Fr John’s reflection for Sunday 3 Dec 2023

Are we ready for Christmas?

There can be a fear that Christmas comes too early and we are not ready. While the shops seem to be decorated with the trimmings much earlier each year we can lose a sense of the natural rhythm that leads us into this Advent season. We start humming Christmas carols before the day is actually upon us. Yet this may be a time to actually ponder how we prepare for Christmas. This is more than preparing the meal, buying presents, or posting cards but rather taking time to notice where our hearts are amid all the flurry of activity.

It would be good to spend some quiet time each day reflecting on what type of person we want to be in the hurry of the marketplace and on our way to work. To intentionally carve out times in the morning and evening when we make an appointment with God and put it in our diaries.

To find ways in which we can reflect on the environment in which we live and discuss how we can become people of faith, hope, and love in our community. Considering what will assist others to seek a deeper meaning to their life, to provide encouragement for those in need, and to undertake practical acts of charity.

Then calling a blessing down a blessing on each person we encounter whether in the checkout queue, when we are looking out for a parking spot, or when we are considering the needs of those around us. When we seek Christ in our daily lives he will find us quicker than we expect.


Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s reflection for Sunday 26 Nov 2023

To whom do we trust our lives?

  The Solemnity of Christ the King allows us time to reflect on whose voice we listen to when seeking guidance for our lives. In an age where personal autonomy is king, there can be a sense of alienation towards bowing down to an external authority. Each person can tend to work within their system of government by paying taxes, obeying the local law, and participating in elections when they are held. Yet in many cases, we are not called to love our rulers rather we learn to accept them as a necessary part of life. Yet the feast we celebrate is not just about accepting external structures of governance but rather an interior conversion of heart towards the person of Christ. There is a call to holiness that abides with us so that we can become teachable and governable.


I believe this lies at the heart of the recent Synod on Synodality. It is not just about a new external structure of Governance but rather a way of being present to God with listening ears. The call is to seek out the voice of God that is ever ancient and ever new. The voice that echoes through our liturgical prayer that gathers us together as one body. This is not just an effective manifestation of the presence of Jesus but also an affective presence that guides us still. The call to fall more deeply in love with God who has already fallen deeply in love with us. By seeking God in our daily life, we discover what it is to be prayerfully present to the issues of our day that seek for our hearts to beat in tune with God’s. This is not just seeking warm comforting feelings but rather a deeper desire to recognise the authentic voice of God spoken to our age.

This process of sanctification allows us to seek holiness in a way that does not abstract us from the real problems of our age. It draws on the wisdom of our tradition, the insights into scripture, and the discernment of theologians to witness the golden thread that bears an authentic teaching that can be received for our time. This is not just about changing with the times but rather a reading of the signs of the time. It examines a line of inquiry that seeks to build on what is already known and allows for fresh insight of Christ into the teachable moments of our lives.

Through this call to sanctification and becoming teachable the Church seeks to provide governance as an apostolic witness to the person of Christ. As a pilgrim people of God, we seek to journey together as people who through baptism are gifted with both the charism of Office and the charism of Mission. We seek to become people who articulate with our lives what we already believe that Christ is with us. Thus, as we celebrate this solemnity do we entrust our lives to Christ in whom we discover who we are and become evangelised by his life.


Fr. John Armstrong

Father John’s reflection for Sunday 19 Nov 2023

Return to sender address unknown!

Each of us is entrusted with gifts and talents for the good of the whole creation. We live in a country that has been blessed not only by great natural beauty but an abundance of opportunity. Yet this is not just for our private consumption or personal pleasure. We are part of a commonwealth that is called to share the goodness we have received for the common good. Each of us has a part to play in renewing the environment in which we live and caring for those who have been entrusted to us. We are called to entrust all things to God for the good of the whole community.

This is especially necessary when we become aware of the forces that tear at that unity of purpose. When we see people seeking to profit from conflict, hatred, and violence the humanity of all is diminished. It recognises that we are called to profit in virtue not just external wealth that can be here today and gone tomorrow. This calls for an integrity of life that seeks to see all things as entrusted to us by God for a good purpose. In a world that seeks to emphasise personal autonomy at the expense of corporate responsibility, we can notice the attitude that creeps into the daily life of every person for themselves.

Yet in the Gospel, we see a daily examen that calls us to reflect on how we have used these gifts to produce good fruits. This act of surrender is about a belief that everything is given to us for a good purpose. It calls us to a prayer that entrusts our whole life to God, seeks to discover in our own square metre what we are called to do today, and acts in a way that gives and receives with open hands.

As we enter this Sunday this weekend, we need to ensure that we do not just send the gifts entrusted back to sender unused. Our reason for being is to develop a healthy detachment that allows us to discover God at work in all things!


Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s reflection for Sunday 12 Nov 2023

Running on empty

When we set out on a journey there is always a need to ensure that we have enough fuel to reach our destination. This ensures that we make proximate plans to ensure that we know our time of departure and our time of arrival. If we are travelling by car, we seek to prepare the car so that it is roadworthy and that if it is a long distance, we plan adequate stops or have a co-driver to share the driving. If we go by some other form of transport, we trust our lives to another, but we still need to make sure that know when we have to leave, how long it will take, and what we can expect when we arrive. This shows that we do not travel by chance but with a destination in mind.

The Gospel shows this in great detail when it notices that the time of our departure is not known but the destination is. How do we prepare for a journey when we are called to entrust ourselves to another. This is the heart of the words spoken by Jesus, we need to be ever-ready and have our house in order. This brings the readings of the last few weeks into sharp relief. Often it seeks to live our life on our own terms rather than on God’s. When we have so many seeming demands on our time, we can discover our energy being spent planning for the future or resolving historical events. Both these approaches to life while necessary can distract us from being present to what will happen today. We can become distracted by anxiety or angst about what seems urgent but unimportant.

This is where we are called to exercise wisdom that allows God to direct our attention on to what is important but not urgent. It calls us to become present to what is within the locus of our own intentions and within the ambit of our own environment. So often we can become focussed on external events that demand urgent attention but are beyond our control. They can prevent us from being open to the ways that we can and need to be present. Our lives can seem to be out of control and devoid of meaning and purpose. This is where our lives are dispirited and we can seem to have spent all our oil on what does not enlighten us.

As we reflect on the Gospels, we are called to examine what keeps our lamps burning brightly and whether we provide ourselves with the best opportunity to have our flasks refilled. This is where we are called not to abstract ourselves from daily life and the challenges it can bring. It calls us to be prayerfully aware of how God is present in our own reality and how we are called to tend to our environment with God’s heart and eyes. The danger is when we do not examine our own lives that we can become heavily influenced by the conflicts of others. We can be drawn into hostilities, conflicts, and violence that draw on history or animate our own anxiety about our own future. Thus, we can be drawn into reflections that focus on a deterministic view of the world that places ourselves at the heart of any conflict. We know that this is a recipe for disaster because even with the best will in the world often it needs to be recognised that we need to reframe the question about how we should live in our world.

When we allow that question to emerge from within us, from the heart of God our way of living changes. It calls us to see what we need to live by and how this becomes a rule of life for us. No longer are our lives shaped solely by our own desires but rather by the loving call of God who seeks us out and comes at an hour we do not expect. It allows us the possibility that only God can fill our lives with meaning when we have an expectant longing that we are invited to sit down at the table and enjoy the banquet of life laid out for us.


Fr. John Armstrong


“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s reflection for Sunday 5 Nov 2023

Listening to God with our whole lives

The reflection this weekend looks at how the office that a person occupies can be confused with who the person is. In an egalitarian culture such as Australia, there has been an essential recognition that a person is taken on their merits rather than on the position they occupy. Authority tends to be hard won and easily lost when a person acts differently from what they say. I believe that this is important when we seek to reflect on the role of people who occupy ecclesial offices and how they can be perceived as speaking for God rather than about God. I believe this can be at the heart of any Christian life or in fact any religious person that they need to hold this balance of what they can speak about definitively and what they can speak about from their own reflection. I believe this is what lies at the heart of the Gospel text that notices the subtle distinction between proximity to the Holy and closeness to the Holy One.

I know from my ongoing reflection that it is important that I seek to live a life of closeness to God in my prayer and in my prayerfulness. I cannot presume that I am close to God simply because I exercise an office with the Church. I am only too aware of the apparent contradictions within my own life between what I say and what I do. Almost like St Paul, I seek to do good but often find myself doing the very thing I hate. It is important that at the heart of our life that we abide in a living relationship with God not just our own perceptions of holiness. We are called to be formed into the image of the Divine Master who is ever creative and ever new.

This calls us also to ponder on how we seek to live the Word of God in our daily lives. This is not just through a familiarity with scripture but rather an absorbing the word and allowing our hearts to be transformed by what we hear. There is a need to have a heart that is teachable and tenderised. This is not a blind pounding of noise but rather a softening attentiveness to the quiet breeze of God. We listen to the life that lies at the heart of all life and allow ourselves to be taught.

It is in this spirit that we gather to be present to God who presides over our life with mercy and compassion. We become formable and present to the guiding hand that entices us to draw closer. This is not through our own merits but rather our deepest need. God demonstrates love for us by seeking broken hearts and earnest longings. We discover that we are indeed close to the heart of God who reaches out to us long before we reach out to God.


