Sunday, August 03, 2014

Paul's Reflections 487 : Eighteenth Sunday of the Year A 3rd August, 2014

Homily. Eighteenth Sunday of the Year A   3rd August, 2014     

Homily by Fr. Paul Kelly.

Give them something to eat, yourselves

These are rather excellent readings, which coincide with my last weekend here with you as parish priest. 

These reading remind us that in every age the Lord ensures that he feeds us with his Body and Blood; He nourishes us with his life-giving and transforming Word; He strengthens us with his grace;  restores us with his mercy and ….(first and foremost!), He loves us as his own, as sons and daughters…….with a bond of love that simply can never be broken.  Not even death, nor life, not distance nor time, nothing at all can separate us from God’s love. And then……. this gracious God sends us out as his family……his friends, his people, …….disciples and co-workers, to be an instrument of God’s nourishment and strength for others.

 

We give thanks to God, (this weekend and every weekend of our lives), for God’s bountiful love and generous care. For God knows our every true desire and thirst, and God seeks to satisfy our deepest needs, in his own wisdom and by his own mysterious ways which are not like human ways and thoughts.

 

With a deeply grateful heart and with thanksgiving for God’s gracious care, I am reminded of the many different ways God feeds his people.  So many wonderful memories, so many significant moments in the lives of so many….. it can’t be put into words…..  only treasured in my heart.  My thoughts go back over the last ten years and the truly beautiful ways God has been at work in and through his church, and in the wider community – in the actions and attitudes of people of goodwill everywhere, whether they be Christian or whether they simply hold values which are completely consistent with God’s values. God has constantly worked in and through his people and through the many opportunities to love selflessly, that are found in every single day.

 

Jesus gives us his love (a love that nothing on earth can ever separate us from).  And Jesus gives us the Eucharist, as the centre and source of the church’s life and mission. The word of God nourishes us and transforms us and challenges us.  And it is such a joy to be at the service of the God’s sacraments, which are a special means by which God gives this nourishment to his people. 

 

The readings today remind us about what it is all about…… Jesus!   And gets to the heart of why Christ acted the way he did….  Because he truly wanted to open our eyes to the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in God’s family….  that all people everywhere are called to recognise each-other as brothers and sisters in Christ……..Christ who is generous with his time, his resources and his love. Christ who is the living, breathing expression of the bountiful, loving  God. And this fills us with wonder and gratitude.

The first reading and the Gospel are connected today in speaking about eating. In the words of the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah: “Listen to me and you shall eat well!”  There are not many parts of the Bible that are this blunt. “If you follow the Lord, you shall eat well.” 

However, we know that it is not entirely accurate. So many people throughout history have been totally faithful to God and have nevertheless died of hunger. So what are we to make of these kinds of sayings? It would be great if anyone who actually was faithful to God would never have a problem with lack of food. We who live so many centuries later can understand that the promise is NOT only about this life, but about the Heavenly Kingdom, and the kind of food that sustains eternal life. 

We can easily think of places around the world where good people are starving – because they are not getting the basic things of life that they desperately NEED. The things every human needs. There have been so many people who did believe with all their hearts—and still they died from hunger. 

For those of us in the “developed countries” there is almost always plenty to eat. So, in a real sense it is true, God does provide the world as a whole with the things that are needed for life and sustenance.  However, they are clearly not evenly distributed…..   but God has given us the means to distribute more evenly… that is where it is up to us to make a difference…..!!!!!  We nations who have plenty need to act to distribute. SO, in a real sense,…   we could also say, adapting the words of Isaiah, “heed the Lord, and others will eat well…  for we will share and provide what is needed, according to God’s will.” (and why? Because God loves them all as beloved children.. and we are brothers and sisters to them all).

 

For a huge percentage of people in the world, (one eighth of the whole world population)…  there is not enough to eat. Can we comprehend a number like this…   800 million of our brothers and sisters in the world are starving. We need to ask ourselves what that might mean for us?  Do we as developed nations… or even as individuals….help with the hunger in the world? Are we, (inspired by the Gospel), willing to eat a little less so that others might eat a little more? The answer is of course, yes… and much is already being done.  Good news is that world starvation figures in many areas are decreasing, due to many efforts in science, medicine, food technologies and humanitarian aid efforts by so many groups and individuals…….But the figures (and the human tragedies behind those figures), are still alarmingly high. Surely practical action to help give food to the hungry IS helping to fulfil God’s will to give what is necessary to those who need… Surely when we do this, we are heeding God’s will so that all MAY eat. (We ALL truly hope and pray that everyone around the world is able to eat – and we take practical steps to ensure this may occur, which is God’s desire).

The disciples in this weekend’s gospel, come to Jesus to ask what they are going to do about meeting the needs of so many people.

Jesus tells them to do something about it themselves.

But, of course, they cannot achieve such a difficult job unless they stay close to Jesus and do what he tells them.

The gospel reminds us that, as followers of Jesus, we must always keep in mind the vision of Jesus: practical concern for people around us.

Jesus is so clear that he wants his followers to give food to those who don’t have any. 

Jesus is also, (naturally) referring to spiritual food too….   Such as the Eucharist and also nourishment from God’s Word in Scripture too. 
And so, we ask ourselves whether we have sufficient spiritual food for the journey? We need to keep looking for the presence of God in our own personal lives and in our daily lives of contact with all others?

THERE IS MORE THAN STARVATION IN THE WORLD. People are finding themselves “starved” in so many different ways in this world. Even in this country there are people who are “starving” - not so much for food, but for spiritual nourishment……   starved of affection; starved of having a place to “belong,” ….starved of healthy self esteem and sense of dignity and respect. The list goes on…  These needs for nourishment are a real need too.

Jesus is still at work in our lives and in the world; inspiring people of goodwill everywhere to respond with compassion and practical action to help the starving, the homeless, the sinner, the dispossessed, the ill.. and so many others in need.

The Gospel invites us to live as truly spiritual and practical men and women… in our present world. Brothers and sisters with all of humanity, acting in practical ways to nourish the physical, spiritual, intellectual, health and other needs in life.

 

Our Lord truly wants us to know that we are all, (everyone in the world), brothers and sisters in Christ, (wherever life’s paths lead us – whether we are near and far). If the world really and truly accepted this truth of being one big family….  the world would be better.. the world would change.. and be very different……  Let us ask God to open our hearts to His presence. May we know (always), His divine presence in every other person. And may our hearts always continue to be open and responsive as we find new and practical ways to answer Jesus’ instruction to his disciples.  Daily, we come to understand more deeply that it is because we are all brothers and sister to everyone, that he bids us (in so many ways)……: “you give them something to eat yourselves.” 

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Well,….   I come to the end of my parish ministry here….….but I still remain forever your brother in Christ…..  and you and I remain part of this wonderful catholic family …..including this archdiocese… so we are never really far apart…..

….   I would just like to again offer up sincere, heartfelt thanks for God’s many, rich, blessings received by us all over these last ten years here…  and for God’s constant care from generation to generation…  and I know that God’s blessings will continue here always…..

I bless and thank God for this parish, God’s people, the wonderful parish schools… the excellent work done (for God’s glory and honour) by so many parish groups and people… the wonderful work done also in and amongst the wider community around us…..  

Thank you for “each and every” …..of the “countless acts of kindness, graciousness and love”…  inspired by Christ’s wonderful gospel…

 

I will fondly remember you always.

And may God continue to bless you and the ministry of Fr George …..

….as you continue to foster the rich heritage of the Lord’s Gospel in this wonderful place….  

Thank you,

and May God bless you and keep you always. 

 

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Saint Paul puts everything so perfectly and gets to the heart of things so well. And so I shall end with his excellent words on my lips:

 

From the letter of St Paul to the Philippians (1:1-7a, 9-11)

 

I thank my God whenever I think of you; and every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes. You have a permanent place in my heart, and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Christ Jesus produces in us for the glory and praise of God.

 

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REFERENCES:

         FR. PAUL W. KELLY

        Plus, Break Open the Word

 



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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Paul's Reflections 486 : 27th July, 2014. Ordinary Time. 17th Sunday. year A.

