Homily – August 2017

Isaiah 22;19-23, Romans 11:33-36, Matthew 16:13-20

We thank the Lord today for the anniversary of this parish of St Monica’s. It has been forty years since the school began and thirty years since the Church was opened.

We are both looking to the past with thanksgiving and looking to the future with great hope, particularly as the impending promised amalgamation draws closer.

I would like to offer you from the Gospel of today, three pastoral foundations upon which we can reflect on the parish anniversary. They not only reflect the Christian life led by the Christian in the Christian community, but they might also be a way of us seeing how this has been lived out in the years past and also give us hope and encouragement for the years ahead.

The first pastoral foundation for a vibrant Catholic parish is summarised in the word ‘ENCOUNTER’.

The encounter with Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, is at the very essence of all Christianity. In the Gospel of today Jesus evokes an encounter response from His disciples. He asks the people to question, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

In a sense Jesus gives an indication of the answer even in the question when he uses the expression “Son of Man”.

The initial response of the disciples is not so much a faith response but a sociological response.

The response is, “Some say it is John the Baptist, some Elijah and some others Jeremiah or one of the prophets”. It seems somewhat disappointing that after some years of walking with Jesus and pondering on all that He has said and done, that the response is more to do with opinion polls and census readings.

Even today, in Australia, people can respond like this too. They might say that the recent census in Australia indicates that up to 30% of Australians have no religion and that allegiance to Christianity is diminishing.

There seems to be no future in such superficial responses. It doesn’t get to the heart of the matter.

But, as always, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter. He says to His people, “But you, who do you say that I am?” He calls for a deeper response. A response that comes from deep within. Not just simply a sentimental response or a sociological response but a response that comes from the very depths of our being.

In a moment of grace, it is Peter that speaks up and says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. Peter responds fulsomely. It comes from deep within him. He has encountered Jesus and now he testifies in faith to the person of Jesus – “the Son of the Living God”.

No one in our parish can escape this deep question of Jesus. The essence of a Christian community is that in the very first instance it is those gathered in Christ who can, like Peter say, “You are the Son of the Living God” in regard to our encounter with Jesus.

The second pastoral foundation is the word ‘COMMUNITY’.

Once we have truly encountered the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the sending down of the Holy Spirit upon us, we gather with people who have encountered the same living reality. This is the essence of the Christian community.

In response to Peter’s affirmation of faith, Jesus replies by saying, “Simon, Son of Jonah, you are a happy man! … So I say to you; you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church”.

We all know and love Peter. He is strong in faith one moment and, like us all, weak and so fragile in other moments. In the midst of his frailty it is quite clear that Jesus now makes him the leader of the nascent Church. We recall that Peter’s name in the original language means ‘rock’ so in a sense Jesus is saying to Peter, “You are rock and upon this rock I will build my church”. Peter is the first Pope. We pray particularly today for our Pope Francis and successor of St Peter that he continues always to be rock-like in leading us in faith as the successor of St Peter.

But the turn of phrase in the scripture that I find particularly important is that Jesus says “I will build MY church”. It is the Lord’s church. It is His church. It is not simply our Church. We are a part if it but Jesus is our leader. He leads us in faith. He inaugurates His Church. He sets it up. The Church is the gathered people of God. We gather around Christ who leads us always. Of course we make mistakes and go through very difficult times. At present we are going through a very difficult time with the Catholic Church in Australia with the Royal Commission, and all the political issues that make us more and more look like a minority in what has always been considered a Christian country called Australia. We think of the same sex marriage debate, the euthanasia debate, the abortion debate, and we can see that our Christian opinion is continually being challenged, not only from without but also from within. We must follow Peter and become rock-like in our response in a hostile world. We make mistakes over history and have made terrible mistakes in more recent generations. Nonetheless, we have come to the Lord and ask for forgiveness and it is He that makes us Holy. His presence amongst us is holy.

The third pastoral foundation is summarised in the word ‘MISSION’.

I think it is summarised for me in the word ‘keys’.

Jesus says to Peter, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”. This links up nicely with the first reading where the prophet Isaiah foretells that from the House of Judah and the House of David will come the keys of God -the Keys of the Kingdom.

We hear in the first reading the prophecy that, “I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder. Should he open, no one shall close, should he close, no one shall open”.

The mission of the Church is to open the keys of people’s heart to the liberating grace of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Saviour. The mission of the Church is to go out to the peripheries and open the keys of education and health and opportunity and food and clothing and shelter to those who are poor and oppressed.

This is our mission. Jesus is the key in which we enable this to happen. Only Jesus can use us to open the keys of the heart of humanity.

We might find that this task seems to be overwhelming or that we seem to be going backward fast.

But our faith gives us another answer.

With our hearts alive with the encounter of Jesus Christ and living in the Christian community we go out to the frontiers of the universe with the keys of the Kingdom of God knowing that Jesus goes before us opening the doors of the Kingdom of God through conversion, repentance and faith.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Isaiah 56:1, 6-7, Romans 11:13-15, 29-32, Matthew 15:21-28

In today’s Gospel we have a beautiful encounter of Jesus with the Canaanite Woman. It is a great example of perseverance and persistence in prayer and faith.

Like all Canaanites, the women is seen as an “outsider”. They were not accepted by the Jews and were the subject of much racism in Jesus’s time.

But the Canaanite women in the Gospel is persistent and vocal in coming to Jesus with her pressing petition.

Her plea to Jesus is simply as follows “Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.”

Already this outsider is showing a great deal of respect and the beginnings of faith in Jesus. She calls him “Sir” and gives him the title “Son of David.”

But in an extraordinary manner Jesus refuses to talk to her not once, not twice but three times!

In the first instance St Matthew has Jesus responding to her plea in the following way: “but he answered her not a word.” Seems almost like a snub.

On the second occasion the apostles plead with Jesus to answer her petition. She is causing a lot of trouble, they say to Jesus “Giver her what she wants, because she is shouting after us.”

Jesus’s response seems on one level rather cold and confronting. He says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.”

Thirdly, the persistent woman with her faith growing in Jesus and refusing to take any refusal, kneels before the feet of Jesus and calls for help. Jesus’s response seems extraordinary. He makes reference to a racial slur that is often used for the Canaanites, that they are “house dogs”.

Jesus says to her “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”

Her response is extraordinary. She almost has a sense of humour. She says “Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.”

It now appears that it’s as if Jesus was refusing her deliberately to help her faith grow even stronger. It was a denial in the first instance but a wish in Jesus’s heart to grant her desire. Jesus finally answers her in the following manner, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.” “…her daughter was well again.”

The Canaanite Woman gives us a great example of persistence in prayer.

Even in the first reading from the prophet Isaiah it is quite clear that the covenant with God is to heal all, not just the chosen people of Israel. The prophet Isaiah prophesised that “my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.” Jesus fulfils this promise of Isaiah and is there to heal all, including the Canaanite Women.

Very often we feel that Jesus has not heard our prayers either. There’s a lovely expression “The Lord is never known to be in a hurry, but then again he is never known to be late.” When we petition the Lord for something close to our heart we have to trust that he knows what is best for us. The Lord knows the right time and the right way of answering our prayers. But answering our prayers he surely does!

At this Mass today, we are praying that the Lord will answer our prayers particularly for our dear Seminarian brother, Adrian Chan.

After many years of preparation both in Australia and Overseas, our Singaporean born Adrian is now presenting himself to be admitted as a “Candidate for Holy Orders”.

In this lovely and brief Liturgical ceremony at this Mass he will take the Oath of Fidelity, and make a profession of Faith and a commitment to Celibacy.

I thought it best to have the ceremony here in his Pastoral Parish rather that in the Cathedral. His Diaconate, God willing, will take place next month in the Cathedral with Namora Anderson. But at this particular point I thought it best to have this briefer ceremony in his Pastoral Parish.

I thank all of you for welcoming more recently Adrian into your midst. He will be with you over the next period of time and will serve as a Deacon amongst you after next month.

I would like you to pray for Adrian and support him in the wonderful ways that you so beautifully do as a Catholic Community of great faith. He is to learn from you and you are to learn from him in the Faith. He has a great opportunity in this wonderful Parish to serve you and to learn more and more what it means to be an ordained leader in the Catholic Church.

So this is our prayer for dear Adrian. We pray that his faith will grow and that the Lord will draw him lovingly into the Sacrament of Holy Orders as a Deacon and Priest. This will take place soon as a Deacon and, please God, next year as an Ordained Priest of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



1 Kings 19-9; 11-13, Romans 9:1-5, Matthew 14:22-33

Welcome everybody. Particularly those young people from throughout the whole of the Archdiocese. Thank you so much for coming and joining us for this Mass which begins the conference called SHINE over the next day.

The readings of today present us with three challenges in life.

The first challenge is the challenge within. Elijah, in seeking God, did not find Him in the glitz of life. He wasn’t in a big troublesome wind or in a spectacular earthquake or a savage fire. He was found in “the sound of the gentle breeze”. Another translation of the scriptures has it as, “the voice of thin silence”. We see that Jesus Himself seeks out the gentle breeze and the thin silence in the gospel today. He sends the crowds away and the scriptures say, “He went up into the hills by Himself to pray”. He was listening deeply to His father and was attentive to the voice of God deep within Him. In His communion of Father and Son He found the energy to continue on the pilgrimage towards His Death and Resurrection.

We too will not be able to continue on in our Christian life unless we find moments of deep solitude and silence in our life where we can focus on Jesus in His scriptures, particularly reenergise with all that we need in the battles of life.

The second challenge, particularly for young people today, is the challenge outside. The disciples in the boat also experience a big head wind like Elijah. It was a heavy sea and the boat in which they were in, a symbol of the Church, was imperilled and being threatened to the point of sinking.

So if we are looking for a religion that is fully comforting and problem free and there are no challenges, please look for religion other than Christianity and especially Catholicism! Because in the midst of the challenges the Lord comes to us and helps us.

In this regard, I am thinking particularly of two wonderful Saints that have a particular love for young people. The Saints of World Youth Day.

First of all I am thinking of St Therese of Lisieux. She was a young French woman and died at 26 years of age from a very bad lung infection called tuberculosis. She died in 1897.

She suffered from enormous internal anxious struggle in finding her place in life. What did God want of her? How did she want to live out her vocation of Christianity?

Pondering on the gentle voice within her she discovered this one day to her great joy. She wrote later on in her autobiography that the great discovery was that she was to live out a vocation of love in the world. For whoever she met and whatever situation she was in, she pledged that she would love simply like Jesus to the people and situations that she encountered. This was her greatest joy in her life.

Another great World Youth Day Saint is St Maximillian Kolbe. He was a Franciscan priest who died in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland in 1941. We knew nothing much of him until the end of his life. As a prisoner in Auschwitz one of the prisoners escaped. The Nazis rounded up everybody and picked at random ten men to face death as a punishment for the escape of the prisoner. One man who was chosen immediately protested. He said he was married with a young family. Immediately Maximilian Kolbe came up and offered to take this man’s place. This happened. This time last year I was with our World Youth Day pilgrims at Auschwitz in Poland. We pondered in silence at the place where Maximillian Kolbe died. It was a bunker and he was thrown there with the others and starved to death over a two week period. When they opened up the bunker they found everybody dead except Maximillian Kolbe who was almost dead. They executed him immediately with poison.

But he showed enormous courage in the midst of the challenges of his life.

With the challenges outside, whether they be mental anguish or oppressive political regimes, we must be inspired by living out the life of love in whatever situation that we are placed in.

The third challenge of life is surely the challenge of confronting fear with courage and faith.

When Peter started walking towards Jesus on the water he looked at himself and took his eyes off Jesus. Immediately that he did this he began to sink. He became self-absorbed rather than Jesus absorbed. This is always a recipe for a disaster. We must always keep our eyes on Jesus and the storms of life. Jesus accompanies us even though we might feel that He is not there. We must keep our eyes on Jesus who leads us. Let’s listen again to what Jesus said to Peter when He lifted him up from sinking into the sea. I’m sure He would say to each of us today, especially the youth gathered here in such big numbers. He said to Peter “Why did you doubt me?” And then there is this lovely expression, “Jesus put out his hand at once and held Peter”. Allow Jesus in this Mass and tomorrow at the SHINE conference to put His hand out to you and hold you. May we confront the different challenges of life that are both within and outside with faith and courage knowing that Jesus always lead us on the way in life.

Ultimately all that we say can be summarised by saying that there is Only Jesus, Always Jesus, Forever Jesus.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Kings 17, 8-16, Col 3, 12-17, Matthew 6:25-34

May I begin with a personal reflection? A few weeks ago I was praying at the tomb of Mary MacKillop in North Sydney. I prayed that this new initiative we are inaugurating today would receive her blessing and the blessing of her mother Flora. I had already received permission and encouragement to go ahead with this wonderful pilgrimage initiative from the Josephites present leadership but I wanted to make sure we had the saints blessing! I thought I heard in my humble little prayers at the tomb of Mary MacKillop that she was delighted and that her mum too was delighted about this initiative!! I also felt that they said that they would be especially present during the Mass and the day that we are now celebrating!!

Without doubt, we have entered into a new age of pilgrimage in the Christian Catholic world.

So many of us have heard about the Camino in Europe. It’s the multiple pilgrimage routes over many centuries that gravitate towards the North Western part of Spain at a shrine called Santiago de Compostella.

Also, when I lived in Rome for a few years, I was amazed how many Australian pilgrims would come to Rome and retrace the steps that

Mary MacKillop took when she was in Rome for several months. The churches she visited and the places where she stayed where featured.

