Homily – May – 2022

1 MAY 2022

 Readings  Acts 5: 27-32. 40-41  Rv 5: 11-14  Gospel John 21: 1-14

 A phrase often used over the years when reflecting on this Easter Season is “Easter Paradox.” The word “Paradox” is used but perhaps its meaning is not well known. Paradox means something that seems to be contradictory, seems to be absurd.

This is often in relation to the post Resurrection appearance of Jesus to the Disciples. He seems to be so close to them and responds as always. For instance in today’s Gospel He eats breakfast with them, He speaks with them, they can touch Him, and He listens to them. Yet, on the other hand, He is so very different. They all saw Him dead but now He is alive. He is not a resuscitated corpse or a ghost. However, He does walk through locked doors and is seen in several places simultaneously.

The Resurrection has brought in a completely new dimension of our human existence.

A theological word used, with regard to this, rather than the word “Paradox” – it is the word “Mystery.”

A mystery in not some sort of puzzle like a murder mystery. It means that we are involved in something of such depth that we cannot comprehend its beauty. For instance, an example of this might be diving into the beautiful waters of the Great Barrier Reef in North Queensland. It is like diving into a new existence of our life. There is all the beautiful coloured coral and thousands of different types of fish species. We are immersed in it but we cannot grasp its beauty. This is what is meant by the word, “Mystery.”

Rather than just talking abstractly, the Church gives us key personalities who encounter the Risen Jesus in this Easter Season.

Last week we had the example of Thomas who finds himself face to face with the wounds of Jesus.

Today the focus is on St Peter.

In the weeks ahead, there will be other Biblical personalities.

In all these encounters, we could say there are at least three common characteristics.

The first common characteristic is that in the encounter with the Easter Mysteries of our faith it is always invitational and transformative.

Jesus invites Peter and the Apostles to bring fish so that He can cook breakfast for them. It is an invitation and for St Peter, at least, it is transformative. He moves completely into the Easter Mysteries.

He is alerted to this when St John shouts out in today’s Gospel, “It is the Lord.” Perhaps Peter is thinking of the first time that he met the Lord on the Sea of Galilee. There were similarities with what is happening now. This day, like previously, they had caught no fish and when the Lord told them to fish in a different way and they responded positively, they hauled a huge amount of fish. This happens again. Indeed the Gospel of St John is even more specific. The text talks about big fish and 153 of them. Commentators over the centuries have felt that perhaps at the time of Jesus there were 153 known nations of the earth. This indicates that Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, is here to feed everybody. The word “Catholic” means universal. Jesus is always inviting people to a meal. Here we have echoes of the Eucharist.

We then find that typically impetuous Peter responds with so much enthusiasm. The text states that he “jumped into the water.”

A second common characteristic is that the encounter with the Easter Mysteries involves repentance and surrender.

We recall how last week with Thomas, he says “My Lord and my God.” Jesus then says to him “Doubt no longer but believe.”

Now in the longer version of today’s Gospel we find Jesus saying three times to Peter “Do you love me?” To the three denials of Peter a short time earlier, Jesus now calls him to repentance by asking him to pledge his love. Peter readily does this, without really knowing what he is saying; he does surrender to the Risen Lord. It seems to be a kind of rebirth or a born again experience. This is exactly what Baptism does; we are born again into eternal life.

The third and final common characteristic (I am sure there are many more) is that the encounter with the Easter Mysteries always sends us out on Mission – to be Evangelisers and Witnesses of the Resurrection.

Legend has it that St Thomas evangelised in present-day Asia and especially on the West Coast of India, in particular the Southern part of India, today’s Kerela.

Even today, we can meet people who are from the Southern Region of India calling themselves “Thomas Christians.” It is believed Thomas met his Martyrdom in this geographical area.

As for St Peter, we find from the First Reading today that he remained in Jerusalem in the first instance and spoke with such boldness and conviction that it does seem like he has been reborn, an Easter Peter! When he is challenged by the authorities the Scripture says in the First Reading “In reply Peter and the Apostles said, Obedience to God comes before obedience to men…you who had him executed by hanging on a tree…We are witnesses to all this.” Here is the Easter Peter speaking with great boldness to the Resurrection of Jesus.

Our Church history indicates that he eventually left Jerusalem and went to Rome. Here he met is Martyrdom. We are told he indicated that he did not want to be crucified upright like Jesus. So he was crucified according to his wishes, upside down. Here is his magnificent humility coming through at the final moments of his life. It is upon the original tomb of St Peter that St Peter’s Basilica is built.

