Archbishops Communications

Pastoral Message: September 12 2017 (Same-sex Marriage)
Related Article: Marriage ‘one of humanity’s greatest treasures’

 

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 13 AUGUST 2017
MARRIAGE AND FAMILY SUNDAY
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
1 Kings 19-9; 11-13, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33

There are many challenges in life and I believe the readings today present us with at least three.

There is the challenge within.

In the first reading today we hear of Elijah’s search for God at Mount Horeb.

In the first reading today we hear of Elijah’s search for God at Mount Horeb.
God was not found in the ever so strong winds. God wasn’t found in the earth quake or in the fire. But we hear from the readings today that there came eventually “the sound of a gentle breeze”, what a wonderful expression. God was in this gentle breeze. In another translation of the scriptures it has it as “a voice of thin silence.” When Elijah experienced this “he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.” This means he found the Lord. The Lord’s presence was so subtle. So discrete and humble it was just simple as a gentle breeze. There was no glitz there was no fanfare.

God was not found in the ever so strong winds. God wasn’t found in the earth quake or in the fire. But we hear from the readings today that there came eventually “the sound of a gentle breeze”, what a wonderful expression. God was in this gentle breeze. In another translation of the scriptures it has it as “a voice of thin silence.” When Elijah experienced this “he covered his face with his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance to the cave.” This means he found the Lord. The Lord’s presence was so subtle. So discrete and humble it was just simple as a gentle breeze. There was no glitz there was no fanfare.
A similar encounter with the Lord happens in the Gospel today.

A similar encounter with the Lord happens in the Gospel today.
After a full day of ministering to people he sent them away and also sent is disciples to go into the boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee. In the meantime, he dispersed the crowds and then the scripture say’s “he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”

After a full day of ministering to people he sent them away and also sent is disciples to go into the boat and to cross the Sea of Galilee.

In the meantime, he dispersed the crowds and then the scripture say’s “he went up into the hills by himself to pray.”

Jesus found his union with God his Father in silence and in solitude. A kind of “gentle breeze.” It was a kind of “voice of thin silence”.
All of us have this challenge to encounter Jesus deep within us. As Jesus needed to experience solitude and silence so do we in our noisy and busy world. It’s not an optional extra. We can’t live a fully human life unless we are able to accept the challenge that we need to quench the thirst deep within us by pockets of silence and solitude in our lives too.

The second challenge from the scriptures, as far as I can see, is the challenge from outside.

It appears that the disciples on the boat also experience some of the experiences of Elijah in the cave.

Whilst they were crossing the Sea of Galilee a huge “head wind” struck them down with huge waves. They were so frightened. They thought they were about to sink.

Let us recall that the boat with the disciples is a symbol of the Church.

We too, especially at the moment in Australia and in the Western world in general, are encountering a very big heavy wind in regard to marriage and family life today.

This particular storm of marriage and family life, perhaps could be given a special name. We too are “suffering under Pontius Pilate” like Jesus did. Perhaps we could call this storm the Pontius Pilate storm.

Pontius Pilate asked Jesus a very cynical and arrogant question…he asked Jesus, “What is truth?”

This is what society is asking today in regard to marriage and family and morality in general. They tend to feel that truth is only of a subjective nature. It’s “my choice”, “morality is my truth for me and therefore everybody else is supposed to respect this!”
We find this in a special way in these day’s in regard to the discussion on same-sex marriage.

Could I make four very brief points with regard to same sex marriage, a discussion which is so present in today’s society.

First, If you haven’t already done so, please register yourself on the electoral role now (Final date 24 August). You won’t be able to participate in any postal vote unless you are on the electoral role. I’m sure there are many new migrants to Australia who would be very supportive of traditional marriage but they may need to register themselves so that they can participate in this postal vote.

Secondly, let us be unambiguous about this. We love our same sex orientated friends. We find them in our communities, in our neighbourhoods, in families, in our parishes. They are part of our family. They find themselves so often in very vulnerable situations. Our love and our accompanying with them on life’s journey is strong and needs to be restated at this moment.

Thirdly, having said that, we cannot but say that traditional marriage as it is now called, is one of the greatest treasures that humanity has ever produced.

I’d like to quote the beautiful words of a leading Jewish leader, Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom. Having noted the love that we need to always show to same sex orientated people, he has the following to say “our compassion for those who choose to live differently should not inhibit us from being advocates for the single most humanising institution in history. The family, man-woman, and child, is not one lifestyle choice among many. It is the best means we have yet discovered for nurturing future generations and enabling children to grow in a matrix of stability and love.”

We can all say “Amen” to those beautiful words. We need to protect this great human institution that predates Christianity by millennia and not trivialise it in any shape or form.

Fourthly and finally, it seems to me, that an even bigger storm is brewing behind the same sex marriage issue. Behind this issue seems to be great threat to the fundamental human right of religious expression and, indeed, even free speech.

Let us keep these points in mind and pray in this Mass for God’s blessing on all marriages and family life.

Our third and final challenge from today’s reading is surely the challenge of confronting fear with courage and faith.

As Jesus walked on the water towards the Apostles, so frightened in their little boat with raging seas around them, Saint Peter started walking towards Jesus on the water. For a moment he took his eyes off Jesus and started to look at his feet and immediately he began to sink. This always happens when we take our eyes off Jesus and start to look at ourselves. We become self-absorbed and selfish. Rather than God absorbed and selfless. But let’s hear what Jesus said to Peter when he cried out for help. There’s a beautiful expression in the scriptures that says “Jesus put out his hand at once and held him.” This expression “at once and held him” in the midst of Peter’s self-absorption is a wonderful example of how Jesus comes to us in our weakness and our sinfulness. Let us too hear Jesus say not only to

Peter but to each one of us “person of little faith why did you doubt?”

Doubt and fear are conquered by taking courage and placing our eyes on Jesus alone.

Let us pray now in the Mass for marriage and family life and in thanksgiving for all who have gathered here today in their different journeys of family and those who support family life and the different organisations represented here today. Let us pray that God’s nourishment in his body and blood and living word will give us strength for the journey ahead in the midst of the storms of life.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn

Pastoral Message: September 12 2017 (Same-sex Marriage)
Related Article: Marriage ‘one of humanity’s greatest treasures’