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.