Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Earlier this week Brisbane Archbishop Mark Coleridge gave an interview to a local newspaper in which he predicted the Plenary Council 2020 will spark cultural and structural changes in the Church which will be crucial for its future.  He said such changes are crucial for renewal, following the sexual abuse scandal that has rocked the Church globally since the 1980s.

Archbishop Coleridge told The Courier Mail the Plenary Council may open up for discussion the idea of allowing Catholic priests to marry. “I would not exclude that,” he said of the debate on the celibacy of priests.

A Plenary Council is only second in importance to an Ecumenical Council - the last of which was the Second Ecumenical Council of the Vatican, which was opened by Pope John XXIII in 1962 and closed by Pope Paul VI in 1965.

Archbishop Coleridge, who is president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, has played a leading role in the establishment of the Plenary Council, which will begin in Adelaide in October 2020.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

In the past month or so several small groups of up to 10 or 12 participants have been meeting together from both our Primary Schools and our parish to carry out an exercise of discerning what God may be asking of us as a Church into the 21st Century.  This is part of a program called by the Australian Bishops to prepare for a Plenary Council which will be held in 2020  

Put simply, a Plenary Council is the highest form of communion between the various local or particular Churches of a nation. It is not simply a meeting of bishops but a process that calls for the participation of the entire Catholic community. It invites the whole Church into dialogue, to discern how its communities can live the Gospel with renewed vitality amidst new questions and challenges – particularly those presented to us by the Royal Commission. The Plenary Council itself will feature representation from among the laity, religious and ordained ministers, together with the bishops of Australia, as the culmination of a sustained pilgrimage in faith.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,  

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement for 2018–19 is titled          ‘A Place to Call Home: Making a home for everyone in our land’.

The latest Census figures show that more than 116,000 Australians are homeless – something unacceptable for a rich and well-resourced nation like ours. Yet these people are only the tip of the iceberg: welfare agencies report growing numbers of families and individuals struggling to meet the cost of mortgages or rents and turning to specialist housing services which are often unable to meet demand. For those living on pensions or allowances, finding secure housing can be a far greater challenge – one that often takes a terrible toll on social wellbeing and mental health.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The scene in the Gospel is an easy one to picture. Jesus and his disciples are walking through Galilee and most likely Jesus is up front setting the pace like a good shepherd leading his flock. He’s telling them the harsh reality of what is going to happen now that his ministry seems to be drawing to an end.  Of all the people in the world who should be attuned to the truths Jesus is trying to convey concerning the purposes of God towards struggling humanity, it should be Peter and the Twelve Apostles.  But they cannot grasp the enormity of the mystery contained in his suffering and death.  They are not even willing to make head or tail of his declaration that in three days he will rise again. There is no discussion with Jesus about what has been raised - instead a quiet conversation takes place between them about “Who among them was the greatest.”, or in other words “When Jesus dies, which one of us will take his place?” How self-deluded and blind could these disciples be?

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

James, who was the leader of the church in Jerusalem long after the other disciples had dispersed throughout the known world, kept a firm hand on the quarrels and disputes going on among his flock.  His Letter to them could very easily be applied to us here in Australia when he condemns anyone “who has never done a single good act but claims he has the faith”.  He tells them, and us, in no uncertain terms “If any of the brothers and sisters is in need and you do nothing, Your Faith (without works) is dead!”  He wants us to understand that Faith is not just intellectual assent to the revelation of Christ, but impels us to love, appreciate and care for our neighbour, particularly when they are poor and suffering.   We are meant to follow St. James’s example:  “I will prove to you I have faith by showing you my good deeds” – especially as they are expressed in compassion and generosity towards those most in need.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Last Tuesday 4 September 2018, the Diocese of Broken Bay held a Liturgy of Commitment and Care. Each of the parishes in the Diocese were invited to gather together to:
a) acknowledge the suffering caused by abuse of our most vulnerable members, b) to give public expression to our sorrow, c) to seek forgiveness and to make a public commitment to safeguard all.  As I mentioned in my letter last week, we may not be responsible for these particular crimes, but it is only with a contrite heart that we can hope to approach God to make room for holiness and compassion to dwell in our Church once more.

Fr David Ranson, [Diocesan Administrator of Broken Bay], in the course of leading the liturgy, reminded us that in our current period of history this community of faith has not always been a place of safety and care - for which it stands in need of radical redemption. Fr David encouraged those who had gathered to sustain mindfulness about our moral, legal and spiritual obligation to safeguard all those within the community who may have suffered as a result of this negligence. He challenged us to not just be people of action, but to be people who act together.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

A week ago, before setting out on his journey to Ireland, Pope Francis wrote a ‘Letter to the People of God” in response to the shattering accusations of a Grand Jury report released in Pennsylvania which mirrored many of the shameful conclusions contained in the Royal Commission here in Australia.  I feel we should all learn from what the Pope is saying to us on this matter as he calls each one to a decisive step towards conversion and penance.

“In recent days, a report was made public which detailed the experiences of at least a thousand survivors, victims of sexual abuse, the abuse of power and of conscience at the hands of priests over a period of approximately seventy years. Even though it can be said that most of these cases belong to the past, nonetheless as time goes on we have come to know the pain of many of the victims.  We have realized that these wounds never disappear and that they require us forcefully to condemn these atrocities and join forces in uprooting this culture of death; these wounds never go away. The heart-wrenching pain of these victims, which cries out to heaven, was long ignored, kept quiet or silenced.  

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Today’s readings underscore the need for each of us to reflect on the ultimate values of our life, and then to make decisions to live according to these values. In the Old Testament the People of God often wavered in their commitment to the Covenant relationship with God.  An example of this occurs in the first reading where Joshua makes it abundantly clear that the people must choose for or against God.  “If it does not please you to serve the Lord, decide today who you will serve”.  Joshua then informs the assembled tribes of his own choice “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”.  There is no ambivalence or tentativeness in his choice.  Such courage carries the day and the assembled people make their collective choice “Therefore, we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God”. 

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].