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20th Sunday Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh – Sydney, Australia. God welcomes everyone! Even without a Visa!

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GOD’S WORD IS NOURISHMENT:

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1. 6-7. RESPONSORIAL Psalm: Ps 66:2-3. 5-6. 8. Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28

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Now do sit back and relax; I really hope that you do enjoy this realhomilie, because as I am sitting here tapping away on the keyboard, I picture all of you right here with me.

20th Sunday Year A Church of St.Joseph's

Way back in the 1990’s I was sent by my Provincial to the Passionist Parish of St.Joseph’s in Highgate, North London; When I arrived at Heathrow Airport, and finally made my way to the Passport/Visa clearance areas, I proceeded to the checkout marked British Subjects! To my alarm, I was told by the person on duty, after he glanced at my Passport, that I was on the wrong line, and had to proceed to the Foreigners Queue! I said to him, in no uncertain terms “I beg your pardon!” As with the British wit, and a smile on his dial, he said, “Sorry, mate, I can’t help it if you come from Australia, even though we sent you there……” With smiles on our faces, and tail between my legs, I ate humble pie, and went to the proper queue! I suppose that we can be all somewhat selective from time to time!

20th Sunday Year A Customs Airport

The readings today always held a very strong message; but today more than ever the message retains its richness, depth and invitation to us. In the first Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, the Author, together with the community who heard this message, and put it into practice, were faced with a question that is timeless! Namely, who can come into God’s Kingdom? Over the centuries our ancestors in faith, and the early Church had to grapple with this question, just as we do today. However, God’s Word is very clear on the issue. We are the ones that sometimes make it unclear!

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On a local issue, we see the question of Asylum seekers who travel by risky means of marine transport across the seas in search of a new homeland. Then there is the ‘human’ responsibility which we owe to these people when they reach our territorial waters. Question? Who can come into our country, especially if they are fair dinkum Asylum seekers? We are talking here about moral responsibility……A lot of rational conversation still needs to happen about all of this.

Exodus Moses-leading-Israelites

In the first Reading, we see the answer to the burning question about foreigners seeking admittance to the Lord God’s Family, and hence enjoy the benefits of the Covenant initiated by the Lord God. The lived reply being, to be loving of all that God has requested from his Bride…Israel as a response. We also see the disposition required for those who welcome them…..’Have a care for Justice, act with integrity…’ So here we see a two way street of living and celebrating; culminating on the Sabbath.

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The Sabbath, is that day to be kept Holy, it is the Lord’s Day! Let’s dig deep into what in essence is requested by the Lord God on the Sabbath. If we go back to the Creation Epic in the Book of Genesis, we see that on the final day of creation, God rested…. Was he tired after all the creating? Absolutely not! When we delve into the Hebrew meaning of the Lord God ‘resting’ it seems that its real meaning is ‘gazing’. To gaze is not the same as looking, it is not the same as staring, it is the process of ‘being truly present to all in stillness;’ to all that has happened, is happening and will happen. Gazing is somewhat like a higher state in mental prayer….it is being in ‘nothingness’ or as the Spiritual writers would say. Being in the NADA! The activity of ‘gazing’ is not only for Monastic people; it does come naturally to all of us, if we give it a chance. Let’s explore this precious and necessary activity. For starters, we must give time to waste, may I say, to be truly involved in this activity.

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For example, when we are driving down south to the Snowy Mountains in Australia, it is a thrilling experience heading up the Mountains from Jindabyne in search of the Snow. As we drive along we might see some snow along the verges of the road, and then suddenly, as we turn a corner, and there in front of us….is a huge vista of snow-capped mountains and valleys….so do we just keep driving, and say …’that’s nice’, whose got the potato chips?’ We generally would stop, and take it all in…….because the 3D view catches our breath! That’s precisely what gazing is……taking it all in and being caught by it! One cannot do that with music blearing through headphones! So, when it comes to Sabbath gazing, it means taking all that God has done, and is doing, and will continue to do into our very bones and being still and fully alert as we do it. It also means the reawakening of the Missionary legacy entrusted to us…namely, to bring Heaven to earth, as we pray frequently in the Our Father. It means a kind of stillness which is filled with God’s Words…God’s echoes, within a community which is called ‘family’/Church. It is what we do as we celebrate The Eucharist! It becomes a thin moment when Heaven is close to earth!

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If we say that we are too busy to do this exercise regularly, the simple answer is that we are TOO busy. As human beings we need to process what is happening….otherwise, we really begin to lose it! We fear that our work tasks will be done by Robots, while in fact we can easily become Robots with flesh and bones! Food for thought! Towards the end of the first reading we see, the Lord God saying that ‘my house will be called a house of prayer’….See how prayer can be a listening, and a responding to God, it is about being still to be in tune with God, it is about opening our minds and hearts to special graced moments, called ‘thin moments’ when we gently brush against the membrane which separates us from Heaven!

Examination of conscience

Let’s move onto the Gospel; notice that Jesus and his companions move deliberately into an area of foreigners. This woman from Canaan, knows who Jesus is…she sees in him the saving hand of God…Faith has a lot to do with seeing, hence the seeing and believing become the one activity. Faith here equals insight! This is not lost on Jesus, nor is it lost on the early Christian community who had to grapple with the Missionary task of proclaiming the Gospel to the ends of the earth…meaning to the foreigners!

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This woman uses part of a very well-known Psalm of David, the first line of Psalm 50/51…’Take pity on me’…notice that Our Lord’s disciples become intercessors of her prayer when they plead with Him, ‘Give her what she wants’! It could well be said that the prayerful assistance of the Disciples, gave her that extra bit of courage to ‘come up and kneel’ at Our Lord’s feet. As we deep sea dive here, it can be seen that this woman was in the very process of experiencing salvation…that is, the understanding that in Jesus she was being ‘raised’ to a new life which culminated in her prayer…’Lord, help me’. Remember last week while Peter was experiencing the headwind on the lake, and he began to sink in the miry waters – that symbolic place where evil, and doubt reside; he said, ‘Lord, save me!’ What did Jesus do to Peter? He lifted him up…he raised him up by one hand! The impossible becomes possible for us because of our God’s invitation/intervention; just as the impossible became possible at the moment of Resurrection when the Lord God breathed into the nostrils of Jesus, the breath of new life – Christ is Risen!

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In today’s Gospel, it develops in a slightly different way from last week’s story, but we see a kind of conversation which could well belong to ‘Apologetics,’ the Canaanite woman argues her case, hence she is seeking to ‘serve the Lord and love his name’, as we saw as a requirement not only for foreigners, but for all God’s family, as outlined in the first Reading. Our Lord honours that WORD, and sees in this woman…..great faith! Great Covenant fidelity. Finally, to cap it off, this woman is not so much interceding for herself but for her child! Her prayerful wish was not only granted, but she received new life as well; this new life is open to all foreigners! To all the children in Canaan! However, that does not mean that we go out and Baptise everything that moves and tell them the implications later!!!!! There is no force!

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Well, what about us? As God’s Word unfolds this weekend, we can easily see that it is packed with repercussions for us, and our outlook on ‘newcomers’ to our country, to our City, to our suburbs, to our family, and seeking requests of closeness through marriage to be with us. This raises big questions in my mind, especially as I look at my inner attitudes towards newcomers, and it really questions my truth in real hospitality, and acceptance. This also runs sideways as I keep my mind and heart open to other ways of doing things, other ways of living, of being true hospitality of God’s loving action. God’s Word this weekend especially calls me to my knees, as I take heed once again of Our Lord’s command……’whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me’……..Real Food for Thought, and action……..

Fr Kevin Walsh

‘The Hermitage’

Email: kevin.w3@bigpond.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

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RECOMMENDED READING TO ACCOMPANY THE YEAR OF MATTHEW:

The Gospel according to St. Matthew. An Introductory Commentary by Australian Michael Fallon MSC. This is available at St. Paul’s Book Shops throughout the world, and you can order on line.

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REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS::::::: POINTS TO PONDER ‘Lord, what are you saying to me through your Holy Word today?’

  • Lord, what are you saying to me through your word? What response can I make to your invitation?
  • What strikes you as you read this Gospel reading? Why?
  • What do you think is the meaning within God’s Word in the first Reading?
  • The Sabbath Day is the one that concluded the creation story epic; what did the Lord God really do on that day, and why?
  • Think back over your life time…when and how have you heard God nudging you, and encouraging you to act with Justice and Integrity?
  • In the first reading, we see the Lord God, inviting the people to come to the Holy Mountain; Mountains and Hills in Scripture are places where the Lord God is revealed in a special way; it can cause people to pause and be silent so that all that is happening can be taken in. As you look back over your life where have been those Holy Mountains, where you have been literally ‘speechless’ because of all that is being revealed to you? (This is a tough question, but you can easily answer it after some reflection.)
  • In the Gospel reading we see the radical reality that ALL are welcome at God’s Holy Mountain. What challenges do you see for our Christian community nowadays in regards to this issue?
  • From your reading and reflection, can you make out the subtle thread which runs between the first reading, and the Gospel? If, so what is it?

OUR FAMILY PRAYER OF INTERCESSION…….

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Leader:  Gathered in this house of prayer,

               Let us call upon our God. PAUSE FOR A COUPLE OF MOMENTS……

Family:  1.That Jews, Christians, and Muslims, and all people of faith

               May find renewed strength in God’s mercy,

               Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

  1. That all nations and peoples may find lasting peace

               In God’s guidance,

               Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

  1. That the ill, the infirm, and the dying

               May find abundant comfort in God’s deliverance,

               Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

  1. That all who worship here

               May find welcome joy in God’s gifts,

               Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

  1. That those who have died,

               Especially the members of our family and people that we have known or heard about in the news,

               May find everlasting glory in God’s salvation,

               Let us pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

Leader:  Lord,

               With the persistence of the Canaanite woman

               We boldly call out our needs,

               For you always listen to the prayers of your people.

