Skip to main content

Articles

resourcemanager

Be glad

Rejoice because Christ is to come soon. His birth cannot be hurried, for it is a pure gift.

Read more
resourcemanager

Deserts

Deserts are dry harsh places. Does God draws us into the desert when we suffer the loss of friends, a job or close relationships?

Read more
resourcemanager

A return to Advent

Christmas can often be a time of reminiscing about joyful memories, which should lend hope as we look forward to the New Year.

Read more
resourcemanager

What sort of king was he?

Jesus did not come onto our world to conquer people and lands, but instead to defeat enmity and hatred.

Read more
resourcemanager

A possible end to earth

We are surrounded by so many issues of concern. Yet, Christ assured us that our world would survive even the worst of human catastrophes

Read more
resourcemanager

Reaching out

At the end of each day, reflect, did you do enough for your love, for your friend?

 

Read more
resourcemanager

I am listening

Open your heart and say, Lord, I am listening.

Read more
resourcemanager

St Luke, the brilliant storyteller

We admire St Luke's skills as a storyteller and the parables he created.

Read more
resourcemanager

God will listen

We know that God offers compassion and love to each of us in our struggles.

Read more
resourcemanager

Our trivial struggles

Our daily challenges may all seem trivial when we finally come to meet God face-to-face.

Read more
resourcemanager

Our family of faith

Will technology lead to growing affluence? Or will our enduring faith in God and support from our community of brothers and sisters help see us through dark times

Read more
resourcemanager

Immense distances

We might not be able to change the world, but by using our creativity we can reach out and support others.

Read more
resourcemanager

Are you in or not?

How much commitment does Jesus want?

Read more
resourcemanager

The authentic portrait of God

God is a source of mercy. Is it us, who judge God and decide to turn away from his loving welcome?

Read more
resourcemanager

Savage debates

Jesus Christ's death pointed to new way of being family and fellow citizens, and so new ways of seeing and treating one another.

Read more
resourcemanager

Humility keeps us grounded

Humility is not weakness but true strength. Humility allows us to be ourselves.

Read more
resourcemanager

Hidden seeds growing hidden

(Is 66.18-21; Heb 12.5-7,11-13; Lk 13.22-30)

How will Christianity grow in a technologically driven world where change happens quickly?

Read more
resourcemanager

Religion is a matter of choice

(Jer 38.4-6,8-10; Heb 12.1-4; Lk 12.49-53)

There are families in New Zealand, some deeply Christian, where Covid vaccinations are still a sore and divisive wound. The future of some marriages tettered on this issue. This happened partly because we are part of highly individualised societies wherein personal choice is a hallowed right. This was not so in Jesus’ lifetime.

Read more
resourcemanager

Faith in God's Vision

(Wis 18.6-9; Heb 11.1-2,8-19; Lk 12.32-48)

As the Covid years march on, an increasing source of deep concern marches apace with them. This is the growing stress and depression of many adolescents facing an enigmatic future. Traditional jobs disappear; stable, lasting relationships fade. Rapid climate change and growing distrust between the great powers paint a dark, dark picture. All of us planetary creatures tremble in the face of these threats, but for youth it may mean survival or not.

Read more
resourcemanager

FOMO

(Ecc 1.2;2.21-23; Col 3.1-5,9-11; Lk 12.13-21)

One of the strengths of traditional capitalism was what has been called ‘deferred gratification’, that is, not spending now so as to be able to save for more important needs and occasions. Sadly now, the ease of obtaining credit and the built-in redundancy of many items means that for many people low wages and prudent investment cannot keep pace with the basic needs of life such as food, rent and clothing.

Read more
resourcemanager

Know what to ask for

(Gen 18.20-32; Col 2.12-14; Lk 11.1-13)

You might have seen the catchy TV ads inviting us to buy tickets in Lotto. They hold out gleaming prizes such as tropical holidays, new cars, dream homes – consumerist paradise!

Read more
resourcemanager

Serving friends and strangers

(Gen 18.1-10; Col 1.24-28; Lk 10.38-42)

There is a wonderful story about two friends who had not seen each other for many years. As they poured out their stories, their friendship was rekindled. At a certain stage both fell silent. After some time one commented, the Christ in me recognises and salutes the Christ in you.

Read more
resourcemanager

Love, and do what you will

(Deut 30.10-14; Col 1.15-20; Lk 10.25-37)

St Augustine famously said, Love, and do what you will.

What he meant is that whenever we give or receive love in freedom, as a gift, we will inevitably be observing every commandment. Pure love is never marked by manipulation, extortion or bribery. What you see is what you get - there are no hidden motives. Though love plays out in a hundred different fashions, it does not demand long and agonizing searches for it is always very close to us, in our inmost words, hearts and actions. (Deut 30.14)

Read more
resourcemanager

Use Prayer to Awaken our Gifts

(Acts 2.1-11; 1 Cor 12.3b-7, 12-13 or Rom 8.8-17; Jn 20.19-23)

Living in Wellington is to live with the whims of the wind. There are a couple of dead still days. Then suddenly pouring over the Makara hills comes the riotous nor’wester sending rubbish bins rolling, small branches zooming along the footpaths, and women’s skirts askew. 

When I was a high school teacher I learned a powerful message about weather as part of a group taking a course on mountain leadership on the Desert Plateau with Graeme Dingle. One evening he gave a fascinating presentation on how to predict changes in weather by noting the shape, colour, direction and speed of the clouds.

There is an intriguing parallel here with the disciples’ experience on Pentecost Sunday. Jesus has told them the Spirit would come in power. When they felt the wind blow and the fire flare up in their hearts and minds, then they recalled his words about change of hearts and minds, conversion and healing, that is, ‘the mighty acts of God.’ (Acts 2.11)

Each of us in our baptism was given the gift of the Holy Spirit to drink and to dwell in our hearts. (1 Cor 12.13) Each of us has gifts of teaching, witness and healing, most likely lying dormant within us. To awaken them demands reading the signs of the times.

We do this through prayer. It is the current that stirs up inner strength, resources and virtues that will enable us to bring healing and forgiveness to others. This cannot happen unless we seek out this hidden fountain within us, the Holy Spirit, observing its flow and currents, moulding us to be other Christs in this world. (Jn 20.23)

Read more
resourcemanager

Seeing our loved ones

(Acts 1.1-11; Eph 1.17-23 or Heb 9.24-28;10.19-23; Lk 24.46-63)

Recently we have viewed many airport reunions - parents and children, sweethearts and friends – marked by radiant faces, long embraces and sometimes, tears of joy. They are such a strong reminder of the old saying: absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Sometimes in our daily struggles, each of us may have thought how much easier it would be if Jesus still walked among us, if I could hear his words of love and encouragement. On this feast of his ascension into heaven, we need to grasp the seeming paradox that his ascension was not a departure but a way of being present in a deeper way.

It is fantastic to see our loved ones face to face. But through the power of the Spirit, Jesus can now reach into the deepest pockets of our awareness, our unconscious struggles and hidden fears. He asks us to stay in the city till we are clothed with power from on high. (Lk 24.4) That means that in the midst of my workaday life, through the power of his Spirit he can bestow on me joy, insight and inner strength, if only I attend to his presence and call within me.

Read more
resourcemanager

God's Gift is Love

(Acts 15.1-2,22-29; Rev 21.10-14,22-23; Jn 14.23-29)

In one sense Jesus has departed, but in other ways his presence is entwined in the roots of our lives. We recall today in a special way the promise of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit living in us shines out as peace, like a tiny everlasting battery lodged in our heart, radiating light and love. The Spirit is a dynamo, whose fuel is love.

Our readings today witness to the way in which the Spirit brings peace. It shows us how to work decisively and constructively in the face of conflict. (Acts 15.22) It does not come to impose burdens – to implant seeds of doubt, self-depreciation and guilt. (Acts 15.28) 

Because the Spirit dwells deep in us, it permits us to stand forth as a city, a shining citadel of light to others. (Rev 21.11)

The Spirit is also a teacher. It draws on images, memories and stories that portray and explain the action of God in the world and in our own personal history. (Jn 14.24-25) It reminds us that God’s greatest gift is love, and that such love is the seedbed of unquenchable peace.

Read more
resourcemanager

For the First Time in History

(Acts 14.21-27; Rev 21.1-5a; Jn 13.31-33a,34-35)

In a world weary with war and ideological battles between left and right, how exhilarating it is to hear the words, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev 14.27) The book of Revelation might read like a science fiction fantasy filled with bizarre monsters and cosmic wars, but it is an extended parable to provide hope for the new Christian communities founded by Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14.27) which faced bloody persecution at the hands of the Roman empire.

The crux of this work is that Christ will conquer and reign, not in a distant realm filled with disembodied spirits but here in a new earth filled with temples, rivers and trees heavy with fruit.

This vision helps to reinforce the exceptional importance of Pope Francis’ letter on a new world order, Laudato Si’. It is about care for planet earth, our home, but equally about the patterns of just and fair distribution of resources and the recognition of spiritual bonds that link humans, animals and flora, and on which planet earth depends.

For the first time in human history we have the knowledge and resources to make that happen. What it needs for this to come about is to unleash the power of mutual love and respect that flow from Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection. (Jn 13.34-35)

Read more
resourcemanager

Eliminate the Noise

(Acts 13.14,43-52; Rev 7.9,14b-17; Jn 10.27-30)

Today in tradition has been known as Good Shepherd Sunday. It has been dedicated as a day to pray for vocations to the priesthood. All over the Western world these numbers are falling away. Could it be that God is not listening any more?

A God who creates and loves people never stops speaking. Perhaps our world has forgotten how to listen. 

Many influences are shaping this impasse. I want simply to focus on one. It is how noise - both aural and visual - is blocking our ability to hear. Our days and nights are filled with sound and digital images: TV screens, computer screens, phone links, a torrent of advertising, a cascade of tempting bargains, events and performances.

There is only one escape – silence. We desperately need time to focus on God alone, at least twenty minutes a day, when we need to shut up and shut out. Then possibly like Elijah on Mt Sinai we might hear the still, silent voice of God and know he is calling me by name.

Read more
resourcemanager

Golden Moments

(Acts 5.27-32,40b-41; Rev 5.11-14; Jn 21.1-19)

Nearly all of us will have experienced déjà vu moments. We meet someone or come across a new situation, yet have this weird inner conviction that we have seen this all before.

The scene of Jesus meeting the disciples on the shore of the sea of Tiberias, as recounted in today’s gospel, is like that. They had gone back to fishing, their original work; overnight they catch nothing; there is a stranger on the shore who tells them to cast their nets afresh; amazed, they haul in a vast catch.

This might seem a rerun of their first call to discipleship, but there are important differences. It is, without a doubt, Jesus, but mysteriously different. In the catch of 153 fish (one suggestion by exegetes – the number of foreign nations known to the Jewish people) there is perhaps a call to go out to all nations.

Sometimes we too come to moments of lull in our lives. Losing a job or a spouse, shifting homes or country, leaves us unsure where to go next. At such moments it is good to go back in memory to our past golden moments – not to bask in them but to regain momentum and vision for wherever God is calling us next.

Read more
resourcemanager

Believe

(Acts 5.12-16; Rev 1.9-11a,12-13,17-19; Jn 20.19-31)

When historians come to write about the papacy of Pope Francis I am sure he will be celebrated as the great man of mercy. So many of his writings and preaching are full of this message. He also lived it out, for instance going to the gaol in Rome to wash the feet of criminals on Holy Thursday.

In doing these things he simply imitates what Jesus himself did. We see this clearly in the appearances he made to his disciples after his resurrection. They were locked away in the upper room, fearful of the Jewish authorities. When Jesus comes all unexpected among them they might have expected anger and profound disappointment at the way they had abandoned him. Instead his first word is ‘peace’ and in turn he gives them the power to forgive and heal (Jn 20.23) 

When he comes a second time and Thomas, the doubter, is among them, again there is no blaming or chiding. Instead he shows Thomas the scars that he has taken on as the price of mercy. (20.26) He knew Thomas deeply as a totally yes or no person, without shades of grey, and loved him that way. So he invites him to touch and believe. (20.27)

Thomas was blessed beyond all expectation; and Jesus promises that we too who have not seen him will be equally blessed. (20.29) We in turn can extend the gift of mercy, a grace so urgently needed in our sometimes ruthless and brutal world.

Read more
resourcemanager

God's Grace Shines Forth

(Lk 19.28-40; Is 50.4-7; Phil 2.6-11; Lk 22.14-23.56)

We live in dark times. Our screens keep on posting images of the destruction of Ukraine: cities razed, women and children weeping as they flee, bodies lying in the streets.

As we near the end of Lent it is so easy to see a parallel to such barbarism in the arrest, sham trial and execution of Jesus: betrayal, humiliation, scourging, and derision even at the hands of a hardened criminal.

