transfiguration‘Transfiguration’ – when we hear that word, what image does it conjure up in our minds?  A change in appearance maybe?  We say that someone was ‘transfigured with joy’. We can see a change in their face as it ‘lights up’ and their body is alert and attune to what’s going on in the face because it’s happening to the whole person, inside and out. We also refer to certain saints when they have an intense experience of God as being ‘transfigured’ or as being ‘in ecstasy’, a word which means being ‘outside of oneself’ – we even have a drug named after this effect which it produces. In Rome there is the famous statue of St Teresa of Avila in ecstasy by Bernini. She is in a type of swoon with a young angel standing above her about to pierce her heart with the love of God. She is definitely transfigured, even in stone. Try googling it.

But with Jesus not only his face but even his clothes were transfigured.  What can we make of this? Creation itself will also be transfigured in Jesus, perhaps? Some scholars thought that this was really an account of one of the appearances of Jesus which took place after his resurrection and it somehow made its way into the gospel story before Jesus’ resurrection by mistake.

1st LentToday, the first Sunday of Lent, we remember how Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. Each time we pray the Our Father we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation’. Not so long ago, Pope Francis, as is his want, shocked everyone by saying that this translation is very misleading – and should be changed!  Change the wording of the Our Father? Never. Well, there are other more modern versions of the Our Father in English which change words such as ‘trespasses’ which conjure up signs on some private block of land. These translations are really quite good but I think the reason they haven’t been adopted is that all the Christian churches need to change together for we don’t want to give up the one prayer that we have in common, even if we don’t add, ‘For thine is the kingdom….’ which we say shortly afterwards in our Catholic Mass. 

What is Pope Francis on about? He’s not happy that we are unwittingly suggesting that God, our loving Father, could possibly do such a thing as to ‘lead us into temptation.’ God cannot possibly lead us or tempt us to commit sin. Sin is evil, God is goodness itself. Biblical scholars suggest that a more accurate translation would be, ‘Do not bring us to the test.’ So it’s a question not of being tempted but of being put to the test. Is that more helpful? Let’s look a little more closely, firstly at Jesus’ own ‘temptations’ or ‘testing’. The first thing we notice is that it is Satan, not God, who is doing the tempting or testing. Satan is the great tempter who as with Job is permitted to test God’s children. The tempter is called by many names in Scripture: the devil, Satan, accuser, slanderer, and father of lies, just to name a few. He is an intelligent being who is completely evil.

ashes Ash Wednesday is one of the most popular and important holy days in the liturgical calendar. As we know it opens Lent, a season, as Jesus himself tells us, of fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  Unlike the Feasts of the Ascension and Corpus Christi, it has not been transferred to the following Sunday which in a way is a pity because the majority of us cannot participate on the Wednesday, being as it is, a busy workday. I guess it all has to with counting off those 40 days of Lent whereas, in fact, if you do a count you will find that Ash Wednesday is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday.  What’s with those extra 6 days?  Well, they are the 6 Sundays of Lent when you are not obliged to fast – not even on the 6th Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion. Did you know that? Neither did I until a few years ago.

The spirit of Ash Wednesday is in direct contrast to the Mardi Gras or Carnivale festivities which take place on the days beforehand. The origin of these events is Catholic with Orthodox Greece also enjoying like celebrations. Mardi Gras is French for "Fat Tuesday", reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season. Carnivale or “Farewell to the flesh” - plenty of which will have been on display in the Sydney Mardi Gras procession - originally meant ‘farewell to meat’ as meat was off limits for the 40 days.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

         In the middle of last Sunday’s homily I realized that so much of Jesus’ teaching is about the state of our hearts – about how easily we get stuck in our heads when we need to give free rein to our hearts, how warmly we respond to the ‘beatitude people’ we know, a response from our hearts and all this at a time when I am trying not to think too deeply about my heart!

The only thing I want to say about the heart this week is to quote St Augustine who describes the heart as the organ of seeing, ‘We see with the heart!’ The poet Bouillon says, ‘The mind has a thousand eyes, the heart but one!’ Wonderful as our mind is, we can be misled by prejudices, fears and anxieties; with our heart, we see more clearly. 

I recall a confrere of mine who used to pray from time to time for his enemies. This surprised me because I was not aware that I had any enemies. Yet Jesus in the Gospel tells us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, pray for those who treat us badly (Luke 6:27). At times this may feel almost impossible but these are responses to aggression that we admire in people like Martin Luther King.

Love is more than something we do when others treat us poorly; love involves our refusal to be a victim because that gives us the freedom to treat the one who has offended us with dignity. To term someone an ‘enemy’ can be an admission of our unwillingness to love.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

           What an odd title! Yes, I agree but I didn’t make it up; it is the title of a chapter in a book I’ve been reading for the last year and a half – Finding Your Hidden Treasure by Fr Benignus O’Rourke OSA. I’m not really that slow a reader but I find that each paragraph in this book about our inner prayer journey requires considerable time to absorb.

We are great watchers – of television, news bulletins, movies, sport…. even the ‘passing parade’ of humanity when we are on buses, trains or planes, or in airports. I sometimes wonder at the myriad of human stories in the lives of all these people and wonder even more that God knows each one intimately –God is watching what we are doing at every moment with keen interest.

This Sunday’s Gospel reading recounts Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, though presented in a more blunt manner than in Matthew. Luke recounts 4 Beatitudes and 4 corresponding Woes, each holding together two clashing ideas. In the vision of Jesus, there is often a reversal of fortune, even for those who suffer the painfulness of the present. In various ways, God sides with the poor and vulnerable and reverses the situation.

In every age, each of us needs a prayer because there is emptiness in us which only God can fill. Jesus tells us: ‘Blessed are you poor!’ – hardly something deserving of ‘congratulations’. In fact Jesus is not endorsing poverty or hunger as such but reminding us that God acts on behalf of all the vulnerable and marginalised. Our ‘poverty’ is not simply economic but includes loss, being misunderstood, estranged from loved ones, lonely, suffering sickness or injustice.

Dear Friends,

Fr Dave         Last week, I reflected on our call to be the ‘face of Jesus’ for one another and especially for our children as parents, teachers in our Catholic schools and catechists in State schools.

         As our young people return to school, we affirm parents as the first and best of teachers of their children, with the primary responsibility of passing on the Faith as best they can, in many cases in partnership with our Parish and School Communities.

We need to be passionate about education and support our children’s schools, whether Catholic, State or private. Our schools can and do make a difference in the lives of our children and their families, and Catholic schools in particular have a special responsibility in forming our children in the Faith.

I am always very moved at the sight of children returning to school, the careful preparation by parents, the often new uniform, and the backpack which at times seems bigger than the wearer! This past Friday, both Parish schools gathered for their Opening School Masses, a reminder that the Eucharist both forms us in Faith and expresses who we are. Family participation in the Sunday Eucharist is an important statement to our children and strengthens us all on our Faith journey.

Fr DaveDear Friends,

              I never cease to be amazed at the remarkable turn of phrase in Pope Francis’ writings and speeches, mostly prepared in Italian or Spanish but still with sharpness when translated into English. We are very familiar by now with his invitation to bishops and priests to ‘smell like the sheep’, an image now extended to many other groups in the Church – teachers, parents, all those who minister in some way – inviting us to live the earthiness of the Gospel.  

As our schools reopen, we are reminded of how precious our children are and our need to protect them. The second reading at Mass today and for the past 2 weeks is from the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, Chapters 12 and 13, describing the variety of gifts each of us receives from God’s Spirit and how together we are the Body of Christ and, as different parts, complement each other.

My prayer for each of you is that you begin this year refreshed and confident in our Church that both suffers and brings us Joy. I find great strength in the hopeful words of the late Bishop of Townsville Michael Putney:

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

On these last days of Advent we come, like the shepherds, to keep guard over our hearts so that with the dawn we may greet the saving presence of God in the person of the Holy Child of Bethlehem.  When we are in the presence of any tiny baby, no matter what age we may be, our spontaneous response is one of surrender to feelings of tenderness, protectiveness, care and unconditional love that is simply drawn out of us without our having to think about it.  We forget our own struggles and anxieties and become involved and concerned for their welfare, even if we had never met them before in our lives!  When we stop thinking about ourselves and go out in wonder and delight at the presence of any child, we discover our hearts are at peace as well.  Without even thinking about it we come to an intuitive understanding of what Christian Peace is all about.

At each Christmas time we return to an actual name, a face, an infant to communally surround with our love – who calls forth from even the hardest hearts a response of care and reverence.  He is God’s gift to reveal the joy God has in sharing divine love and life with his entire precious human race.  The gifts we get and the gifts we give at Christmas are our ways of celebrating the great Gift God longs to share with us from the time when the shepherds were told “Today you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger” . . . and love and reverence went out from their hearts to his, and they bowed down and honored Him.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Something significant happened at Vatican II that continues to impact us to this day. In Vatican II’s vision of church, and running through all the documents is a deeper understanding of our love relationship with God in and through Christ. This understanding previously existed, but not in the manner that brought a personal appropriation of that relationship rooted in the gospels and in the person of Jesus.  Many quotes from the Vatican II documents can be cited to support this but a significant one appears in Dei Verbum, the Constitution on Divine Revelation.

It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will, which was that people can draw near to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit and thus become sharers in the divine nature. By this revelation, then, the invisible God, from the fullness of his love, addresses men and women as his friends, and lives among them in order to invite and receive them into his company. (DV #2)

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

Pope Francis has spoken often of his conviction that the Lord is asking the Church at this time to evangelize, and that this requires us to change, both in our mindset as Catholics and in our culture and life in the Church.  “Do not fear”, he tells us, “to look on the wounds of our Church, not in order to lament them but to be led to where Christ in His woundedness shows us a way towards healing”. 

 A recent speaker at a symposium in America noted that the Church has been in tribulation for many years, because of the rapid expulsion of Christianity from western culture and law, and the growing distance and introversion of its attitudes. In too many cases the Church has refused humbly to accept the invitation of the Holy Spirit to discern and reform – to ask: how is the Holy Spirit asking us to change that we might evangelize in this new context? 

andrew hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street.                        

 

The government's assurance that it will move most of the remaining refugee children from Nauru by the end of the year is welcome. It came after doctors, nurses, judges, Wentworth voters and Coalition backbenchers had responded publicly to the evidence of acute mental health issues among children on the island.  The policy of preventing the children of people seeking asylum from coming to Australia is increasingly seen by ordinary Australians as cruel. It is no longer an electoral asset but a potential liability.

The decision is particularly welcome as Christmas approaches. Australian Christmas focuses on children. Christmas, and particularly the first Christmas, also raises broader questions about Australian refugee policy. It makes us ask why adults are left to languish on Manus Island, Nauru and in Australian detention centres. They, too, were children once. It also makes us ask why the government had so strongly resisted transferring to Australia children so clearly at risk. What is it that enables us to pass by damaged children, untroubled?

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

On this first weekend in November - and as we digest the calories contained in all the Halloween candy we bought to give away but ate ourselves - my thoughts have been turning to the significance of what this month of praying for the
Holy Souls really means. 

In the past, this feast focused on our role in the deliverance of the “poor souls in Purgatory.” They were the “church suffering,” waiting for what we, the “church militant,” would do to alleviate their suffering so that they might join the saints in heaven, (which we nominated to be the “church triumphant”).  We said prayers and made visits to churches in order to gain indulgences that might shorten their stay in that nebulous place of temporal punishment.  How long they were meant to stay there was a bit vague since we are operating from a level of existence that involves the passing of time, while they are caught up in the mysterious realm of the Eternal Now where time no longer has meaning.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners

Last Monday’s National Apology from the Prime Minister has been an historic and significant occasion – importantly, a profound acknowledgement of the pain and suffering of so many voices heard and unheard.

The Diocese of Broken Bay has joined the Prime Minister and the Parliament of Australia in offering an apology to all those who have been hurt by the crimes of members of the Church, and by attitudes and structures that have further damaged them. 

Here is the statement put out by our Diocese which echoes the sentiments of the Nation.

“Today’s National Apology by Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, and to their families and loved ones, has recognised the many individual voices of pain shared with the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and the countless unheard voices, as a trauma of national scope. It has acknowledged our failure to protect children, a failure that has made our society and our institutions less than what they need to be – places of safety, encouragement and openness.

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

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

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

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,  

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

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

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

Fr Paul MaloneyDear Fellow Parishioners,

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

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