Homily – March 2018

Is 50:4-7, Phil 2:6-11, Mark 14:1 – 15:47

Palm Sunday opens the door to Holy Week.  Over this week we do not bring our triumphs and trophies we bring our tears and tragedies so that the Wounded Lord in his Death and Resurrection can bring us all to the fullness of Easter Joy.

If I was to ask you, by way of some sort of quiz question, what is the essential feature of Christianity, what would your answer be?  The correct answer is that the essential feature of Christianity is the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We will be spending a whole week, starting today in this period called Holy Week meditating on the meaning of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus in our time and place. 

I encourage you all, therefore, to enter fully into these days.

Today’s Gospel is from St Mark.  He does appear to spend a longer period of time than the other Gospel narratives of the “Lord’s Passion” on the Lord’s time in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night before he died. 

We all know of the physical sufferings of Jesus in his Crucifixion (“Excruciating” comes from the word Crucifixion).  But in the Garden of Gethsemane an even deeper suffering seems to be taking place.

The word to summarize the suffering is the word “Betrayal”.

Three times the Lord comes back to his sleeping disciples to ask them to wake up and to suffer alongside him in his hour of desperation and betrayal.  Even the footsteps of his betrayer, Judas Iscariot, are moving towards the garden at this time.  But the Apostles are otherwise occupied!  They are tired and dose off to sleep. 

Let us hope in this coming week that we don’t also become indifferent and dose off into some sort of sleep which concentrates selfishly on money and houses and cars and things that do not last.

In this light we particularly think of our dear friends in the Stella Maris Parish at Tathra.

One week ago they suffered an unbelievable destruction of property and the arising of an enormous trauma as a freakish bushfire speedily swept through their united and beautiful coastal town in Tathra.  The whole Nation now is focused on their pain and tragedy.  We pray for them and ask God’s blessing upon them as we work towards practical charity to help them in their need.  Let us focus clearly on their dire need and not on our own.

As Holy Week now starts let us shake of the indifference of our routines of life and focus clearly on our woundedness and placing that woundedness in the Risen Wounds of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.

There is a beautiful expression that is both in the Old Testament and the New Testament which is coined in the following phrase “Through His Wounds We are Healed.”

So let us place our woundedness before the Lord who leads us to beyond Calvary to the empty tomb of the Resurrection.

I encourage you all to be very attentive to the time table for the Holy Week Ceremonies and attend them in great numbers as you are doing right now in this Mass.  Not only that, may you at home and in family and small groups enable this week to be more reflective in the Religious sense than any other week. 

The starting point on being able to enter into this Holy Week is not through focussing on our triumphs and our trophies of life.  The secret of entering into the Risen Wounds of Jesus is to begin by focusing on our tears and our tragedies.  By nailing these onto the Calvary Cross our wounds, through the Grace and Mercy of Jesus, are healed in God’s own time and place.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn





On this day, 19 March 2013, 5 years ago, His Holiness Pope Francis, celebrated his inaugural Mass of his Pontificate at St Peter’s Basilica in Rome on the Solemnity of St Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

On 16th January 2015 in the Philippines, Pope Francis explained why St Joseph was one of his most beloved saints. He said.

“I have a great love for St Joseph because he is a man of silence and strength. On my desk, I have an image of St Joseph sleeping. Even when he is sleeping he is taking care of the Church.”

The Pope encouraged the people to do what he did and leave a note under the image of the Saint seeking his intercession.

God’s will was revealed to St Joseph in his dreams as he slept. In total faithfulness and trust, St Joseph obeyed God’s every desire. Interestingly, we never hear of the direct speech of St Joseph in the Gospel – his silence and strength of faith did all the talking!

There is a profound humility and tenderness that we can see in the personality of Pope Francis through his simple devotion and trust of God in his love of St Joseph.

Some commentators of Pope Francis have written persuasively that the 5-year Pontificate of Pope Francis is best seen as a Papacy of images.

I wish to suggest three such images that point to the gift that the Holy Spirit has given the Church in Pope Francis – the 266th successor of St Peter.

The first image concerns this profound humility and tenderness of Pope Francis.

The image is of Pope Jorge Bergoglio for the first time on the Balcony of St Peter’s on 13 March 2013. He was dressed simply. He called for prayerful silence. He led us all with simple prayers we all know. He bowed down and called for all to pray for him. Clearly, he was beginning to show us in this striking image the nature of true Christian leadership – it is a service in humility.

His choice of the name ‘FRANCIS’ cemented this silent and strong image. In explaining his choice of name he said in those days St Francis of Assisi was:-

“…. The man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation, the same created world with which we don’t have such a good relationship.”

He added:

“How I would love a church that is poor and for the poor.”

This image rests well with his subsequent pastoral teachings that the Church is to accompany people on the journey to the Father’s house with loving discernment and integrate weakness with the logic of the pastoral mercy of our tender God. (Amoris Laetitia, 291-312, 2016)

Another key image is of Pope Francis embracing a severely disfigured (boils) and suffering man at St Peter’s Square during one of the Wednesday general audiences (6 Nov. 2013). Pope Francis paused for several minutes to receive and embrace the sick man.

Pope Francis encounters Jesus in the “periphery people”.

No doubt every Pope builds on the pastoral legacy of his predecessors and expands upon the meditations of particular insights. A very significant emphasis of both Pope St John Paul II and Benedict XVI concerned the centrality in Christianity of our living encounter with Jesus. This is the central point of all evangelisation. It’s expressed beautifully by Pope Benedict in Deus Caritas Est (25 Dec. 2005):

“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, who gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.” (N. 1)

Pope Francis builds on this beautiful central point of our precious faith but clearly locates this saving encounter most especially with those on the periphery of life.

Famously he said:

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and clinging to its own security.”

Therefore, this encounter of love with Jesus in the poor produces a Church of healing that is a “field hospital after battle” (Homily, Feb. 2015) and priests who “are to take on the smell of the sheep”. (March 2013, Chrism Mass Homily)

This encounter of Jesus gives birth to a joyful Church, even in the midst of great suffering. Pope Francis summarises:

“Never give away to discouragement! Ours is not a joy born of having many possessions, but of having encountered a person: Jesus in our midst.”

A third and final image of the Pontificate of Pope Francis up until now that touches me is perhaps not so well known – but it summarises in one image an important gift of the Pope to us. It is the Pope planting an olive tree in the Vatican gardens on 10 June 2014. He was joined by the former Israeli President Shimon Peres, and the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, together with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

Firstly, it demonstrates the extraordinary peace-making gifts our Pope generates – especially in his frequent overseas pilgrimages. But also the charity that plants seeds of peace, hope and joy in desert places.

More so, it also indicates how he shows incredible leadership of friendship and tenderness in regard to ecumenical and interreligious relations.

In this joint planting of an olive tree, he is bringing together in one peaceful image Jews, Muslims and Christians – the Abrahamic faiths.

In regard to Christians, Pope Francis is conspicuous in building growing healthy relations with our Eastern Church Christians – building on the foundations of his predecessors. We long for the two lungs of Christianity – The East and West, to breathe again in one united Body of Christ.

Even within Western Christianity, one particularly overlooked contribution that Pope Francis is presently involved in is the fostering of ecumenical unity, especially among Roman Catholics and Evangelical Christianity. In recent years, more than one Pentecostal Minister in Australia has asked me how he can personally meet Pope Francis on a pilgrimage to Rome – that is amazing given our fractious history!

Believers of all kinds can see in Pope Francis a humble pilgrim more than happy to welcome others in practical charity and accompaniment towards the Father’s house. They instinctively experience him as a man of the Holy Spirit, a strong but gentle man of God – just like St Joseph.

Finally, in this image of tree planting, we are reminded of Pope Francis’ great contribution in advancing Catholic teaching on environmental ethics. I hope that the important links he makes between both “human ecology” and “natural ecology” will help produce a mature “integral ecology” in the years ahead.

Let us pray for His Holiness Pope Francis, on this his fifth anniversary of the beginning of his Papal service among us. I am sure he would really appreciate our prayer for him on this day.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Chr 36:14-16. 19-23, Eph 2:4-10, John 3:14-21

Lent helps us to return to the fundamental Christian basics – In the readings today we are presented with at least three or these basic tenets. 

The first concerns the one RAISED UP by God. 

In the readings today there is a discernible ascending motion.  In the First Reading there are plans to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem after the Babylonian exile.  Through the prophet Jeremiah the King of Persia is tasked to build “a Temple in Jerusalem, in Judah.  Whoever there is among you of all his people, may his God be with him!…Let him go up.”

This ascending motion of “let him go up” to Jerusalem is very significant in the Gospels as Jesus moves resolutely towards his Death and Resurrection.

In the Gospel today Jesus says to Nicodemus that “The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert.”

This lifting up of the Son of Man, like Moses in the desert with the serpent around the pole which he lifts, is an important Biblical theme.

God is never to be dismissed to the periphery.  We might find Jesus in the periphery with marginalised people as his favourites, but that does not mean that Jesus himself as the centre of our lives, is to be found in our lives in a periphery manner.  He is to be found in our hearts.

But who is the one who is raised up by God?

Jesus is not a military or political leader.  Nor is he a miracle worker amongst others.  No.  The one to be raised up by God is the “Suffering Servant”, Jesus Crucified on the Calvary Cross.  It is Jesus who out of great love for us shows his mercy by suffering with us and forgiving our sins through his Grace.  This is particularly mentioned in the Second Reading today from St Paul, who declares the primary Christian tenet, that “It is through grace that you have been saved – and raised up with him and given a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus.”

It is the “Wounded Suffering Messiah of God” who is the one to lead us. 

The second point to recall as a basic Christian tenet is that we are to be raised up with the “Wounded Jesus” in our own woundedness.

Again, in the Second Reading, St Paul in Ephesians says that through Grace, we who have been dead in our sins have now been raised up in Christ Crucified.  “We have been raised up with him.”  Again, it is the raising up of Jesus in our midst as our wounded Healer and Saviour.

This word “with” is important.  In the woundedness of our humanity we seek union WITH the wounds of Christ.  It is from the wounds of Christ that we find healing and redemption.

So let us give Jesus our shattered dreams and our sins and weaknesses.  Let us come to the Lord not with our trophies and our triumphs but with our tears and our tragedies…our sins. 

This is something that a success orientated Australia, where everything must be “perfect”, would struggle with.  It is the very opposite to what our culture so often projects. 

It provokes this Lenten question on our pilgrimage to Easter: Where do I need saving by our “Wounded Saviour”?

Third and finally the Christian tenet emphasised in today’s reading is that there is healing in Christ Crucified. 

The image in the Gospel today of Jesus reprising the image of Moses who “lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

So Jesus too must be “lifted up.”

There is healing and then redemption in our union with Jesus.  As mentioned so often in the scriptures: “By His wounds we are healed.”

There is a lovely English hymn that was written in the 17th century by Samuel Crossman.

It summarises this important aspect of our Christian life in just one sentence…”love to the loveless shown, that they might lovely be.”

So in this Lenten Mass, as we continue with our Eucharist, let us lift Jesus up and lift our own woundedness up into his wounds.

In the Eucharistic Prayer today I will spend a little extra time in silence with you “raising up” in the elevation the body of Christ and then in the Chalice the blood of Christ.  Let us all turn our heads to Jesus lifted up in the midst of the Eucharistic assembly, knowing that all Healing, Love and Salvation come from him alone.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn



Exodus 20:1-17, 1 Corinthians 1:22-25, John 2:13-25

Midway in Lent on our pilgrimage to Easter, the scriptures today offer us two doors that we can enter into a deeper conversion with our merciful Saviour, Jesus.

The first doorway comes with the beautiful aside at the end of the Gospel of today.

The cleansing of the temple is full of drama and the Lord wanting to make clear the demarcation point between the Old Testament and the New Testament. However, there is a beautiful aside at the end of this Gospel.

We learn from the Gospel that, “Jesus knew them all and did not trust Himself to them; He never needed evidence about any man; He could tell what a man had in him”. Jesus knows us already intimately, more intimately than we know ourselves. We can’t play games before Jesus. Particularly in Lent, through prayer, almsgiving and fasting, we come to the true honesty of who we are before our Merciful God. This can be very painful.

Towards the end of the Gospel of last Sunday, the Transfiguration, we learned of the two beautiful words that were ultimately that which remained after the Transfiguration… “Only Jesus”. In the deepest level of each one of us, we are before “only Jesus” and we cannot remove our deceptions and our sins without placing them before His merciful judgement.

This is similar to what is happening now in today’s Gospel. In the temple, things were going according to their normal behaviour, but it was all out of proportion. The changing of the money and the availability of animals and birds for offerings became the prime object of people’s attendance. The real purpose of the temple, to give glory and praise to God and seek His saving help, was eclipsed in the commercialisation of the temple. Jesus shows us a new way.

Jesus always shows us a new way. He knows what is in us. He doesn’t need any other evidence from anybody else. We are naked before His love and mercy and compassion.

The second doorway into today’s readings is found in the second reading from St Paul to the Corinthians.

It clarifies precisely who God is who knows us so intimately. He is the Crucified Christ. St Paul makes it quite clear for this reading that, “Here we are preaching a Crucified Christ… A Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God”.

Over this weekend there are so many of our youth and youth leaders who are gathering for a conference.

Very popular words with young people are the following, “awesome”, “perfect” and “amazing”.

These seem to be mantra words from the lips of so many of our wonderful young people.

Certainly these words are important when we think of the Resurrection and Pentecost and our life in Christ.

But they are not “Crucified Christ” words in reality.

We can never bypass Good Friday on the way to Easter or Pentecost. Golgotha is not an option on our pilgrimage. And Golgotha is a very painful place for all of us to be. The Calvary of Jesus in His persecution, excruciating suffering, betrayal, and being nailed to a cross is our Christian Glory! This might be a source of scandal to many people as it was at the time of St Paul, but it is our saving triumph.

Jesus takes upon Himself all our sufferings and all our difficulties and sinfulness and pain and nails them to His cross.

So as we continue on this midway mark on the way to Easter, let us not forget that it is the Crucified Christ that leads us. Let us not just offer Jesus our trophies and triumphs, let us offer Him even more so our disasters and defeats.

In true repentance and conversion, our merciful and forgiving God will come to us and transform the darkness of the night into the dawn that will never set. We call this Easter.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn