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.  

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.