“Gods Ways Are Not Our Ways” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, October 1, 2023

Already we are in the month of October, and the Fall is racing along. My heart was racing along for a while, out of control, hence necessitating surgery, which I had recently, as you are all aware of. I have just been wearing a heart monitor for a couple of days this week, to make sure everything is ok now. You know, it is no bad thing to check on our spiritual hearts, what we call our conscience, from time to time to check that everything is ok in our spiritual lives. If we detect some area of sinful irregularity in our lives, we need to apply the appropriate remedy- confession of our sins and asking for God’s mercy. 

When our responsorial psalm today tells us that God “instructs sinners in the way” it is clearly referring to our conscience, which can be called as the voice of God speaking into our hearts and guiding us to say and do the right things and avoid the bad things. So, the psalm today asks God: “Make me to know YOUR ways, O Lord; teach me YOUR paths. Lead me in YOUR truth and teach me”. Note the emphasis in my words: it is God’s ways, God’s paths, God’s truth that we should be following, not our own.  I would suggest that the reason why this world of ours is in such a confused mess is because most people are choosing to do the opposite- insisting that they, and their feelings, are the only guide to what is right and what is wrong. God, if he exists, should just butt out of humanity’s path, or he should come down to our level and approve our choices, not the other way round.

But, in our first reading last week, from the prophet Isaiah, we are told in no uncertain terms that: “my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.Read more...

Memento Mori – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, September 17, 2023

On my way to the priesthood, I spent several years of my life as part of a religious order called the “Montfortians”, founded by St Louis Marie de Montfort, a great priest and evangelizer from the 16th century in France. St Louis Marie stood out from his fellow clergy by the stark asceticism of his life, his utter dedication to his ministry and his uncompromising preaching. His fellow priests lived a rather more comfortable lifestyle and ridiculed his poverty and ragged clothes, but they never accomplished the miracles he did, nor won anywhere near as many converts to Christ as did St Louis Marie. They are all forgotten but this poor, humble priest’s name is honored around the world, and he is a canonized saint. 

One of St Louis Marie’s rather bizarre practices, as a seminarian,  was to go down to a local undertaker’s and ask to spend the night, sleeping  in one of their empty coffins. He did it to keep before him the reality that one day he, and every one he would ever preach to, would die and face God’s judgement on  their lives… Memento Mori: a Latin phrase meaning “Remember that you shall die”, used to be a common Catholic expression, and we find its origins right in our first reading today from the book of Sirach: “Remember the end of your life, and set enmity aside; remember corruption and death, and be true to the commandments.”  Uncomfortable words to be sure, but unfortunately very true – as the American statesman Benjamin Franklin  once wrote: ”nothing is certain in our world, but these two things :  death and taxes.”

We usually think that the sins we have committed against God are somewhat less than the offences we have received from others. But that is to forget that the true measure of an offence is the stature of the person we have sinned against .… Read more...

Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, August 20, 2023

Many people have asked “How do you feel after your heart surgery and rehab?” 

The answer is that I feel “blessed”. I feel blessed that the leaking heart valve was diagnosed in the first place, or I might have continued to be unaware of it until I had a stroke or heart attack out of the blue, as happened to my mother. I feel blessed to be under the excellent care of the doctors, nurses and surgeons of the Heart Institute, for whom my surgery, though a massive event for me, was just a routine everyday thing. I feel blessed to not have had any pain or infection throughout my recovery. I feel blessed to have had the warm loving care of my dear friends, Janet and Louis Seward who graciously opened their home to me for the duration of my rehabilitation. I feel blessed to have the love, encouragement, and prayer support of all of you before, during and after this time. I am blessed to have had the help of Fathers Francis, Michael, Tavis, and Adolphus to supply for me during my absence, and to know that deacon Louis, with the sacristans, readers, Eucharistic ministers, ushers, prayer groups and office staff, was taking care of business during my time away.  

We are told to “count our blessings”, aren’t we? And those are mine, brothers and sisters. 

Note I say “I am blessed”. I used to say “I am lucky”. Not anymore.  These good things that I have experienced over the last few months are indeed blessings, not chance happenings. Because we are in relationship with a God of “blessing”, whose one desire is to bless us, who turns even the bad things in our lives into good things, in accordance with St Paul’s words in his letter to the Romans, that “God turns all things  too good for those who love him, and are called according  to his purpose “ (Romans 8: 28). Read more...

“The Advocates” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, May 14, 2023

This will be Fr. Bob’s last homily posted onto the website until August. Please keep Fr. Bob in your prayers.

I am an avid fan of any book or show that deals with the law. Perhaps because I studied Law at University way back when in England, but I am fascinated by stories about legal investigations and court cases. That is why my favorite gospel is that of St John, of which we have so many passages during the Easter season. John’s gospel reads like s court trial, but with a twist. To begin with, it appears as if Jesus is the one who is on trial. He is charged with claiming to be God, which amounts to blasphemy, if he is not God. We read in John chapter 5, verse 18 :” For this reason , the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.” It is up to Jesus to prove that he is “equal to God “, that he is in fact divine. So the first few chapters of John’s gospel have Jesus providing such evidence, or “signs” as they are called in the gospel, because they “point to “ the truth that Jesus is God. There are seven such “signs” or proofs in John’s gospel , including healing people on the point  of death (chapter 2) or from chronic sickness (chapter 5) , healing a blind man, (chapter 9) walking on water (chapter 6), feeding a multitude of 5000 people with just a few loaves and fishes (chapter 6) and finally raising a man, Lazarus, to life, after he had been dead four days (chapter 11). And, of course, his own resurrection from the dead (chapter 20).

 Along the way, Jesus also provides character witnesses to the fact that he is telling the truth, including God himself, the great patriarchs of the Jewish faith, Abraham and Moses, the Jewish Scriptures, the great revered prophet, John the Baptist.… Read more...

“Chosen” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, May 7, 2023

The opening verses of our gospel today are a favourite for funerals. You can see why. There is great comfort to think about Jesus coming personally to take the hand of a loved one who has died and lead them into a mansion or dwelling place in heaven created by Jesus himself for them. And we can take additional comfort for ourselves in knowing that when our time comes to depart this earth, we can look forward to Jesus doing the same for us.

Sort of a heavenly B&B perhaps?

Actually, there is an interesting image being used by Jesus here, drawn from the Jewish culture, to do with marriage. What would happen in such a case is that the bride and groom would  cometogether in the  synagogue to exchange vows, after which they would be considered to be officially married. But before going off to live together, the bride would return to her parents and wait for her husband, who would have to go back to his father’s house and build an extension there for them both to live in. Only when the groom’s father was satisfied that the new building was satisfactory, would he give permission to his son to go back and collect his bride, celebrate the wedding feast and then go back to his father’s house to consummate their marriage and begin their new life together. You can see why condemnation would fall on Mary, when she fell pregnant during this period when her new husband, Joseph, was away building the extension on his father’s house. 

When Jesus talks in the gospel about his going back to his Father’s house and preparing a place for us, then coming to take us back with him, he is clearly talking about what happens when we die, but he is using the wedding imagery to describe it. … Read more...

“You Ask Me How I Know He Lives; He Lives Within My Heart” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2023

Over the last couple of weeks I have used my homilies to put forward two main reasons for us to have faith that Jesu really did rise physically from the dead. The first, as you recall, was the mystery of the empty tomb of Jesus and who could have possibly moved the huge stone at its entrance, The second proof is the number of personal appearances and encounters Jesus had with different individuals and groups. In one case, St Paul tells us that he appeared to more than 500 people at one time (1 Corinthians 15: 6). It would be well nigh impossible, if Jesus had not really risen from the dead, for one or more of those 500 not to give the game away and expose the lie.

The third and final proof I want to give that Jesus really and truly rose from the dead on Easter Sunday is shown by the transformed lives of those whom Jesus did appear to after his resurrection. Let’s begin with Peter. In our first reading, we are treated to part of the very first sermon Peter gave about Jesus. He gives it in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, a huge Jewish feast, when thousands and thousands of pilgrims would have come to the city to celebrate, coming from all over the civilized world. As they gather in the square outside the house where the holy Spirit had just come down in great power on the disciples, they are addressed by Peter, speaking we are told , with a loud voice. This is not because he was trying to be heard by so many people. This is Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles’, way of showing that Peter speaks with great authority and power and boldness. Nothing so surprising about that, you might have thought.… Read more...

“A Personal Encounter with Jesus” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, April 15, 2023

Pope Francis, in his first encyclical after becoming pope, “The Joy of the Gospel”, wrote these inspiring words: “I invite all Christians, everywhere at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them. I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her.”

In this invitation, Pope Francis was repeating words of one of his predecessors, Pope St John Paul II who also said “Christians must have their own personal encounter with Christ Crucified and Risen, and allow themselves to be transformed by the power of his love. When that happens, sadness becomes joy, fear gives way to the path of missionary ardour.”

Last week, I spoke about one of the main proofs for belief in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead: the undeniable fact of his empty tomb, discovered by several women, with the stone covering the entrance somehow miraculously moved, and I asked, “Who moved the stone?” Now I want to move to the other major piece of evidence that proves the truth of the resurrection: the number of personal encounters or appearances Jesus had with various individuals in the days and weeks following his rising from the dead. Last week, we heard the wonderful story of Mary Magdalene encountering the risen Jesus outside his empty tomb, and how she, at first, thought he was a gardener, until he called her by her name. Her grief up to that moment, the anguish at thinking his body had been stolen that nearly drove her out of her mind, the overwhelming joy that she experienced when Jesus appeared to her, that Jesus had to playfully ask her to stop clinging to him, all testify to the truth that she had not made up the story she later told the apostles about her meeting up with Jesus after his resurrection.… Read more...

“Who Moved the Stone?” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, April 9, 2023

Who moved the stone?

Who moved the stone? 

There was actually a book with that title released a few years ago, in which an atheistic lawyer set out to disprove the truth of the resurrection of Jesus by examining the facts about the case, subjecting to them a rigorous legal analysis, just as he would if he were appearing in a court room. To his shock, he was led by the same process to reverse his erstwhile belief and conclude that, on the basis of the evidence, Jesus indeed had been raised from the dead, and he became a Christian as a result. 

And  a primary incentive to this belief was precisely this question: “Who moved the stone?”

The stone blocking the entrance to the tomb of Jesus weighed at least a ton. The women who came to see to the anointing of the body of Jesus were already asking themselves “Who are we going to get to move the stone for us, so we can get into the tomb?”  Imagine their utter surprise to find that when they got to the grave, the job had already been done for them, the stone was rolled away. But who had done it?  In their amazement, they went inside and found, according to the gospel accounts, no sign of Jesus’ body. Fear adds to amazement, and according to St John’s account which we have been listening to just now, Mary Magdalene runs to find Peter and John and tells them: “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” These two apostles, in immediate response, rush to the tomb, and find it just as Mary said. 

But who moved the stone? 

Clearly not the women themselves. They would not have had the body strength to do it. Besides, they are clearly flummoxed by the sight of the empty tomb; no way did they participate in any subterfuge on the part of others to steal the body away.… Read more...