Homily – June 2017

2 Corinthians 9:6-11, Gospel: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18, Memorial of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga

We are gathered here to thank the Lord for the 50th Anniversary of our beloved Marymead. It is also the feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and the reading from St Paul’s letter to Corinthians and the Gospel of Matthew all seem to have a common foundational basis.

It is simply this. They all seem to refer to the two dimensional understanding of Christianity.

Let me explain!

Saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568 to 1591) died very young. He was only 23 years of age. He was a Jesuit Seminarian from Northern Italy who died ministering to victims of the Black Plague in Rome. He himself contracted the disease and died because of it.

We didn’t know much about Saint Aloysius until his death. We now know him as a young man with a very deep spiritual life who expressed this in a missionary way in caring for the most marginalised of the people of his time – the victims of the Black Death.

He lived that two dimensional Christianity in a Saintly way! On the vertical level he was deeply spiritual and on the horizontal level he was immensely pastoral and practical to those that came to him in any need.

St Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians refers to a somewhat similar double dimensional Christianity.

In the first reading St Paul says “thin sowing means thin reaping: the more you sow the more you reap.” In other words, if you sow more, you’ll reap more.

Sowing seeds means that you plant something life giving deep within the soil and allow Gods grace and time to mature it. This action is reflected, intentional and deep. It’s like our prayer life. Some people say that are too busy to pray. But others who do pray say that they are too busy not to pray. Indeed, the experience of many who meditate on a daily basis is that they say that praying actually seems to give them more time. In other words, they have a better sense of priorities and seem to be able to get things resolved in a tighter time frame! It’s the paradox of praying and ministering in the Lord!

Indeed St Paul reminds us that in sowing deeply and reaping fulsomely it can be said that “there is no limit to the blessings which God can send you.”

In today’s Gospel passage from Matthew (chapter 6) we have a scripture passage which is normally used at the start of Lent. It is basically saying to Christians not to show off (using Aussie language!). The encouragement is to go quietly and humbly in our Christian life and not to draw attention to ourselves.

The horizontal dimension, the externals of our life in Christ articulated as alms giving (giving money to the needy), praying and fasting.

But all this is to be done deeply and quietly. We are not to draw attention to ourselves in the way we express our faith.

Indeed, the scripture goes on the talk about the internal motivation about our life in Christ. We must not “let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.” In our prayer we are encouraged to “close the door.” And more-so in our fasting we are to abstain from food in a way “that no one will know you are fasting except your Father, he sees all that is done in secret.”

All of these examples point too a two dimensional Christianity.

I do believe In the light of all this, that we can see today’s remembrance of the Golden anniversary of Marymead’s foundation also two dimensional. How could it be otherwise! Marymead has been given birth in prayer and is an expression of prayer from it s earliest days.

I think the two dimensional foundation of Marymead can be seen first of all, in its name. It is the amalgamation of two words…”Mary” and “mead”.

Mary refers to Mary, the mother of God and the Franciscan missionaries of Mary (FMM) who came to Canberra and established Marymead in 1960. They carried with them the missionary zeal of St Francis. Their charism is clearly Franciscan and Marian.

Like St Francis and Mary, there is a deep place in their very existence for the presence of God’s initiatives. Like St Francis and Mary, those who contribute to Marymead are called to be lowly, humble and low key. They are not to draw attention to themselves but to have a deep inner life not just as individuals but as a Marymead family. Like Mary, as it is mentioned in Luke’s Gospel, they are to “treasure and ponder” all that God has done. Their mission is a reflected ministry. It is a deep ministry.

But it is not only Mary, it’s also “mead”.

Mead is an old English name meaning meadow. The word meadow conjures up an image of cool and fresh pastures. Maybe this is why the sisters, when they arrived in the early 1960’s, chose an 11 acre paddock in Narrabundah to begin their ministry. By the time they had left in 1986 the FMM Sisters had firmly established Marymead for people of faith or no faith. It was there for anybody who was in need – especially fragile young families where there was illness, poverty, or turmoil within the family life.

However now in 2017 we have expanded the “need dimension” exponentially. Marymead now also includes family counselling, disability support, foster care and respite, mental health support, grandparent support and so much more.

Let’s always remember that Marymead is two dimensional! It can not be just simply the mead without the Mary. Then it becomes simply a charitable organisation…ultimately a bureaucracy, albeit helpful in the community.

On the other hand it not to be Mary without the mead. If it is simply the Marian dimension and Franciscan dimension without any expression of that practically and in the charitable way to the needy, then it becomes a pietistic organisation that has not much relevance to the society in which it plants itself.

But it is Mary…mead. We pray in this Golden Jubilee Mass that the two dimensional Christianity that has been with us over the 2000 years will shine forth in our most beloved Marymead, which has now become a Canberra icon and ministers well beyond Canberra and to the southern tablelands of NSW.

As we now go on with the Mass I offer for our prayerful consideration three very brief points.

Firstly, that our prayer may be that all activity in the “mead” will flow out from the “Mary” and truly always be Marymead.

Secondly, in this Mass we offer our thanks for all those who over the last 50 years have been a bit like Saint Aloysius Gonzaga and given of humble service to those in need. I’m thinking particularly of the staff, the volunteers, families that have been involved, those who have received and those who have given to Marymead over the last 50 years. Particularly I remember in thanksgiving the FMM Sisters. I’m delighted to welcome four of the original sisters back to our Mass and dinner today. I also thank the present staff under the leadership of Camila Rowland “CEO” and the leadership of Margaret Carmoody (Chair of the Board).

Thirdly and finally we offer our hope for the continual remarkable and deep service of Marymead in the years ahead.

We are now in a society that perhaps does not value marriage and family life as much as is would have 50 years ago. Society has changed so much. We have become more individualistic. It is debatable whether we’ve become a happier society! Nonetheless, in no matter what situation we find ourselves we are here to support feeble families especially those who struggle and need practical help.

In this Mass we also pray for benefactors of Marymead over the years and those who have kindly offered bequests in their wills. We remember them with affection and pray for them in this Mass.

Let us unite all our past present and future at the table of the Lord. Jesus is our Eucharistic Lord! He will feed us and provide for our deepest needs. For only in Jesus Christ do the two dimensions of Christianity come together. Jesus is the fullest flowering of “Marymead”. He is fully human and fully divine. He has come to us in our human frailty with his mercy and loving kindness and restored us into a right relationship with God our loving Father.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Exodus 34:4-6; 8-9, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, John 3:16-18

We are all aware that our daily prayers, our attendance at the Sacraments especially Mass and following the Lord’s moral code are all fundamental to our living out of our Catholic faith. However, in the first instance, the absolute principal foundation of Christianity is found in today’s solemnity. Today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity.

There is a beautiful teaching on the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity in today’s readings. They tell us not so much about what we are to do for God, but what God has done for us. All of this is sheer and utter Grace from God. It is God’s gift to us.

In the Gospel reading Jesus says to Nicodemus an expression that all of us could well learn off by heart. It is a little Catechism of Christianity. It is a summary of our faith in one sentence. We read Jesus saying to Nicodemus “God loved the world so much that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost but may have eternal life”.

Although the formalised teaching in our theology on the Trinity waited for some hundreds of years after the Resurrection, it is quite clear even in this seminal Gospel text that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is manifest.

It is that God the Father loves the world so much that He gave us His only Son Jesus Christ. And for those who believe in God through the power of the Holy Spirit they will have eternal life. It is a surrender through conversion to this Trinitarian belief that is at the essence of today’s celebration of the Trinity.

In case we did not understand this Gospel text, the first reading from the Old Testament offers it again as a foreshadowing of the Trinity.

Here we have a self-description of God. Our God is a God of love. “…A God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness”. This text from the Book of Exodus indicates the kind of God we have. God is loving and tender and compassionate. In one of the Gospel Canticles we have a lovely expression that God is “loving kindness” (Hesed). All these show the essence of the Trinity. It is a Trinity made of God’s love for us.

Yet for the third time, in case we still need to come to the awareness of the mystery of the Trinity we have another text given to us. The Liturgy of the Word offers us a third open door. In the second letter of St Paul to the Corinthians he greets the community in the following way: “The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.

What a beautiful Trinitarian blessing! St Paul in one line refers to the one God existing in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

All of this is gift from God as I have mentioned. We are to live in the Trinity of God’s gift love for us and express that as best we can on a daily basis.

In the early Christian Church they explained the Trinity as the dance of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. It is a dance that asks us to join in. Joining in the loving kindness of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we pledge to be the Trinitarian love to the world in which we live. This may take the form of married life, as parents, or as single people, or as children. No matter what situation we find ourselves in we are to be Christ’s presence to the world.

In this response light to God’s Grace I welcome today Mr Alexander Osborne. He is one of our eight seminarians. Today there is a special liturgical rite called the “Admission for Candidacy to Holy Orders”. It is basically Alexander’s way of saying to the Church that he is prepared now to proceed to receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders – the Diaconate and later on, please God, the Priesthood. He has co-discerned this with the Diocese and the seminary formators over many years and now we come to this special moment of his public response. We welcome him and his family and the other seminarians from Good Shepherd Seminary, Homebush today. We ask God’s blessing upon him. May his vocation become clearer and deeper as the days go on.

At the same time we pray that many other men and women will think so seriously about expressing their love for our Trinitarian God by considering seriously the option of priesthood or religious life. We pray for vocations.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn