Homily – April 2017

Acts 2 14:22-33, 1 Peter 1:17-21, Luke 24:13-35

Recall last Sunday we had the encounter of the Risen Lord with Thomas. Today the Church has offered us the beautiful reading from Luke’s Gospel – the encounter of the Risen Lord with the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

In Luke’s Gospel, journey is a key theme. St Luke has Jesus throughout most of his Gospel on journey and pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This assent to Jerusalem is climaxed in His Death, Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost. Jesus moves towards Jerusalem resolutely throughout almost the entirety of Luke’s Gospel.

Therefore, it is of great interest that we now have in the Gospel two disciples “on their way to a village called Emmaus, seven miles FROM Jerusalem”. In other words, they are running away from Jerusalem rather than moving towards it. They are doing the exact opposite to what Jesus has done in the last three years.

There seems to be almost two types of Christians in this beautiful Emmaus scene.

The first group of Christians are the “We had hoped” Christians.

These two men on the road to Emmaus are walking together and talking about “all that had happened”. Even when Jesus comes up to them unexpectedly and they do not recognise him they continue with their “faces downcast”. There is almost a certain arrogance when one of them, Cleophas, says to Jesus, “you must be the only person staying in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have been happening there these last few days”. Jesus then engages them in conversation.

It is interesting in what the two disciples say. From a bibliographical or historical point of view they are completely correct. In a short space of time they give a very good summary of an objective history of the life of Jesus and their expectations. One fundamental thing though is lacking – Easter faith!

Ultimately they drag each other down and admit to their unrecognised companion, “Our own hope had been that He would be the one to set Israel free”. That is their problem! They have placed onto Jesus their own expectations and conditions. They have not allowed themselves to be transformed and converted by the Grace of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection and how this only fulfils the Old Testament expectations that the Messiah would be a “suffering servant”.

One aspect about this wonderful scene is that Jesus did not abandon them. Indeed, quite the opposite. He goes after the lost sheep that are straying from the sheep fold! His way of evangelisation here is subtle and gradual. He gets them to dig the grave in which they now find themselves. He takes them from where they are to where God the Father wants them to be – in the heart of the Risen Lord.

The two disciples are intrigued and invite Jesus to a meal at Emmaus. This is very Eucharistic. We find here that Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it and then gives it to them. This rhythm of take, bless, break and give are the essential elements of the Eucharist that we are now celebrating. In other words, Jesus celebrates the Eucharist with them. In these post resurrection appearances of the Risen Lord there is always table fellowship. Jesus is always hospitable in inviting people to meals. He alone is the food that gives hunger to the human heart. In this experience the two men recognise that indeed their new companion is the Risen Lord! He then vanishes from their sight. There is no need for Him to be physically there because He is now there in their heart.

Then begins the second movement geographically and also from a heart point of view. They go back to the very place they were running from – Jerusalem! They are completely different to the way they were before – these Christians are the second type of Christians which we could call “Did not our hearts burn within us” Christians.

They now have hope and joy and the presence of the Risen Lord deep within them. The first thing they want to do is to go back and affirm to the early Christian community that the Lord is Risen. When they do get back to Jerusalem they find that the apostles have already had a similar experience to what they have had. They are no longer downcast but are full of hope in the midst of the turmoil that still surrounds them externally. But internally they have become what God wants us all to be – sons and daughters in the Easter Lord!

Let us reflect as we go on with the Mass now as to what type of Christian and communities we are. Are we “We had hoped” Christians, or are we “Did not our hearts burn within us” Christians?

Let us ask the Lord in this Mass to do exactly what He did with the apostles. As they recognised Him in the “breaking of the bread” (the Eucharist) may we too recognise Jesus afresh as He does exactly with us what He did with the apostles when He celebrated the Eucharist with them.


Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Acts 2:42-47, 1 Peter 1:3-9, Gospel John 20:19-31

Today throughout the world we celebrate Divine Mercy Sunday.

I believe a perfect world struggles with Divine Mercy. Divine Mercy requires that we begin with our tragedies not our trophies. We are to begin with our tears and not our triumphs.

Recently I accepted a kind invitation from a family for a meal. After the meal some of the children were keen to watch their favourite television programmes. In the end we all watched an hour or so of television.

The first TV show we watched was a well known cooking competition. Immediately I heard the word ‘perfect’ mentioned. The dish presented to the judges was a perfect dish! We then moved over to another TV channel and were looking for a little while at a home renovation programme. Again I heard the word ‘perfect’. It was a perfect renovation of an old house! During a commercial break of this programme they advertised an upcoming national singing competition that is very popular. Again it was quite clear they were looking for the perfect voice that could sing to the delight of everybody!

