4th Sunday of Ordinary Time

On the north-eastern edge of Hyde Park, a stone’s throw from Marble Arch, is Speakers’ Corner.

One of the best-known locations for public speaking and debate in the world, the premise is simple: anybody can turn up and talk on any subject they like, as long as it is lawful.

The place known today as Speakers’ Corner began life as a place for public execution. Speakers’ Corner was home of the notorious Tyburn hanging tree.

He condemned were taken to Tyburn on a cart and had to ride with the hangman and the prison Chaplin.

When finally at the gallows, felons might speak to the crowd and these speeches often would be directed right at the heart of the state.

Speakers’ Corner evolved from these speeches, which attempted to explain, justify and or give meaning to life or lives. And so Tyburn developed into a political arena for public debate and discussion. That remains, the defining principles of Speakers’ Corner rooted within the culture that was the Tyburn Hanging Tree.

Frequently, as in this morning’s Gospel, the Gospel writer records Jesus, “When the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.” (Mk. 1:21)

To this day, no one has any idea what Jesus taught!

Many occasions throughout the Gospels are mentioned of Jesus going to the synagogue and teaching, and yet there is no record of what he said.

Speakers Corner at Hyde Park has hosted many famous individuals, such as Friedrich Engels, Marcus Garvey, Vladimir Lenin, George Orwell and Christabel Pankhurst. The Catholic apologist Frank Sheed spoke regularly, as did Vincent MacNabb OP, and members of the Catholic Evidence Guild.

What was said may well be long forgotten, however who said and how it was said left a lasting memory.

Our Gospel recalls, “They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority.” (Mk. 1:22)

I know that some of the best homilies I have preached have been my shortest – why, because the listener is left with the message rather than the messenger.



Word of God Sunday

Learning a language is often perceived to be challenging, and vocabulary is a crucial element of language learning.

Also important is pronunciation. How the word looks on the page and how it sounds may almost be opposite.

For example vowel sounds in many languages can be either long or short, and the length of the vowel might well determine the meaning of the word.

For example in New Zealand Māori the word for armpit is kēkē. The word for cake is keke.

Now you do not want to go spraying deodorant on your cake!

Neither do you want to spread chocolate icing on your armpit!

Each word contains the same letters, and in the same sequence.

However, one word has a macron over each of the vowels, which determines that the vowel sound is longer and so changes the entire word.

The best way, I have found, to learn a language is from kids. They don’t mind you making mistakes – after rolling on the ground in happy laughter, they stand up and correct you.

I was subject to this on many occasions while trying to get my tongue around the Fijian language.

Each morning, after breakfast, I would sit on the verandah which surrounded the priests house where I lived. The local children would pass by on their way to the Convent school.

They would call out, “Yadra saka” and give a cheerful wave.

Of course, wanting to be fully integrated into the local language and culture, I would call back with an equally cheerful wave, “Yadra saka” and continue with my coffee and book.

One morning a young boy stopped and walked over to where I was sitting, and, without an ounce of malice declared, “you saka, me no saka”. Then he turned and ran to catch his classmates.

“Saka” in Fijian has the literal meaning of ‘sir’, and has for many, many years, been the word used to address the priest! “you saka, me no saka” was, in fact, very true.

The Third Sunday of Ordinary Time is celebrated as the ‘Sunday of the Word of God’ – a day, instituted by Pope Francis on the Feast of Saint Jerome in 2019, devoted to the celebration and study of Sacred Scripture.

Maybe, the best way to learn about the Word(s) of God is to sit on the verandah with a hot cup of tea, or whatever your favourite brew is and allow the One who knows the language first hand to teach you.

[For those who have the slightest interest the word “yadra” is like our saying ‘good morning’. However, it is pronounced with a missing ‘n’, so “yandra”.

Similar to your arrival at Nadi, pronounced with an ‘n’ – hence Nandi]

Second Sunday of Ordinary Time

My Liturgical Calendar tells me/us that we are now in what is known as Ordinary Time. When one looks up the definition of the word ‘ordinary’ in the Oxford Dictionary we find stated “not interesting or exceptional; what is commonplace or standard.”

Nothing really anything to write home about.

The liturgical colour chosen for this “ordinary time” is, however, green, and maybe here the ‘ordinary’ becomes ‘extraordinary’; what is standard becomes special.

