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Monthly Archives: February 2019

8th Sunday in Ordinary time Year C 2019. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh CP Sydney Australia kevin.w3@bigpond.com Say what you mean, and mean what you say, in love!

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Say what you mean, and mean what you say, in love!

Today’s Gospel contains some simple and clear messages, which are easily understood. Jesus speaks about how it is so much easier for us to see the faults in others, before seeing the faults in ourselves and he gives us a simple test to show whether a person is good or not. Let’s take a closer look!

As we are on the threshold of Lent which begins next Wednesday, the Word of God this weekend certainly tunes us into a most important part of the Lenten journey…. and that is a ‘change of heart’. It’s ever so easy for us to see the faults in others, and it can become habit forming to be negative, nagging and critical. Over a period of time, this cocktail can be unproductive, soul destroying, and finally it can lead to the death of one’s spirit. It can also be the source of unhappiness towards others, and it can cripple the energy and creative spirit in those close to us, and around us.

When we turn on the Television for the evening News, so often we hear extraordinary promises made by our Politicians about the positive steps that such and such a Government will do in the future to improve our Civic Services and standard of living. However, there is a little echo inside us which subtly reminds us that we have heard this all before and when it is time to put into action some of these fantastic promises, something else has cropped up which is more important in keeping the Government in Office which takes precedence at all costs!

This not only happens in Government or Corporations….it happens in the Church through its Shepherds too. As I am getting older and in the evening time of my life, I am not cynical when I hear these ‘big wigs’ sprouting forth wonderful and far reaching plans; I just look forward to its implementation. If nothing happens……I hear the echoes of the first Reading today from the Book of Ecclesiasticus 27:4-7……’ the kiln tests the work of the potter, the test of a man or woman is in their conversation…’

In Australia and Britain, we are skeptical nations, it’s in our DNA, and I can’t speak for other Countries because I have not lived in them. Maybe the same applies. I for one love listening to Oratory, Public Speaking. When I was stationed at St.Joseph’s Retreat, Nth London, I would frequently make my way to Speaker’s Corner at Marble Arch in London, on Sunday afternoons unless I was rostered on the evening Mass at the Church. I just love listening to the rhetoric. One of the best Speakers that I have ever heard on Social Justice was Methodist Minister, Lord Soper. His Sermon of the Beatitudes as the Charter for Social Justice is the best that I have ever heard. Over the time, we became friends, and I deeply enjoyed his company.

8th Sunday Year C Brian

Getting back to the point….sorry I drifted away for a bit….It particularly irritates me when I hear Bishops giving forth about radical ways of living the Gospel way of life, and Servant Leadership…..and it is all words, no actions. It saddens me that some Shepherds allow themselves to be held captive by other people who seem to have the ‘wood over them’, and somehow anesthetize the daring dreams of the Shepherd. As an old priest, this I feel is very destructive. Bishops may have great mottos’ or maxims, but I wonder if these contain their greatest fears! Food for thought! This might sound a bit below the belt, but just think about it for a moment…..its causes me to pause, with eyes cast down. Back to the first Reading……’the Orchard where the tree grows is judged on the quality of its fruit, similarly a man’s words betray what he feels…’

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Whatever is in our heart really determines what we say and do. I am sure that there has never been a bomb planted, or a bullet fired that did not begin in the heart of some human being. By the heart I mean the core of our being, that part where we are most ourselves. In Psalm 50:v6 we hear…’ Yet, since you love sincerity of heart, teach me the secrets of wisdom’ and again in verse 10, it is echoed in an evergreen prayer,’ O God, create a clean heart in me, and put a steadfast spirit within me.’ I strongly recommend that if you are looking for an Act of Contrition which is tried and true, do be absorbed by Psalm 50/51.

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On a physical level, we can check out the condition of our heart by having an angiogram, or an ECG or even a stress test; this tells us the status and condition of our physical heart. Perhaps we should run a check on that inner being which we call ‘the heart,’ to ensure that our thinking, our attitudes, and our inner dispositions are life-giving and healthy. Also, what we say, we mean, and we will do! Where does that leave us? Most certainly the truth of the matter is that we cannot ‘change’ by ourselves; the Holy Spirit enables all transformation that may be required; that invitation is constant, what about our response?

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Let us pray: ‘Spirit of God, please open my heart and my eyes to truth, and let me see things as they really are…help me to see myself as I truly am. May I not be discouraged, but take heed from your ever present invitation, to rise above my faults, and through God’s grace, May I be quick to see the goodness, truth and love in those who are different to me. May I have the courage to say what I mean, and mean what I say.’ Amen.