It appears that such demand for a perfect response simply reflects the culture of success and achievement. Whereas this has some very good aspects to it, it can’t be the only way we organise our humanity! What do you do with people who are not winners? Do you simply say they are all ‘losers’? What do we do with failure, suffering, and sinfulness? Portraying that the only real achievers are the perfect ones, is a great recipe for a society that opens itself up for mental illness, depression, and even suicide. Tragically, these three aspects of Australian life are not inconsequential! We all know about this.

And yet into this perfect world comes St Thomas of today’s Gospel. His perfect world collapses in the presence of the resurrected Jesus. I think nothing is written about it, but it could well be that St Thomas would have made a great Australian! Armed with a strong scientific world view he wants to reach a high standard of perfection in his insights before he is prepared to believe that Jesus is risen from the dead. Whilst all his friends and disciples are locked in a closed room “for fear of the Jews”, Thomas is simply not there. When he does reappear he sets a very high standard of conditional belief. He says, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”. All this is surely very Australian!

Incredibly, when the Risen Lord does reappear to the disciples, including Thomas, he accepts Thomas’ conditions! He goes up to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here, look here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe”.

There is no indication that a silent pause followed the Lord’s statements to Thomas. But I could imagine there would have been a long pause of a silence that converts the stubborn heart of St Thomas and all of the others into accepting the tender merciful love of Jesus as he comes to Thomas, accepting him just as he is.

After what I would think would be a long silence, Thomas says back to Jesus a prayer that all of us can pray. All of us are in a sense like Thomas. We do put conditions before true belief in Jesus, especially in our scientific and perfect world of Australia. But Thomas’ prayer of faith becomes our prayer. When he says “My Lord and my God” we thank Thomas for his conversion out of the narrow mindedness of a purely scientific worldview.

It is almost as if Jesus is following words meant for us 2000 years later. Jesus says to Thomas, “You believe because you can see me. Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe”. That’s surely us!

Let us recall that there is only one who is perfect, and it is not us! Only the Risen Lord is perfect. He is the perfect image of the invisible God, as the scriptures say. He is Perfect Divine Mercy. It is not enough just to say that Jesus rose from the dead. We also must say that Jesus rose for us. He sends us peace … His common expression after his Resurrection to those gathered is “Peace be with you”. He breathes on them and he breathes on us the life of the Holy Spirit to move us to convert our stony hearts into the heart of flesh.

Clearly we this day receive the Lord’s Divine Mercy. Jesus himself says in that Gospel reading “Receive the Holy Spirit”. What could that mean if it does not mean receiving God’s merciful love? Let us now receive that love as we go on with the Mass fully and completely. Let us pause for a moment in silence and allow the prayer of St Thomas, my Lord and my God, resound in our hearts.

And finally, on this Divine Mercy Sunday, let us recall that if we have received the merciful love of Jesus, which is completely unearned and is a gift from God, this mercy must be given to others through us – especially to the poor and marginalised.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Isaiah 50:4-7, Phil 2:6-11, Gospel Matthew 26:14-27:66

We welcome particularly today to our Mass the Knights and Dames of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and the Knights and Dames of the Sovereign Military order of Malta.

Once again they have graced us with their presence from around Australia on this Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. We ask God’s blessing upon them and acknowledge the very considerable charitable work they do for the Church Universal, especially in the Holy Land.

My words to you today, given the fact we’ve had the Passion reading, need to be brief and to the point.

I would like to offer you, therefore, three words that to me summarise the readings of today and give us a good entry into Holy Week. Let us always recall that Holy Week is the principal liturgical week of the Church’s yearly calendar.

The first word I would like to offer you is the word JERUSALEM.

Particularly in Luke’s Gospel, the assent of Jesus going up to Jerusalem is not just a geographical fact, but it’s also deeply symbolic of his whole mission amongst us.

Geographically his assent from the Dead Sea up to Jerusalem is very steep climbing indeed. Over just 35 kilometres one moves from the Dead Sea which is 400 metres below sea level to Jerusalem which is 700 metres above sea level.

Jesus would have walked this steep road many times. It also becomes a symbol of his whole movement of assent into Jerusalem.

There is a touch of the resurrection in this more symbolic movement. It is not just simply to the city of Jerusalem but it’s also to the New Jerusalem which God is preparing for us in heaven. It is the New Jerusalem that is personified in the death and resurrection of Jesus and his assent back to the Father in Glory.

So, even as we begin our Holy Week towards the Lords suffering and death there is even now a hint of the hope of the resurrection.

The second word I would like to bring to your attention is CROWDS.

The Gospels talks about the crowds gathering around Jesus as he begins this first Palm Sunday from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem itself.

Let us recall that this is the Passover Feast. Many people would come from all over the area and not just those who live in Jerusalem. They are coming for the annual Passover Festival. Jerusalem would have been crowded will all sorts of visitors.

I find this word “crowds” significant as it reminds me of what happened when Jesus was born in a suburb of Jerusalem – Bethlehem.

We recall when Jesus was born in the humble stable at Bethlehem is was because there was “no room at the inn”. Even at Jesus’s birth there was no hospitality really from the local people of Jerusalem.

And now as he has a symbolic entry into Jerusalem to begin his suffering death and resurrection, again there is no hospitality of the people that live in Jerusalem.

Just as at his birth there were people on the periphery or just outside the city – the three wise men particularly – so now the same thing seems to be happening in his death. The pilgrims and tourists are shouting Hosanna to the son of David.

There is a good lesson for us all here. So often it is the people on the periphery of the Church or even outside the Church that can help us to understand the freshness of the message of Jesus Christ. We can become quite smug and comfortable in a cultural appropriation of our faith. We need always to have the freshness of these coming days that can rejuvenate our faith and make it alive and fresh again. May we always find hospitality for the Lord and never say in our hearts in one way or another that there is “no room at the inn” in our hearts for the Lord.

The third word that comes to my mind is DONKEY.

Why is this important? If Jesus wanted to make himself into a military leader he would have come into Jerusalem on a horse. But now he deliberately chooses a donkey. Recall that a donkey is a beast of burden. Let us recall also that it was King David centuries before Jesus, that took up his kingship by humbly riding a donkey. Jesus, the new David, comes into the city of Jerusalem as the humble suffering servant of God. His strength is in suffering redemptively for all of us.

We recall that, even in this Mass, Jesus visits us again in the humility of the Eucharist.

Jesus takes the humility of simple bread and simple wine and transforms them into his own body and blood for the nourishment of his people.

As we begin our Holy Week let us do so humbly. Let us put aside all arrogance and replacing the priority of Jesus in the week with other priorities and agendas that simply are peripheral to the eternal life that Jesus offers us as our Saviour.

So now we continue with our Mass. In the celebration of the Eucharist let us recall these important three key words which may help so many of us as we enter into Holy Week – Jerusalem, crowds, donkey.




Our Lenten pilgrimage to Easter this year of 2017 started with the conclusion of the Hearings into the Catholic Church as part of the four years Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The scourge of sexual abuse is a deep and profound wound affecting us all at different levels and various intensities. We continue to walk alongside the victims and their families and friends in the present and the years ahead. We seek healing and hope from the Risen Lord Jesus in the midst of this Calvary that we find ourselves in. Although the vast majority share no ethical culpability for this “dis-ease” surrounding us, we all have a moral responsibility to be agents of healings and hope.

During these tumultuous months, I became very much aware that, for a time, the Church’s liturgy showcased readings from the creation stories of Genesis. It is so consoling to base our ecclesial existence on the grace of our loving and merciful God perpetually hovering over us and moving us from chaos to order. We pray in this Chrism Mass for an outpouring of the New Creation of the Paschal Mystery to visit us afresh “like the dawn from on high”. We know, more than ever, that our feeble efforts as Church can only be in response to the initiative of the Spirit of the Living God, our New Pentecost, within His Church. Only Jesus leads us in our faith – more than ever in these fragile times. This is our enduring hope and heartfelt petition. As the Lukan Gospel of today assures us, Jesus has been anointed to bring Good News and “proclaim the Lord’s year of favour.” The words of Jesus in this passage conclude by proclaiming something we all need to hear loud and clear in this Chrism Mass: “This text is being fulfilled today even as your listen.”

It is a particularly challenging time too for our clergy. There are so many faithful and holy faith heroes in our midst who daily use their God given spiritual power to serve the needy, rather than patronise the weak. I take this opportunity to thank each and every one of our clergy for the service they so wonderfully offer daily as priestly “stewards of the mysteries of God” (I Cor.4/1-5). Your people love you more than you think and support you so much, especially in these difficult times.

Let us walk courageously together in the times ahead. Pope Francis often encourages bishops, priests and deacons to be always true mediators of God’s love rather than ideological middle-men concerned only with advancing their own interests (cf. 9th December 2016 HOMILY). The Pope draws to our attention the mediating service unto death of St Polycarp, the second century Bishop of Smyrna, in present day Turkey. Martyred by fire, the testimony of bystanders was that his burnt body smelt like the aroma of bread. In total service of our people may we too become bread in the Eucharistic Lord for the spiritual nourishment of our people.

As your Archbishop, please feel my esteem and gratitude for you all as we walk together as the presbyterate of this Archdiocese, in all our weaknesses, continually feeling the strength of Jesus, the High Priest. I pray down upon you right now the beautiful prayer of the Second Reading from the Apocalypse ( I will adapt it a little): “(Jesus) loves (you) and has washed away (your) sins with his blood, and made (you) a line of kings, priests to serve his God and Father; to him, then, be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen.”

Let us now move towards the Renewal of our Commitment to Priestly Service. We will then have the blessing of the Holy Oils that we will use sacramentally in anointing God’s Holy People, in Persona Christi Capitis, in the year to come. Then there is our Liturgy of the Eucharist. In celebrating all this, we continue the redeeming work of the Saviour who has come, as the Prophet Isaiah foreshadows in the First Reading, “to comfort all those who mourn and to give them for ashes a garland; for mourning robe the oil of gladness, for despondency, praise.”

May Mary, mother of the clergy and all God’s People, show us again her motherly care and lead us together to Jesus, her Son, and Our Lord and Saviour.


Click here to view photos from the mass.



Ezekiel 37:12-14, Romans 8:8-11, Gospel John 11:3-7; 17; 20-27; 33-45

Today there is an important contrast to be made with the raising of Lazarus from the dead and the foreshadowing of Christ’s resurrection.

We always note that we can sometimes look at the same thing from different perspectives. I am reminded of the little story of two prisoners at night looking out of their common prison cell. The expression goes as follows: Two prisoners looked out of their prison cell, one saw bars and the other saw stars. Clearly one prisoner was totally immersed with the immediate issue of him being a prisoner. All he could see was the bars. The other prisoner looked beyond the bars to the clear night and he could see stars.

It is a little bit like this with the Gospel today regarding Lazarus’ death.

Many could only see ‘bars’ with his death. It seems to centre around the Lord’s delay in going to Bethany to be with His friends Martha and Mary when news came about regarding Lazarus’ health. Why did Jesus delay? Perhaps it was because there was a hostile environment in Jerusalem. The thought had to be given as to whether it would be too dangerous for Him to go. This seems to be on the mind of the Apostles. On the other hand, Jesus’ vision perhaps was more seeing beyond this – the stars. He seems to be wanting to draw out their faith to let them understand that something greater is at play here that could be foreshadowed by Lazarus’ situation.

At any rate, in delaying, we are afforded a wonderful opportunity of at least two gifts.

The first one is when He greets Martha and she seems to be annoyed with Jesus’ delay and says that if the Lord had been there “my brother would not have died”. The dialogue with Martha enables Jesus to give one of the great self descriptions of Himself to not only Martha but to all of us. In the Gospel here Jesus states, “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. What a wonderful expression! Jesus’ own self definition is that He is the ‘Resurrection and the Life’.

We also, because of this delay, find out that in fact Lazarus had died. Just before Jesus raises him from the dead we are given the great grace of ‘eavesdropping’, as it were, on the prayer of Jesus to the Father. He says, “Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer”. To hear Jesus speak in prayer to God as Father is of enormous significance. All Christian prayer tries to participate in the prayer of Jesus to the Father and the Father to Jesus. Christian prayer is being in communion with the “Abba” (daddy) prayer of Jesus.

When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead the Gospel of John makes it quite clear of one particular detail. St John says, “The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with bands of stuff and a cloth around his face”. Clearly, Lazarus’ dead body has been resuscitated. There are cloths on his body. This means that physically he will have to die yet again. The marks of death are still around him. In an important command which has great significance for evangelisation, Jesus then says to the people, “Unbind him let him go free”. This is what our task is, always to unbind people and let them go free in the Lord.

However, we look ahead and recall that when Jesus rose from the dead, the death cloth, the shroud, is neatly folded up in its completeness and placed on the tomb. Here is an important contrast. Lazarus must die again. But that which is foreshadowed in the resurrection of Jesus is infinitely greater than Lazarus. Jesus rising from the dead is not simply a resuscitation of a body. It is the movement into a completely different and permanent way of being – the Resurrection. There is no need for a death shroud anymore.

These reflections give us cause to pause for a moment and reflect on the weeks that are still to come. Next Sunday begins Holy Week with Passion Sunday where we copy the ritual enactment of Jesus as He moves into Jerusalem to begin the final week of His life – His passion and His death – to the shouts of “Hosanna!”.

Lets us now prepare ourselves for the week ahead and, particularly in these last days of Lent, redouble our efforts to focus on Jesus in prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn