Homily – February 2017

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
YOUTH MASS 5:30PM, SUNDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2017
EIGHTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST

Dear young people of the Archdiocese and beyond …

Welcome to St Christopher’s Cathedral. In this Mass we ask God’s blessing upon new initiatives with our youth for the years to come.

No matter from where we have come from or what situation happens in the future, let us learn to live and breathe with all our energies the Gospel golden rule of Jesus … “Set your hearts on His kingdom first, and on His righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself, each day has enough trouble of its own”.

So dear friends and youth leaders and parishioners, let us seek God first in our new initiatives for the youth of our Archdiocese.

Directing my thoughts particularly to young people, I thank you so much for being here. It is difficult for you to come to Mass when you seem to be the only person your age in the congregation. But coming together in big groups is a joy to you. Thank you for singing and participating so wonderfully in this Mass.

I want you to know I am walking alongside you in these new initiatives and particularly in the years ahead. It is like a pilgrimage walk with Jesus. Let us use the rest of this year to build up a fresh generation of youth leaders in our Archdiocese. And then I ask you to join me at the end of this year for a pilgrimage to Sydney in December. We will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the great World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney which was led by Pope Benedict XVI. At this anniversary we will meet so many other inspiring young people like yourselves from all around Australia.

And then when we come back we will celebrate with the rest of Australia a Year for Youth in 2018. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has declared 2018 a Year for Youth. I am keen that we celebrate this wholesomely in this Archdiocese next year. I will be looking forward to hearing from you what plans you have for us in celebrating the Year of Youth. We can work together and build up Christ’s Kingdom amongst us. And then in 2019 we can be sent out as new evangelisers throughout all our schools and youth groups and parishes and communities in the Archdiocese. So we are really looking at the next three years to, in a particular way, work towards setting the Kingdom of God foremost in our hearts and minds, particularly in the youth culture of today.

You are very much aware, as has been the experience of youth over the centuries, that youth speaks to youth. It is almost like a motto. This means that young people witnessing to Jesus in their life is the greatest way of bringing other young people their age to understanding the encounter with Jesus Christ that can change lives.

Let us go on with our Mass now. Thanking the Lord for the great blessings of this day.

We are aware that next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. We are very much in a time of great fragility for the Catholic Church with the Royal Commission. But at the same time, the Lord is with us more than ever. Just in recent weeks I commissioned three young adults from our Archdiocese to join the seminary. Hopefully, they are on a pilgrimage towards the priesthood. I do hope many others would hear the call to become priests or religious in our Archdiocese.

In this regard I have appointed Fr Paul Nulley as the Youth Chaplain and Universities Chaplain. He is also the Vocation Director. I want to make a direct link between the youth apostolate and vocation apostolate. Let’s pray for him as we all work together in these troubled but exciting times.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn

 


 

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 26 FEBRUARY 2017
EIGHTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
Isaiah 49:14-15, 1 Corinthians 4:1-5, Matthew 6:24-34

Although seemingly very complicated, Christianity ultimately seems to come down to three basic and fundamental claims.

The first one is that GOD IS LOVE.

These three words are important. Firstly GOD. We believe that God is forever present and the creator of all the universe. The next word “IS”. Our Almighty God not “was”, or not “will be”, but IS, present now. He is the forever present God. Thirdly, LOVE. God is gift love. The crucifix shows the type of love we are talking about. It is Calvary love. It is agape love.

The second tenet is that Jesus is the Son of God and is the way of truth and the life to the God of love. Jesus brings God to us and Jesus brings us back to God in his life, death and resurrection. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit flows in us to others. This flow is particular to those on the margin of life, the battlers and the strugglers.

Today’s scripture readings focus on the first fundamental claim of Christianity – God is love.

The first reading emphasises the fundamental belief that we will not be forgotten by the God of love. The prophet Isaiah states “The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me. Does a women forget the baby at her breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you”. Even if we forget God, God will never forget us.

Secondly the Gospel indicates that our God of love requires an undivided response from us. I remember reading once a book on Christianity and it was titled “Costing Little Less than Everything”. The God of love demands 100% response from us.

The Gospel today warns us that we cannot “be the slave of two masters … You cannot be the slave both of God and of money”.

So this means that we must trust God with all our heart, mind and soul. The Gospel reminds us that we are not to worry about what we eat or how we are to be clothed. These transitory priorities must be second place to the first priority of trusting in the Lord and not worrying about this passing world.

Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel are almost like a Magna Carta of the Gospels. He says “Set your hearts on His Kingdom first, and His righteousness, and all these other things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

We keep these basic fundamentals of Christianity in our foremost attention as the liturgical season begins in a few days.

Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. It is a day of fast and abstinence. It begins the purification and preparation time for us all as we pilgrimage towards the death and resurrection of Jesus in Holy Week. Our attention is focused on praying, fasting and almsgiving.

The responsorial psalm of today is a good summary of Lenten priorities. The refrain of “Rest in God alone, my soul” is a great way for us in these days before Lent to think about how that can be expressed practically. There must be a purification first of the tongue. There is to be no gossip. Then there must be vigilance in regard to the priorities which crowd our hearts. Seeking God first, means that everything else, with God’s grace, follows on. And thirdly, there must be real purification of the mind. It is so hard to pray, isn’t it, when our mind is full of all sorts of things. We ask Jesus to help us to focus on this alone and to clear our mind of all sorts of transitory thoughts that can so easily drag us down and not give us hope and a trust in God our Lord and Saviour.

Particularly in these days of the Royal Commission, we ask that the purification we are talking about at Lent will not simply be an individualistic one, it must also be a common one. Collectively, we must take responsibility for that which we have inherited. We must move with a purified heart and mind in the future with greater vigilance for all that is opposed to the primacy of Christ in our lives. For this we pray.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn

 


 

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2017
SIXTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
Sirach 15:15-20, 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, Matthew 5:17-37

We welcome in a particular way to our Mass today the members of the ACT legal fraternity at the opening of the legal year. We also welcome members of the Thomas Moore forum and all politicians in these days before the beginning of the ACT political year. Welcome! At the same time, I would like to welcome a group from Italy. It is the Associazione Giuliani who are here to remember the war dead from their region of Italy – from Venezia Giulia, Ostria and Dalmazia together with the Italian community of Queanbeyan, Wollongong and Sydney.

The readings today continue the Sermon of the Mount from Matthew, chapters 5 to 7.

In today’s reading Jesus makes comments about the Jewish law.

It seems that when Jesus began his preaching on the Kingdom of God some of his adversaries felt that he was shallow in his response. They accused him of abolishing the law that had been given by their faith fathers of hundreds of years before.

It is clearly in this context that Jesus makes the following statement in the Gospel “Do you imagine that I have come to abolish the law of the Prophets? I have come not to abolish them but to complete them”. So rather than being shallow Jesus is being deep … very deep. He is advocating that the law should not be simply something that is written extrinsically but written very much in the hearts of those who believe. Clearly he is continuing along the prophetic ministry of the Old Testament in saying this.

The end of the second reading makes it quite clear that Christianity is all about something very deep and not shallow. It is reflecting the depth of God’s love for us and to the depth of the human heart. At the end of the second reading, St Paul makes a beautiful statement about this. He says “The spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God”.

We too, in our current times, battle with confusing the depths of Christianity with something shallow and insipid.

The current Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse reveals our enormous superficialities in our living out of the Catholic life here in Australia, with chilling results for many of the innocent.

We would all be aware that in recent days we have been given, for the first time, a national portrait of the data regarding the extensive nature of this scourge of sex abuse. It has really upset so many of our communities and jolted us into a tremendous sense of determination to do something comprehensive about this.

I will now read out to you a letter that I have asked all our priests around the diocese to read out today in regard to this matter.

A Letter of Consolation

8th February 2017

 
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

This is a most difficult time for you and, as your shepherd, I wish to express and assure you of my solidarity with you and my prayers for you.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has revealed deep wounds. Victims of child abuse by priests and religious have suffered enormously. Their wounds are deep and profound.

Let us pray for them. Let us pray that God will guide them to those persons who may help to heal their suffering. In particular, may Jesus, the Divine Physician, touch them and heal them.

I feel deeply, too, for my brother priests who serve you in this your parish. Please support your priests, care for them, and pray for them in this fragile time.

I feel very much for each one of you. I thank you most sincerely that you have not walked away from the Church community. You have remained steadfast in the Faith.

In a few days I will appear before the Royal Commission and I ask for your prayers and blessings. Please remember me so that I may be an instrument of Truth, Justice and Healing at this critical moment in our Catholic history here in Australia.

My prayer for you is St. Paul’s prayer. May you feel and know the consolation of the Lord in these days:
 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our sufferings, so that we may be able to comfort those who are suffering, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2Cor 1:3-4)

 
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN

Download A Letter of Consolation (pdf - 103 KB)

 


 

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 5 FEBRUARY 2017
FIFTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
Isaiah 58:7-10, 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, Matthew 5:13-16

We continue in today’s Gospel the fifth chapter of Matthew which we began last week. Last week we had the Gospel of the Beatitudes. Today continues immediately after the Beatitudes. It is all part of Matthew 5 to 7 – called “The Sermon on the Mount”.

You may recall last week that it was mentioned that the Beatitudes are all gifts from God. “Beatitudes” itself means a blessing from God. It’s a gift from God. All that God has given us is a gift. His great love and His mercy is the gift of the God of love to us all.

The first point to note, I believe, is just how radically relational is Christianity. It is not as if Jesus says “Go to your room and close the door and say your prayers and leave it at that”. He certainly does tell us to go and say our prayers in private and also together as we are doing now in the Mass. But the Catholic Church is never a pious devotional club. It is always directed to not only our relationship to God but also our relationship to others. In a sense we can say that a Christian is “in Jesus for others”. Service is a fruit of prayer.

It is this …. “for others” that is focused on today.

Jesus presents us in the Gospel three images of our relations with others as His ambassadors of mercy and love. He talks about Christians as “The salt of the earth”. He then calls us “The light of the world”.

And in a third image He says that “We are like a lamp on a lampstand … We must “shine in the sight of men, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven”.

There is even a deeper understanding of this relational aspect of Christianity. It really comes from the Trinitarian understanding of being a Christian. We are a relational people because we are, through our Baptism, united through Jesus in the relations with the Trinity. We are a Trinitarian people. The early Church fathers talked about the “Divine circle dance” the Trinity of love inviting us to participate in this love that is always extroverted and outreaches to others. It is dynamic and never static – always “flowing”.

So our relational dimension of being a Christian comes from our incorporation with Christ into the Trinity and, likewise, it is always extroverted to others especially those on the margins of life and the battlers. This is particularly foreshadowed in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah. The prophet insists that the Lord says to us “Share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor. Clothe the man you see to be naked and turn not from your own kin”. The imperative to go out to the needy is part of the DNA of Christianity and is crystallised in Christ who has come amongst us in our humanity in all things but sin and has returned to the Father taking us with Him.

This whole foundational belief brings up the pivotal topic of conversion and repentance. We have to battle with our own ego to do it “our way” rather than “God’s way”. But God is always there in mercy to forgive us and to draw us to see things with His eyes rather than our own.

In others words, there is always a big gap between the real and the ideal in our living that of Christianity.

We see that particularly now in the present day with what is happening in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Over the next three weeks, with the greatest of regret, we will hear shameful statistics of what indeed has happened over the last 50 or so years in regard to sex abuse allegations amongst the clergy and Church personnel. I ask you to prepare yourself for lots of shocks. The words of Pope Francis are so true when he said that sex abuse is “the sin that shames us all”.

We particularly pray in this Mass for these victims and survivors of sexual abuse once again. They are the real heroes of these sad times. They have had the courage to come forward with their horrendous stories of abuse in childhood and are teaching us how to live the Beatitudes out in a true authentic way.

As always, we trust these days and all our lives to Jesus relying on the power of God amongst us. St Paul in the second reading suggests as much when he says “I did this so that your faith should not depend on human philosophy but on the power of God”.

In these days of darkening clouds let us hope as always for Christ to take us from chaos to order and from darkness to the light of conversion and repentance. For this we pray.