24 June 2012

Centre of history

One of the deepest deficiencies of our current age is that our religious education presents the person of Jesus and the teaching of Christianity as if they existed in splendid historical isolation. You experience this in part with the tendency to focus only on the stories of Jesus - the parables and the mighty deed narratives drawn from the gospels, and perhaps a few lines from the writings of St Paul - and little more. Although formally most Catholics would acknowledge that the rest of the scriptures, including the writings of the Old Testament were equally part of divine revelation, in practice they are regularly ignored.
As we celebrate the nativity of St John the Precursor, we have to take account of the fact that both the Gospels and the writings of St Paul place the life and example of St John as central to the ministry of Jesus. So we must begin by taking time to remember what it was that provided the context of John's life and what he can continue to offer for us today.

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Recorded at St Paul's, Vigil Mass (6pm, 8'27")

17 June 2012

Mustard Seed Mary

Even though as a family we would gather to pray the Rosary every night, I have never had a strong devotion to Mary, and some forms of Marian devotion have been a real turn-off for me. So when I was discerning which Diocese to join, the fact that the Patronal Feast of the Diocese of Wollongong was the Immaculate Heart of Mary was something of a turn-off. I had always considered it appropriate that the two feast days of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary were celebrated side-by-side in the liturgical calendar, but that the Sacred Heart was a Solemnity (the highest form of the feast day) and the Immaculate Heart was only an optional Memorial - the lowest form. This provided the correct balance between the worship of Jesus and the honour due to Mary. Yet in Wollongong, since it is the Patronal feastday, the Immaculate Heart is also celebrated as a Solemnity.

So what do our readings today - complete with two images and parables of the seed taken from the 11th Sunday in the Season of the Year - have to offer us?

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Recorded at St Paul's, 10am. (8'21")

16 June 2012

Images of the Sacred Heart

Growing up our home was full of images of the Sacred Heart - not just in the lounge room but almost every bedroom also had a large image of the Sacred Heart. But many of the images can be somewhat ... interesting.
This first image is similar to the images that I grew up with (except our almost always seemed to be in an oval frame).

This image is more modern, but still very physical and a hyper-realistic depiction of the heart of Jesus, complete with the crown of thorns, flames and cross.

 This image is perhaps even more scary? Somehow the heart of Jesus is able to be held out and offered to us! A rather strange image in my humble opinion.

This image of Jesus comes not from the English or Irish traditions, but from the Spanish school of spirituality, which is content to feature the heart of Jesus in more symbolic ways. This is one of my favourite images of the Sacred Heart and expresses the authentic French spirituality powerfully as the risen Lord invites us to "Come unto me." This was the image that I chose for my ordination six years ago.

Finally the fresco that is found in the Visitation Chapel in the town of Paray le Monial in the middle of France, which is where St Margaret Mary received the apparitions of the Sacred Heart. This image firmly connects the devotion to the heart of Jesus with the crucifixion as Jesus opens his arms and heart to all people and declares: "Behold the heart that has loved [us] so much..."

Recorded at St Paul's, Camden, at a whole school liturgy with children from St Justin's.

10 June 2012

A sacrifice of blood

Although the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ is the only feast day during the year where the traditional Latin name is still well-known, to call the feast Corpus Christi seems to do some injustice to the richness of what today's liturgy offers us. The readings today do not focus on the Body of Christ - but indeed on the Blood of Christ. Each reading, beginning with the description of the people of God entering into the covenant in Exodus 24, through the description of the feast of Yom Kippur - the annual Day of Atonement celebration in the Book of Hebrews 9, through to the remembrance of the Passover celebration with Jesus and the disciples in the Gospel of Mark 14 focuses on the blood of sacrifice.

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Recorded at St Paul's Camden, 5.30pm. (9'09")

03 June 2012

Go make disciples

It is no wonder that the Gospel of Matthew ends with the disciples gathered on a mountain. Mountains are key in the history of Israel, as well as being key to the ministry of Jesus. So I am sure it was with light hearts that the disciples made the journey from smelly Jerusalem that sunny Spring day to the fresh air upon the slopes of the mountain, with the gentle breeze sweeping across the landscape from the lake below. As the eleven gathered there, Jesus appeared to them and the natural reaction for most of them was to fall down and worship the one who was now demonstrated to be worthy of praise (although some hesitated - wondering if their concept of the one and only God could be extended to this very human Jesus). Then Jesus offers his final words to the disciples and to the Church - five short statements that provide us with the shape of church mission ever since. First he declares that all authority has been given to him - a somewhat bizarre declaration if it is not understood correctly. He ends with a reminder of the promise that was made at the birth of Jesus - that he will be called Emmanuel - God with us; now it will be Jesus who remains with his Church until the end of time. In between Jesus gives the church the Great Commission, the call to the church to GO! There are three elements to the commission: (1) make disciples; (2) baptise them; and (3) teach them. It is clear that the Catholic Church has been very faithful over the centuries to the last two, but that there is a natural priority and order to the commission that requires that the first step is to make disciples. Unless a person is allowed to be and called to be a disciple, the other two aspects appear to make little sense.

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Recorded at St Paul's (10'05")
Trinity Sunday. Matthew 28:15-20.