               Grant us your generous blessings in Christ Jesus,

               Both now and forever. Amen.

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20th Sunday Year A. A Biblical Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson, CP, Melbourne Australia. BEING INCLUSIVE LIKE JESUS.

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The Canaanite woman answered Jesus back. ‘Even house-dogs,’ she snapped, ‘can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’

An Irish Jesuit called Paul O’Reilly is trained as both a priest and a medical doctor. He has written for this Sunday about something that happened to him as a priest-doctor in South America. He went out on a medical patrol to a remote village. He and his team finished early. So his team suggested: ‘Let’s go over to the next village. They’re having a Sports Day.’ On arrival, he settled down with the others to watch a game of soccer and to sip on a small glass of beer. It was all very pleasant and peaceful.

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Then a local woman came up to him and said: ‘I know who you are – you’re the doctor at the hospital in Lethem.’ ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘that’s right.’ She said: ‘we’ve got a sick baby here and we need you to look at it.’ So Paul got up, walked over to the house, and saw the sick baby who wasn’t all that sick, and gave him some medicines to make him a little better. Next, thinking he had done a good job, he went back to watch the soccer and finish his glass of beer.

And then the same woman said: ‘Aren’t you also the priest at St So-and-So’s?’ He answered: ‘Well, actually, yes I am.’ And so she asked: ‘Why don’t you come and hold service here?’ He said, ‘because there aren’t any Catholics here.’ But she said: ‘Yes there is – there is a Catholic family here.’ So to prove it she went off and found a woman, stood her up in front of Paul and badgered her until she admitted that yes, she was a Catholic, hadn’t been to church for a long time, but she had been baptised a Catholic.

By now, there were quite a few people standing around and they all proclaimed triumphantly: ‘There, you see, there is a Catholic here. So will you come and hold church for us?’ So Paul said, ‘yes, certainly I will, but if you’re not Catholics, why do you want so much to come to the Catholic Mass?’ They replied: ‘Well, we are members of such-and-such another church (it would be unfair to give the name) but our pastor hardly ever comes here. Will you please hold church for us? Please?! Oh Please?’!!!

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In his mind Paul was thinking: ‘Oh no! I just know I am going to get into big trouble for this. I am sent only to the lost sheep of the Catholic Church and now all these other sheep are trying to get in as well. But, as the T-shirt says, “what would Jesus do?”’ He simply could not say ‘no’ to the Indian woman, any more than Jesus could say ‘no’ to the Canaanite woman who begged him on her knees for any scraps of the bread of life that fell from his table. He just knew that Jesus would have said to this Indian woman too: ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’

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Fr Paul finishes his story with this plea: ‘But if my bishop ever asks what happened, just tell him I was there for the Sports Day and a glass of beer!’

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

Brian Gleeson special photo

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THE ASSUMPTION OF MARY: A BELIEF SINCE APOSTOLIC TIMES. Presented by

Fr Kevin Walsh – Sydney Australia
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Assumption

The Assumption is the oldest feast day of Our Lady, but we don’t know how it first came to be celebrated.
Its origin is lost in those days when Jerusalem was restored as a sacred city, at the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (c. 285-337). By then it had been a pagan city for two centuries, ever since Emperor Hadrian (76-138) had leveled it around the year 135 and rebuilt it as <Aelia Capitolina> in honor of Jupiter.
For 200 years, every memory of Jesus was obliterated from the city, and the sites made holy by His life, death and Resurrection became pagan temples.

After the building of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in 336, the sacred sites began to be restored and memories of the life of Our Lord began to be celebrated by the people of Jerusalem. One of the memories about his mother centered around the “Tomb of Mary,” close to Mount Zion, where the early Christian community had lived.

On the hill itself was the “Place of Dormition,” the spot of Mary’s “falling asleep,” where she had died. The “Tomb of Mary” was where she was buried.
At this time, the “Memory of Mary” was being celebrated. Later it was to become our feast of the Assumption.
For a time, the “Memory of Mary” was marked only in Palestine, but then it was extended by the emperor to all the churches of the East. In the seventh century, it began to be celebrated in Rome under the title of the “Falling Asleep” (“Dormitio”) of the Mother of God.

Soon the name was changed to the “Assumption of Mary,” since there was more to the feast than her dying. It also proclaimed that she had been taken up, body and soul, into heaven.
That belief was ancient, dating back to the apostles themselves. What was clear from the beginning was that there were no relics of Mary to be venerated, and that an empty tomb stood on the edge of Jerusalem near the site of her death. That location also soon became a place of pilgrimage. (Today, the Benedictine Abbey of the Dormition of Mary stands on the spot.)
At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, when bishops from throughout the Mediterranean world gathered in Constantinople, Emperor Marcian asked the Patriarch of Jerusalem to bring the relics of Mary to Constantinople to be enshrined in the capitol. The patriarch explained to the emperor that there were no relics of Mary in Jerusalem, that “Mary had died in the presence of the apostles; but her tomb, when opened later . . . was found empty and so the apostles concluded that the body was taken up into heaven.”