It is interesting to note that in these three examples there are overtones of the Sacraments of Baptism and Eucharist. These will be developed in the centuries following. Sufficed to say, in summary, all of us too must open ourselves as witnesses of the Resurrection to God’s invitations and transforming presence, to repent, surrender, and be prepared to be sent as Missionary Disciples wherever God calls us to go.

Let us think over these days how the example of the early Apostles has implications for our own walk with the Lord.

A beautiful expression to remember as a kind of “Gospill” is what St John said in recognising the Risen Lord. He shouted out to all the Apostles with great love to the God of all love, “It is the Lord.”

We now have a little Liturgical ceremony and introduce you to Gavin Keating. Gavin has had a celebrated career in the Army but now feels that God is calling him to the Permanent Diaconate. He is living out his Easter vocation in a new way. His wife Myra and sons Michael and Patrick support him. We welcome them and Permanent Deacon Mick O’Donnell and his wife Cora as we now move to this short “Rite of Admission to Candidacy for Holy Order.”

15 MAY 2022

 Readings  Acts 14: 21-27  Rv 21: 1-5  Gospel John 13: 31-35

 A key expression in today’s Gospel is the following when Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment: love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another.” Let us first note that this is not a suggestion or a pious idea. Jesus says it is a commandment. It is direction for our life ahead. Just as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, so we must love one another.

Over millennia, this has been the litmus test for being a Disciple or an Evangelist of the Lord. Even Jesus himself says that this would be the identifying mark of a Christian when he says, “By this love you have for one another, everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Mother Teresa of Calcutta used, as a real moral and ethical dimension to her worldwide apostolate, the end phrase of this commandment…”as I have loved you.” All of this is a result of grace. It does propel us forward on the “doing side” of our shared life in the Risen Christ.

As always, the Saints teach us how to love like this in everyday life. Surely, the key point from the Saints is that if we are to find God we must search for God wherever we are.

In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we see St Paul and St Barnabas attempting to search for God wherever they were placed or sent by the Holy Spirit. Perhaps they might say in summary something like, “We find love of the Risen Lord Jesus by putting love of God wherever it is not to be found.”

It was certainly the case with their Apostolate seemingly based at the important trading city of Antioch, in present day Turkey. As the Scriptures say, “They put fresh heart into the disciples…encouraging them to persevere in the faith…proclaiming the Word of God…opening the door of faith.” These early Apostles teach us how to love by putting love where the God of love is not found.

Even in our own times, we see similar things with St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, the Australian Saint. She found God in a place where others would have said there was an absence of God. It was the moment of her excommunication in Adelaide. In a Liturgical Rite lead by the Bishop and some of the Priests, she was excommunicated in a way that the Bishop later regretted and reversed. Reflecting on this time, she had this to say. I only came across this quote recently from her memoirs. She said, “I do not know how to describe the feeling but that I was intensely happy and felt nearer to God than I had ever felt before. I can only dimly remember the things that were said to me but the sensation of the calm, beautiful presence of God I shall never forget. I have been told that some of the priests have since expressed their surprise at my silence, but I solemnly declare that the power or even the desire of speaking was not given to me. I loved the Bishop and the Priests, the Church and my good God, more than ever. I did not feel alone, but I cannot describe the calm, beautiful something that was near.” What a beautiful example of “loving one another as I have loved you.”

Even today, a fresh example of this can be found. Later on this afternoon Pope Francis, will celebrate the canonisation of 10 Saints.

One of the Saints is the French Trappist Priest, Charles de Foucault (1858 – 1916). His incredible life was mainly spent in isolation, and in the later part in the isolation of the desert of Algeria with Muslin neighbours. He prayed this prayer of love to the God of love. He said, “Into your hands I commend my soul: I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you Lord, and so I need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence.”

So let us now continue with the Mass living out the commandment of God to love one another as He has loved us.

Perhaps the “Gospill” for today could be nicely summarised in the words of St John of the Cross – the medieval mystic Spanish Carmelite Priest. He had this to say, “Where there is no love put love and you will find love.”

22 MAY 2022

 Readings  Acts 15: 1-2. 22-29  Rv 21: 10-14, 22-23  Gospel John 14: 24-29

 On the day after the Federal Election it goes without saying that we live in a time of momentous change. This is certainly happening politically with a Labor Government now to lead us, but it is also happening on many levels of human endeavour.

All this can have our heads spinning. Many can find difficulty in reaching stability and compass points on the way ahead.

However, as we all know this is not new, this has happened during every period in history.

Indeed, we see this even in today’s Readings. These too were times of momentous change. On this week just before the Ascension and then the week after, Pentecost Sunday, we remain in the Easter Season by reflecting on the words of the Gospel.

Jesus tells us that he is going away but shall return. In other words, there is going to be some “in between time” before Jesus’ first and second Coming. We are still in that “in between time.” Jesus offers us continual encouragement by saying that He will send us “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, who the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. Peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you.” These words are profoundly encouraging for us even 2,000 years after they were first spoken. Jesus’ comforting words, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid” sustain us on the synodal journey of life.

In this “In between time”, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit to guide and lead us in a new way to the Father.   The Holy Spirit continues the presence of Jesus in the world today.

We see all this played out in the Early Church in the First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 15. Here we have, in a sense, the first Plenary Council. It is the Council of Jerusalem. The Church is, in its embryonic moments, immediately confronted with a major question. The question is, “Is Christianity just for the Jewish people?”

Let us see how the Early Church comes to terms with their issues under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

First, there is a gathering of the Early Church. The disagreement amongst them leads to “a long argument.” They “discuss the problem with the Apostles and elders.” “The whole Church” is involved.

Ultimately, a decision is needed. There must be a resolution to the situation that has “unsettled your minds.”

The first Pope, St Peter, the leader of the community, stands up and declares, “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves”…then the action is decided upon.

We can learn so much from this synodal process in our own times we prepare ourselves for the Second Assembly of the Plenary Council of Australia. In addition, we are preparing for the Synod on Synodality globally. The Scriptural sources are forever young and forever wise inviting us still. It is the same Holy Spirit who guided the Early Church, that guides us now.

One of the big issues of our modern world is the issue of the Ecology. It has been influential in the result of the Federal Election and will continue to be so.

In a very prophetic way, Pope Francis wrote an important teaching document seven years ago called Laudato Si. This week the Church throughout the world reflects on the teachings of Laudato Si. This Mass launches this reflection for our Archdiocese.

Again, like the Early Church, there are long discussions and long arguments, not only in the Church but also in society, about ecology.

Laudato Si, an expression coming from the Canticle of the Sun of St Francis of Assisi, 800 years ago and means, “Praise to you, Oh Lord”, continues to give us great wisdom for the way ahead.

This whole discussion at Easter time brings out the important Catholic teaching that the reign of God made resplendent in the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus at Pentecost, is not simply for the transformation of human beings but the transformation of entire Creation. There is a cosmic dimension to the Resurrection.

As the Resurrection and this “New Heaven and New Earth” unfolds itself in our time and place, we are called to be good stewards and land carers of Creation, our common home.

A key term in Laudato Si from Pope Francis is the expression, “Integral Ecology.” In other words, Ecology is not simply a matter pertaining to the environment but also pertaining to all our relations in the world and with God. The following encyclical Fratelli tutti of Pope Francis draws out the “Integral Ecology” concerning our social life with each other.

On this week, we particularly learn from the teaching of Laudato Si on the environment and are very much aware of the seven goals of Laudato Si which need to be acted out practically and locally.

It is important to note that the Catholic Church is a Theological community. It is not a Political community. The Church is divinely instituted by Christ and is animated by the Holy Spirit who leads us on. Having said this, we are not a pious devotional group removed from the joys and sorrows of everyday life. Our role is to provide moral and ethical dimensions to current debates. In this case, in our stewardship and our care of the earth.

So let us place ourselves in the Franciscan spirit of the Second Reading from the Book of Revelations. Here all that is of God is given a beautiful expression by the author when he describes it as, “The radiant glory of God.” It is “like some precious jewel of crystal-clear diamond.” In our care for the earth, we see the glory of God radiant in our midst. Especially in Canberra now, with the beautiful colours of autumn. On this sunny day, even on a walk in the autumn leaved avenues of our fine city there are signs of the beauty of God in our midst.

We could reflect today particularly on St Francis of Assisi’s famous Canticle of the Sun, one paragraph says the following, “Be praised, my Lord (Laudato Si) through all creatures and especially through my Lord brother Sun who brings the day, and you give light through him and he is beautiful and radiant in all his spender.” There is that word, “Radiant” once again!

As we go on now with the Mass, let us recall this little expression perhaps as our “Gospill” today…”The radiant glory of God!” Let us say this expression over and over again as our eyes feast on the beauty of creation and our call to be faithful stewards and care for God’s creation in our actions and responses in our world today.

29 MAY 2022

 Readings  Acts 1: 1-11  Eph 1: 17-23  Gospel Luke 24: 46-53

Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Church – Ascension Sunday.

A beautiful description of this day is found in the First Reading today when it declares, “Jesus has been taken up from you into heaven.”

The Life, Death and Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost of Jesus Christ, together form the great Pascal Mystery of our Faith. Therefore, this day of Ascension is a pivotal moment in this great Mystery of Easter.

Indeed, in today’s Readings, there are two accounts of the Ascension. One in the First Reading and one in the Gospel. They are both accounts from the same author – St Luke. Clearly, he is the author of St Luke’s Gospel, but he is also the author of the First Reading, which comes from the Acts of the Apostles.

From these two accounts, we have also two senses from the Readings. The first sense is a sense of completion. We notice that at the end of the Gospel today the final comment here is that the Apostles “were continually in the Temple praising God.” After the Lord’s Ascension, this is what took place.

There is a sense of completion in this last chapter of Luke (Chapter 24) with the first Chapter of Luke where we find Zachariah in the Temple praising God. From his praising of God comes the Angel who declares that his infertile wife, Elizabeth, is soon to give birth to a son who is to be named John the Baptist. John the Baptist heralds the coming of the Saviour. Now at the end of the Gospel of Luke the Apostles await the birth of the Holy Spirit to come upon the Church at Pentecost. This is the great liturgical feast we shall celebrate next Sunday, Pentecost Sunday.

Given all this, it might be a good idea to offer a few comments of the role of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church.

First, we can say, there is an inextricable link between the Holy Spirit and the Catholic Church.

The Church is God’s creation. It is His Church. It is not something we have made up. It is the Lord’s gift to us. He is no longer physically present with us but He is alive now in the Holy Spirit.

There is a beautiful expression of this at the end of the Second Reading today from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians.

St Paul declares that Jesus is “the head of the Church; witch is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.” We might be very rightly aware of our own sinfulness as members of the Church particularly in these days when we are still so conscious of Sex Abuse within the Church. Yet at the very same time as being aware of our sinfulness, we still call the Church in our official teaching, “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic.” These are in our Creed as the four marks or characteristics of the Church. Although the Church is made up of Sinners, we still call her the Holy Catholic Church because the Church is Christ’s Body and Christ is the Holy One of God.

This Scriptures also speak about waiting for the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon us. In this, there is a real sense of great anticipation. The Gospel today says, “Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.” In the First Reading, there was a similar expression, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth.”

This waiting for the power of the Holy Spirit needs to be immediately clarified. The power of God is never a power of coercion or manipulation. It is the exact opposite. It is the power of loving and merciful service. We see this at play in God’s Holy Church in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist. Here the power of God comes down on bread and wine so that they become the Body and Blood of Christ. Also in this Mass, there is the power of the Word of God in the Scriptures to fall afresh upon us and to lead us on the pilgrim way to Heaven.

It is important to note that this power within His Church indicates that we are a Theological community.

I mentioned this last week, and I think it is important to restate given the upcoming 2nd Assembly of the Plenary Council of Australia.

The Catholic Church is not some sort of philanthropic non-government organisation (NGO). Neither is the Church some form of political parliament whereby the truths of the Church can be modified with more than a fifty percent agreement on the matter. Nor is the Church some sort of Multicultural international club. It is not a sociological reality.

Having said this, there are aspects of the Church which are philanthropic (e.g. St Vincent de Paul, Caritas) and there are political ramifications to the ethical dimensions of the Gospel. It is also a fact that the Church is one of the most incredibly Multicultural and Multiethnic communities of the world. But, they are only some of the expressions of the fact that the Church is a Theological community animated by the Holy Spirit.

Secondly and more briefly, whereas the Holy Spirit resides in the Church as “The Body of Christ” the Spirit is not only found in the Church. As mentioned in Ephesians the Spirit “fills the whole creation.”

We mentioned this last week regarding the Ecological dimensions found in our Franciscan spirituality within the Church. When we come to see the beauty of God in all that is beautiful in creation and all that is true, and all that is good, we can see the Spirit alive throughout the world and not just simply in the Church.

Another example came to mind during the week. A dear friend of mine over many years telephoned me. He is an Australian citizen but originally was a refugee from a communist country of the world.

When he telephoned, we commented on the incredible tragedy of the shootings in Texas, USA, during the past few days. He then made the comment, however, that he could not believe that the Australian people changed the government within 48 hours without one gunshot fired. He marvelled that this shows what a mature and sophisticated democracy we have here in Australia. There is great truth in what he said. We take this for granted. We should see the Holy Spirit alive in Australia through this.

As we now prepare to continue with the Mass, let us use as our little “Gospill” the name given to the person for whom St Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles and whose name is mentioned in the first few lines of today’s First Reading, “Theophilus.” Here is a name, which means, “Lover of the Lord.” Let our “Gospill”, for this lead up now to Pentecost Sunday and the renewal of our Baptismal vows, be that we too might take on this name of “Theophilus.” Let us say to the Lord continually, “Lord Jesus make me – make us, lovers of the Lord.”