Homilies – June 2016

WEDNESDAY 1st June 2016

 2 Timothy 1:1-3. 6-12  Mark 12: 18-27

 Dear friends, it is lovely being with you in this Mass. In the Gospel today, we see something extraordinary, which is often the case in the Gospels. Those who should have “got it” never did, and those who would understandably not “get it”, did get it. What is “it”? “It” is the Good News of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

In the Gospel today, Jesus is talking to religious leaders. They seemingly want to trick Him. They don’t seem to be able to move at all out of their comfort zone. They seem to be threatened by Jesus, who is suggesting a broader panorama.

I suppose the question is …”What about us?”

Are we more concerned about our corporate identify, rather than our corporal identity?

Let me explain. We have now concluded, more recently, our Easter Liturgical Season. We have celebrated the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and His Ascension and Pentecost. This has taken place over a 50 day period.

Just in case we didn’t “get it” the Church over the last two weekends has offered us two great Solemnities that define who we are as Christians. We have had the Solemnity of the Trinity. Here, the Trinity has been defined in our Church documents as the Community of Love, of Father, Son and Holy Spirit; then last Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity Corpus Christi. Here is the food for our journey, our missionary journey of life….the Body and Blood of Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

Here is our true identity. All is based on the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, and it is animated in its soul by us sharing in the life of the Trinity and being feed with the heavenly food on our journey to the Father’s home.

The Church is therefore a missionary community of love that expresses itself sacramentally. As the Body of Christ, we have a corporal identity. It’s all part of our vocation in living out our baptismal call.

Yet, we live in a very corporate world. We have all sorts of policies, which involve compliance, auditing and excellence. We must respond positively to all such requirements.  However, if we don’t reflect constantly on what we are doing, we could very much end up being some sort of an ecclesiastical corporate institution. That would be a tragedy.  Our vocation would simply become a career.

I remember last year cringing when somebody mentioned to me that they wanted to “grow the ministry”. I had seen on the television, only a few days beforehand, somebody saying that they wanted to “grow the industry”.

We must be very careful on translating corporate mentalities and vocabulary into our ecclesial corporal world. Otherwise, our religious commitment will be something highly private and devotional, and in fact, working for the Church will become just another job amongst others, albeit, with a touch of the “spiritual.”

The second point comes from the First Reading today where St Paul tells us to “Fan into a flame the grace that you have been given.” It is a beautiful expression.

Last weekend, I was uplifted by visiting four different ecclesial groups, which were certainly “fanning the flame” of the Lord in their area of missionary activity. The only trouble I had with it was that I was quite convinced that each group didn’t know of the other group. I am sure that if I told them about the other groups I had just visited; they would look at me as if they knew nothing. I’m sure they would be unaware of the good work that was happening in the other groups.

You can also see that with parishes too. Great things can happen in parishes, but they might not be really working together or even know what the neighbouring parishes are doing. There is something in our human nature that wants us to stay in our little comfort zones and even our own “parish nests”.

There is something good about that. We should be able to find a real family or families in our parish. But we also belong to the diocese and then to the universal Catholic Church. There must also be diocesan dimension as well as a parish dimension. If it is just simply the parish dimension alone, then the issue there is parochialism, which is never good for a diocese. After all, it is the Body of Christ, not the “bodies” of Christ in the plural.

That is why this year I am very much focussing on the R.C.I.A. (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.) To me, it is a real litmus test of whether the Archdiocese and our family of parishes are truly missionary.

At any rate, that’s why we need a Bishop, and that’s why the Bishop needs wonderful people like you; his staff. We share in the pastoral leadership together, so that we can serve the people of God as unifiers in the name of the Lord and really engender a sense of Christ alive in our Archdiocese and not just in separate groups. We also belong to the Universal Catholic Church as well. It’s a big family. There are over one billion of us.

Apart from the above Pauline image of the Church as the Body of Christ, I’d like to leave you with another non-biblical image of the Church that I quite like.

It’s the image of the Church as an orchestra and the Bishop as the orchestra leader.

All the instruments are different from each other, yet when they do play together there is a possibility of beautiful harmonious music being generated.

The orchestra leader is to enable that to happen in unison.

So let us all see ourselves as working with your Bishop as the orchestra leader in imitation of Jesus, who unites us all. There are many instruments in the Archdiocese. For example, there are instruments of grace and instruments of peace. However, the violin must be able to work in harmony with the flute, and the flute must be able to work in unison with the cello, and so on.

Surely that’s what the Archbishop’s Office for Evangelisation means. It means that we are using the many gifts that God has given us to bring the scattered people of God together into a great harmony.

Then surely we can play in harmony a song that gives praise to God. It is a song that the rest of the world will find enchanting and intoxicating. It is something that will be most attractive and bring them into the presence of Jesus amongst us.

Thank you for all that you do in the Archdiocese. Do feel in this Mass my prayers for you and the intentions of your families as we together praise God for feeding us and leading us on the journey of life.



1 Kings 17:17-24  Galatians 1:11-19  Luke 7:11-17

Today’s Gospel is a beautiful Gospel in the middle of our Year of Mercy. It is one of the gems of Luke’s Gospel. It shows the care, too, of Luke the physician in the way he is able to explain the situation that unfolds. Jesus goes into a town called Nain with His disciples, and at the gate of the town a dead man is being carried out in procession. He is the only son of his mother who is a widow. Immediately, we notice that this woman has become ‘the poorest of the poor’. Let us remember that the status of a woman, and particularly of a woman without her husband and now without her only son, is a situation of tremendous social and economic isolation. This woman is not only mourning the death of her only son, but she also finds herself in the margins of her society.

What is Jesus’ response? The Gospel says that, “When the Lord saw her, he felt sorry for her. ‘Do not cry,’ he said.”

Again, this expression, “He felt sorry for her”, does seem in plain English, somewhat patronising, if not condescending. Nothing could be further from the truth, though, in the biblical expression of His response. The nearest word we have is compassion … ‘to suffer with’. But in this case, it’s almost as if Jesus had a physical response to the sadness of the woman’s situation. If this happened in today’s world, we would almost expect the person to excuse themselves to compose themselves elsewhere. It’s a highly emotional response.

When Jesus resuscitated the young man, there is a lovely expression that says, “Jesus gave him to his mother.” This leads us to the First Reading from First Kings. Here Elijah has an almost identical experience. The son of his housekeeper, a widow, has died. The woman comes to Elijah and calls for intercession. The young man is also resuscitated and, in similar way to the Gospel, the Scripture says, “He gave him to his mother.”

This is before a quarrel had started up with the woman and Elijah. She asks him, “What quarrel have you with me, man of God? Have you come here to bring my sins home to me and to kill my son?”

The woman articulates a pagan understanding of an unexpected illness and death. This pagan understanding believes that if something bad happens in your life then you must have sinned in your earlier life. This is why the woman says, “Have you come here to bring my sins home to me and to kill my son?”

But of course our Christian belief says the opposite. In this Year of Mercy, we particularly remember God is steadfast love and compassion. He does not hold our sins against others and especially in subsequent generations. The image of God behind the woman’s expressions is certainly not biblical. This is an important lesson for us all. Even today, we hear people sometimes saying that some illness came to somebody because they must have sinned badly in their earlier life. This continues this pagan idea. The image of God who is kind and merciful is certainly not present here. The image of God here is that of a vengeful God who is very keen to trip us up and to ‘wag the finger’ at us. When God calls us to conversion and forgiveness, He is ready to come toward us, even before we come to Him, with mercy and forgiveness.

The important thing to note in the First Reading in contrast to the Gospel, is that whereas Elijah seemed to have used all sorts of ways of interceding to allow this man to come to full health, with Jesus it is instantaneous. In the Gospel, Jesus simply, “put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said, ‘Young man, I tell you to get up’. And the dead man stood up and began to talk.” Jesus, the new Elijah, is not just a great Prophet like Elijah, but he is the Son of God.
He is fully human and fully God. This is an articulation of our creedal statements of who Jesus is.

