Homily – July 2018

Kings 2:42-44, Eph 4:1-6, John 6:1-15

Dear friends in Christ, in today’s Gospel we hear of the marvellous miracle of “The Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish.”  This miracle helps us to understand the great miracle of the Eucharist.

There is an expression, “When we are prepared to do the ridiculous, God is ready to do the miraculous.”  We see this in the First Reading, for instance.

Here we have the great prophet of the Old Testament, Elisha, instructing his servant to give food to the hungry people gathered. 

Immediately his servant says that this suggestion is ridiculous.  The servant says, “How can I serve this to a hundred men?”  He has been given simply twenty barley loaves and fresh grain.

Elisha insists and says “Give it to the people to eat…They will eat and have some left over.”  When the servant was prepared to do something that was quite ridiculous, God did something incredibly miraculous.

“They ate and had some over.”

This foreshadows the great miracle of “The Multiplication of the Loaves and the Fish” in today’s Gospel from Saint John.

Here we find Jesus preaching to thousands of people.

Jesus asks a key question to his Disciples to test their faith.  He says “Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?” 

He receives some “professional advice” from two of his Disciples.

First of all there is the advice from the “accountant of the Apostles”, Phillip. 

He gets financial advice from Phillip basically saying that trying to feed them would be ridiculous.  Philip says “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.”  The next Disciple to give advice is Saint Andrew.  It’s almost as if he has become a sociologist or a man attune to opinion polls.  He says that there is one boy there with five barley loaves and two fish, but that seems to be the only food available.  Saint Andrew concludes with a very depressing forecast which implies that the idea of trying to feed them is ridiculous.  He says “There is a small boy with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?”

Jesus has the deepest of all wisdoms.

He “took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready.”  After all had been fed, the scraps were picked up and “filled twelve hampers.”

I suppose at the beginning of the distribution of the food, the Disciples must have felt that this was a ridiculous idea but they seemed to be prepared to obey Jesus and do something ridiculous.  As a result, Jesus was able to do something miraculous and all were fed.

Here, dear friends, is a key to our walk with the Lord.

In many ways following our Catholic Christian life in Australia today, we too are required to do the ridiculous.

God asks us to protect life from conception to natural death.  Many would think that we are ridiculous in opposing abortion.

God asks us to protect the vulnerable and aged.  A growing number of Australians think that we are ridiculous in not allowing Euthanasia!

God asks us to feed the poor and shelter the homeless.  Many think that practical efforts in this regard are futile and the idea is to just look after ourselves.

When we go “against the tide” and do what God wants even if the world thinks it’s ridiculous, God is ready to work miracles amongst us.

This will not necessarily make us popular or successful in the world.  But popularity and success are never part of the Christian vocabulary.

Being faithful to the Lord and obeying him in all things are our pathways to continuing the great miracles in our own time and day of feeding the hungry and sheltering the poor and healing the sick.  In other words, of continuing the life of Christ in our world today.

Dear people of Narooma, Cobargo and Bermagui, let us see particularly in the Eucharist that this Gospel has even greater repercussions.

It is quite clear in the Gospel today that there are allusions to the Eucharist.

When Jesus “takes, blesses, breaks and gives” in today’s Gospel miracle we find that these exact actions are repeated in every Mass.

Let us see in this Mass today a continuation of the miracle of the loaves and the fish.

Let us truly always believe that what seems ridiculous: believing that bread and wine truly becomes the body and blood of Christ.  It is in fact a miraculous feeding of God’s people in our own time and place.

Let us see in the Eucharist, Gods miraculous way of being with us and feeding us deep within.

Only in the Eucharist is our deepest hunger satisfied.  We are Eucharistic Christians!  Let us be Eucharistic Christians when we leave this Mass as well.  Let us be God’s food for his hungry people of the world all the days of our life.


Jer 23:1-6, Eph 2:13-18, Mark 6:30-34

Continuing our Gospel readings from St Mark, todays readings make it quite clear that Missionary Faith is not given by some form of remote delegation but by our communion with the Risen Christ deep within the heart of the Missionary Church.

The First Reading from Jeremiah seems a very angry reading.  Jeremiah is shouting “Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered.” 

It could obviously be said that some of the shepherds are corrupt and have maliciously mislead God’s flock into evil.  The same could be said even today in certain circumstances.  However, it could also be said perhaps, particularly in the light of recent Gospels from Mark chapter 6 and 7, the shepherds were trying their best but simply couldn’t effect a conversion in the hearts of God’s people.  It was almost as if they were spiritually impotent and powerless.

There is a promise then given in the First Reading from Jeremiah.  The Lord himself will take charge of the matter.  The Lord Prophesises through Jeremiah, “I myself will gather from all the countries where I have dispersed them, and will bring them back to their pastures: they shall be fruitful and increase in numbers.  I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them.”  Clearly, for Christians, the fulfilment of that promise was made in the Life, Death and Resurrection and Pentecost of Jesus our Lord and Saviour.