In the eighth century, St. John Damascene was known for giving sermons at the holy places in Jerusalem. At the Tomb of Mary, he expressed the belief of the Church on the meaning of the feast: “Although the body was duly buried, it did not remain in the state of death, neither was it dissolved by decay. . . . You were transferred to your heavenly home, O Lady, Queen and Mother of God in truth.”
All the feast days of Mary mark the great mysteries of her life and her part in the work of redemption. The central mystery of her life and person is her divine motherhood, celebrated both at Christmas and a week later (Jan. 1) on the feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. The Immaculate Conception (Dec. 8) marks the preparation for that motherhood, so that she had the fullness of grace from the first moment of her existence, completely untouched by sin. Her whole being throbbed with divine life from the very beginning, readying her for the exalted role of mother of the Savior.

The Assumption completes God’s work in her since it was not fitting that the flesh that had given life to God himself should ever undergo corruption. The Assumption is God’s crowning of His work as Mary ends her earthly life and enters eternity. The feast turns our eyes in that direction, where we will follow when our earthly life is over.

The feast days of the Church are not just the commemoration of historical events; they do not look only to the past. They look to the present and to the future and give us an insight into our own relationship with God. The Assumption looks to eternity and gives us hope that we, too, will follow Our Lady when our life is ended.

The prayer for the feast reads: “All-powerful and ever-living God: You raised the sinless Virgin Mary, mother of your Son, body and soul, to the glory of heaven. May we see heaven as our final goal and come to share her glory.”
In 1950, in the Apostolic Constitution <Munificentissimus Deus>, Pope Pius XII proclaimed the Assumption of Mary a dogma of the Catholic Church in these words: “The Immaculate Mother of God, the ever-virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heaven.”
With that, an ancient belief became Catholic doctrine and the Assumption was declared a truth revealed by God.
Prayers of Intercession
Leader: In the assumption of Mary into heaven,
we see the glory that God calls us to share.
As we celebrate the mighty deeds
that God’s love accomplished in her,
we confidently ask God to hear our prayers.
1. That the church, like Mary,
will rejoice to share Christ’s victory
over death,
let us pray to the Lord:
2. That world leaders
will ensure that their countries’ might
and wealth
are used for peace and not for war,
let us pray to the Lord:
3. That those who lift up the spirits
of the poor, the homeless, and the oppressed
will never lose hope in the saving power
of God,
let us pray to the Lord:
4. That we who celebrate this Eucharist
will imitate Mary’s example of trust and love,
let us pray to the Lord:
5. That those who have died,
especially ___________ and ___________,
will find everlasting joy in God their Savior,
let us pray to the Lord:
6. Let us remember our own intentions.
[pause for silent prayer]
For these, let us pray to the Lord:
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Priest: Mary’s God and our God,
you have blessed us with the gift of your beloved Son
and his most-holy mother.
Look with favor upon our prayers
for your continued blessings.
Grant that we, like Mary,
proclaim your greatness in all that you accomplish for us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

 

19th Sunday Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia.

STEP OUT IN FAITH!

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Many, many years ago when I was in the Seminary at Holy Cross Monastery, Templestowe Vic, my ideas about the Bible were thrown wide open. Like most Catholics in the 50’s and 60’s, and I suppose before that as well, we thought that the Bible was one Book! A history Book at that! Containing the literal truth about God’s involvement with his people, and that the New Testament was far better than the Old Testament. The New Testament didn’t contain nasty stories of wars and bloodshed, and that God’s people had grown up more by the time of the New Testament. Yet, I remember at school at Marist Brothers High School, Mosman, and then at St.Pius X College at Chatswood, that the way the world was created according to the Bible was very different to the way we were learning in Science, especially about evolution. I distinctly remember asking a Brother who was teaching us in Form 5/Year 11 …” Brother, how do we really know that the Adam and Eve story is true?” the response was swift and to the point! “Get out of the class, Walsh; you don’t ask questions like that!”

I also remember in English classes, learning about Shakespeare’s Sonnets and the absolute necessity to learn about the background of the author, and the reason for its structure of fourteen lines, and perhaps the mind of the man which caused him to write a particular Sonnet. We never applied any of this kind of critique to Scripture….until I was shattered, when I entered the Seminary, and we were encouraged to go deep sea diving into the Scriptures. A whole new exciting world was opened up to us, and we wanted to learn more and more because we were taught by Priests who inspired us, because they were inspired by God’s Word and the discoveries that they had made. Some of these men were Frs. Robert Crotty, C.P., Nicholas Crotty,C.P, Jerome Crowe,C.P, Gregory Manly,C.P, Angelo O’Hagan, OFM, Camillus Hay, OFM, Tony Kelly, CssR and Walter Black,MSC. For these men, their world had been opened up during their post graduate studies in Rome and Jerusalem. To these men who taught us at Yarra Theological Union, Box Hill, VIC, I will be always in debt to them. You may not have heard of any of their names before, but me, and my fellow students owe so much to them. In short, these men taught us an inspired us to be curious about all things. That has stood by me and my fellow Alumini all these years.