17th Sunday Ordinary Time, Year A


I know that this gospel this weekend renews our constant desire and duty to ‘ever deepen and explore the richness and depth which is the absolute treasury of our faith that Jesus offers us, in and through the Catholic tradition, firmly founded on the Gospels.
So the parable about a person finding a treasure in a field….  is very fitting…….//   There are so many treasures from God that we honour…. The treasury of the people of God….   the treasure of the Good news entrusted to us by Jesus himself…. and the rich treasury of the Catholic Church’s traditions, history and wisdom…….      //  It is humbling… and invites us to respond by deepening our search, deepening our study….   and deepening our prayer……. to immerse ourselves in this treasury…   completely…….
In the parable… a man discovers a treasure in a field and sees that it is so valuable   that he goes and sells EVERYTHING, TO HAVE IT … and then goes back to dig it up…..
Jesus guarantees us. He promises us as God the son, and the King of all of creation, that HIS kingdom,..//  his good news…//  his offer of life and relationship is SO SPECIAL.. that it is more valuable than the rarest TREASURE… Nothing else on earth is as valuable as this……  It is worth giving up everything else to attain…//…  It has a richness and a depth that can never be fully plumbed……
As I read that parable…..I am reminded of the quote from GK Chesterton, (the great English scholar and writer – creator of the famous fictional priest and detective..  Fr Brown)…    he once wrote……(and I am paraphrasing it liberally here)…. .. ‘It’s not that Christianity hasn’t worked, it is just that nobody’s really tried it yet !’   (I think his actual words were…  “Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried.”)
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/gilbertkc102389.html#V0ZWFJjZMqeBZzpR.99)
So, to me,.,…..      what I fear in this day and age is that people are experiencing their faith like this parable………. Imagine a person digging in a field when they come across a pointy rock…..   …    it is hard… jutting out of the dirt…….but the little rock looks downright ordinary….   So the person stops digging and goes away after being distracted by a few shiny stones they see off in the distance….. ..    little did they know that this pointy old rock is an unpolished diamond….    And in fact it is merely the tip of a much larger treasure…. //  If they had continued to dig…. And dig in the right places…..they would have found a whole connected seam of the most fabulous treasure they ever could have imagined…..    but…  no….   the unattractive ….pointy bit above the surface was all they needed to know that there was nothing in this field worth buying…. I feel that this is the same with the richness of our Catholic Faith… it is an absolutely and indisputably priceless treasure……     deep, rich, complex, diverse….   It is over two thousand years of tradition, history and heritage…..   including the writings of countless saints and scholars, mystics and historians……    and our liturgies….   deeply enriched by two thousand years of traditions – filled with meaning upon meaning…/   significance upon significance……    one person alone could simply not hope to mine this treasure completely in a lifetime…..  or a thousand lifetimes for that matter…. 
We could profitably spend a lifetime “depthing” the richness of the Catholic/ Christian faith tradition… ////////We can trust that we are being offered a unique treasure….  //… it will bear enormous fruit… we are promised that….
Whilst the religious traditions of other non-christian religions are fascinating too…// … nevertheless, I am sure we will be forgiven for this one little bias……….. The Christian faith and tradition has a treasury no less rich…. (and in fact to us Christian’s profoundly and uniquely /infinitely richer …..)…..  One gets a curious feeling that some people have rushed off to ‘mine the riches’ of another religion without appearing to know that there even ARE  ‘depths to mine’ in their own Christian religion….//perhaps it is the ‘grass is greener syndrome…’  . //   I will eat my hat if most people who have rushed off to follow another religion have first deeply plumbed the depths of the Christian treasury… as opposed to what they think is the full package of Christianity..  which for most people  through no fault of their own… might have been actually “Christianity Lite”……(the edited version) //     (I have mentioned this before, but it remains a timely thought…)….How many people know of the ‘Christian mystic tradition’. It is also very ancient……//… which also taps into meditation, and mantras, wisdom literature and proverbs……  and profound insights into the human mind and heart………. and extraordinary relationships with one’s environment….   And so on…. Have they read the writings of the desert fathers… do they even know who or what the desert fathers are…… // 
….. and that is just to name one thing that springs to mind…...
Our Christian tradition (our Catholic tradition) although rich with nourishment…. is becoming the best kept secret in history.. to an increasing majority who appear to be on a spiritual fast food diet… As important as Sunday mass is  (and it is quite frankly vital in the life of a Christian)…    Sunday Mass alone does not promise to  expound on the utter depths and fullness of the faith.  This takes so much more time, reflection, study and reading than one hour a week could…   (and sadly many don’t even get the one hour a week!!!!)
 This parable today calls us to quiet humility…. // even after seven years of training and study of scripture, theology, ministry, philosophy, church history and liturgy……in the seminary… (and I am deeply grateful to the church for the amazing opportunity of a holistic theological education in my preparation for service in the church….)……. and then after countless in-services and ongoing study and reflection over seventeen years of ministry in parishes, I believe that after all that, nevertheless… I still feel I am only scratching the surface of the riches of Jesus’ Good news to be discovered in the Catholic tradition….//  this journey certainly gives a sense of the complexity, richness, subtlety and breadth of what we are all being offered…..// certainly it could never bore us or fail to satisfy//……so… we are all delighted (as Disciples on the journey) to keep digging…. the richness of what God offers us, never ceases to astound me…..//
Our faith is a treasure of incredible depth…   if one thinks they have grasped it enough to ‘find it wanting’…  They need to be very careful that they have not rejected a pale shadow of the treasure hidden in a field…
In the first reading, God offers Solomon anything he desires.  We could think of many things we could ask of God if given complete freedom. Yet, all Solomon asks for is an “understanding heart”: that is…..wisdom. And God readily grants it.  In the end, money, long-life, prestige, does not mean a thing if we live our lives in ignorance and without an understanding and loving heart. We are all striving to do God’s will in this time and place, as countless generations did before us, with God’s grace.
Today, we continue to ask for this gift. Lord, above all, grant us wisdom of heart, so that we may serve you in faithfulness all our days, to your greater glory.
I love the gospel… the parable of the treasure buried in the field…     This parish, this church is a treasure planted in a field…   and of course as beautiful as it is, it is so much more than the beauty of the building… it is the presence of God that it represents and it is the symbol of Christian dedication and grace that it proclaims…    James Cleary and his fellow Christians believes so much in the gospel, and in Christian education and in the need for the physical presence of the Church community in the life of the city that they put their time, energy and money, their land, and their labour into working for God’s glory in establishing this catholic community which we are part of today…  
It was worth selling everything to obtain.. and the gospel continues to be priceless and precious and worth all our efforts to this day and beyond…
We thank God for the enormous blessings and graces he has poured upon generations of people in this town and the surrounding regions, through God’s action in the church and in the people who form the body of Christ in this place.   We all humbly continue on this good work started so long ago. In the end, God and God’s Kingdom is everything, and any effort expended is rightly all directed towards this priceless treasure.
We give thanks for the countless blessings bestowed on this community and the many catholic communities throughout the world too……and the many people throughout the generations:  parishioners, community members, fellow church denominations and their pastors, civic leaders, priests, religious and friends who have cooperated with what God has been doing in this place.
We ask for continued blessings upon our town and the people who live and work here. Lord, we humbly ask..   please continue to grant success to the work of our hands.
May God, who has so graciously accompanied and given success to our work so often in the past, continue this good work in us and bring it to perfection.
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A glimpse and taste of the rich history, writing and heritage of our Church, it is an endless source of inspiration and reflection:
Extra reflections:
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A riddle wrapped in a mystery
Jesus mentions the kingdom of heaven 38 times in Matthew’s gospel. Clearly he wants us to understand exactly what it is. Yet the kingdom is mysterious; it is not something that can be defined once and for all. The best Jesus can do is to describe what it is like, not what it is. The kingdom is like a treasure buried in a field . . . it is like a merchant searching for valuable pearls. In other words the kingdom of heaven is both that which we find and that which is searching to find us. Hmm. Jesus wants to know if his disciples understand. Today would be a good day to contemplate the kingdom of heaven so that our answer, like that of the disciples, will be “Yes.”
Today’s readings: 1 Kings 3:5, 7-12; Romans 8:28-30; Matthew 13:44-52
“ ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ ”

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Paul's Reflections 485 : Homily Sixteenth Sunday of the Year A 20th July, 2014

Homily Sixteenth Sunday of the Year A   20th July, 2014     

 

The psalm could very well have been written for today….it is so fitting… 

both the first reading and the gospel tell us something very important….  “God is all-powerful, but is gentle and always wants to give us time for change, for transformation, and for repentance.”    (abbot’s homily, Monastery of Christ in the desert).

 

The gospel this weekend, uses, among other images the image of the kingdom of God being like ‘the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.’  Surely our parish’s mission is very fittingly described as that. The life of this parish… the life of our schools, seek to implement the good news of Jesus in an “holistic”   way…  in a way that is not segmented…. //  It diffuses right through every aspect of life ………it is part of every aspect.. and not merely something that has been badly tacked on to the end of an otherwise “non-Christian set-up”… but rather… it is worked in and becomes an integral part of what we do and how we do it… like yeast is mixed seamlessly into flour…..  it becomes part of it, but also raises it up into a new and more beautiful creation….   All of us are like that too in our daily lives…… //   We daily get glimpses of the kingdom at work in our everyday lives….    working into and amongst the everyday events and values of the our days………

 

We are all, as Christians, to be leaven (yeast) in the dough…//. ‘So much’ part of society and work as to be integral… and bringing the life and joy of our Christian faith effortlessly and not always ‘obviously’ into all we do and say…    being part of God’s transformation of all things in God’s image…. 

 

Finally, Jesus tackles the age old question… why are there bad things in the world….  Why does God allow seemingly bad people to do bad things….     Why does God allow the destructive to thrive along side of the constructive……..    I suppose we can all be glad that God doesn’t dispose of anyone or anything that is imperfect…  or “hit with a bolt of lightning” anyone who has ever sinned or made a mistake or who was weak and not living up to the Gospel message perfectly… thank goodness God is patient.. I am sure we have all benefited from that most reassuring of Divine qualities…  

 

God has unconditional love for us…. God made us, and God sees the enormous potential and possibilities that lie within our lives…..   he sees us as we are… and still loves us……    giving us time and grace…in order that we might foster the virtues and positive attributes of ourselves … and allow God to transform and heal those areas that are in need of forgiveness, transformation and conversion….. 

