Sunday, 1 May 2022

Quo Vadis, 3rd Sunday Easter, Year C

Jn 21:1-19; Acts 5:27-32.40-41

I don’t know if you’ve every wondered what size shoe Jesus takes, but the answer is a size 10, and the reason we know this connects an ancient Tradition with the prophecy in today’s Gospel.
Many of you will be familiar with Domine Quo Vadis account. This isn’t recorded in the Scriptures but we find it written about in a non-canonical source called the Acts of St Peter. It describes how, near the end of St Peter’s life, there was a persecution of the Christians in Rome. And Peter fled. He fled out of the city along the Appia Antica, the ancient road out of the city. And as he was hurrying along he saw the Lord Jesus: Jesus was coming the opposite direction, carrying His cross, heading to Rome. Peter asked Him, ‘Domine Quo Vadis’ [Where are you going Lord?]. To which the Lord answered, ‘I am going to Rome, to be crucified again’. The vision vanished, but left His empty footprints on the rock. Peter was called to fill those empty footprints. Peter knew from this that he was called to return to Rome himself, to suffer and die for the Lord, as the Lord had prophesied so many years previously on the side of the Lake of Galilee. And so Peter died Saint Peter.

The gospel account we heard taught us a lot about St Peter’s call. He was established as the shepherd over the other shepherds: the prince of the apostles. He was called to suffer martyrdom: to be taken where he would rather not go. He was, in all, called, in those final words, to “follow me”.
But, if Jesus called him to so much, what did Jesus ASK him in His questions of him? Only one simple thing. A simple thing that was so important He asked it three times: ‘Do you love me?’

What of us? Do we love Him?
Why should I love Him? Well, the answer to that might lie in why Peter loved Him.

The answer to why Peter loved Him lies, at least in part, with the change that the Resurrection brought about. A change that indicates why it is the RESURRECTION and not only the Cross that is what enables us to carry OUR cross.
Before: Peter was weak, he ran away when Jesus was arrested, he denied Him three times.
After: he was bold, strong, as we heard in the first reading: he was ready to be whipped and suffer for Jesus.
We know that Peter was strong because of Grace, but I think there is another reason:
Peter now knew Jesus in a way that he had only imperfectly known Him before.
Peter had an experience of Him as something more.

Why did Peter love Him?
He knew Him: He knew Him as one who FORGAVE Him: threefold profession = threefold forgiveness
He knew Him as one who LOVED Him: sought Peter out after the Resurrection
-the Lord didn’t look for a new set of better apostles
He knew Him as a TRIUMPHANT Lord, risen from death. He knew Him as his God.
He knew Him as the MEANING of life.
As Peter had professed previously, when they couldn’t comprehend Jesus’s claim to be the Bread of Life, to feed them with His own flesh. ‘Will you, too, now leave me?’, ‘Lord, to whom would we go, you have the words of eternal life’
He knew Him as one who would PROVIDE for him: produced the miraculous catch of fish
-provided for him by His own self as food: fish as food:
Greek word for Christ was fish: Ichthus
-provided for him even if it meant WITH the Cross of suffering to share.

All of these reasons were only FULLY manifest in the light of the resurrection: triumphant, meaning of life, provider, forgiver, lover.  The resurrection made it possible for Peter to love the Lord in a way that he had never loved Him before.  To follow Him, in a way that he had never followed Him before.

These same reasons are why I should love Him. Are why I should accept all the little sufferings, and big sufferings, that my call to follow Him involve. To be good, to be patient, considerate, thoughtful of others, to accept my illnesses and weaknesses, to offer them as a prayer to the Lord.

So, how do I know that Jesus takes a size ten shoe? Because I take a size ten shoe. And, like you, I know that I am called to fill the shoes of the fisherman: to suffer as he suffered. Because, like Him, I know my following of the Lord is founded on that same question, ‘Do you love me?’