Book of Isaiah

So, after going down Memory Lane, what can I say about the Bible in a short number of words? I believe that the Bible is God’s Word! It is also like a photographic album, containing so many of the snapshots of God’s continuing Invitation to humankind to be in communion with God. The Bible contains lots and lots of stories which were written at a particular time in world history which need to be put under the microscope, so that we can discover the hidden chambers of God’s activity with His People – the New Israel! God’s Word is evergreen…..it is a Word which is always in season! As we look at the Bible, the faces have changed over the centuries, but the message remains the same! The Bible is the greatest ‘love story’ that has ever been written…..it continues to be written and etched in the minds and hearts of all people at all times. We are then called to be Gospel writers…..Yes, a definition of a Gospel is this….the collection of the snapshots of the things that God has said and done in us, and in others, shared and celebrated in life’s Liturgy. Liturgy means, simply and profoundly the work of all in the Assembly at worship. (Ritual is something else which we don’t need to look at this time around.) So Liturgical activity is somewhat like a team of rowers in an ancient boat powered by work of the team, steered by a Leader/Pilot, moved by the Spirit; the keel and mast is Christ, the boat is the Church, the beginning and destination of the Assembly is the work of the Father.

READINGS: 1st Book of Kings 19:9. 11-13  Gospel Matthew 14:22-33

God's Word

I gave you a hint at the beginning that this might be a long one….Now let’s look at the first reading. Elijah travels a long way to that place where Moses encountered the Lord God. Mt.Horeb is another name for Sinai. In Scripture, mountains and hills are mostly places of revelation….the unveiling of God to someone or a group. In order to catch the importance of Elijah’s journey and destination, we need to remember that Mt.Sinai was extremely significant to our ancestors in faith. It was that place where the Lord God had initiated a Covenant with his people….a kind of Marriage contract. “I will be your God, and you will be my people”. The Ten Commandments or Decalogue (Ten Words from God) safeguarded the relationship between us and God, and us and others. It was also that place where Moses experienced the presence of God….but not His face! No one has ever seen the face of God….However, in Theology; we call Jesus, the human face of the Father.

So, Elijah goes to that place, ascends that high mountain which having done it myself….it takes its toll on the human body, in terms of effort, and one has to have a good reason to want to go to the top of the mountain. That journey in itself is a metaphor for personal renewal, and cleansing for what awaits one at the top! For me, upon reaching the summit for daybreak was one of the most mind blowing experiences of my life. The very last thing that I wanted to do at the top of Mt Sinai was to talk to anybody. The place is totally saturated by the faith of the people who have been drawn there. The Words of God are so loud, in the silence that, I found it hard to stand up. I can understand the action of hiding in the entrance of the Cave, but then there is an irresistible calling to quietly walk out, to the open and ‘be present’….and thank goodness there were no shops or McDonalds or any type of Cafe’. God speaks loudly in the sounds of silence! Why do you think Elijah covered his face? It is an amazing action…it is a sign of being in the presence of God, it is a sign of inner contrition within the presence of God, it is a sign of unworthiness within God’s presence….it even touches on ‘Fear’ in the presence of God. That overall experience is repeated time and time again through the Scriptures…..” Do not be afraid….you have won God’s favour” says the Angel Gabriel to Mary. In the Gospel today, we see the Lord saying:’ Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’

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In the Gospel, notice that Jesus goes up into the hills to pray….to listen and speak to his Father in the silence, and solitude of the hill. Evening time is also a Biblical time for a revelation an Epiphany, and invitation and response in faith! We need to remember that this Gospel was written no earlier than about 55AD, and it would seem to have been written for Palestinian audiences, with a solid Old Testament background.

That being the case, the story of Jesus walking on the water, and all that takes place has a particular Literary Form. That means that this story actualised what was happening in the early Church, and the Words and works of Jesus were not only for the there, and then, but for all times.

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The Boat, symbolised the Assembly, hence the Early Church was venturing out seemingly on their own into a world of opposition. Upon feeling the opposition to the message, the disciples become terrified when they see someone coming towards on the water. With God, the impossible becomes possible! Thinking that it was a Ghost, Jesus calls to them, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid!’ Now, Peter who has an element of doubt in him…just like us at times, missed what Jesus really said! ‘It is I’ in English does not strike us in the way it would if it were written in Aramaic or Greek! ‘It is I’ is a translation for what would be seen and heard immediately by the listeners to this Gospel….in short it is the Divine Name! The same name that was given to Moses by the Angel of the Lord at the Burning Bush in Exodus Chapter 3. Wow! Remember in John’s Gospel, on the night of Our Lord’s arrest…in the Garden, Jesus says, ‘who are you looking for?’ The soldiers answer, ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, he responds by saying, ‘I am He’. What happens to the soldiers….they get bowled over by this response from Jesus, in awe….the Divine Name.

