Homily – May 2017

SUNDAY 21 MAY 2017
Acts 8:5-8; 14-17, 1 Peter 3:15-18, John 14:15-21

You may recall last week that the Last Supper discourse of Jesus was our Gospel. The emphasis was on the Lord calling us to trust Him in all things.

This week we continue from the Last Supper discourse as Jesus prepares not only His disciples, but all of us, for His departure back into Heaven and His second-coming in the fullness of time.

This week’s Gospel refers to God’s enduring gift to us.

An insight into this enduring gift is seen at the beginning of the Gospel when Jesus says: “I shall ask the Father and He will give you another advocate to be with you forever”. What is this “another advocate”?

Jesus Himself is God’s advocate of love and mercy. But He now talks about another advocate as He prepares to physically leave the Earth. Clearly, it is the coming of the Holy Spirit of Pentecost.

Although it wasn’t until the early centuries of the Church that we formulated the doctrine of the Trinity, this Gospel foreshadows this doctrine in that it refers fully to the love relationship between the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father. The relationship between God the Father and God the Son is the classical definition of the Holy Spirit – the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son.

This love is to be shared by all of us. The Holy Spirit draws us in to this love relationship. It is this love that sends us out as missionaries and evangelisers into the world. It is God’s enduring gift to His Church.

The understanding of the Trinity has not only been long in theological articulation but also can often seem so incomprehensible. It is near to us yet seems so far from our meagre human understanding of the transcendent.

In more recent times, I have come across a beautiful image of the Trinity that was expressed in the recently published Catechism of the Catholic Church from the Ukrainian Catholics of the world.

It refers to a river as an analogy of the Trinity. God the Father is the source of the river.

Many years ago, when I was studying in Italy, a priest friend of mine took me up to his family home in the Italian Alps. One of the tourist highlights of his home is that the source of the Tiber River, so famous throughout Italy and which runs through the city of Rome itself, is found in the area of his village.

It was extraordinary for him to show me and to point out exactly where the water of the Tiber finds its source. It was a tiny bubbling fountain coming up from the bowels of the Earth. Indeed, unless he pointed it out, I would have found it difficult to locate it. It was surrounded with lots of foliage and greenery. But despite its seeming fragility, it is the beginning of one of the most significant rivers in Europe. The fountain of all love is God the Father. It is from God the Father, the source of merciful love, that we exist.

The Catechism describes God the Son, Jesus Christ, as the riverbed of the river.

We often don’t concentrate on the riverbed. But without the riverbed the river would have no direction and no way from its source to its ultimate ending in the ocean. This is Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

And the Catechism describes God the Holy Spirit as the water of the river. Can you imagine a river without water? In Australia we have many of these in our desert outback.

I remember years ago travelling in Central Australia. We came across the ancient Finck river system in Central Australia. Rarely does it fill with water. It is very beautiful but it is surrounded with desert and lack of foliage.

The flowing water gives life and gives expression to both the source and the river beds.

I think this is a lovely image to understand the Trinity. It is the one Trinity but three persons in the Trinity. It is the one river, but there is the source of the river, the riverbanks and the water of the river. The three that make the one river system.

In our Christian heritage we think of the flow of the water, that is the Holy Spirit, as essentially flowing from the sacrament of Baptism.

In recent times many adults and children have been baptised in the Easter waters since Easter Sunday. We all find our birth as Christians by immersing ourselves in this Living Water of the Holy Spirit.

Indeed, a well known definition of prayer is, “floating in the river of God’s love”. As we float in this river and trust in its flow we are sent out into wherever the Spirit wants us to go to be Christ’s growth and spiritual fertility to all the nations.

So in this Easter liturgical time, let us continue to renew our Baptismal promises and let the flow of the Holy Sprit lead us in the challenging times that lie ahead.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



SUNDAY 14 MAY 2017
Acts 6:1-7, 1 Peter 2:4-9, John 14:1-12

In today’s Gospel we listen again to Jesus’ Last Supper discourse from John’s Gospel. He is preparing His disciples for His departure back into Heaven. These Last Supper words would have been clearly recalled after the Resurrection and before the Ascension. The Church, in her wisdom, now asks us too to prepare ourselves for our eventual communion with the Merciful Lord in Heaven. The Lord’s advice to His apostles is also His wisdom for us today.

The Lord’s insistence is clear; “Trust in God still, and trust in Me… Do not let your hearts be troubled!”

I am sure in the gatherings of the early church between the Resurrection and Pentecost, Mary, the Mother of God, would have been there with the disciples doing exactly what she did all her life and repeating what she said at Cana, “Do whatever He tells you”. Mary always says “Whatever my Son says to you, do it!”

So we are to trust the Lord in all things and find our peace in Him, despite the fragility and the difficulties and struggles of our everyday life today.

Indeed, Mary herself has been a great example of faith and trust throughout the centuries. On this weekend we recall the Marian apparitions at Fatima 100 years ago in Portugal just north of Lisbon. Pope Francis has been there these last days. He also is canonising two of the three seers who received these apparitions 100 years ago. Mary’s words to the humble farm children at Fatima were words of conversion to her Son’s demand for trust and faith.

Also, these last days, I have been with the Australian Catholic Bishop’s Conference in North Sydney at the Shrine of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. Again we hear the voice of the woman of Australia – Mary MacKillop who calls us to trust God. Even on her tomb, there it is written for all to see, “Trust in God”.

During our gathering at the Bishop’s conference in Sydney I listened with great interest to a sharing from the Bishop of Darwin, Bishop Eugene Hurley. It seemed to me almost like a little Marian apparition in Australia of recent days.

He shared with us that during Holy Week he celebrated Mass in one of the notorious prisons of Darwin. They are notorious because the vast majority of them, like so many jails throughout Australia, are inhabited largely by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. He celebrated Mass for all those who could gather from both the men and the women’s quadrants of the prison. He celebrated the Mass of Holy Thursday. During the Mass he invited twelve of them to come forward so that he could wash their feet in imitation of the Lord’s act of service and humility.

The Bishop washed their feet. Some of those who came forward were women. The last one that he washed was an Aboriginal woman. After he washed and dried her feet and looked up to her she said to him “Bishop, can I wash your feet?”

Although surprised by a most unusual request, the humble Bishop acquiesced to her merciful kindness. It is always hard to know which is more humbling: to have your feet washed or to wash other people’s feet!

But having heard this story I thought that this is almost like a little Marian apparition. It would not surprise me if Mary came in the guise of a highly marginalised Aboriginal, especially an Aboriginal woman.

And so today we continue to honour the Marian dimension of the Church, particularly in mothers. Today is Mother’s Day.

We pray down upon them the Lord’s blessing and pray for them that Mary the Mother of God and Jesus Himself will bless them in all that they do and say and to thank then for their great generosity, especially as mothers.

Let’s continue our Mass now trusting in the Lord with all our hearts and knowing that the Lord gives us courage to do so by giving us His body and blood in the Eucharist.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn