new appointment

Dec 20, 2019

Around the world in these pre-Christmas days children are wrapping themselves in towels and sheets and playing Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds and Magi in nativity plays. It’s a good thing to do since today’s gospel account of the angel’s visit to Mary, the journey to Bethlehem and the birth of Jesus in a Bethlehem cave is the reason for the season of Christmas.

There’s something about Christmas that corrects our thinking to focus on life as giving, at least for the festive days of generosity and good-will to all. But when the towels are returned to the linen cupboard and the Christmas decorations are back in the box, is there any lasting fruit of our celebration?

Too often the annual Christmas celebration comes and goes like a brief annual reprieve from the routine and demands of the year.

But if this is all that Christmas means for us we have missed the point of the event which is the turning point of all human history: From the moment of the first Christmas we no longer say God is up there or God is with them, or God was with us, but (quoting today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah we now live with a new perspective and prayer: “God is with us”

However we often don’t feel close to God. This is where our thinking is stinking. Feelings are important, but more than we might acknowledge, our feelings can be determined by our thinking:

  • If I think that losing my job is evidence that I’m useless at everything, then I will be devastated. But if I consider that being laid off is a an opportunity for me to find work that is more suited to my ability, energy and interests, then I can quickly feel excited by the adventure of considering new possibilities.
  • If I think that a health challenge is a guarantee of prompt and painful death, then I will feel traumatised. But if this unwanted event causes me to thank God (or my lucky stars) that i now have good medical care and a prompt to watch my diet and get some exercise then I will feel grateful for the wake-up call.

The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the biggest wake-up call in history, a call full of hope and promise.

The one who understands that the birth of Jesus is God now living among us no longer lives to please and appease a distant God, but instead finds God as saviour in the exhaustion and passions of flesh and blood daily life.

The one who accepts that Jesus suffered and died and was raised from the dead no longer sees human suffering and death as problems to be avoided, but as the pathway to our own resurrection from the dead.

A personal note

I want to let FFF readers know that I have a new appointment for next year.

After many years with parish ministry as my primary priestly mission, the past 20 months living in Christchurch with a variety of ministries (retreats & seminars, Food For Faith, Spiritual Direction, Vocations work, National Liturgy Office, and looking for opportunities to work with people who may feel distant from the church) has been a great blessing for me.

Just as I was beginning to look forward to even more opportunities provided by our Christchurch diocesan Our Faith Our Future restructure I have been asked to take on the role of Spiritual Director at Holy Cross Seminary in Auckland. I will leave Christchurch in January to take up the Holy Cross appointment.

When I was asked to take on this role my own stinking thinking served up a few good reasons why I might say no to the request. But my past experience, the example of others, and today’s gospel willingness of Mary to say yes when she was not sure what the yes would entail has given me a confidence that my happiness is found in going wherever God leads.

Pray for me.

Gratefully, In Christ

O Antiphon: 20 December

O Clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel,
qui aperis, et nemo claudit;
claudis, et nemo aperuit: veni,
et educ vinctum de domo carceris,
sedentem in tenebris, et umbra mortis.

O Key of David and sceptre of the House of Israel!
You open and no one closes,
You close and no one opens:
Come and lead us from the house of bondage
the captive who sits in darkness and the shadow of death.


  1. Thank you for the reflections, John. May God walk with you in your new appointment.

  2. Congratulations on your appointment Father John and your acceptance. Thank you for your guidance through Advent. Maybe you will be given the time to continue to guide us through the special seasons of the Church. Go with God’s love and strength and the mantle of Mary our mother around your shoulders.

  3. Dear Father John, I am new to your food for faith series. I have looked forward each morning to connect with our Lord through this advent series. Thank you for these gifts which feed my soul. You are a gift to our world – God be with you always.

  4. John, you have always been God’s instrument and the new appointment is a logical extension of this. Your reflection this morning is a reminder of the plaque Carl Jung had over his door: “Bidden or unbidden God is present.” You live with this knowing.

  5. i have a quote near me to remind me what life can throw at me
    we mainly create our emotional disturbances by the
    irrational beliefs we tell ourselves
    put your hand in jesus every morning helps to get on top
    of stinking thinking
    go well father john many thanks

  6. Thankyou so much, Fr John, for your reflections and encouraging posts during this Advent. So helpful as always! Please God you will be able to continue in this important ministry. It means so much to so many.
    May God bless you abundantly in your new appointment and for your acceptance of His will for you at this time. This in itself is an example to those of us struggling to accept changes in our lives that we are not too happy with or unprepared for.
    May your Christmas be most blessed and 2020 a special year for you.

  7. John the ‘O’ antiphon reflections have been calming and focusing
    You will do well in the northern ‘main land’
    They are blessed by your coming.
    Mary Care

  8. Only been reading your articles for a short time is there any chance you will continue with them ?
    God Bless Terry

  9. Initially I was shocked to read Christchurch will be losing you. Your FFF family is growing. In your new role which I’m sure you will excel at, others possibly will be influenced and continue this amazing form of education that us readers enjoy andextended our knowledge and Faith. Now I will need to read again todays instruction again as your news swamped my thoughts.

  10. Loving Blessings as you head north.I will miss FFF reflections each morning.Thank you,

  11. Reflections have been special during Advent I would love them to continue on a daily basis too. Thanks Father John God Bless your new mission

  12. E Pā,

    May God’s blessings surround you each day as you move on to your new position.

  13. “Your words” from the
    Heart of GOD”
    can still be heard,
    If we only but listen,
    Thankyou FR JOHN.

  14. Blessings on you your new appointment .

  15. John
    Congratulations on the new appointment – you will be a great blessing for those you minister with and to. And thanks for your simple and insightful ‘uplifts’ through this Advent.

  16. Nga mihi aroha ki a koe e Pa i roto i te ahuatanga o te wa nei, no te Orokohanga – with much love and blessings for this time of the year, in Advent. I had the privilege of being in your workshop in Mosgiel in Sept this year which was so heart felt and inspirational. Now you have been blessed mightily with a new ‘birth’ – may you continue to enrich the lives of all those who seek the Lord for the light of Our Saviour shines brightly through you. Ma te Atua koe hei manaaki, hei tiaki hoki i nga wa ake tonu atu.

  17. Congratulation John. You have that ability to shift the love of God from one’s head to one’s heart. The perfect Spiritual director.

  18. Many blessings on your new appointment Fr John. You truly are a good spiritual director as your daily reflections have helped me to grow a practical faith,

  19. What an inspired choice (by others), and a fine choice for our seminarians. Yes you will be missed in the general ChCh activities. I remember fondly your evening prayer interludes after the Mosque tragedy. The web is everywhere, and your FFF will still encourage, guide and enlighten us.

  20. Thank you for saying YES, John. You will bring special graces and talent to a very important and most necessary part of the Church’s life. The Seminary is blest to have you. Be assured of support in prayer always. Thank you for your very special effort of sharing Faith. God bless you abundantly. Have a very blest and happy Christmas.

  21. Praise God for this wonderful opportunity given to you, your wisdom and insight to the real meaning of Faith, Spirituality, and gentle ways of teaching this will bring many fruits into the development of our new Priests.
    The Holy Spirit is truly alive in our Church and thank you John for listening to Her.
    I will miss your physical presence here in Christchurch, but thanks be to God we have the internet to connect us wherever we are… I pray that the Holy Spirit will allow FFF to continue.
    God bless you now and always

  22. Now I am full of hope that there will be many future priests who will be aware of the tremendous privilege they have of spreading God’s word and celebrating the Mass for us all. God be with you Father John.

  23. Congratulations on your new appointment John…..the priests in formation will be blessed by your guidance. Christchurch will be sad to lose you….Auckland lucky to get you!
    Thank you for these Advent reflections….they give a helpful start to each day.
    I do hope you will be able to continue with Food For Faith….it means so much to so many.
    God be with you and thank you

  24. The Lord of Suprises!
    I have been sitting here at the computer trying to remember when I first met you. A retreat I think. I can’t remember when, but I doubt I have forgotten anything you have said. Thank you, God bless your new path, and with so many others I hope you are able to manage some FFF. You will miss your FFF team, and I thank them too.
    May you all have a Happy and Blest Christmas.

  25. Congrats Fr John and my prayers and good wishes go with you . So sorry to hear you are leaving , but you have left us with a great legacy of spirituality and faith. You have the gifts for this special ministry in the seminary and you will be a great blessing in that role. May God continue to walk closely with you. Teresa

  26. Thank you Father John.
    You are ultimately continuing on your Ministry in the same way but for a different reason.
    Go on your way with Godon your shoulder and with love in your heart.

  27. Thankyou for allowing the beauty and stillness of the presence of God every morning as a wake up call. Food for Faith has meant a lot to me! Congratulations Father John on your new appointment.

  28. Many blessings on your new appointment and thanks for the daily reflections I have found them most helpful. Colleen

  29. Thank you Father John for all your work in FfF! I do hope you will be able to continue this wonderful ministry. Warmest best wishes for your new role and stage of life.

  30. Thankyou Father John for your reflections and wish Blessings of the Christ Child in your new appointment,a new journey.

  31. God is a “God of surprises!” You are the right man for the job Fr John.
    Keep FFF going from the north!!

  32. Father John,
    were you actually present when I got fired 5 years ago?
    In a bizarre twist although the company didn’t want me to carry on in the position they’d employed me in they didn’t want to lose me either as they saw me as a “good man”. So I agreed to change roles. The statement that they saw me as a “good man” really irked me though. I believed I was doing a good job as being a visible disciple and this description prompted me to re-think my behaviour. I came to realise the real problem eventually was not with my boss or the owner of the company, who I had come to identify as “evil” but with myself. It took a while for me to reconcile the fact that my boss was entitled to make a profit out of my endeavours and labelling both of them as “evil” was judgemental and destructive in my relationship with them. A paradigm shift in my thinking lead me to realise I needed to step up as a disciple. I needed to walk the walk. A transformation of spirit so to speak that lead to a better alignment with both them and God in my life to the extent I now love my job, my boss and my God more than ever then took place. A direct outcome of that “attitude of gratitude” saw our department shifting from one of the worst performing in the group of 13 nationwide branches with constant changes of staff to the best. While the financial implications of that for the company are significant what is of more significant for me is seeing the culture of the place change dramatically. Thanks be to God, next step bring fellow staff to the Lord as well.

  33. Thank you for your great Wisdom and helping us on are way .Blessing to your next journey

  34. Dear Fr. John, we are in the same situation, sure that the “yes” we say contributes to the building of God’ story with man like the Yes of the Virgin Mary. I felt addressed to me too the words of St. Bernard in the Office of today addressed to the Virgin Mary.

  35. Dear Fr. John, we are in the same situation, sure that the “yes” we say contributes to the building of God’ story with man like the Yes of the Virgin Mary. I felt addressed to me too the words of St. Bernard in the Office of today addressed to the Virgin Mary.

  36. I hope you will still be able to help the rest of us by keeping these reflections going

  37. John, first thanku so much for taking the time to write these reflections. May your appointment bring joy and blessings to you. Bless you and Happy Christmas. Bev

  38. Dear John. Thank you for all the spiritual work you have done in our family. Marriage and baptism. Wisdom and knowledge. Being there when we have needed you.
    What a fantastic opportunity for you to share your wisdom, skills, knowledge and passion with new priests.

  39. Been blessed by following your teachings in recent times .Someone here in Selwyn Village alerted me to them when I moved into the village after 50plus years in Pukekohe .Married a Kiwi working in England enjoyed a lovely busy Parish life at St Patrick’s Pukekohe for about 60yrs! Selwyn Villagers are well served by the parish Priest and people of St Francis, Point Chevalier, with Mass On Mondays! We may have met long ago in Pukekohe I think.I am sure the Seminarians will appreciate your teaching! Their former Teacher enjoys a quieter life here at Selwyn too!


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