18B – Bread of life (John 6:24-35; Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15)
When you read the Gospel of John, you must always be aware of the broad canvas upon which John writes his Gospel. He is always mindful and aware of all that has gone on before in the past – the history of the people of God; and he is also aware of what may come in the future as he writes for us who will come after him – as we do the things that he talks about. So as John tells us the story of John 6 that we have just read, the one story that he clearly has in mind, and which everyone who was there with him in Capernaum would also have had in mind, was the story that we have just read – the story of Exodus 16, those days when the Lord gave them bread from heaven. The Lord fed and nourished his people. For when the people came to him and said – give us this sign – give us this food to eat: they are asking Jesus to show himself as the true Messiah. They want him to prove and prove that he is the one that they have longed for; the one who will lead them on the new Exodus. That was the role of the Messiah. So Jesus is wanting to both affirm that and wanting them to remember the true nature of the Exodus, and what was actually happening.
When we go back to that scene and that place in Exodus 16, there are a number of things that we need to be aware of. The real event that we call the Exodus – the night of the Passover when the Lord with mighty hand and outstretched arm led the people of God from slavery to freedom – where in the book of Exodus that this happen, in which chapter? In chapter 14 you have the marvellous story of the people escaping through the Sea of Reeds and then in chapter 15 the magnificent song of Miriam of praise and thanksgiving – the one that we sing each year at the Easter Vigil as the response to the Third Reading. Here in chapter 16 we are in the very next chapter after the incredible events of the Exodus. Very little time has passed. Verse 1, which is not part of our reading today, tells us that a few weeks have passed since those incredible events – when they left Egypt with this whole cacophony of people along with their flocks and their herds, their sheep and their cattle. They left ready with provisions; they didn’t leave empty-handed. They had plenty of food to eat because they knew that the journey would be long and hard. So here in chapter 16 when they complain and cry and out and say to the Lord ‘how could you do this to us?’; ‘how could you lead us to this barren place?’ In the end of chapter 15 all they do is complain about the lack of water. So the Lord gives them water to drink. Here the Lord doesn’t say, ‘well, just go away and leave me alone, if you are not going to be thankful.’ No, he feeds his people. He gives them this food to eat.
When the dew lifts in the morning from the camp, and the people see this white flaky substance that has come there from overnight, they look at it and they say ‘what the…?’ (man-nu?) The Hebrew word for ‘what’ is ‘man’, so they look at this stuff and say ‘man-hu’ – what is that? And Moses says no, not ‘man-nu’, but the bread from heaven. This food that the Lord gives us. They are fed by God. The Lord gives them this food to eat. But the Lord also wants them to know that they are on a journey; what he is doing is creating a people. A people who are being led from slavery to freedom. It is sometimes said that while it only took God one night/one day to take Israel out of Egypt, it takes 40 years that they are in the wilderness – those 40 years of beginning to trust in God; beginning to allow the Lord to feed them; those 40 years to take Egypt out of Israel. To take those desires away; to allow them to know that indeed they can trust in God; indeed the Lord will feed them. He will give the manna in the morning; he will give the quail in the evening. The Lord will lead his people; the Lord will feed his people.
I don’t know about you, but at times I think back on the past – I look back at those memories and those things that I have done in the past that I regret, that still burden me and which are still present. And then I need the bread of God. I need the life of God to feed me now. To remind me not to go back; not to go back to those times when the fleshpots looked so wonderful – but they weren’t. Because that was slavery. The Lord wants to free us; he wants to do the same as what he tried to do with the people in the desert. To purify us and give us that hunger for the true bread; for that true presence of the Lord.
Recorded at St Col’s – Vigil and Sunday morning (10min 30sec)
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.
Recorded at St Cols. Pentecost Sunday, year B.
As we move into the new season of Lent accompanied by the Gospel of Mark, the starkness of the presentation of the testing in the wilderness in Mark becomes quickly apparent. Whereas the other synoptic Gospels offer us more detailed descriptions including the fasting, the nature of the testing and the dialogue that occurs between Jesus and the Satan, Mark simply tells us that immediately the Spirit of God – freshly poured upon Jesus at his baptism in the wilderness of the Jordan valley – drives Jesus out into the wilderness. The wilderness was not a comfortable place but rather a frightening place characterised by the wild animals that prowled around within its empty expanse. But unlike others who were tested by the accuser and failed – Adam is the primary example – Jesus succeeds in his testing. And unlike the whole nation of Israel that was likewise tested in the wilderness and also failed, Jesus offers redemption to the whole people by demonstrating that he is the stronger one who will overcome all failure and sin.
