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1-16This Sunday and next Sunday, are designated as solemnities, special days that call our attention to the central mysteries of our faith. Today, on the first Sunday after Pentecost, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. This feast invites us to consider what we believe about God, who has revealed himself to us in the Trinity, one God in three Persons.

Every extraordinary experience sparks from the ordinary. Take a moment and reflect on the moments that have made you who you are today. Some of them may be spectacular, earth-shattering, heartbreaking, and more. But when we really take the time to reflect on what made us who we are right now, today, this moment, we will come up with the names of people who have filled our lives. Little things they did or said to us, that they may not even remember today, but that stayed with us and changed us. In reflection, we will realize it was the mundane, weekly habits and rituals that ordered our lives, thus shaping us into the people we are today. This truth is a hint to us that God – our awesome, all-knowing, omnipotent God – is right there with us, taking what might be the most ordinary of moments and breathing that little extra into it, so that over time it becomes something extraordinary.

The power of this Gospel is the way in which we readers, thousands of years later, are turned into witnesses. We become witnesses to not just fact-based, hard-nosed, “real news,” but to God’s reality on earth. We become witnesses, not to an ideology, but to the Movement of God. With the telling of a simple story, we are suddenly standing alongside Nicodemus, bound by our physical bodies and limited perspective, about to have our minds blown by a completely new way of seeing and being in the world.

The Gospel for this Solemnity is taken from the Gospel of Matthew. The final commission, as this part of Matthew’s Gospel is sometimes called, is given on the mountaintop. Throughout Scripture, many of the most important events happen on a mountaintop, and Matthew used this motif often. Peter, James, and John saw Jesus transfigured on the mountaintop, and Jesus taught the crowds from the mountaintop in the Sermon on the Mount. In today’s Gospel, the eleven disciples go the mountaintop in Galilee, as Jesus had instructed them through Mary Magdalene and the other Mary. They see Jesus, and they worship and doubt at the same time. Jesus approaches them and commissions them to baptize and teach. It is a task for which Jesus had previously prepared his disciples; recall that Jesus had already sent the twelve apostles to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal. Yet earlier, the Twelve were sent only to the House of Israel; in this final commission, the eleven are told to go to all nations. The mission of Jesus is now to be taken to all people, and the task is to baptize and to teach.

Jesus commissions his disciples to baptize in the name of the Trinity; this is one of the clearest attestations for Baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity found in Scripture. Other New Testament references to Baptism describe it as being celebrated in the name of Jesus. As we read this Gospel on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are reminded that this central mystery of faith is meant to be lived.

Despite ourselves, we are made witnesses. We are not witnesses of our own understanding, but of God’s action, movement, in the world, for the world. As baptized Christians, we share in the life of the blessed Trinity and seek to invite others to share in God’s love.


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Posted by on May 26, 2018 in Uncategorized


Our Lady Help of Christians

_Graduating_ from Catechesis class in Cairui (1)Well before Federation, Christian faith came to Australia and the Churches were an important part of its history and development. Following humble beginnings in the less than auspicious environment of penal servitude and convict culture, the Catholic Church played a major and distinctive role in the several colonies.

When the redoubtable Father Therry blessed the foundation stone of the first Catholic Chapel in the land, he invoked the patronage of Mary. He had been ordained in Ireland as the Irish Church was quickly adopting devotion to Mary Help of Christians as a further enrichment of its long tradition of love for the Mother of God. Father Therry knew well how many in the oppressive environment of the new colony kept their Catholic faith alive by praying the Rosary.

After the difficult pioneering years, the Holy See, in 1842, approved the setting up of Dioceses in Hobart and Adelaide to form an ecclesiastical province under the metropolitan Archbishop of Sydney. The British Government acquiesced in this foundation of the Australian Catholic Hierarchy, the first to be erected in a British possession since the Reformation.

Archbishop Polding moved quickly to call the first Provincial Council and Synod of Australasia. There was need to promote Catholic unity and solidarity in the face of severe sectarian attacks and to deal with many matters of organization and regulation internal to the Church. The Council consisted of Archbishop Polding, Bishops Robert Wilson and Francis Murphy, together with fifteen of the thirty-five clergy then present in the Colony. It was then, in September 1844 that Australia was placed under the patronage of the Virgin Mary under the title of Help of Christians. This decision was confirmed by Rome in 1852.

In 1844, Archbishop Polding and his little band of provincial councillors, sought to lay solid foundations for the Church in Australia and to meet the challenges of their time. They confidently placed themselves under the patronage of Mary Help of Christians.

The Church too faces enormous challenges. We are called afresh to live and witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The task of evangelising within contemporary Australian culture, is a daunting one but that is our privileged mission. Conscious of the magnitude of the task, we turn to our patron Mary Help of Christians and once again entrust Australia to her prayerful protection.

We have total confidence that Mary the Mother of Jesus will be with us to pray for us and to lead us to her Son. Overshadowed and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Mary conceived and gave birth to Jesus, nurtured him as a child, sought him when lost, elicited his first miracle and stood to the end by his Cross of shame and suffering. She was with the Apostles and Disciples when the Holy Spirit came with Pentecostal power to give birth to the Church.

As she accompanied her Son in all the significant events of his life, who could doubt that she accompanies the Church as it continues to live and grow as the Body of Christ. Not only does Mary accompany and support the Church as the first disciple of her Son, but she is also its Mother.

What kind of Church are we called to be in Australia today to help bring about God’s reign of truth, justice, freedom and love and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord. In a country still needing reconciliation of many kinds, how is God’s purpose for the Church to be fulfilled to unite all things in Christ.

There are great opportunities for the Church to present the Gospel message to an Australian society showing many signs of a thirst for spirituality and a hunger for meaning. Today’s culture also poses immense challenges with its exaggerated individualism, subjective truth, moral relativism and materialistic consumerism.

The Christian message must be presented by a Church confident in its self-identity, strong in its sense of belonging, clear in its teaching of truth and firm in its moral guidance. The loving mother always has time to listen to her children. The Church must be ready to listen to her own, to other Christians and to the voice of humanity. She must especially listen to the cry of the poor and the pain of the world.

To witness to Christ and serve in his name, to bring about the reign of God in Australia, we as Church need both Marian and Apostolic-Petrine qualities and strengths. Under the power of the Holy Spirit, we need the visible leadership of Peter and the Twelve, together with the loving heart of Mary. We’re challenged to put out into the deep once again with the enthusiasm of the very first Christians. The same Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost, empowers us to start again on our mission of evangelization. Mary is the radiant dawn and sure guide for our steps. With confident and loving hearts, let us invoke her prayer and patronage for our Church and our Nation as Help of Christians.


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Posted by on May 23, 2018 in Uncategorized



1-6The Bible and the church year commemorate many moments of grace. One of these moments of grace is what we celebrate here on this day of Pentecost: and so, the season of Easter concludes with today’s celebration. On Pentecost we celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles gathered in the upper room in Jerusalem; this event marks the beginning of the Church, how the Holy Spirit fell like fire upon the infant church, equipping that small assembly for their global mission, energizing that community with nothing less than the life of God.

The story of Pentecost is found in the Acts of the Apostles, today’s first reading. The account in today’s Gospel, John 20:19-23, also recounts how Jesus gave the gift of the Holy Spirit to his disciples. It was after his death, that Jesus fulfilled his promise to send to his disciples a helper, an Advocate, who would enable them to be his witnesses throughout the world.
The Christian faith says that the Holy Spirit is ceaselessly at work in every moment of grace, not only the ones we celebrate in church. The Christian faith does not claim the Holy Spirit as a prisoner constrained by the Church. Far from it: The Holy Spirit, who is Creator and Giver of life, makes and sustains and brings to fulfillment every creature that exists.

The Holy Spirit is a subtle power, the secret force behind all beauty, truth, and goodness; every act of kindness and compassion; every wise insight and every noble decision. The Spirit’s work is apparent in the stars we see in the night sky and in the microscopic wonder of single-cell organisms.

So then, moments of grace on whatever scale are not rare, but plentiful. To thrive in the Holy Spirit means that we become more adept at recognizing ways in which the Spirit operates.

Have you noticed? The future constantly becomes the present on its way to becoming the past. As this happens, we must confront problems and challenges and tragedies. We must also open ourselves to obvious moments of grace, strange and unexpected gifts that appear in our lives, our communities, and in human and planetary history. Through such moments, the Holy Spirit acts and summons us to obedience, to creative cooperation with the high purposes of God.
In the Acts passage we heard, Peter quotes the prophet Joel about how in the latter days, God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh, and the result will be people prophesying and experiencing visions and dreams. Joel’s prophecy came true in that moment of grace we call the first Christian Pentecost.

Our time is also the latter days and may well be a moment of grace, an occasion of sacred discontinuity when the Lord of life decides to do something new and do that something new through us.

Jesus told his Disciples, “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (v. 26) Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26)

The Holy Spirit was sent to the Apostles to teach them everything they needed to know for the spreading of the Gospel to all nations. The same Spirit comes to each of us as we open our hearts in prayer and meditation. The Spirit gives us love by which we can love in return. It is by the guiding of the Spirit that we can receive clarity and can know in our hearts the things that the Father gives us through the Holy Spirit.

Today’s psalm declares that God sends forth his Spirit and thus renews the face of the earth.

This is a glorious truth! But will we all become partners to renew the face of the earth?


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Posted by on May 18, 2018 in Uncategorized



1-7Both readings today deal with events around the ascension of Jesus. In each passage, Jesus promises his disciples that they will receive power from on high. And in each passage, he tells them that they must stay in the city, they must wait, for the realization of this promise. Their period of waiting is memorialized in the church year. For here we are, on Ascension Day, which commemorates the return of Jesus to his Father. Days must pass until the Day of Pentecost comes, when we commemorate that gift of power from on high. This period is sometimes called Ascension Season. Thus, it appears as a season within a season. It begins the conclusion of the Great Fifty Days of Easter.

For the first disciples, it was a time of remaining in Jerusalem. A time to wait, and a time to pray. It reminds us, who are later disciples of Jesus, of the role of prayer and waiting in our lives.

Our society has little patience with those who decide to wait and pray. Ours is an action-oriented culture, action-oriented to a fault, so that many of us pass much of our time struggling with stress and weariness. Our culture is no friend to prayer, either, except possibly prayer that reinforces the status quo. But all authentic prayer is a response to God, and God has been known to be a change agent.

Moreover, prayer acknowledges our dependence on God, and our culture is, at heart, uncomfortable with an acknowledgment of dependence. Our culture is independence-oriented, independence-oriented to a fault, so that many of us live and die in considerable isolation from one another.

In the face of all this, then, there is something subversive about Ascension Day because this feast is not just a goodbye to Jesus as he makes his way home; it is an invitation to countercultural activities such as waiting and prayer. On this day, our attention might well focus on the triumphant Christ as he, in ways past our understanding, ascends through all the heavens. Our attention might well rivet on how he ascends in his humanity, and that therefore we who are human, we who are his body, ascend together with him. But today I would like us to consider instead those waiting, praying disciples gathered in Jerusalem, anticipating power from on high. What they do is countercultural by our standards. They wait. They pray.

But there is still more about them that makes our dominant culture uncomfortable. They wait, they pray, not simply out of obedience. They wait, they pray, because they desire. They desire that promised power from on high and all that it makes possible. Their desire is good and holy.

Ours is a culture that accepts desire only to trivialize it. Our TV commercials celebrate the glories of dish detergent. Our politicians–many of them–incite our fears and jealousies, rather than help us desire greater justice. Yes, we accept desire only to debase it, to turn its focus from what is finally desirable and authentically glorious toward the trivial and the tragic, things that have no future.

And so, as a society, we lack the ability to understand is the big deal. Because we have trivialized passion, we have weakened our own ability to recognize a desire for the greatest of all, namely God.

The days and seasons of the church calendar represent attitudes that remain important to us all the year round. This is especially true now, during this Ascension Season. Christ returns home to the Father, and the gathered disciples wait and pray and desire. Their desire is for God, for the complete coming of the kingdom, for the power from on high that will make their lives bright torches.

Can we make their brand of waiting and prayer and especially desire the hallmark of our lives? I believe this is possible. Today more than ever, the world needs to hear the Gospel message. Like the early disciples, we are ordinary people, but Jesus has selected us to pass on the faith. God gives us his Spirit and promises that he is with us always. We recognise, celebrate and give thanks for that presence in our regular encounter with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.


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Posted by on May 12, 2018 in Uncategorized



2-8Abide with Me is a familiar hymn that Henry Francis Lyte penned while battling tuberculosis. A request: for God to abide with us always, and even more so when the “darkness deepens” or “other helpers fail.” But what does it mean for God to abide with us?

The gospel reading from John reminds us of Jesus’ words to his disciples and us that, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide or remain in my love” (John 15:9).

In the gospel, Jesus lays out three benefits of abiding in him. First that the love of God is present in us, and, as a result, we can love like Jesus. Verse 13 spells out what it means to love as Jesus loves: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Taylor Branch in Parting the Waters tells what happened after Dr King’s front porch was bombed while his wife and 10-week-old baby were inside: “King walked out onto the front porch. Holding up his hand for silence, he tried to still the anger by speaking with an exaggerated peacefulness in his voice. Everything was all right, he said. ‘Don’t get panicky. Don’t do anything panicky. Don’t get your weapons. If you have weapons, take them home. He who lives by the sword will perish by the sword. Remember that is what Jesus said… We want to love our enemies. I want you to love our enemies. Be good to them. This is what we must live by. We must meet hate with love.’”

Dr. King is just one example of the love of Jesus being humanly possible; there are others. This tells us that it’s possible for us all, with God’s help.

Second, abiding in Jesus and loving like Jesus creates joy. We become joyful and joy is present when Jesus abides with us and when we abide in Jesus’ love. Jesus said, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:10-11).

In life, sometimes joy is hard to find: when disappointments and setbacks are the order of the day and God seems far or prayers seem unanswered. It is difficult to keep one’s joy when there is no hope, or the walls seem to be caving in all around us. The strength we need for this life is found in the essential joy that God provides if we abide in him and in his love.

Thirdly, abiding in Jesus means that we are anointed to bear fruit that will last. Jesus says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name” (John 15:16).

The proof is in the fruit we produce A good tree does not bear bad fruit. Jesus is serious about his disciples bearing fruit. Good fruit. Fruit that will last.

We have been called by Jesus, who lives in us, to bear fruit. The message of this Sunday’s readings points to the reason why the mission of the Church must reach out to the world around us with respect and compassion and, with love. Of course, our identity as Catholics remains essential–we must know who we are and draw strength from our rich Catholic heritage: our Eucharist and sacraments, our spirituality, the example of our saints, the wisdom of the Church’s teaching.

But at the core of that identity is the call to give witness to a God who loves the people “of every nation” and who embraces our world and creation itself. When Jesus abides in us, we can’t help but exude his love and ways and share them. We can’t help but be joyful in all things. And the fruit we bear is good and pleasing in God’s sight. Abiding with Jesus is exemplifying the love that God and Jesus share with each other and that we as a community are called to enact. Like Lyte, if we acknowledge our state and beseech Jesus to abide with us, teaching us to love like him, we can joyfully sing out in confidence:

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.


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Posted by on May 5, 2018 in Uncategorized



_Graduating_ from Catechesis class in Cairui (1)Today’s reading from the Gospel of John is part of Jesus’ discourse at the Last Supper. Jesus speaks about his relationship to his disciples. In his metaphor of the vine and the branches, Jesus is referencing the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Hebrew Scriptures, Israel is the vineyard, and Yahweh himself tends the vineyard. One of the primary themes of John’s Gospel is to show Jesus to be the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

We can easily mishear the invitation in today’s gospel passage yet another demand on our time. We can make the mistake of assuming that what often works well in one aspect of our lives, works equally well in our spiritual lives: in this case, the motto of every controlling and rushed person – which is all of us at one time or another – “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.” But listen to Jesus today, “I AM the true vine, and my Father is the vine-dresser.” And Jesus goes on to tell us very clearly who is doing the work, and it is not you or me, my friends. “He removes every branch in me that does not bear fruit.”

This image of the people of God as “God’s vineyard” is a very old one, going back to the Jewish psalms, as well as other places in the Old Testament. Listen to part of Psalm 80: “You brought a vine out of Egypt; you drove out the nations and planted it. You cleared the ground for it; it took deep root and filled the land.” Again, notice that it is God who is doing all the planting here, not us. And think of all the other I AM statements found in the Gospel of John: “I AM the light of the world,” “I AM the gate,” “I AM the resurrection and the life.”

All these I AM statements in the Gospel of John point to the reality of God’s availability. It is ironic that Christianity has the reputation of being another-worldly religion, focused almost exclusively on how to get into heaven. Maybe you have seen the bumpers stickers declaring, “Jesus is coming, look busy!” It may sound surprising, but this kind of theology of a “distant god” is what most of us are comfortable with, because it ultimately pushes God to the sidelines and we can remain in control. We are very good at being busy and taking responsibility, and we rather prefer this to being on the receiving end of change. But as Jesus says in today’s reading, “Live in me as I live in you.”
In today’s gospel, Jesus addresses us twice with the phrase “I AM the vine.” There is a promise here. “I AM the vine, and you are the branches.” Jesus is asking each of us to simply be with him. It’s OK to relax a bit and stop worrying about hiding those parts of ourselves that we don’t want others, and surely not God, to see. We can abide with God, instead of busying ourselves to keep God at a distance.

God is doing more in our lives than any of us are aware. God in Jesus is simply inviting each of us to take the time to notice. Jesus is very clear when he says: “I AM the vine, you are the branches.”

Jesus is also telling us we have the potential to bear fruit, and challenging us to step up to the task, willing to shed ourselves of all that refuses to hear the word and live it.

It’s a good challenge to those of us who are committed and involved in our faith. We can sometimes allow ourselves to become complacent with the fruit we are bearing. But if we open ourselves up to really hearing the word of Christ anew each day, then we must always be willing to be pruned: to learn a little more, to risk a little more, to love a little more in order to bear better fruit.

” It is to the glory of my Father that you should bear much fruit.” It is one thing to hear the word and let it soak in. It is another to be pruned by that word and to choose to live up to the expectation it places upon us.

That is what abiding in the power of the Word is all about, not placing impediments in God’s way by trying to do for ourselves what God wants to do for us: reshape our hearts, bodies and minds to receive the forgiveness being offered.

Hopefully, now, you can hear Jesus’ words as the beautiful invitation it truly is: “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.”


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Posted by on April 27, 2018 in Uncategorized



_Graduating_ from Catechesis class in Cairui (1)The fourth Sunday of Easter is also called Good Shepherd Sunday. In each of the three lectionary cycles, our Gospel is taken from the 10th chapter of the Gospel of John. Jesus, living in the first century, talking to people who know livestock and agriculture in their hearts and bones, tells his disciples, his friends, us, that he is the Good Shepherd.

This chapter of John’s Gospel follows Jesus’ healing of the man born blind and the rejection of this miracle by the Jewish leaders who question Jesus’ authority to heal. Jesus responds to this challenge by calling himself the Good Shepherd. He is criticizing the leadership of the Pharisees and the other Jewish leaders. The Pharisees and other Jewish leaders are so angry that they attempt to stone and arrest Jesus (see John 10:31,39). This controversy with the religious leaders continues until Jesus’ death.

Our text today is the second half of Jesus’ describing himself as the Good Shepherd. Today, Jesus makes the distinction between himself, the Good Shepherd, and the hired hand. “The Good Shepherd,” Jesus says, “is willing to die, to give up their own life to save the sheep.” He contrasts this with the hired hand, someone whose work is seasonal but who isn’t invested in the sheep or the property. “The hired hand,” Jesus says, “says, I’m outta here!’ when the wolf comes.” The hired hand’s work is probably temporary anyway, depending on the season and need. Why would they stick around when a wolf comes?

Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” This second half of Jesus’ Good Shepherd Jesus is telling his disciples then and now that this is how he cares for us. He’s not a leader who is around just long enough to get paid. He’s not there to just do the easy work. Jesus the Good Shepherd has come to offer salvation: salvation through love, self-giving, tenderness, and vulnerability.

Before the plot, his trial, his execution, or his resurrection, Jesus tells the disciples that he lays his life down for his sheep. He protects them from the wolves. He brings them life. He tells his disciples, too, that there are other sheep to which he must attend, others who follow him, but that aren’t a part of the fold they know, the fold of which they are part.
Jesus is giving his disciples an Easter message before he’s even been crucified. “I lay down my life to take it up again… I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again.” Jesus the Good Shepherd doesn’t run from the wolves, he gets in the muck with the sheep and loves us. We started learning about that when God became human and let Godself be bound to our earthly, fleshy limitations.

He holds us close to his chest or lets us lean on him when we need to be held and touched, and he faces the greatest enemy we have: death. He does by his own will, not because he’s compelled to. He does it from his desire, not to satisfy a blood necessity. He does it on his own, not to appease the Creator’s wrath. “For this reason, the Father loves me,” Jesus says, “because I lay down my life to take it up again.”

Jesus the Good Shepherd isn’t a Precious Moments painting or collectible, however sweet that may feel or seem. Love — love enough to lay down one’s life and take it back up again — isn’t only sweet and it isn’t only a moment. It’s earthy and dirty. It’s dangerous and deadly. But this is Jesus the resurrected Christ. The Good Shepherd who knows his own, whose own know him, who lays down his life for them — even when the hired hand won’t.

Jesus the Good Shepherd is tender, affectionate, and vulnerable. As he tends to us in Bread and Wine, getting back into the physical, touchable reality of humanity he joins us to his life, his life that he laid down and took back up. Jesus the Good Shepherd knows us as his own, and we know him.


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Posted by on April 20, 2018 in Uncategorized