Catholic in Yanchep

Go out into the deep.


Leave a comment

20th Sunday, Year C | Divisive? Only if you’re an enemy of Truth.

Christ in Majesty Washington Basilica

Christ in Majesty, Jan Henryk de Rosen, 1959, mosaic, Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, D.C.

‘Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on a household of five will be divided: three against two and two against three; the father divided against the son, son against father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.’ (Luke 12:49-52)

Wait a second, didn’t Jesus say, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you?” (John 14:27)  And now he’s saying he’s come to bring division?  How can both of these statements be true?

Easy.  When Jesus is talking about giving us peace, he means that one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit is that we will have peace in our hearts.  When we stay close to Christ and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we will experience a profound peace, in spite of any difficulties that may arise.

But there are many in the world who will see Christians as an enemy or a cause of division, because we do not (or should not, if we are being faithful) compromise on truth.  And this will lead others to hate us or think we are insane.  Those who do not follow Christ may, if they choose, decide to persecute us, take us to court or remove privileges (such as tax-free status) from us.  So it is that some of our family members will turn away from us, because we refuse to lie.  Now for some examples of lies we have to resist in our popular culture today:

  • We refuse to agree that an unborn child is just a clump of cells whose rights are trumped by the mother’s rights, but we say the developing human embryo or foetus is an individual worthy of respect, and that God intends the existence of each child:

 ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you’ (Jeremiah 1:5)

  • We refuse to agree that two men or two women in a sexual relationship are equivalent to the free, total, faithful and fruitful marriage of a man and a woman whose bodies are by nature complementary to one another. If you’re going to deface language by calling homosexual unions marriage, then we need a new name to define that kind of marriage which is made of opposite-sex partners, freely chosen, faithfully held, and open to fruitfulness.
  • We refuse to be quiet about saying that it is in the best interests of a child to have both a mother and a father.
  • We refuse to agree with the laughable suggestion that a person can choose their gender. People with gender dysphoria need counselling to treat their disorder, not pandering to affirm their disorder.
  • We refuse to believe the lies that are told about certain other religions.  [The Archdiocesan Media Office has just phoned me and asked me to tone down the paragraph I had previously written here (!!), as they thought I was being inflammatory.]  I will merely refer you to this article, for an indication of what I was driving at.

We Christians should not be afraid to speak the truth.  But the truth must be spoken with love.  We should not be the ones who start war and division, but if others choose to hate us or call us names, this just demonstrates that their arguments are so weak that they have to resort to name-calling.  We should return their hate with unconditional love.  Unconditional love doesn’t mean agreement, but it may mean reaching out with a smile and in friendship.  It may mean being an uncomplaining victim.  I stress the word uncomplaining because we need to model Jesus in this, and not be like all the other victim groups out there in SJW world.  Jesus, even though God incarnate, did not resist persecution, but offered himself up ‘as a lamb to the slaughter’, so that we might be saved from our sinfulness.

God’s love is like a fire: burning up the dross and purifying the world.  This is why Jesus says to us today:

I have come to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were blazing already!

 Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 20th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C 20th Sunday 2016

 


Leave a comment

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C | A blueprint for prayer

Abraham-and-the-three-angels-Dore-600x820

Abraham and the Three Angels, Gustav Doré (1832-1883), woodcut.

Have you tried praying?  When people tell me they don’t believe in God, I ask them how much they’ve spoken to God about that.  Why are they so ready to trust their own preconceived ideas on the matter (or is it that deep down, they don’t want God to be true)?  You see, Jesus says in our Gospel today, “How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  So go on, ask away.

I don’t want to drone on, so I’ll merely refer you to Bishop Barron’s homily for today’s readings, as well as Brant Pitre’s video presentation here:

Today’s readings

Word format: Year C 17th Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C 17th Sunday 2016


Leave a comment

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C |Repent! What me? How dare you.

Christ in Synagogue

Christ preaching in the synagogue, fresco, ca 1350, Visoki Decani Monastery, Kosovo, Serbia.

Funny how the world seems to divide itself into two camps: those who are open to repentance and those who are closed.  Pope Francis talks about this in his new book, The Name of God is Mercy, which he has published to coincide with the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  In our Gospel Reading today, Jesus is also proclaiming a Jubilee Year: “He has sent me … to proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.”

