Catholic in Yanchep

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Pentecost, Year C |What does the Holy Spirit want for us?

Pentecost Jan Joest van Kalkar

Pentecost (Pfingsten), Jan Joest van Kalkar (1505 – 1508), oil on wood, St. Nicolai’s Church, (Katholische Pfarrkirche Sankt Nikolai), Kalkar, Germany

Is your Christianity exciting you?  It should. When we look at today’s Gospel, we see the disciples and Mary gathered together in the upper room (note that it wasn’t a church building, just a room).  They have been praying fervently for nine days since the resurrection.  Suddenly,

they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

The Holy Spirit arrives with great power, and gives them extraordinary gifts.  Not only that, but he gives them the energy to go out and preach the Gospel boldly, so much so that by the end of the day, three thousand people have been baptised and added to those who believe Christ is the Son of God.

I once heard a priest from our pastoral area give a homily about this passage where he completely inverted the real message.  The priest said,

“At first there was noise and confusion (apparently referring to the “powerful wind from heaven”), but then after the Holy Spirit arrived, there was peace and calm.”  

“NO THERE WASN’T! ARE YOU STUPID?” I wanted to jump up and shout, but I didn’t because I was in church, and even thinking this way is uncharitable!   But I wanted to say, “Can’t you see that the Holy Spirit has transformed the apostles and given them the conviction and the power to get out of the upper room and take the Gospel to the streets?”

What does this mean for our church here in the Yanchep to Lancelin Pastoral Area.  At the moment we are carrying out a church census, and the numbers are showing how tragically few of us there are.  I don’t believe we are truly using the gifts that the Holy Spirit makes available to us.  On top of this, many of us are not well enough to be very active in parish life.  And unfortunately many people have been driven away from our church for various reasons.  We should be heartily ashamed and praying urgently for a renewal of the Holy Spirit in the life of the parish.  I have just been watching a video of the Confirmations we had in 2001, and wondering, “Where are all those children now, and why don’t they go to Mass any more?”  (I might share it with you later, so that we can all pray for them.)

And now for the Good News!  We may be too uncomfortable to take the Gospel to the streets, but we can all take the Gospel to our friends and family (many of whom are not attending church).  We absolutely need to if we want these people to be able to reach Heaven.   The trouble is, many of us do not know how to talk about Christ with others.  People get embarrassed when you start talking about religion.  Well, I have good news for you: there is a wonderful program that you can access which will show you how to help others towards faith in practical ways.  The RETURN program is packed with ideas you can use, and I urge you sit down and develop a strategy which is going to bring your loved ones to faith in God.   And please let us do this in a joy-filled way, or we’re giving the wrong message!  Otherwise we have missed the point of being Christian.

If anyone is interested in studying the Return program together, please give me a call on 0400-660-337.

Come Holy Spirit, and kindle in us the fire of your love!

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C Pentecost Sunday

Pdf format: Year C Pentecost Sunday

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The Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year C | Faithfulness is beautiful!

JanStyka-Saint Peter preaching in Catacombs

St Peter preaching the Gospel in the Catacombs, Jan Styka, 1902, original destroyed by fire, accessed at

Hilaire Belloc, the famous satirist and historian, once said, “The Catholic Church is an institution I am bound to hold divine — but for unbelievers a proof of its divinity might be found in the fact that no merely human institution conducted with such knavish imbecility would have lasted a fortnight.”[1]

Our readings today show how God has made provision for the Church to continue and flourish over 2,000 years, despite the ‘knavish imbecility’ of some of its members.  If your first reaction is to feel insulted by this quote, stay with me for a minute while I explain.  The relationship between Christ and the Church is one of bridegroom and bride (Rev. 19:7-9).  Jesus wants us, above all, to be faithful to him, and he gives us the help of the Holy Spirit to do just that.  Jesus tells the Apostles in today’s gospel,

I have said these things to you while still with you, but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you. (John 14:26) 

How do we stay close to the Holy Spirit?  A few verses earlier, Jesus says, “If anyone loves me he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him.”

