Homily – March 2018

Chr 36:14-16. 19-23, Eph 2:4-10, John 3:14-21

Lent helps us to return to the fundamental Christian basics – In the readings today we are presented with at least three or these basic tenets. 

The first concerns the one RAISED UP by God. 

In the readings today there is a discernible ascending motion.  In the First Reading there are plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.  Through the prophet Jeremiah the King of Persia is tasked to build “a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.  Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him!…Let him go up.”

This ascending motion of “let him go up” to Jerusalem is very significant in the Gospels as Jesus moves resolutely towards his Death and Resurrection.

In the Gospel today Jesus says to Nicodemus that “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.”

This lifting up of the Son of Man, like Moses in the desert with the serpent around the pole which he lifts, is an important Biblical theme.

God is never to be dismissed to the periphery.  We might find Jesus in the periphery with marginalised people as his favourites, but that does not mean that Jesus himself as the centre of our lives, is to be found in our lives in a periphery manner.  He is to be found in our hearts.

But who is the one who is raised up by God?

Jesus is not a military or political leader.  Nor is he a miracle worker amongst others.  No.  The one to be raised up by God is the “Suffering Servant”, Jesus Crucified on the Calvary Cross.  It is Jesus who out of great love for us shows his mercy by suffering with us and forgiving our sins through his Grace.  This is particularly mentioned in the Second Reading today from St Paul, who declares the primary Christian tenet, that “It is through grace that you have been saved – and raised up with him and given a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.”

It is the “Wounded Suffering Messiah of God” who is the one to lead us. 

The second point to recall as a basic Christian tenet is that we are to be raised up with the “Wounded Jesus” in our own woundedness.

Again, in the Second Reading, St Paul in Ephesians says that through Grace, we who have been dead in our sins have now been raised up in Christ Crucified.  “We have been raised up with him.”  Again, it is the raising up of Jesus in our midst as our wounded Healer and Saviour.

This word “with” is important.  In the woundedness of our humanity we seek union WITH the wounds of Christ.  It is from the wounds of Christ that we find healing and redemption.

So let us give Jesus our shattered dreams and our sins and weaknesses.  Let us come to the Lord not with our trophies and our triumphs but with our tears and our tragedies…our sins. 

This is something that a success orientated Australia, where everything must be “perfect”, would struggle with.  It is the very opposite to what our culture so often projects. 

It provokes this Lenten question on our pilgrimage to Easter: Where do I need saving by our “Wounded Saviour”?

Third and finally the Christian tenet emphasised in today’s reading is that there is healing in Christ Crucified. 

The image in the Gospel today of Jesus reprising the image of Moses who “lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

So Jesus too must be “lifted up.”

There is healing and then redemption in our union with Jesus.  As mentioned so often in the scriptures: “By His wounds we are healed.”

There is a lovely English hymn that was written in the 17th century by Samuel Crossman.

It summarises this important aspect of our Christian life in just one sentence…”love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.”

So in this Lenten Mass, as we continue with our Eucharist, let us lift Jesus up and lift our own woundedness up into his wounds.

In the Eucharistic Prayer today I will spend a little extra time in silence with you “raising up” in the elevation the body of Christ and then in the Chalice the blood of Christ.  Let us all turn our heads to Jesus lifted up in the midst of the Eucharistic assembly, knowing that all Healing, Love and Salvation come from him alone.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, John 2:13-25

Midway in Lent on our pilgrimage to Easter, the scriptures today offer us two doors that we can enter into a deeper conversion with our merciful Saviour, Jesus.

The first doorway comes with the beautiful aside at the end of the Gospel of today.

The cleansing of the temple is full of drama and the Lord wanting to make clear the demarcation point between the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, there is a beautiful aside at the end of this Gospel.

We learn from the Gospel that, “Jesus knew them all and did not trust Himself to them; He never needed evidence about any man; He could tell what a man had in him”. Jesus knows us already intimately, more intimately than we know ourselves. We can’t play games before Jesus. Particularly in Lent, through prayer, almsgiving and fasting, we come to the true honesty of who we are before our Merciful God. This can be very painful.

Towards the end of the Gospel of last Sunday, the Transfiguration, we learned of the two beautiful words that were ultimately that which remained after the Transfiguration… “Only Jesus”. In the deepest level of each one of us, we are before “only Jesus” and we cannot remove our deceptions and our sins without placing them before His merciful judgement.

This is similar to what is happening now in today’s Gospel. In the temple, things were going according to their normal behaviour, but it was all out of proportion. The changing of the money and the availability of animals and birds for offerings became the prime object of people’s attendance. The real purpose of the temple, to give glory and praise to God and seek His saving help, was eclipsed in the commercialisation of the temple. Jesus shows us a new way.

Jesus always shows us a new way. He knows what is in us. He doesn’t need any other evidence from anybody else. We are naked before His love and mercy and compassion.

The second doorway into today’s readings is found in the second reading from St Paul to the Corinthians.

It clarifies precisely who God is who knows us so intimately. He is the Crucified Christ. St Paul makes it quite clear for this reading that, “Here we are preaching a Crucified Christ… A Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God”.

Over this weekend there are so many of our youth and youth leaders who are gathering for a conference.

Very popular words with young people are the following, “awesome”, “perfect” and “amazing”.

These seem to be mantra words from the lips of so many of our wonderful young people.

Certainly these words are important when we think of the Resurrection and Pentecost and our life in Christ.

But they are not “Crucified Christ” words in reality.

We can never bypass Good Friday on the way to Easter or Pentecost. Golgotha is not an option on our pilgrimage. And Golgotha is a very painful place for all of us to be. The Calvary of Jesus in His persecution, excruciating suffering, betrayal, and being nailed to a cross is our Christian Glory! This might be a source of scandal to many people as it was at the time of St Paul, but it is our saving triumph.

Jesus takes upon Himself all our sufferings and all our difficulties and sinfulness and pain and nails them to His cross.

So as we continue on this midway mark on the way to Easter, let us not forget that it is the Crucified Christ that leads us. Let us not just offer Jesus our trophies and triumphs, let us offer Him even more so our disasters and defeats.

In true repentance and conversion, our merciful and forgiving God will come to us and transform the darkness of the night into the dawn that will never set. We call this Easter.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn