Homilies – October 2016

Sirach 35:12-14, 16-19, 2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18, Luke 18:9-14

Today is Mission Sunday.

We particularly focus in our thoughts today on all the work that goes into creating the Pontifical Mission Society here in Australia. There will be a special collection. It goes to help the missionary churches and the emerging Catholic Churches around the world in their efforts to establish the gospel in practical ways. Thank you for your generosity. We also welcome a missionary group in the church and particularly present here in this Archdiocese over 50 years. I welcome all those involved with the Cursillo movement in the Archdiocese. Thank you so much for all that you do. You donate so much of your Catholic lives by gathering people together and renewing them in faith.

As always the Word of God feeds us, most particularly on this Mission Sunday. The gospel of today has a beautiful parable of the Lord. It seems to have two bookmarks, one at the beginning and one at the end. These serve as both an introduction and conclusion to the parable.

The first bookend gives the intention of Jesus giving the parable in the first place. As is indicated in the gospel the Lord spoke this parable because “some people who prided themselves on being virtuous and despised everyone else” had caught the attention of the Lord. At the end of the parable the other bookend emerges.

It becomes a real lesson in our ethical life as Christians – particularly in this year of mercy. Indeed it is a guiding principle on giving and receiving mercy for the Lord. The Lord makes it quite clear that those who want to be in right relationship for him need to recall “that for every one who exhalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.

There is always a radical humility in our work of charity. We do not draw attention to ourselves, we draw attention to the Lord.

In the midst of these two bookends is the beautiful parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. It is a parable of two men at prayer.

One is very religious in an external sense of that word. It seems to tick the box of all the “must do” of religiosity. He indicates that he “fasts twice a week and pays tithes on all he gets”. In a most revealing and arrogant way he then says “I thank you God that I am not grasping, adulterous like the rest of mankind , particularly that I am not like this tax collector here”.

Cleary this very religious man has a “heart” problem! He seems to be good on the practicals but very disappointing on his intentions. This gives rise to his arrogance. In the eyes of the Lord, our actions are always the fruit of our “heart” intentions. Clearly the very religious man has a great deal of conversion and repentance to ask the Lord for.

On the other hand, the tax collector “stood some distance away, not daring to even raise his eyes to heaven”. His prayer is the great prayer of the heart of those seeking mercy of God. He says “God be merciful to me as sinner”.

Despite being despised for collecting taxes for the Roman Emperor oppressors, and quite possibly taking some of the proceeds for himself, he realises that he is not in the right place in his heart. He is seeking God’s gift of conversion and mercy. He is repentant and contrite.

It is quite clear that the Lord is able to work his merciful miracle upon the man who wants conversion rather than the man who prides himself that he is already filled with contentment! The trouble is that he is full of himself! There does not seem to be any emptiness in this arrogant man for the Lord to fill.

Of course this parable asks us to reflect on ourselves. As this year of mercy comes to a close, let us reflect carefully about where we stand with the Lord. Let us see if our works of mercy arise from an arrogant heart and whether there is a profound desire for conversion in our hearts.

Let us ask the Lord to empty our souls of all that selfishness and pride. Only then can the Lord work his miracle of justice by filling us with his mercy and giving us a fresh opportunity to be his true presence in the world.


Jeremiah 1:4-9, 1 Timothy 4:12-16, John 15:9-17

Welcome everybody to this important event in the life of the Archdiocese – the Diaconate ordination of Joshua Scott.

I wish to make two points on the Diaconate in general and three points on the Diaconate of the Word in particular.

First, service is always linked with prayer. Diaconate has its origins in biblical times. In the Acts of the Apostles there was an argument amongst the Hellenists and Hebrews of the time in regard to the scandal of the neglect of the widows. It appears that everybody was too busy to help those most needy. It is a problem that we still have today! So the Diaconate was in its very origins linked with service. True service is the fruit of prayer.

I recalled on this feast day of St John Paul II, what a great servant leader he was during his pontificate. I am sure this was the fruit of his intense prayer life. I do remember many years ago as a student in Rome, being privileged to celebrate Mass with him in his Chapel in the Vatican. There were only about 50 of us in this tiny chapel. When we all arrived we sat quietly behind the Pope who was already deeply in prayer. I was placed directly behind him. For fifteen minutes before Mass started, I could see this great Saint at prayer. He was still. He was silent. He was in front of his beloved picture of the black Madonna of Czestochowa. He was simply the Servant of the Lord and the son of Mary.

A second general point about the Diaconate is that it is always linked with unity. The Diaconate was created to call forth people in service and in charity towards unity.

