Homilies – September 2014
THE EXALTATION OF THE CROSS YEAR A
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, CANBERRA, 11AM SUNDAY 14 SEPTEMBER 2014
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
NUMBERS 21:4-9, PHILLIPPIANS 2:6-11, JOHN 3:13-17
We all know that the Cross of Jesus Christ is central to all Christian faith. Yet the Cross of Jesus which we find in all our churches, homes and communities, is often taken for granted. We really need this important Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross to bring us home once again to the importance of the death of Jesus.
It seems to me that the Gospel today contains a beautiful summary of Christianity in one sentence. It’s like a little catechism in a few words. We hear Jesus say to Nicodemus “Yes God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life”
Here is the central message. God loves us. He loves us so much that he sent his only Son, Jesus Christ into our world so that we may have eternal life.
As we have reflected upon recent Sundays in the past, central to the life of Jesus in our midst is his suffering and death.
In the second reading today we have one of the most ancient texts into our New Testament. Although we see it in St Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there is the real possibility that it was part of a liturgical hymn taken from the earliest days of the Church. This central message of Christianity is almost “shaped” like a horseshoe. We start at the top left hand corner and read from Philippians “that the state of Jesus Christ was divine”. “Yet God emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave… He was humbler yet even to accept death, death on a Cross”.
We are now at the bottom of the horseshoe. This important biblical word here is “BUT”. The death of Christ is never the end of the story!
Then we start to ascend up the horseshoe once again on its right hand side. We hear the words of St Paul “but God raised him on high and gave him a name which is above all other names… so that all beings… should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord”. Jesus now returns back to the Father as the crucified and risen one! This is the essence of our faith. The Good News does not end at Calvary… it is completed in the Resurrection.
All this might sound rather theoretical, but in fact it is the source of all our human and Christian energies.
Jesus becomes our healing. The Calvary Cross is a healing Cross.
In the first reading we hear from the Book of Numbers how Moses interceded for his people and the Lord answered him by saying “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard if anyone is bitten and looks at it, he shall live”. This is used as a symbol of medicine even today. But the divine medicine is Jesus Christ. No matter what our suffering and whatever issues that weigh us down, we unite our suffering in the suffering of Jesus Christ and in that union we find the healing of God himself!
Could I suggest that all of us for a moment pause and look at the Crucifix in the Cathedral and place our life at the foot of the Cross? And could I also recommend that you make sure there is a Crucifix in your homes and in your communities.
One day a young girl came to me and asked me to bless her Cross. But it was full of sparkling jewels. I was happy to bless the Cross but I did ask her before doing so, “Is this a piece of jewellery or is it a religious object?” Thanks are to God, she replied that it was definitely a religious object.
Let us never use the Cross as an ornament or as a piece of jewellery. Let us give the Cross the depth and the hope that the readings today promote.
May God bless all of you and your families with the Cross of Jesus, our hope of glory!
TWENTY THIRD SUNDAY (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, CANBERRA, 11AM SUNDAY 6 SEPTEMBER 2014
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
READINGS: EZEKIEL 33:7-9, ROMANS 13:8-10, MATTHEW 18:15-20
Today is Father’s Day. We pray especially for all fathers here. At the end of Mass there will be a special blessing.
There’s a lovely image of the fatherhood of God in the first reading today. From the prophet Ezekiel we read “Son of Man, I have appointed you as sentry to the House of Israel.” This is a wonderful image of God’s fatherhood and protection upon us all. God is our sentry. He protects His people. He is the Good Shepherd looking after his sheep. The sentry stands on top of the highest point in the town and warns the township of what is coming. He calls people to conversion. He has a most significant duty in guiding the people to what is coming their way.
All of us share in the fatherhood of God. All of us are called to do exactly this in our households and in our families and at our work. Especially the Father of the House.
But this is never done in an isolated way. We don’t want to welcome any dictators to lead us! On the other hand we don’t want people who have been given the responsibility but failed to exercise it. The first reading warns against this. “When you hear a word from my mouth, warn them in my name.”
There is a communitarian dimension to our leadership, and in the exercise of our responsibility. We must always realise that God is with us – in prayer and in the Sacraments and in the Word of God. Living out our faith in the midst of His Church we have a sure way forward. Jesus himself in the Gospel today assures us of His presence amongst us. He says, “I tell you solemnly, once again, if two of you on earth agree to ask anything at all, it will be granted to you by my Father in Heaven. For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them.”
For example, during the week I received a report from a number of people about issues in the Diocese. They came to me united after the discussions. They informed me that they had “robust” discussions about matters. I like this word “robust”! It means that there was a variety of opinions and ultimately they moved towards a recommendation to me that was unanimous. I was so happy with the unity that they bought to me, rather than disunity.
All of this reminds me of the great expression of St Augustine in the 6th century. This expression is still fresh today in our times of “talking through all matters.” He said, “In essentials, unity. In doubt, liberty. In all things, charity.” (St Augustine). Let us take this wonderful expression to heart. Jesus Christ is our unity. He is the essential point around which all Church life revolves. We do need though, to discuss the doubts and the different options in full freedom with each other. No one should feel that they alone possess the truth. But in all our “robust” discussions, whether they be in Church life, or in families, or in our neighbourhoods, or in discussion albeit in our global difficulties that worry us so much at the moment, especially North Iraq, may there always be charity.
A few days ago I gave an input on decision making and prudence to a group of young adults. One of the questions at the end was a good one. He wanted to know from me “How do we ultimately know that what we are about to decide upon is God’s will, and not simply just our own?” I offered him an expression that has come from our spiritual discernment traditions, and now offer it to you all. It has helped me a lot over the years. The expression is …. “Do everything as if everything depended on us, but knowing at all times everything depends on God.” There’s a good balance in this expression. God uses also our will and our intellect to bring forth his Kingdom. This discernment must be thoroughly purified by Word and Sacrament from our living Catholic Tradition expressed over the last two thousand years.