On the one hand we have Jeffrey Tayler in Salon Magazine excoriating the Pope for – oh no!  – having the audacity to write a book.   I add my comments in red:

Not two weeks into the new year, the frocked and beanied capo dei capi of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, chose to impose upon humanity this a book of his own authorship, “The Name of God Is Mercy.” [That’s just stupid.  You might as well say that anyone who writes anything is imposing it on humanity.  The Pope isn’t forcing anyone to read it.  Are you suggesting that anything the Pope writes should be put on the List of Forbidden Books?]  The title alone should have given reviewers cause to dispatch the tome, unopened, straight into the waste bin. “Mercy?” From a purportedly omnipotent Lord who chose to sire a kid whom He subjected to ghastly tortures culminating in execution? [1.  God didn’t “choose to sire a kid” as if God (the Father) preceded Jesus.  Jesus co-exists eternally as the ‘Son’ of God.  Son just happens to be the best word we have to describe the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.  If you’re going to criticise the Bible, at least criticise an intelligent interpretation of it.  2.  God the Father did not subject the Son to anything.  Read the Gospels and you will see that it was humans who killed Jesus.  And it was out of love for us that Jesus paid the debt that we owed God for our sins.]  Who battered and abused poor Job on a whim? [Hello-o, read the text!  It was Satan who abused Job, not God.]  Who ordered a patriarch to knife his own long-awaited son? [You’re missing the point.  The story of Abraham and Isaac is about Trust and Obedience. If you bothered to read the whole story, God actually tells Abraham not to sacrifice his son.]  The name of God, were God to exist, would be anything but mercy.  [Sigh.  Can this writer not hear his own vitriolic tone?  He could be describing himself when he talks about ‘lack of mercy.’  But then that’s hypocrisy for you.]

On the other hand, what does Pope Francis actually say?

The Church condemns sin because it has to relay the truth: ‘this is a sin’. But at the same time, it embraces the sinner who recognises himself as such, it welcomes him, it speaks to him of the infinite mercy of God. Jesus forgave even those who crucified and scorned him.  To follow the way of the Lord, the Church is called on to dispense its mercy over all those who recognise themselves as sinners, who assume responsibility for the evil they have committed, and who feel in need of forgiveness. The Church does not exist to condemn people, but to bring about an encounter with the visceral love of God’s mercy.  I often say that in order for this to happen, it is necessary to go out: to go out from the churches and the parishes, to go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope. I like to use the image of a field hospital to describe this “Church that goes forth”. It exists where there is combat. It is not a solid structure with all the equipment where people go to receive treatment for both small and large infirmities. It is a mobile structure that offers first aid and immediate care, so that its soldiers do not die.  It is a place for urgent care, not a place to see a specialist. I hope that the Jubilee [The Holy Year of Mercy] will serve to reveal the Church’s deeply maternal and merciful side, a Church that goes forth toward those who are “wounded,” who are in need of an attentive ear, understanding, forgiveness, and love.

But to receive mercy, one has to realise that one is a sinner in the first place.  Pope Francis continues:

Corruption is the sin which, rather than being recognised as such and rendering us humble, is elevated to a system; it becomes a mental habit, a way of living. We no longer feel the need for forgiveness and mercy, but we justify ourselves and our behaviours. Jesus says to his disciples: even if your brother offends you seven times a day, and seven times a day he returns to you to ask for forgiveness, forgive him. The repentant sinner, who sins again and again because of his weakness, will find forgiveness if he acknowledges his need for mercy. The corrupt man is the one who sins but does not repent, who sins and pretends to be Christian, and it is this double life that is scandalous. The corrupt man does not know humility, he does not consider himself in need of help, he leads a double life. We must not accept the state of corruption as if it were just another sin. Even though corruption is often identified with sin, in fact they are two distinct realities, albeit interconnected.  Sin, especially if repeated, can lead to corruption, not quantitatively — in the sense that a certain number of sins makes a person corrupt — but rather qualitatively: habits are formed that limit one’s capacity for love and create a false sense of self-sufficiency.  The corrupt man tires of asking for forgiveness and ends up believing that he doesn’t need to ask for it any more. We don’t become corrupt people overnight. It is a long, slippery slope that cannot be identified simply as a series of sins. One may be a great sinner and never fall into corruption if hearts feel their own weakness. That small opening allows the strength of God to enter.  When a sinner recognises himself as such, he admits in some way that what he was attached to, or clings to, is false. The corrupt man hides what he considers his true treasure, but which really makes him a slave and masks his vice with good manners, always managing to keep up appearances.

In the reading for today from Nehemiah, the people of Israel are overcome with repentance.

For the people were all in tears as they listened to the words of the Law.

They realise how far from the Lord they have been, and are overwhelmed with sorrow when this knowledge comes upon them.  But Ezra tells them, “Do not be sad: the joy of the Lord is your stronghold.”  It is only after we experience that metanoia, that we can participate in the Jubilee that flows out of it.

Prayer: Father God, help us to avoid the pride that makes us justify our self-sufficiency.  Help us to develop habits of humility and self-examination.  Help us to turn towards you daily and find peace and communion with you.

For a scripture study on today’s readings – including the historical background – read Dr John Bergsma’s commentary at The Sacred Page.

Bishop Barron takes this from a different angle – the importance of building our religious identity – in Walls and Bridges.

Also watch scripture scholar, Dr Brant Pitre’s Youtube video on this Sunday’s readings:

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year C 3rd Sunday 2016

Pdf format: Year C 3rd Sunday 2016

 


Leave a comment

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time | Be careful what you ask God for … but ask him anyway

The Martyrdom of St James, Francisco di Zurbaran, 1639, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

The Martyrdom of St James, Francisco di Zurbaran, 1639, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

“Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory,” ask James and John in today’s Gospel.  Jesus replies, “You do not know what you are asking!.. Can you drink the cup that I must drink, or be baptised with the baptism with which I must be baptised?’

“We can,” they reply in their ignorance, and Jesus, knowing already what will happen in the future, says, “The cup that I must drink you shall drink, and with the baptism with which I must be baptised you shall be baptised.”  For God, glory doesn’t mean what we think it means – it is instead a life of service and self-giving.  James (the Greater, son of Zebedee) did indeed drink of the cup of suffering and eventually became the first apostle to be martyred in the year 44 A.D. when he was put to the sword by Herod Agrippa.  He is the only one of the Twelve whose death is recorded in Scripture (read Acts 12:1-2).  This is how the Church historian, Eusebius (260/265 – 339/340), recounts it in Church History, Book 2, chapter 9:

Chapter 9. The Martyrdom of James the Apostle.

  1. Acts 12: 1-2.  Now about that time (it is clear that he means the time of Claudius) Herod the King stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the Church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.
  2. And concerning this James, Clement, in the seventh book of his Hypotyposes, relates a story which is worthy of mention; telling it as he received it from those who had lived before him. He says that the one who led James to the judgment-seat, when he saw him bearing his testimony, was moved, and confessed that he was himself also a Christian.
  3. They were both therefore, he says, led away together; and on the way he begged James to forgive him. And he, after considering a little, said, Peace be with you, and kissed him. And thus they were both beheaded at the same time.
  4. And then, as the divine Scripture says, (Acts 12:3 sqq) Herod, upon the death of James, seeing that the deed pleased the Jews, attacked Peter also and committed him to prison, and would have slain him if he had not, by the divine appearance of an angel who came to him by night, been wonderfully released from his bonds, and thus liberated for the service of the Gospel. Such was the providence of God in respect to Peter.

All of the other apostles, except John, were martyred for proclaiming their faith in Christ. You can read more about their ultimate fates here from the 3rd century Bishop of Caesarea.

But what does all this have to do with you and me?  Does it mean I should be afraid to ask God for good things in case he expects me to suffer instead?  No, it means we should re-examine our motives in our requests.  God wants to give us good things, but he also wants to purify our hearts so that we don’t become slaves to Aquinas’s four typical substitutes for God: wealth, power, pleasure or honour.  Fr Robert Barron has a wonderful homily for today on Real Spiritual Power: take the time to listen to it.

Our Readings for today:

Word format: Year B 29th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 29th Sunday 2015


Leave a comment

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | Are you coming to the banquet?

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Jacopo Tintoretto, 1561, oil on canvas, the church of Santa Maria della Salute (The Virgin Mary of Good Health), Venice, Italy.

The Wedding Feast at Cana, Jacopo Tintoretto, 1561, oil on canvas, the church of Santa Maria della Salute (The Virgin Mary of Good Health), Venice, Italy.

I’m extremely busy with work commitments today, so I’ll just summarise in dot points and refer you to other pages that explain today’s readings in more detail.

