Homilies – November 2015


Today we celebrate with the entire Church, the Saints of God.

There are two overlapping traditions about the importance of Saints. One more recent than the other.

In more recent times the tradition has been that the Saints are principally our intercessors. That is, we can go to the Saints, particularly individual ones and seek an answer to our prayer. For instance, how many of us have prayed over the years to St Anthony of Padua to find lost items.

I remember a lady who would always say, “St Anthony, St Anthony, please come around, something is lost and needs to be found.” But here in Australia, we also particularly pray an intercession to Mary Help of Christians, Patroness of Australia. Also the missionary patron of Australia, St Therese of Lisieux.

Different Saints are attached to different circumstances. For instance, St Gerard Majella is often seen as the patron saint of pregnant women. St Jude is often seen the patron of hopeless causes. How many times have we also called upon any Saint that would help us find a car park!

But there is even a deeper tradition in the Catholic Church in regard to Saints. It is that the Saints are our companions of faith. This tradition sees us as friends with the Saints. They have gone before us to give us good example. We’re happy to receive their wisdom. It might be the great missionary St Paul or Padre Pio or even St Mary of the Cross Mackillop – the Aussie saint.

It would be wonderful for so many of us to be in companionship with St John XXII, the good Pope, and St John Paul II, the one that many of us would remember. Praying in companionship with the Saints’ characteristics are linked with humility and love, justice and peace, gentleness, tenderness, mercy and courage. These are seen particularly in the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel. Third and finally, it’s almost as if we say to Jesus, “Jesus, do to us what you’ve done to the Saints.” To help us to do that we must think of the love of the Lord lavishing himself upon us.

This is the theme of the seconding reading today.

We must encounter this outpouring of God’s love. The responsorial psalm today is an important one, “This is the people that longs to see your face.” I love that word “longs.” It reminds me of the word “yearns.” We long and yearn for Christ Jesus who often seems empty in our lives, but in fact is always there.

Let us take courage and strength from the Saints. Let us ask their intercession and also learn from their companionship. May we grow in love together.

8 November, 2015
ISAIAH 63:7-9, COLOSSIANS 12:17, LUKE 17:11-19

We thank the Lord for all the many blessings he has given to the parish of St Joseph’s Pambula over the last 150 years.

We can do no better than to offer the Mass this morning in gratitude to God for all his many blessings.

Firstly, last night at our wonderful Sesquicentenary dinner a senior parishioner came to me towards the end of the evening and said the following to me, “It’s so wonderful having you with us over these days Archbishop Prowse. We sometimes feel forgotten down here. We’ve worked so hard.”

I was very happy for this very devout Catholic lady’s comment. In her few words she encapsulates the Catholic instinct, hopefully within us all.

She acknowledged that the presence of the Bishop is so special. It unifies not only the parish but the entire Archdiocese. He expresses in a particular way the unity we all have in Jesus Christ.

She also implies the contribution of the priests of this parish over many years, who are co-workers with the Bishops. By preaching and celebrating the Sacraments, they bring Christ to us in our Catholic communities. Last night we also heard of the earlier priests, most of them seem to move around on horseback, and carry in their saddles that which was necessary to celebrate the Mass. We also learnt that many of them carried diaries of their activities. These help us to understand Catholic life in these parts over the years. I’d also at this point in time, like to thank wholeheartedly Fr James Antony CMI, the Administrator of this parish. You love him very much and he is working very well with you to animate the parish. Thank you Fr James!

This lady’s comments also imply the presence of the religious over the years. Particularly in this year of Consecrated Life, we thank wholeheartedly the Josephite sisters. The Mary MacKillop nuns! The two sisters who are residents here at present are Sisters Rosemary and
Bridget. Sr Rosemary is about to go to Crookwell parish. We wish her all the best and thank her so much for all that she has done in the many years here. We also welcome to our Mass some of the Josephite leaders of the province. All of this helps to remind us of the Josephite pastoral presence within our midst. We thank the Lord for them. We particularly remember the love that St Mary of the Cross MacKillop had for this region and the people from Eden, especially at the time of the death of Mary’s dear mother Flora, in the shipwreck off the coast of Eden.

When the senior parishioner says, “We’ve worked so hard,” it clearly indicates that 99.9% are laity. It’s been a difficult time over the years. The first Church floated away in a flood. The second Church was burnt to the ground in a bushfire. Some of the more pessimistic people I’ve met over the last few days are saying in the present moment that the people are staying away from the Church! But, whatever the joys or the sorrows are, I thank you with all my heart as your Archbishop for “working so hard” over the150 years. There will be a special blessing for married couples at the end of this Mass in part to acknowledge this.

Secondly, and in direct reference to the Gospel today, we want to be the one leper that came back to the Lord Jesus to thank Him for all that he has done to heal us and direct us over these years. We don’t want to be one of the nine who were healed by the Lord, but didn’t come back to the Lord to thank Him. It wasn’t as if they were nasty, it’s just that they possibly felt that they had, in a way, healed themselves and had no need for acknowledging that the total initiative came from God. Remember this, it is the Lord’s initiative at all times. In the reading today, It makes quite clear that the Lord wants to be gracious and show His loving face to us. We hear of, “The kindness and compassion of the Lord.” We also hear, “In all their distress, He too was distressed.” See how much the Lord loves us and shares our sorrows and joys. “He redeemed them. He lifted them up and carried them.” What a beautiful reading we’ve had. It makes it quite clear, that not only has the Lord accompanied us, He has led us over the last 150 years. Our only true response can be that of the Responsorial Psalm of today…….”Lord I thank you for your faithfulness and love.”

All this reminds me of the important wisdom of Psalm 127, Verse 1, where the psalmist says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, in vain do the builders labour.”

That’s it! It is the Lord’s parish. It is He who is building us up. It is He who is leading us.

So let us remember this everybody……….. we respond to the Lord’s promptings. It is the Lord’s initiative.

We give thanks to the Lord in this area for the two beauties of the parish. The first beauty is the incredible beauty of creation around here. I suppose because you live here, you may take it for granted. As I was travelling over these days, I was marvelling at the exquisite beauty of creation virtually every hour of the day as we moved around.

And the second beauty is the faith filled people I’ve met over these days. I thank you with all my heart for all your faithfulness. Together we thank the Lord. It reminds me of the lovely expression from the Benedictus. Zachariah’s words from Luke Chapter 1…..   “The loving kindness of the heart of our God who visits us like the dawn from on high.” There the two beauties come together…….. God’s creation and God’s initative, to which we respond.

Thirdly and finally I am attracted to the last expression in today’s Gospel. The expression is “Rise and go.” After the Lord blesses the one leper that comes back to thank him, He tells him to, “Rise and go, your faith has made you well.”

The Lord did not say, “Rise and look backwards. He said “Rise and go forwards.” We must be aware that our Sesquicentenary celebration today doesn’t simply make us look backward over the last 150 years. In looking backwards, it is to propel us to go forward. Otherwise today becomes ultimately just a celebration of sentimentality. This alone betrays a lack of faith in the community. It gives the impression that, “We’re the last of the Mohicans.’’ But parishes are never museums! They are animated by the Holy Spirit. And although there are all sorts of difficulties today in animating parish life, in comparison to times past, perhaps our challenges are no less burdensome than the challenges of previous generations, just in different ways.

So, dear people of Pambula, I also ask you to “Rise and go” into the future with great confidence. The Lord who has led you to this moment will lead you in the years ahead.

May I conclude by just very briefly offering four gentle and loving challenges for the parish in the years ahead. I make these after being with you during these few days and make some observations from a pastoral point of view.

I suppose we could call these the four challenges, or the four dimensions or factors that we could look at in the years ahead.

Firstly, there is the “Flora” factor. By this I do not mean flowers, I mean the mother of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, Flora MacKollop! She died in the sea just off the coast of this parish. Her body was rescued by the people of this parish. Her body was reverenced and cared for by the people of this parish, her family were notified and given great hospitality by the people of this parish when they came to identify the body.

A few years later Mary MacKillop herself stayed a few weeks amongst us here at Pambula Eden and then came back a year or so later. She set up a school and established the Sisters, who have been here ever since.

The “Flora” factor shows that this parish has a great sensitivity to widows, the bereaved and those who are grieving. May this animate this particular ministry that clearly continues on here, particularly with such an ageing demographic.

Secondly, there’s the “Lumen Christi” factor. I’m referring here to our wonderful secondary school. I spent a fair bit of Friday visiting the school. The children there have a great sense of ownership of the school, and really see it as a home away from home.

It’s so important for this parish to engage with young people and the newer generation. This presents itself with all sorts of challenges which you know far better than I. But we must make parish and school linkages strong. Hopefully the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) can feature in this important linkage between school and parish.

