable in Luke’s Gospel, which refers not so much to the hospitality of serving and doing, but to the hospitality of listening and being. Here we have the beautiful encounter of Jesus on His way to Jerusalem, and His Suffering and Death, and the hospitality offered by His friends Martha and Mary.

This entire scene is foreshadowed in today’s First Reading from the Book of Genesis. It takes place at a town outside of Jerusalem called Mamre, under the great Oak tree where Abraham had “pitched his tent,” in other words set up his home. Abraham offers hospitality to three people who arrive unexpectedly. He is both “Martha and Mary” in the sense that he is quick to serve but also he exhibits an attentive listening ear.

There seems to be almost a “shimmering” of the three men – Angels that appear at his tent. Sometimes he refers to them as one person and sometimes in the collective. He understands that when he serves anyone, he serves God.

The Godly visitors enquire about his wife Sarah. They promise her infertility will be healed and she will give birth to a son despite her age. Within a year from this, she gives birth to her son Isaac.

When Christians look at this passage, they see a foretaste of the Trinity. This “shimmering” of the three yet one reminds the early Church of its emerging understanding of God as the Trinity. The New Testament and the words of Jesus also go beyond the Old Testament’s imperative of hospitality. Not only are we to serve those in need but according to Jesus, we are to serve those most particularly from the peripheries. Those who are disguised as the poor and oppressed and marginalised.

Over the last few weeks, I have been involved with the Plenary Council of Australia in Sydney. I was so pleased to see that this outreach to the peripheries is certainly happening here in the Church of Australia. So many of the migrants and refugees who have come to Australia over the last few decades, especially those from the Easter Catholic Churches and Eparchies, are making an increasingly wonderful contribution to Catholic Church life. We include here the Catholics who belong to the Eparchies of the Maronite, Syro-Malabar, Ukrainian Melkites and Chaldeans.

Another prominent periphery group, most regrettably, in Australia continue to be our Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander peoples. They played an increasingly prominent role in our recent Plenary Council. Not only with their Acknowledgement of Country, but also a considerable number of our First Nation people participated in the round table discussions throughout the week and spoke publically to us all about the interface between their Aboriginality and Catholic life. It was wonderful to listen carefully to them!

We now move to the Gospel. Here the geographic centre is not Mamre but another city outside of Jerusalem called Bethany. I have walked from Bethany to Jerusalem. It takes about one hour. Here Jesus is in a pensive mood. He is on the road to Jerusalem, which leads to His Suffering and Death. He seeks hospitality in the home of Martha and Mary.

Martha is the quintessential Good Samaritan of the New Testament. However, she needs to go deeper. Martha is busy serving whilst Mary is busy yearning. Martha is busy talking whilst Mary is busy listening deeply to Jesus. Martha is distracted and physically distant from Jesus as she does all the practical work in a somewhat fussy manner.  She complains to Jesus about her sister Mary. Mary, on the other hand, is highly focused and attentive to Jesus’ possible pensive mood. The Scriptures note that she is “at the Lord’s feet.” Perhaps she looks up into the eyes of Jesus and Jesus looks into her eyes. Mary’s service will be the fruit of this deep listening. Both Martha and Mary’s active and contemplative apostolates are needed in each Christian. Mary’s listening posture, before her acting, is described by Jesus as the “better part.” Being always precedes doing.

Again referring to the Plenary Council in recent weeks, there was much hospitality with Mary’s type of listening. There were lots of silences and pondering and yearning for God’s Holy Spirit to come upon us as we focused on the Word of God.

May I make two very brief points on the listening hospitality during the Plenary Council.

Firstly, listening carefully is not easy. It is tough work. Pope Francis continually reminds us of the distinction between listening and hearing. In hearing, we hear sounds. However, in listening we direct ourselves to communicating with the other. This nonverbal communication is deep and requires great effort on our part to put aside our own agendas and biases. Listening to the other is a gateway to God speaking to us.

Secondly, once this is done, God’s Holy Spirit is given a real opportunity to make Jesus present in our midst. Here God’s grace can work amongst us. This was certainly our experience over the last few weeks.

So as we go on with the Mass now, our quest is to be just like Mary and Martha, to be both listeners and then from that to be ready to take up the tasks of the day. Only then can we really enter into the Mystery of God amongst us.

For our “Gospill” today, let us take that beautiful expression from the Second Reading of St Paul to the Colossians, which summarises all this. This is one of the most beautiful expressions of Pauline literature when he says, “The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory.” We could perhaps adapt it a little and say, “The mystery is Christ among us, our hope of Glory.” Let us pray for this grace earnestly in this Mass.

22 JULY 2022

 Readings  1 Kings 19: 9, 11-16  Acts 6: 1-7  Gospel John 15: 9-17

 It could be said that Christian conversion is circular in its mode.

By that, I mean two things. Firstly, there is the movement from God to us. This is Grace. It is God’s initiative of His love and mercy towards us as a gift even though we are sinners.

Secondly, there is also a return movement making a circle from us responding to God’s Grace Gift. This is Faith. It is our response to God’s grace by repentance and belief. It is always outward looking and pertains to proclaiming the Gospel to the world. This is Evangelisation. This Christian conversion in its circular modality is not only a daily event embraced through our prayer, but it also features in our life plan or vocation.

A great example of this is described in today’s Readings. Today is the Feast Day of St Mary Magdalene. In more recent years, Pope Francis has given greater prominence to this day now classified as a Feast Day.

In the Gospel today we have the wonderful encounter of Mary Magdalene with the Risen Lord from John 15.

Mary Magdalene has been seen, in our long Tradition, as the Apostle of the Apostles (Apostolorum apostola) and we see why that is the case in today’s Gospel. First, there is this downward notion of God’s grace upon her. It is encapsulated in one word from the Risen Lord…he mentions her name…”Mary.” In one word offered in great love, Mary Magdalene becomes a Christian. She responds by saying “Rabbuni”…Teacher or Master or Lord and Saviour. At the end of this saving encounter and her own total conversion to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, she is given the evangelising mission. She is told to, “Go!” She then goes in testimony to the locked up and fearful Apostles with the Good News of Salvation that Jesus has Risen from the Dead. Even though she receives a very tepid response, nonetheless, she goes into the world of her time fearless with Christ burning in her heart.

All of us can associate with this great circle of Christian conversion. In my own life, I see seeds of it also. When I was concluding my schooling and wondering what to do with my life, I began to think of the Priesthood. The thought of bringing God down to people and people up to God was something I do recall coming to me and giving me great inner peace. Looking back on it now, I can see it was the Lord gently calling me to the Priesthood.

Tonight we see this same Christian conversion circle made present in our dear brother Gavin Keating. We welcome him and his dear wife Myra and their two boys, Michael who is an alter server in the Mass tonight and Patrick.

It is quite clear that our dear brother Gavin has had a vocation within a vocation. His primary vocation to date has been his marriage to Myra and the nurturing of his family life with the two boys. His career has been in the Army, which has successfully seen him promoted to a very high rank. A vocation and a career are similar but they are quite distinct from each other. A career in the Army is something that Gavin has chosen. A vocation to married life and family life and now to the Diaconate is something God has chosen for him through his Baptism to which he has cooperated in faith.

Perhaps in the choice of tonight’s Readings we find a deeper understanding of vocation, particularly in Gavin’s life. In the First Reading from 1 Kings we hear of the call of Elijah. It was a very subtle and unexpected call and it was not something loud and clear! It was not a mighty wind or an earthquake or fire. For Elijah God’s vocation was communicated to him in, “the sound of a gentle breeze.” Another translation, which I have always found even more penetrating, is “in a voice of thin silence.”

It is a gentle silent voice in all of us to go deeper in life. God is never happy with mediocrity, complacency, or plateauing off to a comfortable modality in life. God is often described as, “The jealous lover.” God is always after something deeper, in this case a deeper conversion. This gentle voice calling Gavin to the Diaconate has definitely come as a vocation deeper within his vocation. It is not something he has chosen alone. This is not a pelagian view of vocation were it is all about my choice. Although fashionable in today’s “my choice” world, it is quite different and is not simply some sort of ecclesiastical career.

We are here tonight because Gavin’s call is a response to grace, which has been co-discerned by the Church over many years and has now reached this Sacramental stage where the Bishop confers the Sacrament upon him in the name of the entire Church. It is almost as if God has been saying to Gavin in such a gentle way as he did to Mary Magdalene in tonight’s Gospel, his name deep within him calling to something greater than he has ever thought or imagined. Jesus calls him “Gavin.”

In response to this grace call Gavin has made a major decision to let go of other priorities and to respond to the Lord’s call for him to “Go!”

We are talking here of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. There are three orders or modalities for this Sacrament. There is the Episcopacy, Priesthood and the Diaconate. It is this latter order that we are celebrating tonight. Here Gavin expresses his Baptism in the Sacrament of Holy Orders to serve the universal Baptism of the faithful. It is all about service!

I noticed two weeks ago at the Plenary Council of Australia in Sydney that Gavin was present. He was very visible! Gavin was doing things to help us practically. He was a scrutineer of the votes; he was handing out documents and serving in a very diaconal way. I was very proud to see this. Service for Gavin Keating is not something that is “tacked on” but is in the DNA of his life. The Lord is now using this in a Sacramental way for the greater glory of God in the evangelisation of the Church.

In the Liturgy of Ordination that is about to commence we will hear that he is called to humble charity, prayerful consecration to the Lord and an obedient proclamation in Word and Sacrament. His service, pastoral charity and pastoral care is already well known in this particular Holy Family Church in the Corpus Christi Parish. We thank the Lord for this local parish assisting Gavin during the last months of his preparation for this day. Before he receives an appointment as Chaplain in the Army, he will continue here for at least a few months, but now in service as an ordained Deacon.

We now pray for him and ask God’s grace and faith to come upon him in abundance so that the conversion in him will be continual but established in a particular way sacramentally in the ordination to the Diaconate this day.

Finally, tonight’s ceremony is an invitation for all of us to go deeper with the Lord! What is the Lord calling each one of us to do in a deeper way? This means that we must quieten ourselves, listen silently and experience the gentle breeze of God as he calls us also by name with great love and a probing searching of our lives to become more attune to the mystery of God within in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

24 JULY 2022

 Readings  Gen 18: 20-32  Col 2: 12-14  Gospel Luke 11: 1-13

 Today’s Readings give us a wonderful teaching on prayer.

A beautiful scene was described in the first line of today’s Gospel from Luke. We hear that “Jesus was in a certain place praying, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’”

Perhaps this is an example of what might be called “Holy envy.” Jesus often stood apart from the Apostles to be at one in silent prayer with His Heavenly Father whom he called “Abba.” Perhaps this time, He was in eyesight of the Apostles nearby. Perhaps they could see that He was totally at peace in His prayer and they also wanted to be able to pray like their Master. They asked Him to teach them to pray. It is because of this request that Jesus has given us the quintessential Christian prayer…The Our Father.

Today is “World Day of prayer for Grandparents and the Elderly.” So many of us have been inspired by the good example of prayer shown by our grandparents and the elderly. We too are a little like the Apostles and have “Holy envy” of those who teach us to pray.

In response to the Disciples request, Jesus offers us The Our Father. When we pray The Our Father, we generally do this in a rather speedy unreflective manner. At least on this important day, let us pray The Our Father slowly and muse on each of the phrases from this prayer of prayers.

In the First Reading today from the Book of Genesis we find that in our Jewish spiritual ancestry, God is referred to in many different forms, including that of Father. What sort of father is He?

The First Reading indicates that God is both Mighty, Saviour, Redeemer and Defender of those who believe, and full of merciful love at the same time.

It is important for us to understand both these dimensions together and not focus too much on one to the neglect of the other.

When we pray, our image of God is so important. If, on the one hand, God is seen as Lord, God and Almighty alone, we could find that we doubt whether even God would forgive us our many sins. This can give rise to a certain sense of guilt and endless shame.

On the other hand, if God is seen as loving and merciful, and we do not acknowledge Him as God the just King, then we can see God in a way that is not Biblical. God is both totally Almighty and totally Merciful…not one or the other. In the First Reading today we find how God is strong and ready to enact justice on the people who have become unfaithful. Through the intercession of Abraham, the merciful nature of God slowly comes forward. Both these dimensions are seen in the Reading and both must be seen in our prayer life.

Also in the Gospel, we hear about other images of God which show that we should always be persistent in our prayers and never give up on God’s intervention.

Let us also always remember the two “B’s” of prayer. It is sort of like our “B&B’s” of prayer (not bed and breakfast!!). The first “B” is that in prayer we must always remember that we are beginners.

The great thing about our wonderful relationship to God our creator and saviour is that we can always start again in prayer.

Always suspicious of people who consider themselves as some kind of “Guru” of prayer and think they have some sort of inner knowledge of prayer that the rest of us do not have.

This goes back to an ancient heresy in the Christian Church called “Gnosticism.” Here Christian sects give the impression that they have some sort of hidden knowledge of encountering God. Here personal experience triumphs over the collective wisdom. There is no need for the Church with this sort of attitude to prayer. This early Christian heresy is also present some times in our prayer, especially in an Australian context, where we put undue emphasis on the experts as if we had nothing of our own resources to assist us in prayer. We are all beginners!

The second “B” is that we are always beggars.

We always start “on our knees” when we pray. When we pray the Mass, we always begin with the Penitential Rite. In all prayer, we acknowledge at the start that we are sinners and God is merciful and we come to God seeking mercy. We are begging for mercy.

Therefore, prayer is never arrogant, patronising or full of pride. These things are a poison to prayer. A humble contrite heart responding to God as his obedient servants is the food for prayer.

Another heresy of the 5th century is educative here. It is called “Pelagianism.” Here we have an overconfidence in human capacities to choose God. This false assumption is that we do not really need God’s grace. We can do it ourselves! This is a heresy because we always need God. We are always beggars before him. It is not as if God just comes in at the end to offer some cosmetic conclusion to a largely human effort to encounter God in prayer.

I notice this today with a technique of praying called “Mindfulness.” They have borrowed from Christian Traditions some of our prayer techniques. All this is well and good but they are only techniques. Christian prayer never finishes with techniques but the techniques of prayer, for instance in breathing or body posture and attentiveness, are helping us to encounter Jesus in our friendship with the Lord in our prayer. Mindfulness, which is an industry today to help people to relax in our stress-filled world, is simply offering a structure but not the ultimate aim of the structure – Encounter with Jesus.

I leave you with the little story of St Teresa of Avila, the 16th century Spanish Carmelite nun and mystic of the Catholic Church. When she talks of prayer, she talks of four ways of watering the garden of our heart. This is her way of talking about a prayer life.

She says there are four ways of watering a garden. The first way is to use a bucket, go to the well, draw out water with the bucket and then water the garden. Here we get the job done but it is labour intensive! The next way is to lighten our burden a little by installing a pump. Here by pumping the water out of the well and into a bucket our efforts are lessened somewhat as we water the garden. The third way is by irrigation. Again, this saves much of our effort and allows irrigation to carry the water to the places of need. The fourth and best way she says is to …wait for rain!

Here all the initiative comes from the Heavens…from the Lord himself! All is grace! We have to be yearning and waiting and longing for the Lord to come in His own way and in His own time. Here is the essence of prayer from the Carmelite mystic!

So as this week goes on let us pray The Our Father slowly and particularly focus on the beautiful expression…”Thy Kingdom come.” Maybe the repetition of this prayer often in the week to come as our “Gospill” will draw us into deeper communion with our Eucharistic Lord.