The Second Reading from St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians seems to summarise it in the heart of the early Christian community.  No longer is there some sort of delegation by God the good shepherd to the shepherds.  This delegation could be seen as some sort of remote God who passively looks at the performance of his shepherds on earth.  Nothing could be further from the truth according to St Paul.  He proclaims the Good News when he says, “In Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ.” 

It seems as if now God’s shepherding is not by some remote delegation but by a communion of profound association with Christ and his people. 

The Gospel of today continues the Gospels of recent months on Faith and the importance of Missionary Faith.  Perhaps a similar understanding could be continued.

The situation now is that the Apostles who have been sent out by Christ have now re-joined him.  They are keen to tell him “all they had done and taught.”  I am most interested that the Lord told them to come away “to a lonely place where they could be by themselves.”  It’s almost as if God wanted to instruct them on their recent experience.  Perhaps he wanted to tell them that it wasn’t so much all that they had done but all that the Spirit of God had done in them and through them.

Let us recall they are still at pre-Pentecost times.

But Jesus, who is always happy to be interrupted in his “routine” of daily life, is persuaded to respond to the large crowd as “he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

I have often thought that perhaps if that “distraction” didn’t take place, what would Jesus say to them in their times of quietness in a lonely place. 

Maybe he would instruct them that the time is coming when he will send his Holy Spirit and they will experience that their missionary endeavours are not something that they do which God looks on remotely and passively.

Missionary activity in the time of the Holy Spirit which we are now in, is a matter of allowing God to use us and to be with us quite directly.  Let us recall what Jesus said at the Ascension when he said “I am with you to the end of time.”  He is in communion with us alive in his Church.

I thought of this quite particularly recently when an adult who I Baptised a Catholic many years ago got back in touch with me after a long absence.  He informed me that his wife was extremely sick and indeed had a very severe cancer.  It was worrying him.  His wife’s condition was concerning him at the deepest level of his being.  One night when he couldn’t sleep, he took his Bible and came across a passage of the scripture which gave him tremendous joy and hope in the midst of his darkness.  He asked if I had ever come across this passage.  I asked him to read it out.  He read out the following “The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want.  Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose…if I should walk in the valley of darkness not evil will I fear…you are there…you give me comfort.” (Psalm 22)

Indeed, he quoted to me the responsorial psalm of today!  I indicated to him that I had in fact come across the passage once or twice before!!  But for him it was as fresh as if it was written yesterday.  He asked me to pray to God to help him.  I mentioned to him that I believe that God was already answering his prayer by drawing him to a closeness with that remarkable psalm – psalm 22. 

All I really had to do was to reassure him that God was already answering his prayer even before he telephoned me.  But I did need to articulate this and to encourage him.

This is what I mean by Missionary Discipleship, by communion in the Holy Spirit.  God is activating the Holy Spirit in our lives even before we ask.  Missionary Disciples are there to see were God is already flourishing and for us to do all we can to encourage that and to give it some words that are comprehensible to our distracted humanity today. 

So dear friends let us now see how God works in us in this Mass.  In a few moments his action will be to transform bread and wine into his own body and blood.  He will feed us with his own resurrected Life.  He is already answering our prayers by giving us the food for the journey of life that we so desperately need. 

So let us be encouraged with Christ’s presence with us and when we leave the Mass today do all we can amongst families, friends and in our work place and society in general to reassure the world that God is with us and that he is inviting us to live life to the full in Him.


Am 7:12-15, Eph 1:3-14, Mark 6:7-13

The liturgy of the Word today continues St Mark’s teachings on faith.  Our faith, given by God as a gift, is to send us out on mission in the world.  But a vital necessity in doing this, is to live out that missionary faith in absolute simplicity and detachment.

In the First Reading from the prophet Amos we see the prefiguring of what will become eventually the Christian missionary.  The first reading is a vigorous and almost hostile discussion between Amaziah the Priest of Bethel and the emerging prophet, Amos.  Amos is given no hospitality and is asked to go back to his homeland.  In quite an arrogant and self-serving statement the Priest of Bethel, Amaziah, says “We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.” 

In a most simple, detached and humble manner Amos responds by saying that he is a reluctant prophet.  He says to Amaziah “I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

Amos was chosen by the initiative of God to be a messenger of Grace.  In so doing he prefigures all of us who say our missionary activity is given through the great grace of Baptism.

In the Second Reading today St Paul to the Ephesians, says that those who follow Christ have been chosen by God “before the world was made.”

St Paul says that God “chose us, chose us in Christ.”  Again, it’s all about the initiative of God, now through the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ and our incorporation into this mystery through Baptism.

The Gospel today gives us an insight into what Jesus means by being a Missionary Disciple, as Pope Francis would phrase it.

There seems to be three points here.

The first one, is that “Jesus summoned the Twelve”.  They weren’t given options, they were not invited, but they were summoned to the Lord who then gave them their missionary mandate.

Secondly, he “began to send them out in pairs.”  We are part of the send out people of God.  We are not the send in people of God.

We go together…in the Gospel today in pairs.

There are no “lone rangers” as missionaries.  We go as Church, and we go as the people of God to be “set off to preach repentance.” 

The third point which I would like to speak a little bit more fully on is that Jesus sends us out a Missionary Disciples in utter simplicity and detachment. 