Kevin and Shauna

Fr Kevin Walsh with his companion Shauna

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8th Sunday in Ordinary time Year C 2019. A Reflection on the Readings by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. HELPFUL OR HARMFUL WORDS. bgleesoncp@gmail.com

A little boy was saying his bed-time prayers in a very soft voice. ‘I can’t hear you dear’, his mother whispered. Back came his firm reply: ‘Wasn’t talking to you.’ One day the philosopher, Aesop, was asked what the most useful thing in the world is. ‘The tongue,’ the philosopher replied. ‘And what,’ they asked, ‘is the most harmful thing in the world?’ ‘The tongue,’ he answered once more.

A famous duchess once confessed to St Philip Neri in Rome the sin of gossiping. He told her to go home, get a feather pillow, and come back to the steps of the church. When he met her there, he handed her a small knife and asked her to rip open the pillow. As she did, she watched the loose feathers dance round and round the church square and along the adjoining lanes. ‘Now go and pick up all those feathers,’ Philip said. ‘I can’t possibly find and collect them all,’ she replied. So Philip made his point: ‘You have no idea either where your words go, and you can never unsay them.’

I think we would all agree that God’s gift of speech, when it is used well – to build up others but not to put them down – is enormously useful. It encourages others, it develops friendships, it promotes sharing and community, and it brings joy. On the other hand, when our words are angry, bitter, sneering, cynical, sarcastic, spiteful, contemptuous and abusive, they can wreck the self-confidence of others, foment hatred and hostility, and even contribute to wrecking a marriage or career.

No wonder then the Wise One states in our First Reading today, ‘the test of a person is in conversation’. Jesus too was well aware of the capacity of speech to do well or to do harm. So he has a particularly strong message for any of us with a tendency towards ‘foot in mouth disease’.

Before we blurt out anything, Jesus wants us to be careful about how we think and feel about others and how we judge them. So, what a cheek we have if, with our eyes blind to our own faults, acting like big logs in our line of vision, we find fault with our neighbour, whose faults, by comparison, may be like mere specks in the eye! How dare we then proceed to correct them! What hypocrisy!

8th Sunday Year C Brian

Many of us find ourselves called to be leaders and guides. We may, e.g. be parents, teachers, and employers, and it’s our job and responsibility to set and uphold standards, and to communicate both expectations and limits. But as the saying goes, ‘it’s not what you say, but the way that you say it’, that makes all the difference. When persons receiving our guidance know that we are speaking to them with tact, kindness and generosity, when they see that we are practicing what we preach, when they see us as good, genuine and consistent, and when they know that we are for them, not against them, then great progress can be made in leader-follower relationships.

On the other hand, the kind of responsibility for others that is expressed as ‘don’t do as I do, do as I say’, which we frequently hear in arguments and rows on TV between parents and teenagers, gets nowhere.

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Much of what Jesus is saying about this can be summed up in his wise words: ‘Out of the goodness of the heart, a good person produces good, and out of a malicious heart, an evil person produces evil, for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.’ We cannot afford to contract that kind of ‘heart disease’, those ways of thinking, feeling and living that leave us with hard hearts and cruel speech to or about other people.

On the other hand, Jesus has not taught that there is never a place for criticism, challenge, confrontation, and correction among his followers. Just that we have the responsibility to be very careful about what we say about others, and how we criticize and condemn them! Building and sharing a ‘dirt file’ on others and mangling their reputation can, in fact, be very harmful, evil and sinful.

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It’s appropriate, then, that we give our hearts a regular check-up. I recommend that at the end of each day, we run a little performance review on ourselves. ‘How did I go today?, we might ask ourselves. ‘Whom did I meet today? What did I say to her? What did I say to him? Was I helpful or hurtful? Was I friend or foe? We might then round off our reflection (what used to be called an ‘examination of conscience’) with a prayer. For any inappropriate words, a plea for mercy and forgiveness! For all the good things we said, a prayer of thanksgiving!

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Brian Gleeson special photo

 

7th Sunday In ordinary time Year C 2019. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh Sydney Australia. kevin.w3@bigpond.com TO ERR IS HUMAN, TO FORGIVE IS DIVINE.

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Today’s Gospel summarises something that was very new to the religious leaders and people in Jesus’ day. They had a law which said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth!’ The teaching that Jesus puts forward was very radical, and is still radical in today’s world, with our continued dog-eat-dog mentality. The process of salvation, which Jesus had come to establish, would be based on unconditional forgiveness! Therefore, if we are to be part of this process we must be in the front line in aspiring to be tolerant, forgiving and loving. That’s a mighty big challenge!

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There is an extraordinary power in forgiveness, gentleness, meekness, and love. ‘Blessed are the meek’ says Jesus, ‘they shall possess the earth.’ (Matthew 5:4) We have all seen movies, read books or heard first-hand accounts of the lives of people like, St. Thomas Moore, Mahatma Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa; the bully cannot deal with the power of the one who will not strike back, and therefore, such people are either killed, or sidelined, tortured or laughed at as the only way of stopping them. It reminds me of a little saying which I read on a Sugar packet at the local Coffee Club Café recently, ‘To err is human, to forgive is divine.’ Forgiveness, which is honest and true can bring forth divine gifts in others, as well as in ourselves…one might have to be patient, and wait some time, but if we hang in, and hand over to the Lord what is in us that makes it hard to forgive…. we are then moving into miracle territory. Forgiveness does not happen of its own accord! Forgiveness is to do with Divinity! The greatest sign of forgiveness and love is Jesus and His Cross! ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.’ Luke 23:34.

Forgiveness is like salt, which in the olden days was used to keep food from going bad! If we refurbish our inner selves and be nourished by the God’s Word and Sacrament, all that is ‘Divine’ within us will be preserved and hence be ‘on tap’ to deal with in dealing with the ups and downs of daily life. The fruits of it will be a power, which can dissolve resentment, it can dilute harmful attitudes before they take hold of us, and change us. Otherwise its opposite can cause untold damage to others and to ourselves.

There is something else which is mixed up in this crockpot of forgiveness and a contrite heart and that is respect for each other. There is something very nasty at work in our world today…..it manifests itself in the way some Church Shepherds, Religious Superiors, Parish Priests, Moderators, Parish Council leaders, Chancery staff, Administrators of Retreat Houses, and Business Leaders and Personnel Heads and the list could go on like a Litany….the response being, FORGIVE US O LORD! There is this dreadful lack of human courtesy and respect for one another in the Church and in our Society. This ‘take a number’ mentality or your call is important to us, we will get back to you within two days, smacks of impersonal and corporation relating styles at its worst; and often it is rudeness and ignorance in the ways of relating to others. Why is the corporate mentality eating into the fabric of human goodness and niceties?? Why is it that the common respectful tones of thank you, you have done a great job, thank you for your time and energy seem to be becoming scarce in our relationships? It seems to me that with the advent of High Tech’ communications, we are losing the plot when it comes to human pleasantness……it seems to be out the window! Jesus the foot washer, suffering servant, the one who does not condemn is being lost within a corporation mentality which is growing in the Church in the 1st World!

The next aspect within the Church Governance and so called pastoral relationships is the failure to be really human with one another. There is far too many check lists to be ticked, Monkey Questionaries given out which cramps the opportunities for conversations within groups, and one to one in the Church today. We are not talking and listening to each other in ‘real time’. What has happened to the old ‘How are you going?’ ‘What’s on your mind?’ What have been some of the graced moments in Ministry for you lately?’ What are some of the challenges that we can help you with in your Pastoral, Family interpersonal life?’ So much of this does not even get a ‘look in’ these days. In the Gospel today it says, ‘Treat others as you would like them to treat you.’ As an old priest of 45 years of ministry, I see a definite decline in our one to one respect for each other.

There needs to be more ‘listening’ to each other, and less programmes given to us without knowing where we are at! What can assist in remoulding us, enabling us to be more humane towards each other……It seems to me that we ought bury ourselves in Psalm 50 and then rise to Micah 6:8. ‘All that is asked of your humankind, is to act justly, love tenderly and to walk humbly with God and each other’. Let’s get back to the Gospel……

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There is only one condition laid down by Jesus when it comes to forgiveness…’ Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.’ Then it boils down to practical terms…how can we forgive and love others better? Maybe we might need to love and forgive ourselves a bit more; then taking to heart the wise and ‘lived’ words of St. Paul, ‘ I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength,’ let the 3rd verse of today’s responsorial Psalm seep into our bones…’ The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy.’ Ps 102.

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Kevin and Shauna

Fr Kevin with his companion, Shauna.

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6th Sunday of Year C 2019. A realhomilie by Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. HAPPY IS THE ONE WHO PUTS THEIR TRUST IN GOD! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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The Gospel chosen by the Church for this weekend is the very familiar Beatitudes, or we could call them the charter or recipe for Christian living, and for happiness. They outline a series of choices, and it gives us a program for living. Let’s put the Beatitudes or Attitudes under the microscope!