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Notice that Peter, who is still caught up in the moment, and did not recognise the Divine name, still is a bit unsure…..a bit like us, at times, eh? Then that extraordinary prayer, ‘Lord, save me!’ I’m sure that has been and will continue to be our special Mantra-Prayer…. Lord, save me! Notice the strength of the Lord in raising Peter from the waters of the tomb, and then. Remember the strength in God the Father re breathing new life into His Son at the moment of Resurrection? This experience for Peter and for the men in the boat was another experience of salvation….that means seeing the saving hand of God in Jesus! Notice how Peter and the men responded to this faith-moment, this insight in the Christ who is always with his Church, even in troubled times….it is a kind of Liturgical response: In unison, they acclaim: ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’ How good is that?

Now for us in the here and now, see how easily all this can be related to our own situation…that is why God’s Word is evergreen. God’s Word always does what it was intended to do…in God’s time; that can be a problem for us, because sometimes, we want it in our time…………. Let’s reflect upon the elements of God’s Word today, and pin point those times when we have been the faces…as the message remains the same…..Let’s sit back and ponder deeply into our personal Gospel story, namely the things that God has said and done in us, to us and within our family, within the wider community. I would like to conclude with a little Reflection, taken from: New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies by Fr.Flor McCarthy,SDB Page 266..titled: Courage! Do not be afraid!

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Like Peter we too have often set out confidently
Across the waters of life.
However, as soon as the winds of trouble rise against us,
And the waves of adversity begin to buffet us,
We lose our nerve and begin to sink.
Lord, when our faith falters, as it often does,
May we hear your gentle voice saying to us,
‘Courage! Do not be afraid.’
In that moment, Lord,
May your divine power uphold us,
Calm our fears, steady our nerves,
And enable us to steer our little boat
To a place of safety and peace,
Beyond the wind and the waves.

Fr Kevin Walsh -Sydney Australia. kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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Jesus said to Peter the Apostle: ‘Come to me across the water!’

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They say that ‘life begins at forty’. Some of you may have personal experience of that. But just when he was about to turn forty, another Peter – he lives thousands of miles away – had a very bad year.

He crashed his car. He was drunk at the time, so he lost his driving licence. He needed that driving licence for his job, so he lost his job. When he lost his job, he could not keep up the mortgage payments on his house. His wife divorced him and took their two children away. He took up the only two options he thought he had left in the world – he went home to live with his parents, and he started to drink heavily.

Begging for money

His mother was very old and confined to a wheelchair. But the only thing she asked of him was to take her to church every day. So, every day, he wheeled her to church, where he listened to a very long and boring homily by a very old and decrepit priest. He got to thinking: ‘What a hopeless old man! I could do better myself!’

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It was a bizarre thought for someone who by now barely believed in God. But the thought stuck with him. Every day when he took his mother to Mass, the thought grew and grew. He went to make his confession – a long one. Next he started to receive Holy Communion. And all the time, the thought kept growing within him that he should seek to become a priest.

When Vocations Sunday came around, the old priest gave a particularly long and boring homily, during which he asked all those present to ask themselves whether they might sense within themselves a call to the priesthood or religious life. After Mass, Peter took his courage in both hands and went to see the priest in the sacristy. He told him he thought he had a vocation. First the priest was shocked and then he got the giggles. Didn’t he know that married men couldn’t become priests?

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Peter went away humiliated. In fact he was so angry that he wrote a long letter to the bishop complaining about the attitude of the priest. The bishop wrote back saying that the old priest was, in his opinion, one of the holiest men in the diocese, but that if Peter felt that he wanted to keep considering a vocation, the bishop would be happy to meet him.

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So, feeling a little foolish, and not really sure what there was to talk about, Peter went to see the bishop. The gospel for that day was the one we’ve heard today – Peter hoped it might be a good sign. They spoke for a long time and, for the first time, Peter opened up his heart. And, in talking about his deepest hopes, he discovered that he really did have a burning desire to be a priest – the conviction to give his whole life in the service of God and God’s people – a conviction that is given only by God himself. At the end of their conversation, the bishop told him frankly that he believed Peter had a genuine vocation, but he had no idea whether within the rules of the Church he could become a priest. He would see if anything could be done. Peter went home feeling the best he had all that year.

A week later, he was called in to see the bishop again. The bishop explained that there was a provision in canon law after all, for men in his position to become priests. Ten years ago Peter was ordained and is now working as a priest in a parish in England.

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There are times in life when the things God asks of us seem so difficult that we conclude all too quickly that they are simply impossible. We even doubt that what God is asking of us is really coming from the Lord at all. Might it not be coming from the bad Spirit?

