Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The first reading from the Book of Proverbs gives an account of Lady Wisdom’s banquet.  Like a cultured woman of Jerusalem’s upper class, Wisdom has built herself a fine house whose seven pillars suggest timeless stability.  She celebrates its completion with a banquet to which anyone who wishes to learn from her – the uneducated, the young, the inexperienced, the world-weary – are invited.  She tells them “Come and eat my bread, drink the wine I have prepared”, which is to say “Come and share in an aspect of the divine life which is mine to give”.  It is much more than bread and wine she is offering but a share in God’s Spirit by which we are inspired to look at life from a completely different perspective, an elevated or heightened point of view - which St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading we should celebrate by “always and everywhere giving thanks to God who is our Father, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”- “for those who seek the Lord lack no blessing”.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

At the beginning of this week I had my car booked for its annual servicing and as I drove out of the carpark early in the morning I looked back at the spaces reserved along the Priory wall for resident clergy and saw they were all empty.  Admittedly, two of our priests are away on holidays, and the others were out on business, but it occurred to me that there may come a time when Catholics arriving at this church may find no cars in the reserved space to tell them if any of the priests are at home or available to carry out the holy duties for which they were ordained!  

This Sunday throughout the world we are being asked to pray for vocations to the priesthood and for those who may be drawn to vowed religious life.  The pace of our First-world society has picked up to such an extent that those who want to live a more contemplative existence are seen to be unrealistic when compared to the majority whose pursuit is for academic or commercial success.  It is not wrong to be concerned with the daily necessities of life, but strengthening one’s relationship with Jesus is of far greater importance.  Jesus came to bring us something more than the daily preoccupations of feeding and clothing ourselves or pursuing our careers.  He wants to satisfy not just bodies, but souls, by giving them spiritual food that lasts, consisting of his Word in scripture, his Eucharist, and the Communion of faith shared by all those he calls his friends. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Last Sunday we held our annual Parish Assembly where all the shareholders who attended were brought up to date on the financial and managerial aspects of how our day to day business was being run.  You can read the various reports in the printed booklet available at the Church doors which give a fairly positive picture that at least we are not going broke.  When compared to other parishes we are seen to be quite comfortably off but there is a restlessness among some of our members, particularly those involved in the Alpha movement and on our Pastoral Council, who think we should be doing something more   Instead of being content (as was the chosen people) with the ‘meat and bread’ showered down on the camp, we are meant to move out and find more dynamic ways of making a difference to the world as God’s pilgrim people.  We are meant to take St. Paul’s words to heart “Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth”. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

This weekend at each of the Masses we will be welcoming 182 young boys and girls who are preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation in 2 weeks’ time.  From the first moment their parents presented them to be immersed in the waters of baptism their lives have been caught up into the saving plan God has for each of us which is that we become participants in the divine life that his Son came to share with all his followers.  If Baptism assures us of such a magnificent destiny, is there anything more we need to do to improve on such a gift?

In one of his two Epistles, St. Peter reminds us: “By his divine power God has lavished on us all the things we need for life and true devotion,” but having said that we still need help in keeping our share of that divine nature alive in our hearts.  This is one of the reasons the sacrament of Confirmation is so important since it perfects and strengthens the gifts of the Holy Spirit already flowing from God which enable us to cope with the complexities of life.  Like the tribes of Israel following Moses, we have to resist the temptation to go backwards to the comfort of what is familiar or bearable, and choose to move forward courageously, trusting that the journey we have begun will find its fulfilment in the promises of God.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Australia is a country that is not used to the idea of shepherds.  For a short time in our European history convicts or Emancipists were pressed into service to carry out this age old task.  But with the coming of wire fencing to contain our large properties such a task faded from importance and the job was given to drovers and their dogs.  We became the land of the ‘long paddock’, a historic web of stock routes linking areas of inland NSW and Queensland with emerging markets in Victoria. These broad passage ways of crown land also provided an escape from drought when the seasons failed.  The Long Paddock still provides us with a link to times and landscapes that have long since altered.

What has not changed is a tendency in our national psyche to be suspicious of anyone in authority, stemming from an unwillingness to hand over our hard won independence to representatives who may let us down.  In other words, we find an inherent difficulty in being shepherded.  And yet, it is this method of governing the people that becomes the main topic for today’s Readings.  The task of Shepherding is used to describe the special quality of “caring and protecting of each one” shown by God who tells us “I myself will gather them; no fear, no terror for them anymore; not one shall be lost – it is the Lord who speaks”.   Jesus continues this theme in the Gospel where “He took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  And he set to teach them at some length”. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The events portrayed in the Bible so often mirror situations that are happening in our own times.  750 years before the birth of Christ there was a phase of great economic prosperity in the Northern Kingdom of Israel which caused the Temple at Bethal to be used by the king and his cohort of priests as their personal means of keeping the economy circulating - with the result that they hardly felt they needed God at all.  So a simple shepherd named Amos was sent from the south to ‘prophesy to my people Israel’, a man who had no extra cloak or sandals, making him the perfect foil to oppose the rampant luxury of the State and its religious leaders.  He had the task of making a bitter kingdom sweet again with God’s presence.