All four gospel accounts of Jesus’ crucifixion contain most of these elements. Yet Luke, faithful as always to his overwhelming vision of the compassion of God, includes striking instances of such godly mercy. He records the healing of the high priest’s servant’s ear in the garden of Gethsemane (22.51), Jesus’ consoling of the women of Jerusalem (23.28-31), his forgiveness of those who have executed him ((23.34) and his promise of paradise to the second criminal. (23.40-43)

For when humankind is at its cruelest and most savage ebb, sometimes the light of God’s utterly unexpected grace shines forth. Such moments are but presages of the Resurrection and new life.

Read more
resourcemanager

The Right Love

(Is 43.16-21; Phil 3.8-14; Jn 8.1-11)

I recall a very bright Chinese scholar showing me one of the earliest recorded pieces of writing. Written nearly two decades before Christ it was a love letter from a soldier on the great wall telling his beloved how much he missed her. 

Some things never change. Sadly, nor have distorted and poisoned versions of love and desire, nor men’s exploitation and brutality towards women.

When Jesus is confronted with the adulterous woman dragged before him, he shows no interest in circumstances or motives. Instead he hones in on the hypocrisy of her accusers. 

We do not know what he doodled in the sand before him; whatever it was, it highlighted their lust and their hidden sexual sins.

Here in New Zealand we have one of the highest rates of domestic violence in the OECD nations. 

Physical, emotional and sexual violence is a hidden virus debilitating our homes and families. This is so sad in a land that prides itself on the strength and independence of our women, the first to win the right to vote.

In workplaces, schools and homes, respect and acceptance of female rights and equality must be paramount. Even more, those of us who are Christian must ponder Paul’s words about the absolute priority of Christ’s love. (Phil 3.8-9) 

If we recognise him within us, we must also see him in the partner who has become one body with us.

Read more
resourcemanager

As Followers of Christ

(Jos 5.9a,10-12; 2 Cor 5.17-21; Lk 15.1-3, 11-32)

My office in Wellington is on Hill street, just across the road from parliament ground where dissent and protest against vaccine mandates raged for over three weeks. Some in our office were abused and had coffee thrown at them. Round the streets in shops and apartments anger simmered. 

There was recognition that some protestors had genuine grievances and asked serious questions; but there was far more anger at the gross disinformation on display, the presence of many disaffected spoiling for a brawl, and the naivety of those who did not see the manipulation of hidden background instigators stirring the confrontation from afar.

Yet at the same time all in our office had acquaintances, friends or even family members who had refused to be vaccinated for a whole variety of reasons. How were we to grapple with such a dilemma as followers of Christ. 

The parable of the prodigal son (Lk 15.11-31) helps us to reflect on this issue. The father is first of all a reconciler and healer. He knows of the younger son’s wild life and the dubious motivations that lead him home. He understands that the older brother feels cheated and poorly appreciated. Yet the father welcomes the younger brother unreservedly and does not hesitate to plead with the older, a behaviour unheard of in such Middle Eastern culture.

Paul in his letter (5.20) insists that just as Christ was a messenger of reconciliation and forgiveness, so we who are his followers must be. We still may not agree with the anti-vaxxers but we must treat them with dignity and respect for they are our brothers and sisters. It is only behaviour like this that may help to stitch together a nation torn by anger and abuse.

Read more
resourcemanager

Change your Hearts

(Ex 3.1-8a,13-15; 1 Cor 10.1-6,10-12; Lk 13.1-9)

Thomas Aquinas was a great theologian and lover of God. Yet when it came to describe the God he had studied his entire life, he said, “We can know what God is like; we can know what he is not; we can know what he is greater than; but we cannot know him as he is.” For God is beyond all human grasp or conception.

Out of the burning bush God revealed a name, I AM. Utterly simple and irreducible, this name says so much. There is just me, one God; all else is passing. I love you and want you to be free, but you cannot control me.

My call and the destiny that I give you is to be like me – loving, just and forgiving. For you are all weak and sinful. Misfortunes that occur are not my punishment on the wicked but the price of living in a free and fragile world. 

I do not change but I long for you to change. Much of the suffering in the world is due to your obstinacy and refusal to accept my love. I am imploring you, change your hearts and lives, for otherwise you will bring destruction on yourselves and your world.

Read more
resourcemanager

Take Time to Look up to the Skies

(Gen 15.5-12,17-18; Phil 3.17-4.1; Lk 9.28b-36)

I recall standing in the Hollyford valley in Fiordland gazing up at the sky. It was late autumn; there was no artificial light within a hundred kilometres; darkness was absolute. It was as if a giant hand had scattered gold-dust randomly all over the heavens; the pinpricks of individual stars blazed out here and there. Now I think of Abraham looking up at the desert sky seeing almost the same scene, though subtly different in the Northern hemisphere. We now know that what we see is just a tiny fragment of what is there, constellation after constellation, galaxy after galaxy. He did not need such an awareness; in offering the creatures he laid out he was recognising the diversity, the richness of creation and our human dependence on forces beyond human reckoning.

The disciples also saw Christ’s true glory just momentarily. They did not know what to do, or what to say. A door had been opened to see who he was but it closed just as quickly and they walked from the scene with the same Jesus they had seen, talked and shared meals with for years. It was after his resurrection that their eyes were open to comprehend what they had seen and that its hidden reality enlighted their understanding.

As a Lenten exercise we too might look up at the wonder of the skies. We now know that the trees that breathe for us, the water that bathes us and the soil that nourishes us are all children of the stars, just as we are. 

All around us is a manifestation of God’s richness, generosity and beauty. Let’s use our sense of wonder to protest against and reject in every possible way the rage that boiled out on the steps of our parliament and is now blowing to pieces the beauty and history of the Ukraine.

Read more
resourcemanager

Find 15 to 20 Minutes Each Day

(Dt 26.4-10; Rom 10.8-13; Lk 4.1-13)

Long before Freud came along Jesus showed profound understanding of human drives and the devious strategies that we humans use to hide their power over us. 

In Luke’s account of the temptations that Jesus faced we meet the three great drivers that often control human lives: meeting bodily needs (such as comfort, leisure, sex)- ‘command this stone to become bread’ (4.3); the yearning to exercise power and control ‘I shall give to you all this power and glory’ (4.5-7); and the desire to exalt oneself in the eyes of others, ‘throw yourself down from here’ (4.9). 

Putting these trials within a space of forty days clearly draws a parallel between Jesus and the Jews who wandered the Arabian desert after their escape from Egypt. They failed, demonstrating their weakness in face of longings for comfort, control and self-glorification. 

In the thirty years that he spent preparing for his entrance into a new era of freedom and hope, Jesus would have frequently pondered on these failures; they are also a summary of the various tests that he was to face in his years of public life.

Lent is for us a time to ponder on how we respond to these drivers in our lives. Concretely we could name them as addictions, the need to dominate, the need to be flattered. These are so deep in human nature they cannot be controlled simply by will-power. Only prayer and love can gradually master them. What it points to is that we absolutely need 15-20 minutes each day pondering on the scriptures and praying over what they call us to. Do we have the courage to do this?

Read more
resourcemanager

Not a Word of Hate

(Sir 27.4-7; 1 Cor 15.54-58; Lk 6. 39-45)

Spoken words and names are still powerful. I recall the couple who wanted to call their newborn twins Benson and Hedges. I wondered what it would be like to be known as cancer – inducing cigarettes all your life. Looking too at the placards held by many anti-vax protesters outside parliament I thought some asked legitimate questions while others exuded a hatred that spoke more of who they were rather than about the freedom issues being debated.

Jesus’ words were never hateful but they were often confronting. Suggesting that all of us may suffer from either splinters or logs in our eyes (Lk 6.41), he was hinting at a deeper question. Do we listen attentively to people so as to grasp what they are saying or are we just waiting for a gap to put forward our far better ideas or to launch trenchant attacks against what we believe they stand for.

The power of truthful speech and loving listening is to produce fruits of understanding, and so breach barriers and bring to birth bonds of sympathy. Whereas failure to listen is the seedbed of suspicion, alienation and growing separation.

Listening with love is a type of resurrection; refusing to listen is foreshadowing death; “from the fullness of the heart the heart speaks.” (Lk 6.45)

Read more
resourcemanager

Cheated by a Taxi Driver

(1 Sam 26.2,7-9,12-13,22-23; 1 Cor 15.43-49; Lk 6.27-38)

There is a classic psychological test where a viewer is asked to watch two small groups firing a basketball around their group. The viewer is asked to count the number of passes in just one group over a space of a couple of minutes. This is very demanding with two balls flying in unpredictable patterns. Near the end a man in a gorilla suit walks across the playing area. Most of the viewers do not even notice him. When informed and asked to review the footage they all spot him immediately.

Many tests like this show us that we do not see what’s there; we see what we expect to be there. Our brains are so wired into our own experience, concerns and culture that they act like filters colouring our interpretation of the world. If we have been cheated by one taxi-driver we tend to be suspicious of them all.

So even in human terms it is rash to judge others. We do not know their past experiences, and very often we ignore what shaped us. Jesus, however, asks us to go even further, to forgive the ungrateful and wicked – even our enemies. Why should we do this? First of all, as Jesus indicates, this is exactly what God does, bestowing rain and sun on everyone in equal measure. Each one of us carries a God-virus (a good one!) within us. We can spread it, even to the most sceptical and hardened. May God’s mercy and compassion ooze out of us, and maybe we will help shape a more gracious and kindly world.

Read more
resourcemanager

Christ's Mercy

(Is 6.1-2a,3-8; 1 Cor 15.1-11; Lk 5.1-11)

I wonder if you have been struck by how often key and striking models and publicists for Catholicism were converts – Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Scott Hahn, to name just a few. Each tells of moments of intense encounter with Jesus Christ. They have also observed how the passage from death to life, his resurrection, that is the summit of Jesus’ life journey, is paralleled in their own experiences. This is reflected in today’s readings, for both Isaiah (Is 6.7-8) and Paul (1 Cor 15.4,8-9).

These witnesses to Jesus’ power and presence do not see themselves as especially holy. In contrast they often proclaim their unworthiness because they once pooh-poohed or even attacked Catholicism. We may see them as exceptional but they saw themselves as poor sinners; it was only the sheer unexpected touch of Christ’s mercy that transformed them.

From my own reading and many years of listening to personal stories I know that many people even today have moments when they experience touches of God’s overwhelming presence. Some question their emotional balance or sobriety at these moments; others do not want to recall them in the face of an utterly sceptical society while others have seen their tentative sharings ridiculed by family or colleagues so have learned to shut up.

Some of you reading this will have experienced such moments. No doubt you asked yourself, could I really change to become like Thomas or Dorothy? Could even God do that in my life? Be brave, listen to that voice because twenty-first humanity stands in desperate need of voices such as those of Thomas, Dorothy or Scott.

Read more
resourcemanager

Listen to that Voice

(Is 6.1-2a,3-8; 1 Cor 15.1-11; Lk 5.1-11)

I wonder if you have been struck by how often key and striking models and publicists for Catholicism were converts – Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, Scott Hahn, to name just a few. Each tells of moments of intense encounter with Jesus Christ. 

They have also observed how the passage from death to life, his resurrection, that is the summit of Jesus’ life journey, is paralleled in their own experiences. This is reflected in today’s readings, for both Isaiah (Is 6.7-8) and Paul (1 Cor 15.4,8-9).

These witnesses to Jesus’ power and presence do not see themselves as especially holy. In contrast they often proclaim their unworthiness because they once pooh-poohed or even attacked Catholicism. We may see them as exceptional but they saw themselves as poor sinners; it was only the sheer unexpected touch of Christ’s mercy that transformed them.

From my own reading and many years of listening to personal stories I know that many people even today have moments when they experience touches of God’s overwhelming presence. Some question their emotional balance or sobriety at these moments; others do not want to recall them in the face of an utterly sceptical society while others have seen their tentative sharings ridiculed by family or colleagues so have learned to shut up.

Some of you reading this will have experienced such moments. No doubt you asked yourself, could I really change to become like Thomas or Dorothy? Could even God do that in my life? Be brave, listen to that voice because twenty-first humanity stands in desperate need of voices such as those of Thomas, Dorothy or Scott.

Read more
resourcemanager

Reaching out with Compassion

(Jer 1.4-5,17-19;1 Cor 12.31-13.13; Lk 4.21-30)

It’s so tempting to feel just like Jeremiah. 

Bombarded by the passionate and fierce voices of anti-vaxxers, QAnon and pro-abortionists, it is easy to feel isolated and vulnerable. 

Our Catholic wisdom and heritage can seem almost anaemic and powerless. We may not like Jesus risk getting thrown down over a cliff; yet it may seem that we will be discarded and tossed onto the rubbish heap of what is portrayed as an out-dated and harmful ideology.

Jeremiah’s words still stand like rock; from a timid youth he became ‘a pillar of iron, a wall of brass’. (Jer 1.18) The names of his once powerful opponents have disappeared into dust. 

Jesus too brought down anger and hatred upon himself for reaching out in compassion and embracing outsiders and aliens. (Lk 4.25-26) Yet his words are carved into history.