To be poor in spirit has little to do with living in poverty, or without the basic means for normal living. It means that the spirit, the inner me, the real me, is not super-glued to wealth, to greed, or to material things of any kind. I could have a very healthy bank account, and be poor in spirit. In other words, I don’t need these material things to give me a sense of value, and an assurance of worth. A person could be very rich, and have very little of this world’s wealth. Another person could be really poor, empty, and alone, despite possessing much wealth!

What about the hunger that Jesus speaks about? Surely it is to do with the hunger for freedom, for justice, for a-fair-go, for equal rights, that continue to drive so many extraordinary men and women in today’s world. There is a greater hunger than the lack of food. The deepest hungers in the human heart have to do with belonging, self-worth, dignity, and personal freedom.

Those who weep are those who love! Grief is the price we pay for love. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and he wept at the tomb of Lazarus. These are not tears of despair. They were tears of love, of loss, of longing. They were the tears of the one who holds out both hands, but the offer is sometimes not accepted, of the tears of loneliness and aloneness that fill the vacuum created by the loss of a loved one. So often we get glimpses, supposedly of real love on some of the lack lustre Movies; what a lot of bunkum! Deep in our minds we do know that some of the greatest lovers in this world are those who have suffered much! Gaze at Jesus; the human face of the Father! Be present to some of the most beautiful people in our world who are FREE from keeping up with the Jones’….in Australia and Britain that means not having to keep up with some of the better quality cars owned by people in your street.

25th Sunday Year B Keeping up appearances

In Australia so many people think that driving a big 4 Wheel Drive car in the city is a high status symbol! Or people who gloat over their Swimming Pools, but hate cleaning them! I am caught up in this sometimes……I go into JB Hi Fi shops and gloat over more expensive Laptops!!!! And my own Laptop does the job! But then I start thinking….wouldn’t it be good to have a faster speed internet etc and the list goes on…..WRONG WAY! GO BACK! Eh eh eh

Today’s Gospel is not about laying a guilt-trip on anyone. It is OK to have wealth, to have food, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to enjoy the affirmation given us by others. The important questions have to do with where the wealth came from, who is being excluded from the food, or who is being used in my pursuit for self-satisfaction? It seems that the big problem in today’s world is that half the population is dying of hunger, while the other half is on a diet, trying to get down the weight. There is more than enough food in today’s world for everyone….if only we could share it!

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Let us pray: O Lord, grant that we will always have a ravenous appetite for your love, a hunger for your Word, a desire to have the eyes to see you, and embrace you, and welcome you in those who are new or shy in our community…grant us a sensitivity to respond at the right time. Amen.

Kevin and Shauna

Fr Kevin Walsh with his companion, Shauna.

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5th Sunday in Ordinary time, Year C, 2019. A realhomilie from Fr.Kevin Walsh, Sydney – Australia ‘COME, AND FOLLOW ME’! Says the Lord. kevin.w3@bigpond.com

Pieta

Have you ever sat down to watch Television in the evening, and you flick around the Channels, and nothing really catches your attention; then for good measure you try it again, and suddenly you land on a channel that is showing a fantastic Documentary, and you know this is the one to watch? Well, it happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I had looked up the Television Guide for the week, and had completely missed seeing this Documentary advertised on the Works of Michelangelo! One of the many absolute inspiring works of art which makes my heart jump a beat or two is the Pieta. Now let’s refresh our memories about this famous work of art.

The Pietà (1498–1499) by Michelangelo is a marble sculpture in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the first of a number of works of the same theme by the artist. The statue was commissioned by the French cardinal Jouhnd-Billairesz, who was a representative in Rome. The statue was made from a single block of marble, and it was for a Cardinal’s funeral monument, but was moved to its current location, the first chapel on the right as one enters the Basilica, in the 18th century. This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus in the arms of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion. In the Cardinal’s memoirs it is recorded that he marveled at the finished work of art! Michelangelo responded by saying that he chipped away at the block to unveil what he could see within. Let’s stay with that last point for a little while…..what he could see within the block of marble.

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Now as we look at the call of the Prophet Isaiah, and the call of the Apostles, the Lord God sees within us, what can be! Let’s have a closer look at the Call of Isaiah in the first reading for today, and then carefully see the stages within that call, where finally Isaiah can say…’Here I am, send me’.

