Palm Sunday

Murder on the Orient Express is a work of detective fiction by English writer Agatha Christie featuring the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot. The book was first published in January 1934.

There have been four film adaptations.

The 2017 screen adaptation featured such well-known names as Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh and Johnny Depp.

The film begins with a young boy running helter-skelter through an awakening city. The boy carries a collection of chicken eggs for the chef to choose two.

The eggs are boiled and presented to Monsieur Hercules Poirot for his breakfast.

The young boy is not seen again, most of the film happening on a train. In the cast credits, he is simply named a ‘young boy. ‘

Like many others, known as ‘extras’ their presence is necessary for the film to be produced.

They are known as ‘uncredited’

When one reads the entire cast, one is faced with the fact that there at least 59 uncredited persons were in the cast!

They are necessary to the film, so necessary that nobody notices.

The illustration is of a mosaic of the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. The mosaic is found in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. Since 2013, Italian restorationists have been working in a mammoth effort to restore the mosaics present in the Church. Mosaics in the Church date back to the 4thC, AD.

Today, in our liturgy for Palm Sunday, I invite you to notice an ‘uncredited’ cast member – the donkey!

“Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it . . . .” (Jn. 12:14)

All four of the Gospels record the same event, (Lk. 19: 35, Mt. 21:7, Mk. 11:7).

It is not the first occasion Jesus has been on a donkey!

While there is no Scriptural evidence, I invite you to cast your mind back to those Christmas cards you send and receive each year.

Many include a portrait of Mary and Joseph making the journey to Bethlehem and Mary is sitting astride a donkey. And Mary is pregnant.

The Gospel of Matthew also tells the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt (Mt. 2: 13- 23).

Again, without Scriptural evidence, artists throughout the generations have pictured this ‘flight’ with Mary and the newborn Jesus sitting on a donkey and being led by Joseph.

Uncredited and yet essential – the donkey!

The one who carries the Word made flesh!

As companions of Jesus, that is our call also – to be uncredited and yet essential carriers of the Word!


5th Sunday Lent

On Saturday, September 19, 1981, on the Great Lawn, the central open space of Central Park, legendary singer songwriting duo, Simon and Garfunkel performed a free concert.

People arrived at daybreak carrying chairs or picnic blankets.

The Parks Department originally expected about 300,000 attendees but even with rain ongoing until the start of the concert, an estimated 500,000 audience members made this the seventh-largest concert attendance on record in the United States.

The duo sang many of their well-known and hit making songs like, Homeward Bound, Mrs Robinson, Scarborough Fair, The Boxer, and of course Bridge Over Troubled Water.

I was fortunate to be among the 500,000 strong audience.

It was the first time that a phrase we read in this Sunday’s Gospel (Jn 12: 20 – 33) made some sense to me, “Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. “

There are occasions when you are part of something bigger than yourself, perhaps an outdoor concert, a sporting event, or whatever (as I reflect and write I am reminded of the numbers present at different venues at the visit of Pope John Paul II to New Zealand (1986).

The sum appears greater than the parts, and yet the parts make up the sum.

As of 2021 there was an estimated 1.37 billion Roman Catholics in the world.

Persons from Africa, Asia, North and South America, from Europe, the Pacific region, the Caribbean, all form what we know as Church.

Imagine for a moment the variety of colour, of culture, of language present among the 500,000 at Central Park; something ‘other’ brought the persons together that ‘other’ overtook the colour, the culture, the language; in this instant it was the beauty of sound, of harmony, composition of music.

Indeed, one’s life was lost and yet somehow found!

Imagine, for a moment, a bowl full of fruit salad; each individual fruit adds to the vibrancy of the colourful whole.

4th Sunday of Lent

The home in which I grew up in, almost invariably had a real Christmas tree.

It smelt like a Christmas tree!

It dropped its needles as real Christmas trees do.

As Christmas drew nearer and nearer the space under the tree became more and more laden with presents.

Different shapes and sizes, colourful wrapping to attract one’s attention.

Of course, with five brothers and sisters, and Mum and Dad included there was a good number of presents.

There were round ones, and square ones. There were tall ones and short ones.

Each was hidden in their wrapping!

The anticipation grew each day! With eagerness and keenness, the days before Christmas were ticked off!

Why did the days before Christmas take so long?

What lay on the floor under the tree were presents, gifts freely given by another; gifts willing received by another.

In the Second Reading from the letter of St. Paul to the church at Ephesus we read, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” (Eph. 2: 4 – 10).

Much like those wrapped presents under the tree, “this is not from you; it is the gift of God.”

Where, did the implication come from that I was responsible for my salvation?

That what I did (and still do!) is the cause of/will aid my salvation?

Where did “earning” God’s love enter my/our theology?

Where did “being good” become the criteria for God loving me?

There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do. There’s nothing you have to do.

Well, there is one thing: to receive a gift you need to open your hands, and in so doing what you are holding needs fall to the ground! (maybe that ability and willingness to open my hands is itself grace!)

God does not love me because I am good: God loves me because God is good!!!

3rd Sunday of Lent

“Although not a major sport globally, rugby had established itself not only as New Zealand’s number one sport but as a vital component in this country’s national identity.”

With this paragraph, a New Zealand history magazine entry records the events of the 1981 Springbok Rugby Team tour to New Zealand.

For some 56 days through the months of July, August and September 1981, New Zealanders were divided against each other in the largest civil disturbance seen since the 1951 waterfront dispute.

You were either pro-tour or anti-tour; households were divided, as were religious communities and social groupings such as golf clubs, bridge clubs, and most probably parish pastoral councils!

As you are reading this, memories and images may be stirred.

A collection of photographs taken of the 1981 Springbok tour protest.

The pitch invasion at Rugby Park, Hamilton, on July 25th 1981, was just the flashpoint of a series of dramatic tour-related incidents.

Names such as John Minto, Cez Blazey, and Ron Don became regular parts of conversations in both the home and public gathering places.

The HART protest group was very visible and verbal.

The group had for many years protested the apartheid system of Government in use in South Africa. (Apartheid is a policy that is founded on the idea of separating people based on racial or ethnic criteria.)

The police presence grew during the tour, including two riot squads, Red and Blue. Kitted out in visored helmets and carrying PR24s or long batons, they became an enduring tour symbol.

Whichever side an individual chose to support, they were adamant they were right, and that stubborn assuredness brought with it an energy for action for many previously unknown.

Relationships were stretched; many friendships were irreparably harmed, and individual New Zealand citizens physically fought with one another.

The painting is by the French artist, Valentin de Boulogne (1591 – 1632). The painting is titled, “Christ Driving the Money Changers out of the Temple.” The painting hangs in the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome.

Today’s Gospel (John 2: 13 – 25), has the rather polite heading, “ Jesus Cleanses the Temple”.

One might mistakenly imagine that he has a mop and bucket of water.

From having read the story before, we know it was anything but a mop and bucket of water!

He was mad!

To revisit those 56 days in 1981 affords us the opportunity to engage with the energy of Jesus at this moment in his life!

The similarity of both images took me.