Thirdly, there is the “Aboriginal” factor.

Yesterday I met Pastor Aussi, the pastor of the local Aboriginal community. He spoke very well in our gathering and I enjoyed speaking to him privately. I know you are already becoming involved with the Aboriginal community. I ask you to continue this with even greater vigour and depth. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia continue to be the most marginalised and the poorest of the poor on virtually any socio economic level that you could imagine. Although it presents all sorts of cultural challenges, we do need to stand alongside our Aboriginal first Australians and befriend them, to see realities through their eyes.

This is something that St Mary MacKillop of the Cross would certainly want us to do. She certainly had a great love for the Aborigines. Her brother was a Jesuit priest involved in the Aboriginal apostolate of Australia.

Fourthly, there is the “MacKillop” factor.

Quite apart from the social action dimension that I mentioned in the “Aboriginal” factor, here I’m referring to the more mystical or vertical dimension of the parish’s life.

It seems to me that such beautiful creation around the south coast stills people, and makes them focussed on Jesus, the living sapphire on the sapphire coast! I can see many people going for walks around many of them on their own clearly in a reflective mode. This is a great way of encouraging people through our parishes to go deeper in their spiritual life. It’s to do with meditation and contemplation. Hopefully we can encourage mediation groups to flourish in our parish. This will help people to listen carefully and savour deeply the beauty of creation, to help them see the beauty deep within the human heart.

It also is a real possibility for pilgrimage. The” MacKillop” factor means that Mary MacKillop spent quality time here. I’m sure she would really wish us to make this area a place of meditation and pilgrimage.

When I was in Rome studying, I was amazed how many people from all around the world did MacKillop walks around the Churches she visited when she was in Rome. We already have that with North Sydney. Mary MacKillop Place maybe becoming Australia’s Catholic pilgrimage centre par excellence. But what about one down there in Eden? There is already general interest in this. I encourage that interest to be given a practical arm in the years ahead.

Let us now continue our Mass in thanksgiving for all the Lord has given us.


11am MASS, ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, 15 November, 2015
DANIEL 12:1-3, HEBREWS 10:11-14. 18, MARK 13:24-32

We are now moving to the end of the Liturgical Year. In two week’s time the Advent Liturgical Season begins with the new Liturgical Year. And then, we are on our way to Christmas!

Over these next two weeks, there is a certain type of biblical literature in all the readings. It is called apocalyptic. It’s a particular biblical way of expression, which paints a very dark picture of what is happening in the world, but ultimately the light and hope of God breaks through.

We see this in the first reading today, which talks of “a time of great distress.”  In the Gospel we hear Jesus himself talk about the end times when he says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away”.

It’s all a bit like a Rembrandt painting,a dark background with the main figures emboldened with light.

Jesus is the light of the nations. No matter what the darkness of the night is in our world, there is always hope, because there is always the presence of Jesus leading us.

This type of apocalyptic literature is easy to be understood today. Indeed, in so many movies, it’s all about the end times. It’s all about the end of the world. Most regrettably, however, very   few times do we find the light of hope and grace of God shine through this particular type of communication.

But we also see it in our everyday events. We are all learning this morning about the terrible terrorist bombings in different parts of Paris and France.

We, in the Catholic Church, condemn outright any form of terrorism, any form of violence. That this terrorist violence is employed using theological terms is an utter disgrace. True religion is the opposite of violence, true religion is peace making, not war making.

We stand along side those who have died and are injured. We pray in this Mass for their families and indeed the entire nation of France in these fragile days. I ask you now for a moment of silence while we pray for those who have been affected by this tragedy …..

We also see the dark picture of end times happening in the ongoing refugee crisis in the Middle East, which fans out to Western Europe and indeed to places as far and wide as Australia, who are ready and able to receive refugees from the Middle East. This issue is part of a much greater crisis. People of the world today are on the move looking for better conditions. It is a world wide movement to which there is much pain and tragedy attached.

Another example is threats to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, even here in Australia. I’m most concerned about what is happening in Tasmania at the moment in regard to my brother bishop, Archbishop Porteous, and the obstacles he’s finding to express the Church’s teaching in the market place.

In all of this dark end times picture, we now focus on the blinding light of Christ who leads us in the battles of everyday life. I think that the Gospel Acclamation of today expresses it so beautifully. It says, “Be watchful and pray constantly, that you may be worthy to stand before the Son of Man”.

That’s the main take away message for today. It is to be watchful and pray constantly. Being watchful means that we need to be vigilant in our world today. We need to be able to seek out what is right, and what is wrong, to understand what is evil, and what is goodness, and make the distinction. To be able to do that we must pray constantly. We must be faithful to all that the Lord has told us. He is leading us, He is beside us. Let us be faithful to Him particularly in our works of justice and mercy in our world.

Just yesterday I heard a good analogy of prayer, which I think can help us in a more simple way to understand the apocalyptic literature of the next two weeks.

Somebody told me yesterday that in asking one of our Missionaries of Charity Sisters in Queanbeyan how she was going, she said, ”I keep pedalling.”  When he asked what the Sister meant by this she said that the spiritual life is like a tandem bicycle. She sees herself in the back seat pedalling away with great energy. She sees Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, in the front seat guiding the handle bars, and steering the bicycle where the Lord wants to be steered.

It’s not a bad image, is it?  The Church is like a tandem bicycle. Jesus is the blinding light or the leader of us all in the front seat. We are in the back making a great contribution by pedalling.    We exercise in our baptismal calling to be one with Christ who leads us on the journey. Let’s think about this simple image. Sometimes the simplest image is the most penetrating!

Let us now move on to the Eucharist. There are allusions to the Eucharist in the Second Reading today from Hebrews. It is Jesus himself who makes the one single sacrifice for sins. This is done every time we celebrate the Mass. It is not a repetition of Masses in one sense. It is simply the one Mass that Jesus Christ first celebrated at the Last Supper. This continues every time we celebrate the Mass. It is Jesus himself as the principal celebrant.  He leads us from all the darkness and troubles of our life into the full light and peace that only God Himself can give. It is in this hope that we live.

DEUTERONOMY 7:13-14, REVELATIONS 1:5-8, JOHN 18:33-37

The day has finally arrived! So much preparation has been put into the celebration of this Mass, where we remember with gratitude to God the 150th anniversary of the parish of St Patrick’s Boorowa.

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge the celebrants at the Mass here today, Fr Martin Maunsell, Fr Bill Golding, Fr Laurie Bent, Fr Brian Maher, Fr Greg Bourke, Fr Tom Thornton the parish priest, Fr Paul Nulley the assistant priest, Fr Phil Harding, Fr Allen Crowe, Fr Luke Verrell, and our Deacon Patrick Whale.

Father Greg Beath and Fr Paul Tarpey would like to have been here but have sent apologies.

It is quite providential that we are celebrating this Mass on the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year – the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Next Sunday a new Liturgical Year begins with the first Sunday of Advent.

In a sense, we are looking back and we are looking forward to our Advent preparation towards Christmas.

In this celebration, we are looking back with great gratitude. When I celebrate Mass here with you in this beautiful Church I am drawn to the fantastic stained glass windows. They have been put together and paid for by people with limited financial means. But they wanted to say something to their generation and the generations that follow, including ourselves that Jesus Christ the Light of the World penetrates our humanity and gives colour to all that we do. We thank our fore fathers of the faith in this parish, for not only building such a fine church but also enabling priests who have been here over the years. We also remember particularly the Mercy Sisters who conducted the school for so many years. We welcome the Sisters of Mercy who are here today and thank them and their predecessors with all our heart.

At the same time we are looking at the present moment. Sadly, there is much to make us feel disillusioned with rural life in Australia at present. There seems to be such a demographic shift throughout the whole of Australia, from small rural towns to much bigger rural towns and capital cities. Boorowa is in the midst of such a movement. Some tend to find this most disturbing. I can understand this. But, we must remember that it is Christ himself who leads us in this parish. Although different structures and expressions of parish life are changing and will continue to change, still the Lord Jesus is proclaimed in the Mass and the Sacraments and those that gather together for education and prayer and practical help to all who are fragile in the community. I thank you with all my heart.

We must also look to the future. It would be sad if we only look backwards. The church is never a museum where we dust down the monuments of the past and feel that there is no future. It is the Feast of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Jesus never finishes his work. Through His Death and Resurrection He is always shedding the light of faith and hope and joy in us all. We are waiting for the second coming of Christ. In the meantime, we do all that we can in the new circumstances that we find ourselves in, to be the people God wants us to be. This is done in great humility and a great sense of activating our Baptismal calling to be the people God.

Let us now proceed with our Mass, thanking the Lord for all that has been, is happening, and will happen with the people of God here in the wonderful town of Boorowa.