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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.

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Posted by on August 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF THE LORD

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.

 

 
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Posted by on August 4, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-14Today’s Gospel concludes three weeks of readings from the 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout these three weeks we have heard Jesus teaching crowds about the kingdom, and we have heard Jesus interpret some of his teachings for the disciples. In this week’s Gospel, Jesus offers three more short parables.

They talk of a man who finds hidden treasure in a field and sells everything to buy the field, obviously without telling the owner about the treasure trove. Then there’s a jeweller who comes across a costly and rare pearl and sells his entire stock to buy it. In both these illustrations, there’s an element of renunciation, of divesting everything to gain something of enormous value.

Again, the fishing parable has a sting in its tail. It talks about judgment, some final reckoning based on our choice: “the angels will appear and separate the wicked from the just to throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” As if to finally confuse us, Jesus reveals his meaning in these words: “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Well then, every scribe who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out from his storeroom things both new and old.”

One can see the surprise on the faces of those listening to him. They thought they understood him and indicated that they did. Preachers rarely ask congregations whether they understand a sermon; perhaps that is just as well.

What was a scribe? In a day when most had only the most elementary education, the literate person who made that skill available was highly esteemed. They wrote letters for people and seem to have acted for clients in local courts. Jesus usually presented a rather low view of the scribes, lumping them together with Pharisees. In this parable, Jesus talks about good scribes, just as there were also good Pharisees like Nicodemus and Gamaliel. What, then, is a scribe who has been trained for the Kingdom of Heaven?
This person is someone who has decided to dedicate her or his life to being what we might call a Kingdom person. One of the biggest temptations we confront is to regard our faith as an add-on, a pursuit for our spare time. It is so easy for us to put our political and social opinions first and then somehow shape and mould our faith to accommodate these views. Our form of justice becomes God’s justice and our form of mercy becomes God’s mercy however the Gospel dispels such a notion; for Christians, God’s reign is first. Jesus said, “seek first the kingdom of God.”

We have been called to be those who work for God. We are to work and pray for God in our homes, streets, communities and our nation. We plant little seeds of goodness and mercy and they blossom into visible signs of God’s presence. We give up the things that clutter our lives or disguise the fact that we belong to Christ. In the meantime, we fish for people, and in some manner, the way we do this fishing will determine how we will be judged. The Kingdom is yet to come. We can’t create it. But we can create communities dedicated to God’s mission, places where people selflessly serve each other in serving Christ, so that the watching world may catch a glimpse of what God intends.

Jesus’ Gospel discloses what Paul, in today’s second reading, calls the purpose of God’s plan. That purpose is that Jesus be the firstborn of many brothers. His words give understanding to the simple, the childlike. As Solomon does today, we humble ourselves before God, giving ourselves to His service. Let our prayer too be for an understanding heart, one that desires only to do God’s will.

We are called to love God, to delight in His law, and to forsake every false way. And we are to conform ourselves daily ever more closely to the image of His Son. Chances are we’re going to have to make some changes, take some risks, and . . . take a chance on Christ.

In response to the message to us from Jesus our Teacher in our Readings today, will we, in fact, be more determined than ever, to live as true images, true mirrors, true reflections of Jesus Christ to others? Will we, as two of today’s colloquial sayings express it, ‘just go for it’ and ‘just do it’? Will we?

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10  There is a verse in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that calls to mind the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel. The verse reads: “your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is the way Jesus presents God in the parable he tells in the gospel. Jesus’ God is a God of leniency, a God of patience, a gardener God who is confident of the development of a tiny seed. Jesus shows us a God who, in the words of the first reading, gives ” your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.” As Pope Francis says God never tires of forgiving us — it’s just we who tire of asking.

So, what about the parable of weeds among the wheat? Jesus lived in an agrarian society, so it isn’t surprising that he used farming metaphors as concrete images to explain the mysterious nature of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven is like someone who has sowed good seed, yet an enemy has come and sowed weeds among the wheat. Jesus is quite specific about explaining what is happening in the story, but what are the implicit values transmitted to those who have ears to listen?

The kingdom of heaven is messy and complicated and will encounter opposition. In fact, evil exists in the world, and may not be easily rooted out. As the householder wisely advises his slaves, it is not a good idea to pull out the weeds, for their roots are entangled with the wheat and pulling them out will damage the crop. Jesus explains that at the end of the age, the angelic reapers will collect the weeds and throw them into the fire, while the wheat will be gathered into God’s kingdom.

We wonder, along with the servants in the story, where these weeds came from. ‘Let’s root up all those weeds! In another passage of Scripture Luke 9:54 the disciples of Jesus say: “Let’s burn up those cities which won’t welcome you! Let’s put them right and show them who’s boss! Let’s have the kingdom now!’ But Jesus says to them in effect: ‘Wait! Let God be God! Let the wheat and the weeds exist for now side by side! Wait till God is ready to start the harvest and sort things out!’ Be like God, be patient, and wait!’ We ask too why does God allow evil to grow in God’s kingdom? What can we do about it?

Scholars tell us that the weeds in the parable are likely darnel, a weedy grass that looks like wheat until it matures. While the plants in the field are young, the good wheat and the invasive weeds are indistinguishable and intertwined. Then the heads of the wheat droop over, while the heads of the weeds stand up straight. The image is of humility and pride. Is it up to the humble, true followers of Jesus to identify and destroy their proud, hypocritical neighbours? Is the destiny of wheat and weed fixed, or is there a possibility of redemption? There is a difference between weeds and people. We might argue that weeds are weeds forever, while people, if not torn out by the roots, might be redeemed by God’s grace. We cannot be certain who is good and who is evil.

In the parable, the householder says, “In gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” He counsels patience and faith in God’s justice. It is important not to damage the roots of the wheat. A good steward must do what is best for all, even if the weeds will survive in the short term.

What does this narrative tell us about the values and culture of the storytellers?

• We acknowledge the presence of evil in the world,
• While evil may be redeemed, that redemption may not happen in this world,
• It is not our job to judge, and
• We believe in God’s judgment at the last day.

Does Jesus’ parable encourage passivity? Or is Jesus offering guidance on how to live in a complicated world? While we wait for God to judge at the last day, how are we to live? Knowing that evil seed grows, that evil roots are allowed to flourish, how are we to live?

Through the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus reminds us that we live in a hostile world, that good and bad are intermingled, that we must live cooperatively for the good of all, and that we ought to leave judgment to God. We are to concentrate on growth in our relationship with God and God’s creation – all of God’s creation including what is evil. By the work of our hands, motivated by the love of God resident in our hearts, bit by bit we reveal God’s love to those who do evil which they believe is good for them. To live in the presence of a just God who meets us where we are, who is with us and will keep us, wherever we go. We become standard bearers who are not overbearing. We are welcoming and inclusive!

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-14Over the next few weeks, the Gospel readings will consist of the entire 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout this teaching, Jesus will offer several parables to illustrate for his listeners what he means by the kingdom of heaven. In this parable, he’s not only addressing his first disciples but, as with all scripture, he’s addressing us too. This parable is an invitation to ask, how can we make the soil of our hearts more fertile to receive the seed that is the word of the kingdom? How can we be the good soil so we can produce grain a hundredfold, and be part of a great effect that makes more and more seed, that can be sown near and far and take root in places we may never dream of.

Gardeners and farmers tell us that soil that is good for planting has particular characteristics: good soil has a lot of humus—decayed material like grass roots and leaves—that encourages good nutrients, good drainage and good aeration. Good soil has room for water and air to move through it and get to seed and plant roots. And although it seems like it’s just an inert substance, good soil is full of life. In some places, good soil for planting exists because fire has burned off all the useless weeds and saplings, preventing forests from growing. So, good soil seems to be the result of letting some stuff go, die even, perhaps getting burned away.

The same may be said of our hearts. To be receptive to the word of the kingdom, we may need to let some old, false ideas go, die even. To let idols, go or have them taken from us may feel as painful as having them burned away, but letting them may be the first step in making healthier soil. Letting in life-promoting, wholeness-producing understandings of Jesus and the true nature of God’s reign can turn worthless clay into soil good for planting. We can be the good soil in which seeds take root and grow into healthy, seed-bearing grain. The sower is often taken to be God or Jesus, and that’s a good analogy. God in Jesus flung the seed of the word of the kingdom wherever he went, and it found good soil in some places where others thought nothing good or holy could grow. God in Jesus never said a word about some people deserving to hear good news and others not. Jesus sowed the word of the kingdom, wherever he went.

To the first disciples, to the early Church, to us, Jesus says, there is nothing wrong with the seed. The sower is dependable. But here’s what happens when the seed falls on different kinds of ground. Trust the sower. Trust the seed. Be good soil. Be good soil, but take a clue from the sower too.

So far so good, however What if Jesus’ word for us has as much to do with the sower as the soil?

Perhaps Jesus has another good word for us in this parable: an explanation and reassurance that has to do with the sower rather than the soil. Perhaps Jesus has an invitation for us to be sowers and not just soil.

The sower’s approach to sowing is carefree, to say the least. The sower flings seed as he goes, with seeming disregard for where the seed will end up. Shouldn’t the precious seed be saved for careful deposit in some meticulously prepared narrow furrow where it has a better chance of germination and survival? Not with this sower. To this sower, it’s as if the seed is so precious, he can’t hold on to it—it must be shared. To hold onto the seed would be to squander it. This sower’s method seems to be to fling the seed as he goes, letting it land where it will, and keep going. This sower covers a lot of ground, not sticking to one pathway or field or territory. The point, for this sower, is to sow, and he does.

Jesus doesn’t say, “I am the sower.” He just says that the sower sows the word, wherever the sower is, wherever the sower goes, and sometimes the word gets snatched away by the devil, and sometimes people fall away because the following is costly and risky, and sometimes the cares of the world choke the word, and sometimes, sometimes, the word bears an abundant harvest.

So, Jesus is not only saying to be good soil, to be open and receptive. Jesus is also saying, “Sow!”

Don’t worry about whether you think the soil you’re walking over is good or bad, receptive or not. Don’t be saving up seed for the places you think will be the most fertile. This seed is so precious, it must be shared, and there’s plenty more seed where that came from. Not every bit of fruitful sowing is going to happen in the tidy rows of our pews, although by God’s grace it can happen even there, for the Word of God brings the hope of a strong, enduring relationship with God and, through God, with all creation. God plants the seed of his Word because God is interested and cares for creation. We must be aware of the “signs of the times” and reflect on how God’s Word leads to hope and unity. We have God’s promise: The Word is fruitful and establishes the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-13Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel comes after a discourse in which Jesus reproaches people who have witnessed his mighty deeds yet still lack belief. In this context, today’s Gospel explains the reason for this unbelief and reveals what is necessary for faith, and also continues to enhance our understanding of discipleship as last week’s Gospel did. Jesus prays aloud to God, in thanks for having hidden the purposes of what God is up to in Jesus from the wise and wonderful of his age. He then says something that has become so famous that you could be forgiven for not truly listening to what he says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We are all weary and heavy-laden. Each of us is dealing with something, or a whole litany of somethings. But Jesus is inviting us into something completely different. Jesus first names our spiritual state. This is an amazingly compassionate thing to do, to notice and name, to tell the truth of a situation. Sometimes it is enough simply to have someone notice our weariness and burdens. This noticing, without judgment or fixing, is a lesson in empathy for all of us. That might be the distinction between empathy and pity, by the way.

Then Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves. This is an interesting image that most of us might not understand. A yoke is for a donkey or other beast of burden. It is a collar that harnesses the animal for whatever work that the master wants the animal to do, like pulling a cart or ploughing a field. The yoke is a symbol of servitude and labour. But the yoke that Jesus is offering is easy and light.

What does this mean, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”? In our world and society, clever and never-ending marketing would have us believe that each and all of us are deficient in some way. Jesus and, God, accepts us precisely where and what we are with no exceptions. The world has become exceedingly sophisticated in laying heavy burdens upon us. The largest companies in the world deploy deeply effective psychological understandings on us to encourage us to feel that we must buy into some lifestyle to be the happiest or most authentic self we can. This has been captured most recently by the acronym “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out.”

Now the world is not some separate creation or arena of evil. The world, as the church has usually described it, is that which does not proclaim Christ as Lord, so it does not live by the light burdens of Jesus and instead heaps up heavier and heavier burdens.

Jesus does not expect or desire for us to take on more and more, his burdens are an unburdening. His work is a rest. What this looks like in a daily practice is a constant reminder that we are enough, we are sufficient. This is not some mere positive thinking, feel-good humanism. Our sufficiency with God is not about our own inherent goodness, though there may well be some inherent goodness in us, it is about God’s goodness and love and acceptance of us. So, we remind ourselves every day of God’s goodness and love.

And then, we can extend God’s love to those whom God presents us with each day. The yoke of Christ does not prevent all pain, or take away our sorrow and burdens. Rather, the yoke teaches us that these burdens can be shared, transformed, taken up into the heart of God, and returned to us as life. That’s the kind of yoke, too, that Jesus offers one that fits, one that promises strength and rest.

Jesus invites us today to wear that yoke the one he offers. It’s a yoke that promises strength. It’s a yoke that promises rest. It’s a yoke that promises life. Jesus offers us a yoke that fits. And, when we wear it, he promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

THIRTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-1The conditions of discipleship outlined in Matthew’s Gospel underline for us a truth—choosing anything with one’s whole heart has consequences. Choosing life with Christ means that every relationship we have must be understood from a new perspective, and for many in Matthew’s community, this choice brought division to their family.

Matthew then outlines for his community and for us the reward of hospitality offered to Jesus’ followers. To welcome another in Jesus’ name is to extend hospitality to Jesus himself. We have many opportunities in our daily life to reach out to others, to be a welcoming presence and a sign of God’s love.

Just so we get this straight: whoever welcomes you welcomes Jesus, and whoever welcomes your friend or neighbour or family member or work colleague or mother-in-law or next-door neighbour and so on and so forth…welcomes God. The bottom line emphasis seems to be on inclusion, reciprocity, welcome and doing for others—all those things it takes to build up community, to include the stranger as neighbour. Jesus and the early disciples and later apostles put a high value on welcoming and proclaiming the presence of God.

So, just pause for a moment and think about what we’ve been hearing about today, division, exclusion, keeping people separated, kicking people out. Now there may be legitimate and compelling reasons to consider the economic impact or national safety issues in such things, but if an inhospitable, exclusive attitude goes along with these ideas, then they are antithetical to the teachings of Jesus who talked so very much about welcome, inclusion, hospitality.

Such an understanding of hospitality, of the obligation of welcome, dates to well before the time of Jesus. It was a matter of survival and community health which translated into the religious understanding of what God wants of us. Still today hospitality is a primary ethic of the cultures and peoples of the Middle East. Whether one is brought into a family home of Muslims, Christians or Jews, there is joy in welcoming, there is the belief that it is desired of God, the welcoming of strangers who are strangers no longer, but beloved friends, believing that in welcoming people into one’s home they are earning their crown in heaven, doing as God would have them do in welcoming the living God among us. Where and how do we experience such welcome today?

“Jesus said, ‘Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.’” Is this what we hear? Or do we hear, instead, words of separation, words of breaking relationship, words of opposition and repudiation?

So many of the ugly attitudes playing out on the world stage and in the evening news have spilled over into our popular culture, showing up in a variety of television shows with comments about the increase in bullying not only among children in our schools, but flowing out into our neighbourhoods, showing up in stepped-up immigration strictures among other things.

Where is our witness to welcoming others, and thereby welcoming Jesus and the one who sent him?

This Sunday comes just after the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul last Thursday and that is important to note. Think about Peter and Paul. They did not agree on many things, didn’t get along at all, and finally went their separate ways in the proclamation of the Gospel. Peter insisted that the early believers must follow Jewish ways, must be circumcised, must hold to the Law. Paul’s vision led him to distant lands proclaiming faith in a risen Christ and urging believers to conform their lives to that faith. What they had in common, though, was the conviction that God had visited humanity in Jesus, and that Jesus had brought something new and remarkable to humankind demonstrated in a way to live, a way to relate and a way to witness to God’s love. And they both understood that the welcome of God was an invitation to a place in God’s kingdom.

We may believe differently about the details of faith, as Peter and Paul certainly did and as Christians often do. But for us as Christians, the question of the day growing out of this gospel text asks: What does it mean to welcome, and how do we do that? What does it look like in our churches, in our neighbourhoods, in our national policies, in our very attitudes?

Jesus didn’t say that we must agree on everything, but he clearly told us to be welcoming. Like Peter and Paul, we won’t all agree on everything. And as we live our Christian faith in daily practice we are called to be welcoming, for in welcoming others we welcome God. As the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews reminds us, when we welcome strangers, we may be entertaining angels unaware.

 

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2017 in Uncategorized