Homily – June – 2024

9TH JUNE 2024

 Readings  Gen 3:9-15  2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1  Gospel Mark 3:20-35

We often ask ourselves what is our image of God? Not so frequently we ask ourselves What is God’s image of us!

Yet in today’s Readings there is the hint of understanding of this question of God’s image of us.

In the First Reading today we hear God asking Adam and Eve the question, “Where are you?” (Verse 9).  This question is also the most popular question in today’s world.  We know, from our almost universal use of mobile phones, the questions we ask each other when we open our phones and speak to someone, “How are you?  Where are you?”

Why is God asking Adam and Eve this question, “Where are you?”  We may come to an answer to this by examining the verse just before today’s Reading from Genesis where we have the beautiful statement, “They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze” (Verse 8).  God is therefore asking them “where are you?” because He wants to walk with them in the evening breeze.  What a beautiful image of God.  God wants to walk with us all the days of our lives and yet this is not happening.

God’s vision is broken due to both the human spirit and the evil spirit.

Recall that there are the three spirits…the human spirit, the evil spirit and the Holy Spirit.

Here the human spirit is suggesting, in the hearts of Adam and Eve, some sort of inner rebellion to go their own way.  The evil spirit (with the image of the serpent) seizes this inner rebellion and presents what is an evil as a good.  The serpent suggests that it is good for them to rebel and God is only jealous of them and wants to keep them in some sort of box.  But indeed he suggests to them that they are more powerful than God which is evil because it is simply wrong.

The good spirit…the Holy Spirit…restores us to the Garden of Eden and God’s initiative to walk with us.  There is a lovely summary of this in the Second Reading.  It is in the Life, Death and Resurrection and the Ascending with the Holy Spirit at Easter, “He who raised the Lord Jesus to life will raise us with Jesus in our turn and put us by His side.”  This expression, “…Put us by His side”, is a hint that God restores us in the Easter Mysteries in our walk with Him.  It is not just a restoration but universalisation: – God creates the Universal family walking by His side.

This is suggested at the end of the Gospel today when questioned about His brothers and sisters and His mother, Jesus says, “Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.”

Here is God’s synodal way.  Always inviting us to walk with Him in the cool of the evening.  This is the true meaning of the word synodal,”to walk with.”

Let me explain with two examples.  Recently I read of the 54 year old Parish Priest of Holy Family parish, Gaza.  His name is Fr Romanelli.  He tells of his anguish of not being able to return to his parish in the Gaza strip.  He was away during the massacre on 7th October and since then has not been able to return.  In this interview he talks of his fervent desire to return to “my people in their peril.”  He says, “I suffer for my flock…we ask that you pray for us.”

Here is the example of a Holy Priest exercising his ministry in a synodal way.  He wants to walk with his people in their peril.

By the way, the parish is called Holy Family parish because it was the Holy Family, escaping from the persecution at Bethlehem at the birth of Jesus, who went to Egypt by walking through the Gaza strip of today.  They returned to Nazareth after the persecution by walking through Gaza on the way back.

The second example is more close at hand.  It regards end of life issues.  This week we have heard of the venomous passing of the Euthanasia Legislation in the A.C.T. Assembly.  Here is a good example of making something evil, (killing of the terminally ill by their own choice), look like something good.  It opens up future possibilities of offering this poison to the non-terminally ill.

This is surely a “Mistaken Compassion” as I called it in my recent public comments on the matter.

Compare this to my recent talk with two Palliative care nurses in the A.C.T. who walk with the terminally ill in closeness and tenderness until the death of those they care for.  Walking with the fragile family they are a great example of synodality in practice.

In comparing these two incidences, which ought we choose?  In the mind of the Church and common sense there is only one choice and that is Palliative care.

So let’s choose the synodal way in our own lives and family lives as it opens up in the week to come.  It is God’s way.  It is also our way in the Archdiocese as we prepare for our Archdiocesan Assembly in October of this year.  This is something we are doing in response to Pope Francis’ invitation.  It is happening throughout the Catholic world and it is now our turn to walk in a more intense way together synodaly in the Risen Lord.

I leave you with the final “Gospill” which reprises the beautiful image of Genesis.  “I will walk with God in the cool of the evening.”

16TH JUNE 2024

 Readings  Ezk 17:22-24  2 Corinthians 5:6-10  Gospel Mark 4:26-34

 In Mark’s Gospel Chapter 4 there are a series of parables about the Kingdom of God.  There is one parable in today’s Gospel which is seen as the shortest of all the parables.  This particular one is only found in Mark.  It is a parable about a seed which is planted and grows into a mighty tree.  This done secretly and silently but its growth is unstoppable.

It reminds me of a recent experience when I was invited to Sri Lanka to give some talks on evangelisation.  I returned to this lovely but embattled country once again.  I was last there 15 years ago giving a series of talks to a similar group.

Soon after I arrived a middle aged man came up to me and thanked me sincerely for my talks.  I said I haven’t given any yet!  He was referring to 15 years ago when I apparently gave a talk about why I became a priest.

He explained to me that in my earlier visit I told everybody that I walked to and from school through a cemetery.  He then went on to say that over this ten year period I got to know the people that lived in the cemetery…down under!  Then when I was in my final year of school I needed to make some important decisions regarding subject choice and think about a career for the future.  In a strange sort of way, I asked the people that lived in the cemetery what they thought!  I felt that they had replied that I could do whatever I wanted but just to remember one day I would be down six foot under with them!

The man explained these aspects of my life story as if it was his own!  He was very accurate in repeating what I had said.  This is despite the fact I didn’t remember that I had said it!

He then went on to explain that this story had a big effect on his life.  He too reached a stage 15 years ago were he was at a cross roads with his career.  He explained that he came from a family that was able to give him a very good education.  Life choices were abundantly at his feet.  He was talented and could do anything he wanted but he remembered my story.  So after much reflection he rejected moving towards a stellar career that would have given him prestige and money and he eventually became a full time Catholic Lay Missionary and Evangeliser in Sri Lanka, especially in the community that I had been invited to visit by.

See how the little seed I planted 15 years ago had become a big mustard seed tree and produced this man of great talent.  He has placed his life, in a most extraordinary way, into God’s hands.

It brings out the important point that we should go about trying to plant Gospel seeds and then we must leave it there.  Forget about results.  That’s God’s business.  It is the business of the Holy Spirit to see if these Gospel seeds can find a deep foundation in people’s souls and hearts.  Simply, we place our confidence in God.  In the light of the Second Reading today we do this “by faith and not by sight.”  We just plant seeds of the Gospel in the hearts of people.

A follow up story to this recent trip was when I returned back to Canberra.  Just last week I took a taxi from the airport to my home.  A female taxi driver drove me.  In the car we talked about the weather but she seemed to be distracted.  During the driving she was looking intently at me through her rear vision mirror.  This didn’t give me a great deal of confidence!  She could see that I was wearing a clerical collar and she asked me whether I was religious.  I simply said “yes.”  She said “Are you a priest?”  Again simply I said “yes.”  I didn’t enter into any further conversation wondering where this might lead.

She said, “Could you remember me in your prayers in the days ahead?  I have a lot going on in my life.”  Again briefly I agreed to this.

When we arrived at my destination she helped collect my luggage out of her car.  She then reminded me not to forget about her prayer intentions.  I thought this repetitive request required a question from me.  I said, “Would you like me to say a little prayer for you now?”  She was delighted to accept.  I gently placed my hand in her direction and I prayed for her.  I could see that her eyes had become quite moist!  Again I had no idea who this lady was or what effect any prayer that I might say would have in her personal life.  Then again, we just plant a Gospel seed and leave the rest up to God.

In this week ahead could we forget about our own little issues and try our very best to plant as many Gospel seeds of hope in people’s lives.  So many people describe this culture of ours as a “throw away culture.”  The Jesus way is rather an “encounter culture” which is always the better option.  By planting seeds of Gospel hope we ask the Lord to help people to encounter Jesus in a personal way so that they can find the joy and hopr in their lives.  Jesus is always the joy and hope of our lives!

So our “Gospil” for today is, “Where there is a need, plant a Gospel seed.”