  1. Even in Proverbs (First Reading on Wisdom’s Table) and Psalms (Taste and See) God talks about the heavenly banquet he is inviting us to participate in.
  2. St Paul (Ephesians 5) encourages us to give thanks constantly (links to the Todah sacrifice).
  3. The heavenly banquet starts right here, right now in the Eucharist (the Todah sacrifice fulfilled):

“Amen, amen, I say to you,
unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood,
you do not have life within you.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
has eternal life,
and I will raise him on the last day.
For my flesh is true food,
and my blood is true drink.
Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood
remains in me and I in him.”

Listen to Fr Barron’s homily on Wisdom’s Meal and read the Scripture Study over at The Sacred Page.

Interested in the heavenly banquet?  Read more here: Fourteen questions about heaven and whether heaven is already present in our lives here on earth.

Today’s readings:

Word format: Year B 20th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 20th Sunday 2015


Leave a comment

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | The Imperishability of Man

Christ healing the woman with the haemorrhage, 3rd to 4th century, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Via Casilina, Rome.

Christ healing the woman with the haemorrhage, 3rd to 4th century, Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter, Via Casilina, Rome.

Our First Reading from the book of Wisdom today says, ‘Death was not God’s doing … It was the devil’s envy that brought death into the world.’  Obviously creatures have been dying in our universe since time immemorial, so we have to go a bit deeper than a purely literal interpretation of Genesis (and Wisdom).  The most satisfying commentary I have been able to find is this excellent one from Fr Barron:

God Did Not Make Death

Some helpful Ignatian reflections on physical versus spiritual death can be found here.

Finally, to flesh out the discussion on what Scripture means by death, the Dominicans of the Province of St Joseph have a very helpful article called Molecules and Mourning.

Download today’s readings for Australia here:

Pdf format: Year B 13th Sunday 2015

Word format: Year B 13th Sunday 2015


Leave a comment

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B | The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed

parable_of_the_mustard_seedWhat can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.  (Mark 4:30-32)

What is this kingdom of God that Jesus keeps talking about in parables?  Jesus is the seed described in John 12:24.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

Jesus becomes that ‘smallest of all the seeds’ in his humiliation and death, but what follows is the Resurrection and the expansion of his Kingdom, the Church.  We see this pattern repeated in so many ways in church history.  Fr Barron illustrates this in his homily for today with the examples of Charles Lwanga, Mother Theresa and St Francis of Assisi.

It’s not only the membership of the church that grows like a mustard tree, but also our understanding of Jesus’ teaching.  This is the image that Blessed John Henry Newman used in his Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine.  I have heard the Catholic Church described by Protestants as ‘legalistic’.  It seems that part of the objection is that we have too much doctrine.  But if we love the Lord, then exploring his word results in a natural growth in our understanding.  New understandings never contradict previous understandings, but are brought forth from them in the same way that advances in the deductive sciences are made: by starting on the trunk of the tree with known knowns, and pursuing them along the branches and smaller twigs to areas which require further elucidation.  In this way, the tree keeps becoming more all-encompassing.  So, for example, the idea of Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos) was premised on the prior understanding that Jesus the man was also fully Divine, and that he had two natures in one person: a divine nature and a human nature united in a ‘mystical union’ or hypostatic union.  This doctrine was only formally defined at the First Council of Ephesus (431) and the Council of Chalcedon (451) as a response to Nestorianism which held that Jesus was not the same as the eternal Word of God, he was just a human who had received divinity from the Father.  [For more on Newman’s concept of the Development of Doctrine, go here.]

Because new understandings must be consistent with previous understandings, the Church cannot change its teaching on Marriage, no matter what pressures are brought to bear by the culture.  That is the beauty of the Catholic Church: consistent in its teachings from the Apostolic era until today.  That is why Archbishop Costelloe has felt it necessary to reiterate the Church’s teaching during the current debate on same-sex marriage in Australia.  A pastoral letter will be given out today at all Masses explaining the Church’s position.  You can read it here:  Same-sex Marriage Pastoral Letter FINAL

Please also read the ‘Don’t Mess with Marriage‘ document from the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.  Well done to the Bishops!  You may well find that the media and the same-sex lobbyists want to crucify you too, but stand firm!

Today’s Mass readings (Australia)

Word format:Year B 11th Sunday 2015

Pdf format: Year B 11th Sunday 2015