28 December 2011

Grace, peace and purpose of Christmas

Time magazine this year declared the Protester to be the 'Person of the Year' - and certainly 2011 was an extraordinary year of protests and revolutions. But it was not the first year to be noted as such - and one event that began a revolution that continues to this day was the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, which we celebrate on this Sunday of the Nativity.

The revolution that Jesus began was not begun with riots and violence, but with a revolution of grace and peace.

Play MP3 (13'46")

Recorded at St Paul's, Camden

PowerPoint slides

The Kiva.org parish page can be found here: http://www.kiva.org/team/stpaulscamden

26 December 2011

Christmas Proclamation

At the midnight Mass on Christmas Day (or Christmas Eve if you prefer) there is a tradition of reading the 'Christmas Proclamation' - which powerfully situates the events of the Nativity in the historical context of salvation and secular history. This is a recording of the beginning of Mass and the proclamation...

Play MP3 (2'26")

Recorded at St Paul's Camden, midnight Mass

18 December 2011

David, Mary and the Ark

After journeying through this season of Advent with the prophet Isaiah, and then for the last two weeks with the witness of John the Baptiser, it is only on this fourth Sunday of Advent that we finally are presented with the figure of Mary to accompany our Advent reflection. When we encounter her in the gospel of Luke 1:26-38, we are invited to reflect upon her in the light of the desire by King David to build a temple for the Lord - as a suitable dwelling place for the Lord (2 Sam 7:1-16). Clearly the church wants us to reflect upon these two figures together in order to understand the prophecy that David receives from Nathan about the House of David.

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Recorded at St Paul's, 10am (11'27")

11 December 2011

Rejoice always

On this third Sunday in Advent, the church issues a command - Rejoice! The teaching comes to us from the second reading today, taken from the very end of St Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, and therefore the very earliest Christian writing that we have. In the few short sentences, Paul manages to pack in eight commandments, a short explanation, a benediction and a final promise. The teaching that Paul offers in some ways provides us with a summation of not just the Advent season, but also of the whole Christian life; perhaps he wrote it with new believers in mind, and wanted to have a series of short, easy-to-remember teachings that would help to form Christian disciples in the way of Christ, so that we would be ready to meet him when he comes (which Paul seems to believe was going to be real-soon-now).

The Commandments:
  1. 16 Rejoice always, 
  2. 17 pray constantly,
  3. 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. [explanation]
  4. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 
  5. 20 do not despise prophesying, 
  6. 21 but test everything; 
  7. hold fast what is good, 
  8. 22 abstain from every form of evil.
The Benediction:
23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Concluding Promises:24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. (NRSV)
The Jesus Prayer has a number of versions; the one I quoted in this homily is:

  • Lord Jesus Christ,
    Son of the Living God,
    have mercy on me, a sinner.

Recorded at St Paul's, 8am (11'20")

04 December 2011


Literature in the classical world was often concerned to set the scene and provide an overview of the whole text from the very first line of the text. When we come to a text like the Gospel of Mark, we may be tempted to pass over the opening line of the Gospel - which we are presented with in our liturgy today for the Second Sunday of Advent - but that would be a mistake. When Mark sits down to compose his Gospel - more than likely the very first gospel to be written - he was very aware of his context. Most likely he wrote the Gospel from Rome while still living there after the death several years before of both Peter and Paul - both as victims of the Roman regime. Sometimes this Gospel is called the 'Gospel of Peter', because it is seen to reflect the thought and teachings of St Peter, and St Mark acts as the compiler and scribe for the memories of his friend and great Apostle.

St Mark was aware of the claimed power of the Roman Emperor, who would claim to be the divine 'Lord' and the 'Son of God'; who would declare an advent before his arrival anywhere, and who would send out messengers (angelos in Greek) to announce the good news (euangelion) of a new military victory. So Mark carefully chooses to undermine the whole of Roman propaganda when his first line is:

"Beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God".

Any book that is written to a Jewish audience and begins with 'Beginning' would automatically evoke the opening line of the very first book of Scripture - the creation poem in the book of Genesis: "In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth." St John will do something similar when he begins his gospel with "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

What does this beginning teach us?

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Recorded at St Paul's, 8am (11'20")

27 November 2011

Images of sin in Isaiah

As we begin the new liturgical year and this new season of Advent, it is fruitful to consider the readings that the Church presents to us on this first Sunday, because it sets the agenda for the whole of the season and the year. It has been said that if Christmas were removed from the bible, all that would be lost would be about a chapter and a half from the beginning of both Matthew and Luke; but if the sense of preparation, expectancy, hope and longing that lies at the heart of the season of Advent were removed from the scriptures, you would have to delete about half of the Old Testament and most of the New.

So the first reading, taken from towards the end of the prophet Isaiah, contains a reflection on the nature of sin. Today, I want to reflect on three of the images that Isaiah uses to describe sin - straying, withered leaves and clay.

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Recorded at St Mary's, Leppington 8am (7'10")

20 November 2011

You did it to me

The feast of Christ the King provides us with Christ the prophet presenting this ominous and dark scene of the judgement - not only of the people of Israel or the New Covenant - but of all the nations gathered before the Lord, being separated according to the way that we have recognised the presence of the Lord in our midst. This recognition is ultimately centred on whether we understand the power of the Christ who died for us as King on a Cross.

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Recorded at St Paul's, 5.30pm (5'38")
Feast of Christ the King, Year A. Matthew 25

13 November 2011

Jacaranda trees and exams

One of the lovely things about living in the Sydney area is the veritable plethora of jacaranda trees that are in full blossom at this time of the year. When I see one of these trees, I am often reminded of the beautiful tree in one corner of the main quadrangle at Sydney University, and the sage advice that was given to first year students - make sure that you have begun to study for the final exams before the first blossom appears - or else you are very likely to fail. Since the tree usually only blossoms a week or two before the exams begin, this advice had considerable gravitas! Although many students are currently undertaking exams, or waiting expectantly for their results, we should not read the parable today as if at the heart of Christianity is an exam that God will drop on us at his return. This parable, like all the ones that Jesus tells, must be read in the light of all of his teaching, and in this instance both against the whole of Matthew's gospel and this fifth and final section of teaching (Matthew 23-25).

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Recorded at St Paul's 8am (10'02")
Sunday 33, Year A. Matthew 25:14-30.

09 November 2011

New eMissal now available

The Cover of the epub and mobi editions.
The new translation of the Roman Missal has been available for use in Australia since Pentecost Sunday this year, but the text only becomes compulsory from the First Sunday in Advent (27 November 2011). This is also the first time that the text will be used at all in the United States. I received my copy of the Roman Missal which is being used in Australia, England and Wales, and Scotland about six weeks ago and the American edition yesterday. Although the US edition is much cheaper (only $80 posted via Amazon) it lacks the elegance of the $460 British edition that we are using here in Australia.

When around Easter this year, while preparing material for a seminar on the new translation, I came across the full text of the US edition of the Missal on WikiSpooks website, my interest was piqued. Since I had just bought my iPad about the same time and discovered how helpful it was in liturgy preparation and delivery, I began to wonder about creating an electronic Missal. After experimenting with various formats and programs to create an eMissal for use on both the iPad and Kindle, I began the task of converting the scans of the Missal pages into first a Microsoft Word document, and then standardising the formatting and beginning the project of creating a hyperlinked HTML document that would be the basis of the subsequent ebooks. I doubt that I ever really contemplated exactly how much work would be involved in this project! The printed text runs to over 1500 pages, but I decided early in the project that one great advantage of an ebook is that you don't have to be constrained by the limitations of the size and weight of a larger and larger book. So I have provided a seamless text where I thought this would be useful - so for example, in the Eucharistic Prayer of the Roman Canon, there are proper forms of  the 'Communicantes' which need to be inserted (or not) at various times during the year. Why not provide a seamless version of the Canon for each form? This is what I have done. Likewise I have provided proper forms of the Eucharistic Prayers for Nuptial Masses and Masses for the Dead. In other instances I have provided links to appropriate Prefaces or Eucharistic Prayers to follow on from every 'Prayer over the Offerings' - which is more than can be said of the printed Missal!

I used an earlier draft of the eMissal during our Diocesan pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid in August, which proved how useful, flexible and helpful the format can be when travelling. There was a certain delight in using the new texts in such ancient churches and shrines such as the Conversion Chapel of St Ignatius at Loiola, the Catacombs and even in St Peter's Basilica itself! By the end of the trip even Bishop Peter was getting the hang of the navigation around the eMissal.

The copyright of these texts remains with ICEL - the International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. I wrote to them to see what I would need to do to publish these texts officially; they were helpful, but said that I would need to get the approval of the ACBC which in turn would need to get recognition from the Vatican. ICEL suggested that this final recognition - which was only the next step in the process - was unlikely. I submitted an earlier draft of the eMissal to the Bishops Commission for Liturgy for consideration at their September meeting - but it did not make it onto the agenda.

The huge US 'chapel edition' by Liturgical Press.
Over the last few weeks I have been gradually correcting the text and inserting the additional English, Australian, Welsh and Scottish feast days to the existing American ones, as well as additional Masses for Various Needs and so forth from the final printed Missals. The additional sample forms of the Penitential Act are also available directly from the Introductory Rites, as also is the Blessing and Sprinkling Rite.

So in this spirit I offer this electronic Missal to the Australian and the Universal (English Speaking) Church, complete with the Proper of Saints that includes feast days for Australia, England and Wales, and Scotland as well as USA. If you have electronic texts of the Proper of Saints for other countries, please let me know!

This should still be considered a draft text.

If you spot errors or have suggestions for improvements, please let me know. I have not as yet included any of the music; I'm not sure that it is even on the agenda.

If using this eMissal on the Apple iPad, I recommend using the Apple iBooks app. I have just ordered a copy of the Kindle Touch to use in outdoor liturgies or in other situations where glare is a problem. Using the text on a PC, I recommend using Adobe Digital Editions (ePub) or Kindle for PC. If you would like the resource available in another format, please let me know...

So grace and peace to all who find and use this resource!

06 November 2011

The hope of the Lord's coming

During the month of November, there is a tradition of remembering the dead and praying for them - particularly during the Eucharist. Our liturgy this Sunday provides an opportunity to reflect upon this practice in the light of the Lord's coming and the judgement. When Paul writes his earliest letter, to the Thessalonians, he still had an expectancy that Jesus would come again soon. He knew that everything was now different because of the resurrection of Jesus, which was the first fruits of the new creation that God would bring about. So he describes the reasons that the church has to live in hope - even as we pray and mourn for those who have already died. We continue to do the same.

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Recorded at St Paul's (9'20")
Sunday 32, Year A: 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18; Matthew 25: 1-13.

This was 'Thanksgiving Sunday' - the culmination of a four week 'Planned Growth Mission' renewal program; the homily was replaced by a video presentation as a lead-in to the pledge renewal, so I didn't actually preach this homily - it is just some thoughts on the readings today.

30 October 2011

Don't call me father

One of the things that you really have to admire about Catholics, is that we have taken the warning that Jesus offers us in today's Gospel (Matthew 23:1-12) so seriously, that there is almost no risk in finding room in the seats of honour at the front of the church - with people crowding around the back seats to ensure that there is always room at the front of the church for those that are more honoured. For those who humble themselves will be exalted. Well done! Although addressed to the scribes and Pharisees, clearly this Gospel is directed to all priests and leaders in our church and to challenge the attitude of everyone who follows the gospel.

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Recorded at St Mary's, Leppington 8am (7'52")
Sunday 31, Year A.

22 October 2011

Learning to love

There is nothing unusual in the question that Jesus is asked in our Gospel today (Matthew 22:34-40) - students would regularly ask visiting Rabbis this question - which is the greatest commandment. When there are 613 mitzva (commandments) to choose from in the books of Moses (the Torah or Pentateuch) it is no wonder that various people had attempted to rank and order them to make them more useful. So we see, for example, in Luke 10, that Jesus poses the question back to another lawyer who asks him what he must do to receive eternal life (which leads into the parable of the Good Samaritan) and we have a range of alternative answers available in the Rabbinic writings that support the choices of Jesus or offer alternatives.

The first commandment that Jesus calls upon is the most logical choice of any devout Jew who was called upon to recite the Shema at least twice daily - 'Hear O Israel, the Lord is God, the Lord is one' (Deut 6:4) which leads into the prescriptive commandment (rather than the proscriptive commandments like 'you shall not steal' or 'you shall not kill' - which comprised 365 of the laws - one for each day of the solar year; leaving 248 prescriptive commandments like 'honour your father and mother' - one for each of the organs in the human body) to 'love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul'. For the second commandment, Jesus jumps two books earlier to Leviticus, quoting from the end of Lev 19:18 to provide the missionary outcome of the first commandment - 'to love your neighbour as yourself'.

The first commandment then provides the basis of the first reason that the Church exists - to gather for worship and adoration of God as our expression of our love. The second commandment then addresses our need to share that love in works of compassion and evangelisation.

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Recorded at St Paul's, 6pm Vigil (10'30" - including final blessing)
Sunday 30, Year A.

17 October 2011

Images and coin inscriptions

The heat continues to rise between Jesus and his persecutors. Now the Herodians, who normally would not associate with the Pharisees, join forces to ask an impossible 'yes or no' question of Jesus - either answer would get him into trouble with his supporters or even arrested and killed by the Romans. The answer that Jesus provides is much more nuanced than we often imagine, and demonstrates the amazing gift of our Saviour to lead us through similar troubled waters.

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Recorded at St Pauls, Camden 5.30pm (11'34")
Sunday 29, Year A. Matthew 22:15-21

09 October 2011

Come to the wedding

In this final parable in the trilogy of parables that Jesus addresses to the scribes and elders of the people after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, Jesus draws on the image of the wedding banquet that Isaiah uses as a reminder that God has been inviting his people to share in the fullness of life with him as his Son and the bride (the Church) are united in the covenant of marriage. Just as many ignored or refused the invitation in the time of Jesus, so also many still refuse to come to the feast, or if they come, they fail to allow the hospitality of the Lord to impact upon them to change into the new life garments of justice, grace, mercy, love and peace.

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Recorded at St Paul's Camden, 10am (6'50")
Isaiah 25:6-14; Matthew 22:1-14

02 October 2011

The fruit of creation

The parable in today's Gospel from Matthew 21 continues directly from the parable last week (and leads naturally into the final parable of judgement in this trilogy, which we will have next Sunday) and again is addressed to the chief priests and elders gathered in the temple forecourt, while the crowd looks on, on the Monday of Holy Week. The listeners would have immediately thought of the similar parable from Isaiah 5 (our first reading) or Psalm 79(80) which tell the history of the people of God through the allegory of a vineyard. The parable is entirely poignant - especially given the setting and timing and drives home the reality of the pending passion of Jesus. The parable provides the church with an opportunity for a sobering reflection upon our own lives and the call of the Lord to bear good fruit as the tenants of the vineyard.

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Recorded at SJV, 7'30" (the final weekend in the parish)

25 September 2011

The empty God

To make sense of the gospel today, you need to see what has been happening earlier in chapter 25 of Matthew's gospel. At the beginning of the chapter Jesus and his disciples have made their triumphant entry into Jerusalem on the day that we now call Palm Sunday. He then proceeded to cleanse the temple, driving out the money changers and sellers. It is at this point that he is confronted by the scribes and chief priests who ask by whose authority this country-bumpkin from Galilee is acting like this? Jesus, as the good unoffical Rabbi, responds by putting a question to them about John the baptist's authority - from God or man? When they refuse to answer he then tells the story that is the Gospel today. Closely related to this passage is the utterly sublime hymn that forms the major part of our second reading today, taken from the letter of St Paul to the church in Philippi. The hymn called the Carmen Christi, is usually considered to pre-date the letter and thus is the earliest declaration of the church to this question of the authority of Jesus to act like this - 'his state was divine.'

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Recorded at SJV, 8.30am (9'23")

At the end of Mass, it was announced that Bishop Peter has appointed me as assistant priest to the parish of St Paul's Camden (Fr Michael Williams is the parish priest). Camden is the largest parish in NSW and the Diocese, and is growing rapidly with many young families. I will live in the presbytery in Camden; Fr Michael lives in Narellan. The appointment will take effect on 6 October 2011. At this stage there is no priest available to take my place here in the Lumen Christi Pastoral Region.

18 September 2011

First and last

The parable that Jesus tells today, from the beginning of Matthew 20, about a landowner hiring workers for his vineyard throughout the day - some who begin work at 6am and work for 12 hours for the agreed standard wage, and then various other groups who are employed at 9am, 12pm, 3pm and 5pm - is probably not your favourite - nor even in the top ten of the 40 parables that Jesus told. Many people find this parable annoying and unfair - particularly people who have been actively involved in the church for a long time!

Strangely, when it comes time to make payment, the owner calls the latest arrivals first and begins by paying them the standard rate - not for an hour's work, but for 12 hours work. Of course, those who had worked longer therefore expected that they would receive a more generous rate of pay - instead they only get what they agreed to in the first place. No matter how much the owner protests that he is not being unfair - he is paying what they had agreed to work for - the parable goes against our deeply ingrained sense of fairness and justice - a sense that even the youngest of children are able to know. To demonstrate this, just try setting unequal portions of icecream before a group of children, or cakes that are different sizes!
So how do we make sense of this parable?

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Recorded at SJV, 8.30am (9'29")

11 September 2011

Breathing and forgiveness

On this tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, it is providential that the Church offers the profound reflection that Jesus offers to Peter in response to his question 'how often must I forgive?' The answer that Jesus gives to Peter's already generous question - as many as seven times, when the standard Rabbinic answer at that time was three times - is stunning.

Whether we interpret the Greek text (ἕως ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά) to mean seventy-seven or seventy-times-seven, the point of this declaration and the parable that follows is clear - in the way of the kingdom of heaven, there can be no limit to the number of times that we forgive. Yet learning how to live like this - especially in the face of the world that we live in - requires a profound understanding of the nature of forgiveness.

Perhaps it is a bit like learning to breathe again?

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Recorded at SJV, 8.30am (8'54")
Sunday 24, Year A. Matthew 18:21-35.

04 September 2011

The way of forgiveness

Sometimes we might imagine that scripture is full of good advice and nice parables that are of quaint historical interest to those kind of people, but it is of little practical use to the rest of us living somewhere in the early twenty-first century. Today's passage from Matthew 18 should provide a necessary antedote to any such ideas! This compelling passage provides clear and deeply practical counsel about how to deal with any dispute that may arise within the Christian community. How different our world would look now if we had the courage to embrace this as a way of life!

The first thing to note is that Jesus realises that disputes will happen - a Christian community is full of saints-in-the-making - not people who are already holy and who have everything all together. Members of the body will sin and make mistakes. And we need to learn to deal with this. But dealing with it does not mean ignoring it or pretending that nothing happened in the first place. Forgiveness does not mean saying that it doesn't matter. Sin does matter. Anything that breaks the unity of the body does matter, because it is serious.

When there are disputes, when someone has done something that breaks the communion of the body, then we need to resolve this, to ensure that the concern of the Father - that not even one of these little ones should be lost - is fulfilled. We are rarely told in the pages of Scripture what the will of God is - so when we are told so clearly, we need to sit up and take notice!

So when a dispute happens - when someone has done something that is against the teachings of Jesus and the spirit of the kingdom of heaven, then we have in Matthew 18 a four-stage process to follow. One of the great tragedies of Christian history is that this clear process has so rarely been followed, and leaders and others have been too quick to jump to stage four and neglect the first three stages.

So first we need to ask for the courage to confront our brother or sister in love with the concern that we have. Note - take it directly to the person. Not your friend down the road, or to talk about it at work, to write about it on your blog, or on Twitter or Facebook; not call your local radio station and discuss it with the shock-jock or write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper. No, go in love to the person and share your concerns. If they listen - you have won back your brother or sister into the communion of the church. If not, and only then, take it to stage two.

Here Jesus invites us to seek the wisdom of others in the church - take it to one or two others, who can listen to both sides of the questions - who may be able to offer other insights and discern with both of you a way forward. If the person does not see a way through to reconciliation here, then you should take it to stage three - involving the wider body of the church. Note, there are only two cases where the word for church - ekklesia (the called out ones - the community that have been called from the world, into new life together with God) is used in the four Gospels - here and in Matthew 16, which we had two Sunday's ago. For Matthew and Jesus, their idea of the church community is probably much smaller and more intimate and way less institutional than our usual idea. The church community were those that you shared life with, and were able to know the essential details of the whole situation. They don't have in mind nameless and faceless bereaucrats on the other side of the world!

If there is still failure to win back the one who is breaking communion with the church after this three-stage process has been thoroughly undertaken - then, and only then - should the fourth stage be contemplated - which is to treat the person as a pagan or a tax collector. We must note, of course, that we find this passage in the Gospel of Matthew, the one who is called by Jesus in chapter 9, and who is a tax collector himself. He knows very well that the way that Jesus treats tax collectors is with great kindness and compassion - he eats with them, forgives them and shares life with them. A great model for true excommunication!

What would our church look like if we applied this passage with great courage and compassion?

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Recorded at SJV, 8.30am (12'20")

03 September 2011

The power of kindness

I just had the most extraordinary conversation with a random man who turned up at the front door of the presbytery here at St John Vianney. He was quite distressed and wanted to share his story. About 30 years ago he had been mixing with the wrong kind of people, who taught him how to swindle clergy for money - which they used to buy alcohol of course. He told of the various stories that they made up - an aunt had died in Albury or Armidale and an uncle was able to drive him to the funeral, but as a pensioner he needed help with money for petrol, etc. (The stories are still much the same today!)

This particular day he came here to SJV and the priest wasn't willing or able to give him any money, but gave him his lunch instead. The man was so annoyed that he couldn't take money back to the others that he began cursing the kind and loving priest, spitting in his face, blaspheming, etc. Through all this the priest continued to show patient compassion, simply wiping the spit from and face and still tried to help the man. This is what caused so much distress over the years. He couldn't believe that the priest didn't get angry and strike back.

Although convicted for armed robbery, assault, drug dealing, etc and spending many years in and out of gaol - including some years in maximum security, it is this act of compassion that had stayed with him. He had to ask for forgiveness. He said that he has driven past this presbytery many times and he wanted to stop - but it was only tonight that he finally found the courage to not only ring the door bell but also wait for the answer.

I don't know who the priest was or if he is still alive, but his kindness and cool head that day had a profound impact upon this man (call him BM). It was a wonderful privilege to be able to share the gospel of grace, mercy and forgiveness with him tonight, to pray with him and watch the burden of so many years begin to lift and freedom finally begin to dawn in his shattered soul.

Bless his name!

15 August 2011

Waiting for God to answer

This homily was recorded in the conversion chapel of St Ignatius in Loiola in Spain, while on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Madrid, which would begin the next day. The Gospel of the day was the story of Jesus and the Canannite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 - a very strange story indeed! The image of Jesus that is presented is not flattering and goes against so many of our ideas about what he should have been like. What might Jesus be doing in this story?

Waiting and growing...

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Recorded in Spain 6'25"

31 July 2011

The way of grace

The Gospel today begins with Jesus withdrawing to a lonely place to mourn and pray after hearing of the death of John the Baptist - his cousin, friend and comrade - only to find that this secret place has been invaded by crowds of people. Although he could respond in many ways, Jesus chose the way of compassion and grace. He demonstrates in this reading all that we have heard during the month of July about the way of the kingdom of heaven - hidden from the learned and the wise but revealed to infants.

Now he shows the disciples how to live in the way of grace - how to move beyond the despair of not being able to solve all the worlds problems, into the realisation that this way of grace means you can do what you can, with what you have, where you are - when it is blessed and broken by the Lord.

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Recorded at St John Vianney Church (10'36")

30 July 2011

Leviticus and Jubilee

The book of Leviticus doesn't get much of a run within the lectionary readings - just two weekday readings and a single reading during the Sunday cycle in Year A and Year B. Since there were none during the leactionary readings before the Second Vatican Council, this is a vast improvement. Nevertheless, Leviticus still has the record for stopping many valiant attempts to read the whole of the Bible. What this reading from Lev 25 does remind us about is the concern for justice that our God has. The Jubilee - even if it was never fully practiced in the life of Israel - speaks of God's desire to return people back to their basic freedom and their connection with the land.

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Recorded at the Catholic Fraternity Regional Meeting, Brisbane (8'03")

24 July 2011

What do we want from God?

Although we know many things about the life of King Solomon, we do not know how old he was when he came to the throne of Israel, to succeed his father David. Solomon is the tenth of David's sons, and as I Kings opens, he is described as not yet being an adult. So it is to a young and vulnerable Solomon , who doesn't "know how to go out or to go in" that the Lord appears in our first reading today, when He says "Ask what I shall give you." This kind of question occurs with some regularity across the pages of the scriptures and throughout Christian history: it seems that God wants to see what it is that we desire. How would we answer this question? What is our treasure hidden in a field? What is our pearl of great price?

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Recorded at St John Vianney Church, Mass with Disciples of Jesus Community (7'36")
Sunday 17, Year A. I Kings 3:5-14; Matthew 13:44-46

17 July 2011

Wheat and weeds in the shining sun

How many times have we heard something described as an 'act of God' or a disaster of biblical proportions, and wondered in our hearts - if God is indeed all-loving and all-powerful - then where is he in these times? Why doesn't he step in and prevent these disasters? Why do we see such powerful signs of evil in the world?

The parables that Jesus tells in today's Gospel begin to answer these questions. The wheat and the weeds in the field do grow together; good and bad are not separated by nations or religions - both are present in the world and both are present in our hearts. Our call is to recognise that there will be a judgement day and there will be a separation - the weeds will be gathered and burnt; but the wheat will be the righteous who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 10am (9'59")
Sunday 16A. Matthew 13

10 July 2011

Creative word

The Word of God is so creative, powerful and fruitful, that sometimes we need to go to a high place to see the incredible vista that the Lord provides before us. This is the image that St Paul uses in Romans 8 when he lifts us with him to see the vision of all creation groaning and longing for the revelation of the children of God. The powerful and prophetic Word of God (dabar) never returns empty - that is why the parable that Jesus tells of the sower of the seed is even more intriguing. The scattering of the seed willy-nilly suggests a farmer who is extremely foolish with such a precious commodity in first-century Israel. The grace the Lord offers is never stingy; he is always generous.

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Recorded at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, 10.30am (9'33")
Matthew 13:1-23; Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23

03 July 2011

Resting in the Father

As we return to the ordinary season of the year, we are given a most magnificent Gospel to land on, in Matthew 11:25-30. This gospel passage is unusual in the first three Gospels that rarely take us into the inner life of Jesus in his prayer to the Father. Here we are plunged into this moment when Jesus rejoices in the possibility that those around him might be able to share in the incredible intimacy that he shared with the Father - a secret that the inarticulate infants are able to grasp, but which is hidden from the learned and clever. If we wish, this secret is available to us as well - especially if we labour and are overburdened and want to finally find our place of rest.

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Recorded at the Kairos Young Adult weekend, QCCC Centre, Mt Tamborine. (11'17")

26 June 2011

Liturgical Dance

Reality TV shows like MasterChef have reminded us of the art involved in preparing a meal - you need the right equipment, the right techniques and especially the right ingredients in the correct balance to prepare the culinary masterpiece. The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ provides an opportunity to reflect on the interplay between the essential ingredients in the celebration of the Eucharist - the priest, the people and the ritual - especially in the light of the introduction of the new translation of the Third edition of the Roman Missal in Australia. Over the history of the church we have seen that too often one of these essential ingredients have been overly emphasised - to the detriment of the others and of the life of the church community.

Does the new translation offer a way forward to finding the correct balance between all three elements in a new spiritual liturgical movement?

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Recorded at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, 9'55".
Corpus Christi.

19 June 2011

God is love

When you read through the scriptures, one thing that modern readers might expect are passages that point to proofs for the existence of God. And yet there is not a single place that we can turn to to find something even remotely close to a De Deo Uno (Concerning One God) treatise that you find in classical and medieval theology. In fact the closest that you get is the statement that begins Psalm 14 and 53 - 'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God".' The bible - like all of the ancient near east, simply takes for granted the existence of God.

So what does the bible tell us about the nature of God? What are the images that you find that can help to illuminate the profession of faith of the early Church that God is three in one?

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Recorded at St Brigid, Gwynneville, 9am (10'49")
Trinity Sunday | John 3:16-18

12 June 2011

Come Holy Spirit

This feast is a demonstration of the unique Christian understanding of grace and salvation. Before this day, although the disciples knew of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of the many prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, they were still huddled together in fear - until the Spirit comes - then they become the Church.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 10am (9'45")
Pentecost Sunday, Year A.

05 June 2011

Heaven and earth together

The feast of the Ascension can be one of those feast days that seems utterly bizarre and irrelevant - it is so mythological and pre-scientific to border of pointless. Or if we can reclaim it somehow in our understanding of its place in the life of Jesus, we can still be left wondering what this means for us. One bridge that we first have to cross is the acknowledgment that much of our thinking is not biblical - we are more formed by the systems of thought that the western world has taken from the ancient Greek philosophers like Plato and Aristotle than they are by the rich eastern and Hebrew spirituality of the Bible. We tend to think of the world in a dualistic way - divisions between spirit and matter, between good and bad, here and there, now and then. When we think of heaven and earth, we try to fit them into one or several of these dichotomies. But this doesn't help us to approach the Ascension and its meaning - to do this we must dive into the original biblical vision.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 8.30am (11'15")
Ascension Sunday. Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20.

Renovations at SJV - Stage 2

Photo gallery showing some of the recent works in the renovations...
View the album for the whole set of photos.


29 May 2011

Signs of the Spirit

As we move through the Easter season, the liturgy today moves in its focus from looking back to the events of Easter, to looking forward in anticipation of the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Church at Pentecost. All the readings today provide insights and guidance concerning the life in the Spirit and how this can be recognised and discerned. We are given a range of different hints across the readings today about what it means to live in the Spirit and to long for the Spirit to work in our lives.

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Easter 6A. 8'21".

22 May 2011

Chosen race and royal priesthood

During Easter we have been reading from the first letter of St Peter, and we come today to what must be one of the most extraordinary declarations in scripture. Peter addresses a mixed community - young and old, men and women, gentiles and Jews, leaders and members - and to each person he reminds us that Jesus has drawn very near to us and wants to make us into living stones to form a spiritual house. Then, using words that were once addressed to the tribes of Israel gathered with Moses around the mountain of Sinai, he then declares that we share in this same dignity and more - of being a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Strangely the liturgy omits verse 10, which declares, 'You were once no people, but now you are God's people; once you had no mercy, but now you have received mercy.'

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 12noon (Mass with Disciples of Jesus Community, 8'54")
Sunday 5A in Easter. 1 Peter 2:4-10.
Post #150!

08 May 2011

The road from Emmaus

This powerful resurrection story is well known and often repeated. It shows the creative power of Luke's narrative and has intrigued saints and scholars over the centuries. One saint who has a wonderful commentary on the story is St Bede the Venerable, the famous 8th century English historian and doctor of the Church. He brings his analytical insights to the narrative to provide us with the power of this story for our own lives.

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Easter Sunday 3A. Luke 24. 9'36"

01 May 2011

Peace be with you

'Peace be with you' - this is the greeting that Jesus proclaims to the disciples when he appears to them - even if they are locked behind closed doors for fear of the same fate falling on them as has just happened to Jesus. But the peace that Jesus promised, and the peace that he now gives to them is much more than the absence of fear, conflict, violence or noise. This peace, the true 'shalom' of the Lord, is infinitely creative and becomes one of the true signs of the new creation that happens in the resurrection. This is the peace that we are invited to share in and to be ambassadors of the peace that is only known in the wounds of Jesus.

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Recorded at St Brigid's, 9am (9'43")
Easter Sunday 2A - Octave Day (John 20)
Divine Mercy Sunday, Beatification of Pope John Paul the Great

24 April 2011

Living on the third day

Welcome to the third day - the day when everything is different because of that day - which John calls the first day of the new week, when the tomb was empty. On Friday we waited in silence and we mourned and lamented. We so often live our whole lives on Friday. We are shocked by the latest scandal, disaster, war or sin. We live in quiet despair, in anxiety and fear. We imagine that the darkness that we see around us is all that there is. But that is not the end of the story. Jesus didn't stay on the cross and his body is no longer in the tomb. Everything is different now because we live on the third day. The day when we remember that resurrection changes the game. Resurrection shows us that God has not finished with the world yet - the world that he loved into creation. This world that we call home is slowly being changed and transformed, renewed and restored. God has not abandoned our world and God will not abandon our world, because this is the world that he loves. But it is only when we leave Friday behind that we have the eyes to see how and why everything is different on the third day - on Resurrection Sunday. But the choice is ours. We can choose to stay and live on Friday. Or we can believe in the one who left Friday behind and begin to live with him on the third day - to be children of the resurrection.

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Recorded at St John Vianney (8'49")
Easter Sunday morning.

23 April 2011

Resurrection Day (Vigil)

The Easter Vigil provides us with the opportunity to be immersed within the story of our salvation and the continuing work of God - from creation to redemption. So it is only appropriate that we make Alleluia our song as we celebrate the day of Resurrection and become builders of the new creation.

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Recorded at St John Vianney (11'55")

Music included Gospel Acclamation 1 from Rivers Youth Mass (emmanuelworship) and Alleluia (Iona Community)

17 April 2011

Betrayal, lies and grace

The Palm Sunday liturgy crams an amazing array of emotions into an hour - from the jubilation of the triumphant entry into Jerusalem to the heartbreak and desolation of betrayal, sleep, violence, cowardice, lies, false witness, racial abuse, denial, pride, anger - the reality of so much human sin on display. It is precisely into all of this sin that the person of Jesus enters and journeys - until he can take it all on board in the violence of the cross and allow love to win the final victory.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 10am (5'35")
Palm Sunday. Matthew 26-27.

10 April 2011

Roll the stone away from the stink

This most powerful healing story - perhaps the ultimate miracle with the raising of a man four-days dead - begins so simply with a description of the fact that a man called Lazarus was ill. Most of our English biblical names have come to us via the Latin Vulgate translation. In the original Hebrew, Lararus would have been called El'Azar - which means God helps and he lived with his two sisters Miryam and Marta in Bethany (or Biet'Anyah, which means 'house of the afflicted') - an appropriate place for someone who was ill. El'Azar then becomes a sign for anyone who is afflicted in anyway, and who needs the help of God. So why does Yeshua (Jesus) wait two days to visit his beloved friends?

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Recorded at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, 9.00am (12'06")
Lent Sunday 5A. John 11:1-45

03 April 2011

Blinded by the light

To truly appreciate the full scope of this sixth sign in the gospel of John - the healing and faith of the man born blind - we need to remember the full scope of John's spiritual vision. John is always leading us to look back to the beginning of creation and forward to the wonders of the new creation that was already breaking in through the ministry of Jesus and would find its final fulfillment in the resurrection of Jesus. Let us journey with the man in his encounter with Jesus, the neighbours and the pharisees across the eight scenes of this story to see where we also may be led.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 10am (10'59")
Lent, Sunday 4A. John 9:1-42.

27 March 2011

Thirst quenched by living water

The story of the woman at the well presents many strange scenes in this most beautiful Gospel. John 4 begins by telling us that Jesus learnt that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was baptising and making more disciples than John the Baptist (although it wasn't Jesus who was baptising, but his disciples - apparantly) and for this reason he has to leave town and head north to the more peaceful lands of Galilee. But rather than go to usual - albeit longer road down to the Jordan river valley and up to the Lake, Jesus takes the shorter but riskier road through Samaritan territory.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa during Mass with the Disciples of Jesus Community. (12'07")
Lent, Sunday 3A.

26 March 2011

Goat or Calf?

During this Mass for the Anointing of the Sick, the Gospel of Lent week 2 Saturday was from Luke 15 - the parable of the Prodigal Son. We often focus on the younger son, but this brief reflection looks at the older son and compares the two by way of the two animals that the guests gather around in the party that is held to honour the return of the younger son - the fattened calf and the scrawny goat.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 9am Mass (4'45")
Note, the first word of the recording was cut-off: it should be 'To..."

The recording was made with the iPhone sitting on the pulpit, so the quality is not as good - but not bad.
Thanks also go to Rob Bell for the insights about the goat and calf in his new book, 'Love Wins.'

The voice of justice

If justice and injustice were in the flesh, what would they say to us?
Which voice would commend, which would rebuke — and whose voice would be most familiar?

The Voice of Justice from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

See more: http://www.thejusticeconference.com/

20 March 2011

Changed by cross and glory

On the second Sunday in Lent each year we join Peter, James and John to witness that incredible moment when Jesus is changed (in the Greek, metamorphoo, which you can probably discern from the word is an aorist indicative passive third person singular verb, which is a form of 'metamorphosis' meaning 'to remodel' or 'to change into another form') before their eyes to show his glory as the Son of God. The three apostles are joined by two other, more ancient witnesses - Moses and Elijah - as together they worship before the presence of the Lord. In Matthew's Gospel, there are three prominent mountains - the one that we have journeyed with over many weeks before Lent began - the mountain where the Sermon of Matthew 5-7 was delivered; our mountain today (traditionally listed as Mt Tabor, but Mt Hermon, being closer to Caesarea Philippi where Mt 16 ends is more likely - but it is more inaccessible and less pilgrim-friendly); and the 'high place' of Calvary. All three need to be seen in the light of each other.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 6pm Vigil (8'25")
Lent 2, Year A. Matthew 17:1-9

13 March 2011

Garden and wilderness

As we begin this new season of Lent, we are taken back to the garden of Eden to witness both the life of tranquility and peace that originally existed and then the condition during and after the fall. When the serpent entered into the picture, the lies and deception begin to flow and the consequences are immediately felt. The coexistence of heaven and earth - with God living in peace with the humans in the garden and sharing life and enjoying each others company - all of this changes, and the man and woman discover they are naked. Now shame becomes a reality and they try to hide from one another by covering up behind their fig leaves. We think we are more sophisticated and hide behind titles, honours, work, houses, toys and gadgets. But the choice that Eve and Adam made are still open to us. Will we stay with the Lord in the garden, or will we allow the exultation of human freedom to drive God out of lives as we flee into the wilderness?

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8'02" (St Brigid's, Gwynneville)
Lent 1A

(Last week was the Bishop's Pastoral Letter for Lent, which was played in the place of the homily across the Diocese.)

27 February 2011

Worry, money and insurance

The fact that Jesus repeats a phrase seven times in our Gospel reading today perhaps suggests that there is something he wants us to learn. In a world that values money, security and wealth much more highly than the glories of God's creation, the words of Jesus invite us to embrace a different way of being. One imagines that when Jesus preaches the sermon on the mount, he was surrounded by the lilies of the field in the Galilee spring and as he gestures upwards to the birds of the air there were many wheeling and flying free - just the same as Jesus lived and calls his disciples to live in the same freedom - embracing the amazing gifts of creation and the bounty and generosity of God.

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Recorded at SJV, 8.30am (8'45")
Sunday 08A. Matthew 6:24-34

24 February 2011

Renovations at SJV

The parish Church at Fairy Meadow is soon to undergo a range of renovations - improvements to the sanctuary, the main body of the church and to the entrances and landscaping. Some of the work will require that the church is closed (during which time all Masses will be transferred to the parish church in Balgownie). The architects who are preparing the work have prepared a 3D fly-though of the church - so I thought it may be of some interest!

You can find out more information at the Parish website: www.lumenchristi.org.au

20 February 2011

Offer the left cheek

A story told by Eugene Peterson (the author of The Message Bible - a translation in very contemporary English) of the day when the tables were turned on Garrison Johns - the school yard bully who had beaten up on Eugene every day after school for seven months - highlights the way that we have often read this teaching of Jesus. Perhaps if we reconstruct what this teaching would have meant to the first hearers, we can discover a richer source for reflection.

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Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (9'35")
Sunday 07 in the Year (A)
Matthew 5:38-48

13 February 2011

But I say to you

Often we imagine - to tell you the truth - that the teaching of Jesus was much softer that the hard edges of the laws of Moses. Yet - to be honest with you - what we discover in today's Gospel (Matthew 5:17-37) is the very opposite of this. In the face of an ages' long understanding that the role of a Rabbi was to simply repeat what they had been taught by their master Rabbi, Jesus dares to teach something new. And when he declares that 'you have heard it said' and then he goes on to say 'but I say to you...' the new teaching that he gives does not soften the laws - they sharpen them into instruments that are capable to reaching deep inside each of our hearts with frightening effect.

Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (7'48")
Sunday 06 A

06 February 2011

Salt and Light already

As we continue to journey through the sermon on the mount, lest we imagine that the kingdom of heaven is only something that will happen in the distant future, today we are given two promises that serve as concrete declarations of the kingdom breaking into our present reality. Jesus tells the crowd of disciples (who lets face it are rather daft at times - not like us?) that 'You are the salt of the earth' and 'You are light of the world.' It is interesting that he says 'you', not 'them'; he says 'are' not 'should be' or 'will be' and he says 'of' not 'from' - so what does this mean?

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Recorded at St Francis Xavier Cathedral, 5'45" on a 44 degree day!
Sunday 5 in the season of the year (A)

30 January 2011

Blessing of Mercy and Peace

We begin to sit at the feet of Jesus as he shares the sermon on the mountain with his disciples (including us) and begins by reminding us that at the heart of Christianity is the desire of God that we should know fullness of life (blessing) in him. When we examine the series of eight blessings, perhaps we should first start with the ones that seem closest to the nature of God (sharing his hesed / mercy and peace) and conclude with those that might point in the direction of things that could prevent us from experiencing this life of beatitude.

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Sunday 04A.
Recorded at St John Vianney, 8.30am (10'21")

I did not record a homily last Sunday during my time with NET Ministries in Queensland.

17 January 2011

Longing for the Lamb

In last Sunday's feast of the Baptism, we saw that Jesus - despite the expectations of John the Baptist - identified with sinners and went down into the muddy waters of the Jordan River. This week in Brisbane we saw first hand the destructive power of nature in the floods that have devastated so many communities and destroyed so many lives and properties. The question naturally is asked - where was God in the midst of all this. In light of last Sunday's Gospel, and our first reading today (1 Corinthians) we can see that God is where Jesus is - right in the  midst of the water. Where was God? Well, where was the body of Christ - the Church? And we saw that the Church was right in the midst of the Brisbane community - helping people to evacuate, preparing houses, providing shelter, helping to clean up, offering couselling, praying for protection.
Sunday 02A.
Recorded at St Mary Magdalene Church, Bardon (9'11")
Isaiah 49; I Cor 1:1-3; John 1:29-34

09 January 2011

Baptism of the Lord

The Baptism of the Lord. When we celebrate the feast, we can forget just what it would have meant for those who were there the day that Jesus arrived at the Jordan River to be baptised by John. John preaches that the Messiah will come to cleanse and purify with his fire and power - instead, Jesus presents himself as just another sinner needing to be cleansed and purified. Rather than the Holy One of Israel, the first public action of Jesus is the sinner of Israel, joining other sinners like us in the muddy waters of the Jordan. What does this teach us about our lives?

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Recorded at Emmanuel Community Eucharist, BEAT School of Music, St Laurence's College, Brisbane (7'51")

01 January 2011

The journey of the Magi

Feast of the Epiphany. The journey of the magi provides us with an opportunity to reflect on our own relationship with Christ and the lengths that we go to seek out truth and bring our lives in worship before the child king in Bethlehem.

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Recorded at SJV, 6pm (7'00")

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Recorded at SJV, 10.30am (6'41")