Sometimes the only way to find out the truth is to ask the Lord to tell us to come to him across the water of our fears and doubts. And when, like Peter the Apostle, we start to sink beneath the waves, to reach out towards the Lord with both hands, and say to him not once, not twice, but over and over and over again: ‘Lord, save me!’ ‘Lord, save me!’ ‘Save me, Lord, lest I sink beneath the waves of my doubts!’

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Transfiguration of Our Lord. Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. Transfiguration as it was and as it is……

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Today’s Gospel is about the Transfiguration of Jesus. We have heard it so many times before, but it contains an evergreen meaning for us every time we reflect upon it. At a glance, we see in this story that the veil was lifted very slightly to give the apostles a fleeting glimpse into the nature and mission of Jesus. He was of course, human and therefore until now, their only experiences of Him had been within that human context. However, this was different! It was within the realm of a profound ‘deep and touching’ experience.

Peter, James and John were close friends of Jesus, and it appears, that they were the ones who seemed to accompany Him at this time. At the human level, they would claim to know Him well, to know how He thought and to be familiar with His actions. In this situation however, there was something different. In the presence of such a sacred experience, the natural human reaction of the apostles was to be afraid … even terrified … to the extent that they covered their faces. The face of Jesus became like a mirror, reflecting back the glory of the Father to them. The appearance of Moses as the Lawgiver, and Elijah as the Prophet, was enormously significant, because Jesus had announced that His mission was to fulfil the Law and the Prophets.

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Being afraid in the presence of the ‘Sacred’ was not an uncommon experience. Remember when the Lord God in Exodus, chapter 3 asked Moses to be the instrument and leader in the deliverance of the chosen people from slavery? Moses was not exactly over the moon about the prospect; in fact, he too was afraid. Then, on Mt. Sinai, Moses hid his face while in the presence of God during that precious moment when God initiated the great Covenant/Marriage Contract with his people … ”I will be your God and you shall be my people.” Again, remember when Our Lady received a surprise visit from the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation? She too was disturbed and afraid. However, the Angel sensed her agitation and calmed her by saying … “Do not be afraid, you have won God’s favour”. There are times in our own lives when we have experienced a special closeness to God and it is not unusual to be afraid. So, when this happens, let us remember that we are in “good company”. It has happened to others before, and it will happen to lots of others in the future; I bet that it has happened to us!

Transfiguration

Let us now go back to the Mount of the Transfiguration. When the vision was over and Moses and Elijah had gone, and the brilliance was dimmed, the apostles opened their eyes (and these words are powerfully significant) and they saw no one but only Jesus. Jesus and His companions had to come down from the Mountain where mystically they would wish that the experience continued forever. However, the Life and Mission of Jesus and His Disciples had to continue, leading to the Cross and Resurrection.

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We are not finished with what happened on Mt.Tabor yet……We must remember that the Apostles were not watching the Transfiguration on a stage! They were right in it; this moment wrapped them within a mantle of ‘awe, wonder, fright and thanksgiving’. Now, let’s be deeply curious, let us re-enter those moments in our own lives when we have been within a moment of wonder! A moment of transfiguration, may I say? The nuances within Matthew’s Transfiguration are as real in the here and now, as they were back then. Let’s go deep sea diving into the Scriptures! Throughout the Scriptures, Mountains are places of Revelation, they are the place of ‘wonder moments’ they are the places where the reality of Heaven is gently meshed into the reality on Earth. This experience, in Celtic Spirituality is often called a ‘thin moment’ or it happens in a ‘thin place’. The Celtic name for this experience may be new to you, but the experience, I’m sure is not. Let’s think it through; Have you had experiences in your life where unexpectedly, you have been gently caught up in a moment in which you may have felt a bit terrified, but then you slowly warm to the moment as the moment warms to you; and then you ‘know’ that the Lord, an Angel, or a departed member of your family is very close to you? Please think back in your life to such moments of a ‘glimpse’ or eternal rapture. You might ask, in what part of your body did you feel this? It would seem, according to Celtic tradition that we feel these things in the pit of our stomach…….called a gut feeling! The moment might not be long, in terms of seconds or minutes, but the result within us stays forever. Like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, they wanted to contain that experience when Jesus was transfigured and they too, may I add, were transfigured. They suggested in building places to guard and acknowledge that hollowed place and experience. For us too, we would like that holistic experience to continue. The truth is, that it can continue, whenever we ‘still ourselves’ and re member and re visit that experience and it can become a ‘real presence’ for us.

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Moments of Transfiguration for us do happen, and they are part of the mystical experience of Christianity. Christianity is a mystical religion! It is not just the following of rules, and the acting out of rituals and rubrics. We as a community, act out mystical experiences in and through Liturgy and Prayer; the Celebration of the Eucharist is the summit and source of community worship. Real and true Liturgy is not going through a meticulous, dry Ritual where the I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed. That is more like making a cake from a Recipe. Fair dinkum, Liturgy, as we would say in Australia is the activity of all, to experience a ‘thin moment’ of thanksgiving and praise in community. Now, let’s be real here: we are not going to get a ‘buzz’ out of this through Prayer or Liturgy every time. Most of the time it can be as dry as an old Hymn Book! But that how our spiritual life grows…….Our spiritual life does not necessarily grow in a Rainforest, but more like a Desert….occasionally we stumble across an Oasis of freshness, insight, transfiguration.

