26 December 2009

Holiness today

Feast of the Holy Family.

In the lives of the saints we are presented with different models of how to live a live dedicated to the Lord. Perhaps this is because there is in fact no one way to be holy - all that we can do is to look at the lives of people - and in our feast today of families - and take inspiration from them in our own pursuit of holiness.

The first reading reminds us of the story of Hannah, who we are introduced to at the start of 1 Samuel as a devote woman who desires to conceive a child, but remains barren. She and her husband Elkanah go up each year to the sanctuary of Shiloh. On one occasion she is so distraught by her barrenness that she prays and weeps bitterly. But Eli the priest misunderstands her actions and thinks she is drunk (perhaps like many priests across the centuries?) but she (perhaps like many devote women across the centuries?) defends herself and receives his blessing. In due course she conceives and bears a son, whom she names Samuel, which means the 'name of God' or 'offspring of God'. Now, after Samuel is weaned, she takes him back to the sanctuary - in fulfillment of the vow that she had made. The holiness of Hannah and Elkanah, and their devotion to the Lord is clear, and is well expressed in their outward commitment to the Lord which mirrors their internal disposition.

In the Gospel we meet the Holy Family undertaking their annual pilgrimage to the Passover in Jerusalem - again an expression of their regularity in their commitment to the Lord. Of Joseph we know very little - but what we do know (mainly from the Gospel of Matthew) is significant. He is deeply devoted to his wife, and is easily prepared to lay aside his concerns upon the coming of the word of the Lord. Like his namesake from the book of Genesis, Joseph is prepared to listen to his heart and respond to the promptings of his dreams. It is in his dreams that he learns the identity of the father of his child; he learns of the violence and destruction that Herod intends to inflict upon this precious child and so flees with his family to Egypt; and finally responds when an angels tells him it is now safe to return. This openness to the word of the Lord, and his commitment to action when he knows what needs to be done marks him out as a man of holiness.

The obvious commitment of Mary to the way of the Lord needs little commentary. Despite her youth, she is very prepared to respond with all that she is to the way of God with exemplary openness and devotion.

And the second reading provides the ecstatic motivation for any of us to respond to the Lord - the love of God that has been lavished upon us. So let us see in these models of holiness a call from the Lord to enter ever deeper into his infinite and beautiful mystery, as an expression of our own life of holiness.

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Recorded at St Michael's Hall (6pm, 6'24")

24 December 2009

Mary the revolutionary

Christmas 2009 – a revolutionary Christmas
Christmas often brings out the very best in us; but of course it can also bring out the very worst. If we are honest, we can probably admit that at times all we want to do is gag at the very mention of it. Sometimes we tell the story of Christmas in a way that is absolutely detached: we talk about all the cute little animals, and eggnog, Santa, snow, reindeer, drummer boys and perfect babies that never cry or soil their nappies.

Luke’s Gospel tells us that “Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken.” (Luke 2:1)
Julius Caesar was the first person to declare himself emperor or use the title Caesar. He had no son, but when he was assassinated in 43BC, he passed on the rule to his nephew, Octavius. There was a power struggle for a number of years, between Antony and Cleopatra on one side, and Brutus and Octavius on the other. Eventually Octavius won, and became undisputed emperor in 31BC, taking the name Caesar Augustus. He would go on to rule for 45 years. He declared his adopted father to be a ‘god’, so Augustus then declared himself to be the son of God. He saw himself as a divine mediator between God and man, and required people who were part of the Roman Empire to greet one another on the streets with ‘Caesar is Lord.’ One of the popular sayings of the time was ‘there is no other name under heaven by which you can be saved, except for Caesar.’

Essentially the whole known world from England and Europe down through Africa to the Middle East and beyond was part of the Roman Empire. If the Roman Army came to your town you basically had two choices – worship Caesar as Lord, or face either slavery or death – usually by crucifixion. There are stories of people who tried to resist the onslaught of the Empire, and the response of the army was to crucify every person in the town, including one report where 6000 slaves were crucified as a sign to prevent others from rebelling.
Now Caesar couldn’t rule effectively such an immense area without using local overlords and rulers. So he would find people that were loyal to Rome. In Israel, the local ruler – Herod - was half-Jewish and half-Edomite. He is most famous for his incredible building program – including at least 8 massive fortress-like palaces, two new cities (both of which were named after Caesar – Caesarea which featured the largest human-made harbour in the ancient world and Caesarea Philippi) and the completely rebuilt Jerusalem temple. But to accomplish all of this, Herod added to the already heavy burden of taxation imposed by Rome, to the point that taxation rates were between 70-85%. And we think that a tax rate of 15-30% is too high!

This led of course to widespread despair, fatalism and doubt. Traditionally, most Jewish families would work the land and would own small plots of land that had been passed onto to them from generation to generation by their ancestors. (Think of all the parables that Jesus tells about farmers and shepherds.) Now, many had to rent themselves out as day labourers; some were forced off the land and had to sell their land and move into the cities just to meet the taxes. There was also a small elite who did very well under Caesar and Herod – particularly those who lived in Jerusalem and were directly on Herod’s extensive payroll.
The question on the lips of so many was – will Herod continue to oppress? Will this burden of taxation continue? Will Caesar continue to rule? Will those who have get more? Will those who don’t have enough get even less and less? How long will this go on?
DOUBT. If God is so good, why is this traitor and this oppressor Herod on the throne? Remember Herod is one of the richest people who have ever lived in the world – he could easily compare to Bill Gates. Why can Caesar call himself God – and get away with it? People are starving and sick – and nothing is changing. What about cancer?

How long will this go on? Where are you God? Why is life so unfair?
Doubt. Despair. Fatalism. How long O Lord?
Maybe you have your own question for God right now. Maybe you have been struggling with something for so long you have forgotten when it even began? Maybe someone in your family betrayed you? Maybe someone you loved desperately died recently? Maybe you lost your job? Maybe your spouse had an affair? Maybe your parents are divorced? Or your children? Maybe they have stopped going to Church? Maybe you have cancer?
How long O Lord? Where are you?

What about...
Taxation. Death. Warfare. Terrorism. Hatred.
Feuds. Betrayal. Violence. Divorce. Adultery.
Refugees. Indigenous. Homosexuality. Church.
Environment. Failure. Destruction. Politicians.
AIDS. Cancer. Strokes. Heart attack. Sickness.

Despair. Doubt. Anxiety. Fear. Failure.
Confusion. Loss. Fatalism. Hopelessness.

How long O Lord? Where are you?

(Musical interlude – Sons of Korah, ‘Shelter’)

Then, out of nowhere, this angel appears to a young Jewish girl – probably only 14 or 15 years old. Do not be afraid Mary. I got news for you – you are going to have a baby! (Luke 1:30-38)
Mary’s done her class in biology. She knows how things work … No, the Spirit of the Lord will do this – and that clears everything up just perfectly!
Mary: Here I am - the servant of the Lord – let’s get on with it!
Mary – Caesar is going down; Herod is nearly at the end. In fact he dies a few months later. Mary knows that God is not some kind of detached, esoteric saviour – floating away over there. God will come into this scene and take care of Herod and Caesar. He will come into the very midst of their trouble and be there with them when they suffer.
God is going to deal with everything that is unjust. Mary: I have seen the most powerful kingdom in human history – the Caesars – and it is nothing compared with what God can do.
Because, in my womb, I’ve got me a baby!
Herod is now just a pile of rocks. We don’t even have a reliable image of him. Caesar is much the same. But we are here tonight celebrating the birth of the baby that she carried.
God knows what we have been through. God has not forgotten us. He still remembers us.
God sent his only son into the world. In the womb of Mary.
Musical conclusion: Lady Mary (Sandra Sears)

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Recorded in St Michael's Hall (9.30am) - apologies for the static buzz - the new sound system obviously needs some work! (16'00")

20 December 2009

Leaping and dancing for joy

4th Sunday of Advent - Year C. (Luke 1: 39-44; Micah 5:1-4)

In a survey published in the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend it seems that around 68% of Australians still believe in God, but only 27% believe that the Bible is literally true. Which may not be a bad thing, if by literally true we think that reading the bible is like reading a history text book or a science journal. The original authors of scripture never intended us to read it this way. They want us to read it like we read any other story - which is more like reading poetry or listening to music. For when we listen to a song, we are usually aware of the emotional content and of echoes of other songs and other times that we heard this song and what was happening in our life back then. Powerful stuff. To gain access to this story of the visitation of Elizabeth by Mary, and to work out the significance of Bethlehem Ephrathah, and how they both connect with the anointing of a shepherd boy, the Ark of the Covenant and the call to worship - to leap with joy.

Recorded at Sacred Heart (12'23")

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17 December 2009

Vatican Museum App on iTunes

Last night I downloaded the new The Vatican Museums Interactive guide for iPhone and iPod touch. It is a great little app with wonderful audio commentary and fantastic detail on many of the wonders of the Museum. A really well-executed application and great value for only $5.99 in the Australian iTunes shop. Go on - you know you want to!


13 December 2009

What must we do?

Third Sunday of Advent (C) - Luke 3:10-18.

When you look through the teachings of Jesus, a number of themes emerge - love, prayer, money and faith. But as you consider the teachings of Jesus according to these categories, it quickly becomes apparent that Jesus talks about money and possessions far more than he talks about any thing else - in fact he talks about money 3 times more than he talks even about love (which conquers all); 7 times more than he talks about prayer; and 8 times more than he talks about faith and belief.

So it should come as no surprise to us when we continue with the teaching ministry of John, son of Zechariah, that he too should talk about money and possessions. You may recall that last week, after almost 490 years of silence - the word of the Lord was once again addressed to one of his prophets. And when John began to preach, he proclaimed that what was needed was repentance and baptism to cleanse us from our sins. Now as people come to him, they ask a single question - 'what must we do?'

John gives simple, practical advice in answer: 'if you have two cloaks, you must share with the person who has none' as well as 'don't rip people of' and 'be content with your pay.' John follows in a long line of prophets like Amos, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel in putting the demands of justice front and centre for followers of the Lord. His teaching has been emphasised by the saints across the centuries and by the popes, most especially since the tradition of the Social Doctrine of the church has been given, beginning with Pope Leo XIII in Rerum Novarum (1891). There, the pope reminds us that once our basic needs have been met (food, clothing, housing, recreation, transport), then everything else that we have belongs to those who are poor. This is the idea that all we have belongs not to us, but to the common good.
"But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one's standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over." (Rerum Novarum, 22)
If we want to be followers of Jesus, then we must do the same. If we dare to ask the Lord, 'what must we do', then we should expect that we will receive the same answer. Establish justice. Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Shelter the homeless. If you ask - but how much should I give? - then the traditional scriptural teaching is that a tithe - ten percent of your income - is a good starting point. Although not specifically taught in the New Testament (although it is clearly presumed in many places), the principle there is that everything belongs to the Lord and we are only stewards of the things that he has given to us. So if everything belongs to the Lord, then we should be prepared to give everything back to him, to take care of all who are (materially and spiritually) poor. And to whom should we give? Yes, we have an obligation to provide for the Church, but beyond that, we should give to any organisation that cares for the poor and needy and engages in works of mercy, evangelisation or charity.

What must we do? It is a great question to ask ourselves in this mid-point of the season of Advent. But be prepared to first look at our credit card statements and our cheque books before we ask it. Then we can know if we have the courage to actually do what the Lord will invite us to do.

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Recorded at St Michael's, 9.30am (10'54")

06 December 2009

The word of hope

Second Sunday of Advent (Year C) - Baruch 5:1-9; Phil 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6.

Luke begins the account of the ministry of John the Baptist with a list of strange names - what is he doing and why is he doing it and how does it relate to the splendour and integrity of a people lost in a foreign land?

In order to understand why Luke begins this account of the ministry of John, son of Zechariah, with all of those names - we need to do some background work. We need to go back to the first reading - from the prophet Baruch (the secretary of Jeremiah). Baruch prophesied during the same period - the time of Exile. This was an utterly devastating period in the history of Israel. For us to make any sense of the readings today we need to first attempt to at least get into the mindset of what it would be like for the whole of your life - and of the whole of your country to be turned completely upside down and inside out. They were treated as slaves and they lost all of the land of the promise; the empire of Babylon had swept down upon them and completely destroyed their land, their city and their temple. All that Jerusalem stood for was destroyed and taken away from them when they were escorted under military guard from Jerusalem into exile. Everything that they had based their lives upon was gone. It is hard to appreciate how devastating this was for them.

It is important for us to hear and understand what is happening when the prophet addresses Jerusalem - still in ruins and destroyed. The word of the Lord is addressed to Jerusalem to 'look to the east' to see the work of God - to restore and renew this people, who will come from east and west to fulfill the promises of God. Even though Israel knew that the exile was a result of their failure to live the covenant; even though they knew everything had been taken away from them because of their sin and breaking the commandments, the word of the Lord was telling them that God had remained faithful to the covenant that was first made centuries before during the Exodus, when the Lord had addressed the whole nation (not just individuals like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses) and made covenant with them (Exodus 19). God will continue to bring his purposes to pass. So he will flatten the mountains and fill the valleys so that the way of the people would be made smooth and allow their free passage to fulfill his purposes.

The word of the Lord continued to be addressed to Israel to bring them back from their exile and to restore them to their land and to the temple. But as time passed, the prophetic word was no longer heard. The prophet Malachi was the last of the prophets, and he ministered around 460 years before the birth of Christ. So for generation upon generation people longed to hear the word of God again, to receive a fresh insight into the plan of God for his people.

So when the Gospel of Luke opens, it is almost 500 years since there has been any recorded word of prophecy. The expectation that the Lord will speak to his people must have been overwhelming. So when Luke begins this chapter with a list of who's-who, it would have been even more jarring for the first hearers. The named individuals only serves to remind them of how far they have fallen as a people and community. They are under the oppression of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar (reigned 14-37 AD/CE); with his puppet governor Pontius Pilate (who reigned over Judea from 26-36 AD); then three of the four tetrarchs are named - the 2 sons of Herod the Great (Herod Antipas and Herod Philip II) and Lysanias. Finally, the current (Caiaphas, 18-36 AD) and former (Annas 6-15 AD) high priests are given. Even though Annas had left the office, he retained the title of high priest (cf. John 18:13,24). If there is an expectation that the 'word of the Lord' would come to someone, perhaps one of these 'high and mighty' individuals could be expected. Certainly you would expect that the Lord would address his people in a place of significance - like in the newly rebuilt temple in Jerusalem.

No, when the Lord chose to speak to someone after so many centuries, he addresses the word of God to a virtual nobody - to John, the son of Zechariah, out in the wilderness. That it was happening in the wilderness indicates that the great promises of Isaiah were beginning to be fulfilled in the ministry of John.

And what does John proclaim? That they (and we) need to undergo a baptism of repentance. So as we continue our journey through this season of Advent, we need to be mindful of this call of the Lord to prepare and be ready to receive his healing and cleansing word once again, so that we can be formed and prepared into the people that he longs for us to be, so that 'all flesh will see the salvation of our God'.

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Recorded at Sacred Heart, 9.30am (10'34")

29 November 2009

The coming of Christ

First Sunday of Advent
Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thes 3:12-4:2; Luke 21: 25-28;34-36.

Happy New Year! As we begin this new season of Advent (and new liturgical year), you might imagine that we would have readings that speak of preparing for the birth of Jesus, or that would take us back to the very beginning of creation. But no, the readings instead take us to the end of all things in the second coming of Jesus. We explore the different meanings of the coming of Jesus.

We talk about the coming of Jesus in three different ways. The first is his historical birth in Bethlehem as a child, in fulfillment of the many prophecies of the coming of the Messiah (and picked up in our first reading from Jeremiah); the second, which is picked up our first reading today, is our ability to allow the Lord to actually have life and existence within us, when we accept Jesus into our lives, or to come to birth within us; the third way is when we talk about the 'Second Coming' of Jesus at the end of history. It is this idea of the final coming of Jesus that unifies all the readings today and provides the focus for us as we wait with hope in this season of Advent.

When we read Paul's first letter - the first letter that he wrote to the Thessalonians, and the very first and oldest document written in the New Testament - we have a very strong sense that the return of the Lord is very near. Paul seemed to have believed that the Lord Jesus would return again RSN (real soon now) - certainly while he was still alive. That belief had changed by the time Paul wrote his later letters, and like him we continue to look to that day with hope and longing. Paul knew that everything in the world (defined by the sun and moon and stars) had changed because of that amazing and incredible event of the resurrection of Jesus. He also knew that as a Christian people our job was to bring that change and difference into the world through being changed and renewed by the presence of Jesus in the Holy Spirit in our own lives. This is the dramatic change and difference that Jesus can make in our lives. This is the only way that we need to prepare for the second coming - to live lives of virtue and holiness united to Jesus now.

Sometimes we may be like the captain of Oceanic flight 815 who announces to the passengers: "Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, and welcome once again to Oceanic 815. Thankyou for choosing to fly with us today. I wanted to give you an update on our flight status. We have some good news and bad news. The bad news is that we are having a slight difficulty with our instruments, so that we are actually not at all sure where we are right now, but the good news is that we are making excellent time." So many people today live like that - lost and uncertain as to where we are, yet racing ahead at full steam to ensure that we get wherever it is that we are going as quickly as possible!

Maybe it is time for us to take stock of where we are and work out where we are headed in our lives? As we continue in this season of Advent, let us prepare in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour - and allow the Lord to truly be present within us now...

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(Recorded at St Michael's, 9.30am - 10'47")

22 November 2009

Building the kingdom with Christ the King

Sunday 34 in the Season of the Year - Feast of Christ the King (B)

Sometimes, especially when we live in a Constitutional Monarchy like we do in Australia, and we have strong democratic beliefs - and perhaps even more so if we are republicans - the idea of celebrating Christ as King can seem quaint and antiquated. When the King or Queen are distant and essentially irrelevant to our lives, how do we make sense of this feast and idea of Christ as King?

If Christ is the king, then we must be part of some kingdom. Perhaps we are also confused by what exactly this kingdom is all about? Sometimes we might think (if we do at all) that the kingdom has probably something to do with the death and resurrection of Jesus. We know that through the Cross our sins have been forgiven and we are able to have the promise of another place which we call heaven after we die. But is that actually what Jesus was on about?

We have been reading through the Gospel of Mark this year, and you might just remember how when we began at the start of the year in Mark chapter one, we heard Jesus begin his public ministry by proclaiming that the 'kingdom of God' was near, and we should repent and believe. And then he began to call and invite people into the kingdom. Yet all of this was happening two to three years before the events of his death and resurrection. So if that is what the kingdom is all about, what were they doing during those years?

Perhaps we need to think about how to live in the kingdom and how it might fit with the whole story of God and God's people. How does this fit with the story of creation, sin, confusion, darkness and so forth. And how does a dance on the streets of Paris or the "parable of the public toilet" fit into this story? Listen to find out more...

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Recorded at Sacred Heart, 9.30am (10'17")

15 November 2009

The end of the world - of death

Week 33 - Season of the Year B
Mark 13:24-32

Often when we are presented with a passage like the Gospel that we have just read, we are left scratching our heads and wondering what on earth (or heaven) is going on. Of course there is a fascination in our world (like theirs) about the end of the world. Movies like 2012 - released this week - or other Hollywood blockbusters like Knowing, Independence Day, the Day After Tomorrow all attest to our interest and fascination with the subject, as do bookshelves full of prophecies from Nostradamus or the Mayan empire - or indeed of course from our own Scriptures.

So yes, we have a range of passages and whole books in the Bible that are samples of what we call 'Apocalyptic'. The first reading today was from the Prophet Daniel, and the final book in the Bible is the Book of Revelation, also called the Apocalypse. And they are notoriously difficult to interpret. Especially if we imagine that they are to be taken literally, or that they are meant to be read as precise predictions of how the world will end. Which they are not.

First the title gives us a hint - it is called apocalyptic, which comes from a Greek word 'apokalypso' meaning 'disclosure', 'unveiling' or 'revelation'. Sometimes this refers to an unveiling of the future, but usually it means a revelation about what is happening all around us - which is the case in today's Gospel. Secondly, this kind of literature is usually written during times of persecution. So Daniel comes from the period of the Jewish exile in Babylon, when the people were suffering great persecution; similarly the book of Revelation was written at the end of the first century, during a period of deep persecution of the Christian Church by the Roman Empire.

Turning to the Gospel itself, this chapter 13 begins with Jesus and his disciples sitting in the temple forecourt. Now, especially for country bumpkins like this lot, coming from Galilee the Temple was an amazingly impressive building. As a country kid myself, I remember vividly the first time that I went overseas. As a good Catholic boy, my first stop was Rome and we went straight by train from the plane to St Peter's. Man, that place is just amazing. The building is simply massive and so beautiful. It is 220m long and seats 60,000 people. But the temple of King Herod was just as impressive - or even more so. The whole complex was nearly half a kilometre long - 485m along the Western wall. At the south-eastern corner the wall is 130m about the valley - that's like a 40-story building. And it was all decked out in white limestone, marble and stacks of gold. So it would take your breath away! And Archeologists have discovered that some of the foundation stones would have weighed around 4000 tonnes - so it was certainly enough to blow away these country kids. And Jesus simply says that not one of these massive and beautiful stones will be left standing on another. And to declare that he really didn't even need to be a great prophet. He knew how central the Temple was to the whole scheme of things - how it lay not just at the centre of Jewish religious life but also their whole cultural, political and national identity. He also knew how much the tension was building between the Jewish zealots who were pushing for a national uprising and the Roman Empire. This all came to a head in the last 60s, leading to the complete destruction of the Temple in 70CE.

So Jesus is alluding to this - and to some extent he is also alluding to the eventual end of the world. But he talks about all of this coming about during the current generation - that the disciples would all witness it. If we take all this literally, we are left wondering if Jesus got the details all wrong. So what was he talking about when he mentions the sun and moon being darkened and the stars falling?
First we need to remember the centrality of these 'heavenly bodies' in everyday life. Now, if I want to know what the time is, I just look at my watch. If I am wondering around and want to know where I am I pull out my mobile phone and turn on the GPS. The same in my car. If it is getting a bit dark, I flick the switch and turn on the lights. In those days the sun and moon provided their main sources of light. You used them to know what the time was. You used them and the stars to navigate and to know what season it was and what the weather was going to be like. (Hence the example of the fig tree.) So the sun and moon and stars represented what the whole world was like. The symbolised the existing structure of the world. So when Jesus says that all of that is changing - all of that is coming to an end in this generation - he is talking about events that are much closer at hand. Remember all this happens in Jerusalem during what we now call 'Holy Week'. The great events of Jesus' death and resurrection are only a day or two away. Jesus wants his disciples to know that what is about to happen will not just effect him - but it will change their whole world (represented by the sun, moon and stars). Why will everything change? Because until that time the whole world has revolved around death. Death (like taxes) is the one thing that every empire has always held over its citizens and subjects. Fear of death has remained a constant across human history. In one way we can understand that all of our sin and dysfunction is linked to this fear of death and our feeble attempts to overcome it - whether that is by pursuing health, wealth, beauty, power, sex or simply distracting ourselves with new toys or experiences. But all of that world came to end - or began to end - the moment that Jesus took all of our sin and dysfunction on-board when he stretched out his arms on that Roman cross.

The old world did in fact end on that glorious Easter Sunday morning. All of our fears and failures were caught up and redeemed by the work of God in the person of Jesus. The world that the disciples knew did end that day.

But the end was also a beginning. Because realities are of little use unless we know about them. Unless we live in their truth. So while death no longer has a hold over us, we need - as a Christian people - to live in this truth. And we need to take our place in proclaiming and living as an Easter people.

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Recorded at St Michael's Nowra, 9.30am (12'51")

08 November 2009

The gift of the widow

Sunday 32 in the Season of the Year (B)

Mark 12:38-44 and I Kings 17:8-16.

The gift of the widow who has nothing to give.

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Recorded at St Michael's Nowra 9.30am (14'30")

01 November 2009

Blessed by God

All Saints Day (Matthew 4:25-5:12)

The gospel passage that we usually call the Beatitudes seems to be one of those passages that is 'trotted out' for almost any occasion - from weddings to funerals to commitments of ordination and religious profession. But what on earth is it about? What does it mean to say that someone who is mourning is to be declared happy or blessed? Is it telling us that we have to be poor in spirit to be part of the kingdom? That we need to mourn and be meek? Is this a series of yet more commandments that we need to fulfill? Or a new list of ways that we will be judged? Or are these statements something else entirely? Perhaps in these statements from Jesus - addressed to this strange crowd of people from the backwaters of Galilee to the more sophisticated citizens of Judea and Jerusalem, as well as the pagans and gentiles from the Decapolis - we actually meet what is truly good news. An announcement of Jesus that we can indeed be part of the kingdom of God - or maybe that we already are precisely because we are somewhat scattered or simply somewhat ordinary?

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Recorded at St Michael's 6pm (13'40" - including final blessing)

25 October 2009

What do you want me to do for you?

Sunday 30 (Year B) - Mark 10:46-52

It was a hot day. There was barely any breeze blowing to provide any relief to the heat of the valley; just enough to carry the insistent smell of sand and the salt from the Dead Sea just a few miles away. Which meant it was pretty much like any other day. And just like any other day, as I waited here at the gate of the city, catching my breath after a morning spent in the market, my peace and quiet was - once again - interrupted by that flaming beggar. He was always there. He was always annoying. Like so many other beggars. I knew his father; unlike this one, his father Timeaus was a good man. Who knows what he would have thought of his son ending up like this, sitting there on that flaming cloak - begging. Everything changed for Bar-Timeaus after the accident that left him blind. Actually he was an ok kind of kid. But now, oh now - he is just a right pain. And what's this? Just when I'm finding a way to filter out his cries, he starts getting louder! Oh I see why. Or I hear why - there's a crowd of people coming, and he sees a chance to earn a coin or two to put some bread on the table tonight. His voice is so annoying! Oh man, now he's started to actually shout. But who's he calling to? What's he on about then? He's addressing someone in the crowd - he's calling him the 'Son of David' of all things!? Doesn't he know that's the title for the Messiah? Doesn't he know that he's calling after the King himself? There's no one who looks like a king in this crowd. Just a bunch of ruffians. Oh wait - there's someone there - the people seem to be pressing in around him and crowding around him. But he looks just like a Rabbi or something. No one special. Not a king certainly. There's a name on so many lips - almost like a chant. Jesus - Jesus of Nazareth. Now Bartimeaus has taken up the name - and he is shouting this name - and he's shouting and crying ... for mercy. What does he think this is?

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Recorded at Sacred Heart 9.30am (13'36").

18 October 2009

Ambition and the Cross

Our gospel today (Mk 10:35-45) comes immediately after Jesus' third prediction of his passion and death: "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again." (Mk 10:33-34 - NRSV) So, that James and John, these young brothers approach Jesus and put this question to sit at his side in his glory is even more stark. We are almost at the end of the journey of Jesus and the disciples to Jerusalem - next week we have the final passage before the arrival in Jerusalem on what we call Palm Sunday (Mk 11:1). So what is going on? And what are the cup and the baptism all about? Are there any other stories that can help us address this question of ambition expressed by the brothers? Listen in to find out more...

Recorded at St Michael's 9.30am (12'06")

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11 October 2009

The gaze of Jesus and the one thing

Season of the Year - Sunday 28B.
Mark 10:17-30 Wisdom 7:7-11.

Our life is defined by the decisions that we make; sometimes we manage to make good decisions - often something less than that. The first reading provides us with the example of the author of Wisdom who clearly prays for the right things - for understanding (prudence) and for the gift of Wisdom. When s/he receives these gifts, s/he values them more than the finest jewels; more than good health; more than beauty; more than honour and reputation; more than the greatest wealth. What do we hold onto? What do we cling to? What defines us? What choices have we made that identify who we are? In the Gospel we have this astounding figure of a rich man (Matthew also calls him young, and Luke calls him a ruler) who runs up to Jesus and puts this great question to him - what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus tells him first to keep the commandments - but after being told that these were already under control (wow!) Jesus simply gazes at him - and loves him. I suspect that if we let Jesus do the same thing to us - to stare at us - to love us - that we might find that there is one thing that we lack. What is our one thing? What is holding us back today? What do I need to surrender to the Lord?

Recorded at St Michael's 8am (7'38")

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04 October 2009

Marriage in the beginning

Sunday 27 in the Season of the Year (B) | Mark 10:2-16

One thing that I have discovered, is that usually when a particular moral question is put to me by someone, almost inevitably there is a context - a back-story if you like. If I simply answer the question in the abstract, without attending to the particular situation that provoked the question, then equally inevitably, I will more than likely get the answer wrong. When Jesus is asked this question in the Gospel today, his hearers would have known what that background story was; but we can miss it, especially when we don't read verse 1 of Mark 10. There we read that Jesus and his disciples have just travelled to Judea, to the region beyond the Jordan River. If we think of the Jordan, than we should immediately think of the prophet who ministered around the Jordan - John the Baptist. Back in Mark 6 John had been arrested and then executed because he had challenged King Herod about marrying his brother Philip's wife Herodius. So we see that the test that the Pharisees put to Jesus is really a question of whether Jesus will stick his own neck out and make the same treasonous declaration about Herod's marriage which had got John killed. In answering the question, Jesus gives the injunction to return to the beginnings - to see what the Lord had said about marriage in the account of creation. So, like Jesus, we need to turn back to those first chapters of Genesis to see what God's original plan had been all about regarding the marriage covenant.

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20 September 2009

Trust like a child

As we move into the second half of Mark's Gospel, the disciples journey with Jesus from the Mount of the Transfiguration back towards Galilee, and increasingly towars the cross. Jesus takes them aside to explain what is going to lie ahead - the way of suffering and ultimately death. But they haven't got a clue what he is talking about (he has spent most of the time until this point talking in parables) and instead discuss something much more significant and important - who among them is the greatest? (Not that this kind of discussion would relate to us at all?!) So Jesus then takes a child up into his arms and invites them (and us) to be that child - content in the arms of our Lord. Reminded of the spirituality of St Therese of Lisieux and the insights of GK Chesterton, we explore what it is like to be a child in the kingdom of God.

Recorded at St Michael's (during the Kindergarden Mass) - 11'11"

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13 September 2009

Jesus the Messiah

When reading a Gospel like our one for today from Mark 8, we can sometimes only read it as an isolated piece. If we do this, we can miss the richer liturgical and scriptural context and thereby miss much of the richness and depth that the story may be presenting to us. Let us turn to last Sunday's gospel (the healing of the deaf and dumb man) and the story immediately before the gospel today (the healing in stages of a blind man) as well as the geographical movements that occur (from the Decapolis to Bethsaida to Cesaeria Philippi) to see if they provide something more to reflect upon this question that Jesus the Messiah poses - 'who do you say I am?'

Recorded at Sacred Heart, 11'37"

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06 September 2009

Images of the journey

I have just returned from almost 4 weeks in the USA and Canada. It was a deeply renewing and wonderful visit to catch up with friends and meet heroes; to see what I can see and discover the richness and power of the church in the mid-west. The trip began in LA (only because that is where the plane landed), then to Toronto and west through Lansing and Grand Rapids, then around Lake Michigan to Chicago to visit Fr Robert Barron and attend the first performance of Rob Bell's 'Drops Like Stars' tour. Then south to St Louis and east to Indianapolis and Cincinnati and then to Franciscan University of Steubenville and Pittsburg. Finally I began to return home via Niagara Falls and Toronto and then flew back to Chicago and Denver. In Colorado I stayed in the University parish of Boulder and took part in a three-day retreat with Youth Ministers from the Archdiocese of Denver in the ski-resort of Vail. A wonderful and life-giving journey. Now it is time for some more sleep!


Hearing and Speaking

Week 23 in the Season of the Year (B)

Mark 7:31-37 - the healing of the deaf and mute man. This healing reminds us that like the people of the Decapolis, we may well have lots of distractions that prevent us from hearing the all-important Word of God. God's word is always meant to be creative - to take flesh in our lives. So many things compete. Like the man, maybe we need to be taken away from the crowd to be alone with Jesus, so that he can pray to the Father on our behalf, and reconnect us with the Lord. Maybe the Lord needs to groan over us as well and sigh deeply into our hearts the same 'Ephphatha' to clear any blockages that stop us from hearing and speaking the truth.

Recorded at St Michael's (10'22")

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09 August 2009

Elijah in his struggles

In the first reading from I Kings 19, we meet the Prophet Elijah having a bad day - he has been serving the Lord faithfully for some time and done all these great works - and instead of thanks and honour he is being persecuted and pursued by the deadly Queen Jezebel. Perhaps we have been on the Christian journey for some time, and perhaps like Elijah we feel we are all alone and just need a break. Perhaps we need to learn something of the lessons that the Lord gave to Elijah - to rest, eat and drink and be strengthened for the journey to the mountain of God. (7'52")

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02 August 2009

The bread of life

18B – Bread of life (John 6:24-35; Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15)

When you read the Gospel of John, you must always be aware of the broad canvas upon which John writes his Gospel. He is always mindful and aware of all that has gone on before in the past – the history of the people of God; and he is also aware of what may come in the future as he writes for us who will come after him – as we do the things that he talks about. So as John tells us the story of John 6 that we have just read, the one story that he clearly has in mind, and which everyone who was there with him in Capernaum would also have had in mind, was the story that we have just read – the story of Exodus 16, those days when the Lord gave them bread form heaven. The Lord fed and nourished his people. For when the people came to him and said – give us this sign – give us this food to eat: they are asking Jesus to reveal himself as the true Messiah. They want him to prove and demonstrate that he is the one that they have longed for; the one who will lead them on the new Exodus. That was the role of the Messiah. So Jesus is wanting to both affirm that and also wanting them to remember the true nature of the Exodus, and what was actually happening.

When we go back to that scene and that place in Exodus 16, there are a number of things that we need to be aware of. The actual event that we call the Exodus – the night of the Passover when ten Lord with mighty hand and outstretched arm led the people of God from slavery to freedom – where in the book of Exodus that this happen, in which chapter? Anyone? (someone suggested chapter 3) Chapter 3 is where the Lord comes to Moses and says ‘I have heard the sound of your cries’ I have heard your voice and the Lord comes to reveal himself to Moses (in the burning bush) and says to him that he will lead his people to freedom. Then you have the plagues and so forth. In chapter 14 you have the marvellous story of the people escaping through the Sea of Reeds and then in chapter 15 the magnificent song of Miriam of praise and thanksgiving – the one that we sing each year at the Easter Vigil as the response to the Third Reading. Here in chapter 16 we are in the very next chapter after the incredible events of the Exodus. Very little time has passed. Verse 1, which is not part of our reading today, tells us that a month and a half has passed since those incredible events – when they left Egypt with this whole cacophony of people along with their flocks and their herds, their sheep and their cattle. They left prepared with provisions; they didn’t leave empty-handed. They had plenty of food to eat because they knew that the journey would be long and hard. So here in chapter 16 when they complain and cry and out and say to the Lord ‘how could you do this to us?’; ‘how could you lead us to this barren place?’ In the end of chapter 15 all they do is complain about the lack of water. So the Lord gives them water to drink. Here the Lord doesn’t say, ‘well, just go away and leave me alone, if you are not going to be thankful.’ No, he feeds his people. He gives them this food to eat.

When I was in the Carmelites, there was this old Irish friar who was a great Latinist, and whenever he would come into the refectory and would see some food or something which he didn’t know what it was he would point to it and say ‘Quid sit?’ (What is that?) When the dew lifts in the morning from the camp, and the people see this white flaky substance that has come there from overnight, they look at it and they say ‘what the...?’ (man-nu?) The Hebrew word for ‘what’ is ‘man’, so they look at this stuff and say ‘man-hu’ – what is that? And Moses says no, not ‘man-nu’, but the bread from heaven. This food that the Lord gives us. (Just as a sideline, whenever you hear someone say ‘What the!?’ they are actually being very biblical and scriptural and quoting from this place in Exodus 16. I am sure that Rove knows that as well?!)

They are fed by God. The Lord gives them this food to eat. But the Lord also wants them to know that they are on a journey; what he is doing is creating a people. A people who are being led from slavery to freedom. It is sometimes said that while it only took God one night/one day to take Israel out of Egypt, it takes 40 years that they are in the wilderness – those 40 years of beginning to trust in God; beginning to allow the Lord to feed them; those 40 years to take Egypt out of Israel. To take those desires away; to allow them to know that indeed they can trust in God; indeed the Lord will feed them. He will provide the manna in the morning; he will provide the quail in the evening. The Lord will lead his people; the Lord will feed his people.

I don’t know about you, but at times I think back on the past – I look back at those memories and those things that I have done in the past that I regret, that still burden me and which are still present. And then I need the bread of God. I need the life of God to feed me now. To remind me not to go back; not to go back to those times when the fleshpots looked so wonderful – but they weren’t. Because that was slavery. The Lord wants to free us; he wants to do the same as what he tried to do with the people in the desert. To purify us and give us that hunger for the true bread; for that true presence of the Lord.

It is interesting that when the Lord gave them directions and instructions, and when he gave them the two tablets of the 10 Commandments, and when he then instructed them to then create this beautiful container within which to put those laws of God, the Ark of the Covenant. It wasn’t just the two tablets that they carried in the Ark, they also had the staff of Aaron, and a small pot containing some of the manna, some of this bread from heaven. This was a reminder that God always wants to feed his people. Then when they created the temple in Jerusalem, they placed the Ark of the Covenant there in the ‘Most Holy Place’ or the ‘Holy of Holies.’ There in that ‘Most Holy Place’ they put the Ark and also the Menorah, the beautiful seven-candled lamp; in addition to that they had another table which contained 12 loaves of bread – the Show Bread, or the Bread of Presence. That bread, representing the 12 tribes of Israel, so the whole people of God, was always in the presence of God. It became holy bread. This is why we also have the tabernacle in our churches; it is why we have that place where we keep the bread of life as well; where we allow the Lord to feed us; where we allow the Lord to provide our life and our hope. Whenever we are tempted to look back, whenever we are afraid, whenever we remember the past mistakes and we can’t get out of them (they condemn us) – the Lord himself comes to be our hope. The Lord comes to feed us with his new life. And Jesus the Messiah, will indeed be our leader who will take us on this New Exodus. Not just from any physical slavery; not just from memories of the past – but from any sin; anything that prevents us from hat full life of God. So the Lord wants to be our food, to nourish us and give us hope and faith. The Lord will lead us by his mighty hand along the way of this New Exodus so that we can become the people that he has called us to be, the People who live in the freedom and joy of the Lord. Who allow their past to be taken upon Jesus on the cross. To allow that past to be forgiven, so that we can be freed and fed by the bread of life, the bread come down from heaven.

Recorded at Sacred Heart (10'02")

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26 July 2009

Hungry to be satisfied

17B – Season of the Year – John 6:1-15

This year we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Last week we had the story of Jesus and the disciples crossing over the lake and coming to find a large crowd of people, which he set out to teach at some length. Rather than continuing the story from Mark, we interrupt the story and change to have an extended reading from the Gospel of John, so that we have his unique perspective. John’s gospel was written much later than the other gospels, probably late in the first century. You have this deeply reflective, theological and spiritual understanding of Jesus and the mysteries of the Church. One of the curiosities of John’s Gospel is that when you go to the Last Supper with John, there is no mention of Jesus blessing the bread; of Jesus taking the cup and telling the disciples that this is my blood. We can wonder – why aren’t what we call the Institution Narratives – the story of the institution of the Eucharist mentioned in John’s Gospel? It is because it is here, in this sixth chapter of St John. I invite you as we journey through this magnificent chapter over the next five weeks to take the time to prayerfully and slowly read through the chapter. Take the time to ponder these majestic words and allow them to sink deeply into our spirit.

Here in this Gospel, one of the things we must remember is that nothing ever happens by chance. Every word is carefully chosen to drive home this deep symbolic and rich meaning. The gospel begins with Jesus and his disciples going up a mountain. This should evoke every other mountain in the Scriptures – from Mount Sinai, Mount Horeb to Mount Tabor – all the other mountains in scripture that have that rich sense of those places that you go to be with God; where God will reveal his presence and his power and his majesty. Then it simply says that there Jesus sat down. We probably will miss the significance of this: in the ancient world a master would sit down and his disciples would also sit down at his feet in order that he could teach them. This was the symbol and gesture of teaching. So Jesus sat down to teach and instruct his disciples. It is why when we gather at the Eucharist we sit down to listen to the readings – to hear the word of God – and to allow the readings being proclaimed to nourish and enrich us. Hopefully this will also happen in the preaching of the priest as he tries to expound upon the words of God. John is reminding us that what is happening here in this scene is what happens every time that we gather to celebrate the Eucharist. First we sit down to allow the word of God to nourish us; to allow Jesus to teach us.

But then he says the Feast of Passover was drawing close. What happens at Passover? The Lamb of God is sacrificed. That lamb of God that allowed the people of God, the Hebrew slaves to escape the judgement of God upon the kingdom of Egypt. They remembered this every year as that time when God delivered them from slavery to freedom. This is the signal for John to remind us that we are moving from that time of teaching in the Mass into that time of sacrifice. Then Jesus looks and see this massive crowd of 5000 people approaching up the mountain. He says to the disciples ‘what are we going to do? How are we going to feed this huge crowd?’ Philip speaks the words that are on all their lips – even 200 Denarii or six-month’s wages – would not be enough to buy food to even give them a little bit to eat. Even that much money is not enough – and we don’t even have this much money. Then Andrew recognises at least something that is available. He says, well actually there is this little boy, this child has five loaves; he has a couple of fish. But what is that among so many? Perhaps that is what we sometimes think when we get to the offertory at Mass; when those few scraps of bread, that little jug of wine is brought forward as a sign and symbol of what our offering is; of what you as the people of God bring and what I as the representative of Jesus in this gathering receive on your behalf. Such fragile attempts – mere scraps – and yet we know and we trust that somehow in that the Lord will take it; the Lord will take our lives; the Lord will take what we can offer; he will take and he will receive. Jesus does this – he takes these small and fragile offerings of this young child and he gives thanks. That word, in Greek, is eucharisteo – it is why we call this gathering the Eucharist – because it is here that we give thanks; that we gather to give our return to the Lord – to bless him, to worship him and to offer our thanksgiving for all that he does through us and in us. So Jesus does this; he gives thanks to God – he prays the blessing of God to be upon this fragile offering which is our lives. Then he himself breaks and gives – a sign of those four central actions that are at the heart of every Mass. We take the offering of our lives, we give and bring up the gifts which are blessed in the Eucharistic Prayer; where they are broken at the Lamb of God, and then distributed to each of us so that we can feed.

Here, when Jesus feeds personally each of the people in this crowd – then everyone eats and is full. Everyone is satisfied at this feast. We have so many hungers – don’t we? We want pleasures, we want recognition; we want to be like everyone else; we want to have the thrill of money or of sex or of wealth or of whatever we want... But none of these things every truly satisfies. Even if we have our fill, even if we have the latest gadgets, even if we travel to the four corners of the world, we are never satisfied. But here in this place, when we are allowed to eat of the very life of God, when the Lord himself feeds us, then we can be satisfied; then our hearts and our longings and our desires can be filled and fulfilled in Christ. That is why he feeds us; that is why we gather to give thanks. That is why we bring those fragile offerings of our lives because the Lord always wants to work with us; he always wants to take what we can give and bless that, and multiple that and fulfil those deepest longings in our hearts and spirits.

The final curious detail that is given to us in the Gospel, is that Jesus instructs them to gather all the scraps and fragments together that are left over from the feast. It is the same thing that we do at the Eucharist – that we are very attentive even to the smallest fragment of this precious gift – because we want to gather it, we want to collect it so that others also can share in this gift. It is that sense of unity in being gathered. John tells us that there were twelve baskets full of scraps and fragments at the end of the feast – the twelve as that richly symbolic number representing the 12 tribes of Israel – that fullness of the whole people of God. All of us are called to be gathered in unity as his people; as different and diverse as we are we are called to come together in this place, for this Eucharist we are allowed to be one; we are allowed to be gathered into the great feast of the Lord. Today as we celebrate this Eucharist. As we allow the gifts of our lives to be brought up and to be offered; as I pray that great prayer of thanksgiving on your behalf when I ask the Spirit of God to come and fall upon these gifts to make them into the body and blood of Christ; as we break them and as we share them, know that the Lord himself is feeding our deepest desires and longings. He is bringing them all to be blessed and multiplied and in our turn we are invited to give thanks for this great gift of the Eucharist.

Recorded at St Michael's 9.30am (10'23")

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19 July 2009

The true shepherd

16th Sunday in ordinary time – Year B.
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34.

In order to understand our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah today, we need to understand what has been happening in the history and practice of Israel. We need to go back a few hundred years. When the people of Israel first left the slavery of Egypt, and they moved to the Promised Land and began to settle there the Lord himself was their leader; he was their guide. For the first few generations, the Israelites had a series of leaders called Judges, which we read about in the book of Joshua and Judges. There came a time however, when the leaders of the people came to Samuel and asked him to let them have a King like all the other nations had. This of course should give us cause to pause. Israel was called to be different from all the other nations - not to be just like them. God wanted Israel to be unlike all the other nations around them. He wanted them to uphold justice and truth and virtue. He wanted them to be his people and to image him in the world.

We read this story in the first book of Samuel chapter eight. There the Lord instructs Samuel to do what the elders of the people ask him, even though the Lord said to Samuel “when they asked for a King they’re not rejecting you; they are rejecting me”. As you go through the history of Israel from this point, one of the striking characteristics of that history is the fact that the Kings who come to be the leaders of the people of Israel are always presented in the truth of who they are. So unlike other kingdoms and other peoples who tended to eulogise their kings and leaders – for example in the Roman Empire which even divinise their emperors – in the history of Israel the Kings, we are told, were lazy, corrupt, indifferent and pathetic leaders. And again and again the Lord sends prophets to correct them and to rebuke them. The passage that we have from the Prophet Jeremiah today is one example of that. There are others in the book of Isaiah, in the Psalms and most famously in the Prophet Ezekiel (chapter 34). Here the Lord rebukes the shepherds of Israel who have allowed his people to be scattered and lost. He says that he himself will gather his people by raising up shepherds who will pasture them without fear or terror. He then gives one of the great messianic prophecies of a new leader, who like King David of old, will rule with wisdom and integrity.