(My experience of this market garden goes back some ten years; whether the garden is still present, I do not know)

Across the road from the parish complex of St. Mary’s Otaki there is a market garden. I found it intriguing to watch what were ploughed however empty, barren paddocks, after attention and watering begin to be carpeted in green! Row upon row of lush cabbages, and lettuce, and broccoli.


Maybe this time in our liturgical year is the invitation to go down, deep, and to find my/our water source?

What, who gives me life? what, who refreshes me? Where lies my/our water source? What and/or who colours me green?

Maybe these weeks called “Ordinary Time” are an invitation to find my water source – those persons, places and objects that refresh me, nourish me, make me wet again and so promote my growing.

The 12thC Benedictine abbess Hildegard of Bingen wrote, “There is a power that has been since all eternity, and that force and potentiality is green!” Hildegard names this greening force viriditas, the Latin for her original “das Gruen,” the greening.

With viriditas Hildegard captures the greening power, the living light, that breathes in all beings, flows through all that is alive: “Be it greenness or seed, blossom or beauty – it could not be creation without it.”

Hildegard spoke often of viriditas, the greening of things from within, analogous to what we now call photosynthesis. There is a readiness in plants to receive the sun and to transform its light and warmth into energy and life.
Maybe that is what this “Ordinary Time” is truly about, a readiness to receive the sun/Son and to be transformed into energy and life.

Maybe, we dare rename our Ordinary Time as Greening Time.

The Feast of the Epiphany

In the church of All Saints, Easton, Suffolk, UK there is a 14th-century-stained glass window that has both the shepherds and the Magi in common adoration together.

Two Gospels, St Luke and St Matthew, tell the ‘story’ of the birth of Jesus.

When we look closely at the two stories, we notice they have peculiarities to each.

St Luke’s gospel has shepherds and no wise men; St Matthew’s gospel has wise men and no shepherds.

However, both the shepherds and the wise men are important to our story of the in-breaking of God into our world in the person of Jesus; the Word made flesh.

The shepherds were Jews.

The wise men (or Magi) were non-Jews, or Gentiles.

The shepherds were ‘locals’.

The Magi were foreigners.

The shepherds were of meagre means.

The Magi had sufficient wealth to travel and to offer gifts.

The word epiphany means a manifestation or revelation.

Literally, ‘a drawing back of the veil.’ Something like the opening of theatre curtains.

On this day the veil is drawn back on a great mystery, namely, that Christ is the Saviour of all people.

Today is the feast of inclusivity.

It is God’s will that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.

God invites all to share on equal footing the benefits of the saving actions of Christ.

This feast shows that election by God is not a privilege for some, rather a hope for all.

It puts an end to every kind of exclusiveness.

In Jesus own mission he reached out to those excluded by the society in which he lived, the poor, the diseased, women and children.

He reached out to Samaritans, Canaanites, foreigners, and every manner of social outcast.

He angered the Jewish leaders by telling them that the Kingdom of God was open to everyone.

The news that the Gentiles would be accepted on equal terms as themselves caused shock and bewilderment to the Jewish leaders.

This great and wonderful truth was revealed in embryo when the Magi came to honour the Christ child.

Are all welcome, as equals, in our Church, irrespective of race, gender, age, sexual preference, ability or disability? If not, why not? Is the barrier not in them; rather, might it be in me?

Towards the conclusion of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus is in discussion with the chief priests and elders, and they are questioning his authority.

The discussion concludes with these words of Jesus, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you, in accordance with God’s covenant plan, and you didn’t believe him – but the tax collectors and prostitutes believed him. But when you saw it, you didn’t think better of it afterwards and believe him. “ (Mt. 21: 31-32)

I have just had this terrible possibility for real inclusivity. Millions of dollars are being spent on the restoration of the Christchurch Cathedral by the Anglican community. Similarly, millions of dollars are being prepared to be spent on building a new Cathedral by the Roman Catholic community. What say, they (whoever they are) got together and made the restoration of the Christchurch cathedral the combined project!

Imagine the million of dollars saved and available for use to house the homeless, build shelters for those abused, etc.

In the church of All Saints, Easton, Suffolk, UK there is a 14th-century-stained glass window that has both the shepherds and the Magi in common adoration together.