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Monthly Archives: January 2018

FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-9Today’s Gospel continues our reading from Mark and describes what some believe was likely to have been a typical day in Jesus’ ministry.

Jesus and the disciples that chose to follow him in last week’s Gospel arrive at Capernaum, a small village on the Sea of Galilee. Jesus teaches in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Mark reports that the people respond to Jesus’ teaching with astonishment, noting Jesus’ authority and contrasting it with the scribes’. Early in Mark’s Gospel we already find evidence of the tension that will manifest itself fully in Jerusalem.

After Jesus’ preaching, an even more astonishing thing happens. A man possessed with an unclean spirit calls out to Jesus. As we see in this example and throughout Mark’s Gospel, the spirits and demons seem to know Jesus and are often fearful of him. In fact, they seem to understand Jesus’ identity better than his disciples. As we will read again and again in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus orders the spirit to be quiet and drives the unclean spirit out of the man. Jesus’ ability to heal those possessed by demons is an indication of his power over evil.

In the prescientific age of Jesus’ time, all illnesses were understood to be manifestations of evil and sinfulness. Possession by unclean spirits may have been a way to describe what we might call mental illness today. It may have even been a way of describing certain kinds of physical conditions. Jesus heals with unique authority and connects his healing activities with the words of his preaching. it is fascinating to see who does, exactly, proclaim Jesus as God’s Holy Son. The ones who make this “confession are an odd collection. As we have here in our lection, evil knows Jesus’ identity and is not shy at all about openly proclaiming him as the Son of God. And remember all those who come to Jesus for healing, receive the wholeness that only the Lord can provide?

The point that Mark is trying to make in this Gospel, is that the crowds see in Jesus’ cure of the possessed man further affirmation of his authority. Jesus’ power to heal gives greater credence to his teaching. Jesus impresses the crowds through his words, which are manifested with power in his deeds.

Mark’s Gospel tells us that because of the authority with which he healed, Jesus’ fame spread throughout all of Galilee. And After all, if the pitiful evil spirits can get it right about Jesus, well we are in so much better a place to know him and proclaim him.

The God who is our source and goal, and Jesus Christ who lived among us and prepares a place for us, are more interested in our sisters and our brothers than in legalistic principles. The message of Paul underscores Jesus’ message of love: our relationships are more important than our rules. Freedom is not a matter of our rights, but of our neighbour’s needs.

When Jesus casts out an unclean spirit in today’s gospel, he casts out that which separates a person from God, that which emphasises knowledge and principle. Be sure to notice how painful it is when the unclean spirit comes out of him!

Rules are easy. We know what they are and can dress accordingly, act accordingly, eat accordingly. Freedom, the freedom that Christ brings, the liberty born of God’s love for us, is a harder thing to live.

In a world of shallow communication, we are called to be people who witness to and speak the truth. In a world of shallow relationships, we are called to be a people who commit ourselves to building community and friendship. In a world of fear and hatred of those different from us we are called to be people who trust and risk. In a world that finds it hard to forgive we are called to be signs of God’s love and mercy. As we try to live this way we might not be noticed for the “mighty deeds” we do. And yet little by little our honesty, vulnerability, patience, and integrity might work to exorcise the evil power of superficiality, isolation, suspicion, and hatred that seems so pervasive in today’s world. Ordinary prophecy, but prophetic work indeed.

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Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Australia Day

Australia Day is a time for us as followers of Jesus Christ, in the midst of the transformation affecting our culture and society, to rededicate ourselves to Christian living. It is a time for us to proclaim once again the Gospel message to a people hungry for meaning and direction.

The prophet Isaiah had a vision of people without number on the march to the mountain of the Lord, God’s people in every age and in every place, being gathered into union with him and unity among themselves in the Church. We should reflect on this vision of Isaiah as it is being realised in the reality of Australian life, in the history and culture of our country. Australia a land of different ethnic groups, shaped by the traditions, attitudes and hopes of so many people whose faith sustained them in the difficult task of making a new home on this continent, our own parish, which has 65 nationalities is a perfect reflection of the multi ethnicity of the larger country.

