Easter 2 – Breath and life

On the second Sunday of Easter (or the eighth day of Easter), the church always offers before us John 20 for our Gospel reflection, commemorating both the first appearance of Jesus to the church on Easter Sunday, and then his second appearance eight days later, on the second Sunday. To appreciate the full beauty of this Gospel, we need to first look at in parallel to the first half of John 20 – the first scene of the resurrection. We will focus on the part of the Gospel that the church will again offer to us for our reflection at the end of the Easter Season, on the Sunday of Pentecost. In John’s Gospel, there is no need to wait for fifty days before the gift of the Holy Spirit is given to the church. No, the Holy Spirit is the gift that Jesus breathes upon the group of disciples who are gathered (not just the 11 Apostles) on the day of the Resurrection.

Recorded at St Paul’s (15mins) 6pm, 8am & 10am available.
Easter Sunday 2, Year A. John 20:19-31.

Pentecost as promise of a new life

To fully appreciate the significance of the celebration of Pentecost you need to remember the origins of the Jewish festival of Shavu’ot. Although according to the Book of Leviticus the festival celebrated a week of weeks after Passover (the fifty days) was a Harvest festival where the first fruits of the seven kinds of grain were offered, in the intertestimental period (the period after the Hebrew Scriptures were written) the Rabbis added an additional significance to the festival – the gift of Torah on Mount Sinai. The second reading for the Vigil Mass retells the covenant proposal found in Exodus 19 as God wooed an ordinary ragtag tribe of people who were called by their previous Egyptian captors the “dusty ones”. But ever since their father Avram was called by the Lord to leave his homeland of Ur (Gen 12) to a land that God will show him, and Avram went, this people began to rewrite human history. They began to realise that god could be bigger than a local totem, that history is linear rather than circular, and that they were now being claimed by a God who was a verb not a noun who was calling them into a future marked and shaped by hope. Because of the resurrection and the events that occurred on this particular remembrance of the covenant festival, this tiny group of Jewish believers were going to be transformed into a people marked by an even greater hope because of the new covenant that the wind of the Spirit opened up to them and us.

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Recorded at St Cols. Pentecost Sunday, year B.

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Connected to Life

cross+vineToday we hear the final of the seven “I am” declarations that punctuate the Gospel of John – “I am the true vine.” This declaration is also unusual because it is the first time one that is explicitly relational: I am the vine; you are the branches. We should be in no doubt after hearing this declaration about the sense of connection with the divine that has been opened up to us as a result of the ministry of Jesus.

Across the centuries, but especially since the rise of individualism and capitalism, Christianity has been infected with the same idea that ‘the gods help those who help themselves.’ This tendency reached a high point in the teachings of the British monk Pelagius, who was condemned by various councils and especially in the writings of St Augustine. Pelagainism as his school of thought was called taught that the first moves towards God were always our initiative and we could basically move towards a life of holiness and grace with just a little assistance from God. The Gospel today should clearly show that it is never enough for Jesus to be merely an inspiring moral figure or teacher for us. No the Christian life is not about our response to God – but about participating in the very life of God organically.

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Recorded at St Col’s, 9am (8min 53 sec)
Sunday 5 in Easter, Year B. John 15:1-8

Pentecost – renewing the face of the earth

shutterstock_47808574When I was a kid it was uncommon for my parents to come and visit the school; in part this was because we lived on a farm and caught the bus to and from school almost every day; the exception was on Tuesdays which was mum’s shopping day and we could go home with her in a car chock-full of groceries. But as a young boy this was all quite fine. You learn how to function and relax and be yourself at home; and then how to behave and function quite differently at school. All of this works well enough until you are presented with those inevitable awkward situations where the two normally separate worlds crossover – such as being picked up from school and your mother tries to kiss or cuddle you – behaviour that is perfectly acceptable at home, but which you want no part of at all in this particular environment. Perhaps even as adults we continue to keep the various parts of our lives nicely isolated. We are happy enough to do certain things in church – like pray aloud and sing hymns and respond to psalms and stand / sing / sit /sing / stand / sit / sing / give and pass / stand / kneel / stand / kneel / stand / shake / sing / process / sing / kneel / sit / give / stand / sing / exit. Of course there is very little of this that we would do in any other environment. Last week we saw that this tendency to break down our lives into little compartments is a very western response and that the church has taken some of this onboard as a result of the influence of Greek philosophy which quickly began to invade the eastern spirituality of the teachings of the Jewish Messiah Jesus. It is little wonder therefore that we so often attempt to compartmentalise the Feast of Pentecost as a quirky and awkward invasion of heaven attempting to disrupt our ordinary spiritual lives.

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Recorded at St Paul’s 6pm (10’58”)
Solemnity of Pentecost.

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
Enkindle in us the fire, the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and we shall be created.
And you shall renew the face of the earth.

Recording from the 8am Mass is also available (8’27”).

Longing for a new breath of life in the Holy Spirit

HolySpirit-doveIt can be the case that when we think about the early experience of the Church, that we compress it into a rather monochromatic history. In fact the disciples were probably more like us than we think. Even though Jesus gives them rather clear instructions that they are to wait in Jerusalem upon the Holy Spirit to receive his power, then they are to go out from there and proclaim and share this new life in Galilee, Samaria and indeed to the ends of the earth. What you in fact find, is that the disciples after Pentecost are filled with boldness and zeal – but they remain in the city of Jerusalem. It takes a very mundane act – the need to appoint new leaders to look after the needs of the Hellenistic followers of the Way (the Deacons) which results in two extraordinary men of God stepping up – Stephen and Philip. It is the provocative preaching of Stephen which results first in his execution, but second in a persecution that breaks out against the disciples. It is only in answer to this that Philip goes out from Jerusalem and begins to do what Jesus had instructed all the disciples to do – to leave Jerusalem and proclaim the message of the Messiah – in a Samaritan town. As is the case across the centuries, great signs accompany his preaching and the people rejoice and receive the message and are baptised. Even so, something is missing in their life and experience of God – something that only is awakened in them through the ministry of the apostles Peter and John, when they also leave Jerusalem and come to lay hands and pray for the release of the Holy Spirit in the lives of these believers.

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Recorded at St Mary’s, Leppington. (7’38”)
Easter, Sunday 6, Year A. Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; I Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21.

Becoming the people of God

About a month ago I accepted the invitation of one of our parishioners – Peter – to go gliding with him. It is certainly an incredible experience as you are towed up a couple thousand metres by an old crop-duster, and then once you reach the designated height the cable connecting you to the plain is released and then you are on your own – somehow managing to glide and soar up there – and not crash. Rather cool – especially because the only noise (still fairly considerable) is of the air rushing past – you don’t also have the vociferation of motors. (more…)

God is love

When you read through the scriptures, one thing that modern readers might expect are passages that point to proofs for the existence of God. And yet there is not a single place that we can turn to to find something even remotely close to a De Deo Uno (Concerning One God) treatise that you find in classical and medieval theology. In fact the closest that you get is the statement that begins Psalm 14 and 53 – ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”.’ The bible – like all of the ancient near east, simply takes for granted the existence of God.

So what does the bible tell us about the nature of God? What are the images that you find that can help to illuminate the profession of faith of the early Church that God is three in one?

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Recorded at St Brigid, Gwynneville, 9am (10’49”)
Trinity Sunday | John 3:16-18

Come Holy Spirit

This feast is a demonstration of the unique Christian understanding of grace and salvation. Before this day, although the disciples knew of the reality of the resurrection of Jesus and the fulfillment of the many prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, they were still huddled together in fear – until the Spirit comes – then they become the Church.

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Recorded at Mater Dolorosa, 10am (9’45”)
Pentecost Sunday, Year A.

Signs of the Spirit

As we move through the Easter season, the liturgy today moves in its focus from looking back to the events of Easter, to looking forward in anticipation of the gift of the Holy Spirit poured out upon the Church at Pentecost. All the readings today provide insights and guidance concerning the life in the Spirit and how this can be recognised and discerned. We are given a range of different hints across the readings today about what it means to live in the Spirit and to long for the Spirit to work in our lives.

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Easter 6A. 8’21”.

Pentecost and Mount Sinai

In the first reading from Acts 2 we hear a whole series of quite bizarre events – most of which we probably have no idea what they mean. To get a better sense of what we celebrate, we need to revisit the Jewish festivals of Pesach and Shavuot in the book of Exodus and remember the day that the Lord appeared in fire and thunder to all the people (including the erev rov – the mixed nations) to make covenant with his people on Mount Sinai.

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Recorded at St Michael’s 9.30am (11’03”)