The Gospel always stresses unity in any service of the Church. Jesus himself tells us in the Gospel of today to “remain in his love”. It is a reminder that “you did not choose me, no I chose you”. The Lord commands us “to love one another”. In Jesus, service in love has always a unified dimension. This Diaconate of Service always brings people together. It never separates them. It never causes them to fight or to become gossipers. It never becomes a victim of clerical ideologies.

In particular regard to the Diaconate of the Word some points need to be made.

The seminal document of the Church called Lumen Gentium, which was promulgated over 50 years ago in the Second Vatican Due Council. We hear that the Diaconate has three aspects. It is the Diaconate of the Word, Diaconate of the Altar, and the Diaconate of Charity.

But in today’s Australian context I believe a few particular comments about the Diaconate of the Word are needed.

Firstly, the preaching, which is the very heart of the Diaconate of the Word, is both something spoken and unspoken. It is a proclamation of the spoken Word of God in preaching and in prayer liturgies. But it is never an imposition on people. We are to gather them, never to scatter them. The preaching of the word in Homilies and Liturgies is always to propose Jesus Christ, but never to impose him upon anybody. Otherwise we become mere proselytisers. This is a far cry from our Catholic teaching of preaching. Another important aspect is that it is not only spoken, but it is also a wordless preaching. It is the preaching in action. It is an action in love. St Francis of Assisi summarises this beautifully when he says that “at all times preach, and if necessary use words”. There must be something about the preaching that even before he speaks there is a gospel authority attached to him in love and unity. Recent Popes have talked about this in regard to evangelisation. They talk about evangelisation as an “attracting power”. Or as a “Fragrance of God” in the midst of his people.

The second significant point about preaching the word of God in Australia today is an emphasis on its Kerygmatic dimension. The Kerygma is the fundamental announcement of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Saviour. As Pope Francis has mentioned in his writings, it is not simply an initial proclamation but it is the fundamental proclamation. Kerygma is always relational. It is always wanting to bring us into an encounter with Jesus Christ, with each other, and alerts us to our responsibility in the world.

This comes to my mind in the second reading of today’s Mass from St Paul to Timothy. In talking of teaching and preaching Timothy says, “You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders lay their hands on you; do not let it lie unused”. So this bringing people together in relationship with the Lord through preaching is a gift from God. And this gift must not lie unused.

There is no way it would lie unused with our soon to be ordained Deacon – Joshua Scott! I have always seen him as a great networker! It is amazing how many people our dear Joshua knows! He is a relational human being! He understands precisely what Kerygma teaching means in both the spoken and unspoken dimensions. I have noticed so often how he is able to bring people in to friendship with Jesus through the miracle of human friendship. It is a genuine love for others which is premised on the fact that Joshua, like St John in the gospel today, knows of the Lord’s command to “remain in my love”.

So we pray that particularly this aspect of preaching be gifted in greater abundance to our dear brother Joshua through the great gift of the Diaconate.

A third and final point about the preaching of the word in Australia today is an emphasis on its practical mission. Preaching of the word must always lead to practical charity. It can’t just leave the listeners comforted but unable to leave the preaching and to be motivated more fully in practical charity. As Pope Francis mentioned in the recent World Youth Day in Poland, the Church has little place for “couch potatoes”! Preaching must send people out to the peripheries and energise people to be Christ-like to those who are disfigured and marginalised from society. Or as Joshua would like to describe it as, a ministry to the “uns” of society.

Just before we continue on with the Diaconate, could I just say one last point.

I would like to encourage vocations to the priesthood and religious life in the Archdiocese particularly for those that are here today. The doors of this Archdiocese are wide open to vocations! Welcome!

I would like to thank the people of Young for nurturing the vocation of Joshua Scott as his journey has now led to his Diaconate ordination. I would also like to thank the people of Young for showing interest in one of our new seminarians that was helped by this community in the last year or two – Eden Langlands, who is with us today.

I am looking forward to even more vocations from not only Young but from the entire Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn. In regard to the Diocesan priesthood, we now have five seminarians and next year there will be seven and possibly eight seminarians. We are on a bit of roll! May that vocational call bring in a bountiful harvest of many men who have the courage to stop and listen carefully to the gentle and always silent murmur of Jesus in their heart, when he says to us, “come follow me”.

Like Jeremiah in the first reading, we will acknowledge that God has chosen us before we choose God. How true are the words of Jeremiah when he hears God say to him, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you”.

God has consecrated us in service of the sacred mysteries with which we are but custodians. In the diaconate, this custodianship is expressed in proclamation of the word and service of charity.

May our dear Joshua be blessed on this day with all the graces that God wants to give him. May this blessing flow over to all of us, especially seminarians and priests who are gathered here today. May the Lord confirm us in the assurance that he is with Joshua and all of us all the days of our lives.


