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Gospel Reflection – Fr Francis Fernandes Aug 11, 2023

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel Reflection By Fr Francis Fernandes.
19th Sunday in ordinary Time 13 August 2023
Gospel Reflection By Fr Francis Fernandes.
19th Sunday in ordinary Time 13 August 2023

Responding to change with the disciples

Every so often, I have to celebrate the funeral of a person in their late nineties. As funerals go, the photo presentation provides the congregation with a visual arc of the person’s life.


The pictures provide some glimpse into the sheer volume of societal change they’ve navigated in their lives.


Did it feel like standing in a kaleidoscope at times? Being born into an empire among empires. Coming of age in a decade blanketed by Hitler’s black shadow. Marrying, baby-booming and industrialising through the 50s. Swinging with and against the movements in the 60s. Holding their breath over a cold-war and breathing easy over cool fashion in the 70s. Columbia lifted into space, Chernobyl exploded and the Berlin wall came down in the 80s. The internet age followed in the 90s and the economy ballooned with it. 9/11 happened and our Eastern and Western hemispheres locked horns. The iPhone romanced us into a relationship with technology, which continues to rival the time and intimacy couples spend with each other and their children. As we have lain our loved ones to rest, the AI age has dawned with its infinite promises and threats, its evangelists and its prophets.


Why do I say any of this? Our situation as a church in the changing world over the past century is captured in the image of the boat with disciples on the sea. Where other gospels say the disciples were battling the storm, this Sunday’s gospel intentionally emphases that the boat was battling the waves. The boat – the ‘bark of Peter” – is often used as a symbol for the Church and there are several parallels between the gospel story and our own. The disciples had been going for over ten hours trying to sail about four miles. We’ve had to stick at it as a people of faith for about ten decades of change.


The disciples thought they had cleared one wave, just as another came and then another, and then another. One from one side, one from the other. The Church braced for change, embraced change and braced for societal changes it categorically refused. The changes came from one continent, then from another. The disciples stuck at it for about ten hours; which hour and which decade is the church in?


We have seen societal changes and we have named our concern for our children and grandchildren… so where are you in this parish’s ship? The call went out in the strategic plan: “All hands on deck!” Where are your hands? The boat creeks and the water sprays; can you afford to sit back? What is the alternative? It cannot simply be to limit our whole faith to prayer and liturgy.


It is because the boat battles and Christians strain, hold and brace through the week, that on Sunday, we collectively pray with Peter “Lord, save us! Lord have mercy!” In response, Christ “walks across” to us from my side of the altar to yours. We say, “Lord I’m not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed”… Well? healed for what? To sit back content in an embattled ship? Surely not! Or perhaps we are healed precisely to put our hands back to the oars! Back to the sails! Back to the ropes! For our children and for our children’s children.


Are you involved in a ministry area yet? If the thought feels foreign or intimidating, I encourage us to have a chat with our ministry leaders and team members about their experience of getting involved. There is a place and an oar on the ship with each of our names written on it.

See you in the week 🙂

Fr Francis






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