And also here in Australia, it is without doubt that North Sydney, the place where Mary MacKillop died and which is now a Conference and Retreat Centre, and also the place of a beautiful church in which her tomb is placed has now become a real national pilgrimage centre and shrine.

I was wondering whether we really always had to go interstate or overseas to make a pilgrimage to Mary Mackillop. In my heart of hearts, I was hoping we could have a pilgrimage and a Pilgrimage Centre within our own Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn.

I believe today is the realisation of this dream and this prayer petition.

Of course all pilgrimages find their paradigm in the great pilgrimage that we all take as baptised Christians between the Lords first coming and his second coming.

We still await his second coming at the end of time or what is called theologically the Parousia.

I hope that the Pilgrimage Centre and the pilgrims of the future will be able to participate at a local level in the great pilgrimage of

Christ as he moves us all in the Kingdom of God to the home of the Father.

Let us pray that this pilgrimage place will be always a place of healing, mercy, hope and divine providence.

Mary MacKillop had so many saintly characteristics. But she was always seen to be on the move, encouraging and always doing something when she saw a need.

Coincidentally, but also providentially, Eden is becoming more and more a place where Aboriginal walking tracks are being rediscovered. Wouldn’t Mary MacKillop be delighted about this! The Bundian way is now becoming known as an ancient walking track between Eden and the Alps of Australia particularly Mount Kosciusko.

Over the millennia, Aborigines have been coming to this place at the time of the whaling season and then walking on a track that’s been rediscovered in more recent times all the way up to the highlands when the Bogon moths become plentiful. Both whales and Bogon moths were food delicacies for the Aborigines.

Mary MacKillop had a great love for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I think this is a providential coincidence that this is a place of pilgrimage at Eden and also a place of ancient waling tracks where Aborigines come together in the one town. Let us pray that a particular portion of all that happens here in the years ahead will hold the Aboriginal situation close to heart.

Beautiful Eden was always a place that Mary MacKillop held special in her heart.

Her mother died just off the coast of Eden and for this reason if for no other, Eden was of particular significance to Mary MacKillop. I’d like to read a few paragraphs from Sr. Bernadette O’Sullivan’s RSJ biography of Flora MacKillop, the mother of Mary MacKillop, with regard to her drowning off the coast here in 1886.

Sr. Bernadette writes as follows “Flora made her way to Queen’s Wharf, Melbourne on Saturday, 29 May 1886, and boarded the ship Ly-ee-Moon en route to Sydney….Flora was among those who lost their lives on that day, 30 May 1886. The news reached Sydney where Mary was helping to organise the bazaar…shocked as she was, she bore it bravely and spent a long time praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. Her first thoughts were for others: for Annie in Melbourne, Donald in England an all her relatives and friends in Victoria…Her practical nature came to the fore as she prayed that her mother’s remains would be found. If her body was found her cousin, John McDonald, at home with his parents, would go down to Eden to bring the remains back to Sydney…Flora’s body was picked up by the pilot steamer Captain Cook and brought to Eden. A report from the Sydney Freeman’s Journal told that eye witnesses spoke ‘with touching pathos of the smile of peacefulness which rested upon the poor cold face, and the complete absence of the indication of any death agony.’… A Catholic woman, Mrs Power, seeing the scapulars on the body asked to be given care of it and she and her friends performed all the delicate and tender offices which their true womanly instincts dictated, and the beautiful old Catholic custom – of reverently laying out the dead, and surrounding the remains with flowers and lights… the body rested in Mrs Power’s house and she and the ladies watched by the body, surrounding it with the choicest flowers that were to be found in Eden. They did this until JoHn McDonald arrived to identify the body…Mary wrote that Flora ‘was the only body found anywhere without being injured by either the rocks or sharks. The scapula she had so loved was on her neck. How it remained on seems miraculous and is, I believe. John says she looked as if she were asleep….The preservation of the body with the scapular still intact was indeed miraculous when one views the wild and treacherous seas and rocks at Green Cape.”

We’ll leave Sr. Bernadette’s account of Flora MacKillop’s death at that. But it does give a sense of how St. Mary MacKillop was so grateful to the enormous hospitality and reverence that was granted to her dead mother’s body by the people of Eden.
Mary MacKillop several times came to Eden to thank the people after her mother’s death and promised to send her sisters. Those sisters have been there ever since. Even after so many years we still have two sisters of Josephites here in this beautiful place that God has blessed with so much beauty.

So now let us go on with the Eucharist. Let us pray down God’s blessings on this place. May many pilgrims come to this place not only to seek the intersession of Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross, but also of her mother Flora. God willing, perhaps a devotional cult might develop regarding Flora MacKillop as well. Let us place this intention before the Lord.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn