Homilies: 4th Sunday of Advent, Year B

My homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year B) as preached during the 5.30 pm Saturday Evening Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.

The readings proclaimed were 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; Romans 16:25-27; Luke 1:26-38.

“The angel’s message to Mary is not just a revelation about what God will do, but combined with Mary’s simple ‘yes’ it becomes the moment when God is joined with human flesh in the body of Mary, as the Eternal Word takes on human form in her womb.”

Review: Divine Blessing: Liturgical Formation in the RCIA

Divine Blessing: Liturgical Formation in the RCIADivine Blessing: Liturgical Formation in the RCIA by Timothy P. O’Malley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As someone with a keen interest both in liturgy generally, and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) in particular, the contents of this book were both interesting and encouraging.

At the heart of the thesis in O’Malley’s book is that liturgical formation, but which is meant formation that is rooted in experiencing and reflecting on the celebration of the liturgy, is the primary content, indeed the premier content, for preparing those who are journeying through the RCIA. Everything that enquirers, catechumens, elect and neophytes – depending on where they are in the journey – need in order to prepare for and then live Christian initiation can be found there in the Church’s liturgy. No textbooks are required, no curriculum is necessary, other than that offered by living the liturgical life of the Church in full.

O’Malley writes clearly and engagingly, bringing both his wealth of knowledge and personal story to bear in this book. And the book is a great resource for those responsible for accompanying seekers along the journey of the RCIA, a task that can only be described as a privilege. O’Malley’s contribution is a boon to the task and those undertaking it.

From the backcover:
RCIA teams often struggle with getting catechumens and candidates to participate regularly in the church’s liturgy. Those who do often feel bored or confused, or they see it as a nice tradition or an inconvenient obligation rather than the heart of our Catholic faith. So we fill the hpa with more catechesis that explains the liturgy to seekers, and we pray they will have a better personal experience on Sunday. Yet neither causes them to love the liturgy as we do.

In Divine Blessing: Liturgical Formation in the RCIA, Timothy P. O’Malley shows us how we can break out of a classroom model about liturgy and instead invite seekers to be formed by the risen Christ through the liturgy. This book will give you a process for preparing your catechumens and candidates to learn the liturgy’s symbolic language of self-giving love that will sustain them with divine blessing and train them to be Christ’s disciples in the world.

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Woke Is The New PC

I have a great deal of time for ensuring the civil discourse is both courteous and beneficial. The whole point of engaging in civil discourse, by which I mean conversations in the public domain about matters of public interest, is to foster mutual understanding, the sharing of ideas, and, ultimately, seeking the betterment of civil society. Such a high minded ideal is, of course, not shared by everyone, but that does not deter me, nor should it deter others, from doing what we can to encourage and promote good civil discourse, and, and the flip side, to call out pour examples of the same when they can be clearly identified.

And so to the primary thrust of this particular column.

One of things that I find increasingly destructive of good civil discourse is the use of categories to dismiss other participants without the need to engage with the ideas or positions that are attempting to put forward. This phenomenon, which for lack of a better description, I like to call ‘categorisation error’, essentially amounts to an ad hominem argument, that is, focussing on the speaker, writer or other communicator, rather than on the substance of what is being put forward in what the individual is saying, writing, or otherwise seeking to communicate.

By way of example, consider the way the word ‘woke’ is often deployed to describe a particular group of people who are, as the word is usually defined, “alert to injustice in society, especially racism”. It is a word that has found its way into common usage in recent time especially in light of particular issues. It is also a word that is used by some interlocutors, those who could be described as having more conservative social and political views, to refer to those considered to be political opponents.

And it is used, often, as a means of dismissing those so described, i.e. those people are ‘woke’, and therefore we do not have to respond to anything they have to say or engage in further conversation with them.

To be clear, this is not a phenomenon that is restricted to only one part of the broader civil spectrum. It is not something we see only on the left of the political spectrum nor only on the right of the same spectrum. Consider, for example, the use of the word, ‘reactionary’ – often used by those on the left of the political spectrum about those on the right of that same spectrum. It is, like the descriptor ‘woke’, used to dismiss a certain group of people as unworthy of being engaged with for the very reason that they are of a group known labelled as ‘reactionary’.

