Monthly Archives: August 2017


1-17It is important to read today’s Gospel and next week’s Gospel as two parts of a single story. These readings are a turning point in Matthew’s Gospel. This week we hear Jesus name Simon Peter as the rock upon which he will build his Church. Next week we will hear Jesus call this same Simon Peter “Satan” when he reacts negatively to Jesus’ prediction about his passion and death.

When the first disciples meet Jesus, the question on their minds was: is he the Messiah? the one we have been looking for? They were really asking, “Is there anything to hope for?” And Jesus showed them there was something to hope for. He showed them in miracle after miracle that he was the Messiah. And in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asks a pointed question. “Who do you say that I am?” Jesus asks. Opinions abound, in their day and in ours. From this story, we can be sure that simply saying what we’ve heard other people say isn’t enough for Jesus. Jesus wants to know what we think; Jesus wants to know who we think he is.

Jesus has a real relationship with his disciples and like all good relationships, it’s mutual. There’s a back and forth, a sharing of life. Jesus isn’t polling the whole Judean countryside. He wants to know who his disciples think he is. Peter blurts out, “You are the Messiah, the son of the living God.” How does he know this? How do you know this?

Jesus says it’s an awareness, a knowledge that comes directly from God. And there’s power in knowing Jesus is the Messiah. It’s the power to withstand the gates of Hell, to hold the keys to the kingdom, to bind on earth and loose in heaven. In this one small moment of spiritual awakening, Peter gets all the tools he needs for his life’s work.

So why did he tell his disciples to keep it a secret?

Well, we do know a couple things about how Jesus operated, especially before he went to Jerusalem. He told people to keep quiet his work and identity a number of times. We also know Jesus was not real big on public displays of faith, if a person’s heart was not right. Jesus knows that his new and fledgling flock needs to grow stronger before he can depart.

The Secret of Jesus’ Messiahship is to be guarded, kept, and only told the few who can hear it. Jesus’ parables were meant to confuse and confound, to cloud the mind of the proud and disinterested and to give life to those who were seeking hope and life.

In our time, the Messianic Secret has changed. Once it meant not announcing Jesus as the promised one until his death and resurrection revealed him completely. Now it means not announcing Jesus without the cross and the empty tomb, not announcing him unless we are ready to die and rise together with him.

There are plenty of versions of Jesus abroad in the world today. Some of these versions are authentic; many of them are not.

What makes a version authentic is not a denominational or cultural label or any other marking likely to set us at ease. What makes a version of Jesus the real thing and not human fantasy is whether it invariably returns us to what is most important, what reveals divine love completely.

The knowledge of Jesus as Lord and personal Saviour should become a living, personal experience for each Christian. This relationship is not theoretical or abstract. God does not need us in the abstract. He needs us and meets us in the concrete; the everyday; the real; the now. Frankly, God just needs us to show up. And this is how we evangelize. we can share how Christ has shown up for us. We can share how Christ has shown up for others. And if we carry that message authentically and consistently, the people we meet along the way may come to believe that if Jesus showed up for us, he will show up for them, too.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized



1-16 Today we move ahead in our reading of Matthew’s Gospel. The Pharisees and scribes have challenged Jesus, asking why his disciples do not wash their hands before they eat. They imply that Jesus and his disciples are breaking the traditional purity laws. Jesus replies: It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles, but what comes out. What goes into the mouth is flushed out into the sewer; it is a passing, temporary uncleanliness, unimportant. What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. Evil intentions such as murder, theft, and lies are what truly defile.

Now, Jesus has crossed from Galilee into the district of Tyre and Sidon, which is gentile territory. There are tremendous implications in this passage. Apart from anything else, it describes the only occasion on which Jesus was ever outside of Jewish territory. The significance of the passage is that it fore-shadows the going out of the gospel to the whole world; it shows us the beginning of the end of all the barriers.

A woman begs for mercy and healing for her afflicted daughter, recognizing Jesus as Lord and Son of David. However, Jesus gives an unsettling reply: I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Not to an outsider, a woman, a Gentile. Even when she kneels before him, implying worship and a deep understanding of his divine status, he refers to her and her daughter as dogs. Yet she persists, again addressing Jesus as Lord, and insists that even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table, but we can be quite sure that the smile on Jesus’ face and the compassion in his eyes robbed the words of all insult and bitterness. Secondly, the word for dogs means the little household pets.

Not only does she see clearly who Jesus is, but also, she understands how great is his power to heal. This is what faith means. She knows who he is and she knows that only Jesus can heal her daughter. The rest does not matter: She is a supplicant. She is not proud; she is determined. And Jesus responds to this faith instantly. In those few minutes, he recognizes that his mission has expanded. A poor woman has shown him this much: He did not come just for the children of Israel. His mercy extends to everyone. Full of admiration, he responds first to her great faith, and then to her wish for her daughter: “Your faith is great. Your daughter is well.” God’s mercy is abundant; God’s healing and love overflow; there is enough for not only the children of Israel, but also for the entire world.

Jesus is illustrating for his disciples that true faith is persistent and open-eyed, and extends to a wider world beyond the Jewish community and so we all benefit from that woman’s faith. Jesus has redefined the boundaries of the kingdom of God, extending the kingdom beyond the borders of Israel. An outcast becomes a catalyst. This is the wonder of the gospel stories. The Good News comes from unexpected places. A woman ignored and considered a nuisance becomes an object of admiration by Jesus himself. Instead of sending her away, he expands his mission from the limits of Judaea to the rest of the world. We owe this woman a great deal. And the prophecy of Isaiah concerning foreigners is fulfilled: They, too, can minister to the Lord.

Just as Jesus was surprised by the faith expressed by the Canaanite woman, so too the first Christians were surprised that the Gentiles would receive the salvation God offered through Christ.
Reading this stories during the season of Ordinary time, when we celebrate the role of the Church in the work of God in the world, reminds us that God is constantly entering new territory and breaking boundaries. God’s work, and the work of the Church, is to meet outsiders and grant them a place at the table. Do we extend a welcoming hand to persons whose experience of God’s presence is understood from a different tradition? The first reading from Isaiah and the selection from Paul’s letter to the Romans make this clear. We hear the apostle Paul considering this same concern. He confirms that God never rejects God’s people. God is merciful, always, to everyone.

It comes down to remembering that we are all God’s children, that God’s love is unconditional, and that God’s mercy extends beyond all boundaries. God’s mercy covers all of us.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 18, 2017 in Uncategorized



1-9The boat has, from very early days in the Christian community, been a symbol for the Church. In Particular, a vessel large enough that it takes a number of people doing diverse things to get it to move, beautiful, but vulnerable; seaworthy, but subject to storm and winds and waves. Moving through the waters when wind and water and sailors cooperate, the journey is great. Sometimes, though, life on the ship can get routine. The same things need doing every day. A large crew means a variety of people, which means a variety of ideas and personalities. But a ship’s mission can be jeopardized by those who are tempted to set sail alone, or mutiny, or jump overboard. But any problems on the ship have more to do with the sailors than the Captain – with a capital C, as in “Christ” – because the Captain has provided for the ship. The Captain will guide them into the ultimate safe harbour.

Our Gospel reading for this weekend from St Matthew is about the disciples’ growing understanding of the identity of Jesus and about what the disciples’ faith in Jesus will enable them to do, it involves a boat and a storm, the disciples and Jesus, fear and faith and working together.

After the feeding of the multitude Jesus sent his disciples away When he was alone, he went up into a mountain to pray; and by this time the night had come. The disciples had set out back across the lake. One of the sudden storms, for which the lake was notorious, had come down, and they were struggling against the winds and the waves, and making little progress.

Jesus calls to the disciples and calms their fears. He is not a ghost. The impulsive Peter seeks proof that the person is indeed Jesus. He asks Jesus to call him out onto the water, and Jesus grants this request.
Peter’s fear and doubt overtake him, however, once he is walking on the water. Jesus reaches out to Peter and saves him. When Jesus and Peter enter the boat, Matthew reports that the wind ceases, and the disciples confess that Jesus is the Son of God.

One thing that’s true about Matthew’s gospel is it’s interested in community. It’s really interested in figuring out what it means to be the church, the body of Christ in the world, the gathering of people who are trying to follow Christ together. Matthew really isn’t interested in great heroes of the faith, singular individuals who go above and beyond. If, like Peter, they go swinging their legs out over the side of the boat, leaving the rest of the disciples behind trying to row and manage in the storm, we’re likely to see such an individual take a few steps and then plunge beneath the waves, surely to drown, if not for the grace and love and forgiveness of Jesus who always, always, reaches out to save, even when we get confused and fearful and full of doubt.

So, I wonder if when Jesus says to Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” the meaning isn’t, “Oh, Peter, if only you had more faith,” but is, instead, “Oh, Peter, why did you get out of the boat?”

Jesus doesn’t chide Peter for being afraid. Of course, you’re afraid during a storm. But why did you doubt? Did you really think I wouldn’t come? Did you really think I wouldn’t save you? Did you really think, when I told you to get into the boat and go on ahead, that I would ever, ever leave you alone? “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Faith in Jesus will enable the disciples to do the work that Jesus has done. Peter walks on water. The five loaves and two fish feed a multitude of people. The disciples can and will participate in the work of the kingdom of heaven. When Peter fears and doubts the person of Jesus, however, he falters. Peter’s example teaches us that true Christian ministry emerges from the faith that Jesus is the Messiah, God’s only Son.

Storms will blow up in all our lives. But Jesus has not left us alone. The one who calms the storms and makes the winds to cease is still with us. He still has work for us to do. And yes, it will mean stepping out in faith, but not getting out of the boat, not going it alone, not leaving the community of disciples. The purpose of a ship is to set sail, not to stay at the dock.

There are plenty of adventures ahead, and Jesus will bid us follow. And he will say to us, in the midst of any storm, “Courage! it is I! do not be afraid.”




Leave a comment

Posted by on August 11, 2017 in Uncategorized


St. Mary MacKillop

Mary MacKillopThere is a very real sense in which the Church is one huge family that stretches through history. We are all very different. The Church goes through different epochs and ages and yet there is this incredible bond between us all that leads back to Jesus. For us in a very special way in Australia, Mary MacKillop is that person. The route that she has carved out in her life; the faith by which she lived and the love that characterised her life are special for us as we live in Australia,

In the Hebrew Scriptures Abraham began his journey without a clear understanding of his goal except that he recognised the call of God in his life. He died not knowing how God’s vision would be realised. This is the life of faith. Mary MacKillop began to follow the call of God with similar uncertainty. And in the darkness of set-back and opposition she clung to the promise of God’s fidelity.

To live by faith is like taking a walk on a dark night. The stars or the street lights give some light but we need to go carefully.

Jesus responded to this challenge of faith by telling his friends not to live in fear. The vision of God’s kingdom, calling us on, will be our assurance.

Mary placed complete trust in her God through the love of the Sacred Heart. She knew what she needed to treasure and of what to let go. She encouraged others to rely on the gracious providence of God.

Mary MacKillop was pierced to the heart by the poverty and suffering that was all around her. Anybody who shared this awareness was encouraged to play a role in the healing, teaching and feeding ministry exemplified in Jesus.

Being Christian is about the care for one another in ordinary life, care of family, neighbourhood, or out into the wider society. Most of us will be the quiet unassuming presence of Jesus in our communities ready like yeast to bring about the transformation. Mary embraced the Cross of generous service to help and encourage others to reach out in love.

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Uncategorized



1-9Whenever we go a particular place, we do so for a reason. We do not travel to a specific location without some purpose or goal in mind.

Today’s liturgy invites us to celebrate the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord. This feast calls to our attention the importance of this event in Jesus’ life, further affirmed by its report in each of the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Cycle A, the reading for this feast is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The Transfiguration occurs after Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is the Messiah and after Jesus predicts his Passion. In each of these Gospels, a discussion of the cost of discipleship precedes the Transfiguration.

Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain hoping to find God there. They were on a quest, actively seeking God’s presence. Like Peter and John and James, God is calling all of us to climb the mountain with Jesus. Jesus leads his disciples up there because he knows that’s where God lives. The same is true for Moses in the reading from Exodus — God is found on the mountaintop, where your vision is clear and all the noise of everyday life subsides.

But even though it is easier to find God on the mountaintop, that is not the only place God can be found. All of us came to church this morning, hoping to find something of God here. And God feels especially close in the beauty of the natural world: stars shining in the sky, waves falling on the ocean shore. Poets and visionaries can attest that these are places you can find God. When you’re lost or lonely or wondering what’s next, find a church to pray in, or a mountain to climb, or a forest to walk in — remember those places you have felt God’s presence before and go seek God there again.

Of course, there’s always a temptation to stay put on top of the mountain — to use that sacred space as a place to hide from the problems of the world. Peter — bumbling Peter, as usual —gives into this temptation when he asks Jesus if they can build dwellings on top of the mountain and just bask in God’s glorious presence forever, content, but removed from all the trouble brewing down on the ground below. The answer is no. God needs us to go down from the mountain and out into the world, and take some of God’s transformative love with us to share.

Truthfully, it isn’t only in those beautiful and set-apart places that we can find God. The whole world is filled with the glory of God, if we only have eyes to see.

There is no place on earth that God’s love does not go. If we open our hearts to God’s Spirit and go looking for God, we will begin to see God’s presence all around us. Our transfiguration comes as our eyes are opened and our hearts changed. And the people who seemed so different from us before — the poor and the marginalized — we will see them as they really are: made in God’s image, just as we are; we will see how Jesus’ life was spent for them, just as it was for us.

Open your eyes and see the world as it is— beloved by God. Let your heart be transfigured by God’s love. Take that love down from this mountain and use it to bring more love into the world.

Throughout his ministry, Jesus took time to be sure he was doing what the Father desired. That is why he went up the mountain with Peter, James, and John.

The last word God speaks from heaven today is a command — “Listen to Him” (see Deuteronomy 18:15-19). The word of the Lord should be like a lamp shining in the darkness of our days, as Peter tells us in today’s First Reading.

What Jesus did, we also need to do. We need to discern if our lives are in line with God’s will.

How well are we listening? Do we attend to His word each day? Listening to Jesus’ words, I need to re-evaluate my priorities and direction. As we listen closely we also hear Jesus tell us that what has been done for us, we must do for others.

Let us today rededicate ourselves to listening. To hear Him as the word of life, and, whatever be the result, there is one thing of which we can be assured. God always calls us to join in the journey.


Leave a comment

Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Uncategorized