Homily – October 2017

Isaiah 5:1-7, Philippians 4:6-9, Matthew 21:33-43

The parable today indicates just how Jesus speaks directly but in a very indirect way!

This seeming paradox is based on the assertion that Jesus can say the most direct matters to His listeners by using the indirect method of constructing parables.

The parable today talks about a land owner who planted a vineyard and then went away leaving the vineyard in the stewardship of tenants. When the landowner returned and sent servants to collect his produce, the tenants, “seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another and stoned a third”. The second time, the landowner sent other servants, and they did the same.

Finally he sent his son to them. “They will respect my son”, he said. But when the tenants saw the son they said to each other, “This is the heir, come on, let us kill him and take over the inheritance”. The point of the parable is that Jesus says, “The Kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit”.

The people that Jesus was speaking to would understand that he was talking about the leadership of the People of God at that time.

The first reading states that, “The vineyard of the Lord of Host is the House of Israel, and the men of Judah that chosen plant. He expected justice, but found bloodshed, integrity, but only a cry of distress”.

When Jesus gives us all a responsibility He expects us to be faithful stewards and produce a harvest of fruit for the Kingdom of God.

Clearly this hasn’t taken place and this is why Jesus is so direct in His speech.

In a sense He has predicted His future death and resurrection. He is predicting that, as in the parable, the son will be killed. Also He, as the Son of God, will be killed. But God will raise Him in the resurrection and forgiveness and the seeds of the Kingdom of God will be planted afresh.

It is easy enough for us to look back on this and to think of this as something in the past, but it’s a present and very profound responsibility all of us have to do all we can to promote the Kingdom of God and allow it to flourish not only in our lives but to all that we come in contact with.

This reminds me of an experience of an elderly and sickly priest of more recent times.

In the last two years he has spent quite a bit of time in hospital.

For the first time in his life he found himself last year in a ward of four people of which he was the only male!

This was challenging enough but also another challenge presented itself rather quickly.

The woman in the hospital bed opposite him was forever praying from a particular prayer book. She never really spoke to any of the other patients in the ward as she seemed to be totally preoccupied with her prayers from her clearly beloved prayer book.

The priest made the observation over a few days that whenever the medical, domestic or cleaning staff came anywhere near her she was ferocious in her attitude and statements to them. The food was never what she ordered or it wasn’t hot enough, the medication was causing her dizziness or whatever and the domestic staff didn’t clean what they should have cleaned, and so on!!

Over a few days this was starting to really irritate the priest.

He told me that at one stage he felt like getting out of his sick bed, going over to her bed and taking her prayer book immediately off her and giving her another prayer book. He said to me, “Clearly the prayer book she was using wasn’t working!”

I thought of this in regard to today’s parable and our gathering here today at St Clement’s Galong for our Annual Marian Mass and Procession.

We believe that Mary, the Mother of God, is always reading from the correct “prayer book”!

Mary is forever young and forever renewing herself in her Son!

Not only that, she is always interceding and keeping us focused on her Son Jesus in our world of today.

As we all know, the Catholic Church is going through unprecedented turmoil at the moment, particularly here in Australia. There are many experiences amongst us of great change and feelings of asking ourselves where is the Church heading?

But it is always Mary who points us in our confusion and the fogginess of our insight towards her Son Jesus Christ. She is forever the one who is the great signpost to where Jesus is to be found. Indeed like any mother the child is to be found in the loving arms of the mother. If we find Mary then we will always find Jesus because He is with His mother!

I thank you all for coming from all parts of the Archdiocese to our Marian Procession today. I am delighted to have led the inaugural Youth Pilgrimage Walk from Galong Township to St Clement’s here this morning. I pray that this is the beginning of many years of a youth component and pilgrimage to this historic procession that is dear to the hearts of all of us in the Archdiocese.

I particularly thank Fr John Airey CSsR and all at the Redemptorist Monastery here for the care that they have taken in offering us hospitality and ensuring all the grounds are ready for the huge crowds that are here today.

With you I pray that Mary blesses our Archdiocese. I once again now reconsecrate the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. May Mary always protect our Archdiocese from any harm or any danger. May Mary protect all families and communities and neighbourhoods from the “terror of the night”.

Let us all recommit ourselves to the intercession of Mary. She leads us to Jesus. And let us say together now, Hail Mary full of Grace…

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Ez 18:25-28, Phil 2:1-11, Matthew 21:28-32

The Gospel introduces us to two types of disciples.

The first disciple could be called a “self-corrective” disciple.

These are the disciples who are very much aware of their humanity and their sin and weakness and disobedience.  However, there is always like the one in the Gospel, who “afterwards thought better of it” and then obeys the Lord.

There is humility here.  There is repentance and trust.  In seeking personal freedom this disciple could identify with the ancient Portuguese expression, as the one who “writes straight with crooked lines.”

We see indications of the first disciple, the self-corrective disciple, in the first reading today from the prophet Ezekiel.  Here the prophet says “When the sinner renounces sin to become law abiding and honest, he deserves to live.”

The second type of disciple implied in the Parable today of Jesus could be described as the “self-deceptive” disciple.

These are the ones who say one thing but do the opposite.  In today’s Gospel the man when charged with a particular responsibility says immediately “Certainly, sir… but then did not go.”

There is arrogance here.  There is sinful deception and a superficiality.  Discipleship here never goes deep enough.

This disciple refuses to really take on personal responsibility despite the fact of always “looking good.”

Jesus shows us the “perfect way” to respond to God in the Second Reading from St Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.

This is an ancient text and precedes even the writing of the Gospels. 

The way of Jesus is the way of self-renunciation.  It is the way of “self-emptying” on the journey back to the Father.

We see this beautifully and almost in poetic manner in this text…”His state was divine, yet he did not cling…but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave…But God raised him on high…that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord.”

This is a wonderful definition of what a Christian disciple is.  It is being in total imitation of Jesus who took on our humanity in everything but sin and then in his death and resurrection how God the Father raised him on high. 

This final expression: “Jesus Christ as Lord” is one of the most ancient creedal statements of Christianity.  We have the whole of Christianity in four words…”Jesus Christ as Lord.”

Today we celebrate the imitation of “The Perfect Way” of Jesus Christ in the “Little Way” of St Therese of Lisieux (1873-1897).

St Therese died at the very young age of 24 years of Tuberculosis.

She was canonised as a Saint only 28 years after her death. 

But in her own little way she imitated so completely the way of complete discipleship.

When I reflect seriously on the life of St Therese of Lisieux I think she lives out four paradoxes of Christian discipleship beautifully.  She truly is this “self-corrective” disciple.  She is very much aware of her own sinfulness but she was guided wonderfully by her saintly parents and sisters and chose the way of humility in a most extraordinary way.

I think the first paradox of St Therese of Lisieux is that she is the patron of the missions yet she never left her convent.

She insisted that she would spend her heaven doing good on earth.  This is symbolised in the rose petals and roses that we will bless at the end of this Mass today.  The falling down of rose petals is indicative of the falling down of her intercessory care for the Missionary Church.  When Catholics first came to this country of Australia she was one of the first Saints we made as one of our Missionary Patronesses.

Having said all that, she never left her convent and yet at the same time her intercession for the Universal Church can never be doubted.

The second paradox of St Therese is that she encouraged and counselled Priests yet this was done without really personally knowing them.

This was done through her letter writing and prayers of intercession for Priests that where undergoing difficulty.  Indeed, she continues to do that.  For example, I was gifted with a wonderful little relic of St Therese of Lisieux years ago and I often place on this relic Priests that are concerning me in my various responsibilities.  I ask St Therese to look after them as she looked after the ones when she walked this earth.

The third paradox of St Therese is that she is a brilliant example of community life yet she was never really appreciated as such by her community.

This is because her “Little way” was so subtle.  She saw that her vocation in life truly was to the vocation to love regardless of what ever happened in her life.  We see little community examples of this which are quite delightful.

She always had the great way of turning a negative into a positive.  For example, in her writing we are aware there was one of the choir sisters near her in the monastery that annoyed her with the grinding of her teeth!  St Therese turned this nuisance noise in her mind into part of a “symphony” that sang God’s praises!  Then there’s another example of her being on laundry duty and the sister accompanying this, continually tended to splash water everywhere including over St Therese.  This annoyed her!  But she took it as means of renewing her baptismal vows through water!  See how love can turn a negative into a positive! 

The fourth and final paradox to my mind is that she was a spiritual writer of the highest order yet this was never known until after her death.

After her death, as we know, her biography was published…”Story of a Soul.”  It’s about her life’s journey.

We can read this autobiography and see in her a very fragile human being.  At times she was temperamental, self-absorbed and even stubborn.  Yet, she was repentant and like a “little flower” saw her vocation in turning her whole vision towards Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.

As we now continue with our Mass let us move in prayer invoking her intercession in all our needs.  St Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn