Friday, February 05, 2016

Catholic Reflections 532 : Homily 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 7th February, 2016

Homily 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 7th February, 2016
First Reading - Isaiah 6:1-8

Responsorial Psalm

Ps 137:1-5. 7-8. R. v.1

(R.) In the sight of the angels I will sing your praises, Lord.

Second Reading - 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Gospel - Luke 5:1-11

Any public speaker or homilist can take heart from the fact that Our Lord’s first public speech…  his first sermon… (which we heard last weekend), resulted in a large crowd of people picking him up and wanting to throw him off a cliff…. So, it is highly unlikely that one’s first talk will ever be received as badly as that!

In the first reading, the Prophet Isaiah is called by God, but he looks at himself and says, "I am not worthy"…….and so, in response "God sends an angel to touch Isaiah's lips with a smoking-hot ember and tells him that God has MADE him pure…  God deems him worthy of the tak he is being given.

So, it is not the place of (even) the great prophet Isaiah to tell God what he is or is not worthy of. 

And in any case, there is a lesson here that we humans can take a long time to learn -  that it is not all about our efforts and willpower, but rather it is primarily about God’s grace. This is a timely reminder when we are just about the commence Lent, next week. It is possible to fall into a bit of a trap;  treating Lent as a time to prove to ourselves and God just how strong our willpower is in resisting temptation; and how much personal self-control we might have in giving up things we usually like; while, actually it is really about making more space, (more room) for God and for God’s transforming grace.

The Prophet Isaiah learns this lesson if the first reading and the the same happens with Saint Peter in today’s Gospel.

Thank goodness for the early disciples. We look up to these wonderful people. But, they are also revealed to be people with weaknesses, with foibles, sinfulness, failure, and, (at times), a shocking lack of trust; and a hesitancy of faith. And at other times they show fear, and sometimes even cowardice. Because of this list of flawed leaders, it reveals how good God is, and how wise God is. And how utterly dependent we ALL are, on God's grace. Its not so much about us, but about God!  Without God’s grace, we can do nothing. God makes use of the humble things we have to offer and transforms it according to God’s good purposes.

Jesus is not ever saying to us that we should wallow in our sin, or use it as an excuse to stay stuck in our old ways and old sins. We know we should never say: 'this is as good as I can be….' // However, God also wants to remind us that our worthiness is not the issue, because actually- (as many great saints throughout history remind us by their own life stories); none of us is worthy of ourselves. None of us is worthy without God except that we are all lovingly created by God and are made worthy of God’s love. It is God who makes us worthy. We never earn God’s love, it is freely given as a generous act of graciousness. It is God who calls us. And it is God alone who knows what we are capable of, and who calls us to fulfil it. The difference between the saint and the sinner is not their worthiness before God, but their determination NOT to stay stuck in their weakness or their own wilfulness or limitations, but to put their trust and all their cooperation and openness into God's hands. We are then transformed into instruments of God's love and grace. Living, cooperating instruments in the hand of God, the perfect artist.

St Peter, Saint Paul, Isaiah, Jeremiah……   King David… Saul…. Moses…….  the list goes on and on: Great people. People who did God's will. But, ALSO, these same people were at times, terrinly weak and sinful. Who sinned. Sometimes they even betrayed their calling or resented or doubted it. But, nevertheless it was God who called them. God knew them and what they truly could do, and held them to that. They trusted in God's wisdom, mercy and guidance, and of course, relied on God's grace.

Again we can reflect on our own experiences of weakness and forgiveness, both by the Lord and by others. Being forgiven is a humbling experience, but one that allows us, like Isaiah, to step forward and volunteer for the Lord's work. 

All of us are invited to reflect on our own refusals, (big and small), where we at times declined to accept God and His power and His presence. God is not there to frighten us; nor to condemn us to be frozen into inaction by our limitations; but, rather, God loves us into being everything God wants for us.

Whenever believe and to accept forgiveness for our weaknesses and failings, and put our reliance and our cooperation into God’s grace, then we are able to be given-over to the work of the Lord.

As with Saint Peter, we can doubt many times and we can deny but eventually, when we believe and trust, our lives can be transformed into a reflection of God's mercy, God’s compassion and graciousness. 

It would be ridiculous for a pencil to refuse to be taken into the hand of a great artist, claiming that it is not talented enough to draw a masterpiece. And it would also be crazy for a pencil to claim credit for the work that was wrought through its important use. Naturally, we know that we are not inanimate objects, and we are not merely passive objects in God’s action. God has lovingly and graciously willed that we will always be conscious, helpers, co-workers and cooperators…  heirs and family, participating in God’s work. But we always keep in mind whose work it is we are doing and guard against relying too much on our own efforts or our own virtues and going down dead-end paths,  and we also avoid the other extreme, inaction when faced with our limitations. Both extremes (which we are called to avoid carefully), are based on putting ourselves in the centre of things instead of God.  

But there is more. Did Jesus learn something from his previous rejection in his hometown. He preached alone and this met with utter rejection. The crowd almost killed him. He narrowly escaped being thrown off a cliff. Now, he goes and calls followers to join him, support him and be company on the journey; AND, what a hard journey it is. He (as always) calls a community around him.  

Simon Peter experiences a great miracle. In the least expected situation, not on a mountain top somewhere, but in the ordinariness of his workplace; he experiences this amazing event because he was huble enough to listening to someone telling him how to do the job he knew so well. Our Lord shows him a new and dramatic and  different way… and the results are huge…….. 

This is a timely reminder to us:

We must connect the gospel to our daily words, actions and priorities, or it will not make sense.

Secondly…. We ….  (Just like the disciples), need to work together… in unity… and in community. Like the disciples who were ALL needed to help haul in the enormous catch of fish…

We must always take our cues, as best we can discern them, from Christ… If it is only about our own individual efforts and priorities, our toil may be heavy and it may be misdirected. We never want to work like slaves on something and find that our struggle was mysteriously fruitless; like the fisherman who laboured all night (and applied all the experience and wisdom of their trade and still caught nothing), but, then Jesus asks them to trust him and follow his ways and do the same activity but under his direction, and they catch more than they can hold. Jesus’ ways are not the most ordinary, and not the most logical. However, they are the way of the gospel, and only by following Our Lord, (which is almost always the road less travelled), can we hope to bear fruit for Jesus good news……

Today let us ask the Lord to deepen our faith and give us the courage to proclaim his marvellous deeds. Let us be able to say: Here I am, Lord. Send me!"



Fr Paul W. Kelly


the Abbot, Monastery of Christ in the Desert,  ;

Gustavo Gutierrez, Sharing the Word through the liturgical year/

reflection from Madonna Magazine, Jan-Feb 2007.


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Thursday, January 28, 2016

Catholic Reflections 531 : Homily 4th Sunday in ordinary Time, Year C 31st January 2016

Homily 4th Sunday in ordinary Time, Year C 31st January 2016

            Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19

            Psalm 71:1-6, 15-17.
I will sing of your salvation

            1Corinthians 12:31-13:13

            Luke 4:21-30
This weekend’s gospel could be titled:  “How quickly a friendly crowd turns nasty.”

Last week, we heard of Jesus giving his “inaugural speech,” and this week we hear the end of it, and it is almost the end of him too!

The crowd are astonished and impressed to start with, but then when Jesus starts to tell them some home truths, which challenge their thinking, well that is entirely another story. Suddenly the crowd do not like what they are hearing. Worse, they reject his message. Now they start to reject his message, not because it is false, but because they think they know him TOO WELL; “Who does he think he is, he is just the carpenter’s son! What would he know?” 

Wisdom and truth can be found everywhere. Why would we only accept the truth if we think the speaker is some kind of “high and mighty” character? Why would we think that because we know the person speaking, that this neutralizes the truth of the words they speak? People we don’t know can tell the truth or a lie and people we know can also tell the truth or a lie.  The news is full of people who cannot believe ill of someone they think they know and cannot think well of those they don’t (and vice versa).  It might be a natural human inclination to based our decisions on irrelevant factors like familiarity or not, but truth exists outside of those accidental characteristics. It is like those fallacies of logic and those argument we used to learn: “argumentum ad hominem.” That Latin word refers to “arguments based on the person or their qualities” rather than the issue. For example:  “Don’t listen to him, he is from Brisbane.” Attacking the person or qualities about the person, rather than dealing with the substantial content of the actual message. In cricketing terms, I think it is called “playing the man, not the ball.” But I reckon deep down whenever we dismiss someone based on external qualities, we are often just trying to neutralize a threat when we do not want to hear something that challenges our mind-set.

I wonder if that is why there is a strong human tendency to find a neat category and label for everything and every-one? Once we have categorized everything and everyone, then they are not as risky to us.  If we think we “know”  a person too well, we may think that we can control them to some extent.
Jesus is the living example of the expression, ‘familiarity breeds contempt.’ 

Jesus shows us something else that is quite unsettling. It is not sufficient to know the words of Scripture off by heart. The people listening to Jesus knew all-too-well the words of the Sacred Scriptures. These lines were extremely familiar to the people of Our Lord’s time. In the Gospel, people seem to be contemptuous of Jesus, who was also far too familiar to them to  be taken seriously.

People thought they knew the Scriptures backwards. They certainly were comfortable with the Scriptures. Perhaps, over many years, they may have found comfortable and satisfying explanations to their issues which did not unsettle and challenge them. Now, suddenly Jesus is interpreting and teaching the meaning of these old familiar texts in a way that they really did not like? Jesus’ understanding of the Scriptures (which was the TRUE meaning of the Scriptures), was to make God’s Word full of challenge again. The way Jesus was teaching was making them feel uncomfortable and they were not so cosy in the knowledge that as the chosen people everything was all fine and no worries. 

Over the eighteen years since I was ordained, every so often in different places, I will take a scripture passage and say:  "....a couple of things that can be taken from this Scripture today is……” -  I say words like that deliberately, because I am always aware that there is a lot more that can be taken from the same Bible.  There is not just one meaning for every text. The Bible texts are “alive and active” and engage us in the here and now, as well as its original context.

It always worries me if I offer a new and different angle on an old familiar text and then someone comes up later and says, ‘but that text is about this and not that.’  And I feel like saying, ‘yes, but not JUST “that” but also this, this and this!  We should always be wary that we are not becoming like the angry crowd listening to Jesus. Let us be careful that, like them, we do not ever put the filters on so tightly that no matter how much we offer a new and sometimes challenging and less comfy reading of a text, we will settle right back into our own familiar understanding of these passages and, worse, get annoyed or aggressive if the message of the gospel challenges us. If we ever feel we have fully understood a passage of scripture, we should be a bit suspicious. If we FULLY understand a passage, then it may be because it is dead or locked up.

Having said this, there are those who make the opposite mistake. They apply a weird logic: “Our Lord got people upset in his life, so if I want to be a true follower of Jesus I need to challenge and upset people too..”  This may be too literal. Jesus did not wake up each morning and say: “now what can I do that can get people so riled up that they will want to throw me off a cliff?” Rather, I think Christ acted and taught with compassion and passion and grace. His honesty and passion opened up issues that sadly some felt quite violently opposed to.

The people listening to Jesus represent all people listening to the teaching of Jesus – us, other Christians and all who hear his message. The crowd did not like what they were hearing! So, what do they do? They do not open their hearts and minds to widen their understanding, but instead they do what people have done to challenging and unsettling messages, they try to throw the messenger off the nearest cliff.  This is what they mean by the saying “don’t shoot the messenger.” 

It is almost comical in this scene that, although Jesus is the bloke they are trying to kill, he is described as having simply slipped through their midst and walks away unnoticed. One could almost visualize the crowd disappearing up the hill, as Jesus walks casually away in the opposite direction. What a sight!  When they get up to the top of the hill, their anger and denial has been so blinding that they look around and realise that the object of their anger has vanished. This is also a symbol of the fact that our fervour in holding on to our own selfish mindsets can be so powerful that we can even lose sight of the original object who challenges us. 

Was Jesus so ordinary looking, so average, so unnoticeable in those people’s eyes that when they lost sight of him they did not even notice he was no longer amongst them, in the crowd gathered to throw him off the cliff? In so many ways, ‘they just did not “get him” or his message.’
Let us be vigilant to ensure that we never fall into this same trap.
Fr Paul W. Kelly

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Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Catholic Reflections 530 : Homily 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. 24th January, 2016

Homily 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C. 24th January, 2016

Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10Psalm 18:8-10. Your Words Lord are Spirit and life 1Corinthians 12:12-30
Luke 1:1-4: 4:14-21
The letter to the Corinthians, the second reading this weekend, expresses very clearly our normal human experience: I do not have all of the gifts of faith, but when I relate with others, when we share our gifts and talents together we form a certain kind of wholeness. This is so important to remember today, when there are pressures to see ourselves as individuals who merely exist within a society…   St Paul calls us to a vision of Christ’s good news which sees us as integrally and essentially united in such a way that we are one body, and not just any old body, but one body IN Christ.  As john’s gospel says elsewhere, Christ is in us, and we are in Christ as Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in the son. Perfect communion, perfect unity, one body, one heart”**
Last week, we reflected upon the amazing sign of the “Wedding at Cana.”   Jesus gave us a foretaste of the unimaginable depths of God’s graciousness, generosity, love and care.
Jesus, by the action of turning an incredible and overwhelming amount of water into wine, set the scene for the overwhelming acts of self-giving, self-sacrifice, love and generosity that would always characterise all of his ministry.  And now today, Jesus spells out the blue-print for that generous and compassionate ministry, in this extraordinary speech in the synagogue of his home town. This speech is a stunning declaration of the dawning of a new era of God’s kindness, favour and grace. All the hopes and dreams of the poor and the needy have been noticed by God and committed to God’s care.
In the gospel today we hear probably the greatest, most dramatic and stunning of all homilies ever given. It was Jesus’ inaugural speech. Here, only just dawning on the people, was the surprising revelation of God’s messiah, the Anointed One, the Christ!  Jesus, who is God’s beloved son, is about to tell people the reason he was here. He tells them what his priorities would be and what he was going to do in his ministry.  
One commentary asks a very good question at this point: What might YOU have expected from God’s first speech to his people? What surprises you about what God’s first speech, in Jesus’ words, actually says to us?
For myself, I suppose I might have expected what I suspect the people of Jesus’ day were also expecting: something very much like John the Baptist’s preaching; intense, passionate, an indictment on the many injustices and wrongs that the world has wrought and a commensurate “calling to order” or a “reckoning” perhaps.  
What is most surprising, and it really should not be, is the reminder of just how much humans can underestimate God’s ways. God’s word is filled with the most moving graciousness, freshness, hope, lightness, forgiveness, lack of harshness, and absence of condemnation. God’s word is a declaration of good news for the poor. God’s word is the way of freedom for people who are experiencing in their lives enmeshment  and imprisonment in some way. Freedom, for those who had lost their way, and lost their sense of direction and clarity, a return to vision, a re-direction for those who had done wrong and who found themselves to be outcasts and sinners.  Jesus brings the surprising message of forgiveness, of lifting of burdens, of the cancellation of debts. Guilt washed away, and “beholdenness” erased. For all, a time of God’s favour! Amazing! Unexpected! So much better than we could ever have imagined or hoped for.    
The other stunning thing is how Jesus takes a well know text and fires home one final shot that floors them all. “This is not just some old text… it is being brought to fulfilment right here, right now… as I speak………”  (His words declare!).  
And of course, it is not just Jesus’ words; for his actions, his life confirm the truth of what he has just announced. He not only reads this passage out, he then immediately began practising what he preached. He begins, in his ministry, DOING what he said here. And it brings hope and renewal to the world, joy to many and, – (sadly and surprisingly), - it also evokes hatred from those who felt threatened and undermined by what Jesus had come to establish.
All the readings this weekend show examples of great preachers, who are excellent because they practise what they preach. The Law of the God is alive in them and they cherish its meaning and treasure it in their hearts. They live their message!  There are of course many people who have never publicly preached a word, but who nevertheless have made their whole lives an inspiration; their lives, their actions and their whole way of being and relating in the world is a great wordless homily. I think not only of the holy women and men throughout history, but also the everyday people who have inspired us by the way they lived their daily lives. So many holy people we have known in everyday life, have shown us that their very lives and actions are an excellent “homily in action”…….  And as such deeply, inspiring and persuasive…. 
What then do we do? We do not always live up to the standards of these inspiring holy women and men, when we, at times, all fall short of the ‘fullness of the good news of Jesus.’  Sometimes we do not always live as we proclaim. There is an interesting quote by a 7th Century ascetical writer, in the famous book “The Ladder of Divine Descent”:
“If some are still dominated by their former bad habits, and yet are still able to teach and inspire by mere words, let them teach and inspire with words still…..For, perhaps, being put to shame by their own words, challenged by how their actions are falling short of their words, they will eventually begin to practice what they teach.”    
This is a refreshing and interesting new angle on the (at times) high and mighty angle that one usually takes on demanding we be consistent in word and action. Naturally we all strive and are challenged to live out the faith we proclaim, to have our actions match our words, the words of Jesus good news. But we also acknowledge that none of us is perfect, but here still there is hope………. #
In the Gospel, Jesus’ home town of Nazareth, was an important place. Some might have mistakenly assumed that Nazareth was a small country township, but in fact, it was a major centre, with a sizeable population, probably about 20, 000 people. This was a major city.

It was also in a very, very important location. The hill nearby was not just some minor feature. If the boy Jesus, when he was growing up, had gone up that hill and peered over it, the world, he would have seen, in a sense, the world sprawled out in front of him. Before his eyes were the major trade and travelling routes from all the other different regions. Jesus would have watched the world go by as he sat there on that hill in Nazareth.  And nearby (an hour’s walk from Nazareth), was a town called Sepphoris, which was the location of Herod’s palace for a time. Sepphoris was a town of beauty, prestige, privilege  and wealth. It would have been a town Joseph and Jesus may very well have worked in, with carpentry work in this major time of building.

And so, Jesus’ speech in the Synagogue of Nazareth is timely and well-placed.  At the cross-roads of the nations, God has intervened in our history and has come to give us news. And, thank goodness, it is very good news indeed.

So, Our Lord proclaims from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah. It is clear that Jesus was a regular attendee of the Synagogue. Every Saturday he would attend. He clearly appears to be already accepted as a rabbi or a teacher, as he is reading from the text and speaking about its meaning.

Jesus observed the Law of Moses and was faithful to his attendance at religious observance. Even though there were clearly aspects about the way people were practising that he must have found issue with, perhaps sensing that they had lost their focus, he was nevertheless very much faithful to the practise of his faith.  He did not reject the religious institution of his day, even though it had become flawed and lost its direction in many ways.

Jesus’ speech is really his mission statement. This is what he is here to do! This is his purpose and his mission and it stands in surprising contrast to John the Baptist, who came declaring a time of judgement, uprooting and retribution. Now, here comes Jesus, declaring “good news for the poor, freedom to captives, and declaring a time of God’s favour.” It is wonderful! It is surprising! And, it is very good news. This is not to suggest that John was on the wrong track, for we truly do need to repent, change and turn back from our old ways, in order to be part of the Kingdom. Although Jesus’ news was indeed good news, he did not mince his words in relation to the fact that the Kingdom of God would be shut in the faces of those who persistently live in opposition to Christ’s message and values, or who continue to mistreat the vulnerable and needy, (a people for whom God has special concern). Jesus came to usher in a quite surprising Kingdom of grace, inclusion and overflowing mercy and kindness for all the nations and for all people who would accept his message…

There still is some bad news, too, amidst all this good news.  Jesus’ message is bad news for all who have arranged the world around them to suit themselves, and to the disadvantage of others.  Even Jesus’ good news will soon anger those who do not want everyone included in God’s invitation of being broadly included as part of God’s family. But Jesus will not water-down his message.  

And we can ask ourselves: who are the ‘poor’ to whom Jesus has come:

·         The poor are the hungry and the thirsty..
·         The poor are also the homeless and the sick..
·         People physically, emotionally or spiritually scarred…
·         Those suffering the burden of age…
The poor are also:
.      The sad and depressed
·         Those suffering from natural disasters as well as those suffering from human-made ills…. 
·         Those suffering injustice,
·         Those who are unemployed…   those struggling on low income..
.          The poor are also those who feel unloved, unwelcomed, un-forgiven, or  left-out…
·         The poor are also the alcoholics, and drug addicts…
·         The addictive gamblers….
·         Those who have enough food and shelter and material comforts, but do not know God and are missing much in their lives…

The list goes on…

“The poor” are all of us! In one way or another, we are all poor. Many of us are captive to one thing or another in our lives. We all desperately need the news Jesus has to give us. So this news from Jesus is for all of us and for everyone. We take heart that Jesus has us in mind when he begins his mission to save and help all people and to free us from what imprisons and impoverishes us.

The first step seems to be ‘freedom’ – if we are not free, then things hold us back from being the loving people God calls us to be….  If we are not free, we are limited in what response we are capable of giving to those in dire need. If we are not free,  we are trapped in values, priorities, actions and mindsets that that do not give us life. If we are not truly free, we can waste our time and energy on that which does not truly and fully satisfy.

Jesus words are not merely ‘talk’ but rather they give us hope to trust in him. Jesus has the way to true and complete life, joy and fulfilment. He needs to free us and wants to free us from things that bind us up. Once freed, the Kingdom will flow in and through us with unimaginable effects.

Let us allow Jesus words, his good news, his invitation into a new and heroic way of living, draw us deeper into a way of living that matches these words. If we look inside our lives and see ourselves falling short in this aspect of the Word or that, Jesus invites us to not lose hope, but to continue to proclaim his word, allowing his word to draw any gaps or inconsistencies ever smaller until, with God’s grace, there is little or no inconsistency. This of course, is a journey of a lifetime, but in faith, we allow Jesus to take us along this unfamiliar path.      
And again, on this Sunday, we give praise to Jesus, our first and greatest teacher and preacher, whose gracious words matched so perfectly with his life and his actions… and whose words, in 2016, continue to be “fulfilled in our hearing.”

Let us trust in our Lord, who is truly good news for us poor and captive. In fact Christ is the best news we will ever hear.

Fr Paul W. Kelly
# 365 days with the Lord, 2007
**Adapted from homily from Christ in the Desert Monastery website.
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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Catholic Reflections 529 : Homily 2nd Sunday Ordinary time year C. 17th January, 2016

Homily 2nd Sunday Ordinary time year C .17th January, 2016

In this weekend’s gospel, the Wedding in Cana, where the wine runs out and threatens massive embarrassment to the bridal parties, the words of Jesus never cease to challenge and intrigue:  “woman, why turn to me? My hour has not yet come.” This is an unusual response.  But it matches with something later in the same incident.  The steward comments about the miraculous and extravagant and good quality of wine that Jesus’ miracle provides: “people generally serve the best wine first and keep the cheaper sort till the guests have had plenty to drink, but you have kept the best wine until last.”

Christ’s ministry was an extensive one; his mission was all-encompassing. It’s final focus would be nothing less than the fulfilment of his mission through something he described as his great and ultimate “Hour” or “Time” when he as the sacrificial Lamb of God would offer his very self for the life of the world.  Christ’s great message is that God leaves the best for last, and the good news is that at the very last, God will be utterly faithful to us and fulfil all his promises to us. 
Everything about God, and Christ’s earthly life and mission and his suffering, death and resurrection, is TOP Shelf.  No half-baked quality here, but the best of everything for us.

At the very outset of his public ministry, Mary his beloved mother asks Our Lord to help a wedding couple in a socially embarrassing situation at their wedding reception. Christ turns this simple act of kindness into a SIGN of the Kingdom and a sign of the meaning of his ministry, which is to provide the best wine of mercy, compassion, inclusion, charity and heartfelt invitation into the Banquet feast of the kingdom.  He is surely asking this question of his Mother in an ironic way?  “Why turn to me? My hour has not yet come to provide the Best wine of the Wedding Feast of the Kingdom of God, where I will be the Bridegroom and the People of God will be the Bride.” Of course he immediately helps and uses this incident as a foretaste of what is to come. And what a beautiful foretaste it is. If this is just a sample of the Kingdom, then our minds are truly blown. And astounded we should be. This is the richness, the graciousness the absolute non-stingy fullness that God operates out of all the time. This is what we are invited into.

This gospel would have to be one of the most delightful and profound of passages. It has so many levels and is rich in symbolism. 

You can tell from the subtle difference between what is said and what is done, that the translation of this particular incident is complicated and our traditional translations do not quite capture the full picture of what is going on here. If we could have seen the faces of Jesus and Mary as they spoke, if we could have observed their body language and the tone of voice with which they spoke, the true meaning might be even more clear.

To expand on the situation, this is probably a more accurate picture of what was going on:   Mary turned to Jesus and said, “they have run out of wine.” (This situation would be an intolerable humiliation to this humble village wedding couple and their families, and a terrible failure of the strong traditions of hospitality expected in that time and culture).  Mary was clearly feeling for the terrible embarrassment and shame that would have occurred for this poor family.

Perhaps they could not afford the sufficient amount or wine required, or perhaps Jesus bringing along his disciples led to the numbers of those at the feast being larger than planned.  If we could see Jesus reaction, it would reveal much.  He says to her, “Woman, why turn to me? My hour has not come.”  Or perhaps better still, this can be more effectively rendered as “My Lady, is this the time when I will pour forth the new wine of the Kingdom? Surely this is not THAT time?”  He is being ironic, and prophetic. 

Jesus knows that he has come into this world to usher in the fullness of the Kingdom, and to pour forth the new wine of the covenant sealed in his own blood, poured forth to ransom all. He knew that the new wine of the Kingdom would only come in its fullness when he had suffered and died and rose again.  I think he had a twinkle in his eye (and perhaps even a tinge of sadness as he noted that this was all ahead of him….  It was all yet to come. However, this moment would be a little forerunner and sign of the true wine of the Kingdom which is about God’s utter faithfulness, God’s graciousness and mercy and God’s Kingdom of joy, justice and inclusion.  The Virgin Mary knew he was going to do something about this situation, for he was graciousness and compassion personified. Mary trusted in him totally.   Mary also surely knew that he was to do greater things in the future, of which this example was only a foretaste….  

It strikes me too, that John the Baptist has been preaching the imminent coming of the Messiah. John the Baptist had warned of a time of God’s judgement and retribution.  This wedding miracle, however, makes it quite clear, that the Messiah will come not with a big stick of judgement, but with the graciousness, mercy, generosity and the Joy of a time of great Jubilee celebration.  Jesus, the Messiah would characterise the Kingdom of God as a messianic Banquet feast, rather than an apocalyptic time of punishment and judgement and retribution. Perhaps Jesus reply to Mary (remembering that he was still in the very early days of his ministry), also indicated, “So, is this how it is to be? Not fasting, austerity, punishment and severity, but the overflowing generosity and joy of God’s time of favour? So be it then. Let us see already unfolding the outpouring of God’s overwhelming generosity. Let us see!  Let us taste!  Fill those stone jars over there, and let us see which it is to be, (For Jesus trusted totally in his Heavenly Father and was utterly obedient to the Father’s will, as Mary would certainly have known when she asked the question of Jesus and when she instructed the attendants to obey Jesus’ instructions to the letter!), 

There is something else, too.  This is a profound miracle and a beautiful sign. It is a reminder of God’s blessing of marriage, and the gracious generosity of God’s love for us, and his joining with us in the joyful and sacred moments of life.   Also, what a wonderful miracle to convince people of God’s message.  Why did Jesus not reserve this amazing sign for a more so-called “important” event, like a dinner where Herod was present, or where Pontius Pilate was there to be convinced beyond doubt of Jesus’ credentials.  But, of course, that is not God’s ways. That would be human thinking…  

God deliberately chose a humble family wedding, in a small and poor village to show the utter fullness of God’s glory and graciousness.  God’s message is for the poor. God’s Kingdom is found in the “everyday” and the “ordinary,” and the humble shall inherit the Kingdom.  It is also for the ordinary people that Jesus came to bring the Good News, just as much as the high and the mighty.  

It also says something about the importance of the ordinary, everyday events of our home life, our work life and our social life.  God’s Kingdom is to be encountered just as much in the everyday and ordinary events of life as in the occasional and the extraordinary events that can occur. 

This wedding feast miracle “brought God right into the home circle and into the ordinary things of life. Jesus' action at Cana of Galilee shows what he really thought of a home. God "manifested his glory," and that showing of his true Glory took place within a home. There is a strange paradox in the attitude of many people to the place they call home. They would admit at once that there is no more precious place in all the world than one’s home; and yet, at the same time, they would also have to admit that in it they claim the right to be far more discourteous, far more boorish, far more selfish, far more impolite than they would dare to be in public. It is not uncommon that people can treat the ones they most love in a way that we would never dare to treat a chance acquaintance. So often it is strangers who see us at our best and those who live with us who see us at our worst. We ought ever to remember that it was in a humble home that Jesus manifested forth his glory. To him home was a place for which nothing but his best was good enough. It was where he put his best foot forward. We have already seen that in the East hospitality was always a sacred duty. It would have brought unspeakable embarrassment and shame to that home that day if the wine had run out. It was to save a humble Galilaean family from hurt that Jesus put forth his power. It was in sympathy, in kindness, in understanding for simple folk that Jesus always acted.



THE GOSPEL OF JOHN. Volume 1, (Chapters 1 to 7). REVISED EDITION. Translated with an Introduction and

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Catholic Reflections 528 : Homily Baptism of Our Lord - C. 10th January, 2016

Homily Baptism of Our Lord - C. 10th January, 2016

This is the main symbol of baptism. Water represents washing clean and re-birth and renewal. Water is a perfect symbol, as it contains so many meanings: It is an absolutely essential element for life.
It contains so many meanings within itself: health and life, danger and threat. Water represents enormous power and also soothing, renewing, gentleness, and washing and restoring.
Water and baptism are wonderful symbols that show us that following Jesus means we want to “immerse” or “plunge” ourselves into Jesus’ way of life. Baptism is a word that literally means “to plunge” and we believe that Baptism is not just a sign of following Jesus, Baptism actually achieves the very real connection between us and Jesus, and makes us one with his life and with the life of all other believers in Jesus.
In baptism, we become a beloved and cherished child of God. We become children of the same Father in heaven. Our Heavenly Father is so generous, so lavish in love and praise, as the gospel today tells us, that the Father, upon Jesus rising from the waters of John’s baptism literally tears the heavens apart and pours down the most wonderful praise, confidence and blessing upon his beloved son.

As one commentator says….
“We are told that God rends the heavens to lavish praise on his son— a son who, up to that point, had yet to accomplish much of anything. It must have been indescribably affirming and motivating for Jesus as he was about to begin his most challenging and self-emptying ministry. Although Jesus is God made human, he was also fully human…. and in need of encouragement and affirmation and strength from his beloved father who was in heaven… and who happened to be the father of all things….. Jesus was now absolutely assured and commissioned in the loved and confidence of his heavenly father….and confident that God the Father was completely pleased with him.” (Patrice J. Tuohy).
It is a timely reminder, that affirmation and sincere praise of one another is an important human need. We live in a culture where it seems easier to voice criticisms. It seems that for some, even if they are not actually unhappy with anything, it is not so much praise that follows, but rather silence. So we live in a world where there is too often criticism or begrudging silence. Then at other times we can get the other extreme where people compliment others with empty and insincere words that do not connect with the reality of what is happening and which therefore do very little good. Still others can feel that they should not praise others for fear that it might give the other a ‘big head’ or that the praise may be taken as mere flattery. Having said that, there is no substitute for sincere, heartfelt and constructive affirmation, encouragement and praise, which is a form of gratefulness in words. Affirmation is simply naming that for which we are grateful. 
Praise is so important. Good managers know this, as do teachers, coaches, counsellors, volunteer coordinators, and fundraisers. Anyone who is trying to get someone to take the next step, or stretch themselves, or to constantly strive to reach a higher level of commitment or performance, uses affirmation at appropriate times.
For people who live without affirmation and who live with constant criticism, they get the crippling message that everything they do is never good enough or that nothing they do will really satisfy or meet with approval. For a person who gets false praise, they either feel that the words are meaningless or else they rely on compliments that do not really give them an accurate indication of who they are and what they are doing and how it is affecting others for the better. And then there are those who get good, positive feedback and affirmation, even when setbacks and the occasional mistake or failure come their way, and have developed resilience and are not defeated, because they believe in their value and the strength of their own worth, persevering through any struggles and challenges.

It has always been a bit of an intriguing thing that Jesus went to John the Baptist for Baptism. Why in the world did Jesus, God’s Son and our messiah, go to John the Baptist and request baptism from HIM?

John the Baptist was performing baptisms for the repentance of sin, and we believe Jesus was without sin. So why was it so important that he be baptized?

But, in some way, calling John’s baptism a ‘baptism of repentance’ is only a ‘shorthand’ summary of a much more complex reality.

People were coming forward for John’s baptism, because they not only were needing to repent from sin, but also because John’s baptism represented an extraordinary movement closer toward God by the people. This as the beginning of a world-shaping and world shattering time. John was calling people into a new and deeper relationship with their God, a radical calling to be part of God’s Kindom in ways that are closer than ever before. John’s preaching and his invitation for people to be baptized, was a definitive public action by all who accepted his call, to confirm that these people were wanting to be forever part of (and affiliated with) the movement of God’s Kingdom. This is the Kingdom of God that John the Baptist had been preaching about and preparing the people for. This same Kingdom would be fully established by Jesus Christ.

This was a key moment in Jesus’ ministry. From this point on, he would commence a very public and urgent ministry.

Jesus clearly did not need to be forgiven from any sin. In fact, in this gospel version of Jesus’ baptism, it does not say Jesus is LOOKING for baptism. It says he “accepts” baptism after all the others are baptized. So perhaps it is better to say that Our Lord did feel the strong need to be identified publicly with the movement of the Kingdom of God that John was preparing the people for. Jesus was the fulfilment of the Kingdom that John the Baptist was preaching about. So, in this act of Jesus being baptized, that fact was made quite clear. Jesus was completely identifying himself with all those who were committing themselves to the public way of the Kingdom of God, which he embodies so perfectly and completely. And then, when he was baptized, the heavens resonated with that truth to reveal that he was the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom.

And Jesus actions were deeply successful as he knew it would be. The Father’s voice confirmed that this action he took was the right one. Jesus was revealed to be the chosen one, the eternal Son of God. He is the one in whom the Heavenly Father is most pleased.

The words used by the Father are interesting too… “you are my beloved Son” Psalm TWO was a passage traditionally interpreted by the people of this time as a declaration of the Messianic King. “In whom I am well pleased..” is a familiar line from the prophet Isaiah 42:1…. Which culminates in the suffering servant……..(chapter 53)… So, Jesus knew that his sonship and mission was always going to involve not glory and earthly dominion, but suffering and the cross. The Cross loomed large in Jesus’ vision right from the outset. But it makes sense in the total commitment of Jesus to the vision of God’s Kindgom, which would challenge contrary powers and priorities and require all the love and sacrifice one could possibly muster. Jesus embodies this total commitment to his Father’s vision for the world and us.

Jesus’ baptism by John did the opposite, (in one sense), to what it would do for us. For us, baptism forgave our sins, but for Jesus it was HE HIMSELF who made holy the waters that touched him. By being baptised, Jesus invested baptism with the power of his presence and holiness and the power the Holy Spirit.

We who have been Baptised, in the Baptism of Jesus Christ, are called to remember the fullness of the meaning of this baptism. By being baptized, ”we are permanently and truly connected to Jesus Christ, and we share in his life and his relationship to the Heavenly Father. Our baptism is a real union with the life, values and person of Jesus, who is God made flesh. Let us be stirred into constant practical action, so as to live the Good news in our lives.

Our Baptism is intended to have real, permanent and practical effect in our lives.

Our baptism, echoing Jesus’ actions in the Jordan, is a huge “Yes” by us. We are saying “yes” we too want to share Christ’s life. Yes, we wish to truly immerse ourselves in the values and movement towards God that the Good News embodies. We want to be connected to Jesus who is utterly committed to the establishment of the Kingdom in its fullness. And we too, are aware of the necessity of the Cross which is the unavoidable cost of that commitment. There is always going to be a worthwhile cost and the reality of suffering in any love that serves. Love that suffers and actions that make a difference are founded firmly on the values of Christ.

Jesus made holy the waters of baptism, by investing this beautiful action with his very self and all they he stands for. Let us ask Our Lord to keep us committed to his vision of the Kingdom in all ways and at all times; in thought, word and action.




2010 – A BOOK OF GRACE-FILLED DAYS. BY Alice Camille


PATRICE J. TUOHY,, 2008, TrueQuest Communications, LLC.

Fr Paul W. Kelly

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Friday, January 01, 2016

Catholic Reflections 527 : Epiphany of the Lord. Year C. 3rd January 2016

Homily Epiphany of the Lord. Year C. 3rd January 2016

On this feast of the Epiphany, we celebrate that God’s glory has been revealed to all the nations, and not just the chosen people of Israel. People from every corner of the earth, of every nation and race. Generations of people. God’s revelation, God’s invitation is for all people of all times and places.
Saint Paul puts it so nicely: “God had a secret plan, formed before all ages. And that plan is now revealed, and it is this; in Christ Jesus, the Gentiles, (people from other religious and cultural backgrounds and nations), are now CO-HEIRS with the Chosen people of Israel, members of one and the same body and sharers in the promise of God, through the proclamation of the good news…” We are one big global human family!
Are we becoming more and more one human family? (A)
This is a hard question to answer. In some ways, the answer is “yes.” Technology, medicine, communications, transport, aid to needy nations, multinationals, globalization (which means good and bad things). We certainly are more and more aware that we are part of something much bigger than the local. Yet, in other areas we see nations breaking up into smaller factions, and we see social and ethnic groups in tension, we witness news of wars, strife, poverty and starvation in poor developing nations. The jury is still out on how far God’s dream for the world is being fulfilled. But, one thing is for sure, it is not for want of God’s desire, God’s work, and God’s calling. God has made it abundantly clear what kind of a world God wants to foster.
I was given a poem to read and it is so very topical to this feast day. It is the poem by TS Eliot, entitled the “Journey of the Magi.” The commentary says of this poem, “This poem is not one of Eliot’s most famous, but it is a very good example of plain and direct language, and very well illustrates the complex and mixed emotions and issues going on for the author prior to his conversion to Christianity …….(B)
In this poem, the Journey of the Magi, he writes..
T. S. Eliot's "Journey of The Magi".
“'A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.'
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.
All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down this,
set down this: “were we led all that way for
Birth or Death?” There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But, had thought they were different;
This Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death,// our death. //
We returned to our places,// these Kingdoms, //
But no longer at ease here,// in the old dispensation, //
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.”  (B)
This poet, Eliot, captures something about the journey of the wise men to find the Holy family and particularly the savior lying in a manger. It is our journey too. It is our journey of life as well. It is our religious pilgrimage through life. Our journey to conversion and beyond is the same.
For, our journey of faith is not an easy one. It is filled with challenges, inconveniences, doubts, obstacles and stumbles. And how many important faith journeys have we heard critical, negative voices, and the ‘prophets of doom,’ or people who make fun of the rare path a person needs to walk along. The voices of doubt and negativity need to be ignored, endured, moved beyond!
The journey to conversion, the complete commitment of heart and head towards Jesus good news, is a real odyssey. Like the journey of the Magi, the journey to find Christ is like a death, and a rising to new life. And we, like the Magi, return home to where we came, but by a new way. In the bible, a change of path symbolizes conversion. And after encountering Christ, everything looks different, because Jesus invites us to see it all though his eyes. We now see the world around us more and more through the lens of the Good News. We now see life through the eyes of Christ’s compassionate care for those most in need. We being to have a vision for the inclusion of all.

As the Bible passage mentions: “Bethlehem, by no means the least of all the cities” -  Like Bethlehem, which, at first sight seems slight and insignificant, and “lesser” – yet, here is where Jesus is born; humble, vulnerable, poor. So too, the poor and the forgotten may appear insignificant to some, but it is through them that the Lord’s presence is revealed.” (C) 

The Wise Men realized this that first Christmas and it changed everything. It changes everything for us too. Come let us worship!

Fr Paul W. Kelly
One commentary –“365 Days with the Lord” asks rather relevantly.
“80 Great Poems, From Chaucer to Now” - Geoff Page. UNSW PRESS. Sydney, 2006.
From Gustavo Gutierezz, Sharing the word through the Liturgical year. 

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Catholic Reflections 526 : Homily Mary Mother of God. Year C. 1st January, 2016

Homily Mary Mother of God. Year C. 1st  January, 2016

Happy New year! 

2016 is upon us.

What better way of celebrating the beginning of a new calendar year than by dedicating it to the care and prayer of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, and the first and most perfect disciple.

We pray that Our Lord Jesus, through the constant prayer and intercession of the Mother of God, will bless and protect us and give success to our work, as we strive this year to be faithful disciples of Christ in our daily lives and actions.

It is wonderful at the start of each new year to give thanks to God for the many gifts and blessings we have received in the year just ended, and to give thanks in anticipation for the countless opportunities, graces and blessings that God will give us this coming year. It is a time for new starts and looking forward to how we can be the best disciples of the gospel that we can be.

Even though our church year actually started a month ago at the start of Advent, nevertheless, the start of the calendar year is still an important milestone. It is the year of Our Lord 2016. Another year which we commit to the service of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Mary the Mother of God is a wonderful inspiration for us too.          
Mary’s prayers and example assists us as we dedicate ourselves to  help (in any ways that God asks of us),  to establish God’s kingdom in the places we live and work and socialise.

And for many of us, the new years eve last night was not so much a time of revelry and late partying, but rather a wonderful chance to treasure all these things in our heart, to ponder everything that has happened to us this last year, and to prayerfully and quietly reflect on the year ending and the new one beginning.

We have so much for which to be grateful: All the people and events for which we are truly and deeply thankful; including our families, our friends, our brother and sister parishioners, our wider community, our nation: which is blessed with so many natural gifts and the gift of relative peace and freedom, and grateful too for the gift of our Church too; the gift of our faith, which makes us beloved daughters and sons of God. 

As I have said before,  I truly believe that, as part of our regular prayer it is very important to constantly remember the many gifts, graces and blessings we have received, and all the things we give thanks for, (focusing only on the positives). It is truly astounding how many things we can give thanks for, for we are surrounded by so many gifts and blessings. We have so much to be grateful for that we often cannot comprehend or recall them all unless we regularly take time to recall them and journal them.    

It is so important to have a grateful, remembering heart. The Blessed Virgin Mary always had a remembering heart, even when, (and especially when), things were going terribly wrong and did not make the slightest sense. Mary the mother of God pondered, prayed, praised, thanked and cherished and trusted in God.

If I may, I would like to make a short detour to talk about a modern day example that is quite relevant to this subject of gratitude, I a writer and columnist, Maralee McKee, who specializes in advice for different social and life situations, wrote something very recently that is quite impressive on a seemingly ordinary topic of writing thank-you notes after receiving gifts or attending functions. She writes: "Gratitude does more than fulfill an etiquette rule. It does more than fulfill our social obligations. It changes us, and it changes the receiver. It has the power to renew hearts and save lives. I know this first hand. John Milton wrote, 'Gratitude bestows reverence.....changing forever how we experience life and the world.' He's right."

Maralee writes a great article on gratefulness, which I link here below. I have always felt that graciousness and hospitality and 'etiquette,' (for want of a better word), is more than just a social convention but reflects reverence and respect for one another and is a little glimpse of he ultimate graciousness which we find in the greatest example of graciousness, welcome and appreciation of all, Our Lord, who proves to be the most perfect and hospitable of all hosts in life and the Kingdom of God and in every respect. The article continues rather interestingly: "The people who define themselves as happy aren’t so because of their circumstances or finances. The joyful understand that the key that unlocks this treasure trove of living is gratitude.

They meditate on their blessings and will tell you about them if you ask how they’re doing despite what difficulties they’re facing. For those who don’t live in joy, it’s arrival has been delayed by worries, unmet expectations, unfulfilled wants, and an inability to see their blessings through the fog of their wants. Each day brings new disappointments that keep joy  just out of reach. Humans aren’t naturally content. We tend to reach out for more. We say to ourselves, “Joy will come in the morning.” However, until we count the blessings already given to us, joy will always be a day away.

Yet, when we are actually in the moment of expressing gratitude whether it’s through a text, phone call, email, or via the gold standard—a written thank you note, we actively stop reaching out for more and focus on what we already have. In those moments we experience the apex of contentment: joy."

Well said, in my opinion. Maralee, near the end of the article gives an extraordinary example of how expressing gratitude and taking time to appreciate others actually helped save a life. It is worth reading the whole article, and other articles, as I really feel it is quite implicitly consistent with the many everyday ways we reflect gratitude and appreciation and show God’s graciousness in our daily actions:  

In our New Year’s Masses, (dedicated to Mary the Mother of God), who is the first and most perfect disciple of Jesus, We present our discipleship and prayers.

We offer up prayers for the year that has ended.

We offer up all the good we have done in the previous year to our God. 

May God transform all our efforts for the good, for God’s own good purposes.  

 We think of our loved ones, friends and fellow parishioners who have passed away this last year past, and pray for all our departed loved ones, as we continue to commend them to the ongoing and eternal care of God. We trust that they are now enjoying the peace and reward of God’s eternal kingdom.

And we offer up prayers for all our loved ones, friends, colleagues and parishioners, that God may hold them in the palm of his hand this coming year.

It is a good thing for us to make new year’s resolutions, knowing that only with God’s grace and guidance can these resolutions bear much fruit…
At the start of 2016 we pray that 2016 will be a year filled with grace and happiness and peace. And, when we speak of a happy new year, we know that God’s idea of happiness is a fresh and challenging one. It is this TRUE happiness we are really seeking. It is God’s idea of happiness that we really desire.

“Look at Mary and Joseph kneeling before the manger. They must be tired. They have traveled 75 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem on foot and on the jolting back of a donkey. They must be very hungry. They have not had a real meal since they left Nazareth some three days ago. They must be cold in this damp cave, in the midst of winter. It must have been very humiliating for them to discover no room among their relatives in their ancestral home or at the village Inn.

Yet in the midst of all of this, Mary and Joseph are the happiest people to walk the face of this earth. Here in Bethlehem they are teaching us the amazing paradox that it is only when we lose ourselves in the love and service of Jesus that we find true happiness. Happiness that this world can never give and no one can take from us. But how can we lose ourselves in the love and service of Jesus? Jesus has made it very simple,
“Whatever you do for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you do for me.”

So on this first day of the New Year let us ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, love him more and more fully… and follow him more closely” ((quote from Fr Rodney Kissinger, S.J.)
…..So that this may be a truly Happy New Year according to God’s vision for the world.

It reminds me of times when things did not go to plan and alternative plans needed to be made and it initially cause confusion and frustration but when we look back they were some of the happiest, unexpected and blessed moments that we can even smile about later, even if it didn’t seem to be any cause for smiles at the time it was happening.

For the new year, beginning, we ask God to bless and make fruitful our words, our actions and our work, and help us to live the witness to the good news…

May God bless us and keep us in faith, hope, love and health in this new year 2016 and beyond. May Mary, the beloved Mother of God, pray for us in good times and in times of trial or struggle, and keep us in her tender care  as we faithfully follow our beloved Lord into this new and exciting year of possibilities.

Fr Paul W. Kelly

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