What gave Jeremiah and Jesus such power in the face of such opposition – surely belief in the power of love. Popularist fearmongers and social radicals may burn brightly by their media and political astuteness, but they fade and their places are taken by others.

On the other hand loving people who have a deep sense of their own worth (1Cor13.5), who are forgiving and calm (13.6), endure through whatever comes along for they are deeply rooted in the truth. (13.7) They know they are upheld by the unfading truth of the Word of God and the inspiring witness of countless men and women of faith who have gone before them. As we start a new year let’s be deeply consoled and sustained by these words of scripture knowing that they will prevail no matter what this daunting year may hold for us.

Read more
resourcemanager

Family is Happiness

(Neh 8.2-4a,5-6,8-10; 1 Cor 12.12-30; Lk 1.1-4, 4.14-21)

Last December, the Pew Research Institute in the USA released a major report. It surveyed a broad sample of 18,850 people in 17 developed nations asking the question, “what gives you meaning in life?” It analysed the answers into 17 broad fields, areas such as family, occupation, friends, religion, etc. The startling result was that family easily topped the list; in 14 out of 17 nations it was mentioned more than any other category.

Today’s scripture readings may help us understand why even in a world dominated by economics and entertainment, family was the clear winner. Our first reading from Nehemiah records a dramatic gathering. After seventy years in exile Jewish families, having returned to an ancestral home none would ever have seen, gather together to find a basis for their life together. It revolves around a reading of the Jewish law which is the repository of all the customs, rituals and actions that bind their families and entire community together.

When Paul writes to the first Christians in Corinth he too stresses unity. Comparing the Christian family to a body, he points out how all the various limbs act as one to bring health and safety. So too all the talents and gifts of each Christian must be utilised to ensure unity and peace to the entire Christian family. In this he builds on what Jesus said to his small village and extended family in Nazareth: that it is in caring for the needy and disadvantaged in our wider family that empathy, peace and trust are born and grow.

This message is utterly contrary to the flood of messages that assail us from radio, print and screen – that we attain happiness once we have won the economic goal to which each of us is entitled. Competition, individual goals, looking after number one, are portrayed as the keys to fulfilment. 

The Covid pandemic has helped underline what a shallow and deceitful fantasy that has turned out to be.

Read more
resourcemanager

The Life and Hope of Families

(1 Sam 20-22,24-28; 1 Jn 3.1-2,21-24; Lk 2.41-52)

Like many kiwis I come from a very mixed ancestry. My great grandparents were English, Irish and Polish. The first Vaney came as an English soldier in the 1840’s, seeking a new life; my Irish forebear came as a goldminer to the West Coast in the 1860’s while my Polish blood is inherited from a family fleeing from religious persecution at the hands of a Prussian assimilation that was devouring their native land. All of them were seeking to escape from poverty and constricted lives. 

Today’s feast continues to celebrate the life and hope that families bring to the world. Despite the strains of consumer oriented and Covid conflicted societies in which we now live, families can often bring a sense of belonging, security and love that no other grouping can offer. 

Family life, nevertheless, is hard work. Hannah had to bear the stigma of infertility for many years. She knew her son Samuel was a precious gift and had the courage to offer him back to God. (1 Sam 1.27-28) Then each child is a mystery. No matter the direction and constrains there is no foretelling what they might become. (1 Jn 3.2) That was true even for Mary and Joseph. Sometimes even adolescent boys have dreams that can stun their parents. Jesus loved his parents deeply but felt a call that went beyond their understanding. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk 2.49) 

As parents and children let us thank God for the gift of being part of the chain of life and pray that we can pass the baton of love onto the next generation.

Read more
resourcemanager

Our Family and the Coming of Christ

(Is 52.7-10; Heb 1.1-6; Jn 1.1-18)

For many of us Christmas is largely about family reunions and holidays. When we do stop to reflect a moment on the original Christmas it is often about a new baby, shepherds coming in from the snow and wise men arriving from the East. Hidden somewhere in the background is the knowledge that kings and rulers are also seeking this baby – to eliminate him as a risk to their power and control.

Though the Masses at night and dawn pick up these themes in the gospel readings, the solemn Mass at daytime makes a remarkable leap. When John wrote this preface to his gospel it was about 40-50 years after the death of Jesus. Small Christian communities were scattered all over Asia Minor, some in Europe, and a few evangelizers were voyaging even further; despite fierce persecutions Christ’s presence and power could not be contained nor confined.

After long years of reflection John could see that this tiny baby was the one through whom all things came into existence (1.10); he was the light that would illuminate every nation on earth (1.9); he radiated the grace and truth of God (1.14) and revealed the face of God to all the world. (1.15)

As we reflect upon a difficult and even painful year we can resonate with the ambiguity of God’s presence in our world. Families are divided, weather grows ever more unpredictable and dangerous, men of power still concoct plans that threaten innocent lives. On the other hand, acts of sacrifice and generosity abound, families leap across continents to join in love, and saints are still being born in the most dire of sufferings.

Read more
resourcemanager

Blessed Are You

(Mic 5.1-4a; Heb 10.5-10; Lk 1.39-45)

Some weeks back I attended a reunion of students from a university hostel where I had been chaplain for five years. Most of them I had not seen for over forty years. Memories of drinking binges and crazy stunts were laid aside when I met men and women who had made significant contributions to their communities and had raised great kids. I would not claim any huge role in their later lives but was warmed by the thought that I might just have had a part in laying down some of the foundations.

Today’s readings also revolve around the insight that it is the small and apparently insignificant that turn out to be those who have made most impact. The prophet Micah proclaims that the little town of Bethlehem will give birth to a great ruler (Mic 5.1). The writer to the Hebrews sees that Jesus’ profound influence on the world started from the first moment when he determined to follow his Father’s will (Heb 5.7)

The gospel recounts the wonderful story of the very young pregnant Mary making a long and difficult journey to give comfort and support to her much older and also pregnant cousin. “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk 1.45).

Inner conversion of heart is a long and dangerous journey but even he least of us can help by allowing a friend, a family member, even a stranger to take those first few faltering steps.

Read more
resourcemanager

A Trying and Tiring Year

(Zeph 3.14-18a; Phil 4.4-7; Lk 3.10-18)

Like me, you are probably looking forward to the end of a trying and tiring year. Not being able to be with close friends and family at moments of joy or parting; hours of bringing zoom and office work into the sacred space of home; watching the gloomy numbers on TV – all these lay invisible but weighty burdens on our shoulders and hearts. As a spiritual director I have been particularly pulled asunder by fiercely presented views of whether to be vaccinated or not.

So roll on Christmas. 

This Sunday’s readings, however, already offer snapshots of coming hope and respite. Not for nothing has it been labelled Gaudete Sunday (from the Latin word for rejoice, the opening word of Paul’s exhortation to his friends in Philippi). The prophet Zephaniah asks us to let go of our worries, “The Lord has removed the judgment against you… The Lord, your God, is in your midst. (3.15-16) Paul echoes the same message. “Have no anxiety at all… then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4.6,7)

The key to this transformation, according to John the Baptist, is to share our bounty and blessedness with others. So much of our behaviour is rooted in the need for security and affirmation: eating too much, prising money dishonestly, blaming others … and so much more. The Baptist assures us that God can mend these cracks in our engine and chassis… “One mightier than I is coming… he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.” (Lk 3.18)

The secret is simply, let go and let God.

Read more
resourcemanager

Advent is About God's Love

(Bar 5.1-9; Phil 1.4-6,8-11; Lk 3.1-6)

As a young priest I recall watching the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. I enjoyed it and hoped it might get the message of Jesus to a new generation. Oddly enough the one moment that stays with me even now is John the Baptist booming out the powerful tune, ‘Prepare ye the way of the Lord.’ 

That call to repentance, to listening and responding to God’s invitation to a renewed holiness of life never grows old. Yet in today’s context it is ever more pungent and urgent. 

The Covid pandemic and the threat of climate crisis have exposed much selfishness and a ‘me first’ attitude in large parts of our world.

Today’s readings are not about God’s threats, however. They highlight a divine longing and call to bring us back to a place of unity and peace. Baruch’s proclamation of return from exile in Babylon contains the promise “For God will show all the earth your splendour: you will be named forever the peace of justice.” (Bar 5.3-4) John the Baptist builds on that promise, “and all flesh shall see the saving power of God.” (Lk 3.6)

Most surprising though is the joy that shines through the start of Paul’s letter to his beloved community in Philippi. Having made the journey to be one with Christ, he prays that their love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, so that they may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. (Phil 1.9-10)

Advent is about conversion of heart but even more about God’s love that is the end point of that journey.

Read more