 

God appears to err on the side of human freedom so that we may be fully free to respond with love to all that God wants for us……..  (this is both an enormous gift and a powerful challenge and responsibility).

 

One thing is certain….  without denying the reality of suffering, injustice and downright evil within the world…..   nevertheless… we are invited not to be thrown by all this, and to focus more than ever in doing good, in being people of love, justice and compassion…..   let us not allow the hurts and sins of the world around us from deepening our constant calling to do good, to love more deeply and to travel the less travelled path of other-worldly love and compassion…..    When the weeds around us might otherwise prompt us to respond with negativity and bitterness….   where sin and hurt abounds.. let us ensure that the grace and love of Christ all the more abounds….    in all we do and say…

 

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‘Gardening for the Soul’
If God, the householder, sows only good seed why is it that there are such mixed results?
 
“Jesus is dealing with why so many do not respond to his teaching, for his ministry receives a very mixed response. In the symbolism of the parable, the reign of God that Jesus announces is met by vigorous opposition from the powers of evil. This is the reality in Jesus’ time, the reality faced by Matthew’s community and it continues to be our reality. The voice of the Gospel continues to struggle to be heard in our present society. Other values are presented as offering a better way of life. …… With many of the complex issues we face in society, it is not easy to discern the weeds from the wheat. On many issues in our modern society, many good people, including people of faith hold different views. The parable seems to suggest that the servants need to live with both the wheat and the weeds and leave the task of judgment to God. Jesus offers this teaching to console and encourage his followers. Their task, as servants, is to sow goodness. The task of destroying evil is God’s.
Perhaps an even greater challenge is to realise that the parable speaks about US. Contradictions exist not only around us…   but also in our own individual lives too.  – We too…  you and me…  have to learn to live with the wheat and the weeds within our own heart. ……For all our good intentions, and efforts we will probably continue to struggle with some issues, some contradictions all our lives. The garden of our soul will always need a little weeding. These inner struggles will continue to call us to conversion and we will continue to need to call on God and allow God to be the gardener of our souls. Knowing the weeds and wheat within our own individual lives, can help us be a little more patient, or tolerant of the weeds and wheat around us – in our families, communities, our Church. This is not an invitation to complacency but a reminder to ‘get real’ as young people say.
 
The reading from Romans is from chapter 8, and earlier in this letter Paul had lamented, ‘When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inner self, but I see in my outer self another law at war with my soul’ (7:21). I think Paul speaks of this same inner struggle of knowing the weeds and the wheat which leads him to rely on the Spirit of God as he says in the reading today. ‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness… The Spirit intercedes for us … the Spirit searches the inner hearts of all people.’ Paul then continues, ‘If God is for us, who can be against us’ (8:31). In the struggle to live a good meaningful life, we can sometimes be our own worst enemy in being far too harsh and unforgiving towards ourselves. The Parable may invite us to greater kindness towards ourselves and to those around us….   and to leave the task of major garden work to God, who remains always, the master gardener.”***

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REFERENCES:

            FR. PAUL W. KELLY

       ***Mary Coloe.  LiturgyHelp.com

      MONASTERY OF CHRIST IN THE DESERT. ABBOT’S HOMILY.

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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Paul's Reflections 484 : 13th July, 2014. 15th Sunday, Ordinary Time

Homily 15th Sunday, Ordinary Time. Year A 13th July, 2014

 

The sower went out to sow, and it fell on all manner of conditions.


God is the sower, and the seed is the word of God loving sent out to all. And if the conditions are right…  and if they are nurtured and encouraged, that word will bear enormous fruit. Each one of us received the word of God in Baptism. The Holy spirit was given to us, to be nurtured, to grow and to foster in us the love Jesus wants for the world.

 

The gospel shows us the different ways faith is received.

 

The seed represents the WORD of GOD…  and the seed also represents FAITH>> in Jesus, faith in the gospel. It could also represent our many opportunities that we have all been given. And, just as a seed needs good soil, water, shelter, nourishment and protection, so too our faith, our knowledge, our life needs to continue to be planted in an environment that will foster continued growth and learning . There are many challenges in life too, we must be careful that the precious seed of faith is planted and nurtured and attended to daily, or else it will not grow. Other things, other priorities, other values might crowd-out the growth of faith. Setbacks and hardships have the potential to stifle what we have. We need to actively protect, promote and encourage the good treasure we have received, so that it will indeed bear much fruit.

