Homilies – July 2016



Isaiah 66:10-14  Galatians 6:14-18  Luke 10:1-12.17-20

Clearly today we pray for Australia. In these uncertain times after yesterday’s election, we pray for God’s blessing upon our fair nation of Australia.

It is also Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Sunday throughout Australia. We particularly pray that all of us will try even harder to befriend our Aboriginal First Australians and come to understand their continued fragile life in Australia. Sometimes they say that a measure of a nation’s greatest is how they care for the most fragile members. Certainly, our First Australians would come under that category.

As always, the Scriptures come to our assistance in all our needs.

The first point I would like to make is a clear proclamation of our basic Christian faith; that we are never on our own. The grace of God warms the chill in our hearts.

I thought of this when I prayerfully reflected on the First Reading of today.

The Prophet Isaiah proclaims that God will send peace, flowing like a river, to all the nations of the earth. Then there is a beautiful image. “At her breast, will her nursling be carried and fondled on her lap. Like a son comforted by his mother will I comfort you. And by Jerusalem you will be comforted.”

In relation to this beautiful image, I recall a pastoral experience that I had in Outback Australia many years ago.

I was involved in a retreat with the Aboriginal peoples at a retreat centre not far from Kununurra near the Kimberleys in Northern Australia.

As you would be aware, if you spend some time in desert lands, it is very hot during the day, but it can become very cold at night. Throughout this retreat, day and night, we had a lovely big bonfire glowing throughout our days together. Particularly at night, we gravitated near the fire to warm ourselves. There was a moment when I was talking with an Aboriginal mother who was nursing her baby son. The child was crying unrelentingly. I noticed that the child had very little clothing. I was wondering why the mother did not put more clothes on the child in the cold desert night. But I was judging her intention prematurely! Lord, forgive me! She began by placing the palm of her hand towards the bonfire and started warming her hand. She then began to rub her warm hand onto the skin of her beloved baby son. She continued to do this for some time. I noticed that the child eventually stopped crying and settled down. It wasn’t long before the child was sound asleep in the arms of his mother. She was doing all this as she was talking with me. The care of the child was second nature, and she was clearly a mother of great patience.

I felt that her loving actions were very similar to God’s in the First Reading today. God comforts us in all our failings in the vale of tears of this earthly life. He warms the chill in our lives with the fire of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost as if the bonfire was a symbol of the Holy Spirit and this loving mother was an image of God. Let us think of this grace-filled image as an Indigenous symbol of Christ’s love for us at all times.

The second point comes from our reflection on the Gospel of today. It nominates a number of requirements for the people of God on mission.

The first point is that it is a universal mission. It is for everybody. That is the definition of the word ‘catholic’. It means universal.

In this Gospel, Luke who has Jesus now moving toward Jerusalem and towards His suffering and death, comments that the Lord “appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him.” Why seventy-two? The commentators indicate that seventy-two was the understanding in antiquity of the number of nations who were on earth. In other words, Jesus was sending them out to all people. We are sent out not just to some, or particular groups, but to all people, whether the message of salvation is accepted or not.

The second point is that Jesus reminds us that he is sending us out to a hostile environment. He makes this point; “I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

It does not matter to the Lord whether there is success in numbers, or whether the message is received. It is the Lord’s imperative that the message is proclaimed and that we be faithful, more than successful in the mission. The Lord makes it quite clear, “Let your first words be ‘Peace to this house’!” So let us recall, that as we go about our missionary work in our families, neighbourhoods and work places, our first and last word must be the word of peace. We come as peacemakers. We never impose; we propose peace, the peace of Jesus Christ, which is beyond all understanding, to all the nations. For this to happen, let us be brave and courageous! God is with us more than we’re ever thought or imaged in our feeble efforts, to be His presence in the world despite our frailities.

The third and final point from today’s Gospel on our missionary requirements is to be on mission with great simplicity and healing.

In a few weeks’ time I will be joining the Australian pilgrims for World Youth Day in Poland. We go as pilgrims, not tourists. One requirement of that is that we must travel lightly. I can imagine myself the night before I leave Canberra, putting all the things I want to take to the World Youth Day out on the bed and then having to halve that which I wanted to take! You must travel lightly on World Youth Days! You have to carry for many, many kilometres that which you bring with you from Australia. Therefore, travelling lightly is an imperative!

It seems to be the same with the Lord’s requirement for missionary activity. We are to travel lightly and joyfully. Jesus says in the Gospel, “Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.” The Lord is our strength.

I wonder if we really do need as much as we think we do in life. We are a great consumer society in Australia. This can really burden us down with all sorts of things we don’t really need. Let us think about this as we try to temper our temptations to buy things, which eventually just fill up our storage areas largely with articles and objects we will never use! In our world of plenty, we must remember the greater world that lacks the basic necessities of life. By doing so, we will become missionaries in our heart.

We must also be a healing agent to the world. Jesus offers us this advice, “Cure those in it who are sick, and say ‘The kingdom of God is very near to you’.”

People love the expression of Pope Francis when he talks about the Church as a field hospital on the battlefield of life. We are there to heal people and welcome them into the healing presence of Jesus.

Let us think about these important points as we now continue our Mass, knowing that it is the grace of God that draws us into His peace, and gives us the strength and the courage to be the peace of Christ in our world.



Deuteronomy 30:10-14 Colossians 1:15-20 Luke 10:25-37

 Our Old Testament Reading this morning speaks of the nearness of God to His people.

Moses reminds his people that God is not to be found simply “beyond the seas,” or not simply, “in heaven.” He states abundantly clear the following, “No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.”

 The Christian response to the nearness of God is to say that God couldn’t be any closer to us than He is in Jesus Christ. The beautiful definition of Jesus in the opening of the Second Reading of St Paul to the Colossians says it all, “Christ is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation.” With Jesus, not only is God near, but Jesus is the Son of God. Some of the patristic writers say that “God is closer to us than we are to ourselves.”

But in saying that God is in our heart and is near to us, doesn’t mean that He simply remains in the heart. The vertical dimension of our Christianity that is “God is to be loved with all our heart, soul, strength, will and mind” is always added to the horizontal axis of Christianity that “we must love our neighbour as ourselves.”

This then brings us to the Gospel of today. Indeed, this is the answer that Jesus gives to the somewhat patronising questions of the lawyer who wishes “to disconcert Jesus.” But then the lawyer, who “was anxious to justify himself”, asks Jesus the question, “And who is my neighbour?”

To answer this question, Jesus shares with us one of the most famous of all His parables… the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

I have always felt close to this parable. Many years ago one of the Good Samaritan Sisters explained to me this parable more fully and described it as the “by chance parable”. This parable mentions that the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho who was attacked and left half dead along the road was visited by three people…”by chance.” This expression is not in the particular translation of today’s Reading.

Firstly, “by chance” a priest passed by, but “he passed by on the other side.” It is quite easy to be judgemental of the priest here; however, given the times it is quite understandable, but not excusable that he just detoured around the sick man. For him to touch the man who was dead, or even for his body to touch the blood of another person, would have incurred defilement on him. He would not have been able to enter the Temple for quite some time as a result of this contact and he would need to purify himself.

Secondly, again “by chance” a Levite also “passed by on the other side.” Again we can say that it’s understandable that he did this, although not excusable. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho has been a notorious road for bandits and thieves over the centuries. It is a very steep decline into Jericho and there are many caves attached to this dangerous road. One could think that the Levite might have felt that if he goes up to the injured man he might be acting out that he is injured. The Levite may have felt that if he goes to help that others might come out of the caves and attack him as well. It was all too risky and so he passed by the man! In all honesty, I suppose most of us would do the same.

But then, thirdly, “by chance” a Samaritan traveller passes by. Luke is keen to indicate that it we was a Samaritan. Samaritans viewed with great suspicion by the Jews who felt that the Samaritans were infidels. He is the unlikely one to help. This is one of the incredible things in the New Testament. Those who could be understood to be unlikely, or not believing the Good News of Jesus, so often responded to Jesus more quickly and with greater eagerness than those who were the ‘religious’. It is one of the enigmas of the New Testament.

At any rate, the Samaritan traveller was extravagant in his merciful response to the injured man. The Scripture has it that the Samaritan “was moved with compassion when he saw him.” In this Year of Mercy, let us remind ourselves that mercy and compassion are very close together in understanding and meaning. Mercy and compassion mean that we are moved to the very core of our being, from the pit of our stomach, when we see a need.

The Good Samaritan answers the question of the lawyer in identifying who is our neighbour. The ultimate answer is given by Jesus that our neighbour is anyone in need.

And here we see the Samaritan traveller bandaging the man’s wounds, pouring oil and wine on them, and taking him to an inn-keeper and paying for the bills. Not only that, he makes a commitment to come back the next day to see how he is going. This is the man who really took mercy – pity on him. Then Jesus says, not only to the lawyer but to all of us, “Go and do the same yourself.”

Let us reflect upon this beautiful “by chance” parable.

Some months ago I was riding my bicycle along the beautiful bicycle tracks of Canberra. When I was furthest away from my home, the front tyre of my bicycle became punctured. It was impossible for me to ride the bicycle, and I was irritated by this. “By chance”, someone else riding their bicycle stopped and came over and asked if he could help me. Being irritated and absorbed with my situation, I indicated that no help was needed. He reiterated to me his desire to assist. I reiterated, with minimal gratitude, that his assistance would not be required. As he got on his bicycle and moved off I started to realise that I was rather rude to him in my self-absorption. I tried to call out to him to thank him for his help, but he had already gone. I missed “my chance” moment. Maybe he could have helped me and had greater expertise in fixing a tyre than I have.

Secondly, I recall many years ago in my first parish in Geelong, Victoria, that as I was leaving the Mass and exiting the Church during the last hymn, I briefly mentioned to a lady who I was passing that it was good to see her and I hoped to see her again next Sunday. Indeed, I began seeing her every Sunday from then on. She came up to me after a period of time and she told me about her life. She indicated to me that she had great anger in her heart towards God for all types of personal reasons. She had stopped praying and felt miserable with herself. Ultimately, she gave God an ultimatum and went to Mass. She said to God that this would be her last Mass unless something dramatic happened at the Mass to make her think otherwise. My quite spontaneous greeting to her on the way out was exactly that extraordinary “by chance” experience that she was looking for. I was delighted that God used me unexpectedly to help her. I was even more delighted that she interpreted my brief invitation was not from me alone, but from God Himself.

So as we go on with the Mass now and think about our week unfolding, let us not only receive “by chance” moments from others with gratitude, but also offer others “by chance” moments, so that we can really assist people in their practical needs. This is done not only in our own name, but asking God to use us and to be ambassadors of mercy to our neighbour who is anybody who we encounter in need.



Genesis 18:1-10 Colossians 1:24-28 Luke 10:38-42

 The Gospel that has just been proclaimed is well known to all of us.

We have interpreted this Gospel over the centuries in rather a simplistic way. When we look at this Gospel, on one level, we simply think that it is the difference between a love that serves and a love that listens. We tend to make a sharp distinction between the two. This being the case, Mary wins the “contest” and Martha comes in second place! Well of course it is not a contest at all. Indeed, to understand today’s Gospel, it is important for us to recall the Gospel from last Sunday, because this Gospel follows directly on from last Sunday’s Gospel from Luke 10.

Let us recall that in Luke’s Gospel there is the general movement towards Jerusalem by Jesus and His friends. Jesus is instructing them on the ways of the Kingdom of God, and in Luke’s Gospel it is best to see today’s Gospel as a further understanding of what it means to love our neighbour.

You may recall that last Sunday the Gospel of the Good Samaritan made it quite clear that the person who is our neighbour is anybody in need.

But it is not just simply what we do, but the spirit in which we move towards our neighbour that is very significant.

For example, let us make the distinction between a person who helps those in need because of their Christian background and a person who helps those in need purely because of philanthropic reasons (simply by being generous and charitable to others regardless of the motivation.)

For Jesus, it is not just simply a matter of serving, but it is the spirit in which we serve that is important.

In today’s Gospel, we see Martha ready to serve, but she is so busy she is not giving much attention to the spirit in which she serves Jesus.

It is about this that Jesus lovingly corrects her by saying “Marth, Martha, you worry and fret about so many things and yet few are needed, indeed only one. It is Mary who has chosen the better part. It will not be taken from her.” Matha would have perhaps been somewhat irritated with this response from Jesus. After all it was Martha who complained to Jesus, “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do all the serving by myself?”

But to do “all the serving” indicates that one is so busy that we just end up giving ourselves, rather than giving to others in the spirt of loving response to God.

We see this coming through even in the Old Testament Reading with the beautiful encounter in the Book of Genesis with Abraham at the Oaks of Mamre with his visitors.

Almost instinctively, Abraham sees in “the three men standing near him” an invitation from God deep within his being to offer hospitality. It is not just simply cultural, but the hospitality comes from a deep seated religious sense in Abraham that in our neighbour’s need we see an invitation to serve God.

Abraham rushes to find his wife Sarah. They prepare a very generous meal and lay it before their visitors. The last line in the First Reading today is very significant. As the guests leave, one of them says to Abraham, “I shall visit you again next year without fail and your wife will then have a son.” In serving those in need, Abraham sees himself serving God. God offers Abraham the deepest desire of his heart that his wife would overcome her infertility and bear him an heir. This is promised. There is hope.

So let us think seriously about not only helping those in need, as we reflected upon last week in the “by chance” moments that are presented to us, but also the spirit in which we go out to those in need. There is a lovely expression in the Second Reading from St Paul to the Colossians, which indicates that in helping the person in need, we are actually serving God among us. “The mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory.” I saw a good example of this during the week quite “by chance”. I was riding my bicycle to my office during this cold week. I could see one of the employees of the Archdiocese coming out of the Canberra Centre with two cups of take-away coffee. I was unable to greet him, because I could not attract his gaze. He moved directly into an encounter with a man outside the Canberra Centre on this very cold morning who was sitting on the footpath with his dog. This employee gave the man one of the hot cups of coffee and began talking to him as he drank the other cup. I know this employee. I know he is a very committed Catholic Christian, and I know he would see in this homeless man the presence of Jesus. Not only to give the coffee on a cold morning, but to also spend some time talking to him was offering a very good example to me as I moved toward work. He was both Martha and Mary to me.

So never let us be accused of just being philanthropists, but let us be true to our Christian calling deep down in our being (the Mary dimension) and as we go out to serve, let us do that in the name of Jesus (the Martha dimension.)

We do not separate too abstractly the ‘Mary’ and ‘Martha’ dimensions of our life. We try to make them come together in Jesus Christ, who is the perfect union of these vital dimensions of our humanity.