Homily – May – 2024


READINGS: Acts 16/22-34; John 16/5-11

Once again in today’s Easter Scriptures we see the Holy Spirit alive in the Early Church.

Regarding synodality, Pope Francis continually reminds us that the Holy Spirit is the Protagonist guiding the Church.

To think and do otherwise, leads the Church up two ecclesial dead end streets: Either we run too fast for the Holy Spirit, thereby building a new “Tower of Babel” of confusion.”  Doing this produces not one new conversion to the Risen Lord.  Or on the other hand, we run too slowly for the Holy Spirit, thereby positioning the Church in a locked upper room of fear and inaction.

As always the Scriptures give a true compass for not getting in the way of the Holy Spirit’s work.

So in our Easter Scriptures of today, the Holy Spirit seems to be the specialist in bringing…order out of chaos…life out of empty wombs…victory out of the defeat and scandal of Calvary…resurrected life out of an empty tomb…blessed hope out of a locked in despair.

Today’s First Reading is surely a typical example of the action of the Holy Spirit, our Protagonist.  There is seemingly a disaster: Paul and Silas are stripped, flogged and imprisoned.  Then there is the Holy Spirit’s action.  Importantly, following prayers and songs of praise, there is the earthquake, chains and Prison doors opened.  There is also the unexpected conversions: The Gaoler and his household are Baptised and a meal provided for all.  In this meal there is a certain Eucharistic tone, like the story of Emmaus.

In the midst of our many challenges as Bishops in Australia, the Holy Spirit, our Protagonist, yet reminds us in the Gospel of today, in the words of Jesus: “I will send you the Holy Spirit…I will be with you always, yes until the end of time” (Matthew’s Gospel)

So, dear brothers, let us take the lead from Paul and Silas in our various Prison cells and, in this mess, “pray and sing God’s praises” as we await a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Protagonist, the Lord and giver of life.

I end with a little testimony of the Holy Spirit.  One of the adults recently becoming a Catholic through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), when asked why she became a Catholic said it was the Church’s Liturgy that was pivotal in her conversion to Catholicism.  She noted that especially the prayer after the Our Father at Mass was particularly moving for her…”As we await the blessed hope and coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

So let us take the lead from the newest and youngest member of the Christian community and together in this Eucharist…”await the blessed hope and coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

12th MAY 2024

 Readings Acts 1:1-11 Eph 1:17:23 Gospel Mark 16:15-20

 Let us recall, regarding our Christian Easter Mysteries, that nothing is what it seems to be.  This has almost become a theme over these Easter weeks.  For example on Calvary even the Liturgy shows the deeper mysteries when it says, “The tree of defeat has become the tree of victory.”

Today on this Solemnity of the Ascension, there seems to be another disaster: Jesus has left us forever.  In fact, this seems to be the case but it is not.  It is just the beginning of Eternal life.  Jesus must physically leave so that the Holy Spirit can come at Pentecost.  The Lord’s promise says it all emphatically, “I will be with you.”  Jesus has been taken up to Heaven to make us sharers in His Divinity according to the preface of today.

And our response?  On our journey of faith together (= synodality) “We wait in joyful hope for the coming our Saviour Jesus Christ.”  (The prayer following the Our Father)  There is the yearning of the human heart, the longing for the fullness of the Lord’s Second Coming.

Just a few days ago I joined many of my brother Bishops, following our Sydney Bishops’ Conference, in attending the Funeral Mass of the former Bishop of Wollongong, Bishop Peter Ingham.

At the Vigil Prayers, one of his carers who was with him spoke of what had happened when Bishop Peter was told by the doctor’s that his cancer had now become terminal.

The next morning, according to the carer, Bishop Peter came to breakfast and his face was quite radiant and totally at peace.  He said, “I am soon to see Jesus face to face.”  Bishop Peter was throughout his whole live a man of great hope and joy.  What seemed a disaster, with Easter joy within, became a victory for Bishop Peter!

Let us be the same.  To add to our joy we do not go on this synodal journey alone.  There is Mary, the Mother of God.  Theologians sometimes link together the Ascension with the Assumption.  Here Mary herself followed Jesus in Ascending into Heaven, Heart, body and soul.  The Liturgy states, “Mary, the first-fruits of redemption.”  Mary teaches us serene hopefulness.  The great Mother, the Mother of Jesus, on this Mother’s Day shares with us her hope in her Son.

Also giving us hope today, is the Baptism of a Married couple Scott and Lisa Cowdell.  We pray for them on this important day.

I leave you with our Sunday “Gospill.”  “…I will be with you always, yes, until the end of time.” (Matthew)

19th MAY 2024

 Readings  Acts 2:1-11  Corinthians 12:3-7.12-13  Gospel John 20:19-23

Let us reflect on the sentence in the Gospel today on this Pentecost Sunday which says: “He breathed on them and said ‘receive the Holy Spirit’.”

Let us reflect for a moment on that first expression, “He breathed on them.”  Here God exhales in a moment of grace upon us all.

The breath of God is a fundamental symbol of God’s presence in the Bible.  God’s Holy Spirit is Breath or Wind.  This breath of God is directed towards the very core of each one of us.  The wind of the Spirit is mentioned in the First Reading of the account of Pentecost from the Acts of the Apostles.  “…a powerful wind from Heaven.”  God’s Breath connects us with each other, with Jesus and with the entire created Cosmos.

In the Greek language God’s Breath is called “Pneuma.”  The study of the Holy Spirit in theology is called Pneumatology.

Also the Hebrew word for the Breath of God is “Ruah.”  The word suggests the sound that it describes.  The Breath…the Ruah of God.

The Breath of God happens throughout the Scriptures but in three essential moments in our Salvation History.

It is there in the first chapters of the Book of Genesis.  God created the Cosmos and the human person is the apple of His eye.  From clay and dust God breaths into the nostrils of the first human (Adam) and there is life.

Then there is the new Genesis of the birth of the Church which we celebrate today on Pentecost Sunday.  We have many descriptions of what the Church is.  St Paul suggests the popular term that we are the Body of Christ.  This is forever true.  Also because of Pentecost and what happens today we are also described in our ancient Tradition as “the community of the Holy Spirit.”

Then thirdly, there is the continuing Genesis.  This is our life in the Holy Spirit via our Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist.  Even the Chrism that is used in Baptism and Confirmation has been breathed over by the Bishop in the Chrism Mass.  It is a beautiful ceremony to continue the great symbol of God’s breath being the symbol of His presence in the Holy Spirit.

Let us reflect for a moment on the next section of the Scripture sentence which is, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  It is something we inhale.  In the First Reading today it is said that they were “filled with the Holy Spirit.”  They inhaled the Holy Spirit.  In proclaiming and evangelising in an understandable way they were able to preach about “the marvels of God.”  In the light of the Second Reading today they were able to proclaim with great personal conviction through the Holy Spirit that “Jesus is Lord.”

Other parts of the Scripture say that when the Apostles went out from the Pentecost room they seemed to be drunk.  It wasn’t due to an alcoholic spirit it was because of the Holy Spirit.  In our ancient mystical Tradition, being filled with the Holy Spirit is often referred to as intoxication of the Holy Spirit.  We are deliriously joy filled when we know that no matter what happens to us that God is with us till the end of time.

So life in the Holy Spirt is as simple as breathing in and out.

When we breathe in the very breath of life of God we say to God, “Fill us, fill me!”  The beautiful Pentecost sequence before the Gospel today says, “In our utmost being fill.”

Then there is the breathing out.  In all I do and say, we say to God, “May I be you to all this day.”

So by way of a little exercise in this Mass and over the days following can we be more attentive to our breathing in and out.  It is not just simply something mechanical but it also can be a prayer form.  This prayer form has been noticed by our Spiritual classics over the centuries.  When we breathe in slowly, deeply and quietly we see this as a way of the infilling of the Holy Spirit as God breaths into our nostrils and hearts too.  When we breathe out slowly, we make a pledge that we will be Missionary Disciples of the Resurrection in all the challenges that face us in the week ahead.

So let our “Gospill” for this weekend be a line from a very popular hymn of breathing in and out which will be now sung by the choir to help us meditate on this beautiful expression of God’s infilling.  Our “Gospill is”, “…Oh breathe on me breath of God.”