The context for this Vocational change in Isaiah’s life is very, very important. It is a moment, captured within the ‘faith-life’ of Isaiah; it is a deliberate gazing into the void, and within that stillness and conscious focusing, it is as if floating, unbounded but totally consumed in body, mind and spirit, that this religious experience takes place. Isaiah sees himself within a place of Holiness, par excellence, where he is experiencing in 3D and surround sound an invitation to ‘change’ in order to become, what the Lord God saw in him. Isaiah, gradually undergoes a transformation within his spiritual self. Now let’s go through the stages of awareness of self, before the Lord God, and then on to the mission. If you are at home as you read this, you might like to make a cup of Coffee or some strong Irish Breakfast tea to sustain you for the rest of the read……

This picturesque Theophany, which comes from the Greek, theophania, meaning an appearance of God/Adonai which reveals some of the divinity, power and glory of The One, who has always been, and will continue to be…..the loving architect, and cause of all that was, all that is, and all that will be…..who issues forth the breath of life, to all that lives and breathes. The Temple…Holy of Holies, this Sacred Space is the Templum, and for Isaiah, it becomes the tempus…the time to gaze within this atmosphere of profound impact. So, that we don’t get lost in what I am trying to say, the Templum is the PLACE! The tempus is the TIME/MOMENT…hence within this Spiritual experience, the two become ONE! A sense of timelessness takes over, and from that, Isaiah’s response to the Lord God’s invitation is firstly a sense of CONTRITION! Then follows his RESPONSE. It is within this heightened experience, that Isaiah realizes his poverty of spirit, and that of the people whom he represents. It is seeing with the eyes of faith, his and their ‘missing the mark’ (wretchedness/sin) both personally and corporately. He experiences a sense of ‘lostness’ momentarily, which develops into a realization and exclamation of his contrite heart. The similar contrite heart which sings and lives is Psalm 50/51 The Miserere: Isaiah becomes the embodiment of this Psalm…here are a few verses…

Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
so that sinners will turn back to you.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
you who are God my Saviour,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
15 Open my lips, Lord,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
17 My sacrifice, O God, is[b] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart
you, God, will not despise.

30th Sunday year A Ark of the covenant

Now this Psalm, and its motifs, had already become part of Isaiah’s bone marrow……he would have prayed this kind of prayer many, many times, and actualised it in and through the Covenant Renewal Ceremonies, and Atonement Liturgies. This is not about reciting the prayer regularly, it is about praying the prayer habitually and with focus. I had a pet Galah (Pink and Grey Australian Parrot) and it recited lots of things…for example…it often said, “I love you Kev, does the Bishop know? That’s the big question!” I could teach the Parrot to recite Psalm 50/51, but it could never pray it. Praying the sense of this Psalm has to be done often…it is like applying Polish to a timber floor that hungers for it…..one application is never enough! The prayer needs to be digested and become part of us….this comes about by letting the prayer, pray in us…..notice the subtlety?

With Isaiah, the inner disposition was already present, and hence within this Dream, the Parable of his conversion and calling, is teased out, and put into action by his holistic response…..”Here, I am, send me!”

As we cross over the bridge to the Gospel, we see a similar embodiment of Psalm 50/51 in the Apostles, when they were called by Jesus, and the deliberate invitation by Jesus to make happen the seemingly impossible, to be possible……the huge catch of fish! So much so, that the ‘faith-activity’ of the Apostles becomes so contagious, that only a signal was needed for help, because the ‘new comers’ could see what was happening, from the point of view of seeing/hearing and knowing through faith. This is just not information for the readers that the catch was so big that help was needed to get the fish out of the breaking nets, and get them to the markets while the catch was fresh! No, the Gospel Community of Luke, who put this narrative together, were not interested in that, they were deeply absorbed by the “faith-response” of the Apostles, and its direct implications for the fledging Church, and of course for us, it is ever new!

After the catch of fish, and the filling of two boats to almost sinking point, Simon, in seeing this and processing this in his mind and heart, dropped to his knees, at the feet of Jesus…..this being a ‘living action of Repentance and Conversion’, is similar to that of Isaiah, in the first reading. In the face of such a phenomenon…..that is the inner change in Simon, and his companions. Notice their reaction? ”They were frightened”, then in another translation from the Greek it says: they were astonished/ amazement had seized them! Then Jesus, sensing their fear, as Simon represented the group; Jesus says, “Do not be afraid, from now on it will be people that you will catch”. To conclude the activity of Conversion preceded by Contrition, they hauled in their nets; dropped everything, left everything on the beach…not even getting cash for their catch; and they followed Jesus.

When I was a teenager, I used to often think that the Apostles were rather thoughtless in just leaving all this gear on the beach and following Jesus. Well, of course as I later discovered, the authors of this Gospel were not concerned by the details of leaving boats and nets for someone else to pick up….it is about a “faith-response” which the Evangelistic Community were keen on….In other words, it was an immediate change of life style…..in terms of faith, meaning in this instance, that their insight into the One who was calling them, enabled the Apostles to experience Salvation, that also means the ability to see the saving hand of God at work in Jesus. Hence with the pre-condition of a contrite heart, the change can then become immediate……but not necessarily final. Continued work would need to be done to fortify and nourish their faith response, and contrition, as we see further on in the unveiling of the Good News. We should also keep in mind that this experience of Salvation did not safe guard Simon Peter for the denial of his Master, when the chips were down, prior to Our Lord’s arrest! But it does say a lot about the Lord’s profound understanding of our human nature, because He shared in it too, in all things, but sin.

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What about us? The message is the same, but the faces have changed! In order for our ‘faith life’ to be highly tuned, we need to nourish our inner sense of contrition frequently, so that we can see more clearly the One who continually calls us to change, to newness of life and to mission! This enables us to respond to the constant invitations from Jesus which come to us each day. We don’t go looking for the Mission, the Mission finds us. Are we as keen on nourishing our inner conversion, as we are to getting our cars put in for Service? Do, we regularly spend time working at our sense of contrition, by praying reflectively Psalm 50/51 or other kinds of Life Reviews and associated meditations? Is our response to ‘pop up’ mission invitations each day, taken up promptly, or done in our time when we are ready? These questions are just as important for me as they are for you. Then there is the feeling of ‘powerlessness and fear’ when we are face to face with the living Body of Christ within our communities; do we give the time to hear the comforting words from Jesus: “Do not be afraid!” Are we prepared to sit silently with these words????

Listening

Finally, who gives us the push, the urge to press on with the Mission of Christ in today’s world? An answer could well be that which alerted the Apostle Paul to the very same thing…’ I can do all things through Him who gives me the strength….’ Food for thought, eh?

As a concluding Twitter message to comfort us, and give us strength, may the prayerful words in the concluding verse of our Responsorial Psalm 137:8, echo throughout our being, always… “You stretch out your hand and save me, your hand will do all things for me. Your love is eternal…..”

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Fr Kevin Walsh & his Companion, Shauna

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5th Sunday Year C, 2019. A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. THE HOUND OF HEAVEN.

Recently. a Baptist lady said to a Catholic priest: ‘God is so big and we are so puny.’ The lady’s humility somewhat surprised the priest, because she was an outstanding Christian. She and her husband had built a hospital in Africa. She had trained a group of young women to nurse the poor. Now in her 80’s she was still reading the bible and praying every day. When the priest asked her what her life, her work and her faith had taught her most of all, she simply said: ‘God is so big and we are so puny.’

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

That Christian lady had discovered from life experience that her smallness, her insignificance, even her sense of being unworthy, did not stop God from doing good things, even big things, using her as his humble agent and instrument. It was the same with the Old Testament priest, Isaiah. He caught a glimpse of the glory and majesty of God in the Jerusalem temple. Compared with God he saw himself not just as puny, but as completely unworthy of what he saw. So he cried out: ‘What a wretched state I am in! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips.’ But God transformed him, by sending an angel to touch his lips with a burning coal and purify him. Now he was ready to be God’s messenger, and was able to say to God with confidence and enthusiasm: ‘Here I am, send me.’

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The apostle Paul too has insisted [in our Second Reading today] that it was ‘by the grace of God that he gave me’ that he became an apostle, a missionary for Christ. Much the same may be said of Simon Peter and his friends. They too had an experience of the bigness, the generosity – in short they had a profound experience of the ‘amazing grace’ of God.

In their case it happened through taking Jesus at his word, believing in him and trusting him. As a result, despite toiling all night, and not netting a single fish, now in the daytime they were hauling in a massive catch. So, in the presence of the power and generosity of God, Peter drops to his knees and says to Jesus: ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.’ Jesus is not put off by this. He has big plans for Peter and the others. Jesus tells them: ‘Do not be afraid; from now on it is people you will catch.’ There and then, supported by his trust in them, they leave everything – occupation, home, family, location and property – to join Jesus in netting people into the kingdom of God.

At different times in our lives, God has been in touch with us as well. God has spoken to us and called us to do God’s work. Usually there hasn’t been anything particularly grand about where God has called us. With Isaiah it was at his work the Jerusalem temple. With Paul it happened as he was galloping towards the city of Damascus on his horse. With Peter and his companions it was while they were trying without success that night to catch fish. So too with you and me, God has tracked us down wherever we live or work or pray.

Notice that I just said, ‘God has tracked us down.’ I now say that God will keep tracking us down, and never stop tracking us down. In a famous poem he calls ‘The Hound of Heaven’, the poet Francis Thompson, reflecting on his life-experience of trying to run away from God, presents God as being like a bloodhound, who never stops chasing us till he catches up with us and reaches us so irresistibly, that finally we surrender to God and to God’s great expectations and dreams for us. The whole powerful truth of this is captured in the very first verse of the poem. Let me quote it now:

‘I fled him, down the nights and down the days; I fled him down the arches of the years: I fled him down the labyrinthine ways of my own mind; and in the mist of tears I hid from him, and under running laughter. Up vistaed hopes I sped; and shot, precipitated, adown Titanic glooms of chasmed fears, from those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, and unperturbed pace, deliberate speed, majestic instancy, they beat – and a Voice beat more instant than the feet – “All things betray thee, who betrayest me”.’

There’s simply no getting away from God. For us too, resisting God and saying ‘Leave me, Lord, I’m not good enough. I’m a sinner’ won’t be the end of the matter. If God could use Peter for God’s good work with people, or Paul, or Isaiah, or the Baptist lady, God can and will purify and use us too to do good things, truly beautiful things in fact, for both God and God’s people.

So we better stand by, ready to hear his call! At any time! At any age! In any place! In any situation! And be ready to say, like Isaiah: ‘Here I am, Lord, send me.’

 

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4th Sunday of Year C in Ordinary time, 2019. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. ‘BEFORE I FORMED YOU IN THE WOMB, I KNEW YOU’, SAYS THE LORD.

God's Word

Often the First Reading at Mass comes from one of the Old Testament Prophets, today it comes from the Prophet Jeremiah. Perhaps we might be tempted to think that ‘a Prophet’ is someone who foretells the future! Well in Biblical terms, a Prophet is one who is called by God to speak ‘His Word’ before others, and to discern through an openness of heart and mind as to what is going on within God’s people. Sometimes God’s people need correction, other times they need affirmation and direction. It would seem that it is not the kind of vocation that one would be caught in the rush to take on! Yet, according to the Prophet Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 1:4-5, 17-19) we catch a glimpse into the actual meaning of ‘the call’ to be a Prophet. Jeremiah is stunned to realize that he was known and set aside by God for this vocation, before he was formed in the womb! Jeremiah comes to understand that his ‘calling’ is not necessarily going to win him popularity! ‘Brace yourself for action’ says the Lord! But it is not all sad stories or battles; ‘I am with you to deliver you- it is the Lord who speaks.’

 

In the Gospel for today, we see Jesus living his Prophetic calling, speaking aloud ‘the Word’ in his hometown. The people’s reaction moves from amazement, to wonder, and then to resentment and anger! How can someone from the ‘home turf’ speak with such authority and directness, and bring God’s Word “alive” with such authenticity? As Jesus said, ‘no Prophet is ever accepted in their own country’! Well as we look back over two millennia, the faces have changed, but the message remains the same. So often we too, can easily fall into the very same trap as the people of Nazareth, when someone from within our midst humbly rises up, and shines. We may be tempted to say the very same thing…”I have known this person for so many years…how can they develop and mature beyond my expectations?” We know only so well how celebrities often make it to the top when they travel to another country, and get accepted for who they are, because there are no pre-judgments. Let us pray earnestly in response to God’s Word this weekend, that we will encourage the Prophets within our community, and when the slightest temptation comes our way to discard them, ignore them, or walk away from encouraging them…. let that be an inner sign for us saying:

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Now let’s go back for a reconnaissance over the three Readings. Normally the Second Reading does not always connect with the 1st Reading and the Gospel, because it is a continuing Reading from week to week, but this Sunday it compliments them, and is truly the meat in the Sandwich between the other two Readings, giving us a 3D living image of God’s saving activity.

As I have already mentioned above, no one would be caught in the rush to be an authentic Biblical Prophet; far from it, to the contrary the Lord God captures or snares the person called to be a spokesperson for the Lord. As the chosen one responds to the Lord God’s invitation, in the midst of fear and unworthiness, a God-like element emerges from them, and that is true ‘poverty of spirit’….and authentic humility, not just some pious innuendo which skims the surface in a syrupy way; no it is deep founded openness and awe as to what this all means for them, and their burgeoning mission!. In turn, the Lord God assures the chosen one that they will never be alone, even though at times it might seem like that. Take the case of the Annunciation….the Blessed Virgin Mary radiated fear and unworthiness when she was called by the Angel of the Lord to be the Christ-bearer. Here with Jeremiah we see a dumfounded man who is totally astonished why he should be called by the Lord God to speak The Word in season and out of season. The Lord God tells Jeremiah in the strongest possible way that he has been known by God, is known by God, and will continue to be known by God. Here we are speaking of true Biblical knowledge, not academic knowledge. Biblical knowledge is that which enables God to know everything about us in a most loving, accepting and pardoning way. Biblical Prophecy is not necessarily telling the future by assumed knowledge and then making a prediction……no, those kind of Prophets can be found in interesting ‘write-ups’ in Magazines that we often find in the Doctor’s or Dentist’s waiting room.

So, the promise that is underpinning this address to Jeremiah is founded in the Lord God’s Covenant…..” I will be your God and you will be my people.” We also note that a bright future is not promised by the Lord God to Jeremiah, but there is something that we might easily overlook in this reading, and it is in the following sentence…’They will fight against you, but shall not overcome you, for I am with you to deliver you- it is the Lord who speaks.’ In bold type let’s look at this….the I am, is the Biblical name for God as revealed to Moses in the burning Bush in the Book of Exodus, Chapter 3. What is I am going to do? Deliver you….this has profound meaning…..it means that Jeremiah will experience deliverance…not from some evil spirit, but more importantly, Jeremiah will experience the saving hand of God in and through all of what is outlined in this address to him, which is the substance of this first reading. In other words, Jeremiah himself, and those who listen to the Lord God’s invitations through the spoken Word will experience salvation……i.e being saved from something, for someone, and the someone is the Lord God……” You are precious in my sight says the Lord.” 1 Samuel 26:12

Now moving over to the Gospel (Luke 4:21-30) for today is like gazing at a typical Diptych ….that is a double Oil painting with a Piano hinge down the centre, and for the fullness of meaning contained in the paintings, it needs to be ingested from left to right…in this case the First reading is the left hand oil painting, and the Gospel is the right hand oil painting….the artist? The supreme artist of all! The Lord God!

For a start, all that the Lord God said to Jeremiah in that opening address is taken for granted as being in Jesus…in fact in fleshed in Jesus as The Word made flesh – par excellence! The locals voice similar opposition to Jesus, as was the case with Jeremiah, saying that this is all too good to be true!….we know who this man is…….But notice it is not a Biblical knowledge, it is an academic knowledge, which Biblically only skims the surface like a water strider on a mill pond. As Jesus says…” a Prophet is not accepted in one’s own country…” That’s true isn’t it? The faces have changed over the years but the message remains the same…..the locals are the hardest ones to break out of their pre conceived notions and summing up of a person, which can progress to be totally blind and angry. It still happens in our world, and sadly in our Church! Notice that the anger fuelled by the truth of God’s Word was too much for them, and they wanted to do away with Jesus..Just as Jeremiah and all the other Prophets in the Scriptures, with Jesus, and in our lived History many have been and will continue to be led to the same fate either physically or tactically!

14th Sunday year A Sharing the cross

Now, we go back to the meat in the sandwich…the second reading. Here we see an insight into the inner fortification and miss ion of one who is called to be a Prophet……Unconditional/Biblical Covenant Love. This Hymn to Charity/Love written by St.Paul, ( 1st Corinthians 12:31-13:13) is not only a masterpiece in Christian Spirituality, but it is also a very good examination of conscience……very simply, substitute your own name for Love in this Reading, and see how you go? This Reading brings to the surface our ‘real self’. Now after reflecting on this reading, and the innate invitations it has for us to ‘change’ i.e experience true metanoia …that is simply looking at oneself and the relationships we have with people, and our environment, by metaphorically standing on our hands….it all looks pretty different, doesn’t it? It can even upset us, and make us sick…..may that be not lost on us in our meditation as well. Then as part of this examination of conscience, kindly go to Psalm 50…the great Act of contrition in the Old Testament…….

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Let the words of Contrition become our words, may is seep deep within us like liquid polish on hungry wood; this ought be practiced regularly and it will erode any arrogance, pompousness and any pursuit of ‘ power inclinations’ we might have….. ha-ha, but like Vitamin B12 Injections…one shoot is not enough, we need to have it regularly, so that we can build up that inner strength and vigor, so that the ordinary diet of living in love, encased by forgiveness, and elevated by compassion become our true spiritual food. This of course receives its distinctive Christ-likeness in and through the Eucharist, listening with the Heart to God’s Word, and hearing the heart beat in God’s people.

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So, when we feel that not only our car needs a ‘tune-up’ but our spiritual selves as well…quietly sing the Song of St.Paul’s Hymn to Charity in the second Reading today…’ Love is never jealous, love is never boastful or conceited, it is never rude or selfish….’ In short, there are three things that last: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.’

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kevin-3

kevin.w3@bigpond.com