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.”

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C - 20th October, 2007 - St Patrick's Soho, London, UK

Readings: Exodus 17:8-13, 2nd Timothy 3:14-4:2, Gospel: Luke 18:1-8.

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“When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?”

My dear friends, walking the streets of London, especially around this area of town, one can often feel like saying, perhaps with a tone of disappointment, frustration: “When the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith in Soho or in London?

My answer to this question today is ‘Yes.’ The Son of Man will find faith in Soho, he will find faith in London in abundance.

Well my friends, it can be very easy to give up on our world, to think and act in a way that hides the Church and faith in God within the four walls of the church, of this church, or it easy for each of us to even hide our faith, to not share it with anyone and to become inward looking.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to “pray continually and to never lose heart.” At times it very easy to lose heart. Many in the world today criticise the Church, others ridicule those with faith and others try to find ways to convince the world that God is construct of the Churches and that God does not exist.

As Christians, there is only one truly authentic response, as Christ tells the apostles in today’s Gospel: pray always and never lose heart.

But how do we pray? How do we live a life in Christ in the context of today’s society?

Today’s readings give us some worthy guidance and direction for our prayer and reflection.

In today’s first reading we see an example of how to pray – Moses prayed for the safety and the success of the Israelite army as they were attacked by the Amalekites. You may have noticed how Moses prayed. He prayed with his arms raised towards the Heavens, with the staff of God in his hand.

As you could imagine, raising your arms in the air would get tiring very quickly, especially for an elderly man like Moses. So Moses was assisted in his mission of prayer.

Firstly a stone was placed under Moses so that he could sit down, and then Aaron and Hur came and supported the arms of Moses, so that the arms of Moses would not drop.

My friends, when we pray, we are not praying alone, we are not isolated, we don’t have to do it on our own, we don’t have to carry all the burden ourselves.

When we pray we are supported by the angels and the saints who come and are present with us in our prayer and in our lives. They are holding our arms, they are lifting us up and they are helping us to proclaim the message of the Kingdom of God, insisting on it, as St Paul tells Timothy in today’s 2nd reading.

But there are times when we don’t feel the presence and support of the angels and saints, and this is normal. And that is why we as Christians support each other. Supporting each other is one of the reasons why we as Catholics gather together to pray and to celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s death and resurrection every week, and where possible, throughout the week as well. Most things are difficult when you try to do them alone. But when we do it together it is a lot easier.

“Many hands make light work.” The same is true of prayer. Christ tells us that when two or three are gathered in his name, he is there. It seems too easier. My friends, I look around and see a good number of people here this evening gathered in Christ’s name. Christ is here in Soho. We are in his presence

My friends, true prayer is never individualistic. In fact, Faith is not a private personal possession. Jesus instructs us to pray the “Our Father.” He doesn’t say pray the My Jesus or the My Father.

A person of faith prays not only for personal needs but prays with and for all of humanity.

Faith and prayer require a personal choice and commitment by the individual, but faith will always lead us to communion with other believers, with those in the church here in Soho, with other believers in London and in England, and with believers across all the world. In fact, we are not only supported by those alive on earth today, but we are supported by those who have faithfully lived out the message of the Kingdom of God throughout all ages.

Moses today is supporting us with his arms raised, with Aaron and Hur lifting Moses arms high in the air. We are supported by the Apostles, by the founders of Christianity in England, by St Patrick, the patron of this church, and by all who have professed the Catholic faith throughout all time.

My friends, when faith seems to be weak, we must not lose heart. Trust in God and don’t give up. Keep on keeping on.

Pray and Stick at it. God is powerful. If your prayer is difficult, if you find faith to lack meaning, if you are tempted to give up on living the Christian way, then don’t rush in to making a decision. Pray! Ask the Lord to assist you. Ask the assistance of fellow Christians. Christians are not meant to be isolated. We support each other, and from there we support and bring peace and harmony to God’s world in faith, hope and love.

Work hard, pray, proclaim the message of Christ through your thoughts, words and actions and be patient – God’s kingdom will come.

Who would have thought 3 years ago that England tonight would be defending the Rugby World Cup Trophy after their devastating defeat by 51 to 15 to Australia in Brisbane in 2004.

But the English team has worked hard. They never gave up hope and the result tonight may be that they win the Rugby World Cup the 2nd time in a row.

If a National Rugby Team can turn around from being at enormous lows to achieving the highest honours in their sport, how much greater does God work.

My friends, will the Son of Man find any faith in Soho, any faith in London? I believe God will find faith in abundance.

As St Paul said to Timothy in today’s 2nd reading: “In the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and welcome or unwelcome, insist on it. Refute falsehood, correct error, call to obedience – but do all with patience and with intention of teaching.”

“Pray continually and never lose heart.”

Nov 15, 2007

1st homily ever given - Rome October 6, 2007 - 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

On October 6, 2007, I preached for the very first time at the Closing Mass for the Celebrations surrounding the 2007 Pontifical Noth American College Diaconate Ordination. On October 4, 2007, 21 men from Australia and the United States were ordained as deacons by now Cardinal John Foley in St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City State. The Mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Providence, Rhode Island, and Cardinal Keeler of Baltimore was among the 40 or so concelebrants.

The Mass on October 6 was a Vigil Mass for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C.
Readings: Hab. 1:2-2; 2:2-4; Ps. 95; 2 Tim. 1:6-8; 13-14; Lk. 17:5-10
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“Lord, increase our faith.”

My dear friends, this last week has been a truly graced week for us all. Not only for those of us who were ordained on Thursday, but this last week has been a period of Grace for the whole Church.

Last Sunday many of us started our week in Rome in this very chapel. We heard the story from Luke’s Gospel about the unrighteous man who requested Abraham to send a messenger to warn his family about the reality of God and eternal life. Luke tells us that “If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.” In today’s first reading from the Prophet Habbakuk we heard that “The just man, because of his faith, shall live.”

These words from Luke and then from Habbakuk remind us of the importance of faith and the reality of eternal life. God has created us for Heaven, and it is only when we are seeking communion with God, when we are walking by faith and not by sight, that we will find happiness, peace, our true purpose in life, and ultimately we will find ourselves truly in Christ.

But what does it mean to be a person of ‘Faith.’

I have been in seminary for almost 7 years now, and over the years, I have lost count of the number of people who have said to me that they wished they had faith as strong as mine. At first I thought people were complementing me, or maybe even encouraging me. However, over time my response has changed. Today, if someone tells me that they wish they could have faith as strong as mine, then I tell them that they can have faith stronger than mine if they truly want it.

Faith is a gift from God, which if you ask for it, God will give it to you. Many people question why God does not respond to our prayers when we ask God to let us win the lottery, or to let us have success, prestige, fame or popularity. But God answers us when our prayers are connected with our true purpose in life – Do we truly want to become closer to God or are our prayers self-seeking and self-serving. Faith always brings us closer to God and God will always answer a prayer to increase our faith.

The prayer of the Apostles in the today’s Gospel should be our prayer every day: “Lord, increase our faith.” “Lord, increase our faith.”

Today’s Gospel from Luke describes the power of faith. Christ says that “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to (this) mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it would obey you.” As you may know, a mustard seed is one of the smallest of seeds, so even someone with a small amount of faith can cooperate with God to bring about a great change to the world.

Who would have thought 10 or 15 years ago that someone we knew, perhaps our son, our brother, our friend would have been ordained in St Peter’s Basilica last Thursday?

My friends, the faith of each and every one of you has helped in the vocations of all the 21 men ordained on Thursday. Your faith, your trust in God and your example has helped to make a major change in our world. I am not saying that all of you are saints, in fact, I’m not saying that any of you are necessarily saints already. You don’t have to be perfect to have faith, and you don’t have to be perfect to have a positive effect in our world. All you need is a desire to be perfect.

As of Thursday, the world will never be the same again. Our world has 21 new deacons. If faith the size of a mustard seed can uproot a mulberry tree, then how much greater can 21 new deacons effect and change our world, especially when we are supported by the faith of over a billion Catholics, and most especially when we are supported by the faith of the 1000s people who joined with us on Thursday, and the faith of all our families, friends and parishioners who were unable to attend, and the faith of the people of each of our dioceses. My friends, the ordination on Thursday changed the 21 men who were ordained, it changed you, and it has changed the Church and will change the world.

When we pray: “Lord, increase our faith,” we are not only praying for ourselves individually, but we are praying with and for the Church, and ultimately for the world. True prayer is never selfish or self-centred. Christ didn’t teach us to pray: the My Father or the My Jesus. He said pray: The “Our Father.” This is because faith is not an individual possession. Faith always directs the individual to communal and ecclesial expressions of that faith. When faith is individual and isolated, then faith easily becomes separated from the mission of Christ to bring as many people with us to Heaven as possible.

St Paul warns Timothy, and us also in today’s 2nd reading, that we should not be ashamed to bear witness and to give testimony to the Lord, demonstrating that faith is not something that is a personal private possession. All of us need to share the moments when we witness and encounter the power of Christ in our lives. My friends, what has occurred here in Rome over the last few days is not a private moment in our lives which we share only with our closest friends. The Ordination on Thursday was for the whole Church and ultimately, it was for the whole world.

Thursday October 4th, 2007 was an incredible moment of hope. Time and time again people say that young men are not offering their lives to God anymore and that the Church needs to abandon celibacy, the priesthood, and so on. My friends, 21 young men lay down on the floor of St Peter’s Basilica, only yards from where St Peter is buried, and we publicly committed ourselves to the promises of prayer, celibacy and obedience. We committed ourselves, with the power of the Holy Spirit, with the support of the Church, with the support of each of you, to serve the Lord and his people for the rest of our lives.

The power that faith is having in the world needs be shared to the ends of the world, and this cannot be only done by the ordained. Spreading the message of Christ in faith, hope and love is a responsibility that is given to every Christian. Take up this mission.

My dear friends, tomorrow and the next few days, most of us will return home to the situations of our families, our friends, our jobs, and our communities. Don’t allow this week to be solely a memorable vacation, or an historic occasion in the life of one of your friends or members of your family. Rather, allow yourself to be changed by Christ and make a decision to change your life.

This week the Lord has been pouring out his Spirit upon all of us. Allow these graces we have received this week to continue to inspire each one of us as we return home. Allow these graces we have received to help us to inspire others about what has occurred during these days. At first some people may rebuke us and criticise us for attending an ordination in Rome. But as St Paul said to Timothy: God has not given us a spirit of cowardice, but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

During this last week, many of us have visited and prayed in Assisi. St Francis received the power, love and self-control of God and heard the words of the Apostles: “Increase our faith.” Pope Benedict in his recent book: Jesus of Nazareth explains that “the saints are the true interpreters of Holy Scripture. The meaning of a given passage of the Bible becomes most intelligible in those human beings who have been totally transfixed by it and have lived it out.” For St Francis, his faith lead him to humility, and Pope Benedict says that “this extreme humility was above all freedom for service, freedom for mission, and ultimately trust in God.”[1]

St Francis’s faith lead him to hear the words of Christ: “Rebuild my Church!” These words are extended to all of us. No longer can we sit back and see the Church continue to suffer ridicule, humiliation and false accusations by those who seek to destroy faith and belief in God.

Pope Paul VI in 1972 recognised that many in the world no longer see the importance of belonging to a Church and that many believe that they can make their own decisions about faith, even if this is contrary to almost 2000 years of Christian belief. He said People no longer trust the Church; they trust the secular profane prophet that speaks to us from some newspaper or from some social movement.”

My friends, we all need to speak with clarity, with conviction and we need to live our lives as examples of our faith. For years to come the Feast of St Francis of Assisi will be permanently etched in our minds as the day when our relative or friend was ordained a deacon in St Peter’s Basilica.

My friends, Christ tells us “To whom much is given, much is expected.” We have all received a great deal this week. Now each and every one of us is given the mission to spread the message of hope and joy about what we have received and experienced. The best way for us to be prepared for this mission is to enter fully into the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, which will be made present for us on this altar. As the Eucharistic prayer is prayed, and then as you come forward to receive Christ: pray the words: “Lord increase our faith.”

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, pg 78.