he tāngata

May 2, 2020

He aha te mea nui o te ao. He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

Then Jesus said to the Twelve,
‘What about you, do you want to go away too?’
Simon Peter answered, ‘Lord, who shall we go to?
You have the message of eternal life,
and we believe; we know that you are the Holy One of God.’
John 6


People often tell me that they have no time for the church because it’s all about rules and doctrines that seem unnecessary and irrelevant. I understand what they are saying since we have often communicated the doctrine of the church without explaining that this was communicated by God in relationship with people for the good of the people and their relationship with God and one another.

In a healthy Christian church community the emphasis will be on God in Jesus Christ who is alive, present and active among us people who respond by seeking relationship with Jesus Christ.

It’s all about relationship. The what and the how are important but it is the WHO who is central.

A few years ago a church where a friend was parish priest was broken into and the tabernacle opened and emptied. A TV news interviewer asked the priest what was taken. Fr Daniel responded, no, the thieves stole not a what but a who…Jesus Christ.

Try this little experiment: type “Church” into a Google image search. Up will come pictures of dozens of beautiful buildings – and not a person in or near any of them.

I am a great supporter of building and maintaining beautiful church buildings as places where heaven and earth visibly and tangibly intersect. But when we think “Church”  let’s consciously put the people in relationship with Jesus Christ before the building or the doctrine. If we don’t do this then the structures and the teachings make little sense.

I am a strong promoter of good doctrine. Sound doctrine saves me having to resolve every one of my big questions alone since our ancestors in faith who first understood the life of God are generously sharing their experience and their findings with me.

A helpful analogy is the road code. We might not like the sound of the siren calling us to pull over but we do appreciate that the rules of the road (and motorists’ respect for them) make it safe to leave the house in the morning.

We also make the mistake of thinking of God in imaginary floating-on-cloud pictures, instead of accepting Jesus Christ in flesh and blood as the ultimate revelation of God.

It is no wonder that in the gospels of each day of this week from John Chapter 6 many of those who had initially become enthusiastic disciples of Jesus struggled with a God who in Jesus says of himself: I am the bread of life…unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life.

As a result “Many of the disciples of Jesus who were listening said, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?””

And so Jesus asks his friends, ‘will you leave me too?’ On this occasion at least they get it, even after all that complex theology of John chapter 6, Peter appreciates that even when he doesn’t understand these details of Eucharistic theology he is not going to part from this relationship with the one he knows to be the “Holy One of God” who brings “the message of eternal life.”






Holy Passion of the Lord Church, Amberley.  Bell tower (& Church) pics still welcome – send to john@fff.org.nz.

Saturday Easter Week III  (15 minutes)

Saturday Easter Week III  (25 minutes)



  1. What a fine group of ‘tangata’ outside Amberley church. We can almost hear the buzz of conversation- which we look forward to appreciating anew.

    The beginning of the Māori proverb may help too “if you pluck out the heart of the flax bush how will the bellbird survive?”

    If the heart of our church (relationship with Jesus and ourselves) is not there, it is as empty as our church buildings are at the moment…

    • Phil you nailed it. Thank you Father John, another fantastic column, I believe one of the most important messages we need to use in our outreach on these days.

  2. One thing I learned 40 years ago on a Marriage Encounter weekend was that “We are the Church” till then I don’t think I fully appreciated that and the community side of going to Mass other than seeing everyone again! Slow learner! Thank you for your inspiring pieces every day.

  3. A great reflection this morning Father John. Words alone are not sufficient as many of the disciples showed in their reaction to Jesus’ words when He says I am the bread of life ….. unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you cannot have life.
    It is so sad that so many walk away, they don’t want to understand, they don’t believe.
    I love the Maori proverbs. They are so powerful. Their message is especially meaningful to me at this time in our history. God bless you.

  4. We are an old couple, I can use the computer but my husband has difficulty even seeing the screen properly. We both believe that church is about people. We tried watching the Mass on computer and couldn’t feel really part of it, so now we celebrate the Liturgy of the Word together. We light a candle and my husband leads it (he was a katekita when we lived in the Hokianga). We have found this more rewarding and end up discussing what the readings mean for us now in the present day but we look forward to the day when we can join in with the others celebrating the Eucharist as well as the Word.


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