I remember as a young lad hearing sermons on Pentecost Sunday about the Holy Ghost as the forgotten person of the Holy Trinity.
Now I believe the Holy Spirit is anything but forgotten.
The Vatican Council, begun fifty years ago, was described as a ‘New Pentecost’ - a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit in our times.
Since then our Church has never ceased to highlight the presence of the power of the Holy Spirit - in its teaching and in the Liturgical Year.
So many more people have come to know and experience the presence of the Holy Spirit and the many ways the Spirit works in their lives.
While we are still in the Year of Faith (celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the beginning of Vatican II), on Pentecost Sunday we concluded our wonderful year of Grace.
I will continue to pray the Year of Grace prayer which has become so special to so many of us.
This prayer is all about Jesus who is the centre of our lives. It connects also to the Holy Spirit, since these persons are inseparable, and because it is now through the Holy Spirit, that we are one with Jesus.
The words on the Holy Spirit in that special prayer are important, I believe, for each day “Attune our hearts and minds to the presence of your Holy Spirit, that our Church may be transformed, our relationships healed and our Nation grow in compassion and justice”.
13th May _ The Ascension
We have just celebrated again the important Feast and event of Jesus’ Ascension.
The Ascension is part of Jesus’ saving work for all of us. As Jesus passed over from death to life, in him we also have passed from the death of sin and darkness to life and light with God. His Ascension - his returning to the Father - is our sure hope and link to our Father also.
The Ascension, while in one way it was Jesus leaving us, it was also his way of connecting to us even more now.
As Pope Leo the Great said “…in a mysterious way Jesus began to be more present to the Apostles in his Godhead, once he became more distant in his humanity”.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection he could only be with some people, in some place, for a certain time.
Through his Resurrection and Ascension Jesus can now in his Divinity, be with each of us, anywhere in the world and all the time - in fact moment by moment.
No wonder the Ascension is a great source of hope for us all. It is the sure hope of heaven. It is also the source of hope for my journey of life - giving strength for my needs as well as power for me to good.
6th May - Words of St Therese Lisieux
Eastertide - the period between Easter and Pentecost is a very special time in the Church’s year - a time of hope and joy.
I would like to quote a few words from St Therese as a help to us all ‘I just wonder what I am to do when Easter Day dawns and I’m not able to sing ‘Alleluia’ because I really don’t feel the joy of Easter. Oh, for sure, in some ways I’m glad that Lent is over and that the season of spring has arrived; I am not always, however, in an Alleluia frame of mind or heart at this time of year. For that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I want to feel the joy of Easter and sing ‘Alleluia’. I really want to mean that with all of my being’. (The Story of a Soul, Ch 10.)
We believe strongly that Jesus is Risen and is with us, so why do we not always experience joy? It depends on a lot of factors - worry, sickness, tiredness, grief etc. All this takes its toll on us and our feelings.
We notice, however, Therese’s words ‘I want to feel the joy of Easter…’ ‘I really want to mean that with all of my being’.
Therese died at the age of 24 and suffered terribly in the end with tuberculosis. She still offered her life to God and particularly for Missionaries and their lives and work. There was at this time though, very little joy in her life. The important thing however was her desire to experience joy.
That desire is very important for us in many areas of our lives. When we don’t feel as if we believe or trust, but we desire (really want to) to believe and trust God, then we do. When we feel as if we can’t pray but we desire to (really want to) then we are praying.
Desiring speaks of where our heart is. It is about what we really want. Our mind and our feeling can be elsewhere but desire is so critical in the spiritual life.
St Therese is a very down to earth model for us all. She is someone we can all identify with.
29th April - The Tenderness of Jesus
I read recently that Pope Francis said “Do not be afraid of tenderness”. It jumped out for me, so much so I have forgotten the context.
When you look at Jesus’ life, he was full of it. It must be important and good therefore.
In coming into the world, God’s Son was described as the “Loving kindness of the heart of our God” (Lk 1:78). The French translation speaks of it as the “Tenderness of God”.
Think of the many people Jesus showed this tenderness to - the sick, the needy, the bereaved, the burdened - and very the sinners and the outcasts.
He showed it to the Apostles when he appeared to them soon after the Resurrection and offered them peace and forgiveness. He did not reprove them after their desertion. (Jn20:19-23)
This passage brings out the tender, loving way in which Jesus treats failure and sin.
What a kind thing to do!
Our Risen Lord always approaches me, a sinner, with words of peace and forgiveness also. What a comfort for me. What a model for me on how to treat those who offend - and even against me.
22nd April - Jesus the Good Shepherd
We have just celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday. As we do each year we prayed for Vocations to the Priesthood and Religious Life - and for those who have these Vocations.
The image of Jesus our Good Shepherd has been a favourite one for Christians down through the centuries. Images of him as the Shepherd are prolific and go back to the early Christian days in the catacombs.
When one reflects on the closeness of the Shepherd to his sheep, we can see how meaningful the image is for Jesus and ourselves. It speaks volumes about how the Son of God has a personal care for each of us.
I add a few more profound thoughts from Sunday’s brief Gospel. Jesus “knows” each of us - by name. He gives us a life that we will never appreciate enough - “Eternal Life”. We will “never be lost”. “No one will ever steal” us from him.
Pope John Paul II had a concept of Priesthood as someone who would make present to people the love of Jesus the Good Shepherd. What a special description of our role and vocation as Priests.
We know though, with recent scandals coming to light, that some priests have betrayed their Priestly Vocation and with it this beautiful image. People, many who were children at the time, have been so badly damaged.
The long held attitude of many, that prayers for a priest would not be necessary because they were already holy and never in need, has proven to be an erroneous attitude. Could I ask you therefore, as you pray daily for your family, please pray regularly for us, the Priests of the Church - that we may be truly faithful to the Christ image of Jesus the Good Shepherd. Please pray also for more Priests for our Church, after the heart of Jesus.
15th April - Belief and Faith
Scripture scholars note that John’s Gospel uses the verb, believe nearly 100 times - much more than the other Evangelists use it. Interestingly, John never uses the noun belief or faith. One Theologian says that for John, faith is “an activity, an ever-active relationship with God in the present”.
The concluding sentences highlight this thrust of St John’s Gospel “There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.” Jn 20:30-31
We can draw so much from all this. It says that Faith is not a list of tenets that we accept, important and all as this is e.g. the Trinity, Incarnation, Redemption.
Believing means that God the Father is a Father to me now - moment by moment. God’s Son, by taking flesh, has linked himself to each of us and our world and continues that moment by moment. The Holy Spirit - who is the very life and love of God, is living within me moment by moment and never for an instant does the Spirit abandon me.
The Incarnation means that God’s Son is close and intimately one with me and part of all that happens in and around me and our world. This is the same Jesus who reached out to everyone, especially the poor and the needy. It is the Jesus who changed water into wine at Cana, who fed the thousands in the countryside, who cured the sick, who forgave sinners, who shared meals with so many, who restored people to life, and who died on Good Friday and rose from the dead Easter Sunday.
This God is with me each instant of my life. Since believing is a relationship, it means on my part that at different times of the day, I be aware of God with me and so grow daily to trust this wonderful God.
8th April - Doubt and Faith
If you ever have doubts of faith and about Jesus Risen and with us, then you are in good company - the company of the Apostles and not just Thomas alone. It took them sometime to believe Jesus had broken the bonds of death, had Risen and was with them.
Eventually they did believe and through their doubts, like St Thomas, came to a special Faith.
It’s natural for us to doubt even after coming to faith. One may even say it is inevitable - when you believe in something as astonishing as the Resurrection of Jesus.
Our faith however is not a vague belief in the Resurrection. The Apostles and the early Christians did not have a vague belief. They had a strong, rich, full bodied belief that Jesus had Risen, was living with them, was working with them and that with him they would rise and have a glorious existence.
Their faith was so strong that they staked their lives on it as they shared this wonderful Good News.
This is the Faith they handed onto us.
1st April Being Attuned to the Risen Lord in our Lives
Eastertide, from the Resurrection to Pentecost, is a very special time of Grace for us to grow in our Faith in Jesus our Risen Lord who is with us and working in our lives.
Could you take the time to read the Emmaus story (Luke 24:13-35). It’s the story of each of us. Jesus our Risen Lord is with us each moment of each day. While we are not aware of him most of the time we do experience his presence though at certain times.
It could happen at the Eucharist when I just know and experience God’s presence. I can’t necessarily put this experience into words, but it is real for me as it was for the disciples.
It could be when I am reading the Gospel and a word or sentence warms my heart.
It could be in moments of celebration, when I am with people of Faith and I sense the Lord’s presence in that community.
We can experience our Risen Lord also when we are alone and in deep thought or prayer and we have a sense of peace.
The goodness of people that I mix with is also an experience for me of the Risen Lord who is in them and who comes to me through them.
It is important to treasure these times. We can at the end of each day look back and see where our Risen Lord has broken through in some way - and savour those times.
As we savour these times we are also filled with gratitude. It is ordinary and special experiences like these that strengthen our Faith as we go through life.
25th March Eucharist
Jesus did so much for us the first Holy Week and offered us all so much, however let us focus this week on the Eucharist.
The Eucharist, in itself, is an unspeakable gift. The actual time Jesus gave it to us highlights even more how great a gift it is. Jesus had done so much for so many. Now just before he was to suffer and die he did something much much greater. He gave us his own self as “The Bread of Life”.
This in itself would have been an immeasurable gift, however he connected it to the greatest of all his works - his dying and rising. “This is my body given for you. This is my blood poured out for you”.
The Eucharist therefore is Jesus in his very act of dying and rising. Each Mass makes present for us the saving work of Jesus on that first Good Friday and Easter Sunday.
While we could not be at the Last Supper, in the Eucharist we are given the same Body of Christ to eat and the same Blood of Christ to drink.
While we were not present at the first Good Friday or Easter Sunday, in the Eucharist we connect to and share in that same fruits of that wonderful work of Jesus for us and the whole world.
18th March The Passion of Jesus
It is less than two weeks to Easter Sunday.
We began Lent by thinking about what we need to do. Perhaps the focus was on ourselves. We need to act in our lives, but it is important never to lose sight of Jesus, otherwise Religion will be self-centred and will get us nowhere. In fact we will get tired and fed up with even trying to be good.
Focusing on Jesus - who he is, the words he speaks, what he did and does, is vital. In these two weeks the Church clearly directs our sights and thoughts and prayer to Jesus in his Passion.
The Gospels of the weekday Masses are about the growing opposition of the authorities to Jesus and how they can arrest and kill him. On Palm Sunday and Good Friday we have the Gospels of the Passion and death of Jesus.
We can also use the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross as ways of prayerfully reflecting on Jesus’ Passion.
The Saints, and common sense, tell us to truly know Jesus we must meet him and spend time with him in his sufferings and death. It is the Way to the real life he offers. Also prayer, together with action will flow from it.
11th March Do it with love
We are already past the half way mark of Lent. On Sunday we had as our Gospel nourishment the Prodigal Son.
A better title for this Gospel would be the ‘Prodigal Father’- because it is mainly about him - the generous and lavish Father.
Jesus taught us this powerful story to give us a human image of our wonderful God - who is so generous and lavish with his love. He loves each of us unconditionally, totally, equally. God can only love that way - without reserve.
How are we responding to God’s love? Even in the way of almsgiving, prayer and fasting how are we doing? The most important thing is to do whatever we do with love.
St Therese of Lisieux said “If you pick up a pin from the floor with love you can save a soul”. Imagine then how powerful it must be when we give alms with love, pray with more love and fast with love. In God’s hands the effects would be beyond what we could imagine.
In this Gospel God is saying to each of us “I love you very much”. By doing these Lenten practices with love we are saying to God “I love you too - with my heart and soul and strength”.
4th March 2013 - Fasting
We turn our attention this week to the third practice mentioned by Jesus in Chapter 6 of Matthew - Fasting.
Literally fasting means eating no food. In the Lenten season it means eating less food i.e. only one main meal a day.
In applied ways it also means “going without”. We can do this with various things - food, drink, material things which can be enjoyable but not essential.
It can also mean “giving up”. This brings to mind the idea of discipline. Athletes give up so much (much of which is good) in order to put time into training and becoming fit.
What is the purpose of all this? It is disciplining the body for the good of the soul and one’s own person and character.
Doing voluntarily acts of Penance like the above will, with the Grace of God, help us to embrace the hardships of life. These hardships are the big “fastings” or “penances”. We become equipped, in other words, to “Share the Cross of Christ”.
There is an added purpose in fasting which is a very noble one and which benefits others. From various prophets in the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah, we learn that true fasting means sharing our bread with the hungry, clothing the person we see to be naked, coming to aid of the widow and the orphan, sheltering the homeless poor and bringing relief to the oppressed.
This “Fasting” links into the almsgiving that Jesus first mentioned.
In fact all the three practices (Almsgiving, Prayer and Fasting) are part of one another. They all do good - both for oneself and others - and they all express in practical ways our love for God.
25th February 2013 - Prayer
The second practice given to us by the Church on Ash Wednesday through the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:5-6 is prayer. It would be good to get out the Gospel and read it again reflectively with faith.
Jesus talks about being sincere in prayer. It means having a sense that we are entering into a real conversation with God - God and us together.
Jesus goes on to say also that we should be simple in our words with God our Father. This is where he teaches us his prayer - prayer about what is important in our conversations with God.
Husbands and wives who have grown in a good relationship of love over the years need less words when they are together. They are content in the knowledge they are in each other’s company. St Teresa of Avila described prayer as “Looking at God” - a God who is looking at us moment by moment.
As we try to grow in our prayer life during Lent, let us heed Jesus’ words of praying sincerely and simply.
18th February - Alms Giving
Re-read Matthew 6:1-6 and 16-18. It is the Gospel of Ash Wednesday and sets out a clear programme for Lent - Alms giving, prayer and fasting.
Let’s take alms giving this week.
In Australia for some fifty years now we have had this special practice of Project Compassion. Our money gathered here (and last year Project Compassion topped $10 million in Australia for the first time) goes to Caritas. This wonderful Organisation reaches out to so many countries, in the third world especially, with funds above all for development. (“Give someone a fish and you feed him / her for a day. Teach that person to fish and you feed him / her for life”). Funds are also made available for relief of emergencies which happen regularly across our globe.
For those who have given to Project Compassion over the years a sincere thanks. I encourage you to continue. For those who are not yet involved I encourage you to begin to contribute weekly to Project Compassion. There are boxes (which can be returned on Holy Thursday) and even better there are envelopes which can be returned weekly with our offering at Mass. I like to think that we use the boxes for our loose coins and that we use the envelopes on a weekly basis for notes.
Apart from giving what we have we are also encouraged in this time of lent to go without some things and give what we have saved. (“Live simply, so that others may simply live”).
The huge bonus for us is that we are drawn closer to Jesus through giving to others in this time of Lent. “I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” Mt 25:40
13th February The Season of Lent
Today, Ash Wednesday, we begin the most important time of the year - Lent - 40 days leading up to the celebration of Easter.
It is a serious time. As we receive the ashes we remember that “We are dust and back to dust we will return”. It is the time to rethink our lives and make sure we are heading in the direction of our final and eternal goal - full life with God in his Kingdom. It is a time more importantly of Grace, a time when God wants to work in our lives and transform us. It is a time to enter more with Jesus into his dying so that we will more fully share his risen life.
Let us make the most of this special Season in our Church and in our lives. Look at something I can do myself - however remember what I do is in fact opening myself up to Jesus and his working in me.
May this Grace filled time be a real Grace to all of us.
11th February Spend Time with Christ
Last week I mentioned we become more like the people we spend time with.
As we spend time daily with Jesus, who is the light of the world, that light will light us up as sun gives light, warmth and heat to our world. Truly the light of Christ will burn more brightly in our lives both for us and for others.
The greatest gift Jesus gave us is the love of God. Jesus is the love of God incarnate.
As we spend time with Jesus each day - even for a short time - or short times throughout the day - more of that love of God will brush off onto us.
St Therese of Lisieux spoke of the power of love when she said “Picking up a pin with love can save a soul”.
What must be the power of our prayer then, with love, for others and for our world?
4th February 2013 The Light of Christ
February 2nd was the Feast of Jesus’ Presentation in the Temple.
In embracing Jesus, the old devout and upright Simeon, said of him that he was “A light to enlighten the pagans and the glory of God’s people Israel” (Lk 2:32) In other words Jesus was to light up our world.
This Feast Day is another way of focusing on Jesus or contemplating his face as we are trying to do in the Year of Grace. When we do this the Year of Grace prayer reminds us that we experience a new wave of Grace, and “the light of Christ will burn more brightly in our lives”.
We become more like the ones we spend time with, so let’s keep spending time each day with Jesus our light.