In the Gospel today (Mark 6:30-34) we see this prophecy come true. When the disciples return from their mission where they had relied completely on God (remember? - ‘take nothing for the journey’) they are tired and in need of a break. But the crowd that is there is now pressing in on every side and keeping them all so busy that they do not even have time to eat. So the Lord invites them to ‘come away and rest for a while’ and they set off across the lake in a boat. But they crowd are not so easily dodged, and they, along with an even greater crowd from all the towns and villages near by race ahead to meet him where they guess he is going – and so when Jesus arrives at that place he is confronted by this huge crowd and he has pity on them for they are like ‘sheep without a shepherd.’ So Jesus sets about teaching the people – the new role of the true shepherd – at some length. (So if you are annoyed when the priest’s homily goes on a bit, know that we are at least in this, following in the example of our master!)

Once again, however, we are confronted with the dilemma of what the true nature of the messiah –the leader of Israel was meant to be. If he was meant to be the one who gathered the people so that they could have a great victory over all the political enemies of Israel and they could once again resume the empire like in the days of King David and King Solomon – all of this seemed to be dashed when Jesus did not only not raise an army against the powerful and oppressive Roman empire, but he was subjected to terrible torture and death at the hands of that empire. In order to understand how the early Church understood the way in which Jesus did in fact fulfil the call to be the true Shepherd and Messiah of Israel, we need to turn to the second reading.

St Paul continues his discussion about the amazing difference that was brought about by the ministry of Jesus – the Messiah. He addresses two groups of people in the verses before our reading today (in Ephesians 2:11-12) – those who were circumcised and those who were not. The first considered themselves close to God, because they have been following the law, and considered the others to be far away. But Paul addresses both and says that even you who were far away have been brought close by the blood of Jesus. Paul understands how the death of Jesus on the cross appeared to be the great defeat of any claim by him to be Israel’s true Messiah. Appearances can be deceptive. For in fact, what happened on the cross, and through the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross, was that the barrier which used to keep Jew and Gentile apart was broken down and destroyed. Paul knows that the deepest burden that any of us can carry, the greatest problem that any of us experience, is not oppression from outside as a result of political powers, but oppression from within – the oppression caused by sin, hatred, fear, prejudice, bitterness, unforgiveness... These are the walls and the barriers and the hostility that have been torn down because of the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross. This is the way that Jesus demonstrated that he was to be our true leader and shepherd. This is the way that Jesus demonstrated what true shepherd leadership was all about.

Let us pray that we will always accept the true leadership that is offered to us by the Lord. Let us also pray for all those that the Lord has placed in leadership over us, that they will continue to model the true gift of leadership given to us in the Lord, and to always remember the great gift of King David – who ministered with the Father’s heart. Only then will the cross of Jesus be able to achieve its work, and break down all barriers and hostility. Then we can be gathered together as God’s one, true people united under one Shepherd.

(I forgot to record the homily ... so only the text this week)

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12 July 2009

View from a high place

15th Sunday – Year B – The view from on high (Ephesians 1:3-14)

I am going on holidays in the middle of August to the United States. I haven’t been there before, so I have been looking around at various maps, trying to work out my itinerary. I have been using Google Maps to work out how to get to the places that I want to visit – like Denver to visit some of the pilgrims who stayed in our parish last year during WYD – and Toronto and Steubenville to visit friends. With these maps I can get an overview of the whole country to see where places are in relation to one another, but also to zoom in to see a place in a little more detail and to see the lay of the land. I don’t think that I am alone in wanting to do this – everywhere you go, whenever you find an accessible high place, our ancestors have so often built a lookout there so that you can see where things are in relation to one another. How many of you have been up Cambewarra Mountain to see the vista of the Shoalhaven; or visited Mount Ainslie in Canberra; Mount Wellington in Hobart; Mount Coo-tha in Brisbane; or No (One) Tree Hill in Auckland? If you do you can begin to see the way that the city works and functions and the way that it all connects together.

There is a need for us to do this – to have that sense of how the whole story fits together. And that is what Paul presumes when he goes into this magnificent prayer of worship in our second reading. He has the usual greeting in the first two verses (which are not in our reading) and then he goes in to this almost ecstatic prayer and he gives thanks and praise for the wonders of what God has done across the centuries. So I will take you on a brief survey of the whole of salvation history to provide something of a background for what it is that Paul is leading us through. The first thing that we as a Christian people – as the inheritors of the promise that was given to the Jews – encounter in the Scriptures as we read Genesis 1 is to read that God created the heavens and the earth. What we see around us is not the result of a fluke; it is not the result of a random series of events that have come to pass and somehow (miraculously) have formed what it is that we see. No we worship a God who created the world and created it as good. Over the course of the tens of millions of years, indeed the more than four billion years that the world has existed, the Lord’s hand has been there – forming and shaping and crafting. He created us as part of that process. He created us to be in relationship with him as part of his good creation; created us to be one with each other; to be good stewards of what he had created. But then of course as the story moves on, all of that very quickly began to unfold. There is the sense of those first few chapters of Genesis of what began to happen; as we began to compete with one another and began to compete with God. This is what scripture calls the fall – that sense of falling out of that intimacy of union and relationship with God and consequently with one another. That quickly began to unravel even more – within the first chapters of the book of Genesis you see this story becomes more and more violent. In the next chapters you have the story of Cain and Abel beginning to act aggressively and which ends with the murder of Abel. More and more the people begin to be alienated from one another and from God. As these mythical stories and tales lead us into an appreciation of and understanding of what is happening.

But God does not allow this to be the end of the story. God begins to act to deal with individuals and through individuals to form a people. That is the reason that we have the story of the call of Abraham as he is called to be the father of a great nation. He is called to be in covenant with God. This covenant continues through his sons – through Isaac and then through Jacob and his twelve sons when they travel down into Egypt. The story continues – the story of God forming a people. It continues with the great events of the Exodus and Passover; the journey into the desert to meet the Lord on the mountain of Sinai – when God again reaffirms the covenant with his people. He reminds the people that he wants them to be his hands and feet. He wants them to be his people. He will be their God; he will set them apart and consecrate them as his chosen people – to go into the world as the bearers of this mystery; the bearers of God’s righteousness and God’s justice. But of course, the people are still fallen and they don’t get it right – and so you have again and again throughout the centuries, even though God continues to send his prophets to lead the people back into proper relationship with God – they don’t get it right. There is the sense of the great failure of the people of God.

Then of course you have finally – as planned from the beginning of time – the Lord sending his Son. Jesus is born and teaches and proclaims what it is to live the truth of the kingdom of God. Then all this climaxes in the great events that we celebrate at Easter – the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the Messiah – the one chosen by God from the beginning to be the fulfilment of this calling. Finally we are given the opportunity to live this covenant. Finally we are able to have that freedom from sin so that we can indeed be the proclaimers of the kingdom of God. In the beginning we were called and created to be in the image and likeness of God – but it is only when Jesus dies on the cross; it is only when he is raised to new life – that we are actually able to do that.

Finally we see the fifth movement in this story: the first was creation; the second was the fall; the third was the covenant; the fourth was the redemption and now the fifth is the mission that we receive as church and the great commissioning. This happens, of course, in the power of the holy Spirit. This happens in the great outpouring at Pentecost of the Spirit which allows us to live this truth and to be this people that have been chosen by God.

When Paul begins this prayer, he begins simply by blessing the Lord and praising the God who, from the beginning chose us – not randomly – but in Christ. This phrase ‘in Christ’ appears again and again in this reading; it almost becomes a punctuation mark that Paul users to remind us that the whole of our life revolves around the person of Jesus. Everything that happens occurs in relationship to the Messiah, to the king, to the Christ. Jesus is the source of all that happens. He created us and chose us; he destined us to be in him. Even before we were created; even before our parents made love to conceive us; even before we were only a twinkling in our parent’s eyes the Lord destined us to be his own. Not simply to sit back and think that this is lovely; this is wonderful. No – we were commissioned for a purpose. This purpose is to ‘praise the glory of his grace.’ This purpose is to be his hands and feet; this purpose is to continue to build the kingdom of God here on earth – to be the bearers of his mission; to be the ones who bring the kingdom of God to birth in our world. That is that whole sense of the inheritance – that Paul talks about at the end of our reading. That the Lord has given us all of these gifts, all of these treasures and wonders as the first down payment of what is to come – that whole sense of the new creation that the Lord is preparing for us.

So we have this place in history – we have this place as his people; chosen to be his own. So I invite you today to take time to sit with this reading and read the first part of the letter to the Ephesians (Eph 1:3-14). These 12 verses in a sense sum up so much of our whole history is about and gives us this opportunity to see the lay of the land and to see our place within it. Let us make this prayer our own. Let us also bless God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has chosen us to be his own adopted sons and daughters. Amen.

Recorded at St Michael's 9.30am (10'16")

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05 July 2009

His grace is enough

14th Sunday in Ordinary time (2 Cor 12:7-10).

