Father’s Sunday Homily

“When I Look at the Cross” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, March 3, 2024

Earlier in Lent, I said that the Spirit of God brings us into the desert of Lent to answer one question, which is actually two questions in one, namely:  Is God with us totally or not, and are we with God totally or not? Now, today, we are shown that there is a second question that we are brought into Lent to answer: who is in charge of our life, who’s in control: God or ourselves, or something or someone else? This, like the first question, is crucial for the future destiny of our lives. Our second reading makes a clear distinction between “those who are perishing” and “those who are being saved”. That’s it: a clear choice. You are either on the way to heaven, or on the way to hell. There is no neutral destination. And the choice comes down to either receiving the message about the Cross, or not. 

And what is the message of the Cross? 

It is simply this, and St Paul puts it succinctly in our second reading today. “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness of stronger than human strength”. Are we relying on our own wisdom and strength for our salvation, or on God’s? There is a beautiful song by Geoffrey Birtill, called “When I look at the blood”.  The lyrics of the song are so powerful and so true:

When I look at the blood

All I see is love, love, love

When I stop at the cross

I can see the love of God

But I can’t see competition

I can’t see hierarchy

I can’t see pride or prejudice

Or the abuse of authority,

I can’t see lust for power

I can’t see manipulation

I can’t see rage or anger 

Or selfish ambition

I can’t see unforgiveness

I can’t see hate or envy

I can’t see stupid fighting

Or bitterness or jealousy

I can’t see empire building

I can’t see self-importance

I can’t see back stabbing

Or vanity or arrogance

But instead I see surrender, sacrifice, 

Salvation, humility,

Righteousness, faithfulness

Grace, forgiveness

Love, love, love, love, love, love.Read more...

“Behold His Glory” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, February 25, 2024

In his second letter, St Peter describes the vision of the transfiguration of Jesus as he witnessed it. “We did not follow cleverly devised myths” says Peter, “when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honour and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying ‘This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1: 16-18). 

Wow! 

What an honor, what a privilege to have been up there on the mountain, seeing Jesus revealed in all his glory for a brief moment. Don’t you just wish, brothers and sisters, that you had been up there at that moment? Don’t you feel that, if you had, you would never again, your whole life long, have another moment’s doubt that Jesus was indeed the beloved Son of God? Well, the good news is that we can, and we do, have that transfiguring moment every time we come to Mass. In every Mass, without exception, the bread and wine offered up at the altar are transformed, transfigured, into the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. That is what our Catholic Christian faith proclaims, this is the faith we were baptized into, and this is the reward for all baptized Catholics who come to Mass: to see Jesus transfigured in glory, and to receive him into ourselves, so as to be the means by which we also are transfigured also.

Why don’t we see this transfiguration physically at Mass? Why don’t we hear the voice of the Father declaring Jesus to be his Beloved Son?… Read more...

“Wholeness and Holiness” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, February 11, 2024

I am sure that you have heard the term “holistic healing”, based on the belief that the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions of a person are closely interconnected both in the development of illness and recovery. These days, when treating physical infirmities, a doctor is much more ready to consider the effects of heredity and lifestyle, diet and nutrition as contributory causes to the sickness. I am indebted to Deacon Louis for opening up my eyes to the role proper eating habits can play in treating various diseases, and I must say that he certainly is a good example of its effectiveness. 

As someone who has carried out inner healing for many years, I have come to realize and appreciate the importance of understanding the underlying causes of physical sickness, which lie in the mind and heart and spirit of a person. Unforgiveness, resentment, negative feelings about oneself, all of this and more can lead to a person suffering such diseases as cancer, heart issues, arthritis and more besides. If I am praying with someone who exhibits symptoms like these, I will often gently question them to find out if there is someone in their life whom they need to forgive, even if it themselves or God, or family members, and , if so, I will lead them into repentance and forgiveness before proceeding to pray for the physical symptoms

It may be a surprise to learn that this awareness of the interaction between body and spirit is not new. It goes back even into biblical times. As clearly seen in the book of Job as well as numerous other biblical texts, common Jewish thought was that physical suffering was the result of sin and physical well-being the reward for doing God’s will. As the book of Job shows, such a way of thinking can lead to a too facile belief that, if something bad happens to you, like sickness or tragedy, it must be because you are a sinner, since God never lets bad things happen to good people.… Read more...

“He Heals the Broken Hearted” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, February 4, 2024

I sometimes come across people going through great suffering, who ask me “Is God punishing me for my sins?”. It breaks my heart, and I am sure it also breaks God’s heart, that people can have such a negative view of how God feels about them. Some of it, I am sure, comes from wrong or muddled teaching during their growing – up years, and some also from harsh responses they have received at some point in their lives, from clergy or religious. And this is so , so sad. Hopefully, we are doing a much better job these days of presenting God as a God “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” which is how God Himself describes his heart to Moses, back in the book of Exodus (Exod 34:6). 

If this is how God himself wants to be known by his people, can you imagine how sad he must be to find his children so scared of him, that they want to keep clear of him?

In fact this twisted understanding of the nature of God is a lot older than we realize. Way back in Old Testament times we find that people believed that those who observed God’s commandments prospered, and sinners suffered. In other words, bad things only happened to bad people, and good things only happened to good people. This led the spiritual and religious leaders to teach the people of Israel that if they were suffering bad things, it must be because they were sinful and God was punishing them. 

So the writer of the book of Job, in protest, wrote his story, presenting Job as a good and holy man, who nonetheless lost nearly everything and was in physical anguish. Three of his friends come to urge him to confess and repent of whatever he had done wrong to make God punish him so, and promised him that, if he would humble himself before God, God would restore him to health and prosperity.… Read more...

“The Word of God” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, January 28, 2024

So busy was I with other pastoral issues that I neglected to bring to your attention that last Sunday was the Sunday of the Word of God. This was instituted by Pope Francis back in 2019 to mark the 1600th anniversary of the death of St Jerome, the great biblical translator and interpreter, who said once, famously, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Jesus Christ”. It is celebrated every year on the Third Sunday of the Year which was last week. My apologies for not bringing it to your attention then, but, however, as luck or God’s will would have it, the readings for this Sunday  also reflect, in different ways, the theme of the word of God.

 Pope Francis wants to make clear how important it is, in the daily life of the church and our communities, to refer to God’s word, which is not confined to a book, but which remains ever alive. The theme of this year’s Sunday of the Word of God is Christ’s exhortation to his disciples: “Remain in my word” (John 8:31). In his homily for last Sunday, the pope called Catholics to spend more time with the saving power of God’s word as society and social media amplify the violence of words. He spoke of the immense power that the word of God can unleash in people’s lives and referenced saints like St Anthony, St Terese of Lisieux and St Francis of Assisi, who all had their lives changed by hearing or reading passages from the Bible. Pope Francis said the same thing can happen for us, but we need to stop being deaf to God’s word and start spending time in prayer with the Sacred Scriptures. Do you see, brothers and sisters, how this is echoed in our responsorial psalm today, which pleads with us with great urgency: “O that today you would listen to his voice, harden not your hearts!”Read more...

“To Go, or Not to Go” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, January 21, 2024

On the surface, our first reading today, presents for us, in the person of Jonah, a model of readiness and availability to carrying out God’s will. Jonah seems to spring to the task of obeying God and preaching repentance to the city of Nineveh. Those who know the real story of Jonah know the reality is somewhat different. By the way, if you have never read the book of Jonah, you should. It is tucked away in the Old Testament and only runs four chapters, so it doesn’t take long, and it is an entertaining story.

To begin with, the editors of our first reading, have left out a very important detail. If you go to your Bible and look out the third chapter of the book of Jonah, from which this reading is taken, you will see that it reads: “the word of the Lord came to Jonah, a second time. This is not actually the first time that God has tried to get Jonah to go and preach to Nineveh. But when God first commanded Jonah to do this, Jonah actually ran away from God to avoid doing the task. (Yes, the book says that he boarded a ship for Tarshish, present-day Spain, away from the presence of the Lord” (Jon 1:3).)

 And why did Jonah run away? 

Was he scared of what the people of Nineveh might do to him if he goes and rebukes them for their wickedness? Or is he afraid he will fail the task? Not a bit of it. Jonah runs away because he doesn’t want to do what God asks of him, not because he is afraid that he will fail, but because he is afraid, he might succeed! Yes, you heard right. Let me explain. In the Old Testament, we read that Nineveh is the capital of Assyria, which lies north of Israel, and is Israel’s great enemy.… Read more...

“Two Little Words: Stay and See” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, January 14, 2024

You know, there is something almost presumptuous in Jesus changing Simon’s name just like that, the first time of meeting him. For parents, choosing a name for their new-born child is something that most take a deal of time to do. Imagine if, having gone to all that trouble to do it, a perfect stranger was to come along and demand to change that name. It was even more serious for Jews. They would choose their child’s name from the Bible, after much prayer and reflection, and only God Himself was allowed to change it. 

Changing someone’s name means to change their destiny, and purpose in life. “Simon” is a Hebrew name that means “one who hears”, which is a pretty good name already for someone who is called to be a disciple of Jesus. But now Jesus calls him “Cephas”. In Aramaic, this word means “rock”. In Greek it is petros, from which, of course, we get the name “Peter”. The one who listens now becomes the rock, which indicates his unique role in the community of believers. He will be first among the apostles and serve as the foundation of the church. Catholics believe that this role continues in the bishop of Rome as the visible center and teacher of the faith community. That this office did not end with Peter’s death can be deduced from the fact that this account, and another one in Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 16:18) of Jesus changing Simon’s name to Peter , were remembered and recorded by the faith community well after the apostle’s death.

We are OK with what Jesus does to Peter, because we already know Jesus is God. But the first disciples hadn’t quite got there yet. They were ready, as we see in the gospel today, to call Jesus a “rabbi” (or teacher) and Messiah (or anointed one of God), which was already quite the stretch of faith for a Jew, given that all Jews saw the coming of God’s Messiah as a world-changing event , and the inauguration of Gods’ kingdom or reign.… Read more...

“Wise Men Still Seek Him” – Fr. Bob’s Homily for Sunday, January 7, 2024

I hate to break it to you, folks, but that lovely Christmas carol that we all love to sing, especially today on the feast of the Epiphany, namely: “We Three Kings of Orient are”, is something of a misnomer. If you read carefully the gospel story today, you will see no indication that the wise men were actually kings, or that there were only three of them. The text simply says: “wise men from the East”, no mention of the words, “kings” or “three”, you see. Wise men, literally “Magi”, were pagan astrologers who read coded messages in the movement of the stars, and often were advisors to their king – but they were unlikely to be royalty themselves. 

So where did these misconceptions come? 

The idea of kings visiting Jesus to worship him and bring him gifts, comes from our first reading and our psalm. The reading from the prophet Isaiah predicts that when the glory of God shines down on Jerusalem at the coming of the Messiah, God’s anointed one, “kings would come to this light, bringing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praise of the Lord”, while our responsorial psalm declares that “kings would bring the Messiah gifts, and fall down before him”. There is even an Old Testament prophecy way back in the early book of Numbers, which declares that “a star shall come out of Jacob, and a royal scepter shall rise out of Israel” (Numbers 24: 17). Tradition has added the detail of three wise men, because the gospel tells us they brought gold and frankincense and myrrh – one gift for each wise man, you see. All these bible references have been read over time into the story of the Magi and brought about the tweaking of the gospel narrative.

Does it matter really? … Read more...