You have probably all heard the rather amusing story with a rather sadly ironic kernel of truth behind it…. 

 

A Carpenter, a Gardener and a Catholic priest met one day to discuss a problem. They all had problems with Bats in their buildings. The Carpenter had Bats in his shed and couldn’t get rid of them, the Gardener had Bats in an orange grove he was tending, and the Catholic Priest had bats in his church steeple,

 

They discussed what they could do to get rid of them, they met again the next week to see how their different strategies to tackle the problem had worked out. When they re-met, the Carpenter said that he had installed special timber barriers in the shed to prevent the bats getting through, but it failed, because they had squeezed around them and were still in there. The gardener said she had tried a new chemical spray (that was supposedly not harmful) but which acted to repel bats from the tree, but the spray wore off and they came back again (in even bigger numbers). The Catholic priest smiled. He said, “I have gotten rid of my bats, and permanently!”

 

The other two were stunned. But how??? How did you manage to keep the bats away permanently???

 

The priest looked a little melancholy as he explained. Well you see, it was all too easy..
I baptized the bats and then gave them confirmation and communion and I haven’t seen them anywhere near the church since !!!!!!

 

Okay…  its clearly a joke…  and a bit silly ….. but sadly, that can OFTEN feel like what is happening..When some people celebrate the sacraments, rather than initiating people more deeply into the mysteries of their faith, it can seem like it is some kind of ceremony of ending the association with church…  its like it is some kind of repellant, when it is MEANT to the the opposite: the start of the connecting of people to Christ and the sacraments…   It can seem like the sacraments of initiation are rather than the beginning, actually the effective ending of their association….    Going on their merry way happily ever after. Naturally, that is NOT the message we in the parish, or its members or the church intends….   I am sure it’s not even necessarily what parents who put their children through the sacramental preparation process intend it to mean…  but in many cases that is what is happening….. 

 

One wonders if the message that the celebration of the sacraments is really understood as just the beginning of the deeper life in the Spirit, a deepening of one’s faith commitment, rather than an end, - its meant to me a milestone, not a millstone……. Its never intended to be a “completion” that means one can move on and leave the whole thing behind,

 

And our understanding of how the sacraments work can cause confusion for people. AS catholic, we believe that the sacraments are concrete guarantees of an inner reality happening that is connected to an outward sign. So, when a priest says the words of forgiveness in the sacrament of penance, (in the name of the church and in the name of Jesus), we believe that this effectively conveys the sacrament of forgiveness and healing. And when the church baptizes a person, we believe that the God-given gift of FAITH is very much really and truly passed on in this action of pouring the water. However, naturally if a person isn’t really sorry when they celebrate reconciliation, it is not that the sacrament doesn’t work, it is just that God knows whether a person is truly engaging with the encounter or not. The sacrament of reconciliation always conveys a seed of forgiveness, but it only bears ‘fruit’ in the ‘fertile soil’ of a repentant heart.

 

And if a person is baptized, faith is definitely given, but just like this gospel reminds us today.., if one has baptism and then never does anything to nurture, deepen and nourish that faith, then that real and effective “seed of faith” is still there, (for sure), but it is like a seed in un-watered, un-tended and un-plowed, hardened ground, it can hardly be expected to bear much or any fruit.

 

Interestingly Jesus even realized that the results in his kingdom would be at times patchy, because notice he says that the good seed produces 100, sixty, thirty. Notice, that is actually a declining sequenceof numbers. So we have to be prepared for all sorts of results in the sowing of God’s effective word. And, although God’s word never returns without bearing fruit, it still remains very much our task to ensure that the word is given the nourishment and encouragement it needs to bear the most fruit.

 

So, in baptism, and the other sacraments. They are certainly effective, but they cannot be disconnected from the concepts of conversion of heart, of the practice of the faith, of personal engagement,  conversion of heart, daily prayer, participation in the sacraments regularly, regular spciritual reading and study, and commitment, and of course practical action in our daily lives and priorities.

 

In the Baptism ceremony the Priest says -

 ‘You have asked to have your child Baptised. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith.’

 

Elsewhere, at the Blessing, in the Rite of Baptism- -

‘The parents will be the first teachers

of their child in the ways of faith. May they also be the best of teachers, bearing witness to the faith by what they say and do, in Christ Jesus our Lord.’

 

The Church teaches that an important part of being a Catholic is understanding that we belong to a community. We are not just individuals. Being Catholic means agreeing to be formed by the message of the Gospel, and regularly listening to how the universal, Catholic, Church understands its meaning for here and now.

 

By Baptism a child has both a right and a duty to be given the fullness of their Catholic Teaching. This includes regular contact with the Catholic faith community at Sunday Mass.

 

When a child is Baptised and then rarely is given an opportunity to go to Mass, surely the child is being given something less than the Fullness of the breadth and depth and practice of their faith.

 

I realize I am preaching to the converted here.. and that we all share this understanding..  and that it is something that worries all of us who regularly attend church…   

FREQUENTLY ASKED PRACTICAL QUESTION

 

PARENT- I am going to let my child choose whether or not to go to church when they are old enough to decide for themselves. Is there anything wrong with that?

 

RESPONSE- There are problems with this way of thinking! Parents play an important role in imparting values and habits for their child’s life. Long before a child realises the value of going to school or brushing their teeth, the parents have uncompromisingly INSISTED, point-blank, that these things will be done. No amount of arguing back will stop a parent insisting and expecting certain things that are good for the child be done, even when the child does not (yet) fully appreciate WHY it is so important. Children depend on their parents’ wisdom to insist on what is good for them. Children’s religious knowledge and faith formation is no different. So, I say, you wouldn’t wait till your child is an adult to choose whether they want to brush their teeth every day, or else by the time they do choose they may not have a tooth left in their head.  So, why let someone wait until too late to choose their faith ……..   it is completely bamboozling….    (I have heard it said that this analogy is not a good comparison, but , with respect, I strongly disagree. Why is it not the same? I stand my it. It is just like a seed expected to water itself. By the time a child is old enough to ‘decide for themselves’ what they want, they will not have experienced growing up as a regular member of a faith community. If church has not been part of their life up to this point is it really free choice? Do they really know what they are ‘not choosing’ since one can hardly say they were given the fullness of ritual, community and faith formation. And if the Catholic parents do not go to Mass, the child will probably get the message that this is not a life value for them either.

 

Jesus in the gospel says to us that we must nurture the seed that we have been given. And, like this nurturing, there are risks, and there are challenges. It does mean moving well and truly out of our comfort zone.

 

God has sown the seed in the hearts of each of us, and now we must nurture and feed and water and nourish that seed of faith and love daily….   And even moreso when we sometimes find the environment around us rocky, weedy, scorching or crowded…   then staying constantly connected to the water of life, will sustain us come what may.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++

REFERENCES-

 

·       FR. PAUL W. KELLY



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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Paul's Reflections 483 : Homily Fourteenth Sunday of the Year A. 6th July, 2014.

bURDENS

Fourteenth Sunday of the Year A.  6th July, 2014

Often when we describe a yoke….. or a burden….. these words create the impression of hardship and difficulty……… and yet… it is good to remind ourselves…… that a yoke was ultimately designed to be used in order to make the task easier….. to make it manageable… and tolerable…. // With a heavy task, a yoke allows a person or an animal to lift a weight and carry a weight in such a way that distributes the weight and makes it possible and tolerable… over an extended period of time……..

So, it is in that sense that Our Lord uses the image of a yoke and a burden…… He has frequently warned his disciples (and anyone who proposed to follow him as disciples) that there is a definite cost to discipleship……. //That the path would be far from easy….//  Following Christ does not promise us earthly success or freedom from hardship or persecution. Jesus gave no guarantee of a dream run…….. it is a task…...... a burden….. 

However…, it is a bit like that moving song…..

'"He''s not heavy…; he''s my brother.'"

The focus is not on the difficulty…, but the passion for the cause. The goal…… of  our mission is to spread God''s love to all the world… in word and action…… and this is a wonderful vocation…….. It is a beautiful burden. It is a wonderful duty and a superb task…. And… it is a task of love….. and in that sense ….. it makes the burden a light one….. and Christ always offers to bear for us the greater load….

Jesus also invites us to learn from him……. And, what we have to learn is that Jesus is loving in all his dealings….. and he is gentle….. and humble…… and just.  

It makes me wonder…..many hardships and burdens come our way throughout life…. Some are avoidable, some seem unavoidable………. But to what extent are some burdens made all the more heavier (more unbearable) …by the opposite of gentleness and the opposite of humility…….. Jesus also seems to be offering to teach us…… a path of gentleness….. compassion and love….. and a path of true humility of spirit….. which can make many burdens so much lighter than they might otherwise be.

I think of an illustration. Imagine that two people are experiencing the exact same difficulty…; a major burden and hardship in their lives…. And picture these people have the exact same circumstances…… the only difference is that one of them is extremely proud…, unreasonably self-sufficient, and refusing to face even the truth of their difficulty and railing against every development and turn of bad fortune…. Whilst the other is gentle, humble…, accepting that which cannot be changed…and battling that which can be, and (not so much giving up, but rather surrendering to God's care in a spirit of humility) to the new situations and circumstances that this person now faces…. Could it not be said that the one who is proud and forceful might be putting on themselves an even greater, unbearable burden than the other? Perhaps in this sense, Jesus means us to learn from him… and open up to his vision and response to the world and its unpredictable and often capricious turns. …

A yoke is also something used to join two creatures together so that they act as one entity…

Was Jesus saying… "join yourself to me… and join your hopes and cares…, your fears and struggles to me…. And let me work with you as one…… and see what wonders will result….."

I love the meaning of this gospel today…. there is a deep and sturdy realism to the Gospel message Jesus offers us….. it is the perfect combination of idealism AND realism…… Jesus does not promise an easy ride…. But he does promise us that his WAY makes any burdens capable of being transformed by love and service. 

Our Christian joy and hope is not a joy borne out of denying the reality of the struggles and pains of life….. Rather, ours is a joy that says…: "We are at peace,… we are at rest… and we continue to love… even with the tragedies and tensions of sin and pain……." This is a message the world needs to hear more than ever. This is the faith we unite in witnessing in our lives.

May God richly bless us and give us the joy, the rest and the relief that comes with this faith…, hope and love. 

 

 



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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Paul's Reflections 482 : Saints Peter and Paul. 29th June, 2014

St Peter and Paul

Saints Peter and Paul. 29th June, 2014

Saints Peter and Paul went through their lives and ministry, strong in the belief that God was with them, that God was accompanying them on their pilgrimage of life….. guiding them and supporting them in the mission and their proclamation of the Good news…

Time and time again, they were saved from imprisonment and death…. and continued on their way, boldly proclaiming the good news…. but they were not under any illusions….. although they often praised God for his constant love, protection and grace….. and were grateful for the times they were saved from death….. they knew that being Jesus' friends and disciples was not about having permanent protection from suffering, imprisonment and death…. after all, their Master and the founder of the message they proclaimed… suffered the most terrible fate on the Cross…… being a disciple is not a guarantee of safety or absolute physical protection…. it is not, as we know too well, a "magic charm" to prevent all illness or even death….. but nevertheless…. our discipleship does give us hope and trust… that God remains with us, in the ups and downs of life…. in good times and bad……… in sickness and in health…. in peace and in times of turmoil………. God is with us… to lead us to eternal life, where we will share eventually in the fullness of Jesus' Kingdom and have eternal life… this life begins now… and can be experienced profoundly in so many ways here and now……… but we know the fullness is to be experienced only in the world to come.

We Catholics believe that the Pope is the successor of the special role of St Peter… as the foundation stone on which Christ builds his church…… and so, it is timely that we celebrate this feast We all celebrate and encounter the richness of the universal church…. a church including people from every race, language and culture….. all one In Christ….

We celebrate our membership of the Catholic Christian faith family…. The fire of the Good News that drove the apostles to the ends of the earth in Jesus name….. and inspired and enlivened them to establish permanent local communities deeply embedded in the principles, life and values of Jesus' Kingdom…. this is our story to here, and in every parish throughout the world.

St Paul, the apostle to the Gentile nations would be so proud today… as he looks at all that Christ has achieved in and through Christ's church….. Saint Paul would be the first to remind us to celebrate our 'unity in diversity'

When Jesus asks 'who do people say I am….. and then asks the even more important question…. 'who do YOU say I am' Simon replies…. "You are the Christ, the son of God." It is really important for us to see why Jesus then immediately says his next words….. you could almost add a "because" into Jesus sentence….. "Because you say that I am the Christ, the son of the Living God, you are "Petros…." YOU are ROCK, on which I will build my church." 

The church is founded upon the rock of the reality that Jesus is THE Christ… THE son of the living God…. and that Jesus is God the SON…… as important as it is that Peter proclaimed these words…..// … even more importantly is that he proclaimed the central POINT of our Faith… it is BECAUSE Jesus is the Son of God that we are who we are… // that we Christians live as we live…..// and it is BECAUSE of who Jesus is that we share in the actual divine life and relationship of God by uniting ourselves in mind, heart and communion to Jesus…….

And this changes everything…. it gives us the grace, the love and the freedom to live and to act as Jesus did…… and in so many ways…. by our words, actions and lives… to set prisoners free… to declare God's favour to each other…. and to cancel so many types of debt that we can hold over one another…… to BE, as Peter, Paul and the apostles are….. Good news to the poor…..



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