He makes this abundantly clear in the Gospel of today.  Jesus “instructed them to take nothing for the journey except…”  There was to be no extra clothes, no extra food, no extra luggage and no extra money.  Whether we are invited or not, whether our message is accepted or not, we are to be sent out to be the fragrance of Christ in the world today.  Many times this involves a verbal expression, but perhaps more often than not a wordless testimony of the presence of God in our life style and our manner.

When I was thinking of examples of Missionary Disciples in the Church’s two thousand years of Saints, one very simple Saint came to mind immediately.

The events of this week with the young Thai soccer team trapped in the cave in Thailand over several weeks and their miraculous escape, made me think of the feast of a few days ago, St Benedict, of the 5th Century.

Incredibly the Thai boys began to be released from their cave entrapment on the feast of St Benedict a few days ago!  It is incredible because St Benedict is the patron Saint of people who live in caves (cavers).

Quite briefly, he felt the call of God to remove himself from the complexities and paganism of his time and he escaped to live a life of solitude and simple prayer and austerity in a cave outside Rome at a place called Subiaco.  Like most Saints who live a life of utter simplicity and detachment and holiness, this attracted other people who wanted to join his vision.  Quite reluctantly, Benedict needed to accommodate a new influx of people to live the life that he was leading.  This began the great movement of western monasticism.  St Benedict is the founder of western monasticism.

So many people started to join him that he had to move to a bigger place and eventually he moved to a place not far from Naples called Montecassino.  Even today there is a living Benedictine monastery that survives after his founding of it in the 5th century!

Let us think seriously now about the missionary life that all of us are called to through our Baptism and the living out of a life of simplicity and detachment.  This is easier said than done.  We are great consumers in Australia!  We have three or four or five of everything.  The Gospel today would really challenge us. 

But let us think seriously about how we can lead life simply and not be so cluttered up with so many things that can easily distract us from the vision of Christ leading us on in these difficult times in Australia.


Ezek 2:2-5, 2 Cor 12:7-10, Mark 6:1-6

The readings today at this Mass celebrating the many migrant groups in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, help us to be strong people of Christian faith in a faith weakened culture.

You may recall last week in the readings, Jesus could work great miracles (with the women and the girl) because of strong faith shown either directly or indirectly by others.

Today’s Gospel follows immediately from last week’s Gospel.  There is still the message of the teaching on faith, but there is a different context.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus works very few miracles because his home town culture demonstrated little to no faith.

Jesus himself says in the Gospel that “he could work no miracle there…He was amazed at their lack of faith.”

In the First Reading from the prophet Ezekiel we find that the people of God at this time are in Babylonian exile.  They are depressed and have largely given up on their faith.  Jesus raises a faith filled man from their midst, the prophet Ezekiel.  He tells the prophet to go to the dispirited people of God and to challenge them.  These people have withdrawn from their faith and therefore God calls them “rebels”.  God says that they are “in revolt…defiant and obstinate”.

From their place of exile, the prophet Ezekiel is to go to them and preach the faith strongly to them as if for the first time.  Their response to him is not the important thing here.  The important aspect is that God’s Word is proclaimed “Whether they listen or not.” 

And now we find ourselves in the light of these readings here at the Cathedral during this Multicultural Mass.

So many of you today come from many cultures that are strong in faith.  Many of you have come from Christian minorities.  In your home countries where you were born your faith has been tested.  Many of you have been persecuted because of your faith.  Many of you are refugees coming here into, what you had hoped and longed for, is a Christian culture.

Yet in many respects, Australian Christianity at the moment seems to have been pushed into some sort of “exile”.  This is happening because of vigorous cultural forces in Australian bent on marginalising Christianity to the periphery.

Christian faith has been weakened in Australia in recent decades.  Both statistically and culturally we are under pressure.

Yet into this weakened faith culture, like the readings today, you are called to be brave and courageous Catholic Christians.

As your Archbishop here in this Archdiocese, I welcome you all with my heart!  Be opened to the Love of the Lord!  I ask you to be very courageous, just like Jesus and the prophet Ezekiel in the readings today.  You too might be “amazed at the lack of faith” in Australia but you are not to withdraw or worse still, even become lacking in faith yourselves in the years ahead.  I want you to be able to speak up in defence of the Catholic faith in the opportunities God gives you.

Please do not become passive or silent observers when you feel challenged in your faith.  I call you to act differently from the majority and to be proud of your strong faith in Jesus.  God will help you to live that faith out in your behaviour and with your love of the ones who are embattled and weakened.  I ask you also, to please do all you can to protect married life and family life in Australia.  I think one of the great gifts of migrant Australia is their great belief of marriage and family life, not just in theory but in practice.  Look at you all here in so many family groups!  The Church is so proud of you!  You are the new Catholic evangelisers in the culture so much weakened in its Faith for all sorts of reasons.

So as we go on with the Mass please feel my great encouragement to each one of you as your Bishop.  My hope is that you and your family, your children, and your children’s children will become more and more a part of the culture of Australia and be great defenders of the faith which we all treasure, and in which we are all now nourished by the Eucharist.