One of the interesting things is that when you read the stories of some of the great saints across the pages of history, almost inevitably when you go through their story you come across some great shadow or darkness that hung over their lives. For example when the diary of Blessed Teresa or Calcutta came to life after her death, we have seem that for so much of her life, Teresa struggled simply to believe. Even though she was so widely acclaimed as a living saint; even though she was in such demand to address the United Nations, Presidents and royalty; even though her work amongst the poorest of the poor in Inida was so highly valued - she struggled at times simply to acknowledge the existence of God. Other saints also - like St Therese of Lisieux - went through this great period of darkness, where she couldn't pray or believe. She found it impossible to get through the thick cloud that surrounded her.
And yet these saints continued - like so many others who are afflicted with grief, who experience physical illnesses or disease, trials and turmoil, who are in the depths of sadness and suffering because of the loss of a child or a loved one. Whatever it is, the thing that marks their greatness - is not the particular tragedy - but the way that they deal with that; the way that they find life through that tragedy - in the midst of that tragedy and darkness.

I guess that is what St Paul is struggling with in our reading today. Paul had a lot of reasons to boast. He had an incredible ministry from the Lord. In the previous chapter of 2 Corinthians and in the beginning of this chapter 12, he goes through in those 33 verses of chapter 11 and the first 7 verses of chapter 12 a long list of experiences that have marked and characterised his life. All the ways that the Lord has blessed him and given him incredible gifts and allowed him to suffer. But he says - so that he couldn't boast about these incredible visions that he had received - that he was caught up into the seventh heaven that he had these personal encounters with the Lord. He had received these incredible words of insight into the mystery and experience of God. So that he wouldn't boast; so that that wouldn't be the thing that would mark and characterise his life - he says he was given this 'thorn in his flesh.' We don't know what this thorn was. There have been over centuries dozens and dozens of interpretations as to what this might have been - ranging from the bizarre to the more likely. From the extreme literalists who have said it was an actual physical thorn that had become infected, to those who said it was some form of illness - of epilepsy; or headaches; of hearing loss or speech impediment; others have said it was some form of temptation such as sexual lusts. We have all sorts of people projecting these things onto Paul as to what this thorn may have been.
Whatever it was - he wanted it gone. Whatever it was it caused him great suffering. He said this caused him great suffering. He said that he begged the Lord three times for it to be gone. Now that is not like a child asking for an icecream: 'Please...', 'Pretty Please...', 'Pretty please with sugar on top...' It is the deep heartfelt longing for this to be gone. Three times in the Semitic mind represent a fullness - it means he begged the Lord again and again and again. In the previous part of the passage Paul speaks of events that happened 14 years ago - that is the time frame of what he has been experiencing - the time frame of his desire and his prayer and his heart-felt longing for the Lord to take this thing away from him.

How many times have we begged the Lord in the same way; how many times have we pleaded with the Lord for whatever it is that is our thorn in the flesh? How many times have we thought if only this thing was not there: If only that darkness; if only that depression; if only that sadness; if only that illness or sickness; if only that member of my family wasn't like that; if only the people at work weren't like that; if only I could forgive that person who wronged me; if only I ...
And then the Lord addressed Paul; then the Lord gave to Paul what is perhaps one of the deepest insights that we can achieve in the Christian life. If we get this one realisation correct and true, then I think we can truly call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ. If we understand (with Paul) - that my grace is enough for you; my grace is sufficient; if we begin to realise that it is not about what I do - it is not what I achieve - it's not my benefits or the things that I do well; it's not my strengths; it's not because I'm good or holy; it's not because I come to Mass; it's not because of any of these things that the Lord has favoured me. It is because 'his grace is enough.' It is because in my weakness the Lord can be strong.

If we can grasp that; if we can cling to that; if we can find our life in that - then the Lord can do work; then the Lord can satisfy his desire to fill us; to free us; to bring us life. So let's ponder the thorn that is in our flesh; let's consider whatever the areas of darkness or trials or tribulations that we endure - that are part of our life - and let's rejoice today that the Lord allows us to sit with them; to stay with them. Let's celebrate with St Paul the great gift of finding life in that - of finding our strength in our weakness - because it is in that place that we discover that God's grace is enough.

Recorded at St Michael's 8am (8'38") - with Matt Maher's 'Empty and Beautiful'

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28 June 2009

Not dead but asleep

Sunday 13B (Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24; Mark 5:21-34)

Our first reading today begins with that rather curious line – ‘death was not God’s doing.’ It points to what is in fact the teaching of the Church about death. When we read in the account of creation, in Genesis 1-3, we get the sense that in the beginning God intended for us to have a fullness of life; that death would not be the final word. And yet we know from our experience of the natural world, that death is simply a part of it all. We know from the past 4.6 billion years that the world has existed, that death has always been a part of it. It is just the natural cycle. At the moment here it is winter – a bit on the cold side. Looking outside we see trees that have lost their leaves; we know that in the springtime, the leaves will begin to bud and the flowers will blossom. I am sure that all of us have had some sense or experience of death – whether that is in the death of a pet, a farm animal or of someone that we loved dearly.

The difference that our faith makes is the way that we experience death. Not so much the physical reality of death, but the full spiritual or existential experience. This is the difference in the teaching of Christianity. The book of Wisdom that we read from (this morning) is very late, probably only written a couple of hundred years before the time of Jesus. It expresses the development of Jewish reflection upon this reality. They are struggling with coming to terms with what God intended for us – from the beginning. They ponder what we read in the opening chapters of the book of Genesis and in other places about the way that God created us. That death wasn’t meant to be this terror over us; that we wouldn’t experience the dread and the fear at the moment of death. That death would not hold us in its throws; that death would not hold us in its punishment. But that death would simply be that point of transition. That simple falling to sleep to awaken in that new world which God has prepared for us.

So we can wonder – well what would it be like, to experience death without the punishment of sin. We read in Genesis 3 that death was one of the consequences of the fall of Adam and Eve – of their sin. What would it be like to die without sin?

If we look through the traditions of the church, there is one obvious shining example of someone who died without sin. Mary. Of course the church does not make a strong declaration of what exactly happened in the final moments of the life of Mary. We teach that she was assumed body and soul into heaven. But there is no definitive teaching about whether in the final moment she died or not. There are various traditions about this – for example, in the Eastern Churches they do not call it the Assumption of Mary, but the Dormition of Mary – which simply refers to her falling asleep.

We see in Mary a person who has always chosen to live her life in accordance with God’s will. She has always lived according to the plan of God for her life. Her whole life was about choosing not her own will, or against God’s will, but to do all things according to his word and his plan. So we see in Mary the life of someone who has not experienced the taint of sin. So at the moment of Mary’s death it was that dormition – that simple and gentle falling into peaceful sleep. That one day she would be awakened in the resurrection. That is also the promise for all of us. That is the gift of what our lives can be about as well – if we but trust in the Lord, and place our trust and our hope in the Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. If we are able to accept and trust in his love and his plan for our lives, then death doesn’t have to hold that experience of terror and horror over us; because Jesus in his death and resurrection has already defeated death and overcome that mortal fear. This is the way that we can experience death – not as something that we are terrified of, that we absolutely dread – nor even as something that we necessarily look forward to – but something that we can experience as simply as falling asleep.

Generally falling asleep is a rather pleasant experience; I don’t remember the exact moment last night that I feel asleep, but I know that that drifting off is quite nice! And this is the way that a Christian should experience death.

So when we read the Gospel this morning, with that understanding of death, some of what happens begins to make a little more sense. So we have this story – or rather two stories that are bound and sandwiched so closely together that we need to read them both. This young daughter of Jairus, the Synagogue official, who is 12 years old is very sick, indeed she is at the point of death. She is linked in the story to the woman who has suffered from this bleeding for 12 years. Jairus keeps referring to his daughter, and when Jesus addresses the woman, he tells her ‘my daughter, your faith has saved you.’ There are a number of links to bind these two stories closely together.

What is interesting is that after Jesus has healed the woman, and they are again on their way to the official’s house, they are met by this delegation from the official’s house. Capernaum is not a big town, so it would not have taken all that long to walk from one side to the other. They people come and say ‘do not bother the Master anymore – your daughter is already dead.’ It is then that Jesus turns to Jairus and says ‘do not be afraid, only have faith.’ This is the answer that Jesus would give to us whenever we are afraid of death, whenever we are confronted by death. ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’

So they continue to the house. Because Jesus knows that there is nothing that is outside the boundaries of his love and his power. Even though the crowd says ‘it’s pointless; it’s useless – send him away,’ Jesus continues to go to that house. When they get to the house, the find this huge crowd of people weeping and mourning and lamenting – including the paid mourners who would come to help the family express their grief at this terrible moment. And Jesus says, ‘why all this commotion? The girl is not dead, she is … asleep.’

This again points to that reality of death – the way that it is in the mind of God; the way that it should be experienced by people of faith. But of course the crowd doesn’t get that. They rather miraculously turn their weeping and lamenting into laughter and jeers in a heart-beat. Then Jesus dismisses them and goes through the crowd into the room where the dead girl lies. Even though touching the dead body of this young girl will make him ritually unclean, (just like touching the bleeding woman also made him ritually unclean) he defies all that and takes her by the hand. Here we get this beautiful expression – one of the four times in the Gospels that we hear an echo of the original words of Jesus in Aramaic – the words and the language that Jesus spoke. ‘Talitha, koum’ Like he says to the deaf man, ‘ephathatha’ (be opened); like he prays in the garden when he cries out to God as ‘Abba’ (Father); like when he prays again to the Father from the cross, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbachthani.’ Each of these are remembrances of the exact words of Jesus.

Here he addresses this young girl – not in words of magic; not in some kind of ‘abracadabra’ – the words are simply what a father would say to his young daughter in the morning to wake her up. It is simply an expression that says ‘my darling, it is time to get up; time to wake up.’ So ‘talitha, koum’ – ‘get up.’ And it is these words of awakening that we indeed will one day hear – if we place our trust in the Lord. These are the words that we will hear (perhaps in the masculine version as well!) when the Lord awakens us at the dawning of the new creation; when he awakens us at the resurrection of the dead. This is the tremendous gift of the Christian faith. Our faith is about the destruction of death; death has no more power over us, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus. That the devil’s envy that created that fear and anxiety about death is no more; it does not need to touch us anymore – because we belief and trust in the power of the resurrection.

Our great gift is that we can now bear witness to this amazing gift. For the couple in the story, Jesus bound them to silence, because it was not yet time to speak of the power of Jesus over death. But for us, now is the time, when we can speak of the power of our faith in Jesus over death. Nothing is greater than the love of God. When that day comes, when we experience that victory – when death in its horror and terror will no longer touch us – then we can proclaim that victory. Then we can look forward to that day when we will not succumb to the horror of death – but it will be our time in the Lord to simply fall asleep.

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Music from Don Francisco ‘Gotta tell somebody’ on the album ‘He’s Alive’. Insights from Fr Robert Barron.

20 June 2009

Storms in life

Sunday 12B (Immaculate Heart of Mary) - Mark 4:35-41

Last Sunday I received a call from the Drug and Alcohol Department of the RNSH. A friend of mine had been admitted after an overdose of prescription drugs. It wasn’t the first time that he’d been admitted to hospital; it seemed that things had just become too much for him. Later in the week I spoke to another friend whose close relative had just committed suicide. Once again I was at a loss of words beyond the ‘I’m so sorry...’
Sometimes life can become too much for us or for those who are close to us. It can seem like we are in a small boat that is being tossed about on the waves. Sometimes the storms that arise are like the one in the gospel today – sudden and unexpected. Sometimes the storms have always been there. Sometimes they have been brewing and building for untold ages and we cannot remember a time when they were not there!
In our first reading we have part of the Lord’s response to Job. Job has endured a terrible storm – he lost everything – family and friends, possessions and reputation, livelihood and health. He suffered and complained; he called God into the dock. Yet in the end, through it all he trusted. And in that trust he found his vindication. Trust gave him all that he needed – even if he never really found the answers that he was looking for.

Ancient peoples were always deeply afraid of travelling by sea. This is especially so because of the primitive ships that they had to travel in – the wise sailors would hug the shore as much as possible. In Genesis 1, God creates order from the ‘toho va bohu’ – the dark depths of the ocean and chaos. In Exodus 14, the people fleeing from the slavery of Pharaoh find liberation only to come face-to-face with the dark depths of the impenetrable sea that blocks their way until the Lord intervenes and uses a mighty wind to drive back the dark depths of the water and leads them through on newly created dry ground. The sea comes to symbolise all that is evil and dark. In the book of Daniel, the sea is the place where the monsters come from. Our Psalm today as well as a number of others speak of the creator God who calms the sea, who brings order to the chaos, telling the raging storms to quieten down.

All four Gospels record this storm out at sea – this event where the disciples are scared witless when their tiny little boat is tossed about on massive waves and seems almost at the point of being swamped and sunk. The sea and the waves are signs of all that darkness and nothingness that stand against us.
Mark has a very spiritual and symbolic telling of the events. In the Gospels, whenever you have the disciples and Jesus in a boat, that is always an image of the church. All the disciples (that is ‘us’) are in the boat of the church, journeying with Christ. We are always journeying to the far side – to the reaches of the world, of time, of experience.

In the midst of this journey, this gale rages up and the waves begin to break over the bow of the boat so that they are almost swamped. This particular storm must have been really something – because these fishermen were used to the weather on the Sea of Galilee. They were used to the many storms that would brew and blow – but this storm was really something. This was not a minor one – it wasn’t one that you’d get everyday or every few weeks. This storm doesn’t stand for the small troubles that we sometimes have to face – but the truly devastating and destructive powers that sometimes rise up to overwhelm us. The kinds of forces that can so dominate our lives that it can lead to an overdose or a suicide attempt.
And yet here in the story, Jesus is asleep – in the stern, with his head on a cushion. Amazing – while we are going through all of these terrible crises and Jesus is just asleep. He hasn’t just happened to fall asleep while sitting at the back – no he has made himself nice and comfortable on this cushion. Kind of pathetic at one level!
Isn’t Jesus our peace? Shouldn’t he be in control of our lives; shouldn’t he be attentive to our needs?

Yet Jesus knows the source of true power – he knows the creative and sustaining power of God. Maybe Jesus is pointing to something precious here: maybe we need to cultivate that same kind of place of peace and calm in our lives. Where do we live spiritually? (Note: the storm is still there either way!)
So they wake Jesus up – “do you not care that we are going down?” Save us we are going to drown! Out of the depths they cry out to the Lord. They are utterly desperate. He gets up; and with a single word he rebukes the storm and all is calm. They witnessed the same powerful forces that were at work in the very beginning, at the dawn of creation.

Trust in the Lord. Cry out to Jesus.
This is the message of Mary. She who pondered these things in her heart; she who knew the creative and healing power of her Son; she who knew the deep suffering and anguish of so many storms in her life – she knew that place of peace and safety. And the gift of her heart is that it demonstrates her human ability to trust completely in the love and care of Jesus. Her heart is immaculate, because it was open entirely to the love of God.
Mary our mother, lead us to trust in Jesus – even in the midst of the storms of our lives. Lead us to trust in his love, to find refuge in his heart.

Recorded at St Michael's 6pm (9'05")
Includes extract from 'Cry out to Jesus' by Third Day

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14 June 2009

Body and Blood of Christ - Passover and Eucharist

The Gospel today (Mark 14:12-16) begins with a reminder that the Last Supper occured in the context of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, with the sacrifice and eating of the Passover Lamb. To understand this meal, we need to look back through Scripture to the first and most significant meals in human history. In this context, the first meal was when given the whole garden as a gift, Adam and Eve chose instead to grasp and grab the fruit, rather than receiving the gift from the hands of the Lord. When in later centuries the people of God were caught in slavery, the Lord delivered them first by gathering the community for a meal, where the Passover lamb was sacrificed and eaten as a sign of what God was doing within the community. Once we begin to understand the way that God continues to freely offer his life to us, then we can begin to understand what Jesus was doing throughout his life, as he ate and drank with saints and sinners, and as he continues to freely offer himself to us. All we need to do is receive him as the greatest answer to our hunger.

Recorded at St Michael's, 9.30am (10'36")

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11 June 2009

Above the broken

New music video from EmmanuelWorship - will be released on their new album 'Justice and Praise' - well worth a watch. Great video!

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06 June 2009

Commissioned in the Trinity

Matt 28:16-20. After the 96 days of Lent and Easter we move back into Ordinary time - but before we do there are two feasts to remind us of the whole direction of our Christian lives. Almost all of the other feastdays are connected with events in the life of Jesus and the saints, but this Sunday and next are really about the trajectory offered by every Sunday. In the closing scene from Matthew's Gospel we are given the invitation to join the disciples to gather around Jesus and worship him. He then tells us that in him all authority has been given to him and therefore we are given the great commission from Jesus - to make disciples; baptising into the name of the trinity; and teaching the commands of Jesus. But just as at the start of the Gospel the angel promises that the child will be called 'Jesus', the Emmanuel, now at the end Jesus promises that he will be with the disciples until the end of time.

Recorded at St Michael's, 6pm Vigil (10'14")

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31 May 2009

Come, spirit of life

Sometimes we can become so familiar with a word, that we forget what it originally means. When we think of 'Pentecost' we might think of the Holy Spirit, or the birth of the church, or those brand of churches that model themselves after the experience of the charismatic gifts, especially speaking in tongues, for example. But when the disciples met on the Pentecost that we read about in Acts 2, they were there to pray and remember the mighty deeds of God in the past and the more recent amazing works and influence of Jesus. They celebrated the great Jewish feast, which gave thanks for the new harvest of wheat, when they offered the first sheafs of wheat in thanksgiving and in anticipation of the harvest still to come. They also remembered the very first Pentecost, which was celebrated by the newly liberated people of God newly released from slavery in Egypt and now gathered around the mountain of Sinai. They remembered how Moses had left the people and ascended the mountain of God to be in his mighty and awesome presence, and how he had returned with the tablets bearing the ten words of the Lord. Now as the disciples gathered in prayer, this amazing thing happened - this wind broke out around them and among them. This wind brought new life to them and they realised that they now had the power to actually live the teachings of Jesus and the commandments of God. This Spirit was somehow changing them, making everything real and wonderful - perhaps something like the Spirit first did when it hovered over the waters of the 'Tohu va Bohu' - the waters of chaos and disorder in Genesis 1:2. The Spirit broke through and came from 'heaven' to bring new life to their experience of 'earth'. It first broke into just who they were and gave them the ability to forgive past hurts, to overcome prejudice and hatreds, and to be empowered to boldly proclaim the tangible presence of the risen Lord among them. God wants to do no less among us; within us; through us. Let us continue to pray for the Spirit of God to come, to fall upon us, to breath his life into us - so that he can rock our world too! Come, Holy Spirit...

Recorded at St Michael's, 9.30am (11'05")

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