Homily – April 2018

Acts 4:8-12, 1 John 3:1-2, John 10:11-18

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday throughout the world.  On this day we pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.  Let us keep this intention firmly in our minds in this Mass.

As this Good Shepherd Sunday, we learn what Christian leadership really means. 

In the first reading today we see how St Peter moves from being a sheep to become a shepherd.

Having repented and been forgiven, his road to conversion is now filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and he begins a life of missionary discipleship in faith.

We see an episode of this missionary discipleship in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

Peter has healed a man born as a cripple.  The leaders gather and ask him directly, by what name and in whose power he has done this. 

St Peter is given “a free kick” in regard to preaching the Good News to the people of this time.

He says directly “If you are questioning us today about an act of kindness to a cripple, and asking us how he was healed, then I’m glad to tell you all ………..  it is by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene. 

Being asked a direct question Peter can give a direct answer. 

This is an example of direct evangelisation.  When people ask us at home, in our workplace or in our neighbourhood why we are religious, or why we don’t participate certain conversations or actions that others do, we too are given “a free kick,” to give testimony to the Lord’s death and resurrection.

It is important to note, however, that we must wait for the question to be asked before we give the answer.  Giving the answer before the question is often seen by people as a religious imposition on their freedom.  It really can become a form of proselytism.  Rather than attract people to Christ it can actually repel them.

For most of us, in fact, it is a matter of indirect evangelisation. Without using our words, we use our actions and speak of the fragrance of Christ who perfumes the world with His resurrection.  I’m reminded of the famous words of St Francis of Assisi, “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words!”

In the Gospel today, Jesus offers us a wonderful example of what a true shepherd really means.  Jesus makes the distinction between a good shepherd and a shepherd who is less than satisfactory.

The main distinction is that Jesus says the Good Shepherd, “is the one who lays down his life for his sheep.”  The Good Shepherd is the one who gives total commitment to his sheep regardless of the cost.

Australians would struggle with this ancient image of shepherd and sheep.  In Australia when we think of sheep we think of thousands of sheep on a farm, or even more recently in the newspapers where thousands of sheep were crammed together in a ship on the way to meat processing factories in the Middle East. 

However, in the time of Jesus, a shepherd had only a few sheep.  They were a bit like what we have today with our pets.  We have a name for our pets.  We know them and our pets generally know us and are drawn towards us.

So the Good Shepherd knows his sheep by name and they know him.  It’s a two way street. 

The Good Shepherd leadership involves all of us baptised.

We can think of a mother, father, teacher, brothers or sisters to know their own as they know them.

On this day we pray for the Shepherd image as applied to priests and religious in religious orders. We pray that we have an increase in vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

In regard to the priesthood here in the Archdiocese of Canberra, and Goulburn let us pray for a generous increase in numbers.

Please God, as the year progresses I hope to ordain two young men for the priesthood.  Last year I ordained Fr Joshua Scott for the priesthood here in this cathedral.  It’s a time of immense joy.  To hear their stories.  Why they became a priest is certainly an entry into the amazing grace of God’s call in a vocation.

We should be open to a vocation happening in our own family.  Perhaps there are young men here in this Cathedral this morning, for example, who may wish to think seriously about whether God is calling them to the priesthood.

At the moment I have seven seminarians training to be priests.  I would like another seven or another ten!

So let us respond in two ways.

First, let us pray for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, especially in this Archdiocese.

Secondly, as a practical gesture of solidarity and support, I’ve asked all parishes of the Archdiocese this weekend to take up a special collection to assist with the funding of a seminarian as he progresses through the seminary.

Generally, the cost per seminarian for his training, accommodation and care in Sydney is $35,000 to $40,000.  This is an enormous financial impost on the Archdiocese.  I think its something all of us can share together on this Good Shepherd Sunday.  Here are your future priests being prepared, and here is a practical example of how we can support them, not only with our prayers, but our financial resources.

Thank you for seriously considering this matter and please find on the seats throughout the Cathedral envelopes which will instruct you on how you can make a practical response.


Act 10:34. 37-43, Col 3:1-4, John 20:1-9

Many things could be said about Easter but I think this one expression summarises so much of what Easter really is: When we place our vulnerable wounds into the Saving Wounds of Jesus the door to Easter Joy and Hope opens up. 

Let us first consider the wounds of the Risen Lord.  When Jesus was most vulnerable on the Calvary Cross, God was able to raise him up on high on the first Easter morning.

This is mentioned in the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles where Peter addresses Cornelius and his household he speaks of Jesus and how “They killed him by hanging him on a tree” yet, and this is the essential Easter message, “afterwards God raised him to life.” 

The Resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the absolute essence of Easter.  It makes this day a day of Praise and Alleluia and Joy.

It’s interesting to note that Jesus is always depicted in the art and poetry after his resurrection as still having the wounds from Calvary.   But now they are Redeemed wounds, now they are Healed wounds. 

In his Resurrection and Risen Wounds Jesus always seems to being saying three things to those that he appears to…”Be not afraid!…I am with you always!…go!” Jesus always sends us out on mission.  As St Peter refers to it in The Acts of the Apostles “We are those witnesses” and “Jesus has ordered us to proclaim this to his people and tell them that God has appointed him to judge everyone alive or dead.”

Secondly, it’s also most interesting to note that it was when the first disciples were most vulnerable that the Church was born in Joy.  Easter brings transformation of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church. 

Peter is still “Peter” after the resurrection.  But he is on the way to conversion and places his entire trust in the Lord.  This is unlike Judas who despaired and felt there was no hope for him after his betrayals of the Lord.

In this Year of Youth, we ought to particularly focus on St John the youngest of the Apostles.  The Easter morning message of Joy fills his heart.  When he comes despondent to the empty tomb, the scripture says, “He saw and he believed.”  Young people can lead all of us in so many ways in the faith.  Their energy, their spontaneity and their thirst for the transcendent can never be dismissed or suppressed.

The third personality in today’s Easter Gospel is St Mary Magdalen.  Her wound is deep and she expresses it this way “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we don’t know where they have put him.”  But she is saying this to the Risen Lord who at this particular moment she doesn’t even recognise.  She is a wounded person who then becomes filled with the Redeemed Wounds of the Lord and then is sent out on a life of a missionary disciple.

Now, thirdly, in 2018 we too feel a great vulnerability in the Church of today.

But Easter means that we never despair or give up.  We will never allow the Religious instinct in Australians to be dismissed to the periphery of Australian life no matter how strong the cultural forces are to persuade us to do so these days.

We begin where we are most vulnerable and enter into the Risen Wounds of the Lord through Grace.  We open ourselves up to Easter Joy and Hope in the Grace of the Lord.

Yesterday I was able to visit the embattled township of Tathra, which has just endured a terrible fire storm that has destroyed so many of their homes.  Thanks be to God, nobody was injured. 

I was talking to a lady who told me that one of her Priest friends telephoned her the day after the fire.  She said to him “My property is ok, it didn’t burn down.”  He replied to her immediately “I don’t care about your property, but are you alright?” she said “Yes I’m alive.”

It was the first time since this tragedy that she realised she could have been killed but in fact she was alive and that this was the greatest gift.

To be alive in the world today, despite all its frustrations and difficulties, is a great blessing.  We rise with the Lord.  We allow the Easter Jesus to Easter in us!  We are forever an Easter people because Christ is in us.  So let us go into our future with great courage and joy knowing that the Risen Lord is with us until the end of time! 



Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9, John 18:1-19:42

There are many levels to absorb this great gift of Good Friday as we all gather together under the Calvary Cross.  I wish to choose only three.

The first level, is the level of the “Historical”.

The Suffering and Death of Jesus Christ on Good Friday is not a matter of legend or fable.  It is an historical event. 

In non-Christian sources, both Greek and Roman, these ancient historians do mention that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified when Pontius Pilate was governor of what we now call Jerusalem and its surrounding areas.

We also know through these historical sources where this took place.  It took place outside the walled city of Jerusalem on a small hill which was a rubbish tip and was called Golgotha.

So on the level of the historical, even coming from non-Christian sources, we are dealing with an event anchored in history.  But of course, for us Christians it’s anchored in history but its trans-history.

The second level to understand Good Friday is the “Theological” level.  There is a passage at the end of today’s long Gospel from John about the “Passion of the Lord” that has caught my eye. 

At the end of this Gospel that we have just heard proclaimed we hear the following …”since it was the Jewish day of preparation and the tomb was near at hand, they lay Jesus there.”

We have here an insight from John’s Gospel that Jesus died on the Jewish day of preparation. 

What happens on the Jewish day of preparation?  Well is was the day of preparation before the Passover.  As Jesus was crucified on Golgotha on the other side of Jerusalem the Passover lambs were being prepared for slaughter and sacrifice in the temple during this festive time.

This has deep theological implications.  Just as the Passover lambs were being prepared for slaughter we have “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”, as described by John the Baptist, being slaughtered in the eternal sacrifice of Calvary.

So Jesus becomes for all of us and for all time the Lamb of God who emptied himself even to the point of death to take away our sins and to bring the Loving Mercy of God into our life.  The Lamb of God is our salvation and our redemption.  This is an unrepeatable event.  Were as the Passover lambs need to be prepared every year, this is a once and for all sacrifice of Jesus the Son of God for all eternity.  Although certainly anchored in history but in every Mass that we celebrate this historical event is “re-presented”.  Recall what the Priest says during the time before Communion when he holds the Body and Blood of Christ in his hands and says “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, happy are we who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.”

A third and final level for our consideration today is the “Profoundly Personal” level of Christ’s Suffering and Death for us.  It is on this day that we place the wounds of humanity into the Saving Wounds of the Saviour from where all healing comes.  As so often repeated in both the Old Testament and the New Testament “It is through His Wounds that we are healed.” 

So especially in this year of 2018 we think of the wounds of suffering of our dear people of Tathra in the days after these destructive bush fires have gone through this close community in one of our Parishes in the Archdiocese.  We do think of the wounds of marriage and family life in Australia today and the tremendous interpersonal relationship crises that are happening in our own midst.  We too think of the wounds of homelessness and the wounds of mental illness so deeply engrained in our ancient and fair country of Australia.  We think too of the wounds of our youth in the Year of Youth.

But placing the wounds of humanity into the Saving Wounds of Jesus there is hope, there is healing, there is even joy.

As we continue now this Good Friday commemoration may we have the courage, like St Thomas, to say to Jesus who places his Risen Wounds in our direction “My Lord and My God…I believe help my unbelief.”