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]

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.

Feast of the Holy Family – The family as sacrament

The catechism from which I drew my religious instruction as a child stated that a Christian sacrament was an “outward sign instituted by Jesus Christ to give us grace.”

Later on, in the seminary, the theology text we used on sacraments was written by Edward Schillebeeckx and he defined a sacrament in words to this effect: “A sacrament is anything that visibly, tangibly makes present or prolongs a saving action of God.”

hile both of those definitions are theologically very good, they are too abstract to, at times, give us a real sense of what precisely a sacrament is and where a sacrament is sometimes found.

prefer a more colloquial definition, one that simply defines a sacrament as “anything that gives skin to God.” What is meant by this?

There is a marvellous story about a four-year-old girl who woke up one night frightened, convinced that there were monsters and spooks in her room.

She ran to her parents’ bedroom.

Her mother, however, brought her back to her own room, put on several lights, showed the child that there was nothing to be afraid of, put her back to bed, calmed her, and finally left her with the words: “There is nothing to be afraid of. When I leave, you won’t be alone in the room. God will be here with you.”

But the young girl replied: “I know that God will be here with me, but I need someone in the room who has some skin!”

There is wisdom, and theology, to her response. As human beings we are creatures of the senses. We need something we can grasp tangibly, physically.

Thus, a God who is everywhere is, at a certain point, nowhere.

God, of course, already knows this and that is why we have been given God’s presence physically in sacrament. Understood in this sense then, there are more than seven sacraments.

Family life is, or at least it can be, a sacrament. Like the Eucharist, or any other sacrament, it too can give concrete flesh to God. How so?

For many of us, coming home from the hospital to join a family will be our first baptism, our family dwelling will be our primary church, our family table our primary place of Eucharist, our living room our first sanctuary, our marriage bed our deepest experience of Eucharist, and our reconciliation with each other after the pettiness and hurts of family life our ongoing sacrament of reconciliation.

It is there that the flow of the life that originates within God, and finds its perfection there, will flow through us to others.

As I was writing this reflection, the image of a river flowing over, under, and around rocks came to mind. Each of the rocks remains stationary and in place. However, the water radically affects each other – you cannot sit in the river and not get wet!

In a similar fashion, we as individuals cannot sit ‘in God’ and not get ‘graced.’

Christmas Day

Muna Loa volcano. Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that form the Island of Hawaii in the U.S. state of Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

I would like you to imagine for a moment that you are carrying home from the shop a bag of salt.

In the bottom of the bag there is a very small hole.

Unknown to you, to begin with, the salt begins to leak from the bag. Gradually, you feel the weight of the bag lighten. The drip has been almost unnoticeable.

Now, delete that image and replace the image with the violent expulsion that happens as a volcano erupts. With intense force the volcano spews out its super-hot interior.

In both instances there is an emptying out; in one it is barely noticeable, while in the other the violence demands attention.

St Paul, in his letter to the fledgling Church at Philippi writes:

“Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count his equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and became as we are being born in human form.” (Phil. 2: 6 – 7).

The Greek word St. Paul uses for ‘emptied himself’ is the word “kenosis”.

Kenosis is the emptying of the volcano – and that is what we celebrate today, the Word becoming flesh.

The author, Luci Shaw, has a poem with the title “Kenosis”, appropriate for today.

Kenosis – Luci Shaw

In sleep his infant mouth works in and out.

He is so new, his silk skin has not yet

been roughed by plane and wooden beam

nor, so far, has he had to deal with human doubt.


He is in a dream of nipple found,

of blue-white milk, of curving skin

and, pulsing in his ear, the inner throb

of a warm heart’s repeated sound.


His only memories float from fluid space.

So new he has not pounded nails, hung a door

broken bread, felt rebuff, bent to the lash,

wept for the sad heart of the human race.