Dec 30, 2007

Homily for the FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY - Cronulla, December 30th, 2008.

On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement in our daily lives. Christmas, and the days following the Lord’s birth, are important moments for the family. Families are important, but lets be honest, we don’t choose who our brothers and sisters are.

Christmas and New Year’s can be a time of great joy for a family, but it also can be a time when families can get on each other’s nerves.

Families are important and it is important that we spend time with our children, with our siblings, our parents and so on.

There was young boy who greeted his father as he returned from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father was surprised and said: “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies: “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him: “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son's room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” The father replies. “Here's the money you asked for earlier.” “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. Then he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?”

Today’s gospel has a message for this man and for all of us, and the message is that we need to invest more of our time in our family. How much one on one time do we spend with our children, chatting with them, hearing their stories and sharing our wisdom?

In Italy, there is a cultural battle between those from the north and those from the south. Those in the south often say that they “work to live”, while the productive north say that the “live to work.”

Life must be about more than work. It must be about more than ourselves.

Mary and Joseph were a model family in which both parents placed the family before themselves. They placed the family interests before their work. Joseph was a carpenter and probably had his own workshop in Nazareth before Jesus was born, but he walked away from it all for the security and safety of his family.

Mary and Joseph worked hard, helped, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their child so that he might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a child of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2223) gives the following advice to parents: "Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule.”

Do we have homes of forgiveness or are our homes like a court room, with judges and sentences. If the husband and wife start arguing like lawyers, in an attempt to justify their behaviour and to show who is right or wrong, then the family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife - as in a confessional - are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.

My friend there are three ingredients needed to make Christ present in our families. The same three ingredients make Jesus present here in this church, on this very altar. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish church through sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving.

How often do we say to ourselves, today I am going to give one hour undivided attention to my child, despite how boring it may be.

How often do we sit down for dinner with the family and let the children talk about their hopes and dreams and take a real interest in them.

How often do we thank our children for their smile, for their laughter and for their joy.

My friends, when we live sacrifice, celebration and thanksgiving, then Christ is present in our midst.

A different way of putting this is to say that we need a mutual understanding, support and respect for all in our families. There needs to be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents even after the children have left home. One of the commandments is “honour your father and your mother.” However parents must firstly show respect, support, understanding and honour to their children. When parents consistently take an interest in the life of their children, especially their adult-children, the children will learn to take an interest in others, and thus learn to develop and contribute to the family relationship and to nourish and contribute to society.

The family is the place where children first learn to understand and live in a community. When children see personal interest as more important than the family, then they will learn to view personal interest as more important than anything in the community. When children grow up in a family which understands its position as the domestic Church, then children learn to understand that relationship and faith in God is an essential part of who we are, not simply something we do at the church building.

On the Feast Day of the only perfect family that ever lived on this earth, all parents are encouraged to examine themselves and see how they are fulfilling the responsibility which God has placed on them.. Let us pray for the grace of truly caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families throughout the world. May God bless all your families in the New Year with peace, joy and happiness.

Dec 27, 2007

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent - Mass with the WYD Cross - Cronulla parish, 22nd December, 2007.

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Christmas is the season of dreams. It is a time for happiness, for joy and for peace.

Today’s Gospel tells us the story of the dream of Joseph. Joseph in fact had three dreams which are documented in the Gospels.

In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. In this first instance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife.   In 2:13, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod's wrath.  In 2:19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel


Joseph received the news of the pregnancy of Mary. For Joseph, he would have heartbroken. Mary was meant to be his wife, but in all worldly and scientific reasoning, Joseph would have been forgiven for thinking that Mary had been unfaithful, that Mary had become pregnant from another man.


But Joseph receives the message of the angel concerning Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph then has to make an act of faith. Faith my friends has two dimensions. Firstly it requires the action of God, through his Word, through his people in the world and through events that occur. But it also requires an act of our will. Each of us has to choose to believe.


Don’t expect to always have all the answers in life. If we had all the answers then we wouldn’t need to make a choice – the answer would be obvious.


Christ is real. The cross is a sign that Christ is real. It is a sign that Christ, that God became man, that Jesus Christ died and that Jesus has risen to glory. But the cross is not going to force you into believing in it.


The cross is an opportunity for us to make an Act of Faith.

To say: Jesus I believe you are real. Jesus I believe that you became a man, that you died and rose and that you have risen to glory, opening heaven and offering a place for me.


Tonight is an opportunity to receive Jesus in to your heart.


With the cross, with belief in Christ, people will not look at you the same.

People will not look at us the same.


Do not be afraid.


We are here in this church, three days before Christmas, because like Joseph, we are faithful and we trust in God.   We don’t rely on ourselves; we rely on God’s power and God’s mercy.  Today many of us have lifted up the cross – the image of Christ’s salvation for us. But it is the cross that lifts us up daily. It is the cross that helps us to walk on our journey towards meaning, towards peace and towards eternal life.


Dec 8, 2007

Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Year A - 8th December, 2007 - Bundeena parish

Readings: Is 11: 1-10; Rom 15: 4-9; Mt 3: 1-12.

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What do people think about when they think of the days before Christmas? Perhaps it is Shopping, Christmas parties, Decorating the house and garden with lights, cooking, Random-breath testing, the incredible cost of Christmas and the holidays, perhaps it is Christmas Cake and maybe cricket. But as you all know, Advent is a month for preparing for Christmas, preparing for the Coming of the Lord into our world.


Today’s readings remind us that when we allow the Spirit of God to govern and guide us, we will be able to live lives of integrity and prepare the way for the Lord's second coming.


In today’s gospel, John the Baptizer, when confronting the Pharisees and Sadducees, urged them to reform their lives so as to recognize and accept the promised messiah. John’s preaching was a call to repentance, conversion and renewal.  He told these people - who were filled with expectation that the Messiah was near - to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that would occur when the messiah would enter their lives and enter into the world.  In the same way, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John advises us to "prepare the way of the Lord."


But how do we prepare for the kingdom of heaven. How do we prepare the way of the Lord?


While only two gospels mention the story of the nativity, all the four Gospels introduce Jesus with an account of John the Baptist's ministry (Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:6-9). Matthew, in today’s Gospel, puts slightly greater emphasis on John's words than on his action of baptizing. Matthew gives us a direct quote from John’s preaching: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near."


When John the Baptist was preaching, there had been no prophet in Israel for four hundred years, but the people had no hesitation in accepting John as a prophet because he was like a burning torch summoning men to righteousness, a signpost to point humanity towards God, and he had the authority of a man of God.


Call to repentance:

 John's message was not soothing.  It cut into the very hearts of men.  The Greek philosopher Diogenes once said, "He who never offends anyone, never does anyone any good."  John denounced evil wherever he found it.  He accused Herod of loose moral life (14:4), addressed the Scribes and the Pharisees as "brood of vipers" and summoned people to righteousness. Sometimes the message of Christ can offend people – the good news calls people to change their lives.


 Literally the Greek word for repentance (metanoeo) means, "to change one's mind." Repentance involves turning around, facing in a new direction, a change of heart, a new commitment, walking in a different direction.  Repentance is a daily experience that renews our baptism.  “The repentant person comes before God saying, "I can't do it myself, God.  Let me die and give me new life.” At Baptism we died to ourselves and rose again. The repentant person asks the Lord to renew our baptism, giving us death, burial and resurrection to new life."  Repentance for us is not a one-time action we do at our First Confession, nor is it an action that we do only until our first Communion or Confirmation, but we must repent daily, because preparing for the Lord is a perpetual task. 


 A call for a change of life.

 John the Baptist, the stern and uncompromising preacher, challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that we take a deeper look at ourselves.  Obeying the commandments and the beatitudes is a good start, but we must also examine our relationships with others.  We must mend divisions and conflicts, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat employees justly.  John the Baptist tells us to start where we are: He tells us to “Come as we are” – bringing with us our personal stories and histories.  Our domestic and social lives must be put in order if we are to be repentant. Reconciliation does not only mean saying “sorry” but it means making a change – going in a different direction. 

John's voice is sober and runs counter to the intoxicating voices around us today.   He calls for integrity and social consciousness.  We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption, and instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus' coming.


An Advent project is to be alert and watchful in the spirit of today’s gospel.  Every morning when you get up, pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy and forgiveness.”  Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta once said, "Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus."  Every night when you go to bed, ask yourself, “Where have I found Christ today?” If you do this everyday, the answer will be God’s Advent gift for you that day. By being alert and watchful you’ll be getting an extra gift at Christmas this year: You will receive Christ himself. 


Advent is the time for this preparation, by repenting of our sins, renewing our lives by prayer, penance, preparing the way for the Lord, and sharing our blessings with others.  Let us remember the words of Alexander Pope: "What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart”?  It means that Jesus must be reborn in our hearts, during this season of Advent, and every day of our lives. Jesus is to be reborn as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, generosity and the spirit of humble service.


Following John's advice, let us celebrate the memory of this first advent, prepare for Jesus’ second advent in our daily lives, and wait for his glorious advent at the end of the world.


Dec 3, 2007

Homily for the 1st Sunday of ADVENT, Cronulla Parish - 2 December, 2007.

Readings: ISAIAH 2:1-5; ROMANS 13: 11-14; MATTHEW 24:37-44

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Christmas is a time when people give and receive gifts. The practice dates back to the time of Christ, when the magi brought gifts to Jesus. But what gift can we give to Jesus this Christmas and what gift is Jesus wanting to give us this Christmas.


The "end of the world" is the theme for today’s Mass. It ties in with the theme from last Sunday. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the ‘Sunday of Hope’ in God and His Son Jesus Christ through whom God has promised to save and redeem his people.


Advent is a time of serious preparation, but it's about far more than preparing to celebrate with trees, cakes, tinsel and lights. In the midst of the busyness of preparing to celebrate our annual feast, the Church calls us to prepare to celebrate the Mass of Christ, for that is what Christmas is. The Mass of Christ is the eternal banquet which occurs in Heaven. The Mass of Christ is what we are participating and celebrating at this very moment.


There is a clothing shop that I saw when I was in London that sells T-shirts with some excellent Christian messages. Particular favourites include "I have found Jesus!" with, in small letters underneath, "he was down the back of the sofa all the time".

And appropriately for the season of Advent, "Jesus is coming! Quick, look busy."


Christmas is a time to give and receive gifts, but how often do people think about giving a gift to Jesus, even though we are celebrating his birthday. Jesus desires that we give him the greatest gift possible– The gift of our very lives. He wants us to love him, to serve him and to build his kingdom in this world, and to desire eternity with him.


In some cultures, and I know in parts of Italy, people do not give gifts to the birthday boy or girl, but the person whose birthday it is, gives gifts to all his or her friends. It is the same with God. God wants to grace us, bless us and give himself to us.


He gave himself to us at the last Supper and on the cross, but his blessings extend beyond the pages of the Scriptures. God is blessing us through our encounters with people in our world, he is in our lives every day, he is here with us this evening and we will receive Christ’s body and blood.


A friend of mine told me that he finds a parking spot around Cronulla shops every time he looks for a spot. May be it is a coincidence, or may be it is God gifting that person with order and peace. God is present in our world. Are we ready and prepared to receive Jesus?[1]


The consistent warning in today’s gospel is that we should be prepared for the coming of the master. The Gospel tells us that the end will not happen with earthquakes and destruction, but the end will occur when things seem peaceful and normal. In the security and peace of day to day life, it is easy to forget that we need God, that we need a Saviour and a protector.


Many people turn towards God only in difficult times, illness, exams, destruction, but God is not a God only for difficult times. God desires a daily relationship and friendship with each and everyone one of us.


In a reference to the story of Noah, today’s Gospel tells us that the people were too concerned with eating and drinking, with too much emphasis on the normal cares and necessities of life.  In many ways we are the same at Christmas and New Year's: we eat, we drink, we worry about decorations, lights on the house, we have fun playing the newest computer games, watching movies, going to the beach, playing backyard cricket, visiting friends and relatives. But Jesus reminds us that there is something more important than feasts or weddings or games: Christ is telling us about eternal life and that we need to be prepared.


Christ is not saying that we should not eat, drink or have fun, but he is saying that we need to be prepared to attend an even greater feast than the Banquet on the 25th of December – we need to be prepared to attend the Feast, the Banquet of Eternal life – Christ’s Mass.

[1] Every night when you go to bed, ask yourself, “Where have I found Christ today?”  The answer will be God’s gift for you that day. By being alert and watchful you’ll be getting an extra gift at Christmas:  You will receive Christ himself.  There is a saying which goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas: "Without God, I can't.  Without me, he won't." Open yourself to Christ, and he will gift you abundantly in this world and in the eternal life to come.

Nov 25, 2007

Homily for the Solemnity of Christ the King - Cronulla Parish - November 25th, 2007.

Readings: Samuel 5:1-3; Colossian 1:12-20; Ps 121; Luke 23:35-43

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Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, in present-day Turkey, was brought before the Roman authorities in 155AD and told to curse Christ or he would be killed.  He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my king Jesus Christ who saved me?”  The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt.”  Polycarp refused and was martyred for his faith and devotion to Jesus the Great King.


Today we are celebrating the Solemn Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Universal King, the all-embracing authority of Christ, which will lead all people to seek his peace in His Kingdom. We honour Christ as the King of the Universe, the King of Heaven and Earth, by enthroning him in our hearts, permitting him to take control of our lives, and by praying “thy Kingdom come.”


Christ is the only ruler, leader, and person who we can trust entirely in, who we can hope and put our faith in. No politician, no talkback radio commentator and no friend can be trusted to deliver in the way that Jesus delivers for us.


But how each of us understand who Christ is can be shape according to our preferences, perhaps to the Greens, the ALP, the Liberals or whoever, and may be even perhaps according to our semi-conscious needs and desires, perhaps desires for technology, fashion, wealth or personal power.


Sometimes in the press there are appeals made to different versions of Christ, which are impossible to reconcile with the full Gospel evidence. We can be told that Christ was all-tolerant, all forgiving and never had a cross word for anyone!

But the Christ of the Gospels is much more complicated than any one-dimensional image or advertisement of political correctness. You cannot know Christ simply by listening to a 30 second advertisement, especially if it authorised by someone from Canberra who speaks very quickly.


Christ did speak of the primary importance of love, but he listed love of God as the first commandment with love of neighbour flowing from love of God.[1]

In today’s second reading St. Paul tells the Colossians how grateful they should be to God for having made them citizens of Christ's kingdom.  The Apostle then describes who and what their new sovereign is: “He is the image of the unseen God. He holds all things in unity.” (Col 1:15-16) Jesus is truly God and truly man, the true image of the invisible God and at the same time the perfect exemplar of true humanity.


This portion of St. Paul's epistle is aptly chosen for today’s feast to remind us that God’s kingdom is not just eternal life. Jesus “holds all things in unity.” We are citizens of his kingdom here on earth.


St Paul tells us that we “gain our freedom” (Col 1:13) through Christ, and we gain a place in the Kingdom of God. Every time we come to Mass and receive Christ, we gain more of our freedom, we become more like Christ we become more perfectly human and more perfectly divine. Jesus is the perfection of humanity and the perfection of divinity. By becoming more alive in Christ in a human sense, we are drawn towards Heaven.


In most of the prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a human king.[2]

The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long awaited king of the Jews.  In Luke’s Gospel, we read: “The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever and his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:32-33)  The magi from the East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews?  We saw his star… and we have come to worship him.”(Mt: 2:2)   During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: “God bless the king, who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Lk 19:38)  On Good Friday, when Pilate asked the question: “Are you the king of the Jews?”(Jn 18:33) Jesus made his assertion, “You say that I am a king.  I was born and came into this world for this one purpose.”(Jn 18:37)  Today’s Gospel tells us that the sign which hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “This is the King of the Jews”(Luke 23:38) and Jesus promises paradise to the repentant thief: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”(Luke 23:42) Finally, before his ascension into heaven, Jesus declared: “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.”(Mt. 28:18)  


Jesus indeed is a unique king with a unique kingdom. Jesus Christ still lives as king, in the hearts of millions all over the world.  The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law. In a short moment, we will be present at Calvary. Jesus’ throne, his cross and crucifixion will be present here on this altar. The preface for today’s Mass, the prayer which is said directly before the Holy, Holy, describes Jesus’ kingdom as a “kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”  Jesus is a king with a saving and liberating mission: to free humanity from all types of bondage, to enable us to live peacefully and happily on earth and to inherit eternal life in heaven.


The “kingdom of God” has three elements, in which we are drawn into deeper relationship with the King of Kings:

1.     It is the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God,

2.     It is the Church here on earth, the community of Christ’s faithful, and

3.     It is eternal life in Heaven. 


Christ’s kingdom establishes itself in our hearts, allowing us to participate in God's inner life.  We are elevated and transformed through grace, through the sacraments of the Church – by eating of Christ’s Body and drinking of his blood – the very same Body and Blood offered for us at Calvary and given to us at the Last Supper. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfilment in the eternal life of Heaven, in the Beatific Vision, dwelling with God face-to-face.


We all should use the authority of Jesus’ message to spread the Kingdom of God, to bring people to faith, to build the community of believers and to help people to choose eternal life.


Yesterday our country voted on our leadership for the next 3 years. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions, in our families, and so on, to use that authority, which is given by God, for Jesus and His Kingdom.  Are we using our God given authority so as to serve the common good, Are we using it to build a more just society, or are we simply using our authority to boost our own egos, bank-accounts, power and control? Are we really praying “Thy Kingdom Come.”


 My friends, pray for our country. Pray for those in leadership, that our country will be united and that our leaders will exercise their jurisdiction in a way that builds the kingdom of God.


The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church’s year.  It is a summary of our lives as Christians. On this great feast day, let us resolve to give Christ our Lord the central place in our lives, our society and our world. Let us resolve to abandon those things which replace God as the most important thing in our life, and mean what we say when we pray “Thy Kingdom Come”.


In the famous words of the earlier Church Christians:

Christus vincit!  Christus regnat!  Christus imperat!

Christ conquers!  Christ rules!  Christ reigns!


[1] At one stage Jesus drove the money changers from the temple, explained that God's forgiveness only has consequences when we are repentant and ask for forgiveness, and at different times he severely criticised King Herod, and the Pharisees.

[2] Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Micah announced His coming as king. “You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, From you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel(Micah 5:1).  Daniel presents "one coming like a human being ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship.”(Dan 7:13-14)

Nov 20, 2007

Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - Cronulla parish - 18 November, 2007

Readings: Malachi 3:19-20; Ps 97:5-9; 2 Thess 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19.

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As the Church year comes to an end, today’s readings, and the readings of the last few weeks, have been focussed on the final days of the world, our own death and final judgment. Today's theme is “The Day of the Lord” or the “second coming” of Jesus in glory as judge of the living and the dead.

There are many ways to respond to the concept and thought of the end of the world and our own judgement before God.

The prophet Malachi in today’s first reading said that “For you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays.”

Many today misunderstand what it means to Fear the Lord. Fearing the Lord brings light, joy and healing, as Malachi tells us today.

The Fear of the Lord is not a negative oppressive fear of punishment, but Fear of the Lord is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit strengthened at Confirmation.

Fear of the Lord is a fear that our actions will offend the one who loves us and to whom we love.

An example of the type of fear that we should have of God is expressed in the love between a husband and a wife. A mature loving couple will not try to intentionally hurt the other by their actions, not through a fear of separation and divorce, but through a fear of upsetting their beloved. Disappointing another is hurtful and when a couple truly love each other, each will be afraid to hurt the one they love.

When a Fear of the Lord is understood in this way, it makes sense. Fear is a necessary quality for a loving relationship with anyone, and the same goes with the Lord.

God desires that we all choose Heaven, that we all choose to accept Christ as our Saviour and our Lord and that we all enter into eternal life. God is in fact disappointed and hurt when we choose to reject his eternal presence. That is why we should all have a fear of the Lord, a loving fear of not hurting another.

In today’s second reading we see St Paul’s response to some of the attitudes of the early Christians. The earliest Christians expected Jesus to come again in glory very soon, bringing history to its climax, and bringing the final judgment upon the living and the dead. Some among the Thessalonians responded to this theory of the nearness of the end of the world by abandoning their customary work and leading a life of idleness, asking themselves: "Why should we spend the small amount of time before the End of the World in hard labor?"

In today’s second reading St. Paul corrects the Thessalonians by asking them to imitate his own example of manual work, warning them that “if anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that person eat.” Pretty strong words.

On the fridge at my parent’s home, my mother has placed these words from St Paul to remind my brothers and sisters to do their chores and to contribute to the house. The implication being that they will not eat if they do not work.

Work is sacred and we are all reminded today that simply because the end of the world is just around corner, we shouldn’t forget to continue to work and labour for the Lord. In fact, simply because we receive Christ in the Eucharist, and we are part of Christ’s body the Church does not guarantee that we all will be saved.

Salvation is a choice that we make daily and with it comes the mission to spread the message of Christ to all the ends of the earth. If we are not working to build up God’s kingdom here on earth, then are we simply becoming like the Thessalonians, who were more willing to be idle then to be about the work of God.

In Luke’s Gospel today, The Lord warns us about the temptation of viewing the endless wars, natural disasters and general disunity within our society, as signs of the End of the World.

In Luke’s Gospel, the audience he is writing to has confused the destruction of the temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79 with Jesus’ predictions of the end of the world.

Jesus refused to predict details or provide clues for the coming of the end of the world, despite how hard we try to read the Book of Revelation. Wars "earthquakes, pestilence and famine" were traditionally personified as the “Four Apocalyptic Horsemen” who would come to announce the end-time judgment. Prophets of doom in every century point to historical calamities, such as wars and revolts, they point to cosmic disasters, such as great earthquakes, famines, tsunamis and hurricanes, and they point to "signs from the heavens" like solar eclipses and comets, explaining them as signs of the end of the world. This is a direct contradiction of what Jesus said. He told us not to try and predict the end, but to live the Gospel faithfully and lovingly. Instead of destroying us, faithfulness to the message of Christ will gain us eternal life.

My friends, we need to be daily prepared for death and judgment. The ideal way of accepting Jesus’ apocalyptic message is to be ever ready to face our death.

I will leave you today with some words from St Augustine from the 5th century: “Because you are unjust, shall the judge not be just? If you want to find the judge merciful, be merciful yourself before he comes. Forgive if anyone offends against you. Give from your riches… The most pleasing sacrifices to God are mercy, humility, confession, peace, love. If we bring these to God, then we shall await without fear the coming of the judge who will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with his truth.”

Nov 16, 2007

Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C- Cronulla and Bundeena parishes - 11 November, 2007

Readings: Gospel: Luke 20:27-38, 1st reading: 2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14, 2nd reading: 2 Thess 2:16-3:5

“I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.” Ps 16:15.

The psalmist today brings our minds and hearts to the glory of God. The glory of God in the Beatific Vision – seeing God face to face, is what humanity has been made for, and it is what God desires for us.

God created the world and created humanity. Some of the older members of our congregation would remember back to the days when children were required to learn the answers to many of the questions in the little green Catechism, or its full name as the Baltimore Catechism.

Children would respond to a question about Why did God make us? with the answer “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.”

My friends, God has created humanity for Heaven and the Beatific Vision. God desires that each one us choose God and choose to live for ever in Heaven. In fact, Christian writers over the centuries have spoken about this heavenly hardwiring within humanity. St Augustine, among others, famously said that “Man is restless until he rests in God!” For a man or woman to be truly at peace, we need to be moving towards the purpose for which we are created.

It is very easy to become so focussed on everything in the world, on our businesses, families, our social work, and so on, and lose sight of the bigger picture. God has created us for Heaven. If we do everything we do in this world with a mindset that we are preparing ourselves for Heaven and are choosing Heaven through our thoughts and actions, then our life will make sense.

God does not exclude anyone from Heaven, but God will not force anyone into Heaven who doesn’t want to be there.

My friends, Australia has one of the highest levels of suicide in the world, and we are very quickly becoming one of the most secular and God-less countries in the world. Despite what people say, most Christians who are authentically trying to live for Heaven and are living life in Christ, are more settled, peaceful, loving and are often more forgiving of their own personal mistakes and the mistakes of others.

Living for Heaven is what we are made for. In today’s first reading there is a story from Maccabees about a number of brothers who are willing to allow everything to be taken from them in this life in order to perfectly reflect God’s laws and thus choose eternal life with God.

One brother makes the bold statement of faith just before he is killed “The King of the world will raise us up” (2 Macc 7:10). Another brother proclaims faith in God and faith in eternal life by saying “It was heaven that gave me these limbs.”

My friends, we are made for eternal life, not just spiritually but also physically. If we choose Christ, God will raise us up physically from the dead. In the Apostles Creed we pray “We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

My friends, the brothers in today’s first reading died with Christ. They indeed will rise with Christ to dwell for ever in Heaven.

What we choose to do physically is what we do spiritually. This may sound complicated, but a choice for Christ and for Heaven is a choice 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is not just 1 hour or a couple of hours a week. Eternal life is what we are made for. My friends, how often do we live as if we are prepared to enter into Heaven tomorrow?

Are we willing to allow our life to be taken away from us so that we can keep our faith in Christ and eternal life pure? Are we willing to say no to immoral activities and practices in our world? My friends, evil is present in our world. We have a choice to choose God or to embrace the evil, unhappiness and division that we all see around us.

In today’s Gospel, some of the Sadducees asked Jesus about who will be married in Heaven. Jesus interestingly responds: “Those who are judged worthy of a place in the other world and in the resurrection from the dead do not marry because they can no longer die, for they are the same as the angels, and being children of the resurrection they are sons of God.” (Luke 20:35.)

My friends, there is no marriage in Heaven. Don’t expect that your husband will get to Heaven simply because you desire to spend eternity with him. Once in Heaven, relationships will be with God, and from there we will all be sons and daughters of God.

Procreation will not occur in Heaven and relationships as we understand them today will most likely not occur in Heaven. Seeing God face to face is what Heaven is about. Entering into complete communion with God is why we are called to Heaven. Communion with God is what God desires of us.

St Augustine said: “What other end do we have, if not to reach the Kingdom of God which has no end.”[1]

Only through complete unity and resting with God in goodness do men and women find their purpose in life. St Augustine, who is one of Pope Benedict’s favourite saints, said that “Things which are not in their intended position are restless. Once they are in their ordered position, they are at rest.”

My friends, God has created us. He has created us in His goodness to dwell for all eternity in his presence in Heaven. This is what we are made for.

In a moment we will enter into the Liturgy of the Eucharist where we will connect with the Heavenly realities. Around this altar, heaven and earth are united. As we receive Christ in the Eucharist, the Lord continues to strengthen us in this world, so that we can daily walk towards the Heavenly inheritance which is promised to us.

“I shall see your face and be filled, when I awake, with the sight of your glory.” (Ps 16:15.)

[1] St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei (The City of God) Book XXII, Chapter 30.

Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C - St Aloysius Parish, Cronulla: November, 2007

Readings: Wisdom 11:22- 12:2; Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Gospel: Luke 19:1-10

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“Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”

The story of Zacchaeus is one of the most famous stories from the ministry of Christ. Zacchaeus, a powerful, and most likely a feared personality in Roman society, had heard about Jesus. Zacchaeus was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. Jewish society looked down on the tax collectors. Tax collectors worked for the Roman empire, and their profession was privatised. Tax collectors would presume on the innocence of the people and they would charge much higher taxes to the people than what they should, pocketing several percentage points with each person. Zacchaeus evens admits to having defrauded people.

Zacchaeus was unpopular with the Jewish people. The general working-class would have hated him, and the religious classes – the Pharisees and Saduccees, and others, would have had no time for him as well.

But Zacchaeus was a powerful and feared man. He would have had ready access to the important military and political leaders and he would have seen himself as being a powerful Jewish leader of his time.

Luke tells us in today’s Gospel that Zacchaeus was anxious to see what kind of man Jesus was. Zacchaeus wanted to make a judgment about who Jesus was. Zacchaeus did not come to see Jesus to be healed, to be saved or even to become friends with Jesus. Zacchaeus was coming to investigate Jesus. Zacchaeus realised that the only way for a short man to see Jesus was to climb a tree. This leaves us in a wonderful situation where Christ’s words can take on a double meaning. Not only does Christ tell Zacchaeus to “come down” physically from tree, but Christ is saying much more.

Christ is telling Zacchaeus to leave his position of judgment and misguided authority, to leave his investigative position, to leave his separation from the Jewish people and to join Christ and the crowd.

Who would have thought that a simple two words “come down” could have so much meaning.

“Come down” is what Christ is telling us today. Christ is reminding us that we must be humble. We must not judge others and we must not build a separation between ourselves and others.

It is interesting where Christ is positioned in this story. Christ is among the crowd. That is where Christ is calling Zacchaeus firstly to come. The crowd – the crowd is representative of the Church, and the community of believers.

So the message from “come down” for us is that we should be humble and that we find Christ in the context of his community – his crowd of followers, his Church.

The second point is focussed around the word HURRY. Christ tells Zacchaeus to hurry. For Zacchaeus, he probably knew for many years that what he was doing was wrong, but he was comfortable with his power, his money and his prestige. But the Lord tells us that we do not know the time or the hour when the Lord will call us from this life. So we must be prepared. If we have things that we want to say to God or to our friends, then do it now and don’t put it off, because when you put if off, you may run out of time. Don’t leave to tomorrow what can be done today. Heal relationships. Tell a loved one that you love them and are grateful for their love.

The third point is a development from Christ’s words: “I must stay at your house today.”

At the time of Christ, the father of a household was of enormous importance. When Christ tells Zacchaeus that he wants to stay at his house, then Christ’s visit will effect all the members of Zacchaeus household – his wife, children, perhaps relatives, his house-staff and servants.

Furthermore, by Christ being welcomed into the house of Zacchaeus was a very important step for Zacchaeus. In the Jewish tradition, an offer of hospitality, and especially an offer to stay at one’s house, in effect meant that the guest became a member of the family. So for Zacchaeus to accept Jesus’s request to stay at his house, meant in effect that Zacchaeus and his whole household would become members of Jesus family and that Jesus would become a member of Zacchaeus’s family.

For us today, Christ desires to come and stay at our homes. He desires that we more perfectly choose to become members of his family, and that we accept Christ into the context of our homes, our families and into our lives.

But Christ’s coming into the house of Zacchaeus also contains a strong spiritual connection. Will Zacchaeus accept Jesus as his Lord, as his Saviour and as his God? Zacchaeus was accustomed to being in control and that others were under his authority. But by making Jesus a member of his family, Jesus would become an equal with him, he would become a friend, he would become a brother.

Today, Jesus desires to be welcomed into our hearts. As it says in the book of Revelation. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him and he with Me.”

Jesus is knocking and waiting to come into our hearts, into our lives and into our families and communities.

My friends, Jesus is waiting for us. He wants us to be in complete union with him. He wants us to come down. He wants us to be humble and he wants us to find him in the context of his community, of his crowd the Church. Jesus wants to hurry because he desires that we do not miss another day without a total and perfect friendship and relationship with Jesus and his community.

And Jesus wants to come and stay at our homes – he wants to be part of our families and he wants to be part of our lives.

“Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I must stay at your house today.”