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Come Follow Me..

28th SUnday in Ordinary Time Recently it was reported in the Christchurch Press that a letter written by of one of the greatest scientists, Albert Einstein, was sold for millions of dollars.  The letter made headlines not so much because it contained interesting scientific discoveries or theories, but because it was a letter denying the existence of God.  Einstein was raised a Jew, and atheists like to include him as being “their own” that they may claim that the greatest geniuses in the world is on their side.  It justifies their position, and it also portrays people who believe in God as ‘unthinking’ or ‘unscientific’.  The thing is, the letter is only a snapshot of one moment in Einstein’s life.  Einstein, grappled throughout his life with the question which all scientists have to asked: “Why is there not nothing?”.   There is “something” (i.e. creation) and science cannot provide the answer as to why that is.  And to put it simply and crudely, creation does not make sense without a “Creator”.  In another letter to a girl who asked him if scientists prayed, Einstein showed he believed in “God”, but in a god that the Pantheist came to accept (captured perhaps by the phrase: “God is everything”) rather than a God who has revealed Himself as believed by Christians, which he thought was naive.   In his own words to the girl: “…everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naïve”.  Who knows the depth of Einstein’s thought would have been if he had good philosophical direction.  My point is, one should not just take a snapshot of where someone was at in a certain point in life, and assume that it defined their whole being and thinking, to justify one’s own thoughts and belief (or lack of).  Take St Augustine for example, who was one of the greatest minds in the history of the Church.  If we look at his life, there was a time he lived a debauched life, and embraced Manicheanism, a rather strange religion.  It would be wrong to take that snapshot of this life (e.g a letter he wrote at that time), to misguidedly use it to justify Manicheanism.  In this Sunday’s Gospel Jesus challenged a rich young man to “go and sell everything….. give the money to the poor….. then come, follow me.’   As the passage tells us, the young men went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.  That is a snapshot where the man was at, at that point.  We do not have any record whether later in life he turned around and take up the challenge.  We simply do not know.  Whatever decision he made the important point is that we are given a snapshot of a moment in which the rich young man missed a ‘defining moment’ of his life.  The ‘road not taken’ was perhaps due to his failure to differentiate between the ‘treasures in heaven’ and the ‘treasures on earth’.  The young man’s response is typical of most youth in our time to anything that makes a demand and commitment.  Their first instinct is to count the cost, asking themselves: what do I have to give up or likely to lose?.  Yet, it’s the bigger picture of “what am I gaining” that is more important.  Unless someone helps them to see the bigger picture of the joy, the happiness and fulfillment that will come from their undertaking, they are unlikely to embrace the challenge. It is the same with the demand that God might make on us.  We must not look at what we are giving up to meet that challenge, but the bigger picture of what we might gain.  I would like to think that in time the young man found someone to guide him to make the right decision, or that God’s grace continued to move him.  After all, the greatest good, the ultimate good, by definition is God, and not anything of the created world.  God bless Fr Michael  

PFG Bake and Plant Sale

On Sunday 16th September the Passionist Family Groups held a bake and plant sale after 10am mass. A big thanks goes to all who contributed baking and plants and for all who helped out. Because of you this was a hugely successful event with very little left over at the end.

Passionist Family Group – Indian Cooking Class

On the 19th August 23 parishioners met in the Bishop Joyce Centre to learn how to make proper Butter Chicken.   A big thanks to Peter for running this and to everyone who attended. I hope you enjoyed the relaxing afternoon and the great food. As Peter promised it was the best Butter Chicken we have ever tasted.  

St Thomas Aquinas Passionist Family Group Mid-Winter Christmas 2018

On the 20th July 2018 the St Thomas of Aquinas Passionist Family Group held their mid winter Christmas party. Lots of fun was had by all as well as lots of food! A big thanks to Santa for coming along.

They set off to preach repentance

  In Sacred Scriptures, we know that on many occasions, God picks and sends what appear to be very ordinary people to speak His word. We find this in this Sunday’s readings; in the First Reading, we are presented with Amos, who does not pretend to any great dignity to bolster up his mission – he is of a peasant background, a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. With this simplicity, he faces the task God gave him.   In similar fashion Jesus sends the Apostles on a mission. They are ordinary men, sent out to challenge the wise and sophisticated people of the world. He gave them His authority and a share of His power. They are not even to arm themselves with many provisions even for their journeys. Their work is to depend completely on the power of the Lord. We too are given the mission of speaking out for God. Being an ‘ordinary’ Christian is no excuse for remaining silent. Parents can pass on God’s word through the rearing of children in the faith. Workers can uphold Christian values at their workplaces. As citizens we can fight for justice and peace. All Christians are supposed to be ‘salt’, and ‘light’ – making a difference ‘out there’ in the culture to which we belong. Evangelization is our business. For this to happen, we need to recover a clear Catholic identity, and the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of our faith, including a deep love and understanding of the Eucharist. This is one of the visions of the Second Vatican Council – and we are certainly far living up to this vision.                         Blessings,          Fr Michael   Greetings from Singapore, on the way to Jerusalem to start my first Course  

HAVING FAITH IN THE LORD

This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 5:21-43) offers us two miracles that Jesus performs: healing of a haemorrhaging woman and a resurrection of a child. The stories begin with Jairus, a synagogue leader, who comes not to debate with Jesus but instead seeks help for his daughter. What he does is laying his dignity aside, falling at Jesus’ feet and asking for help. The gravity of Jairus’ situation increases when the healing of the haemorrhaging woman takes place. The daughter is dying, has now been declared dead. The story of the woman is inserted into Jairus’ story with details: She comes up behind Jesus in the crowd with a sure hope: “If I touch even his garment, I shall be made well” (Mark 5:28). And when Jesus asks: “Who touched me?” She does not hesitate to make a confession in the presence of the people. That confession signifies that she is ready to receive Jesus’s forgiveness. After healing the woman, Jesus comes into the official’s house and raises his daughter from death to life. In today’s Gospel stories, Jesus crosses an important boundary. He meets a woman with a blood flow, and touches the dead. In healing the woman and restoring the girl to life, Jesus confronts and overcomes the power of death itself. Jairus comes, falls at Jesus’ feet and begs Him. The woman also comes, touches Jesus’s garment and believes that she will be healed. These are actions promoted by faith. Having a strong faith in Jesus enables them to come to Him and they believe that He has the healing power. Their actions encourage us to come to Jesus too. We come and ask the Lord for a strong faith in Him. There are reasons that might hinder us from coming to Jesus and meeting him in the Sacraments. We need to be strong so that not to let those reasons drive us far away from God. Come to God though we are sinners, lowly and unworthy, then we will receive His healing power. He awaits us and will bestow his blessings up on us, lead us to a new way of life, and give us a new future. Tang PHAN.

Saint Thomas Aquinas PFG winter olympics

27th May was the date of the first annual winter Olympics for the St Thomas Aquinas Passionist Family Group. All the big games were played: How many people can stand on a piece of paper, Tug of War, Sack race to name a few.No one failed the drugs test and there was some excellent results especially in the tug of war. A big thanks to the Palaiologos’ and the Wakelins’ for organizing. .

Passionist Family Group Card Making

On the 10th June a card making workshop was run for all Passionist Family Groups at OLV. Between the chatter and the afternoon tea some great cards were made. Everyone enjoyed themselves and there is talk of a follow up session. A big thanks to Jude and Jacque for running this successful event.    

HIS NAME IS JOHN

In the Catholic Church, the Feast day of a Saint is normally the day of his/her actual death (born to eternal life). However, Saint John the Baptist is honoured with two Feast days: the Birthday (June 24) and the Beheading (August 29). This Sunday, as we celebrate his Birthday, let’s try to understand something about John the Baptist. In the Gospel of Saint Luke, the annunciation story to Zechariah is described with details (Luke 1: 5-25). The story tells us that John the Baptist had been chosen by God before he was born. In Hebrew, John means “God is gracious”. Surely, God is gracious in bestowing his grace up on Elizabeth and Zachariah. More importantly, God is gracious when He sends John into the world as a witness to testify to the Light – Jesus Christ (John 1:6). John comes to prepare our hearts so that we will be made worthy to receive Christ into our lives. The life of Saint John the Baptist is tied to the life of the Son of God: John proclaims the Good News, and Jesus is the Good News; John repeats God’s promise and Jesus brings God’s promise to fulfilment; John calls to penance and Jesus brings forgiveness; John prepares the way and Jesus is the Way; John baptises with water and Jesus baptises with the Holy Spirit and He completes Baptism with His Body and Blood. John the Baptist is the only prophet who shows to all humankind that the Saviour is Jesus Christ when he proclaims: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He also acknowledges that he must become less and Jesus must become greater (John 3:30). These challenge us to bring the Good News to others, at home, at workplace, at school and wherever we might be. Also we are invited to be humbled before God. Do we really let God become greater than ourselves and everything else, or do we let the darkness of sin and selfishness invade our life?  Does the Cross become the source of life for us or do we try to avoid it? Driving back hatred, selfishness, resentment and our ego, etc… is a way that enables us to let God become greater and to bring God to our fellow brothers and sisters. Tang PHAN.

THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN EVERYDAY STORIES

  Jesus normally uses parables when preaching to his hearers. In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4: 26-34) Jesus gives us one of the major themes of his preaching, namely, the coming of the Kingdom of God. Parables are everyday stories which hold a richness of wisdom. In parables, both similes and metaphors are used to persuade listeners. Jesus makes a practical and effective use of parables in a pedagogical way to inspire his audiences to make appropriate decisions because they are in response to spiritual deafness and blindness of listeners. With Jesus’ parables, there is always a requirement of a suitable perception and understanding. Understanding his parables also requires a strong faith because to the crowds and to outsiders, parables pose a mystery, yet they are not drawn into its meaning. The use of parables is an effective teaching technique for notable stories and vibrant images drawn from their everyday life experiences engage the hearts and minds of the people. The parables in this Sunday’s Gospel indicate that God promises the growth and final success of the Kingdom, and it would come soon with a great harvest. The parables use the image of a mustard seed to convey an idea of something small that has the potential of growing into something big. A mustard seed may be one of the smallest seeds but it can grow into a shrub of twelve feet in height. The Kingdom of God is like that. It grows gradually, and in time it will be fully established with spectacular results! May we, in faith, be drawn into the mystery of the parables and receive the message of the coming of God’s Kingdom. May the seed that is God’s Word be sown and take root in our hearts and lives, correcting us, guiding us, purifying us and sanctifying us as we journey in faith. Tang PHAN

God’s Love

The world in which we live can seem like a very dark place at times especially when tragedy strikes.  It can be incredibly difficult to find comfort in times of loss, in times of sorrow, or when loves ones are in pain. .  And how often do you here someone say “if there is a God, why did he let this happen”…… Let us Remember, God is love.  When we see with the eyes of faith, we see with the eyes of love.  Fear, anxiety, and hopelessness melt away in the light of His glory. God will one day wipe every tear from our eyes, and  there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain. (Revelation 21:4).

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit….

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Matthew 28:16-20) Our Lord gave His disciples this instruction before ascending to heaven:  ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.‘ In the instruction we find the invocation of the Trinitarian formula.  In and through Jesus, the one God is revealed to us as a play of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit who share in the one Divine nature.   In this revelation, we are drawn into Communion with the three persons of the Triune God, through the two great commandments of love, for essentially the three person is an interplay of love. Since ‘God is love’ as St John tells us, then when God loves, He must at the same time be the object, the subject and the verb to love.  The Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love between them.  May, the deepening of our faith, lead us to understand the Trinitarian of the Church too:  As a Church we are a ·       ‘People of God’, ·       the ‘Body of Christ’, and ·       the ‘Temple of the Holy Spirit’, One in God. Blessings in the Trinity                        Fr Michael

Holy Spirit, Come and Renew the Face of the Earth

  The Catechism of the Catholic Church declares: “The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God” (CCC 245). “The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as the first principle and, by the eternal gift of this to the Son, from the communion of both the Father and the Son” (CCC 264). Throughout history, the Holy Spirit is always at work with God the Father and God the Son, from the Beginning until the Salvation plan is complete. The Holy Spirit is the Gift that God gives to us. He is the Love, which comes from the relationship between the Father and the Son, which God pours into our hearts (Romans 5:5). It is in the love of the Holy Spirit that we can be united with God, become Christ-like and children of the Father (Romans 8:15). The Holy Spirit is the Gift of the Risen Christ, and the source of the strength that makes all nations and believers become ONE in the same Baptism and in Jesus Christ. Catechism confirms that: “The Church is the place, which is a communion living in the faith of the apostles, where we know the Holy Spirit: especially in the Scriptures, in the Tradition, in the Church’s Magisterium, and in the sacramental liturgy…” (CCC 688). There are many images used in the Bible referring to the Holy Spirit such as Water (which signifies the Holy Spirit’s action in Baptism, since after the invocation of the Holy Spirit it becomes the efficacious sacramental sign of new birth), Fire (which symbolizes the transforming energy of the Holy Spirit’s actions), Anointing, Cloud and light, Hand, Finger and Dove… (CCC 694-701). The role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church is many. This Sunday’s readings reveal the Holy Spirit as the One who renews: When filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles were empowered: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability” (Acts 2:4). With the gift of the Holy Spirit, they became extraordinary, courageous, and fearless to proclaim the Gospel, to witness to the Risen Christ. Also, they were given the power to overcome the power of evils and sins “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23). The Holy Spirit is always present in our lives as Jesus promised: “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). Therefore, we must put our trust in the Holy Spirit. Also we ask Him to abide in our hearts to guide us, enlighten us so that we might know what to do. This Sunday, the Feast of the Pentecost, the Church reminds us of the Holy Spirit’s role in our daily life, and invites us to co-operate with him in order that we can be able to change our self, to change our life, and to become witnesses of God’s love on earth. Together, we pray: Come Holy Spirit, and fill our hearts with the fire of your love! Tang PHAN.

He was taken up into heaven

7th Week of Easter – Ascension Forty Days after Easter Sunday the Risen Lord ascended into heaven.  Forty days means the Ascension happened on a Thursday – hence the reference sometimes to “Ascension Thursday”.     In New Zealand, and in many countries, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus on the 7th Sunday of Easter because Thursday is a ‘working day’!.    It is plain from Scripture that Jesus’ ascension was a bodily return to heaven. He rose from the ground gradually and visibly, observed by many intent onlookers.  As the disciples strained to catch a last glimpse of Jesus, a cloud hid Him from their view, and two angels appeared and promised Christ’s return “in just the same way that you have watched Him go” (Acts 1:11).   From His Ascension onwards Jesus continues to act through the Holy Spirit and through his followers.  Before leaving Mary and his apostles, Jesus gave them the charge to be his missionaries.  Their preaching was to have the same effect as his preaching.  They, and those who follow them are to challenge people of all times and places to accept the Gospel.   St Augustine of Hippo offers us some insight;  “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.”   Blessings,       Fr Michael

Church Earthquake Strengthening Work Begins….

The Church Building is now closed for Earthquake Strengthening, and the plan is to have it finished and open for the Feast Day Mass on the 7th of October.   Mass is now celebrated in the temporary location in the renovated Bishop Joyce Centre (Hall).  A Confessional has been set up in the front room of the Presbytery for the usual 11-noon Saturdays slot.  There is still a choice to remain anonymous, just like in the old Confessional.  

Remain in My Love

6th Sunday of Easter In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (John 15:9-17), Jesus asked His disciples to remain in His love.  He elaborated that to remain in His love is to keep His commandments – i.e. to love one another as He had loved them.  This links us back to last Sunday’s Gospel of Jesus’ being the vine, and we the branches.  We can say that anyone who truly loves, by default, is ‘grafted’ on to the vine that is Jesus, even if he/she has not come to know Christ directly.  In the context of God’s Revelation in Christ, St John tells us that ‘God is love’.  Thus every act that is loving reveals something about God.  As I preached last Sunday, many people in our time have the wrong idea of love.  Although ‘love’ can be explained in many different ways, I reckon it is best captured in the teaching of Jesus when He taught:  “A man can have no greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”  That is the ultimate expression of true love.  To remain in God’s love is to learn what He taught.   God bless,                          Fr Michael

I am the True Vine….

5th Sunday of Easter   When King Henry VIII rebelled against the Church for not being able to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, he left his subjects a very clear choice: either they were with him, or they were against him – and those who were against him were soon deprived of many things, including their very lives.  In the wake of that, many great stories of faith emerged including that of St Thomas More who tried to remain loyal to the King but not compromised his faith.  Eventually, he too had his head chopped off.  Kneeling before the executioner, he said: “I die the king’s loyal subject, but God’s first”.  (I suggest you watch the movie: “A Man for all Seasons”).  Others of course sold their souls and took the King’s side, not just for fear of their lives, but also for the opportunity to gain wealth and honour. In our times, and in our daily lives, the choices we have to make in life may not appear as drastic like those faced by the subjects of King Henry VIII.   Perhaps that is why today, many people live an apathetic life, indifferent to many real important things in life.  It brings to mind the famous saying: “make a stand for something, or fall for everything”.   Yet, our Lord famously said; “anyone who is not with me is against me…. (Luke 11:23 and Matt 11:23).   Even more with Our Lord, one cannot really take the middle ground – a dollar each way so to speak.  Either He was the Son of God, or He was a mad man or worse….  BUT, if He is the Son of God – then it means God came to us with something important – and the Truth makes a demand.  Faith makes a demand.   I often hear people talking of ‘unconditional love’.  When used in relation to God, it is almost like a throwaway phrase to justify their indifference, and their ignorance.  Yes, it is true, God’s love is unconditional as Christ died for us even when we are still in our sins.  But the nature of love is that it invites a response, and as such it makes a demand: John 14:15 comes to mind: “if you love me keep my commandments…”. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Our Lord tells the people that He is the true vine.  He invites us to graft and root ourselves as branches into the true vine. The Jews whom Jesus was addressing knew very well the vine on which they were supposed to be grafted and rooted, for in the Old Testament, the People of God, was referred to as the vine (Psalm 80:8; Isaiah 5:7; Hosea 10:1) which the hand of God had planted (Psalm 80:15; Jer 2:21).  The Gospel of St John emphasizes how essential it is for each one to be united with Jesus, the source of life.  Only when a branch in joined to the vine can it bear fruit: only when we are part of that mystical body of Christ will be start to be what are called to be: another Christ to the world. Either we are part of the vine and draw life from it, or we are already dead.  Let us not fool ourselves: there is no middle ground.  Unlike King Henry VIII’s subjects, there is always time to make that choice while we are still alive, and it is embracing the choice now that we discover the great adventure and fulfilment to which God is calling us.     Easter Blessings,    Fr Michael  

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

In this Sunday’s Gospel (John 15:11-18), Jesus uses the image of the shepherd and the sheep (a familiar image to the Jews) to talk about the relationship between Him and us and vice versa. He is the Good Shepherd and we are His sheep. He governs His sheep, not by exercising power nor by harsh discipline, but by passionate love. His love for the sheep is shown in these three dimensions: Understanding, Caring and Sacrificing for the sheep. ! Understanding: It is the understanding that comes not from reason, nor gained by studying, but from the heart when one loves. When Jesus says: “I know my sheep” (John 10:14), He understands, not only the circumstances of our lives, but also knows our feelings. When we suffer or struggle, He shows compassion, and lightens our burden and pain. ! Caring: Jesus loves us and cares for us. He knows our needs. Jesus cares for us so that we may grow in his love, be strengthened by His love and live in freedom. Because of His love, He gives us His Body and Blood as eternal food. He promises this food will lead us to life and life to the full. ! Sacrificing: Sacrifice and love go hand in hand. Jesus says: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). And He died for us all because He loves us. He is the Good Shepherd who always protects the flock. He gave Himself for us and accepted death so that we may live. This Sunday is also Good Shepherd Sunday. It is a day designated by the Church asking us to make a special effort to pray to the Lord for vocations to the priesthood. May many young men around the world be ready to respond to God’s call to the priesthood or religious life, generously dedicating their lives to proclaiming the Gospel. We also pray that the pastors of the Church will follow the example of the Good Shepherd, fervently praying for the flock and by their good examples, transforming the life of many people. We should also pray for ourselves that we may be empowered and equipped by the Holy Spirit for this mission as we take part in priestly life through baptism. Tang PHAN

They Recognised Him at the Breaking of Bread

3rd Sunday of Easter   Not many of you have seen the chalice gifted to me for my priestly ordination.  It is HUGE ! And it was specially made for me as a surprise gift from the two Italian priests who came all the way from Italy to attend my ordination. At the base of the chalice my friends had these words engraved;  “In communicatione fractionis panis”, taken from Acts 2:42.  In Acts, the full sentence reads; “erant autem perseverantes in doctrina apostolorum et communicatione fractionis panis et orationibus”.  The English translation (New Jerusalem Bible) reads “These remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles, to the brotherhood (or “fellowship” in some translation), to the breaking of bread and to the prayers”.   I often wondered whether the introduction of ‘commas’ in the English translation helps us understand it better, or whether it betrays the deeper meaning as it takes away the unity between the four things listed in the sentence since the Latin “et” (meaning ‘and’).  “And” links the four things together, meaning,They remained faithful to the teaching of the Apostles;   to the brotherhood/fellowship   to the breaking of bread   to the prayers.  They remained faithful to all four things all at once.  They remained faithful to the celebration of the Mass – as in the early Church, the words ‘the breaking of bread’ was synonymous with their Eucharistic assembly, their praying in the celebration of the Mass, and their fellowship that came from it.  The expression ‘fractionis panis’ was used for their coming together to gather at their Eucharistic assemblies.  They used these words to signify that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form one body in him.  It is also by this action (fractionis panis) that in this Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 24:35-48), the disciples recognized Christ after his Resurrection.  At the last Parents’ Meeting to prepare children to receive their First Holy Communion, I reminded the parents that there are many other names used to express the inexhaustible richness of the Eucharist.  Each name evokes certain aspects of it;  Eucharist for ‘Thanksgiving’,  ‘The Lord’s Supper’ for it connection with the institution, ‘Holy Sacrifice’ for it makes the same sacrifice present…. etc (see Catechism, para 1328).  To understand the term ‘Fractionis Panis’ to mean the celebration of the Mass is to read the Gospels in a different light, and in the way the Early Christians read it.  They were faithful to the celebration of Holy Mass.   Blessings Fr Michael

Divine Mercy – Peace Be with You

2nd Sunday of Easter To err is human, to forgive Divine. It was Pope St John Paul II designated the Sunday after Easter as ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’. And it is not a coincidence that the Gospel reading (John 20:19-31) for Divine Mercy Sunday has something to do with Divine Mercy: Christ our Lord instituted the sacrament of Penance or Reconciliation (Confession). The passage not only revealed Our Lord’s mercy, but also His seeking out and comforting the Apostles who were in hiding and fear. Instead of castigating them for their lack of faith, He invites them with his message of peace; “Peace be with you.” From this point onward, they were no longer afraid. We will not find peace until we find it in Jesus – the Prince of Peace. ‘Know God, know peace…… No God, No Peace’ as the catch phrase goes. The Easter message for us today is to seek our peace in Him, and peace in Divine Mercy. May Divine Mercy remain always with us. Fr Michael

Holy Week 2018 – Timetable & Explanation

Click link to get a Schedule of all the Holy Week Celebrations and explanations. Holy Week 2018 Please pay attention to the times – especially the Easter VIGIL (ie there is no 6.00pm Mass on Saturday evening!!!!)    

KING OF PEACE

PALM SUNDAY “This is my body, which is given up for you… This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Luke 22:19-20). These are the words that Jesus speaks to us in Holy Week, and also the words of consecration during Mass. In his passion, Jesus identifies himself with the suffering servant of God as prophesied by Isaiah. The Cross was originally an instrument of humiliation, torture and failure, the punishment for slaves and rebels. However, in light of Crucifixion of Jesus, it is turned into a sign of Love, Forgiveness and Salvation. Saint Paul tells us: “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). In obedience to the Father’s will and accepting the Cross, Jesus teaches us the meaning and the salvific value of suffering. He shows us that the way of the Cross leads to the glorious resurrection. It starts with the arrival of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem, which we commemorate on Palm Sunday. The entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem has several significances. Firstly, it fulfils the prophecies in the Old Testament. As we know, the Old Testament stories and prophecies prefigure the events and fulfilment of the prophecies in the New Testament. All of its history points towards the Climax which is the Christ. Secondly, we come to know that Jesus is the Redeemer. Christ becomes our redemption by his expiatory death on the Cross; and we are set freed from the slavery of sin by the price of his blood (Colossians 1:15-20). Finally, it enables us to acknowledge that Jesus is the King of Peace. On the way to Jerusalem, many people praise him, preceding with shout of joy: “Hosanna! … Hosanna in the highest!” They want him to be their king to deliver them from the power of the Roman Empire. However, Jesus shows that the most important thing is that He is king, but his kingdom is not of this world. Jesus is the Redeemer and King – the King of Peace. Today, on Palm Sunday, Jesus invites us to profess that He is our King. Let’s open our hearts to welcome him, and together we praise him with shout of joy: “Hosanna! … Hosanna in the highest!” Tang PHAN

Anyone who loves his life loses it….

5th Sunday of Lent In the Gospel of John we find in the early stages, Jesus stating that his ‘hour’ had not yet come (2:4. 7 :6, 8; 7: 30; 8: 20), but from the passage of this Sunday’s Gospel onwards (John. 12: 20-33) we find him telling us that the hour of his death is imminent.  He explains His death using the parable of the grain;          ‘unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies,           it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest.           Anyone who loves his life loses it;           anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for the eternal life’. These are powerful and paradoxical words.  Only through death comes life!  It is so easy to fall into the trap to think that everything in the world is about us, and we are the centre of everything!.  When we do that, we lose ourselves.  It is when we take our gaze outward, that we start to find ourselves.  Just as the grain of wheat gives life and bears fruit in death, so too, we find life and give life when we are prepared to die to self-interest and be truly concerned for others, and for doing God’s will.  Only when we bury our personal ambitions can we be selfless servants of the Lord and his kingdom. By abandoning self-interest for the sake of God, for the sake of our family, for the sake of our neighbour, for the sake of our work, we become wholesome servants.  It is a paradox that has to be discovered to living it…..   God bless, Fr Michael

The Son of Man must be lifted up

The crucifix has always been a symbol of hope for Christians.  It is on the cross that the Son of Man was lifted up…..  Jesus made allusion to his being lifted up in this Sunday’s Gospel (John., 3:14-21) in his discourse with Nicodemus.  Our Lord presents his forthcoming death on the cross as an elevation and a glorification.  He takes us back to the scene in Book of Numbers (chapter 21) where Moses lifted up the sign of the serpent and all those who gazed on it were healed and lived.   The Son of Man must be lifted up to save us; to heal us and give us life.  It is not a coincidence that after the fractioning of the Consecrated Host, the priest also lift up the Son of Man – broken for us, sacrificed for us – and says: “Behold the Lamb of God……”  At our Eucharistic celebration we witness the one and the same lifting up of Jesus onto the cross 2000 years ago.  He is lifted up so that ‘everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him’.             Praise to You Lord Jesus Christ                Fr Michael

Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up

3rd Sunday in Lent   John’s Gospel, unlike the Synoptic Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke) has the incident of Jesus cleansing the temple (2:13-25) at the beginning of His public ministry – as opposed to near the end, in the Synoptics.  The temple, which is a place of worship, has been turned into a marketplace by the people.  Does it not ring a bell when we forget that our Churches are places of worship too?  It is so easy to want to catch up with our friends, forgetting that others may wish to pray and meditate.  Our transgressions may not be as bad as what happened in the temple, but it is good to be reminded that in our Churches, we stand on Holy ground. St John, in his Gospel, present Jesus as a meeting place between God and humankind. “Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I will raise it up” said Jesus.  Christ is the sanctuary, the temple, the Word of God, who has pitched His tent among us.  This is essentially the meaning of the word ‘tabernacle” – i.e tent or dwelling place (of God amongst us).  That’s why we stand on Holy Ground in our churches. I suspect it is the believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist that the age old tradition of “paying a visit” to Our Churches (where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in the Tabernacle) developed.  At OLV, the Church is often open till late so that people can pay a visit, even if it is for a brief moment, to have a quiet time and be the Presence of God.  We encounter God in His Eucharistic Presence in our Churches,  We encounter God in the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and in the Blessed Sacrament that is reserved in the tabernacle.                        Glory and Praise to Our Lord Jesus Christ,   Fr Michael

Consecration of Our Bishop-elect PAUL MARTIN

The Episcopal Ordination of Bishop-Elect Paul Martin SM on Sat 3rd March 11.00am at Christchurch Boys’ High School Auditorium, 71 Straven Road. Ordination Date: The ordination for Bishop-elect Paul will take place on Saturday 3rd March, 11am Following the ordination there will be a reception in the school gymnasium. Ordination Venue: The venue is Christchurch Boy’s High School Auditorium The venue capacity is large and holds 1400 people Transport and Parking: There will be no parking available in the grounds of Christchurch Boys’ High School. The best options are taxi/bus/drop off.

Be Cured!

2nd Sunday of Lent   Last Sunday, we were invited to enter into the desert with Jesus to live the spirit of fasting and mortification. This Sunday’s invitation is going up to the high mountain to be transformed and renewed.  According to Biblical traditions, deserts and mountains are the suitable places where humanity can encounter God. A high mountain is where God dwells. Going up to the mountain is to leave behind the worldly troubles, noises and desire to unite wholeheartedly our heart and mind with God. In our intimacy with God, He reveals many things, not only about Himself, but also about ourselves. God reveals Himself by taking us into the life of the Holy Trinity where we will be filled with his Grace and Love. Saint Peter experiences this (Sunday’s Gospel passage: Mark 9:5), so he wishes to build three tents in order to stay on the mountain permanently.  In our intimacy with God we come to understand ourselves better.  We come to know God as the source of our being and we are reliant on God who is a benevolent Father.  Knowing the truth about God and ourselves, we will have a different view about other people and the world. We will look at others with the eyes of God and we will see the world as if it were transfigured in Jesus. As well, it enables us to realize centrality of God in our lives. Lent is a time for us to reflect and be united with God more deeply. It is the time when we strive to go up to our daily mountain and be transformed. We can be renewed by coming to God in attending Mass, praying, sacrificing ourselves for others and giving alms. Tang Phan (Seminarian on Pastoral Placement @OLV)

Homily (by Fr Michael) for Fr Graeme’s Months Mind

Click here to listen to a recording of the homily;

The Kingdom of God is close at hand…

1st Sunday of Lent   The season of Lent has started.  In the 40 days of Lent we, as a Church, as the People of God of the new covenant, unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert (c.f. Sunday’s Gospel). St Mark’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert is every brief.  One of the aims of the Gospel writers in their record of the temptations of Jesus is to show that Jesus is the new or Second Adam who remained faithful.  Where the first Adam had given in to temptation, Jesus comes out victorious.  Jesus is revealed as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the Divine will.  His victory over the tempter anticipates His victory over the cross.  In uniting ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert, we hope to share in his victory. Let us use the Lenten season for spiritual exercises (e.g Stations of the Cross), penance, pilgrimages (as signs of penance), voluntary self-denial such as fasting, almsgiving and charitable works.  Let us support each other also in our Lenten journey.  Let us discover Lent and make use of it and share in Christ’s victory. God bless Fr Michael

Be cured!

The medical description of Leprosy is:   “Leprosy is a slowly progressing bacterial infection that affects the skin, peripheral nerves in the hands and feet, and mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and eyes. Destruction of the nerve endings lead to a loss of sensation in the affected areas. The loss of feeling, can make the fingers and toes become mutilated and fall off, causing the deformities that are typically associated with the disease.   In the days of old and up to the nineteenth century – before they had any cure for leprosy – lepers were simply banished to remote places (e.g from 1907 to 1925 Quail Island in Lyttelton Harbour was one such place) At the time of Jesus too, lepers were treated in a terrible way.   The disease also brought painful social and religious alienation. Lepers had to keep their distance from others, wear a bell and cry out, “unclean, unclean.” Perhaps most cruel of all, a leper cannot participate in community worship of God. In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 1;40-45) a leper humbly asked of Jesus: “If you want to…..you can cure me”.  Our Lord not only cured him, but did it through touching him.  By touching the leper, Jesus appeared to “contaminate” Himself – and others say him as being ‘unclean” Himself.  It is like what He did on the cross.  Christ takes the leper’s infirmity upon Himself, just as in His passion and Cross, He took on our sin upon Himself. Despite our sinfulness, He died for us that we may live. At Mass this drama, and this Truth, is made present before us…. God bless Fr Michael

He cured Many…

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time   In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Mark 1:29-39) Our Lord cured many who were sick and those possessed by devils.  The cure included the mother-in-law of Simon (St Peter).  Fr Graeme often cracked the joke that Jesus cured her because Peter denied him three times….!! In the Gospels we hear of many occasions where Jesus healed the sick.  They are important occasions as they fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah (e.g. see 35:5-6, 53:4-5) that the Messiah, the ‘Anointed One’, the Christ, when He comes, would heal.  These events identified Him as the long awaited Messiah.  But as it turned out, it was more that what was expected: He was God in the flesh.  The healing is also a demonstration of God’s compassion.  The word ‘compassion’ comes from the Latin – compassio(n), meaning ‘to suffer with’.  If we want to know what true compassion is, it is Jesus on the Cross where He takes on the sins of the world.  That is how he heals creation that is ‘broken’ and tarnished by sin: he suffers with it.  Never must we feel alone when we face the evil of suffering and death, for on the cross, He shows the timeless God is with us, suffering with us. Come to Mass to meet Jesus the healer.  He awaits us.  God bless Fr Michael

He taught them with Authority……

    St Mark introduces his gospel as ‘the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.’  His is the shortest of the four Gospels – only sixteen chapters as he wastes no time in presenting Jesus to us at the start of His public life.  St Mark appears almost impatient to present Jesus in His public ministry. Last Sunday’s passage, within the first fourteen sentences, Jesus called two sets of brothers to follow him….., and this Sunday’s passage (Mark 1:21-28) Jesus caused a stir and a deep impression in the people as he breaks with tradition and expels a demon simply by word of mouth.   It was indeed a new teaching backed by extraordinary authority.  Mark does not explain the content of this authoritative teaching (we can turn to Sts Luke and Matthew for this), but highlights Jesus’ deeds, especially the miracles He wrought.  All the cures and exorcisms are signs that God’s power is at work.  Jesus is the Son of God. God’s kingdom is in our midst.   God bless,               Fr Michael

Fr Graeme Blackburn 2 March 1984 – 15 January 2018

Father Graeme Joseph Blackburn 2 March 1984 – 15 January 2018   A loved and respected priest of the Christchurch Diocese and Assistant Priest, at Our Lady of Victories for six months.   Passed away as a result of a tragic motor accident in Christchurch on Monday January 15, 2018. Aged 33 years   Requiem Mass was celebrated at St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, 373 Manchester Street, Christchurch, on Saturday, January 20. A Vigil Service was held at Our Lady of Victories,  on Friday, January 19

Let What You Have Said Be Done to me….

On this forth and last Sunday of Advent, the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary appears in our Gospel Reading.   It is the scene of the Annunciation.  Mary’s true greatness lies in her total surrender in faith to God. When the angel brings to Mary God’s message and asks Mary to become the mother of Jesus, Mary accepts the Divine will with loving joy. ‘Let what you have said be done to me‘.  Her heart was opened to receive the greatest of all God’s gifts, His own Son.  It is for her faith that she is praised by her kinswoman Elizabeth (Luke 1:45).  Jesus Himself makes it clear that her true blessedness is not in her physical motherhood but in the fact that she heard the word of God and put it into practice (Luke 8:21; 11:28).  As we prepare to welcome the feast of the Birth of Christ may Mary’s words echo in our hearts as we strive to discern God’s will for ourselves – and to do it. See you at Christ-Mass, Fr Michael P/s Please note there is no 5.00pm Sunday Mass, but there are three Christmas Vigil Masses: 6.00pm, 8.00pm and 11.00pm – and 9.00am on Christmas day

Christ-Mass Times

Please see “Events” (on left of screen)

Why The Pink Candle?

(3rd Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday)   Advent occurs at a time of the year where many people have the relief of breaking from both education and work. Yet this liturgical season still asks of us a penitential disposition. Like Lent, it is a time of fasting and prayer as we prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. However, the Church in this third week of Advent affords us some reprieve as the mood is ‘lightened’ somewhat to encourage us in our spiritual preparation. ‘Gaudate’ Sunday (Latin for ‘rejoice’) is symbolised through the lighting of the pink candle and the wearing of rose coloured vestments by the priest. The theme of rejoicing is also emphasised through the readings, where joy, prayer and thanksgiving are said to be an essential part of people of God. Again in our Gospel this week, John the Baptist is held out to us as an example for his commitment to the Kingdom of God. As a man of fasting and prayer, he also rejoiced over Jesus’ arrival. Let us also do the same!! Gob Bless Fr Graeme

Prepare the Way for the Lord

(Second Sunday of Advent – Year B) St John the Baptist’s word’s: ‘‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight’’, ring out to us as we start the Second week of Advent (Mark 1:1-8).  He is the Patron Saint of the Diocese of Christchurch.  Perhaps his words and his personality are very apt for us in the week when we have been blessed with the appointment of a new Bishop (see page 3).  John comes to prepare for Christ’s coming. He appears in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism for the repentance of sins.  His very person embodies the idea of ‘past, present and future’.  His clothing is reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).  His message is similar to the message of the Old Testament prophets who told off the People of God for their unfaithfulness that true repentance may be awaken in them.  Among the people, unconcerned with the things of God, it was John’s task to awaken their interest, to unsettle them from the complacency, and to arouse in them enough goodwill to receive Christ when he comes.  His message still rings true for us in our time. His task is also our task: we too are called to give testimony to the light and truth of Christ, pointing others to Christ in the way we live, work, and speak.  Christ is coming….. it is time to open our hearts to John’s message that our Christmas preparation, and celebration, be more than a ‘commercial’ event, and when He comes again, we will be ready.  God’s peace be with you,   Fr Michael  

Breaking News: Habemus Vescovo – We have a Bishop

It was announced today that Pope Francis appointed Fr. Paul Martin SM as the 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Christchurch. Bishop-elect Paul Martin was born in Hastings in 1967, one of five children.  He entered the Marist Seminary in February 1985 and studied theology and art at Victoria University, Wellington.  He taught English and Religious Education in NZ, and has held the roles of Rector at St Patrick’s College, Wellington and Deputy Director in Pastoral Care at St Bede’s College, Christchurch.  He has also served as President of the Wellington Secondary Schools’ Principals Association and was part of the Marist community at the time it was working in Maori Pastoral Care at Rawene, South Hokianga.  Until his appointment, he was the General Bursar for the Society of Mary in Rome. His consecration is expected to be in the new year.

St Maria Teresa PFG end of year picnic.

On the 26th November our OLV’s newest Passionist Family Group – St Maria Teresa enjoyed their end of year event – Picnic and Cricket at The Groynes.

Advent

(1st Sunday of Advent – Year B) Here we go. The festive season is upon us yet again. Importantly it is also the start of the new liturgical year. Our liturgical cycle this time around takes us through Mark’s Gospel, which scholars believe to be written around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roma ns in 70.A.D.  During this period Mark was writing to an audience that were living in some tough times, socially and politically. But this was to be expected, Jesus frequently warned his followers that to be a follower of Christ would bring adversity. Furthermore the world would not always be sympathetic to the Christian cause. This is seen no more than in the first century of the Church. But also for us to remember is that God is always faithful to his promise. Regardless of what adversity we face, there is always a way through. Put another way, there is always hope. The time of advent is again asking to focus on the hope of God Incarnate – the God that has come to meet us in our despair.  So let advent be a time not only of preparation for the coming of Christ, but a time to reflect on the hope and joy of God’s saving power. God Bless  Fr Graeme

Christ the King of the Universe

We priests have just come out of 5 days of Spiritual Retreat, led by Bishop Hugh Gilbert OSB (i.e. a Benedictine monk) of the Diocese of Aberdeen, Scotland.  During the retreat, Fr Graeme mischievously set me up for a confrontation with the bishop.  He knew I have no time for the Monarchy, and when he discovered that the Bishop is very much a Monarchist, challenged me to confront the Bishop.  Not one that is shy for a fight, that I duly did……  Why am I not a Monarchist?  You may have heard me preach the reason.  It is simple. I reckon the idea of having worldly Kings and Queens makes a mockery of the idea that all human beings are born equal.  And that was the point I made to the bishop.  I however held back the point that I already have a King, but not just a worldly king: I have Christ as my King.  God is my King.  I do not need a worldly king who is born into privilege, where respect is a status not usually earned, but bestowed by the virtue of being born with a silver spoon in the mouth.  My King emptied Himself to be like one of us….. In the Old Testament, the People of God wanted kings to emulate the ways of the pagans, the people of the gentile race.  Despite being warned against it, they people of God asked for Kings.  This humanly kingship was eventually redeemed by God promising to give them the true King which will come from the line of King David – Christ Himself – and His Kingdom will have no end. On the Last Sunday of the Liturgical year (week 34 in Ordinary time), we celebrate the Feast of the true King: Christ the King.  The Feast was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925 as an antidote to secularism in which God is left out of society’s thinking and living as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.   Christ is King.  In His Divinity, He is the Creator of the Universe and wields supreme power over all things.   And what is His kingdom like?  The answer is found in the words used for the liturgy on this feast day: The liturgy speaks of the King’s Kingdom, telling us that:it is supreme, it extends not only to people, but also to all worldly princes and kings,It is eternal – His kingdom is forever and it is spiritual, for in His own words: His Kingdom is “not of this world”.  God is King, Christ is King.  His kingdom will have no end.  Do not settle for a worldly one! God Bless, Fr Michael P/s: This Sunday we thank the students from OLV school for taking a key-role in the Liturgy of the Mass…..

What is a Talent?

33rd Sunday in Ordinary time Perhaps the most common understanding of the word talent is a certain ability or gift that God has given each one of us. Yet we should be careful to remember that what a talent means in the ancient Biblical sense is different to how we understand it today.  A talent in ancient times was a measurement of something weighty, like silver or Gold.  Thus to the ancient reader, the use of the word talent would instantly bring to mind something heavy. But more than this, to the mind of a Jew, the heaviness of a talent would probably conjure up the idea of God’s mercy. Because in those times, there was nothing heavier than kabod Yahweh – the glory of God. A symbolic representation of the kabod Yahweh could be found in the Temple of Jerusalem, resting on the mercy seat above the arc of the covenant. (Google a picture of the arc of the covenant if you can!!!) Therefore, the talents in our Gospel symbolise the ‘heaviness’ of God’s mercy, and the distribution of these talents to the servants symbolise our participation in this same mercy. Unfortunately, one of the servants was not adequate in sharing the same mercy they received with others. Maybe he did not understand God’s love properly, or maybe he just wanted to keep it to himself. In any case, the mercy of God by nature is to be shared with others. There is something for us to remember this week, God’s mercy will grow in you only in as much as you give it to others. Fr Graeme  

You do not know either the day or the hour

    This Sunday’s Gospel presents us with the parable of the Ten Maidens (Matthew 25:1-13).  The parable centres on a Jewish marital custom whereby, after the period of betrothal, the groom would lead a procession to bring his new wife to their home, and they would celebrate a week-long banquet with family and friends.  In the parable, the bridegroom arrives to begin the joyous procession and take his wife to the marriage feast.  The foolish maidens who were unprepared and without oil are excluded from the celebration while the wise maidens participate fully.  The parable emphasises the need for watchfulness, and being prepared for the coming of God’s Kingdom.    The early Church Fathers (e.g. Origen and St Hilary) give us another take on the parable.  They say that the bridegroom signifies one’s uncertain life-span – none of us really know the hour of our death and judgement.  According to them the lamp is the Christian faith, while the oil represents good works; thus faith without good works is useless (c.f. James 2:17).   The Church Fathers remind us that we do not know the day or the hour – it is good to be prepared – now, and always!  Minimally, it requires us to strive to live a holy life.   God bless                           Fr Michael

Love of God and Love of Neighbour

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time   In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40), Jesus quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5); ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might’.  Next He quotes from the Book of Leviticus (19:18); ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’  Unlike any other who has gone before Him, Jesus places the twofold commandment side by side, and insists that true love of God must be enfleshed in the love of our neighbour.  He went on to say that all the Scriptures ‘hang on’ these two commandments. The two Commandments are so important together.  We see in the world what happens when one is practiced to the extreme without the other.  When there is no love of neighbour, people end up using violence in the name of God.  When there is no love of God, eventually love is confined only to those we like or ‘our own’, and others are dispensable, or are turned to mere objects.  Only in Christianity are these two spelt out strongly: after all, God who came to us, came to us as a neighbour and a brother. A couple of chapters later (Chapter 25), Jesus gives us a practical application of these two commandments – that we should even see God in our neighbour: “…in as much as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to Me”.   God bless Fr Michael

The Two Kingdoms

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time   The Pharisees and Herodians were effective at designing trick questions, the ones that to whichever answer Jesus gave, would be wrong. Jesus finds himself in this situation in our Gospel again today. If he answered that it was unlawful to pay taxes to Caesar, then he would have been in a great deal of trouble with the Romans. Yet if he answered that taxes should be paid to Caesar it would contradict the idea that God was sovereign over all things. But Jesus gives a brilliant answer by making a distinction between two different kingdoms. One is the kingdom of the world and one is the kingdom of God. He alludes to the fact that as believers, we must operate in these two kingdoms. But Jesus asks of us that whilst we are part the world we are not meant to be ‘of the world’. This means that as Catholics we don’t live by ‘worldly’ values and what we aspire towards is something far greater than the world has to offer. But at the same time, we have to operate and be a functioning part of the world in which we live. We have to adhere to the civil duties, and to work alongside and interact with people of all different creeds and beliefs. God’s kingdom is here on earth, but it operates amidst a world that is fallen. Therefore, we have to be constantly on guard against the things of the ‘worldly kingdom’ that pull us away from God. We also have to be a light to all people, a sign to all that God’s kingdom is here on earth.  Fr Graeme

Many are invited, few are chosen

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time This Sunday’s Gospel Passage (Matt 22:1-10) presents us with another parable.  In the parable a King invites people to the wedding feast of his son.  When the king came in to meet the guests, he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.  The king, rather harshly, asks his attendants to “bind the man’s hands and feet, and cast him into the darkness outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”  Jesus goes on to say:  “Many are invited, but few are chosen”.  The man represents the sinner who wants to be at the wedding feast, but would not repent.  He wants to be there but he does not want to change his appearance.  Heaven in biblical speak, is akin to a wedding feast: a life of abundance, and joy in the presence of God.  The call to eternal life with God requires a right response – to be dressed in the “right garment”.   Life on earth is short.  Think about the wedding feast of heaven that is eternal – and have a change of heart…..   God bless Fr Michael  

Be persistent with Prayer

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A   “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!” – These were the words of a 19th century Presbyterian pastor, reminding us of what we are missing out on when we do not pray. Continually we are faced with difficulties, worries and concerns. Continually we hold onto them and try to process them ourselves and without the help of God. But as our second reading reminds us, the peace of God will always come to us when we earnestly pray and converse with Him about our needs and troubles in life. Prayer constitutes not only the spending of time in dialogue with God. But also, the living of our lives in a way that glorifies God. Both are mandatory for us. Whilst to be able to find time for formal prayer without distraction is difficult, it is not an optional extra in our Christian lives. So do your best to find some time to pray each day, it will help us more than we can imagine !! Fr Graeme

Parable of the Two Sons

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Jesus presents us with the parable of the two sons (Matthew. 21:28-32): one, when invited to work in the vineyard, says ‘No’ but later thought the better of it and goes, and another who says ‘Yes’ but did not go. The son who did not go used the words, “Certainly Sir”.  ‘Sir’, is a word which is also translated as ‘Lord’ (Kyrie).  Jesus reinforces what he said in an earlier episode: “…it is not everyone who says, Lord, Lord, who does the will of the Father (Matthew. 7:21) ”.   Others who have said ‘No’ to God at first (e.g the tax-collectors and prostitutes), but have afterwards repented and done His will, are received into the Kingdom. There are two important points: Firstly, the son who says ‘No’, repented (or ‘thought the better of it’) afterwards – this is a necessary disposition for entry into the Kingdom.  Secondly, what we profess to believe, our “Yes, Lord”, has no value if it is not translated actively into the action in the way we live and worship.                               God bless,                  Fr Michael

Death Has Loss Its Sting…

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time   The second reading for this Sunday is somewhat of a paradox – as Saint Paul writes, “For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” Generally most people don’t think of death as gain. But this phrase used by Paul shows that thanks to Christ, everything we do here on earth is unified to what happens to us after death. For Pagan religions back then, death was considered ‘the great destroyer’, and whilst they did believe in some form of after-life, it was meaningless and joyless. But in Christianity, Christ broke down that barrier between life and death. We have become workers in the vineyard, and our work will be rewarded in heaven – death will not stand in the way of this reward!!! Furthermore, our friendship with Christ that we live here on earth through prayer, the sacraments, and our efforts to build up his Kingdom, are in actual fact the beginning of eternal life!!!     Fr Graeme

If you have not warned the wicked man, then I will hold you responsible for his death.

23rd Sunday in Ordinary TIme   Our reading from Ezekiel this week contains some rather heavy language pertaining to sin and death. Not only does it remind us of the seriousness of sin, but also of our responsibility in helping others to avoid it. This can be a difficult task. No-one really likes to approach people to question or challenge their behaviour – in our Gospel it takes at least two people. But rest-assured if we pray to have the persons best interests at heart, then they will come to understand it not as a personal attack but rather as gesture of charity. In the week ahead the Church asks for an awareness of social justice. One aspect of this week is to make us reflect on realities of poverty, crime, addiction and hostility in our society. The Gospel and our first reading both remind us that we all have the responsibility to play our part in working towards a better society. So today we should ask ourselves – what are some of the ways we can make our society a better place, or who are the people around me that I can help or do more to help?   Fr Graeme

Take up Your Cross and Follow Me….

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time It is very interesting to see how we as a community of believers can, at times, lose our Catholic culture and consciousness.  There was a time, when the majority of Catholics would instinctively know that we use the Crucifix in our liturgical celebrations rather than an ‘empty’ cross.  Thus there was a time when our liturgical documents loosely used the word ‘cross’ even when referring to the ‘crucifix’, taking it for granted that Catholics would know.  Furthermore, in the Latin version of the documents, the word ‘crux’, which literally means ‘cross’, was used also to refer to the crucifix. After the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, many people started to introduce ‘empty’ crosses for liturgical use, and even cited the liturgical document’s reference to the ‘cross’, to justify it.  A great example of this was the Good Friday veneration of the cross.  Soon, ‘empty’ crosses also started to appear in our Churches rather than those with a corpus on them.  It took Pope Benedict XVI to remind us of the Catholic tradition and culture, and documents started to come out to explain the importance of using the crucifix – ie cross with a corpus on it.  As an example, a clarification was made for the Good Friday celebration: use a Crucifix! – A Cross with a Corpus on it!. Why the crucifix rather than an empty cross?   The corpus, or figure, on the crucifix emphasises the love that Christ embodied – and the love and suffering He endured for our salvation.  After Christ rose from the dead the cross/crucifix has been a symbol of victory of sin over hatred, and of good over evil.  Apart from Christ who died on it, the cross is nothing more than a symbol of cruelty and torture. In this Sunday’s  Gospel (Matthew 16:21-27), Jesus asks us to make the cross something personal; “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me….”.   Our crosses represent the sufferings, persecutions, martyrdoms, indifference, moral struggles, and even hatred at times, which every follower of Christ is bound to meet. It is can also symbolise the ‘dying to self’, an expression of love of others. While each one of us faces our own cross – we must take courage for we are not alone.  We must remember that in every cross that comes our way, God who is timeless has been there, and He still walks with us.   And we can take comfort that we are following someone who led by example; and has proven victorious.  As the Exultet, the Easter proclamation during the Easter Vigil Mass reminds us: “O Felix Culpa…..” – O Happy Fault, that merited so great a Redeemer! God Bless,                                          Fr Michael

Who Do You Say I am?

21st Week in Ordinary Time In this weekend’s Gospel Peter receives that all important question – “who do you say I am.” Jesus wasn’t concerned about what others had told Peter, he wanted Peter’s own assessment. There are two ways we can know people. The first type, is what we hear about people from others. In other words, we know people by what others have told us about them. This type of knowing has its usefulness, but can also be very dangerous because we shape our opinions of a person on how other people perceive them. The second type of knowing a person, the one that Jesus refers to, is a personal encounter with them. This is the best way of truly knowing someone – through relationship. And this is what Jesus alludes to today. Jesus is not concerned for what others have said to Peter about Him, rather he asks Peter to reflect on his own experience of Christ. We all know many things about Jesus from what others have told us. But today’s gospel reminds us to reflect on our own experience of Christ– who and what does Jesus mean to me? God bless, Fr Graeme

Woman you have great faith

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time   In the Old Testament, it was prophesied that when the Messiah comes, right worship, and right ordering of the meeting between God and humanity will once again be re-established.   In ways unexpected, that prophecy was fulfilled in the very person of Christ.  Jesus is the Temple, and the true meeting place of God and humanity.  When He commanded us (‘Do this in memory of me….’) to celebrate the Eucharist He established.  The Eucharistic celebration is the occasion for right worship, and right ordering of the meeting between God and humanity takes place.  To appreciate this, one needs to delve into the constant teaching of the Church on the Eucharist, and writings and teachings of the Early Church Fathers. In this Sunday’s readings, the coming of foreigners to the Temple in the first reading is taken up in the Gospel account (Matthew 15:21-28) of the coming of a Canaanite woman to Jesus.  The Canaanite woman, was regarded as a ‘foreigner’ because she was of the pagan race.  Although a pagan, she recognized Christ’s true identity – and she believed.  Her faith in Jesus was expressed in the title ‘Lord’ with which she addressed Him.  Our Lord tested her faith with a rather harsh parable: citing that the bread of salvation was only for God’s children, God’s chosen people, rather than for “pagan dogs”!. The woman’s quick response was a further expression of her great humility and faith, which Jesus publicly acknowledged: “Woman you have great faith”. Ironically the pagan woman gives us a model of faith; she knew she had no right to God’s gifts and mercy (v.27), and yet she asked Our Lord for them, not presumptuously, but with humility.  We have much to learn from her, just as sometimes we can learn from others who may appear to have no faith.              God Bless       Fr Michael

Truly You are the Son of God

19th Sunday in Ordinary Time   Today’s Gospel is again more proof that Jesus was the person he said He was; the Son of God.  In the times of the New Testament, the people understood the seas and lakes as something to be feared. They were a potential for turmoil and havoc that only God could control, as He did in the creation account of Genesis. So here was Jesus doing the things that the people thought only God could do. Hence the confession from Peter – “Truly, you are the Son of God.” Right throughout the week, we have given examples of Saints achieving what Peter in today’s Gospel had not been able to – leaving the boat and walking all the way towards Jesus. For example, Saint Teresa Benedicta and Saint Lawrence all gave themselves over to a faith that led them to dis-regard their own concerns and safety, a faith that enabled them to stay focused on God and not their own precarious predicaments. Thus when we are truly seeking out God, He will enable us to do to good in a way we never thought possible.  We too should ask for that faith that enables us to cross the ‘rough waters’ in our own lives. The faith that tells us Christ is far more powerful than any force of evil in our own lives. Trust in God and He will lead and protect you!!  God bless, Fr Graeme

His Face Shone like the Sun

Feast of the Transfiguration   The event of the Transfiguration of Jesus is clearly recorded in the New Testament in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36), and in Second Epistle of St Peter (2 Pet 1:16-18).  The Gospel of John is likely to be alluding to it in the famous line about the Incarnation of Christ: “The Word became flesh, he lived among us, and we saw his glory, the glory that He has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth”.  Presumably, the idea of the glory of God is captured in the transfiguration as: ‘…His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as the light”. The event was seen as the revelation of Christ’s Divinity – after all, his followers have only seen his humanity at this point in time.  Some saw this as a reassurance Peter, James and John needed after hearing the shocking news of Jesus’ impending death. The appearance of Moses and Elijah, who represented the Law and the Prophets, tell us that the Old Order of the Law and Prophets must give way to the New Way: “This is my Son, the Beloved; He enjoys my favour. Listen to Him!” I think the last line of the Nicene Creed captures the Transfiguration, not of Jesus, but the glory awaiting each one of us on the Last Day: “I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”. May Jesus’ Transfiguration be our Transfiguration on the Last Day. God bless,  Fr Michael

You have Asked for Wisdom

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time In our first reading today Solomon was asked a question by the Lord – “what would you like me to give you”? No doubt many of us could think of a number of ways we could respond to this question, but note the first instinct of Solomon was to ask for the ability to be able to discern between good and evil. This surprising answer is essentially asking for the wisdom of God, or put another way, to be able to see the world how God sees the world. This is something for us all to aspire to. No doubt we all have prayers and petitions that we want answered, but to ask first and foremost for the gift of wisdom means that for everything we do, we will be putting God’s will before our own. To ask for wisdom will ensure that God will act through the Holy Spirit to assist us in all the decisions that we make, no matter how difficult they might seem. It will affect the way we think and the way we act. Such is wisdom’s importance is that it is the first gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps throughout the week, we can make Solomon’s request for wisdom our own. Fr Graeme

A Sower Went Out To Sow…

15th Sunday in Ordinary TIme   The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us  “At many moments in the past and by many means, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets; but in our time, in the final days, he has spoken to us in the person of his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things and through whom he made all things.” (Hebrews1:1-2)    God has spoken directly to us; revealing Himself in the Son – Jesus Christ.   Yet, in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt: 13:1-23), Our Lord tells us; “Truly I say to you, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it”.  Why do they not hear and see?.  Why do we not hear and see?.  It is because we close our hearts.  I know because I have done that in my younger days!  It brings to mind that saying: “We can take a horse to water, but we cannot make it drink”. In the Gospel, Our Lord uses the parable of the sower to make the same point about us in relation to the word of the kingdom. God has come to us; it is now up to us to open our hearts to Him.  The more opened we are to the Word, the more we are like the ‘good soil’ that makes the seed grow and bear fruit.   What is our heart like? –  the rocky soil, the soil with thorns, or the good soil?  The saving grace is that, God continues to call us (and everyone), and sometimes, even the most hardened hearts mellow!     God bless        Fr Michael

My yoke is easy and my burden light

As we journey through life in a world affected by sin, we are bound to face grief, suffering and turmoil. At times like this, we can be heavy of heart, and we can feel abandoned and alone.  Yet, the fundamental message of the cross is that God became one of us and join us in our struggles so that He could lead us to the joy of His peace. This Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 11:25-30), Our Lord reminds us again to turn to Him in our struggle.  His words are very comforting; “Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light”.  The words are so comforting that the passage is used often for the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick, and also for funerals.  In all our sorrows, we must learn how the tears of Good Friday give meaning to and magnify the joy of Easter Sunday.                                     Blessings                      Fr Michael

Anyone who finds his life will lose it….

In the Latin Rite, the ritual for baptism has been reduced to pouring water over the forehead with the baptismal formula.  Some Rites within the Catholic Church still maintain the old ways of total immersion (i.e. the whole body being immersed into water).  The ritual of total immersion brings to the fore, the idea of the convert dying to self and born into a new life in Christ: the immersion was the dying to the old self, and the emerging from the water, a birth into a new life in Christ.  Christ’s own death, burial and resurrection is reflected in the ritual.  Christ died to earthly life and arose to life in the spirit.  Therefore as Christians – those who are baptised in faith – we enter into a new life in Christ. Our initial experience in baptism is but the beginning of a process that is to continue throughout his entire life, until hopefully, one day, we will also share Christ’s Resurrection. Thus being a Christian means first and foremost dying to self, dying to sin, in order to live to Christ and in Christ in his new risen life.  And it is here we find a paradox: personal union with Christ, is anything but an individualistic pursuit. There is no true union with Christ if we do not follow His footsteps.  There is no true union with Him which does not lead to genuine concern for our neighbours, for the Church, and for those who are poor in spirit.  Our Lord put in beautifully in this Sunday’s Gospel passage; “Anyone who finds his life will lose it; anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it”.  Listen (or read) carefully to what else He says in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 10:37-42)    God bless,           Fr Michael

Do not be afraid…

  Our Lord forewarned his apostles that the message (Matthew 10:26-33) they were to preach would not be acceptable to all. It would mean persecution, and even death, for them. He gave them reassurance through the words; “Do not be afraid……”, and , “….. anyone who declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven”. He asked them to preach the Gospel in season and out of season.   In New Zealand, it is unlikely that we will face martyrdom for our faith. Nevertheless, Our Lord’s words are still relevant to us, for the environment we live in is also hostile to the faith – and it is precisely in this environment that we are asked to bear witness to Our Lord. How well we do so may be found in the answers to questions like: Are our actions and thoughts guided by Our Lord’s teachings that our very being declares to the world who we are? How do we feel about being a Christian in the environment we live and work?. Do people even know that we are Christians/Catholics. God Bless                  Fr Michael   P/s See you next Sunday!    

The Mass and Holy Communion

The Mass and Holy Communion   The Feast of Corpus Christi is the name of this Sunday’s feast celebrating the Holy Eucharist. How appropriate it is that we have children making their first Holy Communion this Sunday. The Church sees the Eucharist as something so important in the life of the Church that she refers to it as “the source and summit of the Christian life” and she goes on to say: “The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1324). The Eucharist is also called Holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, or the Mass. The hope is that, with good catechesis, the children will grow up to understand, love and appreciate the Mass like the early Christians did. The early Christians read it in just about every important stories in the Old Testament. One such example is the prophecy of the prophet Malachi, when the Almighty Lord said: “From the rising of the sun to its setting, my name is great among the nations and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering” (Mal 1:11). The early Christians read this as the promise of the Eucharist, the celebration of Mass. In fact the Third Eucharistic prayer for the Mass uses part of the words from the prophet Malachi: “….so that from the rising of the sun to its setting, a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name”. It makes the point that the Mass is celebrated everywhere in the world. ‘non-stop’, until the end of time, heeding the command of Our Lord to ‘do this in memory of me’. I congratulate the children and I think/pray for them from the other side of the world. May they continue to grow in understanding and in faith. May they ‘carry’ their parents/guardians along!   God Bless   Fr Michael

God loved the World so much…..

God loved the World so much…..   Three weeks ago, on the 6th Sunday of Easter, I preached on the Holy Trinity. I did so because the Gospel passage for that Sunday spoke of the Trinity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. St Paul said in the Second Reading (2 Cor 13:11-13) tells us that the Trinity is the foundation of our community life as a Church. I think the Catechism of the Catholic Church is invaluable in coming to understand more about the Trinity and God’s revelation of Himself as the One God in Three persons. I include a few paragraphs (on page three) to wet your appetite. Glory Be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…..   Fr Michael

Receive the Holy Spirit….

  This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday, and it brings the fifty days of Easter to a conclusion. The English word “Pentecost” is a transliteration of the Greek word pentekostos, (??????????, ??, ?) which means “fifty.” Fifty days after the Resurrection of Jesus, there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. However, if we remember, the Easter season also started with the outpouring of the Spirit, but in a different way. On the first Easter Sunday evening, Jesus appeared to his disciples and breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” St. Augustine of Hippo (4th century) explained the two outpouring of the Holy Spirit in these words: “Perhaps this double giving of the Holy Spirit, was done in manifestation of the two commandments of love, that is, of neighbour and of God, in order that love might be shown to belong to the Holy Spirit.” He then went on to explain that the Holy Spirit not only makes us capable of loving God; The Spirit also enables us to love our neighbour. May we open our hearts to the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, to love God and neighbour. Come Holy Spirit.     Fr Michael P/s Just arrived in Zug, Switzerland,

Know that I am with you always…..

We have a few ‘big’ feast days coming up several Sundays in a row.  This Sunday is the Ascension of Our Lord, next Sunday is Pentecost, and then a fortnight from now, it will be the Holy Trinity (followed by Corpus Christi, when several children will make their First Holy Communion). There is a good connection between the first three feasts I listed, namely the Ascension, Pentecost and the Holy Trinity.  The Ascension is not simply about the Resurrected Christ leaving us, but it is about His continual presence with us in a new way.  In His incarnate body, and also His Resurrected body, He was confined to a specific space and time.  Before He ascended He promised the coming of the Holy Spirit (Pentecost).  We have His Advocate who awaits and defends us.  The Trinitarian God; the One God, in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is with us and is present in our lives, in the Church and in every space and time through the working of the Holy Spirit.  As Pope Francis once said: “We are never alone: The Crucified and Risen Lord guides us.  We have with us a multitude of brothers and sisters who, in silence and concealment, in their family life and at work, in their problems and hardships, in their joys and hopes, live faith daily and together with us bring the world the lordship of God’s love, in the Risen Jesus Christ, ascended into Heaven, our own Advocate who pleads for us”. Come Holy Spirit Fr Michael

The Father will Give you another Advocate

(Sixth Sunday of Easter – Year A) This Sunday’s Gospel passage gives us the final instructions and prayers that Jesus gives to His Apostles before leaving them.  He is going to leave them ‘twice’.  First he is leaving them by sacrificing Himself on the cross, then later he will leave them after His resurrection through His being taken up out of their sight in the Ascension (The feast of Ascension is on Thursday, but in NZ it is shifted to next Sunday). His parting words are a comforting reminder that though He will be leaving them, He will still be with them.  He will send the Holy Spirit, the parákl?tos (??????????), which is Greek means, one who consoles or comforts, one who encourages or uplifts (i.e. refreshes); and/or one who intercedes on our behalf as an advocate in court”.  It is precisely why the English translations use the words: paraclete, advocate, and consoler, to refer to the Holy Spirit.  The Apostles are to keep His commandments, and that is to love God with all their heart, soul and mind, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself (c.f. Matt 37-39).  Love is the essential ingredient that is required for the enduring presence of the Holy Spirit, and indeed of the Son, and the Father.  After all, GOD IS LOVE, a perfect relationship of love of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God bless Fr Michael

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life

(5th Sunday of Easter) In the Gospel according to St John, we find Our Lord had a discourse with the Apostles immediately after He instituted the Mass.  This Sunday’s Gospel (John 14:1-12) form part of this discourse.   Amongst the beautiful things He said includes the famous phrase; “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”.   In this powerful sentence, Our Lord tells us He does not simply give direction and advice; He is personally the Way, the unique means of salvation; the way to God.  Others claim to teach the truth; only Our Lord can say ‘I am’ the Truth.  In his very person he embodies the Truth about God, and the truth about humanity.  He is also the Life; He communicates the life He shares with the Father, giving the kind of life that only God can give; eternal happiness.    In his book, ‘The Imitation of Christ’, Thomas Kempis wrote; ‘Without the Way, there is no going, without the Truth, there is no knowing, without the Life there is no living’.  What Kempis is saying is that without Christ, we are lost.  Without He, who is ‘true God and true man’, humanity is lost.  May we follow the Way, know the Truth, and find true Life – always.                                                      God bless,  Fr Michael

I am the gate of the Sheepfold…

4th Sunday of Easter – Vocation Sunday (Good Shepherd Sunday) The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Easter is always about Jesus “the Good Shepherd”.  As priests are mean to me be shepherds after the heart of Christ (c.f. “I will give you shepherds after my own heart”, Jer: 3:15), the Church has traditionally asked called this Sunday ‘Good Shepherd Sunday’, a Sunday to promote vocations and to pray for more vocation to the priesthood. In the 1992 Post-Synodal Apostol Exhortation called ‘Pastores Dabo Vobis”, Pope Saint John Paul II wrote: “Without priests the Church would not be able to live that fundamental obedience which is at the very heart of her existence and her mission in history, an obedience in response to the command of Christ: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19) and “Do this in remembrance of me” (Lk. 22:19; cf. 1 Cor. 11.24), i.e:, an obedience to the command to announce the Gospel and to renew daily the sacrifice of the giving of his body and the shedding of his blood for the life of the world.” (Para 1, PDV) Here are some of the points from a letter sent to me by Fr John O’Connor, our current Diocesan Vocation Director, and ex-PP of OLV: In the Western World, we talk of a lack in ‘vocations’. I always maintain that it is never the lack of vocations that is the problem. It is the lack of response.  It is hard to sacrifice one’s life for a higher ideal, when that ideal is unclear, and in the Western World, more secularism and materialism are creeping into the life of the populace. Perhaps that is why Dioceses is the Western World that are experiencing a growth in priestly vocations have these things in common: ? They organize prayers for vocations, including days set aside for such endeavour, and special prayers before the Blessed Sacrament; ? There is a ‘clarity’ of faith in the community; they are clear of what the Church teaches and why she teaches what she teaches. ? There is clear identity of the Catholic Priesthood in the faith community – not obscured by a continual misrepresentation of what it is. Clearly, even we, at OLV, have our part to play if we are serious about the lack of ‘response’: Pray for vocations.  Encourage vocations.  And may God give us with shepherds after His own heart. Pray for vocations to the priesthood; better still encourage young and not-so-young men to think if they have such a calling. If the experience of the US is anything to go by, it has been reported that the 93% od the ordination class of 2016 “were encouraged to consider whether God was calling them to priesthood by someone close to them…”.  Clearly God works through us too. God bless, Fr Michael                                                                                                   Fr Michael

They Recognised Him at the Breaking of Bread….

(3rd Sunday of Easter)   The disciples on the way to Emmaus recognised Jesus in the “breaking of bread”.  The expression, the ‘breaking of bread’ or ‘fractionis panis’ is a term used in the Church to refer to the Eucharist.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church highlights the various names of the sacrament of the Eucharist, amongst which it is called: “The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, above all at the Last Supper.  It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him. (Paragraph 1329. CCC).   In the liturgy of the Mass Christ makes Himself known through His word of Scripture and in the breaking of bread. The Eucharist is a celebration of Easter because not only is it a memorial of Jesus’ offering of Himself to the Father but it is also a sign in which we recognise Christ as alive giving Himself to the whole of humanity.   Alleluia He is Risen! Fr Michael

For those whose sins you forgive… 

The Gospel passage from John (20:19-31) starts with the words: “in the evening of that same day, the first day of the week….”.  The reference to “the first day of the week” is made seven times in the New Testament.  By the time the Gospel was penned, the early Christians must have wanted us to understand that Sunday had already become the Lord’s Day, and it was a day they gathered to celebrate the Resurrection, the day they gathered to celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy.  Next Sunday, you will see the passage goes on to make reference to the “breaking of bread”, which is an expression in the early Church to the gathering at Mass. The episode of this Sunday passage however places the disciples in hiding after the crucifixion of Christ for fear of the Jews.  And out of no where, the Resurrected Christ appeared and stood amongst them with the words” Peace be with you, and he breathed on them “Receive the Holy Spirit, for those sins you forgive, they are forgiven….”  This is the institution of the sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation (i.e. Confession).  As the Gospel passage for the Second Sunday of Easter is always about the forgiveness of sins, Pope Saint John Paul II called the Second Sunday Easter, “Divine Mercy Sunday” (Influenced of course by the by St Faustina).  In our Diocese, Divine Mercy Sunday is celebrated somewhere in the Diocese in a big way, and this year it is at St Mary’s Pro Cathedral at 3.15pm, and with priests making themselves available from 1.30-3.00pm (myself included!). I have always liked the classic expression from the poet Alexander Pope (c1711): “…to err is human, and to forgive Divine” – and I reckon the Easter presents this truth beautifully. May we as an Easter People, also experience God’s mercy. Alleluia He is Risen!

The Second Annual Parish Bike Ride – 2017

The second annual Parish Bike Ride took place again in Easter Monday morning. A cloudy and cool start but no wind which is always a bonus! After half an hour of adjusting bicycle seats, swapping bikes and finding the best helmet. (We ALL wanted the dinosaur helmet, but sadly for all of us, Sheila’s head was the only one it fit!). We set off down the cycle path along the Southern Motorway and round the Polo field and A & P Showgrounds then back along the Motorway cycle path to Warren Park for a picnic lunch. Possibly a few saddlesore cyclists the next day…but worth it to be enjoying the outdoors and part of the great cycle network that is coming together all round Christchurch.                                                                                                                                    

Alleluia He is Risen!

