Aug 25, 2008

Homily for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A - Given at Cronulla on August 24, 2008

Readings: ISAIAH 22: 19-23; ROM 11: 33-36; MATTHEW 16: 13-20


Today’s Gospel has two main parts – The question and answers, and then the commissioning of authority to Peter.  Caesarea Philippi, the place where today’s Gospel event occurred, is important for understanding what Jesus was asking. Caesarea Philippi was, in many respects the coming together of the religious, political and economic worlds. Caesarea Philippi was founded by Philip, the son of Herod the Great, as a summer residence and to perpetuate his memory and to honor the emperor Caesar.  The city was at the center of pagan religions.  There were temples for the Syrian gods Baal and Pan, the Roman god Zeus, and a marble temple for the emperor Caesar.  Jesus realized that if his disciples did not know who he truly was then his entire ministry and his suffering and death would be useless. Jesus also wanted to make clear that the apostles needed to understand that his message is relevant for all the world.


The first question Jesus asked was: “What is the public opinion?” What do people say about Jesus? My friends, this question is as relevant for us today as it was 2000 years ago for the apostles. What do people say about Jesus, the Church and the ways of goodness, of love and of commitment?


When Pope Benedict was in Sydney told us that

“there are many today who claim that God should be left on the sidelines, and that religion and faith… should be excluded from the public forum altogether... This secularist vision seeks to explain human life and shape society with little or no reference to the Creator… If God is irrelevant to public life, then society will be shaped in a godless image.” (From the Speech at Barangaroo)


My friends, we can see this around us. Each of us I am sure has experienced or witnessed a godless approach to life.

Perhaps we have heard other things about Christ and the Church. Church is a waste of time, God doesn’t really exist. God didn’t create the world. God is dead.


At the beginning of WYD, our Prime Minister Kevin Rudd spoke about public opinion of Jesus, and he spoke courageously about his faith in the Church and Jesus Christ.

“Some say there is no place for faith in the 21st Century. I say they are wrong.

Some say that faith is the enemy of reason, I say, also they are wrong.

Because faith and reason are great partners in our human history and in our human future. Rich in humanity, rich in scientific progress.

Some say only that which they see wrong in Christianity and in the church, I say let us speak also about what is right in Christianity and the church.”


The second question Jesus asked was: “What is your personal opinion?”

 For the first time in their relationship Peter, speaking for the other disciples, declared publicly: “You are the Christ (Messiah) the Son of the living God.” Peter was the first apostle to publicly recognize Jesus as the Anointed - the God who became Man to save sinners.


My friends, What does Jesus mean to you?

Is he a Founder of a religion?

A Revolutionary Jewish reformer?

One of the great teachers?

Son of God and personal savior?

“The way the truth and the life?”


This can perhaps be broken down into other questions:  "How do we really view Jesus? Do we see Jesus as Good Shepherd, Saviour, and Redeemer? Is He our beloved friend, closer to us than our spouse or children, father or mother? Is Jesus a living experience for each of us, walking with us individually, loving us, forgiving us, helping us and transforming our lives and outlook?

What difference does Jesus make in our lives?  Have we really given our life to him?  Are there areas where we have excluded Him, where our lives are not noticeably different from the lives of those who see Jesus as irrelevant?

Being a Christian makes us different from the rest of world. Faith is not coming to Church. Faith is a way of life.

Coming to church on Sundays is being thankful to God, is recommitting to faith, is a growth and nourishment in love, and coming to Church is an opportunity to support, serve and connect with our community and to prepare for eternal life.


Who do we say that Jesus is in our daily life? Who do we say that He is when we are in the presence of those who don't know him, those who aren't interested in him? Are we ashamed? Do we never speak of Jesus or the ways of Jesus?

What does the way we live and behave say about who Jesus is? Is the joy, the love, the peace that we find in Jesus reflected in the way we live our lives? Christians should be people of joy, love, peace and service.


My friends, like any important relationship, we need to nourish and strengthen our commitment every day.

As the Mass continues, I invite you enter into prayer and not be a spectator. Truly ask Jesus to fill you and I and each of us with the presence and love of Jesus. At communion, each of us will make our personal statement of faith, like Peter in today’s Gospel. Each of us will in humility come to the altar of God and say “Jesus come into my life. Nourish me, heal me and make me your arms, your ears and your voice in the world.”


When you receive communion today, look up at the host and say within your heart the words of Peter: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And as the minister says “The body of Christ” make your ‘Amen’ mean what you are saying. Don’t be half-hearted about it. Your Amen is the public act of your faith in Christ and the Eucharist. It is a commitment for yourself but it is said to the minister, to the Church and to our God.


My friends, the world doesn’t believe Jesus to be present in us, or in the Scriptures, the priest, and especially not in the Eucharist. Make your Amen a statement of your commitment, your belief and your faith, not just for the rest of the Mass, but for the coming week, until you come to nourished and recommit publicly again.


My friends, let us now pause for a few moments to pray quietly, thinking about What we think of Jesus? Is he our Lord? Are we ready to receive him into our hearts and lives in communion? Do each of us really want to united with God?  Are we ready to become Jesus in our world today? Let each of us pray and reflect about our faith and our opinion of Jesus!


Aug 18, 2008

Homily for the Solemnity of the Assumption

Given at Cronulla on August 14th, 2008.


Today the Church begins the great celebration of the Assumption of our Blessed Mother, body and soul into Heaven. Tradition states that when Mary came to the end of her life, God completed the good work done in Mary and she was brought immediately home to heaven. From the earliest of times, Christians across the world have firmly believed and professed that Mary was taken up to Heaven, to join Jesus and the angels in paradise.

The complete unity of Mary with God did not begin at the Assumption, but in fact began at the Immaculate Conception, and continued at the Annunciation. At the Annunciation Mary made her Yes to God, and God respond with his heartfelt and loving embrace and said YES to Mary.

The Yes of the Assumption, the YES that Mary is with God in Heaven, Body and Soul, is the YES that each of us needs to make in our lives everyday.

When Pope Benedict was in Sydney, he spoke beautifully of the Annunciation and the YES of Mary. The Annunciation is strongly connected with the Assumption. Without the Annunciation, there would never have been the Assumption.

Pope Benedict said: In the Annunciation

“we reflect on Mary as a young woman, receiving the Lord’s summons to dedicate her life to him in a very particular way, a way that would involve the generous gift of herself, her womanhood, her motherhood. Imagine how she must have felt. She was filled with apprehension, utterly overwhelmed at the prospect that lay before her.

The angel understood her anxiety and immediately sought to reassure her. “Do not be afraid, Mary…. The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk 1:30, 35). It was the Spirit who gave her the strength and courage to respond to the Lord’s call. It was the Spirit who helped her to understand the great mystery that was to be accomplished through her. It was the Spirit who enfolded her with his love and enabled her to conceive the Son of God in her womb.

This scene is perhaps the pivotal moment in the history of God’s relationship with his people. During the Old Testament, God revealed himself partially, gradually, as we all do in our personal relationships. It took time for the chosen people to develop their relationship with God. The Covenant with Israel was like a period of courtship, a long engagement. Then came the definitive moment, the moment of marriage, the establishment of a new and everlasting covenant. As Mary stood before the Lord, she represented the whole of humanity. In the angel’s message, it was as if God made a marriage proposal to the human race. And in our name, Mary said yes.

In fairy tales, the story ends there, and all “live happily ever after”. In real life it is not so simple. For Mary there were many struggles ahead, as she lived out the consequences of the “yes” that she had given to the Lord. Simeon prophesied that a sword would pierce her heart. When Jesus was twelve years old, she experienced every parent’s worst nightmare when, for three days, the child went missing. And after his public ministry, she suffered the agony of witnessing his crucifixion and death. Throughout her trials she remained faithful to her promise, sustained by the Spirit of fortitude. And she was gloriously rewarded.

Dear young people, we too must remain faithful to the “yes” that we have given to the Lord’s offer of friendship. We know that he will never abandon us. We know that he will always sustain us through the gifts of the Spirit. Mary accepted the Lord’s “proposal” in our name. So let us turn to her and ask her to guide us as we struggle to remain faithful to the life-giving relationship that God has established with each one of us. She is our example and our inspiration, she intercedes for us with her Son, and with a mother’s love she shields us from harm.” (Words of Pope Benedict XVI before the Angelus in Sydney, on the Occasion of WYD08.)

Mary generously gave of herself to God – let us do the same.
Mary generously responded to the marriage proposal of God – let us do the same. Mary remained faithful despite the difficulties and sufferings she endured – let us do the same.
God promised Heaven to Mary and God delivered on His Promise.
Let us enter with Mary into the eternal paradise which God has promised and prepared for each of us and will deliver to us at the end of our earthly life if we are faithful to ours and Mary’s YES.

Let us pray: Hail Mary..


Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

Given at Cronulla on August, 17, 2008.

Readings: Is 56: 1,6-7; PS 67: 2-8; ROM 11: 13-15,29-32; MT 15: 21-28


There is a story about a Sydney man, who, together with his family, hosted a rabbi from Moscow one Christmas. To treat the rabbi to a culinary experience unavailable to him in Moscow, the Australian decided to take the Rabbi to their favourite Chinese restaurant. After the meal, the waiter brought the cheque and presented each person at the table with a small brass Christmas ornament as a complimentary gift. Everyone laughed when they turned the ornament over and read the label “Made in India.”  The laughter quickly subsided, when everyone saw tears running down the rabbi’s cheeks. The Sydney man asked the rabbi if he was offended at having been given a gift on a Christian holiday. Smiling, the rabbi shook his head and answered, “No, I was shedding tears of joy to be in such a wonderful country in which a Chinese Buddhist restaurant owner gives a Russian Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu in India.”


When Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was recently in Sydney he met with Leaders of other Christian Communities and also leaders from other religious faiths.


At the gathering, Pope Benedict said that “Australia is a country marked by much ethnic and religious diversity. Australia is renowned for the congeniality of its people towards neighbour and visitor alike. Immigrants arrive on the shores of this majestic land hoping to find happiness and opportunities for employment. Yours, too, is a nation which recognizes the importance of religious freedom… Your country recognizes that a respect for this fundamental right gives men and women the latitude to worship God according to their conscience, to nurture their spirits, and to act upon the ethical convictions that stem from their beliefs… Religious Freedom… allows citizens to act upon values which are rooted in their deepest beliefs, contributing thus to the well-being of society. In this way, Christians cooperate, together with members of other religions, for the promotion of human dignity and for fellowship among all nations.”

In this brief paragraph, Pope Benedict makes 3 key points:

  1. The importance of religious freedom.
  2. Contribution made by people of faith to the well-being of society.
  3. Promotion of human dignity and fellowship among all nations.


My friends, today’s readings speak of the expansive nature of the “kingdom of God.” Although the Hebrew people were God’s chosen race, God included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all the families of the earth. By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading) “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, colour, or gender. 


Today’s psalm reinforces this point. “Let all the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.”


In the second reading, Paul admits that although the Jews were the chosen people, most of them denied the promised Messiah and consequently, the Gentiles – the non-Jews (the people who most of us are descended from) received mercy through their faith in Jesus.


In the Gospel, Jesus proves that salvation was meant for the gentiles as well as Jews, by healing the daughter of a gentile woman as a reward for her strong faith, proving that God's mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in faith.


Very often we set up walls which separate us from one another and from God. Today's Gospel reminds us that God's love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in faith and trust in God, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have.


My friends, Christ did not begin the Church of Australia or the Church of Italy. Jesus Christ founded one Church – a community which was to unite people of every race, colour, gender and creed, so that God’s house should become a house of prayer for all peoples.


All the world is called to be the People of God, not just in terms of our Sunday worship, but we are called to overcome the divisions that exist within humanity. We are called to be one people.

Pope Benedict said: “My dear friends, I have come to Australia as an ambassador of peace. Our effort to bring about reconciliation between peoples springs from, and is directed to, that truth which gives purpose to life. Religion offers peace, but more importantly, it arouses within the human spirit a thirst for truth and a hunger for virtue. May we encourage everyone… to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!” Religion offers peace, but it makes us thirst for truth and hunger for virtue.

We need to work, day in and day out to pull down every wall which separates and divides  humanity. These walls are not only racial or religious, but it may be age, financial ability, or political preferences.


Some of the older members of our congregation may remember the Berlin Wall being pulled down which united Germany. For many of us, the Olympics is helping to open China to the world.

But we think of others walls – the wall between Israel and Palestine.

Perhaps it is not a wall but a bridge – Tom Ugly’s or Taren Point. 

Perhaps it is a separation between parish school and parish church.


Pope Benedict said: “Men and women are endowed with the ability not only to imagine how things might be better, but to invest their energies to make them better. Who is not impressed by the power of the human spirit to set goals and to develop ways of achieving them?”

My friends, we must invest in the future of humanity.

Each of us has investments – they may be in a bank, the stock market or in property. How do each of us invest our energies to make the world and our Church a better place, a more united and peaceful people?


Pope Benedict said that within everyone human being is a “religious sense which is planted within the human heart. This leads us to meet the needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good. Religions… teach people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, … cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world’s goods.”


My friends, humanity is meant to be united, and religion is meant to unite us, not divide. Let us pray that the walls which we have raised will crumble.


What will each of us do? What investment will each of us make? I can’t tell you what to do. God has planted within each of our hearts what we are to do for our world, our Church, our community.

Something has to be done. Let’s take up the challenge and make a difference!