Homily – March 2017


It is great to be with the people of Gundagai this evening. I am here over a three day period for official parish visitation of your parish and the surrounding parishes. I want to encourage you in all that you do to build up the Catholic faith in these fragile times.

As always, we get so much encouragement from the readings in our Christian journey, particularly in this Lenten season as we move towards the Easter mysteries of our faith.

The Gospel of the healing of the blind man is foreshadowed in the first reading.

The Prophet Samuel says this as he seeks out the unexpected choice of the young David as the future King of Israel. Samuel says “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart”.

This is certainly the case with the wonderful Gospel story of conversion from John’s Gospel.

The man who was born blind is the recipient of two great miracles …. two different types of sight.

He receives physical sight. It is not as if he asked for this from the Lord. The Lord, as always is the case with grace, goes towards this man. The scripture has it “as Jesus went along” … this is the way of the Lord. He doesn’t seem to have any great schedule for His day. There is a spontaneity about the Lord’s ministry. As He goes along, He sees a man in need and wants to do something for him.

But this is only the first miracle. The second miracle is more subtle but perhaps even more profound. It is the gradual gift of faith given to the blind man.

This growth of faith and move towards full conversion to the Lord is an example to us all about growing in our conversion during these times of Lent.

The man with his new sight now proves somewhat of a scandal to the religious leaders of his time. They want to know how could Jesus have healed him. This is because they say “This man cannot be from God; He does not keep the Sabbath”. When they challenge the man he starts to grow in his faith by proclaiming who Jesus is. At this moment he calls Jesus a prophet.

But they are very arrogant towards him and indicate that “how could he receive such a gift because he is a sinner?” Let us remember that, in the times of antiquity, physical affliction, like blindness, was seen as a cause of either personal sin or family sin being inflicted on certain family members.

They also challenge the man’s parents. The mother and father are intimidated by the arrogance of these people and are unable to give a strong response. They go back to the man and challenge him yet again. Each time they challenge him his faith grows. He doesn’t become defensive or weakening in the faith. On the contrary, his faith matures.

Lastly, when Jesus Himself meets up with the man again, the man says to Jesus, “Lord I believe” and then worships Jesus. In other words, he acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. Full faith has been reached. Full conversion has now been fulfilled in this man. This is the second great miracle, perhaps even more profound than the physical miracle. His faith now is given and will never be taken from him.

As we now progress in our Lenten journey towards Easter, let us too find that the challenges to our faith are, in fact, ways of us strengthening our faith. Let us go out to the Lord in this Lenten season and be healed by Him, especially by asking Him to help us to deepen and grow in our faith.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Exodus 17:3-7, Romans 5:1-2; 5-8, Gospel John 4:5-42

A key word for our Lenten pilgrimage towards the Easter mysteries of our faith is the word ‘conversion’. A major conversion encounter with Jesus in the Gospel is today’s Gospel from John. It is the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman and the Samaritan villagers.

The conversion story in this wonderful passage from the Scripture has three phases – a movement from no faith, to partial faith, to full faith.

At the start of the Gospel in the fourth chapter of John we have Jesus arriving at a Samaritan town called Jacob’s Well. Jacob’s Well has great spiritual significance for the Jewish people.

The Scriptures indicate that it was the sixth hour, that is, it was midday. At midday there are no shadows. We must remember the poetic nature of the Scriptures and to see that when we read midday it means that with Christ there is no shadow in our human hearts. He is pure light. The light of the Father’s love for us and mercy.

Jesus initiates as always a saving encounter with the woman. Always grace proceeds faith. In by doing so, he breaks the social taboos of his time. It is unheard of for a Rabbi to talk to a woman in this isolated situation. Even more so a Rabbi talking to a Samaritan woman. The Jews felt that the Samaritans were infidels.

The first part of his saving encounter shows that the woman is not able to comprehend in any shape or form what Jesus is offering her. He is starting to offer her Living Water. She interprets this as physical water. She is enthusiastic about this. The woman says “Give me some of that water so that I may never get thirsty and have to come here and draw water”. Jesus, the Evangeliser, seems to have failed in his initial attempt to engage in the deeper realities of this woman’s life. But this is only the beginning of the story.

He then takes a completely different way of moving towards her heart. In calling for a husband she confesses that she has no husband. Jesus indicates to her that she is correct. In fact he says “For although you have had five, the one you now have is not your husband”. The woman now really starts to pay attention. She understands he is more than just an acquaintance requesting a simple drink of water. She begins to call him “Sir”. He now begins to talk to her at this deeper level and brings her deepest religious sentiments to the fore. The woman starts to talk about the Messiah. Jesus declares to her that, “I who am speaking to you, I am He”.

The woman now has moved towards partial faith. She leaves the water jar where she is and hurries back to the village. The very reason why she came to Jacob’s Well is now not essential to her priorities. In leaving the water jar there, she has joy and hope in her heart and wants to share that with her loved ones. But she still has questions about Jesus. In telling her people she says “Come and see a man who has told me everything I ever did. I wonder if he is the Christ?” She asks the right question but she is not fully committing herself at this stage. This is partial faith.

The third part of the story pertains to the Samaritan villages. To a certain degree, the Samaritan woman fades out of the story. We are not 100% sure whether she does come to full faith. However, she has become a messenger of faith to the villagers.

Almost out of curiosity, the villagers go to Jacob’s Well and spend two days with Jesus. The Scriptures say “They begged him to stay with them”. This is most surprising to the Apostles who now have returned back.

Over these two days they are brought to full and complete faith. We see this acceptance of total faith in what they say to the Samaritan woman. They say “Now we no longer believe because of what you told us; we have heard Him ourselves and we know that He really is the Saviour of the World”.

We know that they have reached full faith because they acknowledge Jesus as the Saviour of the World.

We too are called to move from no faith, to partial faith, and to full faith in this Lenten period. We can never take our faith for granted. Just when we think we have full faith, things happen in our lives and we feel we have lost faith almost completely.

But the Lord always comes after us.

We go to the Lord a little like the people in the first reading today who are thirsty. The expression used in the beginning of the first reading today from Exodus is that they are “Tormented by thirst”. In our own lives too we are tormented by the thirst of not being at one with Christ in all our lives. Through prayer, fasting and almsgiving in this Lenten period we know that our thirst can only be quenched by the Living Water of Jesus Christ. As he offers that Living Water to the Samaritan Woman and the villagers, he offers that same to us today. He always takes the initiative. We are to acknowledge Him as the Saviour of the World and allow ourselves to be converted afresh deep within this Lenten pilgrimage to Easter.

The place where all this happens in the Gospel is Jacob’s Well. In a sense, Jacob’s Well becomes for us Christians, a symbol of the Eucharist. It becomes a symbol of the altar and of the Eucharist. It is where we gather and listen carefully to God’s Living World and give him the living body and blood of Jesus for our journey in life.

All this happens, as mentioned in the second reading, while “we were still hopeless”.

In our hopelessness and in our despair Christ never gives up on us. On the contrary, He comes to us more than ever. Let us have the communal faith and confidence now to come before the Lord here in the Jacob’s Well of the Eucharist. Let us open our hearts totally to Him and be fed by Him in word and sacrament.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn




We have gathered here tonight to celebrate the Sapphire Jubilee and 90th birthday of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. We thank God for her leadership and her steadfastness over so many years.

In the First Collect for today there is a prayer that seems particularly apt when applied to the qualities of Her Majesty.

The Collect gives thanks to God “to our sovereign Queen Elizabeth”, because God has given her “gifts of faith in your promises, and hope for the future and love of her people”. This I think is the first quality of extraordinary leadership that Her Majesty has given us – living out faith, hope and love. In doing this she is living out the Baptism she has been given in service to her people.

Faith, hope and love are described as the three theological virtues. They are given as gifts from God. They dispose us to do the good. For those who live out these theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, God gives them knowledge of their origins, their motives and their objectives.

For such a long period of time, we can see that Her Majesty has used these Baptismal gifts of faith, hope and love in great service. For the virtuous way that she has lived out her Baptismal calling, we thank God. It is expressed in her tremendous continuous service over so many years.

In this evening’s booklet there is a seminal quote from Queen Elizabeth on the occasion of Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, 6 June 1977. She said “When I was 21 I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God’s help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made during my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret or retract a word of it”.

This quote is a great indicator of Her Majesty’s motives and the tremendous service that she has given to us all over these many years as expressions of faith, hope and love to God.

Another quality of her leadership, to my way of thinking, is her example of inspired leadership.

In Catholic social principles regarding leadership, the human community is described as being held in a creative tension between exercising the principle of subsidiarity and the principle of the common good.

The principle of subsidiarity always is focused on respect of the human person as “the principle, subject, object, of every social organisation” (CCC. 1821).

The State is never to be seen as a substitute for initiatives or responsibility of intermediary bodies, especially the family. The respect for the human person would not permit this.

Too much emphasis on this principle of subsidiarity, however, can lead to the fracturing of society. It needs a complementary principle to be held in creative tension. This principle is called the ‘principle of the common good’.

Here all of us ought to promote matters pertaining to the flourishing of society as a whole. The common good ought promote in individuals and groups capacities to reach their full potential (CCC. 1924).

The common good is held together by respect of fundamental human rights, adequate prosperity for all, and the unending task of peacemaking.

In contrast to the principle of subsidiarity, if the principle of the common good is stretched far too much, then it ends up becoming a robotic society. It becomes like a ‘nanny state’. It may be efficient but it becomes ultimately heartless.

Incredibly, over 65 years, I believe quite intuitively, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II has been able to bring these two principles together. It has been a sign of great and inspired leadership.

Her constant visitation of the Commonwealth giving encouragement and helpful insight has really helped our global community to grow in peace over the years.

She has always been gracious and affirming in her speeches and exultations. She has been an example of inspired leadership.

A third quality that comes to my mind on this important anniversary today of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, is that she is a symbol of unity in a very polarised world.

I remember from my pastoral experience, a family who had to face a sudden and unexpected death, the grandmother of the family was the main uniting point in those fragile days.

I was with the family for the days between the death of their loved one and soon after the funeral. In the first days the family was very disunited with one another in expressing their shock and disbelief in separate ways. However all that changed when the grandmother arrived. She didn’t speak a lot, however, her symbolic acts were very important. She always had her arms out to embrace sobbing members of the family. Her big arms held them tight. People felt security in her embrace in the family. The family moved towards the funeral of their loved one in a way that was really a tribute to the grandmother’s maternal instincts and affirmation.

To a certain degree, I find Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for so many has symbolically held the Commonwealth together. With her many gifts she has been able to embrace so many disparate cultures and societies and to assure them that, ultimately, we must remain united as a global village in a very polarised world. Whether this has happened, in reality, others may comment. However, I am referring to her symbolic presence which is so unifying.

When I think of this demonstrated non-verbal symbolic unity, I recall a quote from the American essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882). He said “What you are shouts so loudly I cannot hear what you say”.

We can apply this quote, I believe, quite easily to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. What she has been, and please God, will continue to be in the years ahead is a symbol of unity, an inspired example of international leadership, and a humble Christian woman living out the Baptism that she has been given in her infancy with great radiance and a sense of purpose.

Long may she reign.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7, Romans 5:12-19, Matthew 4:1-11

We welcome particularly today the many catechumens and candidates from the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) coming from parishes around the Archdiocese.

I met with these wonderful people just before Mass. For an hour and a half we were able to meet each other and for me to listen to what has led them to wanting to become a Catholic in these fragile times.

I can see the Holy Spirit among you all and I welcome you to this Mass. May your journey now to the Easter mysteries of our Faith and full Communion with the Catholic Church be a time of great blessing.

For all of us we begin in these days our Lenten journey to Easter.

Today we recall that the approximate 40 days of Lent is a number of great significance in the scriptures. There were 40 years that the people of God wandered in the desert. And Jesus had his 40 day retreat in the desert as well. So in the Bible it seems to be an expression of purification and conversion to the Lord.

In the first reading today from the Book of Genesis we see how Adam and Eve succumb to the temptation of the Devil.

However, in the Gospel, we see the three temptations of Christ which are more like three testings of the desert from the Devil. Whereas Adam and Eve failed …. Jesus was totally faithful to the Father in obedience.

The three temptations come immediately after Matthew’s Gospel from the Lord’s Baptism. In the Baptism we hear God the Father say “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”.

From this line the Devil now tests Jesus in three ways.

He says “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves”. Jesus will not give in to this “bread and circuses” external response. He will trust God deep within His being at all times.

Secondly, the Devil then tempts Jesus by saying “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down”.

Once again Jesus will not be seen as some sort of circus act. It is not to be a performance response. The Lord’s response is always in the total obedience to God. He is listening and trusting to God at all times.

In the third temptation Jesus is tempted by the Devil who says “I will give you all these things, if you fall at my feet and worship me”. This compromised use of power as some sort of political weapon is totally opposite for what the Lord has come to give. Any power that He has is a power for service.

So Jesus is able to defeat the power of the Devil. He is our victorious King! He leads us to victory!

At the end of the second reading today St Paul indicates that we too can be victorious over the Devil by uniting ourselves mind, body and spirit to the Lord’s victories over death and sin in His Death and Resurrection.

In this beautiful reading from St Paul’s letter to the Romans we hear at the end “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous”.

So that which was lost in Adam is now gained in Christ. Jesus is our hope and glory! So we are now looking forward in our Lenten pilgrimage to the Easter mysteries, let us unite with the victorious Christ in all things and allow Him, especially our RCIA candidates and catechumens, to lead us from slavery of sin in to the full freedom of being sons and daughters of God.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn