Homily 16th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C - Mary and Martha Listen to God

Homily (Sermon) – Mary and Martha

The Readings for Sunday 17th July 2016  or the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C:

[The readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.] 

I think one of the hardest things to do is to listen and even more difficult than listening is hearing and understanding. We spend so much of our lives being busy we don’t really know how to stop, how to be quiet, how to listen and and to hear.

Yesterday, as I started to write this homily I sat down at my keyboard and had know idea where to start. I had half an idea what I wanted to say but really couldn’t find the words I wanted to use. So what do you think I did? I first got myself a drink, then as I did that I noticed the cherries I had picked during the week still in the fridge so I stoned them and made jam. Then of course I had to tidy the kitchen, do the washing up, etc, etc, etc…

You get the idea, I managed to perfectly play the role of Martha without even thinking about it. It wasn’t until I started to run out of time and returned to my keyboard and read through the readings again that I realised how much I had missed the point.

Today’s gospel tells us to take time to stop. To take time with God. To really concentrate and to listen to what God is telling us. If we do that then maybe we have a chance of hearing what God has to say to us. Can you remember what the first reading was about today? Can you remember what the psalm was saying, can you remember the Response to the psalm you said 4 times only 5 minutes ago? There are times when I am concentrating more on what’s just happened or about to happen that I don’t really listen. I find myself thinking as I walk up to read the gospel, what was the first reading. It’s terrible of me, but it is so human.

I am not saying that the work isn’t important. I am saying that spending time with God is important. We need to do both. Maybe for every six days of work we could spend one putting God first. I am sure I read that somewhere in the Bible :-).

Today’s message is about forcing yourself to step away from life. To stop. To concentrate. And to listen to what God has to say to you.

We have that opportunity each Sunday when we come to mass, but we have to take it. As we come into church we have to remind ourselves to slow down, to stop, to be quiet, to embrace the silence, to let God fill the silence. I know it’s hard, the business of our days, our work and our play will flood into any gap we give it. So in an attempt to make things a little easier for us I would like you each to take a few minutes when I stop speaking to do the same exercise the children are doing in their liturgy class upstairs. The have eight pictures, four of things they do like Martha and four like Mary. They then have to decide which tasks God would like them to do. The picture were:
1. Making your bed
2. Cleaning up your toys
3. Sweeping the floor
4. Taking out the recycling
5. Reading the bible
6. Praying to God
7. Listening at Church
8. Going to Bible class

I think most of us are Martha, but wouldn’t it be great if we could learn to be a bit more like Mary. Have a think what tasks does God really wants us to do?

Please click here for an Index of all my homilies and notes.

Homily 11th Sunday Ordinary Time Year C - Forgiven

Homily (Sermon) – Summoned and Sent

The Readings for Sunday 12th June 2016  or the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C:
2 Samuel 12:7-10,13
Psalm 31:1-2,5,7,11
Galatians 2:16,19-21
Luke 7:36-8:3
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.] 

We have recently started a dress down Friday at work.  Rather than the suits and ties people are wearing jeans and T-Shirts. It makes a nice change and makes Fridays feel a little different. The most fun for me is reading the T-shirts my friends are wearing. This week I had a good giggle at a T-Shirt claiming to compare world religions, then I thought a little more about what I was reading and it saddened me.

I won’t use the exact language that was printed on the T-Shirt because it’s not polite, but each faith was summarised in a single line, for example:
Taoism: Bad things happen
Hinduism Bad things happen again and again
Judaism: Why do bad things always happen to us?
Protestantism: Bad things won’t happen if you work hard
Catholicism: If bad things happen you deserve them

The parody of our faith and of many of the faiths listed on the T-Shirt corrupted the true meaning of the gospel, of Christ’s message for us, and yet that single line for most of my office was a good summary of our faith.

To see that corruption, an almost complete reversal of the real message we only need to look as far as todays reading. They are all about forgiveness. Forgiveness because of love, is the central theme of Christianity; it is the good news of the Gospels.

We find King David in our first reading being confronted by Nathan after David had secretly slept with a married women, fathered a child with her and murdered her husband to hush the whole thing up. David repents to God in front of Nathan and Nathan delivers Gods message “The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin.”

The rules David had broken were many, at least four of the Ten Commandments. The Law the Jewish people lived by was more than the just Ten Commandments, it was given to them by God after they left Egypt. But the Law is more than a set of rules, it’s a promise made between man and God, between the human and divine. It’s founded on the wish of a loving God, a loving parent to keep his Children safe and well in a dangerous world full of temptation and corruption. Keeping the Law wasn’t so much about following rules but about staying close to God.

The Law allowed us to know God, to grow up a little and take responsibility for our actions, to understand right and wrong. But the law ultimately also became a barrier to God. Human nature leads us all to walk away from God, to misbehave, to sin, to break the promise we make to live within God’s law. Paul in writing to the Galatians is pointing out that Jesus came because he loved us, saw what failing to keep the law was doing to us, He paid the price of our sins, He died for us, so that we could live eternally with Him. In our baptism we die with Christ and rise to new life with him, a life based on forgiveness and love.

As our Gospel reading shows us that a Christian life is not a life of fear and guilt, it is a life of joy, a life of happiness, a life of love. That does not mean that bad things won’t happen, but it does mean that when they do you will always have God by your side loving you, supporting you and understanding. Jesus after all was persecuted by his people, wrongly sentenced to death, beaten to within an inch of his life, humiliated in front of an entire town, stripped naked, nailed to a cross and left to die. He understands pain, rejection, loss and fear.

Our faith isn’t about guilt.
Our faith isn’t about retribution.
Our faith isn’t about perfection.
Our faith is about joy, love, happiness and forgiveness.
Our faith is about being accepted as imperfect and filling our lives with the joy of God.

So coming back to the T-Shirt, while it’s certainly not as funny, the line should really be “Catholicism: Rejoice, you are loved by God through all of the bad things that happen or that you cause to happen.” It’s a message many of us still find difficult to believe and it’s a message we should be taking out into the world.

My apologies for the language used in this image, but I though you may like to see the actual T-Shirt.

Please click here for an Index of all my homilies and notes.

Homily - Corpus Christi - Year C

Old GEN 4:18-20
Psalm 109
New 1 Cor 11:23-26
Gospel Lk 9:11-17

There are some Sundays, when the readings we are treated to are just so rich and so packed it's difficult to know where to start. And today, Corpus Christi is just such a day. We have just heard in Luke's Gospel about the feeding of the 5000. A miracle so important it is the only miracle performed by Jesus that is told in all four Gospels. From the old testament we heard in both the reading and the Psalm about Malchizedek, and from the New Testament in Paul's letter we heard about the last supper and the institution of the Eucharist. In fact as Paul's letter to the Corinthians is one of the earliest written, and was written well before the Gospels, so we have in today's reading the earliest quotation of Jesus in the bible “This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me”. And I think this line, which we hear in every mass during the consecration is where we should start.

We all know the meaning of the word memorial or memory. If you looked it up in a dictionary it would say something like “The power of retaining and recalling past experience”. We can all remember things, particularly special things, your first school, your first kiss, your wedding day, your ordination day. And something as special as the first Eucharist must be remembered, but memory or memorial is not what Paul wrote, it's how it has been translated for us into English. What Paul wrote is even more special than memory, and I am going to have to try and teach you a little Greek to explain. Paul used the word “Anamnesis” it's a Greek word first used by Plato.  If you look it up in a dictionary or on the web you get pages of explanation and a lot of ancient Greek, which is not easy to understand. So before we get to the Greek we are going to start with something a little simpler, Lewis Caroll and Alice through the Looking Glass. Where there is a conversation between Alice and the White Queen, in which we get a excellent example of Anamnesis.

Let me read it to you:

`I don't understand you,' said Alice. `It's dreadfully confusing!'
`That's the effect of living backwards,' the Queen said kindly: `it always makes one a little giddy at first --'
`Living backwards!' Alice repeated in great astonishment. `I never heard of such a thing!'
`-- but there's one great advantage in it, that one's memory works both ways.'
`I'm sure mine only works one way,' Alice remarked. `I can't remember things before they happen.'
`It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,' the Queen remarked.

Anamnesis, is a bit like the Queens memory, it works both ways.

Coming back to Ancient Greek & Plato, the definition is something like this: There are thing you know, that you have always known, that are true and have been and will be true for all eternity, the problem is you can't remember them. A good teacher can help you remember these eternal truths. And this remembering an eternal truth that you didn't think you knew is anamnesis.

So when we hear the words “Do this as a memorial of me” we might do well to think “Do this, to know me now, in the past and the future, for all eternity.”

So in a few minutes time as we witness bread and wine becoming the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are not watching a re-enactment of the last supper with Fr. Frank pretending to be Jesus. We are actually there. Fr. Frank, in Persona Christi, is actually Jesus and we all stand with the disciples at the last supper ready to receive our Lords body and blood. We are also at the foot of the cross, watching His sacrifice, as He gives Himself for us all. And we are with him, in heaven, at the end of time when he welcomes us to his banquet. All these things are known, are experienced, are remembered from across time, because they are eternal truths.

If we think about this moment of anamnesis, the last supper and Jesus' death upon the cross, we see Jesus in two roles. First as the priest at the last supper taking the bread and wine and giving thanks for them, and also as the priest during his passion, as he offers his life for us. It isn't taken from him but offered as a once and for all sacrifice for us.
We also see Jesus in both events as the sacrifice, in the place of the passover lamb,  His life offered to God the father for our sins. On the cross we see His life offered up and in the last supper, our Eucharist, we see it offered to us.

This twin role of Priest and sacrifice can be difficult for us to understand, but it was almost impossible for the early Christian theologians to understand. The problem was Jesus was from the line of David, and therefore from the line of Kings, so He could be accepted easily as King of the Jews. But he wasn't from the line of Aaron, the tribe of Levi, and therefore was not a priest. If he wasn't a priest how could he offer sacrifice to God. And this is why Malchizedek is important today. Malchizedek lived at the time of Abraham, before the Isaac, before Jacob, before the founding of the twelve tribes and before God through Moses gave the priestly duties to Aaron and the tribe of Levi. Malchizedek as we heard today, was both King of Salem, the original name for Jerusalem and a Priest of God Most High. So as today's Psalm tells us Jesus was “a priest for ever, a priest like Malchizedek of old”, and therefore able to offer His sacrifice for us.

Finally, I would like to turn to the gospel, and you can relax a little, no more Greek and no more deep theology. Just a simple message Jesus taught the disciples and one we have the privilege of learning from today.

Jesus has just spent the afternoon with a huge crowd of people, healing and teaching them. As the disciples realised it was going to start getting dark, they also realised the people were going to start getting hungry. They didn't believe they had enough food to help, so they asked Jesus to send the crowd away, if we are being a little harsh here, they were hoping the problem could be given to someone else. Then Jesus shows them, that no matter how small what they have to offer is, when offered to the service of God, it can be used to solve huge problems. Five rolls and two small fish are used to feed 5000 people. We all have gifts, and even if we think they are small and of little value, if we offer these gifts to God, what would he do with them. The thing is to find out we first have to offer them.

I did say at the start, that our readings today were particularly packed and rich. I hope they will add some richness to your experience of they Eucharist and some challenge to your Christian life. In a few minutes, we will stand in the presence of our Lord, His body and blood, offered for us. When we leave mass tonight we take that gift, the source of our Christian strength with us. What are we going to use it for this next week, what gifts are we going to offer and what will God do with them.

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Five Reasons We Should Fight for the Freedom of Enslaved Women - Guest Writter

Five Reasons We Should Fight for the Freedom of Enslaved Women

Guest Post By Kenny Jahng

By 1888, all countries had officially abolished participation in the transatlantic slave trade.

But, slavery still exists.

In fact, there are 30,000,000 slaves worldwide.
80 percent of them are women.

That means there are 24,000,000 women and children that have been forced into labor or indentured servitude; or that have been trafficked and sold; or that have been forced into marriage as a child bride.

24,000,000 women like us are told their lives belong to someone else.
24,000,000 women like us live without hope.

Many, many of those 24,000,000 women and children were sold to another human for less than the cost of a new cell phone.

Imagine that for a second.
Imagine a price of less than $100 USD on your head.


Women were made in the image of God. “God created mankind in His own image, male and female, He created them” (Genesis 1:27). We were created to be creative, purposeful, spiritual, intelligent, relational, moral beings.

Women are the hub of family and community. Whether women are breadwinners, co-breadwinners or stay-at-home moms, their role in the family is substantial. Mothers are the emotional backbones of the family. This is more than just a nice thought. Study after study has shown that a woman has tremendous impact on her family, affecting everything from the healthcare to academic performance of her children.

The enslavement of women (and all humans) is against God’s plan. When Jesus died for us, he gave us freedom from the slavery of sin. As freed slaves, it is our job to “set at liberty those who are oppressed” (Luke 4:18). Enslavement destroys the very humans created in God’s image. Enslavement kills human potential.

Women should not be sold. Human Trafficking is a $32 billion dollar industry. To put that in perspective for us, that is 8x more than the biggest company of the Inc. 5000 list in 2015.

Women are in crisis globally. Imagine every woman in America ages 18-24 was enslaved. Now add the entire population of New Zealand to that number… and the entire population of Jamaica...and the entire population of Fiji. That’s how many women are enslaved worldwide. Does that break your heart like it does mine?

We can do something about this. We can tackle this problem as a church. We can join movements like The Freedom Challenge to raise funds and awareness. We can free women together. We can provide restoration to women together. We can challenge ourselves in the name of sisterhood and freedom.

Our sisters need us. Let’s take up our own challenge for their freedom.

A though for Holy Week

Lent has a different feel than the rest of the year, as God gave our world different season so we have different liturgical seasons. Changes to allow us to focus our minds on different aspects of our Christian life. Lent is a purple time, a penitential time, a time to reflect on the way we live. A time when we are called to increase our prayer, our charitable giving and a time to fast. We wear and use purple, a rich but serious colour that can help to focus our minds on the Lentern preparation for Easter.

We also don’t sing the Gloria or Alleluia in Lent. This helps us prepare for the highest point of our year, Easter. The wonderful hymn of praise, the Gloria, and the cry of Praise to God, Alleluia, are saved up over Lent to return at Easter in an outpouring of praise, light and joy. As new life returns to the world in spring so our exultations return at Easter, but to do so we need to understand worship without them for a while in Lent.

In the final week of Lent we cover or remove the images and statues. Our churches and liturgies are so rich, so visual, we for a short time remove them to focus of saving act of Christ’s death on the cross. They too will return for the at the Easter vigil. We most profoundly experience the contrast over the Easter Triduum, one liturgy in three parts, the quiet reflective Maundy Thursday, the sorrowful and sparse Good Friday, and the joyful extravagance of the Easter Vigil.

The Mass we take part in is not a performance by the priests, deacons and ministers. It’s an act of worship by the whole Church, we are all called by Christ to come and take a full and active part in the Mass. We are both spiritual creatures and physical creatures. We share in the divinity of Christ as he shared in our humanity. As such we all sing, stand, knee, bow, pray and move together. We join our hearts to Christ, we move our actions towards Him, we play before our Father in Heaven.

A favourite theologian of mine, Romano Guardini, wrote a small book called ‘The Spirit of the Liturgy’ in which he compares the liturgy to children playing in front of their father. We are Children of God, we come together as children of God, we come to the Mass to play and imagine taking part in the heavenly banquet with Christ. We are playing at being in heaven.

Do you remember, as a child, playing Cowboys and Indians or Princesses and Pirates. I used to run around the fields with a handmade bow pretending to be Robin Hood. It’s that leap of imagination that we can often lose as we grow up, it’s this imagination that we should try and kindle as we come to Church. We are embracing our Father and Saviour in the Mass. The tradition of our Church teaches us Christ is present at our Mass. He is present in the Eucharist, He is present in the Priest as he consecrates the Eucharist, He is present in the words of the Scripture as they are proclaimed, and he is present in each of us as we come to worship.

Our Mass is full of movement, we start by standing and processing in, then we genuflect to the Tabernacle, to our Lord Jesus who is present there. From that moment the focus switches to the alter, as we approach or move past it we bow. We bow because it is upon that alter that we will see a miracle, the miracle of the Eucharist, the miracle of Christ becoming present before us and for us.

We bow at other time to in our mass. We should all bow during the Creed, when we say the words “and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” We bow in honour of the moment Christ came to us, became one of us, that moment of incarnation.

We bow again just before receiving communion. We bow before our Lord just before the most intimate part of the liturgy, the part where we take our Lord into ourselves, the source of our Christian strength, the summit of our Christian worship.

This Holy Week, I ask you to embrace the penitential season. Think about what you do, what you see, what you say. Invest a little imagination in your worship and know that what you are heading towards is the joy of meeting Christ this Easter.