Exodus 17:8-13, 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2, Luke 18:1-8

Today is the last day of Floriade – Canberra’s internationally known flower festival.

Not so long ago I visited Floriade. I was amazed at how many people have photographic lenses on their cameras to take detailed and ever so close-up pictures of flowers. There is a great beauty in a flower. Clearly photographers want to take full advantage of every aspect of that beauty!

But in more recent days, I discovered another beauty about Floriade and flowers.

Some friends of mine visited Floriade and showed me pictures of the flowerbeds from the top of the Ferris wheel. Here we see beauty on a different level altogether. It wasn’t the microscopic look, it is was the panoramic look. Unbeknown to me, and I’m sure a lot of others, there are certain patterns in the flower beds which are not discernible close up as we walk around,. You have to get up on the Ferris wheel to see the patterns in all the flower beds. And they are beautiful patterns!

I suppose that’s a little bit like married and family life. On this Respect Life Sunday in which we are particularly focussing on ageing, the two beauties of the flowers could be duplicated onto our human life.

When we scrutinise family and married life today, its very important for us, not only to see particular circumstances, but also the broad pattern of what God has in store for us in His divine loving and merciful plans for families.

Certainly we must take attention of particular families. But we must not be obsessed here, otherwise we’ll end up with a situation where “my situation” becomes the only way of looking at the beauty of married and family life. And it can quickly move into ethical consequences. I’m thinking of this most particularly in regard to abortion, same-sex marriage and euthanasia. Advocates of these options insist that “my situation” be in full focus.

Of course that must be done, but it’s not the only aspect of beauty, as we see with the example of the flowers.

There is also attention to the general. God’s plan for human life and married life is accessed by a faith and reason. We need to see the broad plan that offers us the contribution of married and life to society in general.

Yesterday I was in Young. I was there for the Western Deanery Assembly. On that particular date, a married couple present were celebrating their wedding anniversary. They had been married for 50 years. I asked them to come up and speak to us about their married life. One thing that the husband and father said was very significant. He said that he tries to live with the motto in his married life of the following, “It’s the we not the me, it’s the ours not the mine.”

I feel on all aspects of married and family life that this little motto, so panoramic and broad, could well be used for the flourishing of our humanity.

Indeed, this more deeper panoramic view of life is given great strength in the Scriptures of today.

In the first reading from Exodus, we hear Moses say to his leaders, “I will stand on the hilltop.” So whilst the battle rages on in the valleys, Moses decides to stay on the hilltop and raise his hands with the help of others to let them see the broader panorama of the particular battle raging beneath him. Then Paul’s wisdom comes out in the second reading when he encourages Timothy with the following injunction, “You must keep to what you have been taught and know to be true.”

The Gospel helps us to keep in particular the view of life through the anchorage of prayer. Jesus insists on, “the need to pray continually and never loose heart.”

So as we now pray for married life and family life, I ask you to keep the twin beauties of the particular and the general, in all matters to do with ethical family life before us.

I now ask married couples to stand so that we can pray for you and encourage God’s blessing upon you in your marriage in these fragile times.


2nd Book of Kings 5:14-17,  2nd Letter of St Paul to Timothy 2:8-13,  Luke 17:11-19

Welcome everyone to Galong Monastery, for our Year of Mercy Marian Procession 2016.

I thank you so much for making the time and effort to be here in such great numbers. The Lord has blessed us with a beautiful day and we begin it with this Holy Mass.

The Gospel reading today speaks of the ten lepers who were healed by Jesus.

It brings out the link between Mercy and thanks.

We are very much aware of this beautiful Gospel passage. Here we have Jesus on his way to Jerusalem meeting with the ten lepers. This expression, “on the way to Jerusalem,” means something symbolically in Luke. It means that Jesus is always on pilgrimage to his death and resurrection. As baptised Christians, we too, are always on the pilgrimage journey towards our union in Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Along the way on this pilgrimage, like Jesus, we meet up with all sorts of challenges and opportunities to be missionaries of Mercy, like Mary, the Mother of God.

In this case Jesus meets ten lepers. They come to meet him. They call to Jesus, “Jesus! Master! take pity on us.” Jesus immediately tells them, “Go and show yourself to the priests.”

This means that Jesus intends to heal them immediately. By telling them to go to the priests, he wants their healing to be validated, so that they can return to their normal life and participation in their religious observances.

Indeed, in the very next line, Luke says, “Now as they were going away, they were cleansed.”

But then there is the story within the story of this healing miracle. One of them turns around and goes back to Jesus to thank him and to praise him, “at the top of his voice, and he threw himself at the feet of Jesus, and thanked him.” Jesus comments about the missing nine. He says to the man, “Were not all ten made clean? The other nine, where are they?”

There is a certain sadness in this miracle, that only one comes back to thank God. They miss a double healing.

Yes, they have been healed of their leprosy. It is a physical healing. But in praise and thanksgiving only one “turns around”, only one of them “turns back” and returns to Jesus. This “turning back,” means that he repented at an even deeper level, and now he encounters Jesus face to face. In encountering Jesus, he receives the miracle of conversion deep within his heart. So not only is he healed of body, but he is also healed in spirit, in the presence of Jesus the merciful one. The other nine, regrettably, are healed, but just simply return to their normal pattern of behaviour, and their normal lifestyle. There is some doubt as to whether they receive this deeper healing.

This beautiful miracle story brings up the important point that I’d like you all to remember. It seems, as we reflect in this Year of Mercy, regrettably it seems that it is easier to receive Mercy than to give Mercy. Yet, in giving Mercy, we give thanks and praise. We can ask Jesus to be merciful, but does that mean that we are being merciful back to others as a form of thanking and praising God. This thanks and gratitude to God is not simply done with the lips, but it is done in practical ways of merciful outreach to others who also are seeking God’s forgiveness and practical help. God uses us in our healed beings to be His instruments of Mercy. But it does seem to be easier to receive Jesus’s mercy, and a lot harder to be God’s mercy to others.  This is to be resisted. In being God’s merciful person to others, we are expressing our thanks to God. We are praising Him and thanking Him, like this returned leper healed.

It might surprise you to know that thanksgiving and praise are at the highest end of all types of prayer.

Catholics are often very good at asking or intercessory prayer. I’m not so sure that we are all that good at thanking God and praising God. Yet, sacramentally, praise and thanks are mentioned in all our Sacraments, especially the Eucharist. Indeed, the word Eucharist means, “to give thanks.” At the beginning of the Preface at every Mass, we say, “It is truly right and just to give you thanks and praise.” So lets keep that in mind. Especially on this Marian Procession Day. Like Mary, we thank God and praise Him in our Magnificat prayer of God’s action within us. Let Mary help us to learn how to thank God and praise God for all His merciful initiatives in our lives.

There is a second important point in this Gospel of today, it is stressed in the Gospel that the man who returned to thank God was a Samaritan. Jesus himself says, “It seems that no one has come back to give praise to God except this foreigner.”

The one that comes back to give thanks and praise to God is an unexpected one. He is not one of the chosen people. He is viewed with suspicion by the chosen people of God. The Samaritan was a bit of an outsider. He was the periphery person. A marginal person. He is the Aborigine, the migrant who arrives at Australian shores in a boat, he is the Muslim who has recently arrived in Australia, and so on.

This point is foreshadowed even in the first reading from the second book of Kings. We find another leper here that is healed. This time it is Naaman, who is healed through the intercession of God via the Prophet, Elisha. At the end of this healing Naaman starts to give thanks and praise to God, and wants to change his life. It’s a sure sign of that inner healing. He seems to have received a double miracle. He is on the road to conversion. He no longer wants to worship many Gods, but only the one God. He says, “Your servant will no longer offer holocaust or sacrifice to any God, except the Lord.”

So both Naaman and the Samaritan draw out another important insight from the Bible. That is, the ones who aren’t expected to really understand the role of Jesus, often are the first ones to acknowledge Him as Lord and Saviour. Conversely, the ones who should immediately know that Jesus is the awaited Messiah, are often the ones that are the last to believe this.

The “periphery people,” are so often seen as most open to the good news of the Kingdom of God. It’s the sick, the addicted, the pagan, and the rejected ones that are so often the first to truly believe the Lordship of Jesus.

Let us remember this point well and truly in our lives here in Australia. Christians are not to “just go with the flow,” to believe everything that is said and printed in newspapers and on television and radio. Often the stereotyping of people and dismissing them, consciously or unconsciously, is totally contrary to the Gospel. Let us see in the periphery people Jesus hidden from our sight, and coming to us in unexpected ways. Let us stand alongside the Naamans and the Samaritans of our world today, and see Jesus inviting them, like he invites us to intimacy with him. Let us see how readily they respond to Jesus’ message. How much they can help us in their need to be helped by our merciful care in a practical way.

In all these insights of Scripture, Mary, the Mother of God, is the one that is first amongst the faithful. The one that is the first to believe fully, that her son Jesus must be “on his way to Jerusalem.” She herself is a periphery person. She comes from the Anawim of God. She comes from a little village of Nazareth as only a young girl. She has no identity really, or any profession. But 2,000 years later she is still one of the most influential women of all time. As a human being full of gratitude to God for all that God has done in her. She leads us on the way to be Magnificat people. In being Magnificat people, we become magnificent people in the eyes of God. Let that be the case, especially today, as we join Mary as she “points out Jesus” to us.