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What do Transfiguration moments, or thin moments do for us? It seems that one of the deepest results is the deepening of our faith; in this instance, I use the word faith meaning INSIGHT! That is, the ability to see the saving hand of God at work! This happened for the Apostles, this happened for Jesus while in prayer, this happens for us as well. I also might add, that while we pray The Lord’s Prayer, especially where we say ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’ it is a statement about our Christian Mission, namely in bringing Heaven to Earth! Transfiguration moments or thin moments make present the Kingdom here but not yet complete, in short, and Eschatological moment.

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During this time of Ordinary time, let us make time to go up our own Mountain and enter into stillness. Let God’s powerful Word speak to our hearts … in the loving silence of our room, church, garden, or in the ‘bush’ (In Australia, by ‘the bush’ we mean going into a Forest of Glen) or by the sea. May those moments be times of re-transfiguration, giving us energy and understanding of our mission in the here and now. In doing this, we will all be journeying together in our earthly Pilgrimage to the Father, cherishing glimpses of thin moments when we brush against the membrane, which gently separates us from Heaven.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS PERSONAL REFLECTION QUESTIONS.

Examination of conscience

• How would you define prayer in one sentence? In your own words perhaps you could start like this….I think that prayer is……..
• Do you feel that your way of praying has changed as you have grown older and wiser? If it has, would you like to tell us?
• From your past and perhaps even now, would you like to talk about what your prayer is based on? e.g. Love, Thanksgiving, Praise, Fear.
• Jesus found it necessary to go off into quiet places to pray: when do you feel the need to pray?
• What are some of your difficulties in trying to pray?
• When was your first Transfiguration experience? Where was it and what happened? What did that experience mean for you and do for you?
• Where have you experienced ‘thin’ moments? Was it on top of Mt.Sinai? Was it when you were close to the tomb of a Saint? Was it in the central White Tower of London, in the Chapel of St. Peter ad vincula where the bones of hundreds of Martyrs are plastered in its walls?
• Other mystical Religions also have ‘thin’ moments and places; have you experienced some of those?

Fr Kevin Walsh
Sydney. Australia
Email: kevin.w3@bigpond.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

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A DIFFERENT KIND OF TRANSFIGURATION…..A reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne, Australia.

God has just said to us about Jesus: ‘This is my own dear Son, with whom I am very pleased – listen to him!’ (Mt 17:5).

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Someone giving a sermon or homily might sometimes wonder: – ‘How many people are really listening? Is anybody listening from start to finish? Will those listening now remember anything later? In any case, can a homily ever start to change another person’s life?’ I know of at least one particular instance where it really and truly did.

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There’s this man called Mark, who lives a very long way from here. At 12, he was a bit wild at school. At 14, he was smoking and drinking. At 16, he started taking drugs – mostly cannabis, speed and ecstasy. At 18, he moved on to heroin. At 19, he was injecting crack and heroin every day. At 22, his life seemed completely destroyed. He had no home, no family, and almost no possessions other than the clothes he stood up in. He had lost one leg when he was high and walked in front of a car. He had tried to kill himself three times – twice by taking drug overdoses, and once by trying to hang himself. When he went to church, it was not to pray but to beg from the people there. He found that just after Mass Catholic Christians tend to be particularly generous.

But one Sunday, as happens today, the gospel of the Transfiguration was presented. In the homily that followed he heard the priest say this:

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The meaning of the Transfiguration is that God does not make junk. God created the world – and what God makes is good. God created Abraham and raised him up to be the father of many nations. God sent his only Son into the world to live, die and rise again for our salvation and transformation. So much so that St Paul has asked: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us? Since he did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for the sake of us all, then can we not expect that with him he will freely give us all his gifts? Who can bring any accusation against those that God has chosen? Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ…?’ (Romans 8:31-35).

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At the end of his homily, the priest made all the people stand up and say with conviction: ‘God made me; God doesn’t make junk.’ So, along with all the rest, Mark felt compelled to get up and say: ‘God made me; God doesn’t make junk.’
But many days later, those words were still burning into Mark’s heart: ‘God made me; God doesn’t make junk.’ It became his prayer. It became his faith. It became his life.

With the courage of his new convictions behind him, Mark gave up drugs. He found a wife and he found a life. Not in a moment, of course, not even in a few weeks, but over months and years, he was transfigured and transformed. He took to heart the implications of the Transfiguration of Jesus: ‘God made me; God doesn’t make junk’, and ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ (Romans 8:31).

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What about us? Where do we stand? Do we really want to be transfigured and transformed by listening to Jesus our Saviour – listening with our hearts and listening with full attention to his words, his teachings, his example, and his inspiration? Do we?

Surely we do! Today? Tomorrow? Always?
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Brian Gleeson

Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP

 

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