In my own experience of parish life, there have been many occasions when staying close to the Holy Spirit has been a challenge.  At times, I have thought it would just be easier to move to a different parish, or even a different church or even no church.  To give you an example, I once had a priest come to bless my house.  After the blessing, he stayed for another hour and a half berating the ‘knavish imbecility’ of his fellow priests.  But is this what the Holy Spirit wants?  Of course not: it’s always Satan that wants division and disharmony.  The Holy Spirit wants faithfulness.  The Holy Spirit wants us to build community.  The Holy Spirit wants us to keep persevering in spite of the individual characters of the members of the Church.  The Holy Spirit wants us to find the good points in others and build those up, rather than trying to destroy the other.  The Holy Spirit wants us to work diligently for the benefit of all.  Good parishioners and priests build up rather than break down.  That is how a parish receives blessing from the Lord.

The first reading today show an example of the Holy Spirit in action.  Here the Apostles meeting at the Council of Jerusalem (our first ecumenical council) come up with a solution to the problem of deciding exactly how much of the Jewish Law needs to be adhered to by the Gentile converts  (Acts 15:6 ff).  The difficulty is how to welcome Gentiles without alienating the Jewish followers of the Messiah.  After a long discussion, Peter speaks and the entire assembly falls silent.  The apostles and elders or priests (toi apostolois kai presbyterois / τοῖς ἀποστόλοις καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις) then write a letter to confirm the decision of the council, saying, “It has been decided by the Holy Spirit and by ourselves not to saddle you with any burden beyond these essentials …” They are very aware of the Holy Spirit guiding the Council which has assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So Hilaire Belloc was right:  as individuals we may be a bit stupid, but as a Catholic Church, listening to the Holy Spirit, we have been guided and kept faithful for 2,000 years, despite pressure from the outside world to ‘change our teaching’!  The Church and Christ are like a married couple, of whom everyone says, “This marriage cannot possibly last!” yet, there they are, celebrating their anniversary year after year!  I say hurrah for faithfulness!  Thank you to the Holy Spirit for holding us together.

[1] Hilaire Belloc, remark to William Temple, quoted in Robert Speaight, The Life of Hilaire Belloc (1957). London: Hollis and Carter, p. 383

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C Easter 6th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C Easter 6th Sunday 2016

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3rd Sunday of Advent, Year C | Unwavering Joy!


Statue of the Smiling Virgin Mary, Cathedral of Santa Maria de Toledo, Castile-La Mancha, Spain.

The third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, reminds us to rejoice!

(The thoughts below are distilled from a 2003 homily by Bishop Robert Barron.)

I wonder how many of us associate God with joy?  God, by his nature, is joy.  The Father empties himself in love for the Son.  The Son empties himself in love for the Father.  The Holy Spirit is the empowering love shared by the Father and the Son.

How do we obtain real joy?  It comes from the act of letting go of oneself.  God created us, not because he needed us or needed created things, but out of the sheer intensity of his joy.

The 5th century Syrian philosopher, Pseudo-Dionysius said: “Goodness is diffusive of itself.” There is a natural inclination in all good things to spread their goodness to others.  That is what God is like.  Jesus makes this clear when he says, “I came that you might have life, and have it to the full.”  He didn’t come primarily to give us the law, not primarily to judge us, but to give us joy.  The minute you put anything other than joy at the centre of the Christian life, you have misconstrued it.

When we think of God primarily as judge, as someone who is brooding over us, it’s a sign that we’re caught in sin.  When you run away from the Divine Love, you run to the far country of sin, that’s when God seems distant.  It’s not that God has moved, but that you’ve moved.  When God seems difficult and overbearing, that’s not because he is, but it’s because by closing yourself in, you have made yourself the enemy of God.

The moral life begins with joy.  Law, virtue, obligation only exist to serve joy.

Christ’s purpose is to baptise us in the Holy Spirit.  Baptism in the Holy Spirit means to let God live in you in such a way that you experience the very joy which is the inner life of God.  In today’s Gospel, John the Baptist says, “he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”  Fire is that passion, enthusiasm and sense of purpose, that the Holy Spirit gives you.  Purposeful people are joyful.  When the Holy Spirit is in you, you know what to do!  You know where to go, your life is on fire!  That’s what Jesus has come to do to you!

John also says, “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing-floor and to gather the wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.”  Uh-oh – this sounds like bad news.  On the contrary, this is very good news!  The winnowing fan is like a rake that tosses the wheat up into the air, so that the wind can blow the chaff away, allowing the good grain to fall to the ground.  When Christ is in your life, when you have been baptised in the Holy Spirit, it means that Christ is now going to work in you, separating out all that is evil and dark and dysfunctional, from all that is in the Image of God.  When you let Christ work in you, then your hatred and your violence and your selfishness and your self-absorption and your division – he will throw these up into the air so that they might be blown away!  This is very good news.  When Jesus lives in you, this is the process of transformation that happens, and it is conducive to joy!

Joy is something we can be commanded to experience: in the Second Reading, Paul says, “I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord.” or “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”  It is an action.  If you just sit around waiting for something to come and make you joyful, then you’re not going to be joyful.  Paul continues: “Everyone should see how unselfish you are!”  God is joy because God is a communion of love. Paul is commanding us to be like God in being unselfish.  You are joyful in the measure that you forget about yourself and look to the other, in love.  It’s not that complicated.  Hard to do?  Yes it is, for us sinners, but not that complicated to describe.

Let me give you a hint.  When you find yourself depressed, listless, hopeless, desperate … perform a simple act of love.  What’s love?  It’s willing the good of the other – nothing grandiose, it doesn’t have to be.  Just a simple act of caring for someone around you.  And believe me, Christians are surrounded by people whom we can love.  When you find yourself depressed, act, act, be selfless.  And that’s where joy comes from.  Paul goes on, “Dismiss all anxiety from your minds.  Present your needs to God in every form of prayer, and in petitions full of gratitude.”  What did Jesus say?  “Perfect love casts out all fear!”  The opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is fear.  Where does anxiety come from?  Anxiety comes from the conviction that we are in charge of our lives.  I worry and fret because I’ve got to make things right.  I’ve got to determine how things go.  No, dismiss fear from your mind when you hand your life over to God, and you say, “Lord, you are the Lord of my life.”  What does God want us to do?  He wants us to ask him, “Lord guide me, Lord give me direction, Lord show me the path.”  He wants us to turn our lives away from our own obsessions and anxieties and to turn to him.  This is true of all the saints.  At some stage they said, “My life is not about me.  It’s about Him, and I’m going to let God run my life.”  In that moment and in that measure we find joy!

Listen to Bishop Barron’s homily here.

Today’s Readings (Australia):

Word format: Year C 3rd Sunday of Advent 2015

Pdf format:  Year C 3rd Sunday of Advent 2015

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Pentecost Sunday | Come, Holy Spirit, and help us!

Pentecost, El Greco, c. 1600, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, oil on canvas.

Pentecost, El Greco, c. 1600, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, oil on canvas.

If the “fruit of the Spirit” is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5), then today the Holy Spirit has been showing me how poor I am in fruits!  Our washing machine has been playing up the whole week, and finally I decided to get a new one.  (This was after a week when I  had already forked out $600 repairing the damage to our house caused by cockatoos. They had pecked a hole the size of a dinner plate into our western red cedar.)  Anyway, when I went to collect the washing machine today (a two hour drive, as I had to borrow a larger car), I found the invoice I had been given the previous day was for someone else’s goods, which involved a trip to customer service to sort it out.  At this stage I was still patient and forbearing.  Anyway, the correct goods were eventually found and the new machine was brought home, but the brand new hoses wouldn’t attach without leaking!  I tried various manoeuvres with washers, but eventually resigned myself to the fact that our taps were way too corroded and this was making it impossible to get a good seal.  (Handy hint: old taps glued with large amounts of lime-scale prevent leaks!)  So it was another hour’s trip to the hardware store to buy a new tap set.  And, yes! This worked!  The Widow Fleming strikes again!  So I put on a load of washing, got the music ready for church, and made dinner.  I was still congratulating myself on my patience and perseverance at this point, and we set off for the Pentecost Vigil.  But at church, several things happened which annoyed me to bits.  I won’t give the details, as we should be trying to build one another up in the Lord, and stirring up discord within a church community is one of Satan’s wiliest tricks.  Still, I kept smiling.  Back at home, it was finally time to relax and unwind, but not before we had hung out that first load of washing from the new machine.  My son volunteered, but being the multi-tasking character that he is, decided he would save himself two trips and carry both the washing basket and his plate, which was loaded up with roast pork, vegetables and a rather wonderful gravy.  Well, somehow the plate tipped over, spilling the wonderful gravy, peas and greasy pork all over our clean washing.  And it was at this point that I completely lost it and managed both to shout at him and burst into tears at the same time.   So much for patience, self-control, gentleness and the rest.

Holy Spirit, I’m obviously not there yet.  Please take over!  I need more of you!  And while You’re at it, please help our Pastoral Area as well – we need your grace in order to grow.

Of course, all my little difficulties are first world problems, and the best way of coping with them is to laugh at them.  Fr Longenecker has the right idea in his article on Hilarity and Holiness.

Anyway, today’s readings are here (now you know why I’m late posting this):

Word format: Year B Pentecost 2015

Pdf format: Year B Pentecost 2015

John Bergsma does an excellent job on the readings here and here.

And Fr Barron has an interesting take on Pentecost in this homily for today.

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3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B | Jesus, the Embodiment of the Law

Pope Francis, Penance and Reconciliation during 24 Hours for the Lord

Pope Francis, Penance / Reconciliation during 24 Hours for the Lord

Are The Ten Commandments still relevant for us?  I have friends who claim the Bible is nothing special – just a man-made unenlightened compilation of Bronze Age writings, and certainly not inspired by the Holy Spirit.  If that were the case, Jesus would not fulfil so many prophecies from the Old Testament.  In today’s Gospel, for example, we see Jesus fulfilling prophecies from Isaiah 56:6-7, Jeremiah 7:1-11 and Malachi 3:1-3, to name only a few.

Mass Readings Word format: Year B Lent 3rd Sunday 2015

Mass Readings Pdf format: Year B Lent 3rd Sunday 2015

John Bergsma gives a great analysis of the readings here.

I have to conclude that my friends who denigrate the Bible are too used to thinking of themselves as ‘good people’ and find it too confronting to consider themselves as sinners, so they are compelled to ‘shoot the messenger’.  Getting down to practicalities, Pope Francis has called all Christians to make 13th and 14th March “24 Hours for the Lord”.  He wants us to go to Adoration, examine our consciences (take some time about this – perhaps spend an hour in Adoration asking the Lord to reveal your sins to you) and receive the sacrament of penance / reconciliation / confession during this time.  To prepare for this, why not listen to Fr Barron’s homily on the Ten Commandments here:



and do a thorough examination of conscience.  You can download these as a guide:

Word format: Confession and Examination of Conscience

Pdf format: Confession and Examination of Conscience

By the way, these lists of sins are not exhaustive – they are just meant as a guide.  If you take time to examine yourself and listen to the Holy Spirit, you’ll find many imperfections that aren’t even on the list.

For those of you in the Perth Northern Suburbs, you can attend 24 hours for the Lord events here:

  • Joondalup Holy Spirit Chapel: Adoration and Confession from 00h00 (midnight) Friday until midnight Saturday.  Mass: 12:10 Friday.   Please put your name on the adoration roster in the front porch.
  • Our Lady of the Mission, Whitfords: Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament: Friday 09.30 a.m. to 7.00 p.m., Mass Friday 9 a.m, Saturday 08.30.  Confession: Saturday 12.00 to 13:00and 17:30 – 18:00.
  • St Simon Peter, Ocean Reef: Blessed Sacrament Adoration Friday 9:00 to 18:50.  Mass: Friday 19:00, Saturday 8:30, Reconciliation: Friday 18:30-18:50, Saturday 17:00-17:45.
  • St Andrew’s, Clarkson: Mass: Friday and Saturday 08:00, Reconciliation: Saturday 17:00 to 17:30, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction: Friday 15:00 to 17:00.

Wishing you joy and grace this Lent!