Mar 25, 2008

Homily for Easter Sunday: Given at Cronulla 2008

Readings: Acts 10:34,37-43, Col 3:1-4, John 20:1-9


On behalf of Fr Thomas, Fr Witold, and all the parish team here at Cronulla, I wish you all a very Happy and Holy Easter.


For almost two months now the Church has been preparing to celebrate the great Paschal Feast. Over the last three days we have gathered as a community for three very significant services, which are in fact one very long service, with breaks in between.


On Holy Thursday, we gathered and entered into Christ’s example of service and love. Christ washed the apostles feet as an example to us to serve each other. Then we prayed with Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as he prepared for suffer. We heard the words of Christ: “Stay here and keep watch with me.”


On Good Friday, we entered into Christ’s passion and death. We stood with Mary as Christ was carried to Calvary. We saw Jesus crucified for the sins and offences of humanity. Humanity broke relationship with God, and God became man to restore humanity to God. God humbled himself to become a human being, so that human beings can become as gods. God took our place and died for our sins, so that each of us can live.


Last night we celebrated the greatest of Vigils known in heaven and on earth. It began with a fire and candlelight procession. Each of us received the light of Christ, so that we can become shining lights to our dark and dangerous world.


We then sang the praises of God throughout history and we read about the ways God has nurtured humanity through creation, through blessings, through calling us back to relationship with Him.


And then we heard about how Christ rose from dead and how many believed in Christ and eternal life.

Last night, 3 adults were received into the Catholic Church and 3 children were baptized. Our community made a solemn profession of our faith – we recommitted ourselves to Jesus Christ and to the way of the fullness of life. We then entered into the great act of heaven, where heaven and earth are united as one, where time stands still and where we become present to the great events of our salvation.

The angels and saints were present with us in our great act of worship of our loving God. Simultaneously, we were present at the Lord’s Supper, at Calvary with our Mother Mary, at the entombment, and at Christ’s resurrection and glorification.


My friends, for almost 2000 years Christians have gathered every Sunday to celebrate the joy of Easter, the joy of what God has done for us and the joy that we await at our own deaths and resurrections. Christians gather every week to enter into the events of Holy Week – to become mystically present at the Last Supper, at the Way of the Cross and the Crucifixion, and to be spiritually present at Christ’s resurrection. Christians have eaten the broken body of Christ, so that we are feed spiritually on our journey to eternal life.


My friends, as the opening prayer for today’s Mass beautifully said:

“This is the morning on which the Lord appeared to men who had begun to lose hope and opened their eyes to what the scriptures foretold: that first he must die, and then he would rise and ascend into his Father’s glorious presence.

May the risen Lord breathe on our minds and open our eyes that we may know him in the breaking of bread, and follow him in his risen life.


Very shortly we will enter into the great act of praise and worship of God. We will be simultaneously present at the Lord’s Supper, at the events of Good Friday, and at the resurrection of Christ.

Pray, my friends, that our eyes will be opened. That we will be given strength to believe what is occurring, to be attentive to the mysteries. Ask the Lord to open our eyes to see and to not lose hope. Christ, our God, our Lord and Saviour, is broken for us and given to us in the appearance of bread. The bread is truly Jesus – Jesus at the Last Supper, Jesus at the crucifixion, and Jesus at the resurrection. This altar is 3 things – it is the mystical table of the Last Supper, it is Calvary – the place of Christ’s death, and it is the tomb that held the body of the Creator. 


My friends, we pick up a phone and we can communicate with someone on the other side of the world.

When we come to Mass, we enter into prayer, celebration, sacrifice and thanksgiving, and our whole body, mind and spirit communicates with heaven.

It is often said that Catholics are Easter people. But we are more than a people who simply celebrate an important historical event from almost 2000 years ago.

As Catholics we celebrate our entry into eternal life and we become mystically and spiritually present at the historical events of Easter. During today’s Mass, enter into the prayer – use your imagination to place yourself at one of the events of Holy Week. Be in the garden as Mary Magdalene, Peter and John come running.


Jesus said that he is the way, the truth and the life. Those who believe in Jesus and live his ways will live for ever. In the early Church, the Liturgy of the Eucharist was only open to those who believe and those who publicly live their life in Christ. The readings from Scripture, the Liturgy of the Word, was open to all people, but to become mystically present at the events of Easter is a special and honoured thing and was reserved to those who are ready.


My friends, do each of us believe in Jesus Christ?

Do each of us have a relationship with our God and with the community that Jesus founded?

Do each of us live the ways of God, the ways of truth and life?

Do each of us live for eternal life or are we focussed on ourselves, on our property or our power?


St Paul in today’s 2nd reading said beautifully: “Let your thought be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth… The life you have now is hidden with Christ in God. But when Christ is revealed – and he is your life – you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.” (Col 3:3-4)


My friends, let us live in the expectation and hope of the glory of God – each of us will have a seat at God’s table if we choose to be there. Let us be mindful of what God has done for us – let us live as people who are alive – alive with the joy and love of God. This means that we are not supposed to lie buried in the tomb of our evil habits.  Christ’s resurrection gives us the good news that no tomb can hold us down anymore - neither the tomb of despair, discouragement, doubt nor death.  Instead, we are expected to live a joyful and peaceful life, constantly experiencing the presence of the resurrected Lord in all the events of our lives, and especially seeing and receiving real presence the glorious Lord in the appearance of bread. 

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad” (Psalm 118:24).


Mar 21, 2008

Homily for Good Friday - Service of the Lord's Passion: Given at Cronulla on March 21, 2008.

"Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends" (John 15:13).


The story of Christ’s passion and death can easily be considered as gruesome and depressing. Good Friday itself is often considered by many today to be a day the Church should do away with. Focusing on Jesus’ death is unpleasant. Some people think that the Church should only talk about a so-called “positive resurrection” message, but an absence of the events of death is dishonest and doesn’t make sense. Resurrection is only possible after death. You cannot rise from the dead unless you are first dead.


Despite the ever increasing concern by some that the Church is too focused on the cross, the crowds continue to come year in and year out on Good Friday. Cross has become a sign that there is something more.

Last night we celebrated the Mass of the Lord’s Supper and we had about 200 people here. Tomorrow night we will celebrate the Solemn Vigil of Christ’s Resurrection, and again, we expect that we will only see about 300 people for the Vigil, although we hope for more.

But today we pray and remember Christ who died. This morning we had about 550 people here for the Stations of the Cross. Crowds continue to come on Good Friday for this most ancient of prayer services.


But why did he suffer?

Why did Jesus die?

Why do we focus on death and the cross in our prayer?


It was February 1941, in the famous Nazi concentration Camp called Auschwitz, today in present-day Poland. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, was put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism.

Months went by and in desperation, one of the prisoners escaped from the camp.  The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die, as a warning against future escape attempts. Names were called. A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Please spare me, I have a wife and 9 children!" Fr Maximilian stepped forward and said, "I will take his place." Kolbe was marched into the starvation cell with nine others where he lived until he was killed by lethal injection on August 14, 1941.

A few years ago, Gasovnachek, was shown telling his story at the age of 82. In his little white house there was a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read: IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE HE DIED IN MY PLACE. Every day Gasovnachek lived since 1941, he lived with the knowledge, "I live because someone died for me." Every year on August 14 he travels to Auschwitz in memory of Maximilian Kolbe.


People of the older generations have a better appreciation of someone sacrificing their life so that we can live in peace and prosperity. In the park just behind the church, across from the railway station, there is a war memorial and a list of those who gave their lives in defence of our country, our freedom and our interests.

We live in freedom and many of us in luxury today because of the heroic actions of those who have come before us. We should not forget those who died so that we can live in the Shire today.


Jesus Christ has come into the world. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have the opportunity to enter into eternal paradise.

We read the stories in the bible and some people think they are just good, inspirational fables. But the scriptures reflect a very real relationship between God and humanity.


God did create the world, in whatever format that may have taken place.

God did create human beings as a reflection of himself.

Human beings have rejected God and the ways of love, peace, relationship and joy.

Human beings have used each other, have made each other suffer and we have become further and further away from God.


At different moments in history, God sent signs through storms and floods,

God sent prophets to call humanity back to a relationship of love with God and love with our neighbour.

But people have failed to listen.

Eventually God decided to become human to show us how to become like God. But Jesus is far more than a good example to us. Jesus gave his life, he suffered and died, to make up for our failings and sins so that we may life.


How does this work?

St Paul in the New Testament explains how Adam and Eve in the Old Testament committed a grave crime. This crime caused division between God and humanity.

With any crime, there is a punishment and a penalty to be paid in order for the relationship to continue. If someone is caught speeding, you may lose points and maybe your licence, and you will have to pay quite a large fine.


But what happened with Adam and Eve?

Adam and Eve, the first human beings, the representatives of all of humanity broke relationship with God. They offended God and chose to walk in a different way. The punishment was that humanity was no longer able to walk in God’s presence, no longer were we able to live in the Garden of Paradise, and no longer were we to live for ever. But humanity did not want the relationship restored.


Jesus came into the world to renew the relationship between God and humanity. Jesus suffered and died in order to restore humanity to God.

Through Jesus’ death, Eternal life and Paradise is offered to all of us. Those who believe in God, those who have faith, those who live the ways of Jesus Christ will live for ever.


Today we focus on Jesus’ death. I invite you all to think about how we would live without the intervention of Christ. How could we live without a God? What would life be like if death was the end?

Life without the hope of resurrection, a life that ends permanently with death I think would be miserable. Think about this. Pray about this. The Church gives us Good Friday to think about our relationship with God. Are we dead or do we want to live for ever?


All of us are here because we believe that there is something beyond the grave.

If there was no after-life then we could live lives that have no consequences. We could do exactly what we wanted to do, when we wanted to, and we wouldn’t need to think about anyone else.


God has come into our world as a human being. He has paid the penalty for our sins, for our rejection of God, so that we can have eternal life.


It is a miserable day, but it is with a sense of hope that we look beyond death.

In today’s Gospel we heard Christ give his physical mother to John the Apostle. Mary is not only the physical mother of Jesus, but she is spiritual mother of us all. We can learn from Mary about death and about hope.


One of the most famous sculptures in the world is Michelangelo’s Pieta. It is a depiction of Mary holding the body of Christ, after Christ has been taken down from the cross.

In Michelangelo’s depiction in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome one can see Mary with a serious and sad face. But Mary is not despairing. Mary is not crushed. Mary can see beyond the pain, the blood, the cross, the death. Mary, as a human being, is mournful. But Mary knows that death is not the end. On the third day, Peter, John and Mary Magdalene go to the Garden to visit the entombed Jesus, but Mary the Mother of Jesus does not visit the Garden. Mary knew that Jesus would rise from the dead. Mary heard the words of Christ and Mary believed.


My friends, Jesus has promised us eternal life if we believe and live his way. Jesus has given himself, his very life, so that our relationship with God is restored. Jesus has died for us so that we may have eternal life. Let us not forget what Jesus has done for us.

Good Friday is unhappy. It’s raining. It’s dark. In many respects today is like a funeral. But let not us forget that Good Friday is not the end. A funeral is not the end of life.


Christ has died, so that we all may have life.

Christ is risen, and we all will be risen from the dead, both spiritually and physically.

Christ will come again. My friends, let us be ready to meet the Lord when he comes. Mary is our model.

Mary helps us to say to Jesus:

Yes Lord, I believe, I thank you for dying and paying the penalty in my place, thank you for showing me how to live and to become like you. Lord, I desire eternal life, I desire to dwell in your glorious presence for all eternity. Loving Lord, come.


Mar 16, 2008

Homily for Palm Sunday, Year A - Given at Cronulla on March 16, 2008

Readings: Is 50: 4-7; Philippi 2: 6-11; Matthew: 21: 1-11 (Procession) and Matthew 26:14 – 27:66 (Passion)


An old fable tells of the donkey that carried Jesus on Palm Sunday.  The donkey got up the next morning,  with the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride. He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. “I’ll show myself to them,” he thought. But they didn’t notice him. They went on drawing water and ignored him. “Throw your garments down,” the donkey said crossly. “Don’t you know who I am?” They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move. “Miserable heathens!” he muttered to himself. “I’ll just go to the market where people will remember me.” But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he elegantly walked down the main street in the market place. “Where are the palm branches!” he shouted. “Yesterday, you threw palm branches for me!” The people beat him and drove him away. Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother. “Foolish child,” the mother said gently. “Don’t you realize that without Jesus, you are just an ordinary donkey?”


Just like the donkey that carried Jesus to Jerusalem, we are only fulfilled when we are in the service of Jesus Christ. Without him, all our best efforts are like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). When we serve Christ, when we serve the great King, we are no longer ordinary people, but key players in God’s plan to redeem the world.


Today’s we read two gospels. The first gospel was at the beginning of the Mass and we heard the story of Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem. Later in the Mass we read the Passion. To save the passion for Good Friday, I will today speak today about Palm Sunday.


The Palm Sunday Gospel describes the royal reception, which Jesus received from his admirers, who paraded with him for a distance of two miles: from the Mount of Olives to the city of Jerusalem. Jewish historians estimate that two and a half million people were normally present in Jerusalem to celebrate the Jewish feast of the Passover. Faithful Jews would travel from all parts of the world to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.


Jesus permitted such a royal procession for two reasons:

1) to reveal to the general public that he was the promised Messiah, the King of Peace and

2) in order to fulfill the prophecies of Zechariah (9:9) and Zephaniah (3: 16-19):   “Rejoice heart and soul, daughter of Zion…. see now your king comes to you; he is victorious, triumphant, humble and riding on a donkey…” (Zech. 9:9).


I have often heard people claim that Jesus rode on a donkey because he was humble. But riding on the donkey has far more significance than humility.

At the time of Christ and before Christ, kings used to travel in processions on horseback only during wartime, but they preferred to ride a donkey in times of peace. 

The Book of I Kings 1: 38-41 describes how Prince Solomon used his father David’s royal donkey for the procession on the day of his coronation.  Jesus entered the Holy City as a king of peace, fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.  The gospel specifically mentions that the donkey Jesus selected for the procession was one that had not been ridden before, reminding us of a stipulation given in I Samuel 6:7 concerning the animal that was to carry the Ark of the Covenant. 


Jesus is the king who brings peace. Jesus brings peace to our world and Jesus brings peace in the relationship between God and humanity.

During the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, nearly 25,000 lambs were sacrificed every year, but the lamb which was sacrificed by the high priest was taken to the temple in a triumphal procession four days before the main feast day.  On Palm Sunday, Jesus, the true Paschal Lamb, was also taken to the temple in a large procession.


My friends, are we ready to become like the humble donkey that carried Jesus?   As we "carry Jesus" to the world, we can expect to receive the same welcome that Jesus received  at first on  Palm Sunday, but we must also expect to meet opposition, crosses and trials. Like the donkey, we are called upon to carry Christ to a world that does not know Him. Let us always remember that a Christian without Christ is a contradiction in terms.  Such a person betrays the Christian message and name. Like the donkey, we do not have glory because of our own actions, but we have glory because of Christ, the King of Peace.

Let us become transparent Christians during this Holy week, let others see Jesus in us, let others see the love of God, unconditional forgiveness, and sacrificial service in us.


Christ rode on a donkey. Christ is the King of Peace. Christ is the Lamb of Sacrifice.


During this week, reflect on your life. Make a special effort to become a living and walking image of Christ, the King of Peace.


Mar 11, 2008

Homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent, Year A - Given at Cronulla and Kurnell on March 8 and 9, 2008.

Readings: Ez 37: 12-14; Rom 8: 8-11; Jn 11:1-45


In November 1982, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev died after ruling the Soviet Union USSR from 1964 until his death in ‘82. He was a man who believed wholeheartedly in the soviet ideology and he was perhaps one of the most anti-Christian leaders of his time. Historians have remarked about a silent protest which occurred at his State Funeral. Brezhnev’s widow Viktoria stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed in the communist Russia: she made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all made a gesture suggesting that her husband had been wrong. She hoped that there was another way of life--a life best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that this same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband and raise him up on the Day of the Judgment.  In today's gospel, Jesus’ assures us that anyone who lives in Christ and believes in Christ will never die.


Last Thursday a good friend of mine, and friend of many of the parishioners in this parish, was called to make his home with the Lord. John Russell was a longtime parishioner here at St Aloysius, he was involved heavily with the Catechetical programs, Scripture studies, and the list goes on. The readings the Church has given us for today are perfect for a sudden and recent death. All three of these readings are often read at funerals.


Our Lenten tour of St John's gospel is almost over. We can see the progression in themes from the thirst for living water (in the third Sunday of the Lent) to the desire to be healed of our spiritual blindness (IV Sunday) to our ultimate desire to share in eternal life with the risen Lord (V Sunday). Death and resurrection are the themes of today's readings. In his vision, Ezekiel witnesses the reanimation of the dead Israel in preparation for the return to the Promised Land. St. Paul assures us that the same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells within us will give life to our mortal bodies. In the context of Lent and coupled with the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Church reminds us that we too will be raised into eternal life after our battle with sin and death comes to an end.


Today’s Gospel is one of the great Gospel passages. The event is the miraculous return to life of Lazarus, but the message is the glorification of God.

Throughout the Gospels, Christ uses events and circumstances to help spread his message of Good News.

Jesus was a personal friend of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Jesus received information about Lazarus’ sickness, but Jesus does not drop what he is doing and go to Lazarus immediately. Jesus waits. Waiting for the right time is important. Jesus says: “This sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory, and through it the Son of God will be glorified.”

Jesus glorification is the paschal mystery – Jesus’ death and resurrection. Every person’s death is not the end. Through Christ’s death and victory over death, eternal life is offered to all.


What Jesus did by raising Lazarus from the dead was basically to sentence himself to death. The Pharisees could put up with a prophet who healed, or even a Rabbi who preached forgiveness. But a person who could raise the dead was dangerous and had to be got rid off. Some Scriptural scholars argue that many of the High Priests and Jewish leaders may have received their positions through corrupt and illegal practices, even to the point of killing those who opposed them. So for a man to have an ability to raise people from the dead, people who were silenced, was a real and substantial threat.


In the Jewish tradition, it is believed that the soul separates from the body three days after death, and once a person has been dead 3 days, the soul goes to its final resting place.


Jesus arrives in Bethany on the 4th day – this is significant. The reaction of Martha and Mary plays into this understanding. Both Martha and Mary believed that Jesus could have restored Lazarus to physical life anytime in the 1st 3 days after death, but after 3 days, even they thought Jesus couldn’t help.


Jesus says to Martha that “Your brother will rise again,” but Martha only thinks that Jesus is talking about the resurrection on the last day.

Mary, who only a few chapters earlier sat and conversed with Jesus for hours on end while Martha work hard in the kitchen, Mary refuses to even leave the house to come to Jesus. Mary must have felt let down by Jesus. Mary didn’t think Jesus could help. Mary says “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”


And then we have the shortest verse in all of the Scriptures: “Jesus wept.” Jesus showed that he is not only God but is also a human being. Then Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away and for Lazarus to come out of the tomb.

Martha, continuing in her disbelief, reminds Jesus that it is the fourth day. Martha is saying the Lazarus is no longer here.

But then Jesus called Lazarus and said: “Unbind him, let him go free.”


My friends, Jesus is showing us through the raising of Lazarus that he is truly God. Only God can put a soul within a person, and according to Jewish tradition, the soul had completely separated from the body of Lazarus.


Jesus is telling us that he is the resurrection and the life. Anyone who lives and believes in Jesus will never die. My friends, do we live with and in Christ? Is Christ the most important thing in our life?


Eternal life is what Christ is offering. Do we want to live or to die? The most important question for all us should be:  are we ready to face our deaths?  This is a strange question and its truthful answer is found in the sacred writings of the Hindus. “What is the greatest wonder in the world? The answer is:  all of us know that we will surely die, but each of us foolishly thinks that he or she will not die any time in the near future."  Let us not be foolish; even Lazarus eventually died, even after being raised. We all will die. Let us be wise and well prepared and ready to meet our Lord with a clear conscience when the time comes.  Let us daily conform ourselves to the ways of Christ and live in Christ, let us believe in Christ, and let us be resurrected and be granted entry into eternal life.


Mar 7, 2008

Homily for the 4th Sunday of Lent Year A: Given at Cronulla on March 3, 2008.

Readings: I SAM 16: 1, 6-7, 10-13; EPH 5: 8-14; JN 9: 1-41


During the Depression of the 1930s, a boat captain managed to make a modest living by piloting his boat up and down the Mississippi River, in the United States.  His boat was old and needed repair.  The engines were grimy, emitting soot and smoke. The captain was untidy and rude. It so happened that on one of his trips, he met a travelling missionary, who introduced him to Christ and the Gospel. The captain’s conversion was profound and authentic.


One of the first things he did was to clean up his boat and repair its engines.  The deck and deck chairs were freshly painted and all the brass fixtures were polished. His personal appearance and demeanour were transformed. Clean shaven and with a smile he greeted his customers who remarked about the change in the man. In reply, the captain said, “I was spiritually blind; but now I see people and events as they really are.  I have gotten a new glory and it shines out in all I do.  That is what Christ does for a person; he gives him clear vision and a glory.”


This story is similar to the story of St Francis of Assisi. St Francis left his family and his life of wealth and pleasure and he opened his eyes. The first thing St Francis saw was a run down and abandoned church – the church of St Damian. St Francis prayed in this church and St Francis’ eyes were opened. He heard a message from God: “Rebuild my church.” St Francis began by rebuilding this small abandoned church. But as Francis neared the completion of his work of restoration, he realized his mission was for greater – his mission was to rebuild the whole church.


My friends, we have similar missions. Like the captain on the boat, and like St Francis, we need to open the eyes of our heart and put our heart in order, before we look and see what is around us and how we are to contribute.


Today’s readings remind us that it is God who gives us proper vision in body as well as soul and God reminds us that we should be constantly on our guard against spiritual blindness.


Although the Pharisees have long since disappeared from history, there are still many among us who are blinded by the same pride and prejudice. Spiritual blindness is very common in modern times.  Perhaps the most awful disease in our country today is spiritual blindness. Such blindness refuses to see the truths of God's revelation.  This blindness refuses even to admit that God or Christ exists.   In their pride, the spiritually blind claim that everything ends with death and there is no life after death.  They accuse believers of childish behaviour.  They ignore the gifts of the intellect we possess.  God's revelation through Christ informs us that there is a future life awaiting us in which our spiritual faculties and our transformed bodies will be fully and fittingly glorified.


My friends, every day each of us look in the mirror, sometimes over and over again throughout the day. We may see that our hair is mess, that it needs brushing. We may see that we need to shave. We may notice that we are going grey and that we are putting on weight.


But my friends, do we reflect about who we are or do we look only at the physical?


When we look in the mirror, we should see Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfection of humanity. We should see God when we look in the mirror, or at least we should admit that we have things in our life that are not right, that are not correct, that are not beautiful.


When our hair is mess, we brush it or we go to the hair dresser or barber.

But if our spiritual lives are a mess, do we pray and do we seek the healing and cleansing presence of Jesus in the Sacrament of Confession? Lent is a time when we are all encouraged to visit Christ the healer in the Sacrament of Confession.


Do we make the effort to offer peace and love to others? There are probably some of us here who haven’t talked to a member of their family for quite some time, maybe even years. This week, I invite you all to open your eyes. To see how we are broken, how we are divided, and I encourage you to make an effort in bringing about healing. Make a phone call and see how an old forgotten friend is or see how a member of the family is going.


Allow Jesus to heal your spiritual blindness.  We all have blind spots in our lives, in our marriages, our parenting, our school situation, our work habits, and our personalities.  We often wish to remain in the dark, preferring darkness to light.  It is even possible for religious people in our day to be like the Pharisees: religious in worship, prayer life, giving of money, and in the knowledge of the Bible--but blind to the poverty and pain around us.  Let us remember, however, that Jesus wants to heal our blind spots.  Ask Him to remove from us the root causes which blind us:  namely, anger, hatred, prejudice, jealousy, addiction to evil habits, hardness of heart, and ultimately pride.


Do we see a terrorist in every member of a particular religion?  Do we see people who are addicted to drugs as mere sinners?  Do we fail to see God at work in our lives because He has shown us no miracles?  Jonathan Swift said the "Vision is the art of seeing things invisible."  Let us remember that this gift belongs to those who can see the good hidden in suffering and failure.  It resides in those who never give up hope.  Let us pray for the grace to see and experience the presence of a loving and forgiving God.


This Lent is an opportunity to put our lives in order. To open eyes and see how we are called to make changes to our lives, and from there, to rebuild the church, as St Francis was so inspired to follow.


Homily for the 2nd Sunday in Lent, Year A: Given at Cronulla on 16 February, 2008.

Readings: GEN. 12: 1-4; II TIM 1: 8-10; MT 17: 1-9


The story of the transfiguration of the Lord is one of the great moments of Christ’s life. At Christ’s Baptism in the River Jordon, the Heaven’s were opened and a voice from Heaven said: “This is my beloved Son, my favour rests on him.” Theologians believe that the Baptismal opening of the Heavens occurred to show the Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen one of God – and thus the public ministry of Jesus began.


Today we hear the story of the Transfiguration in the midst of Lent and once again the Heavens are opened and a voice from Heaven says: “This is my beloved son, Listen to him.” Peter, James and John went up the mountain with Jesus and they are told from the Heavens to listen to Jesus.


The apostles were following Jesus, but time and time again they misunderstood what Jesus was telling them. Peter said that he was willing to follow Jesus wherever he went, but when Jesus talked about a brutal death and crucifixion, the apostles would hear nothing of it.


It is thought that the transfiguration occurred not long before the final days of Christ’s life. After coming down from the mountain, Jesus and his disciples headed towards Jerusalem for what would become the passion of Jesus Christ.


The story on the mountain is a great story full of meaning. Jesus becomes as white as light, he begins to glow and shine forth his divinity. And then Elijah and Moses appear with Jesus. Heaven is shining forth on earth.


Peter, James and John see what is occurring and Peter decides to do something. Peter was enjoying this moment so much that he wanted to preserve this moment for all time. Peter wanted Heaven on earth.

What occurs next is very interesting. Matthew tells us that while Peter was still speaking, a cloud covered them with shadow and a voice from Heaven spoke “This is my beloved Son, Listen to Him.”

And as the cloud was lifted, the only thing Peter, James and John could see was Jesus.


My friends, there are times when each of us want to have Heaven on earth. There are times when we might say: I am enjoying this moment so much - I never want it to stop.

But my friends, believing and following the ways of Christ is not only for our personal satisfaction, for our personal spiritual growth.

Following Christ takes us beyond the deep spiritual experiences of Heaven and takes us towards Jerusalem, towards the Cross, and then towards the Resurrection of all the just.


The apostles were following Jesus, but they weren’t listening to him. Time and time again Jesus said that we must take up our cross daily and follow him. Jesus spoke about his imminent death but the apostles would hear nothing of it.


Lent is a time for us to become more like Christ – to allow Christ to change us - to change our person. Because of original sin, each of us is tempted to put ourselves first before anyone else. Christ is showing us through Lent that we need to look beyond ourselves, to look beyond our security and our safety zones.


When we are doing the will of our Heavenly Father, it is not from our personal power or control that we achieve anything, but it is Christ’s power living within us and making us more like God.


In St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, there is a very famous artwork painted by Raphaello called The Transfiguration. Raphael believed that it was his finest artwork, not just artistically, but also theologically. Raphael paints a story about how Jesus is the centre and focus of our lives – Jesus gives us strength.


When Jesus came down from the Mountain after the Transfiguration, he finds the other apostles trying to drive a demon out of young boy. Some of the apostles were trying to do it by quoting passages from the Old Testament. Others are laying hands and others are trying different methods which could be called almost witchcraft. But none of the apostles were able to drive the demon out of the boy.

Then Christ, comes to the boy, lays his hands on the boys head and the demon is driven out. Then the apostles ask why they were unable to drive the demon out. And Jesus famously says: There are some demons that can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

In the next couple of chapters following these events, Jesus reminders the apostles time and time again that they have no power from within themselves. The only power they have is given by God.


This Lent season is a time to reflect on our lives.

As a country we reflected on our life as a nation last Wednesday when we said sorry. What the Prime Minister did reminded me of Pope John Paul II during Lent in the Jubilee Year in 2000. John Paul II apologised and asked for God’s mercy for all the evils done by Christians throughout the history of the Church.


Reconciliation requires each of us to allow someone else to have power of us. In many respects, the Indigenous people of Australia now have power of us. They may request compensation and they may not. Whatever the case, they called to act in a godly-way – they are called to forgive and they are called to have mercy on us.


Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving calls each of us to reflect on who is in control of our lives. Who is important in our life and where do we find power and strength.


My friends, Lent is a time for us to become transfigured with Christ. We need to provide more space for Christ in our life. We need to continue to choose Christ as the source and centre of our lives.


In each Mass our offering of bread and wine becomes transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. At each Mass we pray, we fast for at least an hour and we make an offering to the poor.


Each Mass should be the source of heavenly strength against our own temptations, and a source of renewal of our lives during Lent.  In addition, communion with Jesus should be a source of daily transfiguration of both our minds and hearts. When we receive communion, we do not absorb the food, but Christ absorbs us – we become more like God. We must also be transformed by becoming more humble and selfless, sharing love, compassion and forgiveness with others.


Do you want a good idea for Lent? Maybe choosing to come to an additional Mass during the week could be your Lenten observance and preparation for Easter.

The Mass is the great act of penance: the great act of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. The Mass is the great encounter and experience of Jesus which calls us beyond the transfiguration, which calls us towards Calvary and from Calvary towards Heavenly glory.