Catholic in Yanchep

Go out into the deep.


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14th Sunday, Year C | Our Binary Option

Seventy Apostles Russian Icon

Cathedral of 70 Apostles (miniature from the Greek-Georgian Manuscripts , XV century ). Собор 70 апостолов (миниатюра из греко-грузинской рукописи, XV век).

We all have a fundamental choice, and it’s not complicated.  Imagine your life as a computer program.  At every moment, God presents you with certain choices.  It’s up to you to decide what you do.  The fact that you’re given a choice is a good thing.  It means that God is not trying to compel you – he respects your freedom.  But it’s not the freedom to choose as such that decides your outcome, it’s the actual choice you make that determines where you end up: heaven or hell.

Let’s take as an example the towns Jesus is sending the 72 apostles to this week.  They are travelling from Galilee to Jerusalem via Samaria, announcing that the kingdom is at hand.  Jesus is ‘gathering the tribes’ as prophesied in Isaiah 11:12 “He will raise a signal for the nations and will assemble the banished of Israel, and gather the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.”

The people in these towns have the fundamental option of welcoming the apostles or rejecting them.  It’s that simple.  Now maybe some of the people are naturally fearful of strangers, or possibly Samaritan haters of Jews.  No wonder our Lord instructs the disciples to make their first statement “Peace to this house”.  But Jews in general (and also Samaritans) followed the Pentateuch, which clearly states the principles of hospitality, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia.

The “ger,” the sojourner who lived with a Hebrew family or clan, was assured by the Biblical law not only of protection against oppression (Ex. xxiii. 9) and deceit (Lev. xix. 33), but also of love from the natives (Deut. xvi. 14), who were to love him even as themselves (Lev. xix. 34).

So, when the apostles report back, it seems that many of the towns have in fact been welcoming to them and accepted the proclamation of the Kingdom:

The seventy-two came back rejoicing!

We understand that some did actually reject Christ and his apostles, for he says,

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.”

We’re all afraid of evangelizing our friends and families, because we’re fundamentally afraid of rejection.  Stop worrying and start obeying Jesus.  Yes, our families may choose to reject us.  But keep trying in various ways, and go as a man of peace, and not as an argumentative spirit, and the Holy Spirit will open hearts and minds wherever there is an opportunity.

Concrete example: every night I do some spiritual reading on the Saint of the next day.  On Thursday night, I read about St Thierry, who died on 1 July, 533.  I happen to know someone called Thierry, and thought, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if he happened to ring on 1 July.  I could tell him about this saint!”  Now I usually only hear from Thierry about half a dozen times a year, and it’s always in a work context.  But lo and behold, at 12 o’clock on Friday, my mobile rang and who should it be but Thierry himself, so I was able to carry out my plan by sending him a link to this saint’s life story.  (Fortunately, he reads French.)  I’m always amazed when God creates these opportunities.

Jesus says in Luke 10: ‘Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.’  The more you give people the opportunity of listening to you explain the kingdom of God, the more likely they are to move towards the option of following Christ themselves.  And don’t we want everyone to be able to ‘rejoice that their names are written in heaven’?

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 14th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C 14th Sunday 2016


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The Fourth Sunday of Lent | Thinking about Heaven

Prodigal Son

The Return of the Prodigal Son, 1667-1670, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Thoughts of my dear mother, who passed away during the week, are filling my mind as I reflect on this Sunday’s readings.  And the readings are particularly fitting, for they give us an inkling of what Heaven is like for those who seek the mercy of God.

The first reading tracks the Israelites, finally entering the Promised Land.  They have been a stubborn lot, and it’s taken them years in the wilderness to get there.  Not so different from our life journeys, maybe.  As John Bergsma says, “the land of Canaan is a symbol and type of heaven, the new life in God’s presence.”

The manna in the wilderness is a type of the Eucharist, the bread from heaven which sustains us through our journey in the “desert” of this present life.  Yet the Eucharist will not remain forever; when we enter into God’s presence in the life to come, the Eucharist will pass away as we feed on the direct vision of God.  So, in today’s Reading, we see that the manna ceases when the people enter into the promised inheritance and begin to eat the fruit of the land itself.  The sacrament passes away as the direct reality is experienced.  It will be “a whole new world.”

The Gospel reading, the Parable of the Prodigal Son, shows us how much we will need to change our mindset to be fit for heaven – hence Purgatory, that final bit of ‘burning away the straw’ (1 Cor. 3:15) before joining the happy company of angels and saints.  John Bergsma again:

On another level, this Parable shows us two ways of living: the “new world” or “new creation” of the Father (into which the younger son enters), and the “old world”/”old creation” of the older son.

The older son operates by a “tit for tat” or “quid pro quo” mentality, focused on earned material reward for one’s own self-centered enjoyment.  He serves his Father because he expects to benefit from the service one day.  He is not animated by love, either for his Father or for his brother.  When the younger son returns, he is not “my brother,” but “this son of yours!”

The Father, on the other hand, operates in a whole new world.  There is not some ledger book for accounting past rights and wrongs, so that each son gets exactly the punishment or reward that pertains precisely to his performance.  The Father’s attitude is marked by love, by free sharing, and a desire for familial communion.  The younger son insults him by demanding his inheritance while the Father is still alive, which is as much as saying, “To me, you are as good as dead.”  He shames the family name by living a profligate lifestyle and ultimately descending into poverty and degradation, working for Gentiles (Jews did not raise pigs) feeding unclean animals (pigs.).  All this is overlooked out of love, and the Father runs to meet the son (a breach of social custom) and hardly lets him recite his pre-planned speech before ordering the preparations of a feast.

The Father shows love to the older son, too, coming out of the feast to “plead” with him to come in and share the joy.  He also does not withhold generosity from him: “son, all that I have is yours.”  He does not make some mental or material division between his goods and those of his sons.  They are family.  They share a common home. 

Living in the “new creation” of Christ means operating by the Father’s “logic” of love, forgiveness, and familial communion, both in our relationship to God and our relationships with others, both with those who seek reconciliation with us (the younger son) and with those who do not want reconciliation (the older son).

As long as we operate by a “quid pro quo” logic with God and with others, we are living in the old world.  Because he wants us to live in the new world, Jesus commands us to pray daily, “forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven all our debtors.” Freely accepting forgiveness from God, and freely dispensing forgiveness to all around, is the lifestyle of the new creation.

How wonderful it will be to be part of God’s heavenly family.  And that we can already start living in it now by giving and receiving forgiveness.

How beautiful it was to be able to pray the Divine Mercy prayer together with my mother before she died – and that she died in the Year of Mercy.  How beautiful it was that my mother, though she was suffering, waited for me to arrive from Australia and spend time with her before she went to join the Lord. How beautiful it has been to experience so much kindness from our friends and relations during the last few days.  How beautiful it was to hear the Nazareth House nurses singing to us on the night my mother died.  How beautiful it has been to think about the joy we children shared through our childhood as a result of our dear mother’s faith.  That’s a foretaste of heaven.

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C Lent 4th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C Lent 4th Sunday 2016


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33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time | The Four Last Things

The Prophet Daniel, Michelangelo Buonarotti, c. 1508-1512, fresco, detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican Palace, Vatican City.

The Prophet Daniel, Michelangelo Buonarotti, c. 1508-1512, fresco, detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican Palace, Vatican City.

Today we are all shocked at the terrorist attacks that have left over 150 people dead in Paris.  It is sobering to remember that death can come upon us suddenly, when we are in the midst of life. This is something that during November, leading up to the end of the Church Year, we are reminded to consider – the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell.

If you google “judgment quotes”, you’ll come up with some interesting insights into how people generally feel about the idea of judgment:

“Never judge someone without knowing the whole story.  You may think you understand, but you don’t.”

“Judging a person does not define who they are.  It defines who you are.”

“Before you judge me, make sure you’re perfect.”

“Love is the absence of judgment.”

“Don’t judge someone just because they sin differently than you.”Judge Not

While it is easy to use these lines against other people, what are we going to say when we come before God?  After all, he’s perfectly entitled to judge us, because he does know us inside and out, and he is completely perfect.  And I doubt God would agree that love is the absence of judgement.  Anyone who says that, doesn’t believe in Justice.  In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes how the Son of Man will come ‘with great power and glory; then too he will send the angels to gather his chosen from the four winds, from the ends of the world to the ends of heaven.’

Who are his chosen?  The truth is that God is a loving Father and he wants us all to be his chosen, but he gives us the freedom to reject him.  So when God comes to judge us, there will be two basic responses.  One leads to everlasting life, and one is very likely to lead to eternal separation from God.

RESPONSE 1

Now listen here, God.  I’ve tried my best to live a pretty good life.   And I’m not judgmental like those awful people who always talk about other people’s faults and imperfections.  Anyway, you made me with certain desires and needs, so whatever I’ve done in my life, I’ve been true to myself, my wants, my nature.  What could be more natural than that?  I’m proud of what I’ve done in my life.  If you’re a loving God, why on earth would you want to judge me?  Nobody has the right to judge me.

RESPONSE 2

Loving Father, you know all things.  You gave me life, you know my heart, you know just how well or poorly I have followed you in my life.  And I am aware that I can’t get to heaven by my own effort.  I am totally reliant on your grace.  Jesus offered up his life to save me.  Please forgive me and through your great mercy allow me to live with you forever in heaven.

We don’t know the hour when we will end up before the judgement seat of the Throne of God.  Let’s spend some time examining our consciences and going to confession before Christmas.  And let’s pray for God’s mercy on those who have lost their lives in France.  While we’re about it, how about the grace of conversion for those involved in terrorism and for those who are too full of themselves to be open to God.

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year B 33rd Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 33rd Sunday 2015

If you want some evidence for the accuracy of the Prophet Daniel’s predictions about the Messiah, listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s homily here.  Bishop Barron explains why the Jews were expecting a Messiah right around the time that Jesus appeared.  And for a Scripture Study on today’s readings, try Dr John Bergsma’s commentary at The Sacred Page.

Ascension of Jesus


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Ascension Sunday |Why did Jesus have to leave after his resurrection? Or did he …

Ascension of Jesus

The Ascension,
a page from the Gospel Lectionary portion of the Bamberg Apocalypse, 11th century Staatsbibliothek, MS A. II. 42, Bamberg, Germany.

Before we discuss this question, let’s get the housekeeping out of the way.  Today’s Mass readings (Australia) can be downloaded here:

Word format: Year B Ascension

Pdf format: Year B Ascension

So why did Jesus have to leave his disciples after appearing to them for forty days after his resurrection?  From Fr Barron:

The key to understanding both the meaning and significance of this feast is a recovery of the Jewish sense of heaven and earth. In regard to “heaven” and “earth,” most of us are, whether we know it or not, Greek in our thought patterns. By this I meant that we tend to set up—in the manner of the ancient Greek philosophers—a rather sharp dichotomy between the material and the spiritual, between the realm of appearance and the realm of true reality, between the fleeting earth and the permanent heaven. And if we’re spiritually minded, we tend to think of salvation as an escape from this world—this vale of tears—to a disembodied state called “heaven.” The problem is that these convictions have far more to do with Plato than with the Bible.

Biblical cosmology is not fundamentally dualistic. It speaks indeed of “heaven” and “earth,” but it sees these two realms as interacting and interpenetrating fields of force. Heaven, the arena of God and the angels, touches upon and calls out to earth, the arena of humans, animals, plants, and planets. On the Biblical reading, salvation, therefore, is a matter of the meeting of heaven and earth, so that God might reign as thoroughly here below as he does on high. Jesus’ great prayer, which is constantly on the lips of Christians, is distinctively Jewish in inspiration: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Notice please that this is decidedly not a prayer that we might escape from the earth, but rather that earth and heaven might come together. The Lord’s prayer recapitulates and raises to a new level precisely what the prophet Isaiah anticipated: “the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth, as the water covers the sea.”   Continue reading here.

Or if you prefer video:

Listen to the homily for today here.