Forgiveness and Our Real Crisis

National Day of Mourning. Mark 2:1-12

On this Sunday before Lent, Bishop Peter Ingham addresses the whole Diocese in his Lenten Pastoral Letter entitled “Our Real Crisis.” My homily this week is based on Bishop Peter’s letter, with a little more material on the Gospel, the beautiful story of the paralysed man being brought to Jesus by his friends, to receive the greatest of every person fulfilled – the forgiveness of sins. The recording concludes with a true story from Ireland.
Music is Sretenye – O My Soul, rise!
Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am Mass (8″10″)

Watch the full Pastoral letter here.

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Exclusion and Embrace

6th Sunday (B) – Leviticus 13; Mark 1:40-45

It did not take long during the week before we began to hear victims of the terrible bushfires that ravaged Victoria last weekend ask why did this happen? Who is to blame? Was it the fault of the arsonists who lit the fires, or the greenies who didn’t allow controlled-burns, or the government for not have early warning systems in place. Today we see that a class-action has begun against the power company that maintains the power-lines, because it may have been a spark from a fallen pole that started the fires. We are always looking for someone to blame. This is perhaps more the case with our generation, but it has probably always been the case. If only those people weren’t here, everything would be ok (you know – the people with that colour skin; those who voted that way in the election; people who made their money that way; people who have that sexual orientation.)

In centuries past, the way to achieve holiness / salvation was through ritual purity. You had to stay removed from anyone that was not living and following the requirements of the covenant like you were. So you simply must avoid anyone who is ‘unclean.’ Keep yourself separate from those who are ‘sinners’ & hang-out with people who are like-minded and obsessed about the same kind of issues, etc. Stay away from the wrong kind of people – notorious sinners; people who are diseased, etc.

In the gospels, we meet Jesus who again and again goes against this wisdom (this ‘framing narrative’) and associates with those who are ‘unclean’ and even touches them. He shows us the extent to which God will go to reach us, to include us in the kingdom. He pulls down barriers and walls that prevent the saving power of God from reaching those who are the most vulnerable in our society. And he invites us to do the same.

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[Note this version does not mention the movie ‘Gran Torino’ – so it is spoiler free!]

Exclusion and Healing

6th Sunday (B) – Leviticus 13; Mark 1:40-45

During the week we have heard many stories from the bushfire-ravaged centres of Victoria – many incredibly harrowing and horrific of great loss of life and possessions; some magnificent and miraculous of escape and rescue. Among these stories we have also been presented with others as victims have struggled to come to terms with their loss and begun to look for someone to blame. It was the fault of the arsonists who lit the fires, or the greenies who didn’t allow controlled-burns, or the government for not have early warning systems in place.

In the Ancient Near East one story was seen as essential for survival – ‘exclusion’. The way to achieve holiness / salvation was through ritual purity. You had to stay removed from anyone that was not living and following the requirements of the covenant like you were. So you simply must avoid anyone who is ‘unclean.’ Keep yourself separate from those who are ‘sinners’ & hang-out with people who are like-minded and obsessed about the same kind of issues, etc. Stay away from the wrong kind of people – notorious sinners; people who are diseased, etc.

In the gospels, we meet Jesus who again and again goes against this wisdom (this ‘framing narrative’) and associates with those who are ‘unclean’ and even touches them. He shows us the extent to which God will go to reach us, to include us in the kingdom.

You also see this tension demonstrated brilliantly in the Clint Eastwood movie ‘Gran Torino’ which shows a society in collapse, with multiple groups in tension and conflict. Strangely the character that Clint plays reminds us of the way that Christ was. (Note – contains spoilers about the movie.)

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Ref: Watch Fr Robert Barron’s YouTube video on the movie Gran Torino (more spoilers!)

Immediately

During this liturgical year, we read from the Gospel of Mark. Each Gospel has its own style and personality. In John there are long discourses from Jesus with rich theological insights; Luke, written to a Gentile audience, has beautiful parables like the prodigal son and the good Samaritan; while Matthew, written to a Jewish audience, presents Jesus as the new Moses, with new teaching enfleshed by stories of what Jesus did. In Mark, the shortest and probably the earliest Gospel, we meet a Jesus who is always on the move. The Gospels were written in Greek, and Mark uses the word ‘euthus‘ or ‘eutheus‘ which means ‘immediately’ or ‘straight away’ more often than all the other Gospels combined – 42 times (18 in Matt; 6 each in Luke and John). This gives this Gospel a great sense of breathless urgency. In the first chapter alone, we see the word used 11 times!

This gives us an insight into the nature of Jesus’ ministry. We also see that Jesus needs to escape after this hectic day of ministry to find time alone with God. And finally that when the disciples come looking for him, since ‘everyone is looking for you,’ he doesn’t stay and minister, but he goes ‘elsewhere’ to continue to proclaim the kingdom of God there. We need to learn that at times we need to say ‘no’ to certain things (even if they seem good) in order to say ‘yes’ to the ‘one thing necessary.’

Recorded at St Michael’s, 9.30am (8’40”)

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090208 – 5th Sunday Year B – Mark 1:29-39.

Teaching with authority

The words and teaching of Jesus were always closely united. This was clearly the intention of God from the beginning – this was the way that he wanted for his people. God wants us to know the truth, and he wants us to be changed by our encounter with him. This is only possible when we experience teaching that has power – power that can cut through our own barriers and doubts. Power that can cut to the heart and reveal those areas of our lives that are in need of the healing and truth that only the Lord can give us. When we take time to listen to the Lord, we find this truth and we find this authority for our lives…

I am currently on NET training on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, so no Sunday homily was recorded this week.