Long before the Christian era, long before Moses led God’s people to freedom, long before Abraham set out for a new country to father a new nation, migrating waves of Aboriginal peoples came to the Great South Land. Here they settled down in a close relationship with the land which had become their home.

More recently, in the last 228 years, new migrations have been bringing to Australia people from every continent. First came the settlers and convicts from Great Britain and Ireland. But within decades a multi-cultural community was evolving as new arrivals came from Europe and Asia. Already in the 1860’s people from England, Ireland Poland Austria, Germany and China lived side by side with the Aboriginal inhabitants especially on the Goldfields of NSW and Vic. In more recent times Australia has welcomed peoples from Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and other parts of Australasia.

Often victims of poverty or the devastation of war or religious persecution came here to make a new beginning in life. They faced hardship and deprivation. Out of a great deal of human suffering, there emerges a nation filled with hope and promise.

This is our history. This is the shaping of our culture as people of Australia. In this story there is much to be proud of, but it is a story in which we need now more than ever to recognise the need for that reconciliation which comes through Jesus Christ. All people have a right to love and value what is good in their own heritage. All people have a right to self-respect and dignity. The tensions which sometimes arise when people of different histories, traditions, cultures and faiths seek to live side by side have to be overcome in a spirit of openness and cooperation. Ultimately what is required is openness to that divine providence which guides nations towards fuller recognition of unity-the unity of all who are made in the image of God.

Every expression of hostility towards others builds a wall of tension between peoples and reveals a heart of stone. Every act of discrimination is an act of injustice and a violation of God-given dignity. Every time we are intolerant we close our eyes to God’s image in the other person. But when we speak with kind words; when we respect and honour one another; when we show true friendship, when we offer hospitality; when we try to understand the differences between people then we become a living sign that the Kingdom of God has come amongst us.

The Gospel challenges us to help remedy whatever injustices mar the life of our nation and to ensure that a spirit of the Beatitudes animates national life. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 25 that we will be judged on how we respond to his presence in the hungry, the naked, the sick and the imprisoned.
Today we celebrate our democratic nation’s festival of freedom. Democracy works most effectively when there is a bedrock of religious idealism beneath it. If we want to have democracy continue to function in Australia today, it will not last long unless our democracy is wedded to the spiritual power of religious piety and deep faith in God. As the Psalm says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”.
“Jesus said to (those) who believed in him, “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free.”
We go forward, as the pilgrim people of God, following Jesus the way the truth and the life. We go forward in the certainty that his truth will set us free, and our strength comes from his Word and Sacraments

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

fishersofmen Today we begin a continuous reading of Mark’s Gospel that will carry us through this segment of the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. The Gospel of Mark does not begin with Jesus’ birth. Instead Mark begins by reporting on the preaching of John the Baptist. John is described as the voice in the wilderness sent to prepare the way of the Lord.

Immediately after describing the work of John the Baptist, Mark reports on Jesus’ baptism and his temptation in the desert. Jesus’ public ministry begins after the arrest of John the Baptist. Mark wants his readers to understand the important connection between the end of the ministry of John the Baptist and the beginning of Jesus’ own ministry. As we learn at the beginning of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus preaches the Kingdom of God in continuity with the preaching of John the Baptist. Like John the Baptist, Jesus’ pronouncement of the kingdom is a call to repentance. This will be demonstrated again and again, both in Jesus’ words and in the actions, that follow.

In contrast to last week’s Gospel, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus takes the initiative in calling his first disciples. Jesus is said to have first called four fishermen—Simon, Andrew, James, and John. Simon and Andrew are brothers. Jesus promises that he will make them “fishers of men.” James and John are also brothers. Mark does report that they left their fishing immediately; their father was left behind in the boat. In Mark’s Gospel Jesus is a person of action, and events occur in rapid succession. We see this in today’s Gospel. Time is of the essence; the fishermen immediately put aside their livelihood to become Jesus’ disciples. The Kingdom of God is here and now. The time of fulfilment is at hand.it never says why these disciples leave their fishing boats and their fishing nets and follow Jesus. Why would these young men leave their family businesses and follow this wandering rabbi, who is just getting started himself Mark doesn’t tell us. He leaves that as a mystery.

After John was arrested, we followed Jesus.

The juxtaposition in the text of John’s arrest and these disciples following Jesus is not a mere coincidence. despite the danger of being arrested, like John the Baptist who has just been imprisoned, Jesus fearlessly began his public ministry proclaiming the Good News of the arrival of a new kingdom, the Reign of God, and offering repentance to all. It is the very heart of the good news—the gospel Jesus is preaching. It is amid loss and heartache that we find hope and purpose in Jesus.

And maybe we aren’t quite sure why we are here today, to gather as followers of Jesus; we are not always sure of our motives for doing anything. But like those disciples in their fishing boats, something about Jesus’ call to us made sense—it resonated with us. Like many formative events in life, it’s a bit of a mystery. We don’t fully know how or why a relationship started. All we know is that it did indeed start, that it continues, and that it gives us hope for the future.

The Catholic belief is that we are called and set apart for God’s service in our Baptism, and right on through the whole of our lives, God continues to call us to Himself, not for any merit we possess but because in His providence we are the appropriate persons for particular tasks. God said in the book of Deuteronomy “It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the Lord chose you, for you were the smallest of all nations: it was because the Lord loved you.”

Furthermore, as God’s call comes to us as particular persons, inevitably it must be a very intimate association that He has with us … So, Jesus says, “I call you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have learnt from my Father” (John 15:15).

We too as Catholics today are to follow that close and intimate call of the Saviour; to be the Sons and daughters of God, the friends of Jesus, the child of God … AND that is a call to personal holiness, to sacrifice and service too, to private prayer, and public worship.

How might our lives be different if we more fully shared this sense of the immediacy of God’s kingdom and God’s call?

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-19The Sundays of Ordinary Time begins this week, Ordinary Time is called “ordinary” because the weeks are numbered.

In the call of Samuel and the first Apostles, today’s Readings shed light on our own calling to be followers of Christ.

Having been baptized by John, Jesus begins to gather followers. We learn in today’s reading how Jesus’ first followers were gathered. The first two, Andrew and another man, were followers of John the Baptist. After hearing John’s testimony, they became followers of Jesus. During their time with Jesus, the details of which are not specified, Andrew and the other follower came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah. Andrew then brings his brother, Simon, to Jesus. Immediately, Jesus gave Simon a new name, calling him Peter, which means “rock” in Greek.

Since you’re all sitting here in church, it’s safe for me to assume that all of you are, to some extent, following Jesus.

So, what if Jesus stopped in his tracks this morning, turned around to face you, and asked you point blank, “What are you looking for? I see that you are following me. I know that you’ve been checking me out. Well, what do you want? What are you after? What do you think I can do for you?” What would you say? How would you respond?

What do the two men in the story say? Well, they respond to Jesus’ question with a question of their own. Jesus asks them, “What are you looking for?” And they ask him, “Teacher, where are you staying?” It’s a question, but it also gives us some answers. For one, the fact that they call Jesus “teacher” tells us that they believe Jesus may have something to teach them. So, at the very least, they are looking for answers.

Furthermore, in asking Jesus where he is staying, they don’t just want to follow him from a distance down the road, or even chat with him in passing on the road. They are hoping, really, for the chance to spend some time with Jesus. They want to see his character, to hear what he has to say. They want to talk through their questions. So, when they ask where Jesus is staying, they’re hoping for an invitation.

Jesus doesn’t let them down. He says, simply, “Come and see. You want to know where I’m staying? Come along and see for yourself.” Always with Jesus it’s, “Come and see”. Always with Jesus the invitation is extended, a gracious and wide-open invitation. What’s more, the invitation always comes with a promise. Seek and you will find, Jesus says. Always with Jesus it’s, “Come and see.”

While we don’t know exactly how the evening was spent, we do know that for at least one of these men it changed everything. Andrew was one of the two. And John’s account here makes clear that Andrew’s time with Jesus was transformational. So much so that the first chance he gets, Andrew races to tell his brother. “Simon,” he says, “we have found the Messiah! Come and see, Simon! We have found the Christ!” A day earlier Andrew called Jesus “teacher”. But now, having spent time with Jesus, Andrew knows better. Now Jesus is “Messiah.” Having been given the opportunity to come and see himself, the first thing he does is rush to his brother and extend the same opportunity to him. It turns out that Simon, like his brother, is also a willing and eager seeker. Just like his brother before him, Simon goes to see for himself if what he has been told about Jesus is true. When he does, Jesus welcomes Simon, just liked he welcomed his brother before him.

We’re told that when Simon came face to face with Jesus, Jesus looked carefully at Simon. The word in the original language here suggests that Jesus gazed intently at Simon. Jesus, in other words, wasn’t simply studying his face; Jesus was studying his heart. And he was not studying Simon’s heart to see what sort of man he was. He was, studying to see what sort of man he could become.

Remarkably, Jesus does the same for each of us. If we would seek after him, we will find him. And when we find Christ we also find, ourselves. For in Christ we discover who God made us to be. Only Jesus, in fact, can really tell us our true identity. If we continue to receive the Sacraments, there is hope. And if there is hope, the grace and mercy of God will not let us down

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

THE EPIPHANY OF THE LORD

1-1

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite,
With a tail as big as a kite.”
Those words from the Christmas carol, “Do You Hear What I Hear?” fit this Sunday’s Gospel for the Epiphany of the Lord.

With only a slight adjustment, we can imagine those lyrics being sung by the Magi as they followed the star they had seen at its rising. “Do you see what we see, a star, a star dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite, with a tail as big as a kite?”

The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . .” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a saviour. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

Yet, we do not know of God simply because we want there to be a God. We know of God because God reveals God’s own self to us. In addition to the general revelation of God through creation, there is specific revelation. The general revelation of God through creation spoils any possible excuse we may have in saying that we never knew there is such a thing as God. Specific revelation is more direct.

Specific revelation includes dreams and visions God uses to get people’s attention. Dreams like the ones which told Joseph of Jesus’ birth. Dreams like the one which warned the Magi to return home without stopping to pay a courtesy call on Herod and the one that warned Joseph and Mary to flee to Egypt. Specific revelation also includes scripture. God’s revelation is available to us through the word of God. We get a fuller picture of God through scripture that complements rather than contradicts the image of God we attain through the creation.

As God is revealed in the way God acts in history, the Christian concept of revelation reaches its fullest expression in the person of Jesus. We get our best and clearest image of who God is and how God acts through Jesus’ life and ministry, his death, and resurrection.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “For it is God who said, ‘Let light shine out of the darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Whether they understood it at the outset of their journey or not, the Magi travelled to see the light of the Glory of God revealed in the face of the infant Jesus.

The Magi were seekers and even though their methods were unbiblical and perhaps anti-biblical, God honoured their quest. God called out to the Magi from the heavens or they would have never found Jesus. God, not the Magi, initiated the Magi’s quest. God guided them to their destination though the Magi never knew where exactly where their journey would take them. Yet, the Magi played their part as they did not simply stay home admiring the star in the sky. They hit the road, enduring all the troubles of travel including having to go against the local king, Herod, when they neared their destination. Yet all their actions came second. God initiated the journey.

We may think that we are spiritual seekers, we are the ones on a quest for God’s presence. But that’s not the way scripture presents the story. Scripture tells us that God is the seeker. God is revealing God’s own self to you in the creation, in scripture, in your very life experience. We are asked only to open our eyes, to see, and then respond as the Magi did in coming to adore the one who made us and then entered human history to redeem us.

Today we give thanks that God has blessed us with the vision to see what others cannot. We can answer the question of the Magi, “YES, we see what you see. We see the Lord!”

 
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Posted by on January 5, 2018 in Uncategorized