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.  

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

This year I have made a bit of a fuss about collecting palms that were blessed at last year’s Palm Sunday so that I could burn them and use the ashes for next Wednesday’s ritual that, in the Catholic Church, leads us into the penitential season of Lent.  The ceremony of having a cross traced on our foreheads with ashes (which have been blessed with holy water making them moist and visible) is a reminder of the transition Christ made from death to the new life at Easter and the subsequent fire of Pentecost.   

The prayers of the Church tell us that the ashes symbolise a ‘contrite’ heart.  We would say today, a ‘broken’ heart.  The suggestion is that a broken heart is not the end of the road but is instead the starting point for something new, something that mends and makes us even stronger.  For something new to begin to happen we have to get rid of all our accumulated rubbish (hence the image of the bonfire and its resulting ashes).  One of the problems with adjusting to this challenge is that it is quite painful, and we might much prefer our familiar well-worn routine to anything new that might be asked of us. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The ‘Happy New Year’ we offered to one another a month ago may seem somewhat tattered as we drag ourselves through these last hot days of our summer holidays.  The words of Job in the 1st Reading could certainly strike a chord in our own modern-day hearts.  “Swifter than a weaver’s shuttle my days have passed and vanished, leaving no hope behind”.  He is one of the great literary characters in the Jewish Scriptures.  His is the prime example of the good and upright man of faith who experiences a series of devastating losses involving his property, his family and, finally, his own physical wellbeing. 

His suffering is made worse by the interpretation that his friends place upon it.  For them it indicates that he must have done something seriously wrong to offend God for such a fate to befall him.  Job refuses to accept this moralistic explanation and maintains a sense of his own integrity in the face of the shame brought about by the accumulation of his losses.  When the tumble of life overwhelms us or when real tragedy strikes we too stand in need of some thread of meaning to hang onto.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners

Today’s readings are brimful of joy and hope. Israel radiates how a joyful bride feels coming to her bridegroom adorned for a lavish, middle-Eastern wedding.  Paul’s words to the Thessalonians continue the theme of hope and joy in a community that lives by the life of Christ.  And St John, in the gospel, pictures the work of John the Baptist, who came to witness to God’s light waiting to be unleashed upon this earth.  Such Joy does not come without responsibility. It’s a joy that emerges when people discover and carry out their true purpose in life which gives them their true reasons to be joyful.  If any of us were asked “Are you happy?” we would probably put the question in the too hard basket.  Quite often we imagine happiness is somewhere at the end of the rainbow where we can never quite grasp it though we expect someday we may.  The first step we need to take is to accept that happiness is a gift God wants to give us in the person of his Son who has been sent to “bind up hearts that are broken” so that He will find each of us at peace. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Every time I read about the huge fires raging in parts of California (which have spread anywhere from the Napa Valley to just recently into Ventura County), I try to compare our own experience of bushfires which often destroy crops and land without the horrors that compare to so many whose houses are razed to the ground.  Apart from some unprotected parts in the Blue Mountains we seem to escape the worst aspects of having whole suburbs reduced to ashes leaving thousands of people displaced.

The words of Isaiah in the first Reading could certainly be applied to people in this plight: “Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord”.  In the face of good times and bad, the prophet continues to promise us that if we take the proper precautions before anything dire happens then when the worst befalls us we have protected ourselves as much as possible.  It is in our own hearts that we need to prepare a way for the Lord. It is in our hearts that we need to make a straight highway for God. It is the valleys of sin in our own hearts that are to be filled with God’s mercy and healing, and the mountains and hills of pride that are to become low.  Just as we are given warning each year to prepare for bushfires  so as to be safe in the face of unknown possibilities, so we can take heart from the words of St. Peter who tells us “While you are waiting, do your best to live lives without spot or stain so that He will find you at peace”.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

The wheel of time turns yet again and once more we are standing at the beginning of a new Church year.  The Season of Advent is one that is filled with expectation at the various comings of the Lord.  We commemorate the fact that a child has been born into our world at a particular time and the event has changed our humanity in deep and grace-filled ways.  We draw encouragement that he HAS come and we look to the celebration of his birthday as an opportunity for him to be our rest and consolation in the present hectic existence that we lead today.  Our waiting and longing for the coming of the Lord is never over as we discover new reasons for recognising how we are being drawn into a better future by the fullness of life and love that is his promise to us.

The very word Advent heralds the coming of Christmas in its liturgical sense – commemorating the birth of Jesus in ceremony and song - but what happens is that  the commercial sense takes over and we are swamped with a whole deluge of consumerism which is the exact opposite of the true meaning of the season.  Civil Christmas is about the storing up of things.  The Christmas to which Advent points is about being emptied out so we can become full.  The function of Advent is to remind us of the gift God wants to give us of Himself in the person of his Son, and we must empty ourselves in order to be ready to receive it. 

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

On this Feast of Christ the King I am always reminded of the beautiful short novel by the French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery called The Little Prince which tells the story of a small boy who lives on a tiny planet the size of Ayer’s Rock where he carefully tends a beautiful but prickly rose bush from grazing sheep and growing weeds.  This little boy travels through the universe visiting all kinds of planets until he arrives on earth and meets a very talkative fox and asks this question . . . “What does it mean to love?”                                                                                                                 “It is an act too often neglected” said the fox.  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.  It is the time you have wasted on your rose that makes your rose so important!  You become responsible for what you have loved”.

I think the Feast we celebrate today has real parallels with the journey of the Little Prince.  Jesus also came to be born into our particular world and planet.  For more than 30 years he “wasted his time” on us and has continued to do so for two thousand years.  By using his energies, his vision and his compassion, even to laying down his life for our restless and hard hearted humanity, he has become “responsible for what he has loved”.  This means that not just the human race as a whole but each one of us individually has become unique to him in all the world.  In today’s First Reading we hear God say “So shall I keep my sheep in view.  I will look for the lost one, bandage the wounded, bring back the stray”. 

merlb bishop smiling copyright Kairos Catholic Journal 2

  THE PRIESTHOOD IN AUSTRALIA: Reflectionon its future in the light of the Royal Commission

 An edited version of articles appearing in Catholic Outlook (Sept/Oct 2017)

 

The Most Reverend Vincent Long OFM Conv. 

Bishop of Parramatta

Part Five:  In my testimony at the Royal Commission I maintained that we need to dismantle the pyramid model of church. For I hold that this model, which promotes the superiority of the ordained and the excessive emphasis on the role of the clergy at the expense of non-ordained, is at the very root of the culture of clericalism. To dismantle this model is not to dismantle the church per se or even the hierarchy (of whom I am a privileged member). Rather, it is to acknowledge and to have the courage to die to the old ways of being church that no longer convey effectively the message of the Gospel to the culture in which we live.

I am very much of the view that abuse in the area of sex is a form of abuse of power. I believe that we cannot address the issue of clerical sexual abuse without examining the clerical culture in which unhealthy attitudes and behaviours are fostered. Until we have abandoned the game of power and control that has been our cultural captivity, until we have put downward mobility front and centre in the Church, which is what Jesus was all about, I doubt we can seriously heal ourselves of this disease.

As we are cut loose from the safe and secur

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.