In my living memory the terrible drought that is settling in over most of Australia (and other parts of the world) would have caused an earlier generation to turn towards God in supplication - but our suburban prosperity today cushions us in such a way that we dismiss any such overture and prefer to rely on other ready to hand resources.  Even the rescue of the young boys from the cave in Thailand is seen as a result of human ingenuity and resolve, rather than the Providence of God in giving humanity such wonderful gifts to achieve ever widening horizons of knowledge and skills.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

There is a lot that we can learn from today’s gospel. Jesus comes back to Nazareth where he had spent the first thirty or so years of his life. He had been away only a short time and news had filtered back that people were looking on him as a prophet. He already had a reputation for healing and for speaking words that drew people into communion with God. This astonished them, for he had seemed so ordinary during all those years. His mother was still living in the village, as were members of his extended family. Joseph had come to Nazareth when Jesus was a child. There was plenty of work for a carpenter, as Herod was building his headquarters at Sepphoris, a walk of only three or four kilometres from Nazareth. Jesus has continued in his father’s trade. When Jesus addressed the people of the village in the synagogue, they were impressed by his wisdom, but they could not bring themselves to believe that the local carpenter could be a prophet. During his stay, Jesus did heal a few sick people, but Mark tells us that he was not able to work any miracles there. In other words nothing he said or did was accepted as a revelation of God. Their lack of faith amazed him.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The striking message in the three readings from today’s Scripture is that God’s intention for the human race is to “change our mourning into dancing”.  Jesus’ immediate instinct was to heal the poor woman who touched his cloak in the hope of finding a cure; and he comforted the father of the little girl by laying his hands on her and making her better.  We are meant to live richer lives because of the saving grace He brought into our world.  His coming was to convince us that “death was not God’s doing, he takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living”.  Since we are made in the image and likeness of God’s own Nature, then there is something imperishable automatically implanted into our human experience even though our own spendable years may be few. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Around this time of the year the chances are high that you or I might receive an invitation to a Christmas in July party with all the trappings of hot food and rich wine that we avoided when the temperature hovered in the mid-30’s. 

Today’s Feast of the birth of John the Baptist has been celebrated like an ongoing ‘Christmas in June’ since early in the 4th century.  St. Augustine was the first to point out how in the Northern hemisphere it coincides with the summer solstice which is that point of the year when the days begin to grow shorter - whereas after Jesus’ birth (set down in December) the daylight begins to increase.  Augustine connects this astrological factor to the Gospel passage” He must grow greater, I must grow less”

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

When I was studying American literature in the 1960’s a poem by Robert Frost (who was still alive at the time) touched the hearts of many for its depiction of an old farm hand called Silas who returns to his place of employment even though he had left on bad terms with the boss who does not particularly want him back.  The farmer’s wife realises that the old man has really come home to die.  They are the nearest thing to a family that the old man ever had, so they have little alternative but to give him shelter.  As she tells her husband, ‘home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in’.  To which he replies: ‘I should have called it something you somehow haven’t to deserve’.

St. Paul in his Second letter to the Church at Corinth reflects on the death that he feels is approaching him.  He speaks of himself as being in a state of exile.  He sees every one of us as being like the Israelites being sent into exile and he wants to give us the same message of hope they kept in the life-restoring power of God.  For Paul, Death carries with it a distinct experience of exile – exile from the body and a return to the heavenly home which he might just as easily choose to name as ‘something you somehow haven’t to deserve’.  A symbol of this ‘undeserved’ home is found in the image of the mustard seed growing into the largest shrub in the garden so the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.  

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Whenever we celebrate an historic event, such as the 50th Anniversary of our Church’s opening we imagine such an occurrence as happening so long ago that it can only have a remote connection to ourselves.  We find it hard to admit that we may have lived a good deal of our lives within that period and, in fact, have taken part in significant moments of that not so remote past.  I didn’t realize until the memorabilia began to be put together how much I had been a companion to this story from the time I arrived in Brookvale in the same year construction of the new church would have begun.

One of my young students quite early in 1967 asked me if I would like to come to his home for dinner and it turned out that his father, Bill O’Donnell, was the supervising architect for St. Kieran’s Church on behalf of Kevin Curtin and Partners.  Bill had many stories dealing with Fr. Kieran O’Shea who kept an eagle eye on expenses as well as practical details such as changing the height of the platform for the high altar, even though the builders had been given different advice. Bill’s family recalls being woken very early one morning as their Dad answered the phone.  They heard him say “Nose down like a Spitfire diving.”  Mystified at what on earth he was talking about they learned that the caller was the builder, who had phoned to enquire which way the Holy Spirit figure should be attached to the front of the Lectern.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners, 

as I continue to share with you some of the thoughts contained in Pope Francis’ latest Letter “Exultate et Gaudete”, you may also like to read the whole document by entering the title into Google and accessing it on the web?  We are now up to Chapter 4 in which the Pope lists 5 Signs of holiness in today’s world 

The signs I wish to highlight are not the sum total of a model of holiness, but they are five great expressions of love for God and neighbour that I consider of particular importance in the light of certain dangers and limitations present in today’s culture – that dominate the current religious marketplace. [111].

1) Perseverance, patience and meekness.  

The first of these great signs is solid grounding in the God who loves and sustains us.  This source of inner strength enables us to persevere amid life’s ups and downs, but also to endure hostility, betrayal and failings on the part of others:  “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Rom 8:31): this is the source of the peace found in the saints.  “To act in this way “presumes a heart set at peace by Christ, freed from the aggressiveness born of overweening egotism.”  [112].

 2) Joy and a sense of humour

The saints do not waste energy complaining about the failings of others; they can hold their tongue before the faults of their brothers and sisters, and avoid the verbal violence that demeans and mistreats others.  Saints hesitate to treat others harshly; they consider others before themselves (cf. Phil 2:3). [116]. 

The saints are joyful and full of good humour.  They radiate a positive and hopeful spirit, even in hard times.  Christian joy is usually accompanied by a sense of humour.  We see this clearly, for example, in Saint Thomas More, Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Philip Neri.  Ill humour is no sign of holiness.  [126].

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,                                                                                                

In Chapter 3 of his latest Exhortation “Rejoice and be Glad”, Pope Francis points out some very practical steps we can take to achieve such happiness.  “The word “happy” or “blessed” thus becomes a synonym for “holy”.  It expresses the fact that those faithful to God and his word, by their self-giving, gain true happiness”.  [64]

So if anyone asks: “What must one do to be a good Christian?” the answer is clear.  We have to do, each in our own way, what Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount.  In the Beatitudes, we find a portrait of the Master, which we are called to reflect in our daily lives.  The Beatitudes are in no way to be thought of as trite or undemanding, quite the opposite.  We can only practise them if the Holy Spirit fills us with his power and frees us from our weakness, our selfishness, our complacency and our pride. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Half way through this second week of Easter Pope Francis released an Exhortation or Letter to the whole world entitled “Gaudete et Exsultate”, (Rejoice and be Glad) in which he encourages all people to hear the call God is making for us to find our own down to earth ways of achieving holiness.  This is how he begins his letter:-

What follows is not meant to be a treatise on holiness, containing definitions and distinctions helpful for understanding this important subject, or a discussion of the various means of sanctification. My modest goal is to repropose the call to holiness in a practical way for our own time, with all its risks, challenges and opportunities.  For the Lord has chosen each one of us “to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4).

  1. I like to contemplate the holiness present in the patience of God’s people: in those parents who raise their children with immense love, in those men and women who work hard to support their families, in the sick, in elderly religious who never lose their smile. In their daily perseverance I see the holiness of the Church militant. Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence.  We might call them “the middle class of holiness”. 

The risen Christ is the standing icon of humanity in its full and final destiny. He is the pledge and guarantee of what God will do with all our crucifixions. At last we can meaningfully live with hope. It is no longer an absurd or tragic universe. Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes. Without such implanted hope, it is very hard not to be cynical, bitter, and tired by the second half of our lives.

It is no accident that Luke’s Resurrection account in the Gospel has Jesus saying, “I am not a ghost! I have flesh and bones, as you can see” (see Luke 24:39-43). To Thomas he says, “Put your finger in the wounds!” (John 20:27). In other words, “I am human!”—which means to be wounded and resurrected at the same time. Christ returns to his physical body, and yet he is now unlimited by space or time and is without any regret or recrimination while still, ironically, carrying his wounds. “Before God, our wounds are our glory,” as Lady Julian of Norwich reflected. [1]

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

In today’s First Reading we get a glimpse of how the saving message of Christ’s Resurrection was delivered through the words Peter speaks to the household of the Roman Centurion, Cornelius.  He gives a synopsis of all that Jesus said and did during his brief years as an itinerant preacher but insists he was more than just someone who went about doing good.  Above all else, God has spoken to the whole human race in the person of his Son “bearing the human likeness, sharing our human lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient, even to the point of death”, to save humanity out of death into new life. 