Fr. John Armstrong


“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s reflection for Sunday 29 Oct 2023

The Golden Rule

The word “must” stands out to me as the translation in Matthew’s gospel echoes the words from Deuteronomy 6.5. This gives an indication that the imperative to love God is not an optional extra or a nice ideal but the central teaching of all scripture. In saying that we are called to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our understanding we start to gain a glimpse of what is at the heart of religious life. This is not just following a law to love but rather finding the heart of God that is always turned outward towards the love of another.

Unpacking each of these elements we start to see that the three elements are wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. By learning things by heart, we are not just called to a rote way of living but rather an appreciation of applying what we have learned to the situation in which we live. At the heart of wisdom is the ability to notice what is necessary for this moment and this time. What might fit for one person or culture may not be appropriate for another. It is a call to be immersed into the culture with the heart of God that seeks to inculturate the Gospel for others.

In a similar way, our understanding is a willingness to commit our life to God and others not just to do our own thing. This commitment helps to notice that our life has an influence on others and can transform their life by witnessing to what God has entrusted us. This is calling us not to be alienated from God or from each other. We are  called to be soulful in the way we are present to God’s grace that lies at the heart of our creation.

Then we apply our minds and our strength to how God is manifest in daily life. This is not thinking God into being but rather noticing how our belief in God shapes our way of being present to the world. There is an integration of belief that builds on solid foundations. It helps us to recognise the language with which God has written the universe that is writ large for those who seek what sustains life. We are called to be people of faith and reason. Detectives of God in a world that seeks light over darkness, substance over triviality, and depth over dissipation.


Fr. John Armstrong


“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s Reflection – Divine Mercy Sunday.

Sunday, 11 April, 2021, Divine Mercy Sunday.


Believing Thomas!

Thomas always seems to get a bad rap! He wants to check out what the other disciples have experienced is true. He asks good questions about how we experience life when he says if I don’t see it for myself, I cannot believe it is true. For him, faith is a personal journey even when he is encouraged by others. I feel that this is true for all of us and especially in our present age. While others can teach us about Jesus, it is only through personal experience that we learn to relate to Jesus. Even the best teacher or homilist can only lead us towards that experience, they cannot undertake the journey on our behalf. In fact, this is where we are called to begin our Easter journey. We are called to notice what happens in everyday life. To discover what leads us to an experience of life and not death. Where we find our hearts burning within us as we listen to scripture, pray and gather with others.

Yet in the reality of daily life, we are called to encounter the living wounds of Christ. Often around times of suffering and death, we experience different emotions of trauma and grief. This is perfectly natural and each of us with the support of others undertakes this part of the journey in life. What catches us by surprise is that the experience of passing through trauma and grief empowers us to encounter others in ways that bring hope and life. Much in the same way as Thomas meeting the Risen Christ, we put our hands in their side. Not to cause more grief and suffering but to encounter one heart beating in rhythm with our own.

In fact, there is often a tentativeness in each of us in standing with a community or an individual who has gone through an experience of deep grief. Often, we can be with them on Good Friday, but it is hard to stay with the silence of Holy Saturday which marks the transition to Easter Sunday. Often it is this waiting that frustrates and worries us. There is a tendency which wishes to rush a person through their experience of suffering and death because it disturbs us with our own mortality. Yet if we can wait with the person and their questions like Thomas, it opens up space within us to touch the heart of another. Often this is done with hesitation when we ask for one thing but do not expect the response to be invited in. This is a place of profound trust and vulnerability. It is in fact what Jesus invites Thomas to do. To make the first tentative steps to sense his heart beating in time with our own. Easter is a time when we are called to trust and have faith that Jesus will surprise us often in our everyday encounters. In many ways, he uses the same words: “Do not be afraid, put your hand into my side”. Trust that even in our deepest questions and our darkest night, Christ’s light will shine.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday – 28th March

 How do we welcome Jesus into our hearts?

 We know the story of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem all too well. How cheering crowds could so easily turn into a howling mob! It is a reality we see all too often when peaceful demonstrations turn ugly when anger turns into violence and the hope of liberation turns to tyranny. There is something all too familiar with the story which seems to be played out in our own time not only in events over history. It is probably a good reality check to see where our hearts are at the beginning of Holy Week.

There can be anticipation that Lent is rapidly drawing to an end and we approach the climax of Jesus life in the Paschal Mystery. Where is it in his life, death and resurrection that we see the story of our own salvation played out? This is not just a mystery play that leaves us unmoved but a life that touches deeply into our own. Lent is not just about what we have given up but how it has prepared us to encounter the person of Jesus in the reality of our own frailty, vulnerability and sinfulness. His life is intertwined with our own as we journey towards Calvary. We know suffering, disappointment and the feelings which cause us to hide away from a God who loves us. The immanence of the person Jesus overcomes us and surprises us with grace.

Over this week we are called to accompany Jesus, not just as passive observers but as living participants who are profoundly affected by his total self-offering. The at-one-ment opens the gates to the relationship with the Father which lay at the centre of his life. This is not just a blind abandonment to fate but rather an active engagement with what lay at the heart of his life. God was prepared to offer everything of life that we may enter into eternal life. That in his death we discover a life that transforms us and breaks our own hearts with life and love. This Holy Week is not just a depressing repetition of past events or a reminder of the cost of sin on the human heart but rather a hope-filled encounter with the person who reorients our life towards God.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 4th Sunday of Lent

4th Sunday of Lent – 14th March

 What bites us may not kill us!

 The image of Jesus suffering on the cross has often been one of the most confronting images in which we encounter a God who self-empties everything for our good. This is a very disturbing reality for most of us as we discover a God who is vulnerable and who can suffer with us and for us. There is a part of us that wishes to save Jesus from this suffering but there is also another part of us that recognises that our own personal suffering afflicts our own body. None of us is immune to the afflictions which can cause us mental, physical and spiritual pain. There is an acknowledgement that Jesus’ total offering of self for the good of another can help us to experience not only a deeper insight into our own life but also how we are called to become vulnerable to what seems unspeakable.

This reality can become part of our own Lenten experience. Through our own penance, fasting and almsgiving we discover that there is an inward desire to encounter God as ourselves. This can be about losing our false image of self which seeks to control outcomes, seeking quick fixes and listening all too easily to the solutions which are not meant for us. Lent ultimately seeks us to encounter God in our own poverty, powerlessness and frailty. This allows us to abandon our whole life into the loving embrace of God who does not seek counterfeit affection but an inward desire which wells up within us. This seeks for us to become real and become who God desires us to be.

So here we stand at Laudate Sunday hoping beyond hope that our lives are centred on the one person who matters. To discover in the midst of our daily confusion, struggles, sadnesses and the pressures of life that there is a God who sustains us in love, hope and peace. This does mean abandoning our plans but rather encountering a God who seeks to bring them to fruition with a graced awareness. The recognition that God sustains us when we make the first step. Thus, our mediation on the cross sees our own vulnerability in his own. That our lives are open to God who is all in all.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 5th Sunday of Lent

5th Sunday of Lent – 21st March

The Law written on our hearts!

When someone asks us, what is the right thing to do we often turn to a book of rules or laws. When we ask how I am called to be the person that God desires me to be we need to know the heart of the person who wrote the laws. This is often the dilemma we encounter in daily life. In some ways, it is easy to know the law rather than the heart of the lawgiver. Often we encounter this in relationships whether it be in playing a sport, living our lives in the workplace or meeting people for the first time. The encounters that are part of daily life are called to be truly life-giving for ourselves and for others. We are called to become our best self which seeks to show authenticity and integrity.

Over the last few weeks, we witnessed this reality in the life of the nation and the world around the issue of sexual violence towards women. The question is how to build workplaces and social environments which allow women a place where they can feel safe and respected. I believe often we live with the contradictions where physical beauty is seeing people objectively and this causes a diminishment in treating a person with the dignity that they deserve. This is not only present in how we see the prevalence of the trivialisation of relationships that are lifelong and sustaining. Often it is the breakdown of trust between persons which causes people to live in a society that is underlaid by fear and anxiety. The question is not how we apply the law but how we are called to be people who are authentic and integrated.

I believe Richard Rohr noted this in rites of passage that men discover both their power and vulnerability. The fact that these rites of passage are not present as a regular part of our western culture can cause young men to become powerful without recognising their own vulnerability and the vulnerability of others. I can sense that the ability to have power without responsibility can cause many to treat others as objects to be possessed rather than people to be related to. Young men need to learn through prayer and reflection on how to live their lives as people of compassion and integrity. 

When we come to the questions of the heart, we need to recognise that our prayer often deals with the internal conflicts that we all experience. When issues trouble us they call for a thoughtful and prayer-filled response which is for the good of the person and the good of the whole community. There can be a sense in which it is easy to demonise the other and to see our own life as the only thing that matters. Yet at the heart of the gospel is what seeds do we want to be planted within us which blossom to eternal life. I believe that bringing issues into the light allows us to recognise not only the truth of human life but also how we become people of compassion. This allows us to notice what needs to die within us so that we can become our best self.

Fr. John Armstrong