The full text of the account in The Acts of St Peter (XXXV):
“And as they considered these things, Xanthippe took knowledge of the counsel of her husband with Agrippa, and sent and showed Peter, that he might depart from Rome. And the rest of the brethren, together with Marcellus, besought him to depart. But Peter said unto them: Shall we be runaways, brethren? and they said to him: Nay, but that thou mayest yet be able to serve the Lord. And he obeyed the brethren's voice and went forth alone, saying: Let none of you come forth with me, but I will go forth alone, having changed the fashion of mine apparel. And as he went forth of the city, he saw the Lord entering into Rome. And when he saw him, he said: Lord, whither goest thou thus (or here)? And the Lord said unto him: I go into Rome to be crucified. And Peter said unto him: Lord, art thou (being) crucified again? He said unto him: Yea, Peter, I am (being) crucified again. And Peter came to himself: and having beheld the Lord ascending up into heaven, he returned to Rome, rejoicing, and glorifying the Lord, for that he said: I am being crucified: the which was about to befall Peter.”
The presence of the Apostle Peter in this area, where he is supposed to have lived, appears to be confirmed in an epigraph in the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian that reads Domus Petri (House of Peter). A later epigram by Pope Damasus I (366–384) in honour of Peter and Paul reads: "You that are looking for the names of Peter and Paul, you must know that the saints have lived here." There are two footprints on a marble slab at the centre of the church which are a copy of the original slab that has now been moved to the nearby Basilica of St Sebastian at the catacombs.

Monday, 10 January 2022

Retreat Talks: The Priest as a Man of Hope

The following is the audio of retreat talks that were given for T1&T2 seminarians of Kenrick seminary, at the Savior Retreat Center, Kansas City.

(1) The New Evangelisation, America, and the Diocesan Priest: Setting our context


 (2) The Priest as a Man of Hope


 (3) The Priest as a Man of Faith


 (4) The Priest as a Man of Love


 (5) The Priest's Undivided Heart: Celibacy

Tuesday, 14 December 2021

Sermon: St John of the Cross and Advent

Today St John of the Cross enters our advent season, 

a figure that, I’d suggest to you, 

might be seen as as unwelcome as a skeleton at a Christmas feast:

We've just had Gaudete Sunday, joy, 

recalling that even as we wait He is already here

Yet, just after such a pleasant lightening of the mood, 

here comes Mr self-denial, Mr suffering, Mr Cross.

(1) The need for purging

 He's not FULLY here

There is MUCH that stops Him coming

and ONE of the things that STOPS Him from entering my soul, and entering my life, 

is my failure to embrace the Cross.

Even physically, 

before I am feed my belly more for Christmas, I must be purged of what already fills me

Spiritually, it is even more true:

I must be purged of so much in my heart, for Christ to have room to enter at Christmas


The dark night: 

  • of the senses, 
  • of the soul
Self denial 
  • love of the Cross

(2) Contrasting joy and pleasure:
  • Joy, spiritual joy, 
    • is fully compatible with the Cross
  • Physical pleasure 
    • was obviously not part of Christ’s experience on the cross 
    • And there are very real pains that accompany the purging, of the dark night (in its many forms)
  • Yet,
  • The fruit of love is joy
  • Physical pleasure 
    • comes from contact with physical goods, like donuts, and turkey

  • Spiritual joy,
    • come from contact, from union, with the spiritual good, with God
  • LOVE is that union, and love brings JOY

(3) My love needs re-ordering
  • The love in my heart is very confused very disordered
    • My yearning for the things of this world 
      • (the things that God made)
        • so often distracts me from, rather that leads me to, Him
  • And so,
    • I need that skeleton at my Christmas feast, 
    • I need St John of the Cross 
      • to re-order my heart
  • ”the gate that gives entry… Is the Cross.  Many seek the joys that can be found through it, but few desire to pass through it” (St John, office of readings)

(4) Penance in Advent
  • In the Latin Church, our Church:
    • we associate penance with Lent
  • But there is also a tradition of penance in Advent
  • We might say:
    • Lent is about penance, for past sins
    • Advent is about repentance FROM them,  to be ready for His coming, preparation
  • But,
    • part of such preparation needs to include self denial and the Cross
  • And
    • That's part of why having all these CHRISTMAS parties in the midst of ADVENT is so DAMAGING

  • (1) The need for purging
  • (2) The difference, but not contradiction, between physical pleasure and spiritual joy;
  • (3) My love needs re-ordering
  • (4) Advent penance does such a re-ordering
  • Christ wants to come, 
    • this is the whole message of advent
  • The Church prays for Him to come
    • I pray for Him to come
    • You pray for Him I come
  • But, on this feast of St John of the Cross, 
    • let’s remember that a continual part of getting ready for Him to come 

Monday, 8 November 2021

Seeking Him

Monday 32nd Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 8th Nov 2021, Josephinum 
Wis 1:1-7 
I want to say a few words finding the Lord, 
 and how we can stop ourselves finding Him. Our first reading: 
“seek Him… …He is found… He manifests Himself…” (Wis 1:1-2) 

 (1) First, I want to note the joy of finding Him. 
• To find someone who loves us 
-is a great thing 
• To find direction, knowledge, guidance, meaning 
-is a great thing. 
There are many people out there who have never experienced that joy 
 -let us thank Him. 

 (2) Second, I want to note that He WANTS to be found 
• The maker of heaven and earth 
• The “wisdom” directs all things 
• The “Spirit” that “fills the world” 
 -He WANTS to be found 
 -He wants to ENTER in 

 (3) Third, the sadness of losing Him 
• To “find” the Lord Jesus is not a one-way street 
I’m pretty sure: 
Everyone here either has, or will, lose Him 
 • We can “lose” Him in many senses: 
He withdraws His consolations 
-challenging and calling us to seek Him deeper 
• We can lose Him due to our own fault 

 (4) Fourth, what CAUSES us not to find Him. 
• As already noted: 
He can draw away from us, SENSIBLY, APPARENTLY 
-in order to draw us closer 
• But, today’s Wisdom text focuses: 
Our own lifestyles stop Him 
• Negatively: 
-how can God dwell in a heart full of sin? 
“lies”, “perverse counsels”, “blasphemy” 
-wisdom cannot enter when un-wisdom fills the heart 
those who “test Him”, 
those who “disbelieve” and doubt Him 
-The Almighty enters the HUMBLE heart 
Failing to “forgive” c.f. our Gospel text 
• Positively, 
the “listener” 
 -when we dispose ourselves to Him, He comes 


So, When you sense that you have found Him, 
 then watch your heart, 
 watch your virtue 
When you sense that you’ve lost Him, 
 then know He still wants to be found

To recap: 

• There is JOY in finding Him; 
• He WANTS to be found 
• There is SADNESS in losing Him 
• But whether our loss of Him is our fault, 
 or, His trial, 
 either way: He can be RE-FOUND

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Helpers in the New Evangelization

Saturday 31st Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, Josephinum

Rom 16:3-9, 16, 22-27

I want to say a few words about the helpers God will send you in your task as priests

in the context of the New Evangelization 

Three points in my sermon

(1) First point: the “secret” that we must make known

St. Paul spoke of:

“the revelation of the mystery [previously] kept secret”

-Greek for ‘mystery’ 

Doesn’t mean something odd and ’mysterious’

It means a secret that is secret no more

-it’s now ‘revealed’, 

-the truth of Christ, in Christ 

-the truth of the meaning of the cosmos, 

the meaning of life, 

the meaning of the individual lives of all those you talk to

That “secret”,

must be “made known to all nations”

Our task as priests of the New Evangelization:

To make Christ known

To hand on the “secret”

(2) Second point, a brief one: The New Evangelization is a tough task 

If you feel ready for this task, 

then you probably don’t grasp its magnitude

(3) Third point, my main one:

You are NOT going to be ALONE in this task.

We heard in our first reading St Paul refer to many people who helped him along the way

They might seem like random names to us, 




-13 names in that short passage

St. Paul was the “apostle to the gentiles”, 

as we are called to be apostles to gentiles of our own day

St. Paul recounts in multiple epistles the difficulties he faced:

Scourged 5 times, beaten three times, shipwrecked three times, stoned, imprisoned

Hungry, thirsty, in pain, in weariness (2 Cor 11 24-27)

But, also,

He recounts in almost all of his letters, names of people who aided him in the task 

-even while his letters are about other things, 

his sense of gratitude to them is such that he keeps mentioning them by name

St. Paul set out without knowing these people, these helpers

God, however, knew who He had planned to raise up to help him in the task


He has likewise planned co-workers in your part in the task

For me:

Each parish I’ve been sent to I’ve had a different challenge

But each parish has also had helpers that God had prepared for me

We aren’t meant to fight alone

We come to seminary to train as a band of brothers, 

to stand alongside men of the same vision, 

men who learn as we learn, 

men who pray and come know the Lord as we come to know Him

We don’t work alone

And, even after you’re sent out

You’ll still not be alone, 

because God knows WHO He has in mind to aid you

What are the names of the people that are going to aid you?

You don’t know

I don’t know

But God knows -He has them ready

She’s unlikely to be called Priscilla

He unlikely to be called Andronicus 

But they are there waiting for you -God has them ready

And there are even more, 

that will start out indifferent BUT by your words 

but rapidly rise to become your co-workers -all in God’s plan

So, those three points:

(1) There was a “secret” made known, and that WE must make known again

(2) The New Evangelization is a daunting task

(3) God has named and chosen people to aid you in the task

You can start PRAYING for them already

You can have a mindset LOOKING to find them

-but EXPECT them: God has them ready