We grasp death’s stark reality in the account of the stone rolled back and the cold, gaping emptiness of the tomb.  The fact that the tomb is empty on Easter morning is a consequence of the resurrection, not a proof.  There is something very different about this narrative and that of the raising of Lazarus. Lazarus came forth from the tomb still wrapped in the burial cloths, for death kept its hold on him.  Eventually he was still to die. In today’s Gospel, the cloths are left behind – a sign that death could not hold Jesus in its clutches. The cloth covering Jesus’ face is singled out, for now Jesus’ face is unveiled. Those who look upon the risen Christ will see the glory of God revealed. While the empty tomb does not, of itself, tell us what happened to Jesus, it does prompt us, as it prompted Peter and the Beloved Disciple, to be vigilant so that as the risen Christ makes himself known to us we would be ready to recognise him.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Last week we heard Jesus tell the priestly caste “Destroy this Temple and in 3 days I will raise it up again”.  In this week’s Reading we look back to the description of how the Temple and the city of Jerusalem itself were completely destroyed and its entire population deported to Babylon 600 years before the coming of Christ.  The shock of losing ‘God’s dwelling place’ from the heart of their community never left them and they blamed themselves for bringing about such a disaster through sheer neglect and disobedience.  As we know they were allowed to return to Jerusalem 70 years later to rebuild the Temple for the first of what turned out to be a cycle of destructiveness and restoration that continued right up to Roman times when the need for a Temple was replaced - not by a building but by Jesus’ promise that he himself was to be the dwelling place of God at the heart of all humanity.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Whenever we hear the 10 commandments listed as they are today, it can strike a chill in our hearts as we count so many “you shall nots” like pickets in a fence hammered into the ground around us preventing us from walking freely through life’s landscape.  Laws expressed like that sound harsh to make us cower behind the picket fence out of fear rather than launch out and discover for ourselves the values they are meant to protect.

Jesus came to remove the pickets of the Law so that humanity could flourish, no longer hemmed in by fear, but ideally motivated by love.  He is replacing the law, not by destroying it, but by extending its meaning and presenting us with a higher ideal.  Jesus tells us he has not come to do away with the old law but to fulfil it.  “You have heard it said of old ‘You shall not kill’ but I say to you, anyone who nurses anger against his brother or sister must be brought to account.  Of old it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery’. But what I tell you is this:  ‘If a man looks on a woman with a lustful eye, he has already committed adultery in his heart’.  The people of Jesus’ time who heard this had a hard time accepting it.  The introduction of Christianity into first century Judaism continued to be revolutionary, and the first Christians, (who were all Jews), experienced changes in their beliefs and in their ways of worshiping God which for them were shattering and far more dramatic than anything the Church has gone through since.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

 This Saturday 24th February 2018 happens to be the 180th anniversary of the first Augustinian to set foot on the Australian continent.  The Irish-born James Alypius Goold O.S.A. disembarked at Sydney from Europe on
24 February 1838 to begin what has been a continuous presence of many brothers and sisters who were to follow him from those earliest pioneer years. He came as a volunteer priest, anticipating that he would serve perhaps ten years in Australia, but in fact remained for the rest of his life and became one of the major figures of early Australian Catholic history.

In a sense he was like Abraham who set out from his home town and began to wander with his flocks and caravan in answer to God’s call to “leave your own country and go to a place which I will show you”.  Scripture regards this dramatic incident as a test for Abraham’s faith in God - which he passed nobly - and which has made him a model of the faith we should all have when we are asked to discard what is precious to us and rely on God alone.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Your children may have a parental lock put on certain types of TV they are not allowed to watch but at some time of the day they will surely be bombarded with advertisements for a show called “I’m a Celebrity, Get me out of Here!”   In it, a whole group of people who think they are pretty important are put together on an island or in a jungle camp and have to fend for themselves by competing in all sorts of scary contests.

They leave their families and friends, their careers and their comfort zones, their air-conditioned houses and their i-phones, and have to contend solely with their own egos and the even larger egos of the other contestants.  (Our ego is that part of our personality that makes us think that we are so important that we don’t need anyone intruding on our space).  Some have crashed out of the series almost before it has a chance to start, but others last the distance and come to learn something about getting by without the need to rely on so many “things” that pamper and distract us – and discovering a certain satisfaction that comes from within.