Recorded at St Columbkille’s, Corrimal, 9am (9 mins, 26 secs)
Lent, Sunday 1, Year B. Mark 1:12-15
From the Pastor’s PC – First Sunday of Lent
Well with a new season comes a new priest. I thought that it would be helpful for a bit of background info on who this new guy is – if you have to put up with me you deserve at least this much! So to begin with I’m a country kid. I grew up as the youngest of five kids on the far south coast of NSW, on a farm north of Bega. I am a very productive uncle: I have two sisters and two brothers; they are all married and have given me 17 nieces and nephews. I attended school in Bega – the local Catholic Primary School and then the local state High School – there was no Catholic school there in those days. My parents will celebrate their 55th wedding anniversary this year.
After school, I completed a degree in economics at Sydney University (1987-89) – with a triple major in economics, accounting and commercial law. I then worked in University ministry as part of the Disciples of Jesus Community – a lay Catholic community (1990-93), and began studies in theology at St Patrick’s College, Manly (1992-95) and Good Shepherd Seminary, Homebush (1996-98). I continued to work in the area of evangelisation and youth ministry during my seminary formation, as part of the Communauté de l’Emmanuel, which included opportunities to take part in street evangelisation in cities like Rome, Paris, Brussels, London and Dublin. I also spent more than four years with the Discalced Carmelites (1999-2003) and worked in the area of media and communications for the Archdiocese of Sydney (2003-2005).
I joined the Diocese of Wollongong at the beginning of 2005. The first five plus years were spent in the Nowra parish, as a seminarian, deacon and priest, being ordained deacon in December 2005 and priest in June 2006. In July 2010 I was appointed to Fairy Meadow parish as an assistant priest to the new Lumen Christi pastoral region in Wollongong, and in October 2011 as assistant priest to St Paul’s Parish, Camden. As you know, I have now been appointed as the administrator or the ‘priest-in-charge’ here at St Columbkille’s. I have also applied to be the parish priest of the northern suburbs cluster – but we will have to wait and see what the bishop and the good Lord wants with all that!
I am somewhat into technology and gadgets, and I have presented at national conferences on the role of technology and the church. In addition to my parish role, I am also the Vocations Director and chair of the Vocations Team, chaplain to Catholic Youth Ministry in Wollongong, chair of the Youth Council, I help with the Diocesan website, several other parish and national websites, I have helped to prepare the Lenten and Advent Programs, and I am a member of the Proclaim Conference organising committee and the Diocesan representative on the National Evangelisation Forum.
From 2007 – 2013 I was also secretary of the Wollongong Diocese Council of Priests, and a member of the National World Youth Day Committee. Since 1992 I have been a regular presenter at the Summer School of Evangelisation in Bathurst, and since 2008, I have been very blessed by the opportunity to travel to Queensland in January to help out with initial training for NET Ministries and to be a presenter at the Ignite Conference and chaplain to six Ignite Summer Camps for teenagers. I prepare liturgical resources for the Church, including the iPriest Missal and Lectionary – which is what I use during the Mass. Since November 2008, I have also published a blog (frrick.me) and podcast (frrick.org) of my weekly homilies, which is available on iTunes. The audio recordings of my homilies have received several hundred thousand downloads. Finally, like Fr Graham, I am a regular contributor to the Journey Radio program.
So, let us journey with the Lord during this season of Lent, embracing the chance to hear the kingdom of God being proclaimed into our lives, and this chance to repent – to turn again to the Lord of all life and goodness.
Fr Richard Healey (or Fr Rick – or any variation that begins with R!)
One of the challenges of anyone attempting to read through the Bible are the encounters with the chapters that contain bizarre laws or content that seems to offer no significant spiritual content. For example, if you start with the book of Genesis, the pace and scope of the narrative will carry you through the book fairly easily and through the first half of Exodus. But once you arrive on Mount Sinai and have made your way through the Decalogue, you strike laws that are massively irrelevant – unless you really do want to know how to sell your daughter into slavery or who is responsible if an animal falls into an open-pit that you have dug.
But the great pity of this is that the chapters that describe the building of the tabernacle (Exodus 25-31) are about much more than the furniture or vestments of the priests – they really present the reason that God wanted to rescue Israel in the first place – so that he could make his dwelling within them. Eventually – after a number of missteps, including the massive one when Aaron doubts that Moses will return from the mountain and invites the people to turn their gold into a false idol in the golden calf – the sanctuary is made and the dwelling of God does indeed fall upon the camp and the Lord is now present in the midst of his people (Exodus 50).
All of this background is essential if we are to understand the book of Revelation properly. Otherwise we miss so many of the images that so richly illustrate the points that the seer John receives and shares with us about the new Jerusalem.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 5.30pm (9’15”)
Easter, Sunday 6C (Rev 21)
In Hebrews 12 we arrive at what can be argued as the climax of the letter/document with a description of two mountains. The first, although unnamed, clearly refers to Mount Sinai and the place of the reception of the great covenant by Moses. The frightening scene is related powerfully – complete with a blazing fire, darkness, gloom and whirlwind. By way of contrast, the readers are told that no – you have come to Mount Sion/Zion – to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We discover here a vision of heaven that is strikingly similar to the vision that the pages of scripture closes with, in Revelation 21 and 22.
Recorded at St Mary’s Leppington, 7pm Mass (Thursday, week 4)
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.
Recorded at St Michael’s 9.30am (11’03”)
Second Sunday of Advent (Year C) – Baruch 5:1-9; Phil 1:3-11; Luke 3:1-6.
Luke begins the account of the ministry of John the Baptist with a list of strange names – what is he doing and why is he doing it and how does it relate to the splendour and integrity of a people lost in a foreign land?
In order to understand why Luke begins this account of the ministry of John, son of Zechariah, with all of those names – we need to do some background work. We need to go back to the first reading – from the prophet Baruch (the secretary of Jeremiah).
Baruch prophesied during the same period – the time of Exile. This was an utterly devastating period in the history of Israel. For us to make any sense of the readings today we need to first attempt to at least get into the mindset of what it would be like for the whole of your life – and of the whole of your country to be turned completely upside down and inside out. They were treated as slaves and they lost all of the land of the promise; the empire of Babylon had swept down upon them and completely destroyed their land, their city and their temple. All that Jerusalem stood for was destroyed and taken away from them when they were escorted under military guard from Jerusalem into exile. Everything that they had based their lives upon was gone. It is hard to appreciate how devastating this was for them.
18B – Bread of life (John 6:24-35; Exodus 16: 2-4, 12-15)
When you read the Gospel of John, you must always be aware of the broad canvas upon which John writes his Gospel. He is always mindful and aware of all that has gone on before in the past – the history of the people of God; and he is also aware of what may come in the future as he writes for us who will come after him – as we do the things that he talks about. So as John tells us the story of John 6 that we have just read, the one story that he clearly has in mind, and which everyone who was there with him in Capernaum would also have had in mind, was the story that we have just read – the story of Exodus 16, those days when the Lord gave them bread form heaven. The Lord fed and nourished his people. For when the people came to him and said – give us this sign – give us this food to eat: they are asking Jesus to reveal himself as the true Messiah. They want him to prove and demonstrate that he is the one that they have longed for; the one who will lead them on the new Exodus. That was the role of the Messiah. So Jesus is wanting to both affirm that and also wanting them to remember the true nature of the Exodus, and what was actually happening.
Every year at the Easter Vigil, one Old Testament reading must be read – it is the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Surely this is because it is only when we understand God’s saving purpose – that he is a God who hears the cry of the poor and the oppressed and does something about it – that we can understand the resurrection. It is only when we understand the cries of our own hearts that we can truly cry out to God and allow the power of new creation unleashed through the resurrection to have its effects on our life.
We also need to be aware that God is often doing amazing works all around us but we may miss them because all we know is the mud under our feet as we cross through the sea of liberation.
Recorded at St Michael’s during the Easter Vigil 2009. (11’59”)