So in all our intercessions, we pray through, with and in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who hears the cry of the poor. He is our shore shelter. He is the Way to the Father. So we can always place with great hope and trust, all our needs before the God who hears us. Let us do that as we continue our Mass, praying thorough Him, with Him and in Him.



 2 Samuel 12:7-10.13  Galatians 2:16.19-21  Luke 7:36-8:3

The readings today present us with a beautiful teaching on forgiveness.

Sometimes people have a mistaken notion of what holiness is. They simply think that it means that a holy person is a person who never sins; quite the contrary. Our journey towards the holiness of God is marked by many moments in our life when we turn away from God, and we sin. But the important message to know, especially in this Year of Mercy, is that Jesus is always merciful and welcomes us back once we repent. Indeed, Jesus comes to us, even before we go to Him. There is a great Gospel energy in being forgiven by the Lord. Indeed, it is the energy for evangelisation.

In the First Reading, from Second Samuel, we have an insight into the sin of King David.

He becomes complacent and takes his eyes off God. He has an adulterous relationship with another woman and disposes of her husband by placing him in the front of the battlefield.

It is not until the Prophet Nathan comes to David and places his sin before him, does David realise that he has sinned. Nathan places a kind of mirror in front of David. Once David realises that indeed he has sinned, he asks God’s forgiveness. He says, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Immediately, the Prophet Nathan says to him, “The Lord, for his part, forgives your sin; you are not to die.” It is an encounter which is a kind of confession. There is an admission of sin, the need for repentance and an immediate awareness of God’s forgiveness.

In the Gospel today, a similar teaching of forgiveness is portrayed in the story of Jesus’ invitation to a meal in the home of one of the Pharisees. During the meal, “A woman came in, who had a bad name in the town.” Jesus allows her to show signs of repentance. These signs, seemingly, are rather extravagant. She, “Waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then covered his feet with her kisses and anointed them with the ointment.”

The Pharisee, on the other hand, wonders what this says about Jesus. He is critical in his mind about Jesus. He thinks that Jesus ought to know that she is a woman with a bad name and should act accordingly.

Jesus reads the Pharisee’s mind and then tells a story about forgiveness. Jesus then, like Nathan in the First Reading, places a ‘moral mirror’ before the Pharisee. Jesus protests the Pharisee’s lack of hospitality since he arrived in his home, which contrasts with the hospitality of the woman who invites Jesus deep into her heart to cleanse her, forgive her and to help her start again. Jesus says to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

The holiness of the woman at the end of the story is not dependent so much on her sins, but on the fact that God, the Holy One, has entered deeply into her life, forgiven her, helped her in her conversion and given her hope for the journey of life.

In this Mass, let us ask the Lord to convert us afresh as we immerse ourselves in the holiness of God. In His Body and Blood and Living Word, we are set us free from all our sins. In this Year of Mercy, especially, let us experience the joy of being forgiven and allow this to give us all the joyful energies to be Christ’s presence in the world in which we live. It is also an important moment to think about the place of the Sacrament of Confession and the importance of our receiving God’s sacramental forgiveness.



Zachariah 12:10-11, 13:1  Galatians 3:26-29  Luke 9:18-24

We are about halfway through the calendar year and we are also about halfway through our liturgical year as well.

Within the Year of Mercy, we are listening carefully to Luke’s Gospel over most of these Sundays.

In today’s Gospel, we are offered two key questions and one fundamental condition for following Jesus.

The first question that Jesus asks His disciples is, “Who do people say that I am?” “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Afterwards, I could imagine a silence from the disciples. Finally, we receive a journalistic response from them. It’s almost as if they’ve said, “O well, we have done a survey and some people say that you are John the Baptist, others say you are Elijah and others say you are one of the prophets come back to life.”

Although it’s not said in the Scriptures, I could almost feel that Jesus has a sigh of disappointment when he hears this. The prophets that they mentioned are all about anticipating the coming of the Messiah. Yet Jesus himself, standing amongst them, is the awaited for Messiah. The disciples do not, at this stage, affirm this.

It is similar to today. What answers do people give when they are asked about Christianity today? Some people say that religion is no longer needed because science has taken over religion. Other people say that religion is not that important because it’s all about personal choice. The fundamental human values and truth that are expressed by Christianity may not seem to be so clear to many people today. For example, the dignity of human life from womb to tomb is often muffled out these days. Tragically, we have at the beginning of life’s journey the availability of abortion, and now people are talking about legalising euthanasia for those at the other end of life’s spectrum.

Also, the enduring values of family life and married life are put into question today. An enduring marriage of love between a husband and wife that is open to the possibility of new life is sometimes seen as passé in today’s rampantly secular world.

Then Jesus asks the second key question. He now gets personal. He asks his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”

Again, possibly, there is a silence amongst them. Here we have the great response from the impetuous Peter with his answer. He declares, “You are the Christ of God.” Here Peter states clearly that Jesus Himself is the awaited Messiah.

We then move onto the fundamental condition for following Jesus. It is by way of the Calvary Cross.

In case the disciples feel that the Son of God is some great military leader or political statesman, Jesus makes its quite clear that they are on their way to Jerusalem. This journey theme is so important in Luke’s Gospel. It is the journey towards suffering and death on the cross and “To be put to death and to be raised up on the third day.”

Given this acknowledgment of the suffering servant of God, Jesus makes it quite clear that his disciples are to follow him in this way.

Of course, the disciple is always to follow the master. The disciple literally walks behind the Rabbi; he never walks in front of him. If Jesus, therefore, is walking towards His suffering in Jerusalem, so must the disciples follow. It is the fundamental condition for following Jesus.

Jesus Himself makes this quite clear when he says, “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

We do need to ask the Lord to give us strength to be able to follow His path. It goes against the current popular opinion. Christianity has never been something that gives success, but offers us the victory of the Calvary Cross. This is a lesson that we all need to learn. We do learn from the disciples and their transformation after the Resurrection. It is an ongoing resurrection though and we all need to be converted into the Lord’s way of discipleship and not our own.

Let us continue now with the Mass and ask Him for a deeper infilling of faith and hope as we allow the Lord’s final words in this Gospel to penetrate us deeply when he says, “For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it.”


 Readings: Genesis 16/1-12, 15-16; Matthew 7/21-29

In this morning’s first Reading from Genesis, Abraham and his wife, Sarah, attempt to respond to a major crisis in their marriage which is still common today: that is, infertility.

Without entering into the ethics of Sarah’s strategy, and taken with Abraham’s somewhat reluctant acceptance, Sarah’s Egyptian slave-girl, Hagar, is seconded to bear a child from Abraham.

Once Hagar conceived, huge jealously and distaste grew in Sarah’s heart. Hagar fled.

Hiding near a spring in the desert an angel of the Lord appeared to the gloomy Hagar and asked her a crucial question: “Where have you come from…and where are you going?”

In the midst of our own seemingly spiritual infertilities in Australia, we bishops too believe the Holy Spirit is asking the Church in Australia the same question, although from a totally different cultural context: “Where have you come from…and where are you going?” What is God doing to the Church in Australia?

When you line up Australians with other nationalities we generally feel we are quite a pragmatic people – a people who ask “What are you doing?”, more than “Who are you…what have you become? A “doing” more than a “being” people.

This is all well and good. We have built Australia into a place with a lifestyle and standard of living that is the envy of the world. “They do things well” people say of us.

Tragically however, serious problems like euthanasia, mental illness, homelessness, the health of our Aboriginal First Peoples, and so on point to a soulless nation in search of meaning and purpose. We don’t really know who we want to be.

The Gospel today from Matthew shouts out that those who do not attend to these deeper realities of life are heading for a calamitous future.

Those that do not listen to the conversion call of the kingdom of God are like the stupid who build their houses on sand. The structure cannot withstand the rain, floods and gales of life.

Yet, those who listen and act on the word of God are sensible and will prevail.

So the key to maturity starts with listening and then acting.

As Bishops, and so many of our people so far in the Plenary Council journey, have involved ourselves in much listening in these months – especially for us last week in Ariccia. It has brought us together in deeper bonds of fraternity at most unexpected depths. There has been much “solace in the midst of woe” for us Bishops, as the recent Sequence from Pentecost has expressed for us.

As we met in Ariccia last week an international youth colloquium was taking place in the Vatican. They were considering what impact “Christus Vivit” is having around the world. There were a few youth from Australia there too. They were at our Mass last Sunday in this chapel.

At the end of Christus Vivit there is a section regarding vocation in life. It caught my eye. It was all about true listening. I think it could be easily applied to communal discernment – something we are all involved in at new depths in our Plenary synodal journey at present.

In this document, Pope Francis writes of three types of sensitivities we all need to cultivate as we attempt to listen to the Holy Spirit deep within.

The first sensitivity is to listen to each other’s faith stories rather than simply hearing.

The second sensitivity is to attempt to discern what is of God and what is not.

We are doing this already, aren’t we?

It was the third sensitivity that is the real challenge. It is to truly listen to the heartbeat of God within. Pope Francis calls this a listening to “what is most pleasing to the Lord”.

Lest all this sounds rather academic, I thought we all witnessed this so subtly just last Monday morning in our unforgettable time with Pope Francis. It was just one simple little thing but it shouted out in my heart when we saw it happen about three times. It was an image that was surely “truly pleasing to the Lord.”

It was Pope Francis taking his simple plastic bottle of water and pouring it into not his own glass but the glass of his hardworking translator. It was done so naturally almost unreflexively, he was “truly listening” and acting to the reality of the present moment. It was a saving gesture coming from a house built on rock/Petrus/Peter by Peter’s successor. The Pope was giving us a subtle example of what missionary discipleship and closeness to each other really means. What a beautiful gift of the Holy Spirit he gives us. So simple. So profound. True listening.

This Australian chapel bears the name of the martyr of Oceania, St Peter Chanel (1804 – 1841). This French Marist listened to the Holy Spirit in his heart and left his comfort zones of Europe and participated in the surprisingly late first evangelisation of our part of the world. To a certain degree this was done incompletely and still is a kerygmatic work in its first bloom – in our time – still awaiting a systematic outreach.

But the blood spilled by St Peter Chanel on the Island of Futuna offers us all a fertile soil for us in the future evangelisation of all Oceania including Australia.

May I conclude by offering you all again the miraculous Australian story that we all heard and celebrated in that great watershed moment for our youth apostolate in Australia – World Youth Day, Sydney 2008.

The agent for evangelisation here was unexpected and, like Pope Francis, so simple – it was Marjorie Liddy, the recently deceased Aboriginal elder from the Tiwi Islands.

There she was with her son fishing at sunset. Once night set in – all the brilliant stars came out. She and her son, sensing something special was happening both looked into the sky. When Marjorie told me this personally some years ago, her face became radiant. Clearly, she was recounting to me what she considered, and I am now sure it was, an apparition.

The stars seemed to dance. Her son said to her, “look mum”, as he pointed to a most unusual star formation, “It looks like a bird.” “No son”, replied Marjorie, “it is the Holy Spirit”, this image eventually became the symbol of WYD Sydney 2008.

But the important point is this. Marjorie listened, discerned and declared what was truly pleasing to the Lord that what they were witnessing was not a bird but the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life.

As too many Australian people now look to the Catholic Church and say “It’s a bird”. We beg to differ with the prophetic leadership of our Aboriginal people we say “No, sons and daughters of Australia, She is the Body of Christ, the community of the Holy Spirit, in all her woundedness and fragility but, like the Southern Cross in our skies, the presence of Christ crucified and risen resplendent in our hearts.”

“Holy Spirit Lord of Life from the clear celestial height, Thy pure radiance give.”

 Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Pray for Us. Amen