Homilies – August 2014


JEREMIAH 20:7-9, ROMANS 12:1-2, MATTHEW 16:21-27

Today’s Gospel follows immediately after last Sunday’s Gospel.  They both form the pivotal section in Matthew’s Gospel – Chapter 16.

You may recall last week the Lord asks his Apostles “Who do people say I am?… Who do you say I am?” Now we find the dialogue immediately following between the Lord and St Peter.

The tone is completely different to last week!  Last week, the Lord rejoiced in St Peter’s proclamation of faith that the Lord is the Son of the Living God.  Now the Lord says to Peter “Get behind me Satan!  You are an obstacle in my path because the way you think is not God’s way but mans.”

What happened?

When Jesus indicated in today’s Gospel that “He was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day!”, Peter disagreed heartily.  He said “Heaven preserve you, Lord, this must not happen to you. “

Peter’s idea of the Messiah is so different from that of Jesus.  Somehow or another, Peter’s understanding of the Messiah is linked up with an expectation of victory and success, and even perhaps a political achievement.  This is opposite to the mind of Jesus.  His is a sacrificial ministry.  He is to be the suffering Messiah.  He is on a direct course for Calvary.

Once again we give thanks to Peter.  Because once again he misunderstands and “puts his foot in it”, just like us!

The understanding of discipleship as a suffering discipleship, in imitation of the Lord, is something we grapple with every day of our Christian lives.  Peter’s mistakes help us to understand the clarity, the mind of the Lord.

The important thing to remember here is that we follow Jesus.  Jesus doesn’t follow us.

It’s interesting to note in the Gospel that Jesus says to Peter to follow him…… to get behind him.  This is the typical physical posture of the disciple.  The Rabbi is to give the lead and to physically lead his followers.  All followers are to follow him physically in the procession of life.  We are to let Jesus leads us wherever he wants to lead us.  It’s not the other way around. We don’t go off on our own way of life and then say to Jesus “Come on, come and follow me.”  This is called sin.  We are an obstacle in the Lord’s path.  But God is merciful.  We repent. We can always start again.

In the first reading we have a real sense of why this is the case.  It is because, as the prophet Jeremiah says of the Lord “You were the stronger.”  Of the two of us – humanity and the Lord, Jesus is the stronger.  Humanity follows Jesus to the fullness of humanity, which is, at the same time truly Christian.  Jesus has overwhelmed us with his merciful love.  The prophet Jeremiah uses the word “seduced”.  The Lord conquers us with loving kindness and most of all compassion.

For us to truly take all this in, we need to have “The mind of Christ.” There is an important piece of advice offered to us in the second reading from St Paul to the Romans.  He counselled us to “Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind. “ Let us pray in this Mass that we will discover the will of God and know what is  “The perfect thing to do.”

We recall particularly today that so many migrant and refugees have given us, over the years, conspicuous example of suffering for the name of the Lord.

It is the Hundredth Anniversary of the World Migrant and Refugee Sunday.

I recall meeting a marvellous refugee from Vietnam many years ago.  He told me of his story.  It was only his sacrificial faith in imitation of Jesus that got him and his friends through to Australia after the collapse of Vietnam with the communist takeover.

He was one of my students in theology many years ago.  He ended up becoming a priest.  He then ended up, in more recent years, becoming a Catholic Bishop.  He is the first refugee Catholic Bishop in Australia!  His name is Bishop Vincent  Long.

His testimony is shared by so many.  How they help us to really understand what is Christian life.  So many of them have truly suffered.

We particularly remember in our Mass today the present situation in Northern Iraq.  In recent days the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a statement about this pivotal matter for our times.  Christian communities, Muslin communities, and ethnic communities in that part of the world are suffering the most horrendous persecution and some of them have been put to death in the most horrific ways.  Let us pray for peace in our world in this Mass particularly.

Let us never lose hope that in our following as disciples of Jesus along the road to Calvary, there is always the hope of the resurrection.  In our violent world let us recall the inspirational expression used recently by Pope Francis: “Violence is never conquered by violence.  Violence is only conquered by peace.”



MATTHEW 16:13-20

(Together with the 40th Anniversary of the Carmelite Monastery in Canberra)


The Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn welcomes those gathered today for the 40th anniversary of the Foundation of our Carmelite Sisters here in Canberra.

In a particular way we welcome the Pope’s representative in Australia, the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paul Gallagher and the newly arrived Counsellor, Monsignor John John Kallarackal.  We also welcome Fr Brian Lucas, Mons Woods the Vicar General, Fr Wellspring, Fr Varghese Vavolil, the acting Cathedral Dean, and Fr Peter LÉstrange sj.  We also welcome Fr Paul Rooney who has travelled from Queensland to be with us today.  He is the brother of Sister Monica from the Carmelites here in Canberra.

We also welcome from the Kew Monastery, Mother Prioress Ellen Marie.  With her from Kew also we welcome Sr Paula and Sr Angela.

From the Carmelite Wagga Monastery the Superior, Sr Maria.

Most especially we welcome our own Sisters from the Carmelite Monastery here in Canberra.  Sisters Josephine, Beth, Monica, the Superior, Mary Agnes, Gabrielle Anne and Sr Tarcisius.

Let us join now in the Mass, thanking the Lord for the many blessings he has given the Archdiocese through the Carmelite presence amongst us over the last 40 years.


Today’s Gospel is a turning point in the whole of Matthews’s Gospel.

Prior to the sixteenth chapter in Matthew, we have heard of many descriptions of the ministry of Jesus.  But now Jesus does not turn to the crowds but his own disciples and puts the seminal question to them…… “Who do people say the Son of Man is…….  Who do you say I am?”

This is the question asked of all of us every day from the Lord.  Who am I for you?

It is St Peter that speaks on behalf of the entire Church in his response.  His response is echoed throughout the corridors of the Church history.  Inspired by the Holy Spirit, he replies to the Lord “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Peter’s answer is highly significant.   Not only does he declare that God is the Messiah, the Christ, but he goes an extra step further and describes Jesus as “the Son of the Living God.” Peter both accepts the conventional thinking of Jesus as the Messiah and he also claims that Jesus has that filial relationship with God as Son.

Peter’s response delights the Lord Jesus.  He then confers on Peter three roles.  It is upon Peter, “the rock” that the foundation of the Church is founded upon.  He then hands over to Peter the “keys of the Kingdom of God.”  This is foreshadowed in the first reading from the Prophet of Isaiah where Eliakim is given the key to the house of David.  And thirdly, Peter is the one who is given the power of binding and loosening.

Our Catholic tradition has insisted that the successors of Peter, the Popes, continue these three roles.  We pray particularly for our Pope today on his return from Korea, and pray for him as the successor of St Peter.

This important Petrine (Peter) dimension of the Church is a fundamental aspect of our Catholic belief.  It has been articulated very carefully in the Vatican II document called Lumen Gentium, that articulated the hierarchical dimension of the Church and the Petrine ministry central to that.  This seminal document of Vatican II will be celebrating its Golden Jubilee (50) in just a few months’ time.

But most interestingly, this Petrine profile is not the only dimension of the Church.  It is interesting to note in Lumen Gentium (1964), the document also includes a special section on the role of Mary in the Church.  There were calls originally to have a separate document on Mary, but the Fathers of the Vatican II Council insisted that the Petrine ministry of the Church should also be complemented by the Marian, or Mary dimension of the Church.  It’s almost like two lungs of the one Church.  We call ourselves a hierarchical communion.  There is both the Peter and the Mary dimensions/profiles.

In our Church today, we continue the missions of Peter and Mary.  There is a strong interplay between these two principles.  They come to a unity in a most particular way in all that Mary stands for in our Church.  She is mother.  And as our Heavenly mother she directs all towards her Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.

Ten years after Lumen Gentium here in Australia something very significant happened in Canberra.  The Archbishop at the time, Archbishop Thomas Cahill invited the Carmelites from the Kew Monastery in Melbourne to establish a foundation here in Canberra for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

Forty years ago they arrived.  Many of them from that time are with us today here at this Mass.

It was prophetic that Archbishop Cahill (representing the Petrine dimension), invited the Carmelites to offer a particular Marian dimension in the Archdiocese.  Through their intercessory prayer, their Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and their contemplative presence, the Archdiocese has been richly blessed.  They complement the Petrine Ministry of the Church in our Archdiocese.

In the second reading today we hear St Paul mentioning about “How rich are the depths God – how deep His wisdom and knowledge – how impossible to penetrate His motives or understand His methods.” This is so true, we cannot understand God.  The beauty of the presence of God is beyond our fathoming.  However, that does not stop us being totally attracted to God’s radiance.  It is interesting to note Pope Francis’s comment in the well-loved Apostolic Exhortation on the “Joy of the Gospel” Evangelii Gaudium, “The Church goes out to the world, not through proselytism but by attraction” (n. 15).  We are attracted to the mystery of God.  This has a huge missionary effect on the world.  It’s not so much by our talking, but by our Marian presence and what we do for those on the margins and those needing prayer support.

In this respect, the Carmelite Monastery in the Archdiocese have been a great missionary and Marian centre for us all.  We thank the Lord for this.

Particularly during this Mass we call for an increase of vocations to the Carmelite Monastery and their particular charism throughout the Church universal, but especially here in our own Archdiocese.  I’m sure that there would be some young women here at Mass even today, who might ask the Lord whether He is calling them to this particular and wonderful vocation within the Church to consecrated religious life in the contemplative dimension of the Church.

As we now move towards the Liturgy of the Eucharist, let us wonder of the presence of the Lord who will come to us, not only in word but also in sacrament.  As St Paul mentions at the conclusion of today’s reading “All that exists comes from Him; all is by Him and for Him.  To Him we glory forever!  Amen.

Virgin of listening and contemplation,

Mother of love, bride of the eternal wedding feast,

pray for the Church, whose pure icon you are,

that she may never be closed in on herself

or lose her passion for establishing God’s kingdom.

Mother of the living Gospel,

wellspring of happiness for God’s little ones,

pray for us.

Amen.  Alleluia!


Pope Francis’ Prayer


ISAIAH 55:1-3, ROMANS 8:35. 37-39, MATTHEW 14:13-21

We welcome to our Mass this morning the children from our local school who are preparing for for their first Holy Communion.  During this Mass they will make a commitment to prepare in these final weeks with their families and the school, and all of us as they move towards their first Holy Communion.

Providently, the Gospel today is all about the Eucharist.

This Gospel of the miracle of the loaves and fish is mentioned in all four Gospels.  This indicates that it’s a miracle of high significance.

Indeed, in John’s Gospel, detail is given there that is not given elsewhere.  The five loaves and two fish are given to the Lord by a little boy.  It appears that a child the age of the children coming together today for the Commitment Mass was so generous in giving over his meal completely to the Lord.  The Lord used his generosity to feed thousands of people.

In the Gospel today there are four key words.  The four words are – Take, Bless, Break and Give (TBBG).  Boys and girls, it is a bit like a relay race.  The first runner holding Christ deep within, could be understood as a kind of way of explaining today’s Gospel.  It says in the Gospel that “He took the five loaves and two fish, raised his eyes to Heaven and said the blessing.  And breaking the loaves he handed them out to the disciples who gave them to the crowds.”  Here are the words take, bless, break and give in this key sentence.  It has all the images of the Last Supper.

The Last Supper is like the second link on the relay race.  Here at the Last Supper Jesus takes bread and the wine, he blesses them.  They have become his own body and blood.  He breaks the bread and then he gives to his disciples at their First Holy Communion at the first Mass ever celebrated…..The Last Supper.

The third link in this ongoing transmission of take, bless, break and give is participated in every Mass.

In a moment, during the Offertory Procession, we will take the bread and wine.  During the Eucharist Prayer the priest, acting on behalf of Jesus, the High Priest, will bless the bread and the wine in the Eucharistic Prayer.  Then during the Lamb of God the priest breaks the body of Christ.  During the Communion the body and blood is given to God’s people.  See again everybody, the take, bless, break and give baton continues!

And finally the fourth link will be the Heavenly banquet at the end of time with Jesus in Heaven.  This is when He will gather us all together, as one, in His holy Name.  This Heavenly banquet gives us hope and purpose in our life today.  We hope it will be the glorified Jesus himself who will lead us in this Heavenly banquet.  No doubt, the take, bless, break and give way will continue here too.

So you see everybody, especially boys and girls, the First Holy Communion that you are preparing for brings us right into the very centre of our Catholic tradition.

We are certainly a Eucharistic people.  Beginning at the miracle of the loaves and fish, continuing in the Last Supper, and at every Mass as we move towards the Heavenly banquet, we imitate Jesus, the High Priest, in taking, blessing, breaking and giving, not only at Mass but in our lives as well.

The baton of this rely to the Heavenly banquet is like our encounter with Jesus.  We might even call it the take – bless – break – give baton because we receive the life of Jesus and we pass this life of grace onto others.

There is always a link between the Eucharist and our everyday life.  In this week coming, may we all take – bless – break – give- ourselves as a Eucharistic people to the world in all of its many hungers.