The phenomenon is more universal than that, however, symptomatic, I believe, of a larger problem. And that problem as about the fear, or lack of good intent if I am being generous, to engage with ideas which may be completely foreign to one’s own worldview, lest that same worldview might be shaken and brought down. In much of what could broadly be described as civil discourse in our contemporary society, there is a desire to maintain one’s own worldview at all costs. It is a phenomenon that has grown in more recent times, particularly in the partisan political arena, where there seems to be a penchant for ‘oppositionalism’, i.e. opposition for the sake of opposition, rather than a preparedness to engage in dialogue and discourse that seeks to serve the common good of the state and its citizens. It is symptomatic of a ‘win at all costs’ mentality that serves the cult of the individual more than the human relationships that are at the foundation of civil society.

I suspect that, at least in partisan political circles, that the phenomenon has as much to do with the developing ‘cult of personality’ that is at the heart of many partisan political campaigns in contemporary societies. The lionisation of the individual politician, or nascent demagogue, so that every utterance that comes from their lips is deemed to be unchallengeable or incontrovertibly true, and opponents are dismissed by the use of labels such as woke or reactionary, or others depending on the person who wishes to apply them to their opponents. The use of labels – woke, reactionary, liberal, conservative, progressive, or any other one – has only one purpose, and that is to provide a basis for refusing to engage in civil discourse, to engage with ideas that might not be immediately attractive, and to fortify one’s own position lest it is challenged and brought crumbling down.

And who suffers as a result of the advent of this phenomenon? We all do. Ideas go unexplored because they have been dismissed through the application of a label. Political opponents are demonised because they are likewise labelled. And all the while the society we are supposed to be building together becomes more fractured, more tribal, more divided. Instead of moving forward together for the common good, we expend energy building barriers between each other that thwart the seeking of that very thing.

But it is not yet too late to rescue civil discourse. It is not yet too late to change the way we engage with other people – even those we might fundamentally disagree with. All it takes is a little bit of effort on everyone’s part.

All it takes is some basic human respect and cordiality, and a preparedness to recognise that civil discourse should be exactly that.

Review: Jesus Wasn’t Killed by the Jews: Reflections for Christians in Lent

Jesus Wasn't Killed by the Jews: Reflections for Christians in LentJesus Wasn’t Killed by the Jews: Reflections for Christians in Lent by Jon M. Sweeney
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Prompted by yet another shooting in a Jewish synagogue, this series of short yet thoughtful essays are something that every Christian should read. This is especially true for any Catholic who wishes to remain faithful to the teaching of the Church as elucidated in Vatican II’s document Nostra Aetate.

And yet there is more to do, more to think about than simply embracing the official position of the Catholic Church (for those who are Catholics) or being faithful to the revelation to be found in that which we call the Bible (for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. And this small tome is one way of introducing the broader context in which Christians need to live if we are to truly see our Jewish brothers and sisters as our brothers and sisters and not just as them.

As a preacher who regularly needs to delve into the Scripture readings proclaimed during the Church’s liturgy, there is much I took from this book that will give me pause to think next time I come across the phrase “the Jews” in one of the Gospel or New Testament readings. There is a nuance there that cannot be ignored or misunderstood, glossed over or misinterpreted. As a preacher, if I am to be faithful to that calling, I will need to take on the lessons to be found in this book – and many others that this book will require from other sources – lest I fail to properly preach the Christian message that I have been entrusted to preach.

As a listener to the Scriptures proclaimed, and as a reader of the Scriptures, the task falls to me – as it does to anyone who also is a listener and reader – to be prepared to engage with the themes of this book when it comes to understanding the phrase “the Jews” lest we all perpetuate the misinterpretation that has brought such horror to those who live as Children of the Covenant, God’s Holy People.

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Homilies: Solemnity of All Saints

My homily for the Solemnity of All Saints as preached during the 5.30 pm Saturday Evening Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.

The readings proclaimed were Apocalypse 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 John 3:1-3; Matthew 5:1-12..

“The Saints are not just those whom we acknowledge in our liturgical calendar across the year. We are all created and called to be the ‘Saints of God’, those whom God has chosen and called to be in a close and righteous relationship with God. Thousands of generations of Saints have gone before us; a thousand more generation may come after us. But we are called to live out our lives struggling to be that which God has called us to be – God’s Saints.”

Homilies: 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

My homily for the 30thSunday in Ordinary Time, Year A as preached during the 5 pm Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.

The readings proclaimed were Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40.

“Having being loved by God – profoundly and completely – we are called to love our neighbour not for our sake but for theirs. To love another is to be prepared to sacrifice something of ourselves for the sake of the other – just as God loved us enough to send his Son to live as one like us, and to suffer and die for our sake, and to rise that we might have life eternal.”