We Welcome our new brothers and sisters in Christ this Easter!! With great joy, we can announce to you that during the Easter Vigil Mass, Kaylyn Merral, Mele Leatuavao, Benjamin Smart will receive the Sacraments of Baptism*, Confirmation and the Eucharist.  We welcome them with great joy and hope that they continue to grow in faith, and find the journey of faith a great and wonderful adventure that brings them meaning and fulfillment.  More importantly may he lead them to eternal life!.  Please pray for them and reach out also to our new brothers and sisters in Christ.  Then on Easter Sunday, at the 10.00am Mass, several children will be baptised!  We welcome Jack Dillon, Joseph Lim, Eli Mo’ale, Alyx Eijan santos with great joy too. Please Support them and their parents in prayer, and encouragement.  * (some = conditional baptism)

Holy Week Schedule 2017

Please pay attention to the time, and especially the Easter Vigil (Saturday) because there is NO 6.00pm Vigil Mass, but 8.00pm! Click here:  Holy Week Timetable 2017    

Behold the King Comes…

(Palm/Passion Sunday)   On Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday we as People, as a Church, have commemorated without fail for over twenty centuries, the triumphal welcome given by the people to Jesus as He enters Jerusalem.  His entrance was greeted with joy and celebration, with words such as “Hosanna to the Son of David!”, which acknowledge Him as the long awaited messiah.  This event was long prophesied: “This took place to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet, saying, “Tell ye the daughter of Sion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek, and sitting upon an ass, and a colt the foal of an ass.” (Zech. 9:9)”   But we all know what happened a few days after this…… Our Liturgy for the Holy Week marks all these, and leads us to the great feast of the Easter Resurrection.  You would have received a Holy Week schedule of celebrations and explanations last week.  There is a copy on our website too (www.olv.co.nz) and on the back page of this weeks bulletin..  As we commemorate the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem with Palm Sunday, we also start off Holy Week.  One of the saddest things for me for Holy Week is that the MOST important celebration that we put the most energy into the preparation, namely the Easter Vigil, is not well attended.  It is supposed to be the Feast of Feasts.  Within Holy Week, the Sacred Triduum (or Sacred Three days), Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil marks the most intense liturgical celebration for the whole year.  Please join us, and encourage others to join us.  Better still, join us with an active and conscious participation!   God bless  Fr M  P/s During the Passion reading, we pause and kneel for a moment when the narrator reads:  … ‘yielded up His spirit”         

I am the Resurrection and the Life

(5th Sunday in Lent – Year A) Reading the four Gospels we find that Jesus knows and speaks about His impending death and Resurrection (e.g. Mt 16:21; 17:9; 17:23; 20:19; Mk 8:31; 9:9; 9:31; 10:34; Lk 9:22; 18:33; Jn 6:39-44, 54).    As our Lenten journey advances towards the Easter festivities, more and more, the Gospel passage each Sunday sheds light on the Mission of Jesus.  This Sunday we are presented with the Gospel passage (John 11:1-45) in which Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.    It is an illustration of His claim: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though they die, will live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die”.   The new life of the new covenant is given to the world through Him.  It is His sacrifice that will save the world, and it is His Resurrection that will bring in eternal life which is available to all those who believe in Him.  But believing demands that we hope, and hoping demands that we love.    To attain eternal life, we must participate in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and that is what we do at Mass.  Perhaps the words of St Irenaeus, a second century Church father is very poignant:   “Just as bread that comes from the earth, after God’s blessing has been invoked upon it, is no longer ordinary bread, but the Eucharist, formed of two things, the one earthly and the other heavenly: so too our bodies, which partake of the Eucharist, are no longer corruptible, but possess the hope of resurrection” (Adv. Haeres. 4,18).   Psalm 27 ends with the great prayer of hope in the resurrection: I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  May it also be our prayer and hope.   Praise to Your Lord Jesus Christ,           Fr Michael

Do you believe in the Son of Man?

(4th Sunday of Lent)   To be blind is not being able to see.  This is ‘physical blindness’.   This Sunday we are presented with the Gospel passage about another kind of blindness.  There are those who look but do not see – those who have a blindness in their faith, and lack to vision of the heart.  Jesus cures a man blind from birth but some people did not want to believe, for believing might make a demand of them.  This type of blindness – or ‘selective vision’ – is prevalent.  Choosing not ‘to see’ is a escape from accepting who Jesus is, for accepting His identity makes a demand on them.  This type of blindness is as bad, if not worse than ‘physical’ blindness because it restricts the means through which God may touch the heart.  Jesus challenged the man he had cured with the words: ‘Do you believe in the Son of Man?’  His response:  ‘Lord, I believe.‘      Lent is also a time to improve our ‘vision’ to strengthen our faith that we may say with the blind man: ‘Lord I believe’, but his believing is seeing, rather than seeing is believing. God bless       Father Michael

You will never be thirsty again…

(3rd Sunday of Lent) I have always encouraged Catholics to own a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), and I used to import cheap(er) copies to sell.  It is a good book to have as reference material, especially to check up on the teaching of the Church.  However, the nature of the book makes it a kind of an ‘encyclopaedia’ of Church teaching, and unless one is interested in a certain topic, reading the whole Catechism can be quite laborious.  The exception is the part on “Prayer” (Part Four of the Catechism).  I want to quote you one paragraph from this section as it speaks also of this Sunday’s Gospel passage: “If you knew the gift of God!” The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him” (CCC Para. 2560): We tend to think of his thirsts only as a physical thirst.  But God in coming to us, incarnated in the flesh, shows us he ‘thirst’ for us.  It is God who first seeks us.  Yes, God thirsts, Jesus thirsts….. and in this Sunday’s Gospel passage (John 4:5-42 (or >< 4:5-15.19-26.39-42)  we find Him asking for a drink from a Samaritan woman.  The exchange is one full of significance, which hopefully we priests will highlight some of them in our homilies. Throughout the ages, men and women have expressed the human person’s thirst for God. We see this in the famous Psalm 42: “As a deer yearns for running streams, I yearn for you my God.  I thirst for God the Living God…..” (Psalm 42:1). St Augustine expressed it in this way:  “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” And the Catechism in an earlier paragraph (33) speaks of the human person has “longings for the infinite” which only God can fulfill. But God thirsts too.  As the Catechism says: God thirsts that we may thirst for Him.  May we be quench by the Living Water of which Jesus speaks in the Gospel. God bless   Fr Michael

This is my Son the beloved……

The first reading (Genesis 12:1-4) for this Sunday’s Mass tells us that for nearly two thousand years before the coming of Christ, God’s saving plan was already well in motion. A man named Abram (later to be renamed Abraham) would father the people into which Christ would be born. His descendants would be a selected group – a ‘Chosen people’, the ‘People of God’ They would be guided by God’s prophets, and blessed with favours and gradually prepared to receive Christ into their midst.  What makes Abraham such a memorable and inspirational figure in the record of sacred history is that he believed and trusted God with all his heart. Without wavering, without even a glance behind him, Abraham took God at His word and set out for the Land of Promise.   Essentially it was embarking on a journey with an unknown destination, trusting God to guide him.  With the coming of Christ, we know that the Promised Land is not just a worldly real estate, but the Kingdom of God as in attaining full union with Him. We, as a people of faith, as the People of God of the New Covenant, must look to Abraham as a great inspirational figure. There will be times in our journey of life when the way seems dark and uncertain.  There may be times we feel abandoned, and there may be times when we go through what St John of the Cross famously penned in his poem, the ‘Dark Night of Soul”. The lesson of Abraham, and many holy people after him, teaches us that only a complete and trusting faith in God can lead us safely to Promised Land, as it led Abraham and His people. Perhaps Our Lenten preparation should include embracing the faith and trust Abraham displayed.  It is not easy though, living in a time when the norm is to seek ‘instant gratification’, and ‘instant result’ in many of our endeavours.   Perhaps this is where the Gospel offers us hope.  The Gospel (Matt 17:1-9 on the Transfiguration) for this Sunday dove-tails nicely with the First Reading.  The passage gives us a glimpse of the life of the world to come.  The episode must have strengthened Peter, James and John when the darkness of the cross eventually arrived, for if they had remembered the Transfiguration, they would know that beyond the darkness there would be light. Lent is a good time to cultivate a trusting faith in God as we journey along and to let His Light guide us.  When things get tough, we must look to the glory of the life to come to strengthen us in our resolve. God’s blessings,                                  Fr Michael

He fasted for forty days…

(1st Sunday in Lent) The liturgical season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. The 40 days of Lent is our attempt to strengthen ourselves against temptations and to overcome sinfulness. It mirrors Jesus time in the desert where for 40 days He faced temptations and trials – but He did not give in. In the desert, there is nowhere to hide. In Lent we enter into our own desert, so to speak, to focus on the things that tempt us from the straight and narrow, and to strengthen ourselves spiritually that we may live good and holy lives. Since early times the church has a simple and effective formula for this; It involves three things, prayer, fasting and almsgiving (or charity, helping the poor). Prayer is an activity we should re-evaluate in our lives during Lent. We live busy lives and there is much emphasis on enjoying life but a life without prayer is a life without the joy of the presence of God. If we do not pray we are not proper Christians. Lent is a time to hear the again the voice of God through encountering Him in prayer. Collectively, in this parish, we also do the Stations of the Cross on Friday evenings that we may not only pray together, but meditate on the Passion of Jesus. Fasting is often associated with food, but there are many other things one can fast from or ‘give up” (e.g smoking and drinking alcohol). The Bible tells us that fasting (from food) in itself is not what is important, but the spirit and intention behind it that really matters. The Bible tells us that fasting from food must go together with fasting from violence and fasting from oppressing people. In other words, when we fast from food it is no use unless we also have a loving and forgiving attitude towards others. So if we take the example of Jesus in the desert seriously, we make also extend ‘fasting’ to include fasting from negativities towards others, or making an effort to forgive those who have hurt us and not harbour resentment any longer etc.. When it comes to almsgiving we can use the Caritas Lenten appeal as a means of collectively being involved in organised projects to help the poor. Of course, we can do our own charitable work or contribute to what ever charity, but sometimes it is helpful to have a communitarian approach – hence the Caritas envelopes. After the 40 days of Lent, may we be strengthen to fight against the temptation to sin, and may be we well prepared to celebrate Easter.

Do not be anxious about your life…

In the Gospel for this Sunday Jesus did not minced His words: “No man can serve two masters…You cannot serve God and mammon.” We tend to think of ‘mammon’ as money or wealth. It means more than that. The word ‘mammon’ comes from a Hebrew root that means “to entrust” – like today we speak about credit, trust funds and bonds – we trust in them!. Mammon came to mean “that in which a person places his trust.” (cf. Barclay’s commentary on Matthew’s Gospel). Mammon can become a substitute for God; an idol, a false God – an end all and be all of life. A person devoted to Mammon will always be consumed with worry and anxiety that come from the fear of losing the things that give false meaning to his life. In Christchurch, our experiences of the earthquake, and more recently the fire on the port hills, remind us again that ‘things’ can be replaced, but life is precious. Yet, life is only truly precious if it has a higher calling – an eternal calling. God is the source of all life and goodness, and only with knowing what God has called us to aspire for, do our lives find meaning and purpose. Otherwise….. life is just a series of worries and anxieties until death sets us free!

But I say this to you (Part II)

(7th Sunday in Ordinary Time) In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus continues with putting His mark on the Old Law:  “You heard it said (referring to the Law and Prophets)”…… “but I say this to you”. “You have learnt how it was said: You must love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I say this to you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” The Old Law which Jesus refers to can be found in the book of Exodus (21:23-25) “ If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”.   This law was served as a guide for a judge in a law court for assessing punishment and penalty (see Deuteronomy 19:18) – to make sure that the punishment is fair (i.e. one is not to exact more than what was dished out).  Sadly some read it as a demand to be a tit for tat approach to life. Our Lord gives a new approach, based not just on the requirements of justice – i.e. giving each their due – but based on the law of grace and love.  We must learn not only to avoid returning evil for evil, but we must seek the good of those who wish us ill.   Why? Because God is good to the unjust as well as the just.  God’s love embraces saints and sinners alike.  God always seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others, even those who hate and abuse us.  Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us.    That is the challenge of the Christian faith; to learn to treat others, not as they deserve, but as God wishes them to be treated – with loving-kindness and mercy.  It is difficult, but not impossible: otherwise it is not a challenge.   God bless   Fr Michael 

But I say this to you!!

(6th Sunday in Ordinary Time) St Matthew wrote his Gospel addressing Jewish converts who had come to recognised Jesus as the Messiah. The first five books of the Old Testament, namely the books of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, are collectively known as the Torah. In the Gospel of Matthew, there is a structure based on the Torah. It is because St Matthew addressed the Jewish converts who were very familiar with the Torah, and he wanted them to see how in the person of Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecies, and therefore He was the long awaited Messiah. Knowing St Matthew’s intentions give us a better sense of the opening remarks by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel passage: “I came not to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” He went on to say: “You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: but I say this to you….”. His words, His teachings, appear to override the old Law!. Who can ‘override’ God’s law but God Himself! Laws can be something so ‘cold’ and heartless. Jesus taught that merely trying to keep the precepts of the ancient Law was not enough. Observing them must be something from the heart. Our external actions must be a reflection of what we really are like. For example, it is not enough for others to see us performing the actions of a Christian – our whole attitude in life must be Christian. It is not enough to be seen to be upright, we must be upright in heart too. God bless Fr Michael

You are the Salt of the Earth

(5th Sunday in Ordinary Time) In this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 5:13-16) Jesus uses two imagery to teach what his discipleship entails: to be His disciples is to be ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’.  What salt and light do makes a positive difference to others.  A true Christian is a person not just for himself, but also for others – he has an effect, a positive effect, on his environment in which he lives.  Actually, reading the passage carefully, we will find that Our Lord does not say we are to become salt and light, but that we are already both.  By virtue of our baptisms, we are already marked out to be more.  To become ‘salt’ and ‘light’ It is more about us fulfilling our destiny, committing ourselves to live like Him, and be like Him.  Fr Michael

Blessed are you…..

(4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A) The Gospel passage for this Sunday from the Gospel of Matthew (5;1-12) gives us the teaching of Jesus that has now come to be known as the “Beatitudes”. It sounds like the “Bad-attitudes”, but they are actually the “Good Attitudes”! The Biblical translation we use for Mass use the word “Happy”, but some translation use the world “Blessed”. In essence, both the English word ‘happy’ and ‘Blessed’ are needed to describe Jesus’ teachings on the Beatitudes We seek happiness, but often we look for it in the wrong places – after all, the world tells us otherwise. Someone once put together a worldly “Beatitudes”! Where Jesus says “Happy are the poor in spirit” the world would say “Happy are the rich.” Where Jesus says “Happy are those who mourn” the world would say “Happy are those having fun.” Where Jesus says “Happy are the meek, “the world would say “Happy are the smart.” Where Jesus says, “Happy are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness” the world would say “Happy are those who wine and dine.” Where Jesus says, “Happy are the merciful” the world would say “Happy are the powerful.” Where Jesus says, “Happy are the pure in heart” the world would say “Happy are the slim in body.” Where Jesus says, “Happy are the peacemakers” the world would say “Happy are the news makers.” And where Jesus says, “Happy are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” the world would say “Happy are those who can afford the best lawyers.” The Beatitudes given by Jesus are counter-cultural to worldly ways and values!. They teach us that true blessedness, or happiness, is attain if we put the highest goal at the centre of our lives: union with God in heaven. Happiness is not just a state of mind, but a state of being. Nothing in the world can give us the true blessedness/happiness, and nothing in the world can take it away. The question for us is this: “Do we live our lives following the values of the world as a way of attaining happiness or do we live by the teachings of Jesus, and turn our gaze to heaven?”. If we live by the teachings of Jesus, then rejoice and be glad, for our reward is great in heaven. Blessings, Fr Michael

Repent and Believe

(Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A) In the Gospel reading for this Sunday (Matthew 4:12-23 ), Our Lord starts His public ministry soon after John the Baptist was arrested. He started by preaching or making two demands: repent and believe! To repent is to change, to leave behind the way we were. It’s not just an attempt to ‘sin no more’, but it is also a new way of being, a new way of living, and a new view of life. Sometimes it is a dramatic process, but more often it is a daily process of growth. The Gospel of St Matthew records for us that when Jesus called his followers, they changed. Some immediately abandoned their nets, their boats, and their families to follow Jesus. No questions asked!. No hesitation!. And after that turning point, they stayed with him and learned from him for three years. As believers we want to be like them, responding with a resounding YES, but often the reality of life’s circumstances sets in: “What do I have to give up?”, “What if I am not good enough?”, “I am merely a child (or a labourer, sinner… etc)?” Of all the excuses/reasons we can come up with, we would also find we the answer in the Gospel. Jesus invites everyone! He called fishermen, tax collectors, sinners, farmers, labourers, prostitutes, peasants…. His call to discipleship transcends that moment on the shores of the Sea of Galilee in this Sunday’s Gospel; he calls to us here and now, in our own time and place. The Good News can only be taken to the ends of the earth if each and every one of us starts to heed the call to repent and believe…. Blessings, Fr Michael

St Thomas of Aquinas PFG Camping Trip – weekend of 13th/14th Jan 2017

How would everyone like to go camping….in tents….in a campground…..not in the Presbytery back garden??? And a year later we did it!! As usual, our prayers were answered and the weather turned out fine. Eight families arrived to set up on Friday afternoon at Spencer Park, with a range of fairly experienced campers to first timers (who were very excited, but also a little apprehensive). The tents went up with ease, up went the gazebo with tables and chairs underneath, out came the kettle….essential camping equipment. What a great weekend we had…fantastic food, fun on the playground, badminton, bouncing on the giant pillow, roasting marshmallows, spotlight and and adventurous night walk, mini golf, swimming at the beach, meeting new friends…and that’s just some of what we did! But most of all great company, real family fellowship and the best camping trip ever!   Any parishioners keen to become part of a Passionist Family Group please call Jo or Kelvin on 344-0453 or pick up a pamphlet located by the church entrance.    

Behold the Lamb of God!

15th January 2017 – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time In the Biblical account in the Book of Exodus, the blood of the sacrificial lamb was put on the doorposts of the People of God, and death ‘pass over’ their household – but not of that of the Egyptians who enslaved them. It was the event that liberated the People of God from their bondage to the Egyptians. Ever since that event, the People of God celebrated the Passover feast as a memorial. This was the Last Supper feast that Jesus celebrated as He instituted the Mass. The true bondage in life is sin, and with sin, comes death. We could say, that the Exodus account was a preparation, and an anticipation of the true liberation from the bondage/enslavement to sin. To be delivered from that, we need the true sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God that can take away the sins of the world! And that is exactly what John the Baptist said when he pointed his followers to Jesus: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”. They are also the exact words the priest says as he holds up the consecrated hosts that is the body of Christ, broken for us – Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb that takes away the sins of the world. The celebration of the Mass makes present again (re-“present”) the one and the same sacrifice of Christ at Calvary – to take away our sins, to give us life….. May we respond with true humility: “Lord I am not worthy…..” and come before Him asking for mercy. God bless Fr Michael

We Saw His Star As It Rose

Only the Gospel of Matthew mentioned the wise men who came to Jerusalem from the east in search of the infant Jesus. Although there is actually no mention that there were three of them, the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, they brought to Him led to the widespread assumption that there were three. The Syriac Churches often number them twelve! The wise men, are often referred to as Magi, or Kings. The journey of the Magi to Bethlehem is also a journey of conversion. The true God has come to us, and it now revealed to the unbelieving world (hence “epiphany”. i.e. the manifestation of Christ to the gentiles). Before the Magi set out on their journey to Bethlehem they were star-readers. After the encounter they went on an interior journey from reading stars to worshipping Jesus as Saviour. The Magi’s old way of ‘reading the stars’ remind us of those who look to astrology as a guide to their life.   Believing that the stars control our lives contradicts believing that the Divine Mind/Word thought the universe into being, and hence is in control. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states; “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate power. They contradict the honour, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (para 2116) The wise men journeyed from that kind of life to worshipping Jesus as the Saviour. Our fate is not written the stars: our life is a mystery that is intertwined with the Creator of the universe the creator of the stars. If we truly want to know what our lives are about, we must start to acknowledge the true God, and then follow his guiding light. The Magi’ journey of conversion must be our journey of conversion. God bless Fr Michael

Mass Times for the New Year

Over and above our usual Sunday and Vigil Mass (i.e. 6.00pm Vigil, 10.00am and 5.00pm Sunday Masses), there is an extra Mass at 11.00pm to see the year out!

ChristMASS Times

Please note that although Christmas is on a Sunday, the usual 5.00pm Mass on Sunday is CANCELLED!!!

And they will Call Him Emmanuel…

4th Sunday of Advent The Gospel (Matt: 1:18-24) passage for this fourth Sunday of Advent gives us the opportunity to reflect on the role of Joseph and Mary in the great event of Christmas.  God was incarnated flesh, God came to us, taking on flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary.  God is with us, and He is ‘Emmanuel’ a name which means ‘God with us’.      Leading up to the event that is the first Christmas, Joseph was shocked by Mary’s pregnancy and decided to divorce her informally.  However, he did what God’s angel asked of him, and took Mary into his house.  Through the link with Joseph, Jesus inherited the ancestry of David, thus making Jesus a ‘son of David’ – a fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy.   Mary on the other hand, gives us the model of a Christian discipleship.  Her ‘yes’ to God in an open and humble manner is an example to us all.  ‘Let Thy will be done not mine’ should be something that challenges all Christians.  In our preparation to celebrate this Christmas, and indeed in our life’s preparation to meet Christ in His second coming or in our meeting him in our death, we must strive continually to be like Mary and Joseph.  God has plans for us too: it is up to us to be like Joseph and Mary: saying ‘Yes’ to God, and doing the will of God.                               Come Lord Jesus                        Fr Michael

Are you the One to come?

Advent 3rd Sunday The People of God, for many centuries have been expecting the coming of the “Messiah”.  When He came it was in a most unexpected way.  God Himself came in the Person of Christ.    The question John the Baptist posed in this Sunday’s Gospel (Matt 11; 2-11) reflects the air of expectancy amongst the people of God.  Advent is the season to re-live that great expectancy.   In Advent we prepare to celebrate Christmas – celebrate the First Coming of the Messiah – and we prepare to look forward for His coming at the end of time.  We join the Angels in singing the song: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to people of goodwill (cf. Lk 2:14).  It is a season of peace and goodwill.  But peace and good will is not something of a passive wish that remains in our hearts.  It must be something we actively work towards.  Hence St Pope John Paul II, once said:   If you want peace, work for justice. If you want justice, defend life. If you want life, embrace truth – truth revealed by God   May the Prince come into our lives and our hearts.    Come Lord Jesus. Come, Prince of Peace.                   Fr Michael

Prepare…..

2nd Sunday of Advent (Ooops!!!!. I jumped the gun last week, looking at the Gospel for the 2nd week of Advent rather than the 1st.  By the time I discovered it, the bulletin was already printed…. Here’s an updated comment for this Sunday, the Second Sunday of Advent!)  As I explained in my homily last Sunday, Advent has a two fold character: it.  It takes our glance both to the first and second coming of Christ.   The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 524 puts it this way: “When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Saviour’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming. By celebrating the precursor’s (i.e. John the Baptist*) birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”   That ‘desire’ of John the Baptist is highlighted, not just in the Second Sunday of Advent but also in the season of Lent (just before Easter).  And tells us something: It tells us that Advent, besides a time of waiting and expectancy, and a time of making God seen in our lives (‘He must increase….’), is also a time that has a “penitential character”.  It is a time of Spiritual Preparation that includes working towards a  repentant heart, that when He comes again, we could openly receive Him.   Prepare Him a way…. Fr Michael

The season of Advent at OLV

Mass with Anointing of the Sick Thursday December 1st at 10.30am 2nd Sunday of Advent December 4th Christmas Carols and Morning Tea in the BJC 11.10am – 11.40am Carols led by the Filipino Groups of OLV 3rd Sunday Of Advent December 11th Christmas Carols and Morning Tea in the BJC 11.10am – 11.40am Carols led by OLV School Advent Reconciliation Wednesday December 14th at 7.00pm School Mass End of Year school Mass Thursday December 15th at 6.00pm 4th Sunday of Advent December 18th Christmas Carols and Morning Tea in the BJC 11.10am – 11.40am Carols led by Church Choir Filipino Mass Thursday 21st December 7.00pm

Prepare the way of the Lord…..

Prepare the way of the Lord….. The Gospel (Matt: 3 :1-12) passage for this Sunday introduces the mission of John the Baptist. The Baptist’s life is defined by his one burning passion — to point others to Jesus Christ and to the coming of His kingdom. His clothing is reminiscent of the prophet Elijah (see Kings 1:8) in the Old Testament time. His message is also similar to the message of the prophets in the Old Testament whereby they chided the people of God for their unfaithfulness and tried to awaken true repentance in them. Amongst the People of God who become complacent, he tries to unsettle them to re-awaken their interest in the coming of the Kingdom of God. His message is powerful in its simplicity: God’s Kingdom is at our door-step, repent, have a change of heart….. He paves the way for Christ. He asks us to prepare. ….. God bless, Fr Michael

Christ the Universal King

This Sunday is the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, and next week we start the new Liturgical Year (Year A, or ‘1’ for weekdays) by preparing for Christmas with the season of Advent. The last Sunday of the Liturgical Year is always crowned with the Feast of Christ the Universal King. This Sunday’s Gospel passage (Luke 23:35-43) presents us with a scene that proclaims so powerfully that the Kingdom of Christ is not of this world. By the standards of this world, this king was a failure, dying the most agonizing and disgraceful of deaths which the ancient world could devise. Yet, as Luke describes the event, this sad scene becomes a moment of triumph, the moment when the long journey to the Father. In Luke’s gospel, that journey comes to an end when Jesus entrusts Himself into the Father’s hands. He takes with Him all who are humble enough to acknowledge their need of the gift of the Father’s forgiveness which He has come to offer. God bless, Fr Michael

First Holy Communion Registration 2017

Click to down Load Registration Form first-holy-communion-2017-registration-form Remember, no late registration accepted. If you are not a parishioner you need to talk to the Parish Priest first

Your Endurance will win you your lives

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Times This time of the year, as we approach the end of the Liturgical Year, the readings start to focus on “end things”.     (Next week, with the Feast of Christ the King, we celebrate the Last Sunday of the Liturgical Year “C”, and then after that we start a new Liturgical Year, ‘A”)   This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 21:5-19) links the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem with the end of the world.  The destruction of the Temple is also seen as marking the end of the old order of things: a decisive judgement by God on Old Covenant, and the inauguration of the New.  It is presented as a forerunner of God’s judgement on all peoples at the end of time.  Like St Augustine, in the fourth century, said: ‘We have not here, a lasting city’. Many have tried to predict when the end-times will be, and many have failed.  No one really knows when it will be.  Although the world as we know it will end, as I preached at the School Mass last week, the Christian message is about God coming to renew, not to destroy, the physical world.  That is why we are meant to work for a better earth, captured perhaps by the catch phrase: “Make the world a better place than you found it”.  In that task, we work for justice and peace etc.  In the practical sense, it is captured by living the two greatest commandments: loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbour as ourselves.  What is also important is that we heed Our Lord’s call for the virtue of endurance, endurance in a background of suspicion, hate, misunderstanding and even persecution. Perhaps our own understanding of the Gospel and our witnessing of it, both as communities and individuals, if they do not attract misunderstanding and even persecution, gives us reason to fear that we have not witnessed Christ’s message authentically. God bless,  Fr Michael

He is God, Not of the Dead, but of the Living

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time This  Sunday’s  Gospel  deals  with  the  topic  of  life  after  death.  What an appropriate topic for the month of November when we started the month with the feasts of All Saints and Souls, commemorations and praying for our dearly departed, and asking those in heaven to pray for us too.    It  is  of  the  essence  of  the Christian faith that with death, life is changed, not ended.  When we die, our soul leaves the body and is before God for judgement awaiting the day of the Resurrection (‘of the body’, as we recite in the Apostles’ Creed).    In Catholic theology, ‘the unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the “form” of the body: i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living, human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature. (Catechism para. 365)’.  It is with this unity in mind that as Catholics we express our beliefs through our living and the way we take care of the body of our deceased (and their ashes), showing our hope/belief in the ‘resurrection of the body’.    Recently the Congregation of the Divine Worship of the Faith issued an instruction regarding the burial and conservation of the ashes in the case of cremation.  There has been confusion in the past as to why cremation was ‘frowned upon’ by the Church, and even ‘banned’ when the act of cremation was used to deny the resurrection of the body.  The latest instructions, contrary to cynical opinions, is NOT about ‘Church control’, but rather a beautiful reflection on why we should show great dignity of the human body (and ashes), and to clarify how we can easily drift into ‘popular choice’ for the wrong reasons that may negate the very believe in the resurrection.   We believe in the Resurrection of the Body.  This hope has its foundation on Our Lord’s own Resurrection on Easter Day.  Through Him, with Him, and in Him, death is conquered.  Our funerals, and the way we take care of the dead must reflect our belief. Blessings,   Fr Michael

OLV School Fair

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Sacrament of Confirmation 2016

Congratulations to our 10 newly Confirmed

The Son of Man came to seek and save what is lost

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year C ”Metanoia” is the word that is used to describe the change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion.  Metanoia is what the Gospel passage for this Sunday is about (Luke 19 :1-10).  The passage centres on Zacchaeus, the tax collector.  At the time of Jesus, a tax collector like Zaccaheus would be despised for several reasons.  He was seen as a great sinner for working for the enemy, the Roman ‘occupying power’, against his own people.  Secondly, tax collectors like him would be expected to exact more money from the people for himself – i.e. he lined his own pockets.  After meeting Jesus, Zacchaeus is challenged to look at his life.  There is no mention of Jesus pointing out to Zacchaeus his crime. Perhaps the very person of Jesus moved Zacchaeus to realize that what he had been doing was wrong. Close contact with someone who is good can open our eyes to our shortfalls in life and inspire the confidence that we can do much better.  As we come before Christ in the Eucharist may our eyes also be opened to how we can have our own metanoia.  Part of the growth in life needs to include many occasions of metanoia.   God bless Fr Michael

Passionist Family Group Picnic – 30th October 2016

On the 30th October a group of Parishioners from the Passionist Family Groups met at Mona Vale for a picnic. The children played with the Frisbee,and had games of Badminton and soccer  while the adults sat around and chatted in the sun. A great day was had by all. A big thanks to Sheila and everyone else to made the day happen.  

He Who Humbles Himself Will Be Exalted

23rd October – 30th SUnday in Ordinary Time Sometimes we think of the Pharisees as the ‘baddies’ in the Gospel because of the many examples that Our Lord used in His teachings.  That would be the wrong picture.  The Pharisees goal was often to lead a holy life (not unlike us), and strictly according to the Law of Moses.  Where they usually went wrong was to focus on the externals, interpreting Scriptures to suit themselves and to have a warp sense of self righteousness that saw themselves being ‘better’ than others.  Our Lord warns frequently and fiercely against the attitude of the Pharisees.  Only when we see our own sinfulness and our own weakness, and that we are ‘beggars before God’, that we can appreciate God’s mercy.  Its when we know we are sick that we know we need a doctor;  it is when we know we need to be saved that we are open to a Saviour.  And God came to us as a Saviour. This Sunday’s (Luke 18:9-14) Gospel invites us to examine again how we pray, and how we see each other before God.  The tax collector’s prayer is the one for use to follow: “God me merciful on me a sinner”.  As Christ said: “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”.  If we are humble before God, leaving aside all our pride, or self righteousness, we will really be able to open ourselves better to God’s grace as we come to celebrate the Eucharist. Blessings,  Fr Michael

Catholic Cathedral Update October 2016

cathedral-update-october-2016

Pray continually and never lose heart

In this Sunday’s Gospel passage (Luke 18 :1-8) Our Lord speaks of the need to pray continually and never lose heart. He gives us the parable of the widow pestering a judge – rather persistently – for justice. Eventually she gets what she wanted. It is very similar to the parable we heard a few Sundays ago – the so-called, the parable of the ‘Importunate Friend’ (11:5-8). In that parable, it was the harassed father of the family disturbed in the middle of the night who had to get up to help his friend because he was persistent. Persistence is the key. It is the same with praying. Persistence is also the key for prayers to be answered. If humans who are weak give in to persistency, how much more would our ‘heavenly Father (who) is perfect’, who is compassionate, and who love us, give in to our persistency. The question is, do we have the eyes of faith to see when our prayers are answered? Blessings, Fr Michael

One Out of Ten

This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:11-19) Our Lord encounters a group of lepers.  Their suffering was more than their physical disfigurement and physical well being; they were also rejected by others.  Our Lord cured all ten of them but only one returned to Him.  Furthermore, he was a Samaritan, who as people, are hated by the People of God.  As I preached last week: how human it is of us to cry out to God in times of need, and then accuse God of not listening, and then in good times, to forget God.    The Samaritan got the full benefit from his encounter with Jesus because he showed gratitude.  “Stand up, your faith has saved you” he was told.   Gratitude is defined as ‘the virtue by which a person acknowledges, interiorly and exteriorly, gifts received and seeks to make at least some return for the gift conferred. Essentially gratitude consists of an interior disposition, a grateful heart, but when genuine it tries somehow to express itself in words and deeds. Consequently it includes three elements: acknowledgment that a gift has been received, appreciation expressed in thankfulness, and as far as possible some return for what has been freely given with no obligation on the donor’s part’*.   We would do well to reflect on how the Mass teaches us this virtue. Sometimes we only dream about what we do not have.  Perhaps it is time to count our blessings again.  *Catholic Directory                                    God bless,  Fr Michael

40 Hour Adoration Guidelines

Click on this link to show the guidelines for OLV’s 40 hour Adoration 8-guidelines-for-40-hour-eucharistic-adoration

Were your faith the size of a mustard seed…

The short Gospel passage (Luke 17:5-10) for this Sunday appears disjointed, as if they were two separate bits. In the first part, Our Lord declares that just a tiny grain can grow into a big plant, genuine faith can work wonders. In the second half, he uses the parable of the homecoming servant (who serves their master before sitting to their own meal) to draw out the correct attitude of the servant before his master. They may appear disjointed, but there is a connecting theme between them: ‘faith’. If we could “measure” faith, it would be more in ‘quality’ than in ‘quantity’. But, even if it is measured in quantity, an “ounce” of faith, with the right attitude, can work wonders in God’s hands. May the Lord increase our faith. Fr Michael

You cannot be a slave of both God and money

You cannot be slave of both and money In the Gospel (Luke 16:1-13, or 16:10-13), we read of the steward, an ‘employee’, who lost his job because he squandered the goods and talents entrusted to him by his master. Before news of his dismissal becomes public, he strikes a deal with his master’s debtor, to win favour from them. At first glance, Our Lord seems to praise the steward for his dishonesty, but on closer observation, we find that the steward is actually being commended for his shrewdness. He grasps his critical situation and acts with foresight, with vision. The parable emphasises a single point; that we must make proper use of our worldly goods while we still have time to do it. Our Lord says (verse 9); “…use money, tainted as it is, to win friends, and thus makes sure that when it fails you, they will welcome you in the tents of eternity”. In simple language it would be something like; ‘….use wisely, the wealth entrusted to you, and secure your salvation in the eternal Kingdom of God’. Our Lord’s concern is that we spend as much foresight and energy on spiritual matters, to secure a place in heaven – even in our use of earthly things. He ends his parable so eloquently with the words: “No servant can be the slave of two masters……You cannot be the slave both of God and money”. God bless Fr Michael

He was lost and is found

24th Ordinary Time As the saying goes: “to err is human, and to forgive is Divine”. It is a good phrase for the Year of Mercy which is coming to a close. All three readings for this Sunday focus attention on Divine forgiveness, and of course, our human waywardness that is in need of forgiveness. Each reading considers this notion of Mercy from a somewhat different angle. In the Gospel, God seeks out sinners like the shepherd who seeks the single lost sheep, and like the woman who searches for the one lost coin, and like the father who runs out to embrace the prodigal son. In all the cases, the one did the seeking out did so rather ‘un-calculatingly’. We cannot begin to understand forgiveness until we begin to love. Love and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin. This love, taken to the extreme, sees the Divine One giving us Himself in the Eucharist. This love, taken to the extreme, also sees Him giving us the very sacrament that takes away our sins – the sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession. All we have to do is to confess our sins with a contrite and repentant heart before a priest – and all is forgiven. Perhaps it is time to think about going to confession, and learn to experience God’s forgiveness through it. Remember, it is God who seeks us before we begin to think about seeking God. May we response to Divine love and mercy. Kyrie Eleison Fr Michael

None of you can be my disciples unless…..

(23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) As Our Lord approached the city of Jerusalem, He was aware of the demands on Him and He was anxious too that His followers recognise them. Using rather harsh parables captured in this Sunday’s Gospel, (Lk 14:25-33) He asked His disciple to reflect on their commitment and the cost entailed: “None of you can be my disciple unless he gives up all his possessions”. There is no escaping the point of the parables.  Perhaps a better perspective is to see, not so much the ‘giving up’, for giving up is a loss, but to see rather Our Lord asking us to exchange earthly things for better things – things that are eternal.  Whatever the cost and challenges demand, it is also assuring to know that we do not journey on our own.  The eternal love of God supports our human frailty as we continue to travel with Christ on our pilgrim way.  In Christ, God has gone before us in what He demands of us. At every Mass we are part of the paschal mystery whereby Christ’s dying destroyed our death and His rising restored our life.  We enter into this dying/rising.  In a way, the Christian journey of faith is patterned on the Eucharistic Celebration: death to old ways and resurrection to new ways of being.  This dying/rising is essentially needed if we are to grow in maturity into the stature of Christ demanded of all Christians; i.e. a constant conversion of heart to a better way of being.  Our ‘death to old ways’ naturally comes with a personal cost – at least in the earthly sense – but a reward, in the Spiritual sense.     Christ be our Light                                 Fr Michael

Full of Grace…

The final cry of the most ancient Marian prayer known as the Sub tuum praesidium is: “Oh blessed and glorious Virgin!” There is record of the use of the hymn right back to the fourth century, and it could even have been used much earlier. The early Christians acknowledged that God blessed Mary in many ways, including that of already being in a glorified state, a state to which other members of Christ’s mystical body can only look forward to at the end of the world. This was also echoed in Sacred Scriptures, especially in the Gospel of Luke. First, in the greeting of the Angel Gabriel: “Hail, full of grace …” and “Fear not, Mary, for thou has found grace with God…” (vv. 28 and 30), then in Elizabeth’s words to Mary when their meeting let to John the Baptist leaping in her womb; “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb” (v. 42). Mary’s own words tell us something: “From henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (v. 48). In other words, the early Christians have always that Mary’s earthly life was crowned with the blessing of being in a state that when she finished her earthly life she would be assumed into heaven. The feast of the Assumption celebrates this, and it is a feast celebrated in the Church in the fifth century and became a universal Feast by the seventh century. In 1950, Pius XII solemnly declared this belief to an article of faith using these words: “the Immaculate Mother of God, Mary ever Virgin, on the completion of her earthly pilgrimage, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory.” The Feast of the Assumption falls in the 15 August. It is also the patronal feast of the Catholic people in New Zealand. It is one of two Holy Days of Obligation for New Zealand Catholics (The other is Christmas Day. They are Holy Days of Obligation regardless of when they fall, including Saturdays and Mondays). The New Zealand bishop has transferred this feast day for 2016 to Sunday the 14th August. Mary assumed into heaven, pray for us – and since the 10am Mass, the OLV school is in attendance, may Mary’s prayer be on the staff and students in a special way. God bless, Fr Michael

See That You Are Dressed for Action

In all the readings for this Sunday, there is a call to be ready for God: “see that you are dressed for action, and have your lamps lit”. Paganism at the time of Jesus is not like paganism in New Zealand today. In the past, paganism was still like a kind of a ‘religion’ in the sense that most pagans still had a belief in some kind of god/s and a willingness to pray to god/s. The paganism of our time is very different. What pervades our societies today is a paganism that is hostile to things of God, and at times, even pro-actively set out to attack religions. It is a paganism that asserts the meaningless of life, thus it tends towards materialism. I would like to think that an increase in youth suicides in our country, and even the push for the legalization of euthanasia are but consequences of the spread of our modern day paganism in our society. Conscious of the modern day paganism, Pope Saint John Paul II, used to say to youth gathering at World Youth Day: “Do not be content with anything less than the highest ideals!” ….”Do not let yourselves be dispirited by those who are disillusioned with life, and have grown deaf to the deepest and most authentic desires of their heart,” “You are right to be disappointed with hollow entertainment and passing fads, and with aiming at too little in life,” he adds. “If you have an ardent desire for the Lord, you will steer clear of the mediocrity and conformism so widespread in our society.” He continues: “In this secularized age, when many of our contemporaries think and act as if God did not exist, or are attracted to irrational forms of religion, it is you, dear young people, who must show that faith is a personal decision that involves your whole life.” …..”Our personal encounter with Christ bathes life in new light, sets us on the right path, and sends us out to be his witnesses.” In effect, the Pope calls youth to become missionaries in today´s society. As Christian’s our faith necessarily demand that we witness to it. To witness is to evangelise. But to evangelise is not simply ‘to convert’ someone; it is more of drawing others to the truth. God came to us as a unifying force, showing us ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’. Christ’s death on the cross is the calling of all humanity, drawing them into one with God and with each other. The Mass, is that same sacrifice that calls all peoples, all nations together….. Thus to be ‘dressed for action have our lamps lit’ as Our Lord says in the Gospel, must include participation in the Eucharistic Sacrifice. As they fathers of the second Vatican council said: “it is the source and summit of Christian life”. Are we dressed for action?

Embracing God’s Plan

(18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C) The goal of the Christian life is to purify our hearts and minds from worldly ways and earthly thinking and set our lives on the way to total abandonment and trust in the Father. It is He who offers us His Kingdom through His Son in the Spirit with the sole motive of making everyone of us part of His Kingdom. The one who understands this great treasure and surrender himself or herself totally to Him becomes a truly happy person in his or her life. This person has all his or her hope on Him and thus already established himself or herself in the Kingdom of God. He or she has no worries of “worldly philosophy” just because he or she is well focused and know’s very well what exactly real joy is. The Gospel of this Sunday speaks to us the same message. Luke tells us that our security does not depend on any human or material foundation. Our true security comes from our total trust in God, and placing our material securities in the treasuries of the eternal kingdom. St Paul understood it very clearly when he wrote, “I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For him I have accepted the loss of everything, and I look on everything as so much rubbish if only I can have Christ” (Phil 3:8). Our faith in Jesus Christ is the true treasure and our commitment to the Kingdom of God is our priority as Christians. It is in the Kingdom all our joys and securities are stored. Hence, let us embrace God’s plan and programme as ours. “The things that we love tells us what we are” Thomas Aquinas. Fr Sam

Passionist Family Groups Indoor Games Afternoon

On Sunday 24th July 2016 OLV Passionist Family Groups (PFG)  hosted a games afternoon for all our PFG’s  where Chess, Checkers, Table Tennis and a host of board games were played followed by a lunch of soup and rolls.  

Ask and it will be given to you….

Some people want to pray but do not know how. The disciple in today’s Gospel (Luke 11:1-13), who, after having watched Our Lord praying, said, “Lord, teach us to pray”. Thanks to that exchange we now have in our treasury of spiritual things, the prayer that is now known as the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”. So how do we pray? Perhaps one of the ways to learn how to pray is to ponder the content of ‘The Lord’s Prayer’. The prayer relates us to God as ‘Abba, or Father (Daddy!)”. Pondering on this alone can take us into great spiritual depth. We can also take the prayer apart and meditate on the seven articles that are embedded in it. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has some of the most beautiful explanation on prayer. Check it out, and here are some of the beautiful paragraphs: 2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.” But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart? He who humbles himself will be exalted; humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,” are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.” 2560 “If you knew the gift of God!” The wonder of prayer is revealed beside the well where we come seeking water: there, Christ comes to meet every human being. It is he who first seeks us and asks us for a drink. Jesus thirsts; his asking arises from the depths of God’s desire for us. Whether we realize it or not, prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst with ours. God thirsts that we may thirst for him. 2561 “You would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” Paradoxically our prayer of petition is a response to the plea of the living God: “They have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water!” Prayer is the response of faith to the free promise of salvation and also a response of love to the thirst of the only Son of God. God bless Fr Michael

Parish General Meeting Minutes 2016

….you fret about so many things.

Last Sunday’s Gospel passage we were given the story of the Good Samaritan. It drew our attention to the practical demands of fraternal charity. This Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 10:38-42) of Mary and Martha stresses the value of quiet communion with the Lord. We might be inclined to condemn Mary for the apparent selfishness of her conduct or we might condemn Martha for the note of irritability that we detect in her complaint about her sister’s lack of co-operation in the task of serving. Our Lord sighs at Martha’s undue agitation. Some erroneously think that Martha was being criticised by Our Lord – but on closer reading: He said “Mary has chosen the better part”. It means Martha has chosen something good too, but that Mary’s choice was better. Our Lord refers to something more spiritual, namely, to the need to pay ‘undivided attention’ to the things that truly matter (cf. 1 Cor. 7:35) – things that endure: faith, hope and love. One must set one’s heart on the kingdom of God (Luke 12:31) first rather than worry about other things. Our Lord’s approval of Mary’s eagerness to take the opportunity of listening to His word teaches us that as His followers we cannot allow ourselves to become so agitated in the pursuit of external duties that we never have a moment for prayerful recollection. I like to think that in daily life, both are needed, but we must never neglect the importance of things spiritual. When was the last time we had a Spiritual Retreat, a moment of silent recollection with Our Lord, or simply a space in our daily lives to encounter Him in prayer? Who do we best resemble in this Sunday’s Gospel? In His name, Fr Michael

Who is my neighbour?

Who is my neighbour? In the Gospel (Luke 10:25-37) for this Sunday’s Mass, Our Lord approved of the reply which the lawyer made to his own question about how salvation is to be achieved; “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself”. The answer is very clear, except for one word; ‘neighbour’. Who is my neighbour? Only St Luke’s account continues with the question about the identification of one’s neighbour. Jesus teaches in the exquisite parable of the Samaritan that neither nationality nor religion nor race can set a limit to our responsibility of coming to the aid of another human being. To grasp better Jesus’ teachings, one needs to be aware that there is irreconcilable hostility, as mutual as it was deep, that marked the relationship, between Samaritans and Jews. Through the parable, Jesus is teaching is that the duty to help someone in need is not limited by personal feeling or inclination. The Samaritan showed by his action that he correctly recognised ‘a neighbour’ even in the hated Jew. Human fraternity imposes duties that extend beyond the realm of friends, colleagues and acquaintances. While sometimes it is easier said than put into practice, it is still nevertheless the very essence of being human itself to help another human in need. How do we respond to the current refugee crisis if it happening in our own country if our own livelihood may appear to be compromised? After asking that, we should also ask: what if we were the refugees……?! After Jesus drew the right answer from the lawyer on who was the ‘neighbour’, the lawyer implicitly and perhaps grudgingly, admitted it was the Samaritan ( “….the one who showed pity”) He then urged the lawyer to imitate in his own life what he had recognised as a truly neighbourly act; “Go, and do the same yourself’ We cannot love and worship God without paying attention to the neighbour who are in need. In Christ, Fr Michael

Ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest

The message that “the kingdom of God is near” has been the message since the days of John the Baptist. The Baptist proclaimed it to the crowds who came to the Jordan. Jesus taught it at His first appearance; and now (in the Gospel passage) the disciples are sent out to spread this as the keynote of their teaching (Luke 10:1-12, 17-20). Unfortunately it took a long time even for the disciples to understand what “the Kingdom of God” really means. They wanted some sort of visible power and pomp (e.g. naively thrilled at the power of ejecting devils). One Priest (Alfred Loisy, 1857-1949) who was a Biblical scholar even tried to put a negative spin to this by saying: “Jesus preached the Kingdom, but the Church happened!”. His was a time when several people/scholar got caught up with the erroneous idea of drawing a dichotomy between what they called “the Jesus of History” and the “Christ of Faith” – i.e that the ‘real Jesus’ was something else the Church has been teaching throughout the centuries. Some who embraces that line of thought ended up reducing Him to another mere mortal (ie an old heresy re-packaged!). Loisy was so against the Church that he was eventually excommunicated for His many heretical teachings! (By the way, if you want to read a beautiful integration of the ‘Jesus of History’ and the ‘Christ of faith’ – i.e. that there is no dichotomy between the two, read the scholarly writings of Pope Benedict XVI, his books, ‘Jesus of Nazareth” – Part I and II). So how should we understand ‘the Kingdom of God’? One should be able to make the connection that the ‘Kingdom of God’ can be taken as Jesus Himself: the expected Messiah, but one who is also Divine, God incarnated man. It wouldn’t be wrong to substitute ‘the Kingdom of God’ with ‘Christ’. Thus, even when we pray ‘Thy Kingdom come….” we could think of it as the hope of the decisive moment of the full manifestation of God’s Kingdom at His Second Coming. Perhaps it is precisely when God’s Kingship, when the true God Himself, is fully recognised by humanity that the Kingdom will manifest itself fully on earth, as it is in heaven. There is much praying to do, and much witnessing to do before that happens. And, as Our Lord said, we must ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest The Kingdom of God is near…..for God is near….. May His Kingdom Come Fr Michael

I will follow you ……..

I will follow you… Ten chapters of St Luke’s Gospel, or roughly a third of the Gospel of Luke, are about the Journey of Christ to Jerusalem. Scripture scholars often referred to these ten chapters as the Great Journey of Jesus. The Great Journey starts with this Sunday’s Gospel passage, which is the beginning of Chapter 9; “As the time drew near for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.” A different translation says: as the time drew near for him to be taken up, he resolutely turned his face towards Jerusalem. This Great Journey ends in chapter 19, with His arrival at Jerusalem. St Luke the Evangelist uses the teachings of Christ, in the framework of Christ’s journey to Jerusalem to give us some guide in our own life’s journey. In life’s journey, there are always challenges and obstacles. In the ten chapters, we read not just of obstacles and difficulties but also the qualities – captured in Our Lord’s teachings – that will be demanded of us to navigate to the final destination. In these chapters we come across teachings like the parables of the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the widow and the judge, the story of Martha and Mary, the lost sheep, indissolubility of marriage…and so on. All the teaching pertain to the journey of life – the attitude to have, and values to observe, the dangers to watch, the difficulty along the way, the need for prayers, compassion and the concern for others and then the final reward. Our Lord’s Great Journey is presented to us as the type of journey each one of us must make to get to our heavenly Jerusalem. Luke encourages us to walk resolutely towards our own Jerusalem, the word ‘retreat’ or ‘defeat’ is never mentioned. At all costs we must advance, and if we stumble and fall, we follow our master in picking ourselves up and move forward again. Read the details of chapters 9-19 for yourselves, and at the end of it, perhaps lay out in your mind, the worldly things with which you have preoccupied yourselves, and the spiritual pursuits you have in your lives. Sometimes it is good to see things in the right perspective. God bless Fr Michael

But you, Who do you say I am

But you,… who do you say I am? Three Fridays ago we started our First DVD Session on “Catholicism”. In the first session, Fr Robert Barron (now Bishop) sheds light and explains the conviction of the Catholic Faith that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah, and the revelation of God become man. He shows how Jesus fulfils the prophecies of the expected Messiah, according to the Old and New Testaments, but in a very unexpected manner. The living legacy of Christ, God and Messiah, is continually proclaimed by the Church, from the beginning, and out of that came the inspired word of God, the Bible. Many sadly, get it wrong by reducing Christianity simply to another ‘Religion of the Book’ – and then takes a subjective interpretation of the Bible. No, we are the religion of the Person of Christ. Christianity hinges first and foremost on the identity of Jesus Without getting His identity right, His teachings can be erroneously reduced to just another one of many religious observation or message. It is not surprising that the question of His identity permeates Sacred Scriptures. This Sunday’s Gospel passage has Our Lord asking: ‘Who do the crowds say I am?”. When the disciples answered that the people thought He was the reincarnation of one of the ancient prophets, he refocused His question: “But you, who do YOU say I am?” It was St Peter, the first amongst the apostles, who recognised the fullness of Jesus’ identity: “You are the Christ of God”. Jesus is the expected Messiah, but He is also God incarnated man. He is God who without losing His Divinity, assumed our humanity. Do not get me wrong, the ‘Book’ (the Bible), is very important as it the word of God. Scripture Professor, Scott Hahn, a protestant minister who converted to Catholicism spells this out beautifully: “The word of God is Scripture. The Word of God is Jesus. This close association between God’s written word and his eternal Word is intentional and has been the custom of the Church since the first generation. “All Sacred Scripture is but one book, and this one book is Christ, ‘because all divine Scripture speaks of Christ, and all divine Scripture is fulfilled in Christ” (CCC 134). This does not mean that the Scriptures are divine in the same way that Jesus is divine. They are, rather, divinely inspired and, as such, are unique in world literature, just as the Incarnation of the eternal Word is unique in human history” Jesus’ question: ‘Who do you say I AM?” is directed at us too. Unless we come to the right answer, we cannot come close to understanding Christianity. God Bless, Fr Michael

Her many sins have been forgiven…..

Her many sins have been forgiven… In the last few years, we have had children in our parish receiving their First Holy Communion on the feast of Corpus Christ. It was the same this year (ie two Sundays ago). Leading up to their Holy Communion, the children also received the Sacrament of Reconciliation for the first time, or “made their first Confession”. We prepare the children’s parents who were supposed to prepare the children. At one of the meetings, I had expressed to the parents the hope that their children’s experience of God’s forgiveness would be one that is positive: that God’s forgiveness is received with a sense of peace and joy, and of love and healing, of a sense of a chance to start again rather than a feeling of anxiety, fear or unresolved guilt. The children are still young, and no one expects them to come with “big” sins. With a well formed conscience, hopefully, the occasions for “big sins” will be few and far in between in their lives. However, any priest-confessor would agree with me that it is so much more uplifting to come across a repentant ‘big’ sinner with a repentant heart and is overjoyed at receiving forgiveness, than a sinner with a dulled conscience like David (as in the First Reading). This Sunday’s Gospel brings us to the awareness of the response of a sinful woman (Scripture Scholars think she was a prostitute). She was overjoyed – after all the forgiveness was unmerited. She expressed outwardly her joy by wiping Jesus feet with her hair. Often what can be lacking in so many of us is a response of gratitude and love for the gifts we receive. We often put no heart into them. Like God’s Mercy, the Mass too is sometimes taken for granted. The mass should always be a conversion experience for us also for it is another unmerited gift from God, and it is a Gift of God Himself. The words near the end of the First Eucharistic Prayer communicates this: “Though we are sinners, we trust in your mercy and love. Do not consider what we truly deserve, but grant us your forgiveness. ”. May we always find joy in God’s mercy, and in the Gift of Himself in the Eucharist Lord have mercy! Fr Michael

Corpus Christi – First Holy Communion

On Sunday the 29th of May, the Feast of Corpus Christi, 25 children received Holy Communion for the first time. Please pray for them High Resolution photos on a disk are available (ie disks on loan for copying, and to be returned). Photo courtesy of Peter Fleming.

Young Man I tell you to get up….

(10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C) This Sunday, after all the major Feast Days post Easter, we return to the Ordinary Cycle of the Liturgical Year (ie 10th Sunday in Ordinary Time).  The way the Liturgical cycle is set out with Easter being a moving Feast Day, we often do not get a chance to celebrate the 10th Sunday in Ordinary time – which means the readings from this Sunday has not been heard for a long time!!!  The readings, especially the First and the Gospel passage, present us with two widows who have both lost their sons.   Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one would know it is a time of shock, mourning, grief and sometimes even darkness.  The two widows, one of Zeraphath in the first reading and one of Nain in the Gospel face more than just losing their sons.  Because widows in the time of Jesus had no way to support themselves except through doing menial tasks doing odd jobs here and there, their sons would have been their ticket to their survival, and their caregiver when they get old and infirm.  I remember by own grandfather telling me that there is no greater grief than to lose a child for in the natural course of life, normally it is the parents who die first.  Thus the widows’ grief must have been great.    But God was aware of their grief. In the first reading God heard the prayers of Elijah for the widow of Zeraphath and restored her son’s life. This is paralleled in the Gospel when Jesus brought the widow of Nain’s son back to life.  The grief of the widows turned into complete joy.  Jesus Christ has conquered death.  ” the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth itself” the widow of the first reading exclaimed. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” the people of the Gospel added. You can feel the excitement and joy in the people who proclaimed these statements. The two no doubt eventually died at a later time, but it is nevertheless a reminder that Our Lord is the Lord of life.  Essentially this Sunday’s message is a different form of the Easter Message.  At Easter we proclaimed with joy “Alleluia, Christ has risen.”  This joy, though, is not meant to be limited to Easter.  It is the joy to be remembered always, even in the face of the death of our loved ones.  Alleluia, Christ has conquered death.  Our hope is in life eternal, with God and with each other for all eternity. God Bless, Fr Michael

Feast of Corpus Christi

(Corpus CHristi, Year C) This is my body….. This Sunday we celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi – the feat of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. For over 2000 years, the Church celebrates and preserves at its heart, the Eucharist, and all the teachings associated with it: namely that, * under the sign of the consecrated bread and wine, Christ Jesus, risen and glorified, reveals the continuation of His Incarnation; * He is still risen and alive in our midst, to nourish believers with is body and blood; * His one and the same Sacrifice on Calvary is made present through the sacrifice of the Mass; * He is present to us, body, soul and divinity in the species of the Consecrated bread and wine. Yet, how how could we fail to be astonished at the fact that the one who is God, offers Himself as food and drink to his very creatures? The one who is Lord places Himself entirely at our disposition, at our service. It is such an abasement and condescension on His part that we can only stand in bewilderment and awe. Where we can see but bread and wine, we stand before the assertion of His Presence. To all of this astonishment, and to all of the questions we can ask, there is but one response: Everything in the Eucharist derives from love carried to extremes. All emerges from a limitless will to give. The one who consummated His sacrifice on the Cross and crowned it with the triumph of His resurrection also willed that His one and the same offering be re-enacted through all time in the Eucharistic celebration. His offering of Calvary was sufficient, to overflowing, for obtaining salvation and grace for all human beings, yet he chooses to continue to give us a new presence in the Christian assembly. Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ; What a Divine Gift!! What a Divine Ingenuity! What a privilege! Fr Michael

The Holy Trinity

Feast of the Most Holy Trinity In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit…. We believe in the One God in Three Persons: and we refer to this Triune God as the Holy Trinity.  Many people, and especially Muslims, accuse us of believing in three gods – which makes little sense.  No, we believe in ONE God, who was revealed us to be in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   Although the word ‘Trinity” is absent from Sacred Scriptures, the Trinitarian God is alluded to us in many many biblical verses.  One of the early allusions is in the Book of Genesis (remembering that the People of God, Israelites, were very clear about there being only ‘One’ God); In Genesis 1:26: we find: “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”  This verse alone says that God is more than one person, while still remaining one God.  The People of God in the time of Jesus, steeped in a centuries-old tradition of monotheism, was shocked by Jesus’ claim of divinity, not to mention his references to the Holy Spirit.  It sounds blasphemous, and smacks of a return to the polytheism from which the Jews had so long struggled to extricate themselves.  Hence, Our Lord’s claims that “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30) and “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58) provoked attempts to stone him.  Nowhere is it more dramatically displayed than in the Gospel of John, when Jesus heals the paralytic on the Sabbath: “And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath.  But Jesus answered them, ‘My father is working still, and I am working.’  This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn 5:16-18).   In the history of the Church, great minds have to come together to try and explained what God has chosen to reveal to us.  This Revelation or mystery, is something we try to understand not ‘solved’.    May the One and Truine God help us to marvel in the Mystery of His being.                         Fr Michael

Come Holy Spirit….

Pentecost 2016 The word ‘Pentecost’ comes from the Greek worn meaning “fiftieth”.  50 days after the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in a definitive way, igniting them into action to go to the ends of the world to preach the Good News.  It is thus the event that is regarded as the birth of the Church. Sacred Scriptures give us two imageries for the event that is Pentecost: that of fire and wind. (See also Page 3 for other symbolism) Fire speaks of growth, passion, power, growth and intensity.  It also speaks of unpredictability like the pattern of flames leaping.  We see this especially in the lives of the Apostles where each and everyone of them died a martyr’s death, giving witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ in ways they never imagined.  The Christian life, lived in the Spirit, is not a comfortable and complacent one.  Rather, living in the fire of the Spirit means entrusting ourselves to the Spirit’s power and following its unpredictable stirrings.  When it comes to the fire of God’s love, we are not meant to be cautious, discreet, sensible and secure, rather, the readings today speak to us of being sent to inflame the word with that love.    The second image of wind is similar: it is the image of enthusiasm and power, but also force and gentleness.  Wind can blow into hidden places and blows where it wills. But with the wind there is always a choice. We can struggle securely in the shelter of the indoors or we can step out into the wind.  We can use its gentle nature or its strength.     Whichever image we prefer, as Christians, we must open ourselves to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  And when we let God into our lives, often it will seem like a stepping out into the unknown.  Mostly it requires courage and trust.  Always, and especially when we are weak and disheartened, if it is the work of God, the Holy Spirit will be out strength, and our guide. Veni, Sancte Spiritus, Come Holy Spirit… Fr Michael

The Holy Spirit will remind you of all I have said to you…..

The Holy Spirit will remind you of all I have said to you…. We are coming to the close of the Liturgical Season of Easter. After the excitement and celebration of the Resurrection, the Church’s liturgy takes our glance towards Jesus’ “departure”. The Gospel passage (John 14:23-29) for this Sunday is part of what is known as the “farewell discourse of Christ”. It is a record of Our Lord preparing His disciples in advance for His absence. Naturally the Apostles are dejected and apprehensive at the idea of His departure. He gives them a reassurance: He is departing from them – but not deserting them. He promises that the Heavenly Father will make a home in them if they love Him and keep His word. He will remain with the disciples in a very different way with the coming of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who will lead them into a full understanding of what He earlier revealed and taught. It is the Spirit that who assists us in this endeavour too. He remains with them through the Holy Spirit….. In the discourse, Jesus offers the apostles the gift of peace; “My own peace I give you”. This gift is extended to us in our time; if we love him and keep his word. May the Peace of Christ be with you Fr Michael

I have come to serve…

I have come to serve… It is so easy to quote a line from Sacred Scripture. I have come across many who would quote a verse here and there to justify their position or support their argument. As the saying goes, “even the devil quotes Sacred Scriptures’! The Catechism of the Catholic Church sets out the criteria for Biblical Interpretation, and the first criterion is (paragraph 112) is: “Be especially attentive “to the content and unity of the whole Scripture”. Different as the books which compose it may be, Scripture is a unity by reason of the unity of God’s plan, of which Christ Jesus is the center and heart, open since his Passover.” This criterion is so important because quoting a verse from the Bible is so easy to do, and sometimes things can be taken out of context. In our liturgical celebrations, we always read only a short passages from parts of the Bible, and therefore it comes with this inherent danger. We must always remember to read them in the context of a wider scene, and even the whole Bible. Knowing the context gives us a better sense of the richness of the message the words are meant to impart. This Sunday’s Gospel poses one such challenge. The words spoken by Jesus in this Sunday’s Gospel is in the context of being part of the commentary on the gesture of washing the disciples’ feet just before the Institution of the Eucharist. If we turn our memory back to Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and then read the this Sunday passage, we get a better sense of it. In instituting the Mass, Jesus reminds all of us, and especially priests, that by coming to the table of the Eucharist, we are all called to serve others. Today’s Gospel passage highlights an important between the gesture of feet washing (“I have come to serve, and not to be served”) and the Eucharist (“….love one another, as I have loved you”). The commandment to love is expressed also in serving each other. As we come before at the altar let us also make that pledge to try and live His commandment, and through that may everyone know that we are His disciples. God Bless Fr M

I know them and they follow me..

(FOurth Sunday in Easter: Good Shepherd Sunday) I know them and they follow me.. This Sunday’s Gospel passage seems a bit stingy: only about 3 verses (John 10:27-30) !!! If we want to understand what it is trying to say, we practically have to read the whole of Chapter Ten, and better still, to know a bit of background from the Old Testament and life in ancient societies. In ancient societies the people often looked to gifted and righteous rulers for happiness and security. Such a beneficent king in the Greek speaking world was often given the title ‘Saviour’ (sótér). The Israelites of the Old Testament saw such a ruler also as a pastor or shepherd, and the ideal shepherd is well described in the Old Testament (c.f. Ezekiel 34, Psalm 72). History, however, has shown that like all men tarnished by sin, even the best of rulers, were unfaithful to their charge, and so the Lord promised he would himself raise up a shepherd: ‘I shall raise up one shepherd, my servant David, and put him in charge of them to pasture them…’ (Ezek. 34 :23; cf. Jer. 33 :14-16). This messianic shepherd is first and foremost a king, one who would rule justly and benevolently: the Good Shepherd. All the imageries of the prophecy and hope become a reality in the person of Christ. Christ is the Good Shepherd, the fulfilment of the Old Testament Prophecies. Chapter ten of John’s Gospel describes the love between the true Shepherd and His sheep. He knows his own, and they know Him; He gives His life for them. Also in Chapter ten, Jesus talks of himself as the “gate of the sheepfold”. Through Him, and only through Him, can one enter the fold and be saved. John presents to his reader, Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Blessings, Fr Michael P/s The 4th Sunday of Easter is the called Good Shepherd Sunday, and for the last 50 years, is used to promote vocations to the Priesthood and the Religious Life. It is also the World Day of Prayer for vocations.

It is the Lord !!

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear that the disciples of Jesus return to their daily tasks as fishermen. Life goes back to normality of them despite witnessing an incredible event – a life changing event. In some ways, the disciples are like Thomas who wavered in his belief (last week’s Gospel). The earlier appearances of the Lord do not seem to sustain them. Our Lord appears to them again, and after the large catch of fish, the beloved disciple (St John) recognizes Jesus and he says: ‘It is the Lord’. St Peter follows suit and rather unthinkingly or excitedly jumps into the water. The Gospel message is a timely reminder that sometimes we forget that Our Lord comes to us through our daily work and activities. Often someone identifies and points out the Lord to us like John to Peter. With the recognition of Our Lord however, must come a renewed commitment. As in the instance of St Peter, Jesus calls him to feed His flock. What is He calling us to do? At Mass our celebration of the Resurrection continues to focus on our call to follow the Lord Jesus in realistic and concrete ways. The Eucharistic is also an affirmation, in faith, of recognizing Our Lord and His Presence, not just in the Eucharist, but in our lives. May we recognised our Lord in our lives, in others, and most especially in the consecrated Bread and Wine that is His body and blood. After all, He gave us the Eucharist and told us it is Him, His Flesh and Blood for the life of the world. We can only but humbly respond using John’s words: It is the Lord. May we recognize Him always, in the ‘breaking of bread’. Easter Blessings, Fr Michael

My Lord and My God….

My Lord and My God…. This Sunday’s Gospel has led the world to use the term “doubting Thomas’ on anyone who is a skeptic or who refuses to believe without direct person experience. In this Sunday’s Gospel, St Thomas initially refused to believe in the Resurrection of Jesus unless he could see and feel the wounds received by Jesus on the cross. Eventually, St Thomas met the Risen Christ and his words were: “My Lord and My God”. In response to Thomas’ confession of faith, the Risen Christ replied: “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe”. In faith, and with faith, it is no longer necessary to experience the physical appearance of the Risen Christ. Faith in Jesus is given through the preaching and witness of the Church who passes on Christ’s teaching and the testimony of the apostles. Furthermore, the Risen Christ continues to be with us through the sacraments – especially in the Eucharist. What we read in the first reading and what has happened since, and is happening now, is how God reaches us and continue to be with us. “My Lord and My God” should be our confession of faith every time we receive the Eucharist, or even come before His Eucharistic Presence.. Alleluia He is Risen Fr Michael

Parish Cycle Ride and Picnic – 28 March 2016

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HOLY WEEK 2016 – Schedule and Explanations

Click link to get a Schedule of all the Holy Week Celebrations and explanations. Please pay attention to the times – especially the Easter VIGIL (ie there is no 6.00pm Mass!!!!) Holy Week 2016

Thy Will Be Done……

This Sunday is Passion or Palm Sunday. It is a prelude to the three sacred days (the Triduum) of Holy Week in which we commemorate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. Palm Sunday introduces us to what is to follow, giving us an overview of what we are about to experience. Our Palm Sunday liturgy is meant to heightened our awareness and lead us into an active participation of Holy Week, and especially the Sacred Triduum.  As palms are blessed and the Gospel story (Lk 19:28-40) of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem proclaimed at the beginning of Mass, Jesus is likened to a saviour-king figure, greeted with blessings and praises. The emotions to be instilled are mixed: it is both one of eager anticipation, and a sense of dread.  The readings and the psalm also fit well into this pattern. They move us from joy to suffering. They both highlight Jesus as a Saviour. St Luke’s account of the passion (Luke 22:14-23:56) is a rich narrative that tells the story of Jesus’ final days, from the Passover celebration of the Last Supper, through Jesus’ agony and trial, to his crucifixion. Luke brings to the fore many human touches in his description but he also sees Jesus as bringing the Old Testament oracles to fulfillment.  ‘Thy will be done….’ Must be  part of a prayer with which we are familiar.  This week, we look at what it really means.                               God bless  Fr Michael P/s Chrism Mass at the Pro-Cathedral, 7.30pm.  At this Mass, the priests renew their vows to serve in their ministry.  We priests feel supported when we have parishioners attending.  There is NO MONDAY MORNING MASS for this reason. The Sacred Oils will be blessed by the Bishop (Bishop Emeritus Basil Meeking, in the absence of a current bishop), and then brought back for parish use.  Mandy Dempsey who will be Baptised, Confirmed and make her First Holy Communion at the Easter Vigil will collect the oil on behalf of the parish.  It will be good to support her to, with your presence, and with your prayers, and good example as Christians.

Go….and Sin no more

Go…. and Sin no more. The Gospel of John records the Scribes and Pharisees showing much animosity towards Our Lord. They make many attempts to trap Him and to discredit Him. Often the trap is set around the ‘Law of God’, in which He would be expected to go against what the People of God knew to be sacrosanct. This Sunday the Gospel gives us one such episode (Jn 8:1-11) whereby He was presented with a woman caught in adultery. (Its interesting how only the woman was dragged into the scene, not the man!) Like the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament Jesus vindicates the woman, confounds the hostile authorities and proves Himself a wise man. In the Old Testament Daniel proclaimed Susannah innocent. Our Lord does more. He offers pardon and peace to the woman. But He does not condone her sins: “Go …. And sin no more”. Arguably, I would say it the perfect passage for the Year of Mercy! His gesture reminds the audience (and us!) that the purpose of the Law is not for trapping someone, nor enforced through the act of being vigilantes – but it is there to lead us to love better, God and our neighbour. The call to repentance is a continuous call. It is a call to a deeper union with the Heavenly father and to each other; and often the response requires changes in life and in lifestyle. In Christ, Fr Michael

Counting Down to Holy Week and the Holy Triduum

triduum 2016

He was lost and is now found…

He was lost and is found… The Forth Sunday of Lent is also called “Laetare” Sunday. Laetare is Latin for “rejoice.” It’s kind of like an invitation to step back and take a breath. Just for today, take a break from the extra-serious and ‘heavy’ side of Lent. Time also to rejoice….. Not surprising, all the readings have a common theme of an invitation to rejoice, to celebrate. The first reading describes the end of the Hebrew’s quest to be delivered from slavery and their entry into the Promised Land. They celebrated the Passover to recall and relive – to make ‘present’ the moment of their liberation from slavery, and experienced the abundance of their new home. There was a cost; the manna stopped, and they had to work to enjoy their harvests. The second speaks of a new creation, and that is cause for celebration. It also comes with a cost: this new creation requires us to be reconciled to God. And it calls us to invite others to reconciliation. What a wonderful message for the present Year of Mercy! And the Gospel reading, we have once more the story of the Prodigal Son (perhaps it should be known as the ‘forgiving father’?). In the figure of the Father, we heard of God rejoicing at the conversion of heart of a lost son. When as sinner repent, it is really an occasion for heaven to rejoice. The father celebrates in a big way, the return of the son, for he according to the father, the son “was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found”. This is how God rejoices at every repentant heart, at the return of every sinner. Come to be reconciled at the parish Lenten Reconciliation on ??? – several priests will be here.

Unless you repent you will al perish…

Unless you repent you will all perish….. Kharma is an idea that is found in many religions, especially those in the east. It proposes that our fate and destiny is a result of our previous action. Therefore if someone does ‘something bad’, something bad will happen in return. Although the idea of “Kharma” is not part of the Christian faith, many people, including Christians often expresses in an unthinking way. Or course we Christians believe in the final judgment, and those who do evil may not achieve that final goal in life, which is full union with God……that is not Kharma! We also believe in forgiveness and repentance, and of course salvation. The latter is what God offers us despite our failures. We need to be open to His grace. In this Sundays’ Gospel passage, we see the idea of Kharma expressed by the people who approached Jesus. Pilate had killed some Galileans offering sacrifices, and he mingled their blood with that of the sacrifice they were offering (…to mock them?). The people thought it must have been the sinful ways of the Galileans that such a thing happen to them. Jesus challenged their wrong thinking. The thing is, anyone can be harmed by a bad person (like Pilate) or by accidents or natural forces (like the falling tower). We can all lose our lives even if we are good people. But we know by faith that when we die we will be judged by Christ. Therefore, it is vital that we be ready at every moment to give an account of our lives. Twice Our Lord says to his audience and each one of us. If you do not repent you will perish! The tree that does not bear fruit is like the person who is in the state of mortal sin. The first good fruit he should bear is repentance. After that can come many other good works. The passage is about repentance – not kharma! And Kharma is not Christian. The journey of faith is also a journey of continuous repentance – that we may bear good fruit. God bless Fr M

This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to Him.

