Homily – August 2019

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 4 AUGUST 2019
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)

Readings  Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23  Col 3:1-5, 9-11  Gospel Luke 12: 13-21

 Upon careful reflection of today’s Readings, I remembered an experience I had outside a Church some time ago.

An elderly mother was talking to me with her adult son. The adult son seemed to be very successful in the world. His mobile phone rang. He excused himself and took the phone call standing alongside his limousine.

The mother then said to me, “Please Archbishop pray for my son. His life is out of whack. He is obsessed with making money and spends so much on himself.”

The Readings today try to address the issue of a person’s life, which is “out of whack” (out of harmony, not balanced).

The First Reading today describes greed as vanity. It asks the pivotal question…”What does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone?” A greedy person forgets that this life is not the only life. A greedy person, in fact even if very religious, in practice acts as if this earthly life is the only life. It is akin to “worshiping of a false god.”

In fact, this is precisely what St Paul says in the Second Reading in his letter to the Colossians. St Paul advises, “You must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life…especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god.”

The Gospel today from St Luke indicates the response of Jesus to a life that is “out of wack”, in other words, a life that is given over to greed and avarice. Jesus uses the parable of a rich landowner whose chief problem is trying to find space for his expanding harvest. Although we rejoice that there is good harvest, the landowner’s time, energy and thoughts are only on securing bigger and bigger barns.

Jesus describes this man, using a very strong word, “Fool…This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So the moral of the story is that we are to store up treasure by “making ourselves rich in the sight of God.”

All of us can see ourselves, in one way or another in this topic of the vanity of greed. We need a sure compass point to make certain that our life is never “out of wack” but is in harmony with our true home with God.

The end of the Second Reading gives us this sure compass point that all of us need to emphasise deep within us. It is the beautiful expression, almost a motto for life, which St Paul gives us: “There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.”

With regard to navigating a life that is in balance, I recall the Australian Bishops recent encounter with Pope Francis just a few weeks ago in Rome.

He asked us to live out “four closenesses.” Clearly, this is something to help a Bishop lead a balanced life. He instructed the Bishops to remain close to God, close to our brother Bishops, close to the clergy, and close to our people.

If I apply these “four closenesses” to our general walk with the Lord, something appealing to everybody, I would then meditate on the Pope’s instruction to the Bishops and offer this to everybody as the “four clossenesses” of a balanced life in Christ.

We aught become close to God, especially His son Jesus, through our prayer and our meditation on a daily bases. Secondly, we are to remain close to our families, both spiritual and natural. The natural family is our spouse, our siblings and our wider family. We also belong to the spiritual family of our parish, Archdiocese and our Catholic faith. Thirdly, we are to be close to others, especially those in our work place and neighbourhood.   Fourthly, and finally, we are to remain close to the poor, especially those who struggle and live on the periphery of life. We are particularly reminded of this during these cold winter days were so many, in this fair city of Canberra, remain homeless and ask for our practical charity.

In all of these “clossenesses” we develop what Pope Francis calls a “culture of tenderness.”

So let us allow the Readings of today to really go deep within us, ask for forgiveness for our greed and avarice and move to a culture of tenderness in the Lord.

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 11 AUGUST 2019
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)

 Readings  Wis 18:6-9  Heb 11:1-2, 8-19  Gospel Luke 12: 32-40

 Are you ready?!

Not just are you ready for the Homily but also, in the light of today’s Readings, are you ready for the blessings of the Lord in the future?

We are all waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. “Christ has died, Christ has risen…and Christ will come again.” Christ will come again at the second coming. In today’s New Testament Readings, the early Christians thought that this would happen in their own lifetime. 2000 years later, we are still waiting for the second coming. This should not make us lazy or feel that this world is the only world. This was one of the major teachings of last week’s Readings.

Then there is the immediate judgement that will happen when we die. Then we will meet our merciful Saviour face to face. Thirdly, we are to be ready for the Lord to speak to us in the silence of our hearts many times during our life, even on a daily basis. As the Lord whispers in our hearts, it is imperative that we become contemplative people in our very active world, ready to listen and pray and to experience the Lord in the murmurings of our hearts.

We also should be ready therefore to listen. The experience of our ongoing Plenary Council in Australia is to make that distinction between hearing and listening. When the key question is “What is the Lord doing in the Church of Australia? Then the requirement of each one of us is to listen to God murmuring amongst us all.

I think we have really struggled with that so far in the Plenary Council discussions, especially the ones that I have attended personally. There seems to be a readiness to do the listening, which implies a conversion of heart and attitude, at the start. As the meeting goes on it appears that is seems to be more of answering a question not asked, “What would you like God to do in the Church of Australia at the moment?” Let us be attentive to this as we now start to move towards the second round of our listening sessions, which will have a focus on discernment, distinguishing between that which is of God and that which is not of God.

This listening and longing for the Lord is apparent in the biblical examples in today’s First and Second Readings. In the letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament, both Abraham and Sarah are showcased. There longing trust for the Lord’s action in their life becomes a practical definition of what faith is.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going.” It is the last part of that sentence that is so important. Abraham did not know where he was going but he knew that God had sent him and in time, in God’s own way, he would receive the direction needed. That is real trust. That is real faith.

Similarly, his wife Sarah, despite her infertility, was promised she would conceive a child and an heir for Abraham. Again, there is a wonderful expression of trust, longing and listening to God when the scripture says, “She believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it.”

Again, this is a real definition of faith. The First Reading reflects on the faithful trust that the people of God had when it says, “Once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in they would joyfully take courage.” Again, a reflection of longing, trust and faith in the God who walks with us on the journey of life.

This expression “Journey of life” reminds us of the famous expression of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – “Remember that we are but travellers here.” Let us recall that it was St Mary MacKillop’s Feast Day a few days ago. Last Thursday and again yesterday, I have been attending celebrations of St Mary MacKillop at Bombala and at Eden. We recall that she too, an Australian, was a woman of great trust who put her hope in the Lord as she continued to travel along the journey of life. She was always ready to do whatever God wanted!

At this Mass, we pray for one in our midst who is preparing to place his complete trust in the Lord for the rest of his life. I am referring to Deacon Alexander Osborne who I will, please God, ordain to the Priesthood here in this Cathedral at 6pm on Friday the 30th of August 2019.

It is such a wonderful moment when we see men and women who are prepared, quite contrary to the culture of their times, to completely place their trust in God rather than themselves and set of on the journey of faith into the unknown of God.

I have always been impressed here, in this Archdiocese, how the priests are very trusting in responding to the new chapters of their Priestly life with trust and hope.

As the Archbishop, there are many times when I ask priests to move from one parish to another.

If this was a small Archdiocese geographically, perhaps that would not be so difficult but that is not the case. For instance, it took me three and a half hours traveling time to go from Canberra to Eden yesterday for the St Mary MacKillop celebrations. In a somewhat different direction last Thursday, I drove for two and a half hours to Bombala for similar celebrations.

However, when I have asked priests to move from one part of the Archdiocese to the other, I have always been amazed at their willingness to respond with a hearty “YES” to my invitation. This indicates to me a mature group of Priestly men who are prepared to be ready to do whatever God wants them to do in so many ways, including moving from comfort zones to uncomfortable zones at a moment’s notice.

Let us try, in our daily life, to see that God is always asking us to trust him and be ready to respond, like the biblical figures of today’s Mass and our own Saints, with readiness to do whatever God wants in our life.