Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

There is so much to comfort us in today’s Readings as they speak of God’s kindness towards humankind.  Our God is one who wipes away the tears from every cheek, lifts the mourning veil from all peoples, and destroys Death and our fears of it forever.  There is also much to dis-comfort us as well as we recognise that while our God is prepared to meet and fulfil all our needs, we are quite reticent about responding to His call which, far from being onerous, is to celebrate by attending a lavish wedding feast. 

 

The excuses given in the Gospel are pretty typical of us – we are too busy with work or business; we are too preoccupied with money problems or relationships; we are too young or too old, too clever or not clever enough to be caught up in the relationship God longs to offer us. 

 

One of the blessings about coming to this parish has been the fact that I have not had the excuse of being too preoccupied with money and business matters to attend to the invitation from God to enter into the daily banquet of the Eucharist.  Along with the community of Augustinian priests joining me in the service of this parish in such a privileged way, we would not be able to carry out such duties if it were not for the trained staff that contributes their time and talents in the running of the business -management side of things. 

 

After 10 years of service as our current parish manager, Chris Burrows is stepping down from the job of maintaining the parish plant in so many aspects of its day to day requirements. 

 

I inherited the wonderful working relationship which Chris had with the two previous parish priests and this made my insertion into the role comparatively stress free.  Words can hardly express my gratitude for the solid basis he provided by his background knowledge which has made my decision making so much easier. 

 

I will miss the practical support that smoothed away the complexity of coping with computer banking and many other issues.   

 

But it is with a great deal of pleasure I can announce that our new manager has been chosen from a pool of applicants.  Jacky Worthington has been working in the parish as our Compliance Officer for the last 18 months and has a long involvement with the parish and the Augustinian Order. She is the current National Leader of Friends of St Augustine and a former Chair of the Parish Council.  Jacky’s children attended St Kieran’s school and she has been involved in many of the vital groups that help make the parish and its schools function. Jacky comes from a background in accounting and office management and has a deep understanding of our Parish and its needs.

 

The Gospel teaches us that all of us are invited to the Feast of God’s Kingdom. But, for our part, we must come prepared…in the words of the Gospel, dressed for the part.  We are reassured “There is nothing that I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength” and very often that strength comes from the integrity, generosity and cooperation we show when we accept the invitation to serve God in and with one another – to enter into the banquet hall so that it is filled with guests.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

A few years ago a friend of mine took me on a journey from Philadelphia to Atlantic City in a bus painted garishly with the name of a well-known Casino.  When you go to the casino by this bus everyone gets a token for $10:00 worth of chips to start them off in the gaming room.  You don’t really have to earn them or buy them; they are given to you automatically just for making the trip.  Everyone gets the same amount to do with as they like.  In a very short time my friend won $25:00 while I came away with nothing.

When we enter this life we are given a far more exciting gift than a $10:00 token, though it remains something we still don’t have to buy or earn.  What we are given is an equal share in Life that we can spend any way we like.  In fact, the denarius we are given is a share in Christ’s life - to spend, cultivate, invest and use as we like - before we do anything to earn it!  In the words of St. Paul, “Christ will be glorified in my body, whether by my life or by my death”.  We are given this share in God’s love poured out on us by his Son in the Spirit whether we come to realize it early in the day or late.  Instead of grasping it joyfully and using it through the heat of the day and the cool of the evening, we look over our shoulders and resent those who have come to understand that it is never in our power to earn such an extravagant wage.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Has it ever happened to you when you have had a quarrel with someone in your family and felt angry and hurt by them, that you have found yourself unable to forgive them yet still feel at peace with God, say in confession, far more readily than you do with the people living closest to you?  We find it is easier to receive forgiveness from God than to give or accept it from our fellow human beings.  And yet, when we do surrender to being forgiven by God, (and his amazing Grace is available to us in so many ways), how much more does this ease our hearts towards mending our relationships with others! 

“Forgive your neighbour’s injustice; then when you pray, your own sins will be forgiven.” These words from the Book of Sirach remind us that forgiveness is a deep and necessary part of our spiritual tradition, handed down to us from our Jewish ancestors in faith.  Jesus echoes this teaching when He gives us the “Our Father,” which tells us to request, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The prophet Ezekiel in the 1st Reading is described as a watchman or “Sentry of Israel” with a special duty to take pastoral care of the people.  Just as the sentry in an ancient city assured its safety at night, so the prophet has the role of ensuring the safety of the community and to warn them of the consequences of their actions if they were to bring harm to one another.  If he fails to do this and harm eventuates, then he is held just as responsible as those who actually caused the harm in the first place.

If you are like me, it is not easy to reprimand or correct another (especially a member of your own family or community) out of fear that we might bring about animosity.  In the letter to the Romans St. Paul turns the key to unlock the dilemma of how we are to approach such a problem.  “Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour - that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments”.  If we carry out the correction with love then we have been good sentries of the city.

Euthanasia is well and truly on the agenda in Australia and it is becoming increasingly difficult to sort out the fact from the fiction. Claims and counter-claims are made. Yet, the subject demands reasoned conversation and finely nuanced thinking.

There are two essential elements to euthanasia: a. that we intend to kill someone more or less gently/painlessly and b.  in undertaking this act we are (normally) motivated by a sense of care and concern to relieve the person’s suffering.  

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

In the early Hebrew kingdom “The Master of the Keys” was a pretty important person with authority to carry out all the roles and duties of the king, (especially when he was away), and if the king was at home the Master was the one who kept things running smoothly.  When he locked the gates at night they remained shut.  When he opened them in the morning they stayed open for business all day. 

So it was quite drastic that the current Master, Shebna, was told he was about to be fired, and all his symbols of office would be taken from him and given to another man called Eliakim who was to be inserted into his place like a peg upon which everything would hang securely from then on.  The fact that Eliakim was just as bad an administrator and lost his job in turn is beside the point.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

If you are like me, the first thing I do at breakfast is to scan the morning paper for the latest news on events around the world that have occurred overnight.  And each evening I watch at least one news bulletin on T.V. to catch up on what has been happening throughout the day.  Whether it be hard news, fake news or just infotainment, by scanning these items I gain a perspective on the myriad variety of events that are constantly swirling around our ever shrinking planet.  Quite often the journalists put into better words what I might be thinking myself or else they take me deeper into the subject as a result of the research that has gone into a particular topic.

In many ways I find the same thing happens when I read the Scripture passages that are selected for us at each of our Sunday liturgies.  Whether it be in folk stories, snatches of history, songs, letters or anecdotes, it is like reading a newspaper that never becomes outdated but is always current, relevant and contains nothing less than the truth.  I think the headlines in today’s readings are telling us how badly God wants to establish his kingdom in our hearts and in our world.  This kingdom is freely given and is available to all who are open to receive it. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

I think the three Readings in today’s Liturgy are teaching us where to look for God and they do this by telling us where God is NOT.  In the 1st Reading he is not in the storm or the earthquake or the fire, which are all disasters and pretty frightening.  Instead, Elijah goes out and reverences God in the sound of the gentle breeze – quiet, subtle, unobtrusive and ever near!

In the 2nd Reading St. Paul pines for his fellow countrymen who are not able to detect God in the person of Jesus but look for God elsewhere – in their Tradition, their Law, their ceremonies, their Race (as the chosen people) and their Old Covenant or sacred history.  St. Paul acknowledges that God “who is forever blessed” has certainly been found in these traditional realities, but is now present among them in a different way in the person of his Son.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The words and images contained in the few lines read to us from St. Peter’s letter in the Mass are the strongest proof to me that all Scripture just has to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.  How else could you explain the beauty of language and the insightful perspective emanating from a person we take to be a simple fisherman?  Admittedly, the event he is describing is pretty amazing, but the poise with which he brings it to our attention can only come from God.  “It was not any cleverly invented myths that we were repeating when we brought you the knowledge of the power and the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ; we had seen his majesty for ourselves”. 

Peter is describing an event which had etched itself indelibly into the minds of the three witnesses who were with Jesus on the mountain-side.  Their experience linked them with that of Moses who had in his own time gone up to the top of Mount Sinai where God spoke to him from a cloud which descended around him.  Moses’ face becomes radiant so that those who looked upon him when he came down from the mountain had to shield their eyes. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Have you ever wondered what you might say if God spoke the same words to you as he did to Solomon: “Ask what you would like me to give you”?  I am sure a whole array of requests would spring to mind as we try not to waste our wishes on something trivial.  Solomon certainly took the question seriously and his wish is an honourable one – “Give your servant a heart to understand”.  As a result, God is pleased to bless him with wisdom along with everything else, such as a long life and the expansion of his kingdom on all its borders.

The people of ancient Israel, like all other cultures, began with an imperfect though gradually emerging grasp of the mystery of God, but from their initial experience they gleaned a basic understanding that is still at the heart of the Judeo-Christian religion. For them God is one who hears the cry of those who are oppressed. God is one who liberates and who loves. God is one who sees what is.  In fact, as the New Testament tells us “God cooperates with all those who love him”. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

This week’s excerpt from the Book of Wisdom gives a key motive why we should treat each other in a caring way with no animosity or ill will towards anyone.  The reason is because “God cares for all people with mildness” and so we too should be kind (rather than overbearing) and have the same spirit of love and understanding that God has in his dealings towards us.  Once we understand that God’s only stance or attitude towards us is one of love and compassion then we can truly understand how the author of Wisdom can insist that “Your [i.e. God’s] sovereignty over all causes you to spare all”.  There is no hint of punishment or judgement in that.

 These qualities are graces from God, and all of us have the task of cooperating with such graces so that during this life we gradually grow closer to God, more like his children, who Jesus calls the “children of the kingdom.”  But the good in us planted by God is often tangled up with an evil or unruly streak operating out of our fragmented humanity.  There are folks who accidentally destroy innocent lives as we saw in Minneapolis this past week.  Or those who exploit their business partners through insider trading or fraud.  Or Governments who refuse to come to the aid of detainees.  We have to cling to the good even as the opposite of the good within us is trying to pull us away from how God operates. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Perhaps a way into grasping the meaning of the recurring theme in the Readings of this weekend’s Scripture lies in this quote from a sermon by St. Augustine:               “Take advantage of moments of peace and solitude to collect the grains of the Word of God and to store them in the nest of your heart.  In moments of confusion when you cannot find outside yourself the peace that you seek, you can retire into yourself and feel at ease with yourself and God”. 

To store the grains of the Word of God in the nest of our hearts is a much safer place than the rocky pathway where the birds of the air can whisk it away, or rampant weeds can choke its growth.  Jesus’ parable goes on to tell us that the seed is the Word of God and Christ himself is the sower so that whoever listens to the Word and nurtures it in their lives becomes the ground or field from which the fruits of the kingdom can flourish and take root.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

In this parish where we might carry out four or five baptisms each Sunday of the month, whenever it is my turn to celebrate this special sacrament I often invite the little children in the pews to come up around the font and help me bless the water that we are about to pour onto the heads of their infant relatives.  They come up and dip their hands in the water and stir it around and then I ask them to hold out their hands over the water as together we ask God to bless it.  Some people are taken aback by this involvement because they think that the priest is the only one allowed to give a blessing.  But doesn’t Jesus in today’s Gospel say “I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and clever and revealing them to mere children”?

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us “The Spirit of God has made his home in you (is living in you), giving life to your mortal bodies”.  So when any of us stretch out our hands to bless the water – or anything else - it is the Spirit of God living in us (especially in the hearts of little children) who is blessing the object over which we are praying.  Pope Francis echoes this perspective when he constantly ask those who gather in St. Peter’s Square to pray a blessing over him.  Jesus takes it a step further by telling us it’s alright for us to bless God and add to his joy in creating us.  God can and does receive something from us.  We actually make a difference to God and who God is.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Today is Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday, a day when we acknowledge and celebrate an incredibly long-lived culture that has existed in our land for an estimated 60,000 years.  In that almost unimaginable length of time, the original inhabitants of this land developed and sustained a radically unobtrusive lifestyle that was supported by a profoundly spiritual understanding of the world around them.

Part of the enduring tragedy for modern Australia is that when European Christians eventually began to occupy this country they had neither the eyes to see nor the ears to hear the richness of what they were encountering.  The people who lived the ancient spirituality of this land found no welcome in the materialistic culture that overtook them.  Unlike the woman who welcomed the prophet into her house and received the blessing of new life as a result, there was no welcome for the traditional story tellers who told of the Dreamtime in which much of what could have enriched our Christian spirituality was ignored.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

A few years ago an Italian film set during the Second World War came to Sydney which had a huge impact on a broad segment of the theatre going public.  Its title was “Life is Beautiful” and it told the story of a Jewish-Italian man called Guido who one day catches sight of Dora in his little village and charms her by his humour and affection to the extent that this turns into love  and eventually they are married and have a son.  Just as the boy gets to be about six the Germans begin to persecute the Jews.  It is shocking to see how they begin to decimate an entire community in a country where they are supposed to be allies.  “Terror from every side; all those that used to be my friends watched for my downfall”.  The Germans round up Guido and his son and because Dora refuses to be left behind, all three are taken to a concentration camp. 

The couple are separated and forced to do hard labour but the little boy is protected by his dad who hides him when most of the other children are taken off for execution.   He persuades his son that the whole business is a game in which he must cooperate if he wants to win a prize, which in the mind of the small child is to be a toy tank.  The film unfolds with a mixture of comedy in the midst of real tragedy and explores the themes of love, sacrifice and courage behind the face of the perennial clown.  When the tide turns in the war and the prisoners are about to be liberated the guards begin a mass execution.  In trying to shield his son and find his wife, Guido is shot as the little boy stands by the road as a huge American tank stops to pick him up as his father had promised him would be his prize.  

Fr Paul MaloneyCORPUS CHRISTIFEAST OF CORPUS CHRISTI

Dear Fellow Parishioners,

I am pretty sure that I made my First Holy Communion on this same Feast of Corpus Christe as the children gathered in our churches are doing today.  I remember it was cold and we had to wear our white shirts over our short-sleeved pullovers so as to look uniform and special.  I think we had a white ribbon pinned to our shirt pockets with a medal attached to it.  And I know we had a communion breakfast in our classroom after Mass that was unlike any kind of morning meal we would get at home.

I do remember feeling very special marching down the aisle with my class to fill up the front pews of the small country church where we lived, and I was definitely anticipating the moment when I would welcome our Lord into my heart for the first time.  “The fact that there is only one loaf means that though there are many of us, we form a single body because we all have a share in the one loaf”. (1 Cor 10- 17)  Instead of just being an observer I was to become part of that one body, with Christ as the head and heart of us all!

Fr Paul Maloneytrinity sunday1Dear Fellow Parishioners,

The Image we gain of God in today’s readings is one of “tenderness and compassion, rich in kindness and faithfulness”, a God who stands with Moses and says YES to the plea “Come with us and adopt us”.  A God who loved the world so much that he sent his only Son, not to condemn the world but so that through him the world might be saved.  And the very inner life of God permeates the Christian community at Corinth when St. Paul greets them with the words “We wish you happiness, be united, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you”.  What a wonderful description of our God that is, and how much he wants to share those qualities with the community of his Son’s disciples!

The doctrine of the Trinity mirrors our own experience of the faith community to which we belong, whether it be our family, our parish or our Religious Community.  Each bears the thumbprint of the Trinity living their community of love with the whole universe from all eternity.  Our God is ONE in whom the fullness of personal life and love, of divine joy and laughter dwells.  Within the “community of love” which is the Trinity there is wonderful warmth of love, companionship and happiness which is full, intense, unclouded and serene.  And it is their delight to share this life with us, poor crippled children of the human race.  “I do not call you servants anymore, I call you friends”.

Fr Paul MaloneypentecostDear Fellow Parishioners,

Whenever the Feast of Pentecost comes around the first thing I think about is tongues on fire.  From the very earliest times the Greek Church used the image of fire to describe the inner life of love that was being lived out in the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  It was described as a huge furnace or explosion of love, larger than the sun, giving off warmth, light and energy into the universe.  This conflagration of love shoots our sparks that fly off into space and the human heart has been created for the express purpose of catching the divine sparks so as to keep them safe until they can be fanned into a flame throughout our lives. When the time comes for us to die then the flame returns to the source and takes us with it to be joined in the life lived out from all eternity by the Trinity, the community of love.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

On this weekend as we celebrate the Ordination and First Mass of our three new Augustinian priests it is a wonderful coincidence that these events should take place on the Feast of the Ascension.  The mystery of Christ’s transforming presence in the world is continually being carried out when those who have been appointed by God to stand as mediators between the Creator and the creature are called to act in liturgical ways to bring about a union with God which draws each member into his holy presence and grants them his blessing.  We all know that God is invisibly present everywhere all the time. But at certain times and places, he also manifests himself in special, visible ways.  Such an occasion is at an Ordination or at each and every Mass we attend.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The first experience of little babies is their delight in being held, particularly by their mother; but their next instinct is to be afraid of being dropped. In my capacity as the baptiser of infants, the slightest insecurity on the part of the person holding them can bring about an immediate reaction of tears or terror. Such a primitive response stays with us throughout our lives. One of our deepest fears as a human being is that of being abandoned. To be left alone with no one to care for us is our own worst nightmare. We long to be held but we are traumatised at the thought of being rejected.

In today’s scripture Jesus promises us we will never be left alone. Three times he assures us that we will not be abandoned: ‘I will ask the Father and he will give you the Spirit to be with you forever’ (14:16). ‘My Father and I will come to you and make our home in you’ (14:23).  At the same time he cautions his disciples that this intimate communion with the Spirit, with himself, and with the Father, is something that those who reject him (‘the world’) cannot experience. It is a communion possible only for those who respond in love to what God is offering.