Sometimes I wonder why the Church gives us the Gospel (Luke 9:28-36) passage on the Transfiguration in Lent, especially when later on in August we celebrate it as a Feast Day.  Perhaps it is because as we move through Lent, and the darkness of the Cross looms more and more and it is good also to get a glimpse of what lies beyond the cross.  The Transfiguration gives us a preview: beyond the cross is Jesus’ glory.  Beyond the darkness of the cross, there is light.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: ‘For a moment, Jesus discloses His divine glory, confirming Peter’s confession.  He also reveals that He will have to go by the way of the cross at Jerusalem in order to enter into His glory’ (CCC, para. 555).   The Transfiguration is witnessed by Moses and by Elijah.  The former is the lawgiver of the Old Testament and the latter a representative of the prophets. This august group, deep in conversation, are in sharp contrast with the three frightened tired disciples who find it difficult to keep awake.  The human witnesses of the great event pale into insignificance with the appearance of the Heavenly Father, symbolised by the cloud of the Spirit and in His testimony to the Son.  This episode parallels Yahweh’s manifestation to Moses on Mt Sinai, in which the Israelites witnessed the “glory” of God and “heard His voice” (Deut 5:24).   May Jesus’ Transfiguration help us with our faith, may it strengthen our hope, and may love conquers all.                        God bless,  Fr Michael

Eternal Rest to Bishop Barry

Bishop Barry passed away peacefully at 3.30am on Saturday 13th February 2016, at 74 years of age. He was the 9th Bishop of Christchurch and has served as the Bishop of the Diocese since 2007. Haere atu e te Rangatira o te Hahi, i roto i te korowai o te Atua. Moe mai e Pa, moe mai. May he rest in peace His funeral is at 1.00pm, St Mary’s Pro Cathedral. The burial will be at Bromley Cemetery

You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone

You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone This First Sunday of Lent we are presented with the Gospel account that is known as the “temptations of Christ” (Luke 4:1-13). His forty days in the desert reflects our Lenten season of 40 days. Lent is the liturgical season to look again at our spiritual effort, at how we align our lives with God’s will. We use the 40 days of Lent as a time of denying ourselves (fasting), prayer and almsgiving in preparation for Easter. We learn to ‘deny ourselves’ as a way to learn to fight temptations and do a bit of penance. We pray more to get closer to God, and we reach out to those less fortunate than us, because Our Lord tells us when we do it to the least of our brothers and sisters, we do it to him. IN short Lent is a time of Spiritual Exercises to enable us to worship the One true God better, and serve Him alone. The temptations of Our Lord were temptations to take Him away from His mission. It is in a way a presentation of our lives’ temptations: the temptation to do our will, rather than God’s; the temptation to seek one’s own glory even in religious matters; the temptation to seek the easy way out and give up when the going gets tough; the temptation to forget that the source of Christian life is to be found in the death and resurrection of Christ. We started Lent with Ash Wednesday with the words imparted to us when receiving the ashes on the foreheads: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel”. Let us pray for the strength to do so. Have Mercy Lord, for we have sinned, Fr Michael

From now on it is men you will catch….

(5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C – 7th February 2016) In this Sunday’s Gospel St Luke recorded Jesus teaching from Simon’s boat. St Luke’s intention is to emphasize the importance of the figure of Simon in the scheme of things.  Later, Jesus will rename him Peter, or “Cephas”, the “rock” on which he will ‘build his Church”.  In this Sunday’s episode, Our Lord instructs Simon about where to lower the fishing nets after he and his companions have been fishing throughout the night and fail to catch anything.  Although initially Simon protested saying that such an effort will be futile, eventually he lowers his nets into the deeper water as directed. So many fish are caught that the nets begin to tear. In the ensuing dialogue, Our Lord gives Simon a new task, telling him that he is to become a different kind of fisherman: a fisher of men.  No longer will he just catch fish; instead he will catch people. In these words, we hear the beginning of the leadership role that Jesus gives to Simon (Peter) within the community of disciples.  Simon Peter’s task will be to bring others to Jesus, in the boat that is the Church, the Catholic Church, the universal Church.  In the Catholic Church we have an unbroken line of the successor of Peter, and we call him the Pope. In our time, we continue to speak of Peter’s leadership and influence in the Church, and his unifying role in the one faith.  But the Church’s mission is not just the responsibility of the Pope, or the priests, or the religious, it is the responsibility of each and every baptized.  All who are baptized participate in Peter’s task, in the mission of the Church, when they bring people to Christ through the example and positive influence of their lives. God Bless Fr Michael

This is Joseph’s Son, Surely……

(Sunday 31st January, 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C) This Sunday’s Gospel reading continues from Last Sunday’s, whereby Jesus begins his public ministry with a inaugural discourse in the synagogue at Nazareth. At the beginning, He receives the admiration of the people of His hometown. But things changed quickly when He began to challenge their ideas and conviction. Then rejection sets in…… He quipped: “I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country”. Things have not changed much in our time. When we hear words pleasing to us, we accept them, but when the truth challenges our conscience, we often deny it – and we become hostile to the bearer of the truth. I would say the Catholic Church has survived the test of time not just because She is Divine Institution, but because she has preached the Gospel ‘in season and out of season’ in many areas. Go and make a stand on basic truths like ‘marriage is between a man and a woman’’, or ‘abortion is the taking of an innocent life’, or see whether you are rejected or not. Yet, deep down in each and every one of us, we would like to think that we are the product of a mother and a father who love each other and love us. We live in a world tarnished my sin, and sometimes the truth is obscured by the ways of the world. We Christians are called not to be a condemning voice, but a prophetic voice. The message of the Church – our message – must be what Jesus brought: one of Love and of new life. His love, poured out by the Spirit, reaches out to all; it endures all things and leads us to the Truth. We are called to participate in that love. And in that participation, we are also likely to face rejection and contradiction like our Lord and Master. If we have never once been rejected or face ridicule or being made to feel uncomfortable for being a Christian, chances are we have not really lived our faith in the unbelieving world. Chances are, we have not a prophetic voice. May we always have the courage of our convictions, and clarity of mind to explain it to others. God bless Fr Michael

I have come to proclaim liberty to captives….

(3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time) Many Israelites of Jesus’ time expected God to send a Messiah who would liberate Israel from the political domination of the Romans.  In this Sunday’s Gospel, we are given the opening lines of Luke’s Gospel (1:1-4, 4:14-21), in which Our Lord read the text of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2) in the synagogue.  After reading it, he told the people that the coming of the Messiah, as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, was being fulfilled in his own person and in His preaching.  He came to liberate them from sin, rather than from political subjugation.   That is the Good News, for with sin comes death.  Sin comes both in personal form, and in institutional form.  As a nation we have introduced laws and legislation that takes away the nature of the family*.  In many areas the ‘horse has bolted’, but there are still many other issues in which we need to make a stand, for example, the legalisation of Euthanasia and assisted suicide.  Strangely enough, in the front page of the Christchurch Press on the 19th January, it would appeared that many NZers are abhorred that there are so many suicides and attempts at suicides in our community, yet at the same time, there are those who want to legalise Euthanasia and assisted suicide.    As they say: “Go figure”.   The dismantling of healthy family life and the embracing of the culture of death are structures of sin that dominates our lives and our communities.  We, as members of the Church founded by Christ, are called to proclaim, certainly in words, but more so in deed, the Good News of Christ.  If we as a Church, as members of the Body of Christ, do not lead and act on social issues and injustices, then all the Church’s preaching will have little effect.  Pope Paul VI, said:  “[Jesus]’ way is not, as you know, a movement of the political or temporal order; it calls rather for the conversion of hearts, for liberation from all temporal encumbrances. It is a call to love”.  The question is, have we acted upon or make a stand against any of these issues? (see page 3) As we gather at the Eucharist, we are reminded again of our duty.    Blessings,  Fr Michael The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes the nature of the family in these words: 2201. The conjugal community is established upon the consent of the spouses. Marriage and the family are ordered to the good of the spouses and to the procreation and education of children. The love of the spouses and the begetting of children create among members of the same family personal relationships and primordial responsibilities. 2202. A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated. 2203. In creating man and woman, God instituted the human family and endowed it with its fundamental constitution. Its members are persons equal in dignity. For the common good of its members and of society, the family necessarily has manifold responsibilities, rights, and duties.

You Are My Son, The Beloved….

Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord, 10th January 2016 This Sunday the Church brings to a close the Christmas season with the celebration of the Solemnity of the Baptism of Our Lord. Last Sunday we celebrated the feast of the Epiphany, the manifestation of Our Lord as Light of the Nation. This feast of the Baptism can be regarded as the “Second” Epiphany. Our Lord received the Baptism He did not need, and in doing so, manifested or revealed to us the sanctification of water as a means of salvation. Also, the Biblical accounts, on this occasion, the One God appeared in three persons, The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Not surprisingly, in the Eastern Church this feast is called Theophany (manifestation of God). Our Lord, with His baptism, conferred upon the water the power of the true Baptism which would remove all the sins of the world. As the Baptist put it, pointing to Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God, behold Him Who takes away the sin of the world.” May we lead all to the water of life….. Happy New Year, God bless Fr Michael

Blessed are you among women…

(4th Sunday of Advent, Year C) The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent gives us the scene of the ‘Visitation’, one of the Joyful Mysteries we pray in the Rosary.  Elizabeth’s experience of her baby (John the Baptist) leaping in her womb parallels that of Rebekah in Genesis 25.  As Rebekah’s experience signalled the pre-eminence of Jacob over his older brother Esau (Gen 25:22-23), so the similar experience of Elizabeth was a sign that Jesus would be greater than his older cousin.  The intention of St Luke’s account here is to make it clear that Jesus is the expected Messiah. Enlightened by the prophetic spirit, Elizabeth is aware of Mary’s secret: she is the mother of her ‘Lord’, that is to say, of the Messiah. This is what Elizabeth said of Mary that she is ‘blessed among women’.  Elizabeth went on to praise Mary’s unhesitating submission to God’s plan for her and her great faith:  ‘…blessed is she who believed….. ‘  Indeed blessed are those who believe – for believing brings hope, hoping challenges us to love and loving makes a place for Jesus in our heart.    May the peace and love that is the Gift of Christmas find a place in you this Christmas, and beyond. See you are at ChristMasses on the 25th                     Fr Michael

Jesus is the Joy of Our Soul

(3rd Sunday of Advent Year C) The third Sunday of Advent is called Gaudete Sunday. “Gaudete” is a Latin word meaning ‘Rejoice’. All of us are today invited to rejoice that the Lord is near. We are now half way through our preparation. The Solemnity of our Christmas draws closer and our own redemption gets nearer. This tells us that our soul should rejoice in the Lord. In the words of St Paul “…always happy in the Lord” Our real joy is in a way informed by John the Baptist in the Gospel today. “He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire”. Joy is the fruit of the Spirit, which is the foundation of our Christian life. Jesus, in the Gospel of John makes this aspect of joy very clear “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.” ( John 15:11) As we wait with Mary to celebrate the Birth of her Son, we who have been Baptised in Christ, are called to share the person of Jesus to others. This is our real joy. Proclamation of Gospel of Jesus Christ is a joy. So, as we wait with Mary in this season of Advent, let us try to share the joy of Coming Messiah who by overcoming the power of death, has given us eternal joy in its fullness. May this Gaudete Sunday bring joy to every one of you and to your homes, friends, relatives and work mates. Let us unreservedly share this joy. Let the face of the earth shine on this Joy.”Rejoice in the Lord”. Father Sam

Prepare a way for the Lord

(2nd Sunday of Advent, Year C) Our Advent Preparation would not be complete without the figure of St John the Baptist – the pre-cursor of Christ. John as we know preached the call to conversion – to repent – meaning, to have a ‘change of heart’ (metanoia). The best preparation for the second coming of the Christ and His heavenly kingdom is through conversion — turning heart and mind from sin and rebellion. It sounds like a contradiction, but there is no greater freedom that for us to submit to God’s word and will for our lives. John the Baptist bridged the Old and New Testaments, and as such he stood at pivotal juncture in the history of God’s dealing with His people. He was the last of the Old Testament prophets who point the way to the Messiah. He was the first of the New Testament witnesses and martyrs. He knew what Jesus the Messiah would accomplish through his death and resurrection — pardon for our sins and eternal life for all who would believe in his name. Hence we hear John’s words at every Mass: “ Behold, the Lamb of God….. Behold Him who takes away the sins of the world”. Prepare a way for the Lord………………… God bless, Fr Michael

Watch Yourselves, or Your Hearts will be Coarsened

(29th November 2015, 1st Sunday in Advent, Year C) This Sunday we start the first Sunday of the Liturgical Year.  The Readings are now from “Year C’.  Advent is a time of preparation: preparing to celebrate the feast of God’s Coming to us (Christmas), and preparing to meet Him again, when He comes at the end of time. The prescriptions embedded in the readings for the preparation are relatively simple: have a change of heart, and work to move away from sinning, pray and do not be taken by surprise. Perhaps some of us may have heard this too often and that they are too easily ignored?. The second reading calls for making progress in ‘the kind of life that we are meant to live’.  In the Gospel, our Lord asks us to watch ourselves or our hearts will be coarsened.  Contrast these messages by the “loveless-ness” that appear in the world: terrorism, violence, hatred, confrontation, polarization, racism.  Living a world tarnished by sin, it is easy to take on board all the not-so-good things, sometimes without realising it.  We know we can all do better – we are called to rise above our human brokenness with the help of God’s grace.  Advent is a time to make God’s Kingdom felt again, through the way we live our lives and embrace His teaching.                          Come Lord Jesus,   Fr Michael   P/s This year, we use again the Advent Wreathe to mark the season.

He Comes to Rule

(Feast of Christ the King, 2015) The feast of Christ the King was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925.  Nowadays it is celebrated at the end of the liturgical year (or the 34th Week).  That means, next Sunday, a new liturgical year begin with the season of Advent (and for those of you who have a Missal, the readings will move on to the set for Year C for Sundays, and Year II for weekdays) The feast of Christ the King is like an antidote to secularism which leaves God out of the human psyche, where life is lived and organised as if God did not exist. The feast is intended to proclaim in a striking and effective manner Christ’s royalty over individuals, families, society, governments, and nations.  Hence the Mass for the Feast of Christ the King brings to the fore, several titles for Christ’s royalty over humanity: Christ is God, the Creator of the universe and hence wields a supreme power over all things; “All things were created by Him Christ is our Redeemer, He purchased us by His precious Blood, and made us His property and possession; Christ is Head of the Church, “holding in all things the primacy”; God bestowed upon Christ the nations of the world as His special possession and dominion. Christ is the King of a Kingdom, not of this world. Christus Vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat… Fr Michael

Nobody knows the day nor the hour…

33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time… This Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 13:24-32) is part of St Mark’s Apocalyptic (i.e. end times) Discourse.  Mark recorded for us the description which Jesus gave about the sufferings and tribulations that his disciples will experience. Our Lord spoke also of the final triumph when, the heavenly ‘Son of Man’, will come and gather His elect from the ends of the earth. Just as the appearance of leaves on a fig tree points to the certainty of summer, so too the disciples’ hope of a renewed earth will certainly be proven true.  But, our Lord also reminded us that no one knows when the end times are.  What is important is not to be anxious of when it might happen, but to be alert to it the fulfillment of our hope.  Doomsayers have come and gone preaching and predicting a certain date and they have been all wrong.  Most of us will meet God in death rather than in His Second Coming!  As Christians we must be alert to keep our hopes  alive in God’s final triumph. We are not simply to sit around and do nothing, or live a life forgetting not only the end times but the shortness of our earthly journey.  Our waiting for the Lord must not be a passive wait, but an active search for His presence and His call in the way we live our lives. He knocks on the doors of our lives – each day – and in various ways.  To triumph with Him, we must be ready…. Christus Vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat…                        Fr Michael

This Poor widow has put more in

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) This poor widow has put more in….. We live an interesting time when people are quick to claim their “rights” to this and that, but hardly anyone seems to mention their duties and responsibilities. In the days of old, Catholics used to have to learn what their responsibilities are as Catholics. As listed in the Catechism, the Duties of Catholics include; 1. To attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation and rest from servile labour. 2. To receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation at least once a year, (and especially if aware of committing a mortal sin). 3. To receive Holy Communion at least once a year, between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday. 4. To observe the fast days and abstinence days established by the Church. 5. To contribute to the material support of the Church I can expand on each one of the above, but I want to briefly touch on the last one, because it relates to the readings for this Sunday. As a priest, one of the things I loath most is to have to speak to parishioners about contributing to the Church. I am not looking forward to the day when the Diocese will ask me to do that as it is part of the normal routine. Gone are the days when it was taken for granted that the average Catholic will contribute to the upkeep of the Church – now, there have been times when we as a parish struggle to find money to do basic things, or to save up for a rainy day. At the moment, we are doing ‘ok’ in general, but the parish is definitely struggling to pay for the Attendance Dues because some parents with children at our school do not live up to their legal obligation to make sure they pay, or pay on time (‘Attendance Dues’ is a cost to the Parish). There is nothing worse for a priest that to be a debt collector. We are also looking down the barrel of the cost of Church Strengthening later on…. In the first readings and the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear of two widows who loved God so much that they were prepared to give all they have to serve God. In Biblical time, widows struggle when it comes to material wealth. As Jesus points out in the Gospel, it is not how much is given, but how much love is attached to the giving. Most people gave of their excess, while they gave all they had when they could ill afford to do so. It says much about the depth and commitment of their faith, and their love of God. Generosity is measured often not by the amount we give, but the amount of love attached to the giving. There are many ways of giving in the service of God. Besides money, we can also give of ourselves – especially our time and talent. I have tried hard as a Parish Priest to try and draw parishioners in to the life of the Parish Community. If we struggle to contribute materially to the Church, perhaps the question we should all ask of ourselves is; how much of myself have I given to serve God – How active am I in the parish? By “active”, it is not just the amount we do and give, but our participation in the life and well being of the parish. Our faith is not a ‘do it yourself’ or ‘do it alone’ project. It has a communitarian element too, and each parishioner is part of the ‘body of Christ’, part of the Church universal, called to make a difference in the world. The widows challenge us to think of how we give, and give of ourselves in the service of God and God’s People. As the saying goes, God will never been outdone by our generosity. God bless, Fr Michael

All Holy men and women

Feast of ALL SAINTS All Holy men and women….. pray for us! The feast of all saints fall on the 1st of November, and this year it happens to be on a Sunday. Lesser important feast days are normally ‘suppressed’ by the Sunday celebration of the Resurrection. The fact that the feast of All Saints is celebrated when it falls on a Sunday (and sometimes, even if it falls close to a Sunday, it is ‘shifted’ to the Sunday!) suggests that it is a very important feast in the life of the Church. The feast brings to the fore the doctrine and believe in the “Communion of Saints”. We express this believe, for example, in the Apostles’ Creed: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins…… We believe that those already in heaven with God are still with us, but just in a different way. As such, they can still pray for us, and so right from the beginning of the Church the saints, all the holy men and women, have been called upon to ‘pray for us’. We hear the litany of the saints during the ordination of a priest, during baptism etc. Similiarly, we pray for those who are on the way to heaven, those undergoing the cleansing fire of purgatory. We remember all our dead at ever Mass, and especially on the feast of All Souls (2nd November). Hence the well known prayer: “Eternal Rest….” I have said in the past that the doctrine of the communion of saints is an especially consoling doctrine for me as it means that no one is ever defenceless or alone. I am always conscious of the presence of my loved ones, and especially at Mass. And I am conscious that one day, after I have gone, the Church continues to pray for me at every Mass. Our Church is not a purely horizontal or this-world “membership”. It is a type of supernatural assurance society, not just between those living at any one moment, but also with those who have gone before us in the faith. They, too, are members of this family of the People of God: all the past generations of Christians and all the saints in heaven. In Eucharistic Prayer I (the Roman Canon) of the Mass, we hear a particular expression to the Communion of the Saints: “For ourselves, too, we ask some share in the fellowship of your apostles and martyrs, with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all the saints. May all the holy men and women, pray for us, as we journey to be with God

Faith – An Instrument of Healing

“FAITH – An Instrument of Healing” The Gospel this week speaks about the healing received by Batrimaeus – the blind man. Jesus worked this miracle using the faithful crowd as a channel. Even though Bartimaeus came to him. As we know Bartimaeus was torn between those who scolded him and told him to keep quiet and those who helped him saying, “Get up, Jesus is calling you.” In today’s secular world, many are ‘sitting on the road’ searching for the Truth, trying to approach Jesus. The ways and means they undertake might be different but deep down in their heart, they search for the true-person of Jesus Christ. Jesus always wants us, His followers to proclaim His love and care for others. It is our duty, therefore to bring the True God to those who are struggling. If we don’t encourage them to come to Jesus, then who will! This week Gospel is inviting all believers to listen more to Jesus, as He commands us, “Call him/her here”. How do we respond? We should always remember that in the long run our faith is a healing instrument for the betterment of those who are like Bartimeaus. Many in this world struggle to meet Jesus. Let us, as believers in Jesus Christ, help others so that they might come to the Lord from “their road.” Yours in the Eucharistic Lord, Fr Sam Michael

Come, Follow me….

In this Sunday’s Gospel, we are presented with the account of the rich young man, who Jesus challenged to “go and sell everything….. give the money to the poor….. then come, follow me.’ As we know, the young men went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth. How would we react in his shoes? His challenge is our daily challenge as Christians, though it may take a different form. In this world that is passing, we all hold back to the things we have and own and let them dictate our lives. We too are given the choice to follow Christ more closely every day and we too walk away often, sometimes even without realizing it. We could wonder what happened to the rich young man. Did his money make him happy? Did he lose it along the way? Did he have regrets about his refusal to follow Jesus? We simply do not know! Perhaps, he turned around and eventually took up the challenge later. Whatever the outcome – the important point it that we are given a snapshot of a moment in which the rich young man missed a ‘defining moment’ of his life. The ‘road not taken’, was due to his failure to differentiate between the ‘treasures in heaven’ and the ‘treasures on earth’. There lies the lesson for us: When God makes a demand on us, we must not look at what we are giving up to meet that challenge, but the bigger picture of what we might gain. Surely, for a journey of life on earth that is finite, we must also work for fruit that will last for all eternity. Some one once said: “Why paddle in the shallows all our lives when sometimes the opportunity is there to launch into the deep”. When God’s call comes to us in the circumstances of our daily lives, may we have the vision and generosity to respond! God bless Fr Michael

What God has joined……

(27th Sunday in Ordinary Time) This Sunday’s Gospel takes us to the scene where Our Lord was questioned about divorce in a marriage.  He gave a straightforward answer.  Read it for yourself, or listen carefully when the Gospel is read.  By a happy coincidence, or rather, providence, we have this Gospel passage appearing in between two Saturdays with Nuptial Masses in our parish Church.  Last week it was the marriage between Elizabeth Ong and Ricky Tiong, and next week it will be between Maria Luisa Panganiban and Stephen Wakelin   Several people asked for a copy of the homily – I declined.  I generally do not do that, because often what I deliver on the day varies slightly from the printed form.  Furthermore, there are almost always “typos”.   However, on this occasion, I will make available below the opening half of that homily:   “In the secular world, and especially in the developed countries, marriage has largely been reduced to merely a human construct: a contract struck between two persons in a relationship.  Once reduced to this, marriage becomes something that changes with the shifting sands of opinions and viewpoints.  Thus if we pose the question in this environment as to what a marriage is, we would get many subjective answers from various perspectives including that of theology, philosophy, anthropology, sociology, etc……  I am going to give you one perspective, not from those who considered themselves learned or articulate, but from the perspective of a child barely 4 years old.  It is a story I think I’ve told Elizabeth and Ricky.  It happened several years ago when I was preparing a couple for one of the first marriages I was to celebrate.  The couple have been living together, and had a child named Tamati.  When Tamati was nearly 4, the couple decided to ‘do the right thing’ – i.e get married.  After a few sessions of Marriage Preparation with me at home, mum decided to break the news to young Tamati, saying, ‘Mum and Dad are getting married’.  Tamati, who, as I said was barely four, responded with a truth and a wisdom that can only come through the work of God’s grace:  He said: ‘now we can be a family’ (I repeated this line twice!).  The truth from the mouth of babes!   It was so profound a statement that all Mum could do was cry. Elizabeth and Ricky, thank you for coming together in Holy matrimony to uphold again the truth that every child, untarnished by the ways of a world touched by sin, instinctively know:  that each and every one of us is meant to be the child of a mother and a father who love each other and who have given themselves to each other in marriage.  Even if we are not fortunate enough to be in this situation, deep down, we know this is good, and wholesome, and true…..  Marriage is not simply a legal contract, nor a man made institution as the secular world often presents it. It is part of why God created us male and female, part of why a man and a woman come together to be, not two, but one body.”   (2nd half omitted!) It is good to be reminded by the words of Christ in this Sunday’s Gospel: that (real) marriage is a serious and binding commitment (between a man and a woman).  ‘What God has joined together let no man can divide’. God bless, Fr Michael

Anyone who is not against us is for us

Anyone who is not against us is for us In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 9 :38-43, 45, 47-48), a “non-disciple” of Our Lord casts out devils in His name. The disciples of Jesus tried to stop him. This parallels the episode in the First Reading in which Joshua failed to understand that the prophetical spirit was essentially for the service of the whole people. We, as a people of faith, do not have a monopoly on good works. When anyone does good, and serve the least of his brothers and sisters, he is already making God present in the world. Thus, “anyone who is not against us is for us”. The least we can do when we come across someone who does good, is to support him, and perhaps by doing so, we will lead him to embrace the fullness of faith. God Bless, Fr Michael

A Heart to Welcome the “little Children”

A Heart to Welcome the “little children” This week’s Gospel is inviting us to have a magnanimous heart. A heart that welcomes the ‘little children’. The word “welcome” is translated from the Greek word “dekomai” which can mean “receive” in general, but can also mean, according to the Greek lexicon, “to receive into one’s family, to bring up or educate.” In other words, we not only receive children, but we also guide or teach them. In this context, Jesus is speaking of guiding a person into the realm where God is the centre of our lives. Jesus is speaking about helping others to love God. In the CCC No: 1213 it says, “Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments.” Let us be more magnanimous towards ‘the others’, to bring them into our bigger family through our faith initiatives. May Jesus bless our magnanimity. Yours in the Eucharistic Lord, Fr Sam

Parishioners need to own their Parish

In today’s Gospel the “Crowd” brought the deaf and dumb man to Jesus and they asked Him to lay his hands on them. The Crowd had faith on Jesus, that is why they brought the sick to him. For us today, the word ‘Crowd’ means the Parishioners. Catechism of Catholic Church No: 2179 says “A parish (Our Lady of Victories, Sockburn) is a definite community of the Christian faithful(Parishioners) established on a stable basis within a particular church (Catholic Diocese of Christchurch); the pastoral care of the parish is entrusted to a pastor (Fr Michael Pui) as its own shepherd under the authority of the diocesan bishop (Bishop Barry Jones).” It is the place where all the faithful can be gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist. “The parish initiates the Christian people into the ordinary expression of the liturgical life: it gathers them together in this celebration; it teaches Christ’s saving doctrine; it practices the charity of the Lord in good works and brotherly love.” Today’s Gospel is asking us to take some more initiatives so that “the people”, (non-practicing Catholics and others) might experience the personal touch of Jesus as we are touched in Baptism through the Ephphetha Prayer -“Be opened”. Let us try to own the Parish. Everyone has their part to play in the bringing of people to Jesus so that, no matter who they are, they feel welcome and part of the Parish community. May the Eucharistic Lord abundantly bless each and every one of you. Yours in the Eucharistic Lord… Fr Sam

Kenotic Spirituality is the Need of the Time

In today’s Gospel Jesus says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself…” ‘Word of God became flesh (God became man-Incarnation) and dwelt amongst us.’ The reason behind this is that He wants to give us life in abundance with all its richness. That purpose was fulfilled only in His Passion. He gave His very self – body and blood. “Jesus emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). This is what gave us Redemption. This is Kenotic spirituality – self-emptying spirituality. This self-sacrificing force of Jesus Christ should give every Christian in the world a ‘push’ to for it is in the Liturgical celebration and in all the Sacraments that we receive the same Jesus. Can we receive the Lord and keep quiet about proclaiming Him? No; we, in this context have to proclaim Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The Catechism of the Catholic Church No: 2123 says “Many . . . of our contemporaries either do not at all perceive, or explicitly reject, this intimate and vital bond of man to God. Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time.” We have many witnesses in the Church who gave their life for the love of the person of Jesus. We should too, for Jesus says “Anyone who loses His life for my sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, will save it. Yours in the Eucharistic Lord Fr Sam

You put aside the commandment of God

You put aside the Commandment of God…. After several Sundays of a detour to Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel on the “Bread of Life” (and also the Feast of the Assumption), we return to the Gospel of Mark this Sunday (Mark 7 :1-8, 14-15, 21-23). At the time of Jesus, the People of God paid very strong attention on the “Law and the Prophets’. Sadly, they became bogged down and smothered by many minute interpretations and applications of the Law by the rabbis. The ritual of washing before meals mentioned in this Sunday’s Gospel was one such expression of the interpretation. The exaggerated emphasis on rituals led to the Pharisees and Scribes placing more importance on the man-made traditions over the Law itself. Jesus saw this as the re-appearance of the hypocrisy and formalism condemned by Isaiah (Mark 7:6-7). Our Lord quotes from Isaiah; “this people honours me with their lips but their heart is far from me”. When this happens, worship becomes empty (c.f Second Reading) as the rituals became empty, as they are not inspired by the obedience to the commandments. Jesus taught that true purification comes first with the conversion of one’s heart. We, the People of God of the New Covenant, have ‘rituals’ too, and our rituals are meant to take us to the heart of the two greatest commandments: loving God with all our heart, mind and soul, and loving our neighbours are ourselves. If they don’t they too are empty rituals. God bless, Fr Michael Pui

Lord, who shall we go to?

Lord, who shall we go to? Had it not been the transfer of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary to last Sunday (normally on the 15th August) we would have had five consecutive Sundays in which the Church gives us passages from Chapter 6 of St John’s Gospel on the discourse on the bread of life. This discourse comes to a conclusion this Sunday (John 6:60-69). Our Lord’s assertion that He was the ‘bread of life come down from heaven’ was difficult for some. “This is intolerable language. How could anyone accept it?” was the response. Those who are unable to accept it, departed….. Although Our Lord recognized their difficulty and lack of openness, he nevertheless did not lessen His demand and His claims, rather He expanded on His words by speaking of His glorification. When the disciples were asked if they wanted to leave too, it was St Peter who professed faith in Our Lord as the Holy One of God. Later, after His Resurrection things became clearer – and the disciples started to see things through eyes of faith. We need great faith to accept that the piece of (consecrated) bread and drop of (consecrated) wine are Jesus’ Body and Blood. Faith is possible for those who judge according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh (v.63). Perhaps it was the Spirit that helped St Peter to his profession of faith: ‘You have the message of eternal life, and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’ May the same Holy Spirit open our eye to the Truth that God choose to reveal to us. God bless, Fr Michael

The Almighty has done great things for me

The Almighty has done great things for me…. On November 1, 1950, Pope Pius XII solemnly defined as a dogma of faith Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven. The precise words of the definition, found in the apostolic constitution Munificentissimus Deus, are; “We pronounce, declare, and define it to be a divinely revealed dogma: that the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” By this solemn declaration, the Church sets in concrete as a matter of Catholic Faith, a truth that has been believed from the beginning, as Divinely revealed, witnessed either implicitly or explicitly by Sacred Scripture or its Sacred Living Tradition. Mary’s bodily assumption is implied in Scriptures, but it has always also been long held by the Church on the basis of theological reasoning and her Living Tradition; that Our Lord takes His mother to Himself from the moment of her passage from this life, since she is declared “full of grace” or “highly favoured daughter” of God the Father (Lk 1:28). St. Paul’s teaches: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’ ” (1 Cor 15:54). Just as Christ’s glorious Resurrection was the essential agent of this victory, so also Mary, the new Eve who had so great and indispensable a role in the struggle, should most fittingly share in the victory of her Son over sin and death through her glorification. The great Scholastic theologians of the 13th centuries, Sts. Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, and Bonaventure, considered the Assumption to be “the fulfillment of that most perfect grace granted to the Blessed Virgin and the special blessing that countered the curse of Eve.” The feast of the Assumption was celebrated as early as the seventh century. After the 1950 declaration, it is celebrated as a holy day of obligation on August 15. Besides Christmas and Easter, it is the only Holy Day of Obligation for New Zealand that does not fall on a Sunday (although, like this year, when it falls on a Saturday, it is shifted to Sunday!) Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God. Fr Michael

I am the Living Bread

I am the Living Bread…. For three Sundays in a row now our Gospel passage is taken from the 6th Chapter of St John’s on the discourse on the ‘Bread of Life’. As we move further into this chapter, the Eucharistic overtones grow stronger. In this Sunday’s passage, the people (John 6:41-51) questioned Our Lord of His heavenly origins since He claims to be the ‘Living Bread come down from heaven’. John uses the occasion to give us some ideas about faith; Faith is a gift of the Heavenly Father and comes only from Him, and it leads to eternal life. The faith in question here is obviously faith in Jesus, and the passage concludes with the thought that the eternal life offered, comes through Jesus’ giving of Himself – ‘his flesh, for the life of the world’. The Early Church Fathers wrote aplenty about the Eucharist which I have published on last two week in the Bulletin (and hopefully more in the future). Here is another beautiful one by a 5th century saint, St Peter Chrysologus (406-450 A.D); “The Father in heaven urges us, as children of heaven, to ask for the bread of heaven. [Christ] himself is the bread who, sown in the Virgin, raised up in the flesh, kneaded in the Passion, baked in the oven of the tomb, reserved in churches, brought to altars, furnishes the faithful each day with food from heaven”. May we lead all to discover the true Bread of Life. Fr Michael

I am the bread of life

I am the bread of life….. The Gospel passage for this Sunday (John 6:24-35) follows on from last Sunday’s in which Jesus feeds the crowd with Five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-15). He enters into a dialogue with the people who asks for more signs, wanting “true manna” or bread sent from God in heaven (John 6:24-35). Through Jesus’ own words, we learn that He is the “bread of life”, the “true Manna” which is from heaven and He gives life to the world. Jesus is the bread from heaven, which sustains all who partake of it. In typically Johannine fashion, we are taken from the literal to the spiritual, and finally to the actual: Jesus who comes to us in the Eucharist, He is the bread of life. The early Christians believed this. Below are two of many examples that cannot be refuted: § Referring to “those who hold heterodox opinions,” St Ignatius said that “they abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in his goodness, raised up again” {Ignatius of Antioch, c. A.D. 108, who has been a disciple of the apostle John, in his Epistle to the Smyrnaeans (6:2; 7:1.)} § “Not as common bread or common drink do we receive these; but since Jesus Christ our Saviour was made incarnate by the word of God and had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so too, as we have been taught, the food which has been made into the Eucharist by the Eucharistic prayer set down by him, and by the change of which our blood and flesh is nourished, . . . is both the flesh and the blood of that incarnated Jesus” {St Justin Martyr, c. A.D. 155 (First Apology 66:1-20). May we hunger for the true bread of life – always. God bless, Fr Michael

He gave out as much as was wanted…

(17th Sunday in Ordinary time) First Reading for this Sunday Mass sets the stage for the Gospel scene of the 6th Chapter of John;s Gospel.  Elisha’s story is the story of God satisfying the physical hunger of one hundred men, using Elisha as an instrument.  It is paralleled by Jesus’ miraculous feeding of five thousand in the Gospel.  Elisha’s story is thus a preparation for the New Testament miracle. Both points to the superabundant food that is the Eucharist.     Both miracles are a sign of God’s providential care for us, not only our physical needs, but for our deepest spiritual yearnings as well.  It comes very much with an Eucharistic overtone, which is what the Sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel is about.  We are reminded in a powerful way in the readings that ultimately it is God alone who provides for our needs, and satisfies our hunger.  It is God alone who is the answer in a world fragmented by the effects of material and spiritual starvation.  In the Eucharist, we have the bread that satisfies our true hunger: God Himself.  And it is God Himself who provides it.  God bless,  Fr Michael

Before the world was made, God chose us…

(15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, 12th July 2015) In Sacred Scriptures, we know that on many occasions, God picks and sends what appears to be very ordinary people to speak His word, and to carry out His will.  We find this in this Sunday’s readings; in the First Reading, we are presented with Amos, who does not pretend to any great dignity to bolster up his mission.  Amos is of a peasant background,  a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. With this simplicity, he faces the task God gave him.   In similar fashion Jesus sends the Apostles on a mission. They are ordinary men, sent out to challenge the wise and sophisticated people of the world. He gave them His authority and a share of His power. They are not even to arm themselves with many provisions even for their journeys. Their work is to depend completely on the power of the Lord.  Last Sunday, St Paul tells us that it is when we are weak, that we are strong – meaning, God works best in us when we are not about worldly power, and self elevating. By the grace of our Baptismal dignity, we too, are given the mission of speaking out for God.  Being an ‘ordinary’ Christian is no excuse for remaining silent.  Parents  can pass on God’s word through the rearing of children in the faith.  Workers can uphold Christian values at their workplaces.  All Christians are supposed to be ‘salt’, and ‘light’ – making a difference ‘out there’ in the culture to which we belong.  Evangelization is our business.   We must not be “Sunday Christians” only, drawing a dichotomy between worshipping and daily living as though they are two separate compartments of our lives.  For this to happen, we need to recover a clear Catholic identity, and the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of our faith, including a deep love and understanding of the Eucharist.  This is one of the visions of the Second Vatican Council – that our faith are well informed, and that we can take it into our workplaces, our political spheres, our home, etc.  For most Catholics, that vision is still to be realised.                           Blessings…                    Fr Michael

Do Not be afraid, only have faith….

The first reading for this Sunday (28th June) , clearly tells us that disease and death are anomalies – not meant to be what God originally had in mind in His Creation. Thus the People of God awaits the Messianic age when these evil things will be set right…..And that leads us into the Gospel. The Church gives the priest the option to read a shorter version or a longer version either Mark 5:21-43 or 5:21-24.35-43. The longer version contained two miracles performed by Jesus in relation to illness and death. In the longer version, Jesus heals a woman with a haemorrhage and raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Both miracles are signs of the era of the Messiah longed for by the People of God. Our Lord is revealed as the healing, saving, and life-giving God. The miracles confirmed the Messianic times, that God’s salvation has entered the world. They also remind us of the need for faith if this salvation is to become real in our lives. May we grow in faith, especially when facing illness and our own mortality. God bless Fr Michael

Master Do You Not Care?

(12th Sunday in Ordinary Time) “Master do you not care?” – that is the question the disciples asked in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41) when the boat they were in was storm-tossed.   Contrast that against the tranquil sleep of Jesus.  During the storm the disciples failed in their trust in Our Lord.  It was a failure too of grasping his very identity, and His divinity.   After reproving them for their lack of confidence and trust in Him, Our Lord demonstrated his mastery over the elements, rebuking the wind and sea to be calm – and they calmed down.  There is a glimpse here of the account of Creation in the book of Genesis: when God said, ‘let there be Light’, and there was light.  He is Lord of Heaven and Earth.  What he says….. IS.    At every Mass, this notion is expressed in our belief in the Eucharist.  “This is my body…..”.  What He says….. IS! The disciples were then awe-struck by His power and Our Lord used this opportunity to encourage His disciples to have trust in Him at all times, in all circumstances.  Later after His resurrection Our Lord would remind them with the words: “Do not be afraid, it is I”.  In our life’s journey, we will have many situations where everything may appear lost.  As Christians, we must always remember those reassuring words of our Lord.                     God bless,  Fr Michael

The Kingdom of God is like a Mustard Seed….

(11th Sunday in Ordinary Time) This Sunday’s Gospel Mark 4:26-34 gives us the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  Instead of writing a new commentary, I share with you the thoughts of one of the early Church Fathers, namely St Peter Chrysologous (400-450 AD); “It is up to us to sow this mustard seed in our minds and let it grow within us into a great tree of understanding reaching up to heaven and elevating all our faculties; then it will spread out branches of knowledge, the pungent savour of its fruit will make our mouths burn, its fiery kernel will kindle a blaze within us inflaming our hearts, and the taste of it will dispel our unenlightened repugnance. Yes, it is true: a mustard seed is indeed an image of the kingdom of God. Christ is the kingdom of heaven. Sown like a mustard seed in the garden of the virgin’s womb, he grew up into the tree of the cross whose branches stretch across the world. Crushed in the mortar of the passion, its fruit has produced seasoning enough for the flavouring and preservation of every living creature with which it comes in contact. As long as a mustard seed remains intact, its properties lie dormant; but when it is crushed they are exceedingly evident. So it was with Christ; he chose to have his body crushed, because he would not have his power concealed…. Christ became all things in order to restore all of us in himself. The man Christ received the mustard seed which represents the kingdom of God; as man he received it, though as God he had always possessed it. He sowed it in his garden, that is in his bride, the Church. The Church is a garden extending over the whole world, tilled by the plough of the gospel, fenced in by stakes of doctrine and discipline, cleared of every harmful weed by the labour of the apostles, fragrant and lovely with perennial flowers: virgins’ lilies and martyrs’ roses set amid the pleasant verdure of all who bear witness to Christ and the tender plants of all who have faith in him. Such then is the mustard seed which Christ sowed in his garden. When he promised a kingdom to the patriarchs, the seed took root in them; with the prophets it sprang up; with the apostles it grew tall; in the Church it became a great tree putting forth innumerable branches laden with gifts. And now you too must take the wings of the psalmist’s dove, gleaming gold in the rays of divine sunlight, and fly to rest for ever among those sturdy, fruitful branches. No snares are set to trap you there; fly off, then, with confidence and dwell securely in its shelter.” Do we allow the seed of God’s Word take deep root in our lives?  Do we let it transform us into fruit-bearing disciples? God Bless Fr Michael

First Holy Communion 2015 – Feast of Corpus Christi

24 children made their First Holy Communion on the Feast of Corpus Christi (Photos courtesy of Peter Fleming)

Parish and School Working bee

Last weekend the Parish and School community joined in for a working bee!! (Check out some of the bushes around the property – and you’ll see Fr Michael likes his close shave!)

The Sign of Peace

There is much confusion on the Sign of Peace during Mass. For example, 1) Fr Michael have had someone asking him if it necessary to have to sign of peace during Mass. It is after all an optional Rite in the Liturgy of the Mass. This person is against it, for whatever reason. On weekday Masses, when there are about 20-30 people disperse in the Church, Fr Michael sometimes omit the (optional) rite of the Exchange of Peace. 2) Another person wrote on the Parish Survey form, that Fr Michael should be come down from the sanctuary to exchange the Sign of Peace with the COngregation. So what is the mind of the Church on this? Here is the latest Clarification; Vatican City, August 25, 2014 (ZENIT.org) English translation of the letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, regarding the Sign of Peace. * * * 1. «Peace I leave you; my peace I give you».1 As they gathered in the cenacle, these are the words with which Jesus promises the gift of peace to his disciples before going to face his passion, in order to implant in them the joyful certainty of his steadfast presence. After his resurrection, the Lord fulfills his promise by appearing among them in the place where they had gathered for fear of the Jews saying, «Peace be with you!».2 Christ’s peace is the fruit of the redemption that he brought into the world by his death and resurrection – the gift that the Risen Lord continues to give even today to his Church as she gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist in order to bear witness to this in everyday life. 2. In the Roman liturgical tradition, the exchange of peace is placed before Holy Communion with its own specific theological significance. Its point of reference is found in the Eucharistic contemplation of the Paschal mystery as the “Paschal kiss” of the Risen Christ present on the altar3 as in contradistinction to that done by other liturgical traditions which are inspired by the Gospel passage from St. Matthew (cf. Mt 5: 23). The rites which prepare for Communion constitute a well expressed unity in which each ritual element has its own significance and which contributes to the overall ritual sequence of sacramental participation in the mystery being celebrated. The sign of peace, therefore, is placed between the Lord’s Prayer, to which is joined the embolism which prepares for the gesture of peace, and the breaking of the bread, in the course of which the Lamb of God is implored to give us his peace. With this gesture, whose «function is to manifest peace, communion and charity»,4 the Church «implores peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family, and the faithful express to each other their ecclesial communion and mutual charity before communicating in the Sacrament»,5 that is, the Body of Christ the Lord. 3. In the Post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Sacramentum caritatis, Pope Benedict XVI entrusted to this Congregation the competence of considering questions about the exchange of peace,6 in order to safeguard the sacred sense of the Eucharistic celebration and the sense of mystery at the moment of receiving Holy Communion: «By its nature the Eucharist is the sacrament of peace. At Mass this dimension of the Eucharistic mystery finds specific expression in the sign of peace. Certainly this sign has great value (cf. Jn 14:27). In our times, fraught with fear and conflict, this gesture has become particularly eloquent, as the Church has become increasingly conscious of her responsibility to pray insistently for the gift of peace and unity for herself and for the whole human family. [. . .] We can thus understand the emotion so often felt during the sign of peace at a liturgical celebration. Even so, during the Synod of Bishops there was discussion about the appropriateness of greater restraint in this gesture, which can be exaggerated and cause a certain distraction in the assembly just before the reception of Communion. It should be kept in mind that nothing is lost when the sign of peace is marked by a sobriety which preserves the proper spirit of the celebration, as, for example, when it is restricted to one’s immediate neighbours».7 4. Pope Benedict XVI, further than shedding light on the true sense of the rite and of the exchange of pace, emphasized its great significance as a contribution of Christians, with their prayer and witness to allay the most profound and disturbing anxieties of contemporary humanity. In light of all this he renewed his call that this rite be protected and that this liturgical gesture be done with religious sensibility and sobriety. 5. This Dicastery, at the request of Pope Benedict XVI, had already approached the Conferences of Bishops in May of 2008 to seek their opinion about whether to maintain the exchange of peace before Communion, where it is presently found, or whether to move it to another place, with a view to improving the understanding and carrying out of this gesture. After further reflection, it was considered appropriate to retain the rite of peace in its traditional place in the Roman liturgy and not to introduce structural changes in the Roman Missal. Some practical guidelines are offered below to better explain the content of the exchange of peace and to moderate excessive expressions that give rise to disarray in the liturgical assembly before Communion. 6. Consideration of this theme is important. If the faithful through their ritual gestures do not appreciate and do not show themselves to be living the authentic meaning of the rite of peace, the Christian concept of peace is weakened and their fruitful participation at the Eucharist is impaired. Therefore, along with the previous reflections that could form the basis for a suitable catechesis by providing some guidelines, some practical suggestions are offered to the Conferences of Bishops for their prudent consideration: a) It should be made clear once and for all that the rite of

Mass for Start of Year of Consecrated Life

The Diocese of Christchurch kicked off the Year for COnsecrated Life with a Mass in Our Lady of Victories Parish. It was celebrated by Bishop Barry Jones, and several priests concelebrated, including Emeritus Bishop Basil Meeking. After Mass, refreshments were served in the BJC

Papal Medal awarded to Carey Haines

On Sunday November 18th 2012, during Mass, Carey Haines was awarded the Papal Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice. Bishop Barry, Fr Kevin, Fr Michael, ladies and gentlemen, I have only come to know Carey over the past few years, while we have both been on the Parish Council. Prior to that I had seen him at mass but had not fully realized the extent of his role and participation in the parish liturgy. Many of you may not be aware that Carey is at the Vigil and Sunday masses every week – usually an hour beforehand – often in prayer, but always ensuring that everything is organized, and everyone is there – enabling us to celebrate the eucharist with the reverence and beauty he knows it deserves. It is always calming to know that there will be a word or a nod to support, direct & guide – for church welcomers, readers, altar servers, collectors, those in the offertory and procession, ministers of the eucharist. When speaking with Dennis Currie, our music director, he told me how reassuring it is to know that Carey will give him the right answer to any necessary question – no fuss or hesitation! And as Bishop Barry commented earlier when presenting this award to Carey – visiting priests too are always grateful for Carey’s dignified presence and sound guidance while at Our Lady of Victories church. If I was asked to describe Carey, many words would come to mind – prayerful, unassuming, dedicated, knowledgable, calm … But one that seems to fit him best is : STEADFAST To be steadfast is to be firm and unwavering Carey is steadfast in his prayer, in his faith, and his life A number of years ago, Carey traveled (at his own expense) to take part in a formation programme in Omaha in the United States. On his return he worked with Fr John to teach us, and foster in us a deeper understanding and appreciation of the mass and the liturgy. While many of you will be aware of Fr John’s part in this – it was Carey who was taking care of much of the detail – encouraging us through the changes and showing us – as a lay person – how prayerful – and beautiful – liturgy could be. During Holy Week each year Carey takes Annual Leave from his job at the hospital. During this week, as always, Carey has every detail finalized and every day sorted. His understanding of what is needed, and attention to detail has meant that our priests – previously Fr Kevin and Fr John, and now Fr Michael, are able to focus on their liturgical roles at this time, with complete trust that all will go smoothly. Last year, Fr John O’Connor, our then Parish Priest, nominated Carey for the Pro Ecclessia et Pontifice Cross. Unfortunately Fr John is not able to be here today because of Sunday mass commitments in his new parish of North Canterbury, but he is delighted that the pope has chosen to accept Carey as a worthy recipient of this award. This is a significant award and one of the highest honours the Holy Father bestows on an individual. A number are presented for substantial and long-term contributions to parish life around the world, though usually to people who are much older than Carey. It is rare for an award to be made to such a (relatively!) young person, but more importantly to receive it specifically for contributions to liturgy, which is for Pope Benedict the ‘heart of the matter’’. It is fitting that on the gold cross of his papal medal are the images of Saints Peter and Paul – strong men in their faith: steadfast, and committed. Carey is a prayerful man whom OLV is blessed to have in our midst. It is no surprise to those who know him, that he continues to remain very humble, and humbled by this honour. Carey only you know how much prayer, time, energy and dedication you put in each week to ensure our masses and liturgy go smoothly. You have helped to foster in us all a deeper understanding of the mass, and an appreciation of the beauty and reverence that the celebration of the Eucharist deserves. When Bishop Barry blessed our newly renovated church a number of years ago he said that it was ‘greatly suited to noble and excellent celebration of the liturgy’. Thank you for your part in gifting something so precious to us, and for continuing to do so. In return, our gift to you must be that we learn from your example: your prayerfulness, your passion for the liturgy, but most importantly your deep faith. Our diocese and our parish are the richer for your presence. This award ‘For Church and the Pope’ is very much deserved. Congratulations Carey! Janet Saywell OLV Parish Council Co-chairperson November, 2012

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