Homily – August 2019


Readings  Eccl 1:2; 2:21-23  Col 3:1-5, 9-11  Gospel Luke 12: 13-21

 Upon careful reflection of today’s Readings, I remembered an experience I had outside a Church some time ago.

An elderly mother was talking to me with her adult son. The adult son seemed to be very successful in the world. His mobile phone rang. He excused himself and took the phone call standing alongside his limousine.

The mother then said to me, “Please Archbishop pray for my son. His life is out of whack. He is obsessed with making money and spends so much on himself.”

The Readings today try to address the issue of a person’s life, which is “out of whack” (out of harmony, not balanced).

The First Reading today describes greed as vanity. It asks the pivotal question…”What does he gain for all the toil and strain that he has undergone?” A greedy person forgets that this life is not the only life. A greedy person, in fact even if very religious, in practice acts as if this earthly life is the only life. It is akin to “worshiping of a false god.”

In fact, this is precisely what St Paul says in the Second Reading in his letter to the Colossians. St Paul advises, “You must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life…especially greed, which is the same thing as worshipping a false god.”

The Gospel today from St Luke indicates the response of Jesus to a life that is “out of wack”, in other words, a life that is given over to greed and avarice. Jesus uses the parable of a rich landowner whose chief problem is trying to find space for his expanding harvest. Although we rejoice that there is good harvest, the landowner’s time, energy and thoughts are only on securing bigger and bigger barns.

Jesus describes this man, using a very strong word, “Fool…This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?” So the moral of the story is that we are to store up treasure by “making ourselves rich in the sight of God.”

All of us can see ourselves, in one way or another in this topic of the vanity of greed. We need a sure compass point to make certain that our life is never “out of wack” but is in harmony with our true home with God.

The end of the Second Reading gives us this sure compass point that all of us need to emphasise deep within us. It is the beautiful expression, almost a motto for life, which St Paul gives us: “There is only Christ: he is everything and he is in everything.”

With regard to navigating a life that is in balance, I recall the Australian Bishops recent encounter with Pope Francis just a few weeks ago in Rome.

He asked us to live out “four closenesses.” Clearly, this is something to help a Bishop lead a balanced life. He instructed the Bishops to remain close to God, close to our brother Bishops, close to the clergy, and close to our people.

If I apply these “four closenesses” to our general walk with the Lord, something appealing to everybody, I would then meditate on the Pope’s instruction to the Bishops and offer this to everybody as the “four clossenesses” of a balanced life in Christ.

We aught become close to God, especially His son Jesus, through our prayer and our meditation on a daily bases. Secondly, we are to remain close to our families, both spiritual and natural. The natural family is our spouse, our siblings and our wider family. We also belong to the spiritual family of our parish, Archdiocese and our Catholic faith. Thirdly, we are to be close to others, especially those in our work place and neighbourhood.   Fourthly, and finally, we are to remain close to the poor, especially those who struggle and live on the periphery of life. We are particularly reminded of this during these cold winter days were so many, in this fair city of Canberra, remain homeless and ask for our practical charity.

In all of these “clossenesses” we develop what Pope Francis calls a “culture of tenderness.”

So let us allow the Readings of today to really go deep within us, ask for forgiveness for our greed and avarice and move to a culture of tenderness in the Lord.


 Readings  Wis 18:6-9  Heb 11:1-2, 8-19  Gospel Luke 12: 32-40

 Are you ready?!

Not just are you ready for the Homily but also, in the light of today’s Readings, are you ready for the blessings of the Lord in the future?

We are all waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. “Christ has died, Christ has risen…and Christ will come again.” Christ will come again at the second coming. In today’s New Testament Readings, the early Christians thought that this would happen in their own lifetime. 2000 years later, we are still waiting for the second coming. This should not make us lazy or feel that this world is the only world. This was one of the major teachings of last week’s Readings.

Then there is the immediate judgement that will happen when we die. Then we will meet our merciful Saviour face to face. Thirdly, we are to be ready for the Lord to speak to us in the silence of our hearts many times during our life, even on a daily basis. As the Lord whispers in our hearts, it is imperative that we become contemplative people in our very active world, ready to listen and pray and to experience the Lord in the murmurings of our hearts.

We also should be ready therefore to listen. The experience of our ongoing Plenary Council in Australia is to make that distinction between hearing and listening. When the key question is “What is the Lord doing in the Church of Australia? Then the requirement of each one of us is to listen to God murmuring amongst us all.

I think we have really struggled with that so far in the Plenary Council discussions, especially the ones that I have attended personally. There seems to be a readiness to do the listening, which implies a conversion of heart and attitude, at the start. As the meeting goes on it appears that is seems to be more of answering a question not asked, “What would you like God to do in the Church of Australia at the moment?” Let us be attentive to this as we now start to move towards the second round of our listening sessions, which will have a focus on discernment, distinguishing between that which is of God and that which is not of God.

This listening and longing for the Lord is apparent in the biblical examples in today’s First and Second Readings. In the letter to the Hebrews from the New Testament, both Abraham and Sarah are showcased. There longing trust for the Lord’s action in their life becomes a practical definition of what faith is.

The author of the letter to the Hebrews says, “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants, and that he set out without knowing where he was going.” It is the last part of that sentence that is so important. Abraham did not know where he was going but he knew that God had sent him and in time, in God’s own way, he would receive the direction needed. That is real trust. That is real faith.

Similarly, his wife Sarah, despite her infertility, was promised she would conceive a child and an heir for Abraham. Again, there is a wonderful expression of trust, longing and listening to God when the scripture says, “She believed that he who had made the promise would be faithful to it.”

Again, this is a real definition of faith. The First Reading reflects on the faithful trust that the people of God had when it says, “Once they saw what kind of oaths they had put their trust in they would joyfully take courage.” Again, a reflection of longing, trust and faith in the God who walks with us on the journey of life.

This expression “Journey of life” reminds us of the famous expression of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop – “Remember that we are but travellers here.” Let us recall that it was St Mary MacKillop’s Feast Day a few days ago. Last Thursday and again yesterday, I have been attending celebrations of St Mary MacKillop at Bombala and at Eden. We recall that she too, an Australian, was a woman of great trust who put her hope in the Lord as she continued to travel along the journey of life. She was always ready to do whatever God wanted!

At this Mass, we pray for one in our midst who is preparing to place his complete trust in the Lord for the rest of his life. I am referring to Deacon Alexander Osborne who I will, please God, ordain to the Priesthood here in this Cathedral at 6pm on Friday the 30th of August 2019.

It is such a wonderful moment when we see men and women who are prepared, quite contrary to the culture of their times, to completely place their trust in God rather than themselves and set of on the journey of faith into the unknown of God.

I have always been impressed here, in this Archdiocese, how the priests are very trusting in responding to the new chapters of their Priestly life with trust and hope.

As the Archbishop, there are many times when I ask priests to move from one parish to another.

If this was a small Archdiocese geographically, perhaps that would not be so difficult but that is not the case. For instance, it took me three and a half hours traveling time to go from Canberra to Eden yesterday for the St Mary MacKillop celebrations. In a somewhat different direction last Thursday, I drove for two and a half hours to Bombala for similar celebrations.

However, when I have asked priests to move from one part of the Archdiocese to the other, I have always been amazed at their willingness to respond with a hearty “YES” to my invitation. This indicates to me a mature group of Priestly men who are prepared to be ready to do whatever God wants them to do in so many ways, including moving from comfort zones to uncomfortable zones at a moment’s notice.

Let us try, in our daily life, to see that God is always asking us to trust him and be ready to respond, like the biblical figures of today’s Mass and our own Saints, with readiness to do whatever God wants in our life.


Readings  Jer 38: 4-6, 8-10  Heb 12: 1-4  Gospel Luke 12: 49-53

We are all well aware that Christianity promises us profound peace, hope, meaning, purpose and a joy beyond compare. At the same time, Christianity never promises life will continue without any difficulties. Indeed, we are promised the Cross. There will always be challenges and trials as we progressively become closer to Christ and His Church. There is the need of continual conversion and change of heart.

We see this explicitly in today’s Gospel.

Jesus says, “Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Indeed, Jesus used the example of family life. He says there will be divisions of “Father divided against the son, son against the father, mother against daughter, daughter against mother…”

It is an aspect of the Scriptures whose significance we tend to push aside.

For example, the calling of the Apostles by Jesus would surely not have been without difficulties for their respective families. Recall, in the Scriptures that they are faith documents; they are not historical documents in the sense of reporting to us as newspapers do. One could imagine when the Apostles, who are fishermen, go to their families to say that they are following Jesus the response they must have been given. Therefore, we could imagine that when Peter, his brother Andrew and the brothers James and John went to their families to say that the fishing business was to go on without them that this would have caused huge division.

It is not only in families but also in our faith response that decisions for Christ cause divisions.

In the First Reading, we have a good example of this. Jeremiah, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament, is in a bad way. He has become unpopular because he is preaching the call for repentance. The people have apostasized. They are starting to follow other gods. In doing so, they are neglecting the poor and creating division amongst their ranks, especially amongst the soldiers. This was reported to the king who is advised by his chief advisor to dispense with Jeremiah. King Zedekiah shows a great weakness in his personality and faith by simply answering, “He is in your hands as you know, for the king is powerless against you.” That is simply not the case. Then later the king changes his mind altogether once the wind blows in another direction. Jeremiah by this stage is dying at the bottom of a well. The king then takes the advice of another group of people and orders “Take three men with you from here and pull Jeremiah out of the well before he dies.” When we take our eyes of God, refuse to repent and our faith only becomes superficial, then clearly, disunity and division arises.

In Australia today we have similar divisions on the political and legal levels concerning belief and faith. In New South Wales in recent times, you would all be aware of disgraceful Abortion Laws discussed through the State Legislature. In Western Australia, they are talking about Euthanasia. Let us not forget that Euthanasia is enabling Doctors to do what they are sanctioned not to do: take the life of somebody who finds it intolerable, directly or by providing lethal medication. Here also in the Australian Capital Territory along with Victoria there is great political intrusion into one of our Sacraments, the Sacrament of Penance.

All these issues on the legal-political level create division even amongst good Catholics. That is why we need the great wisdom of the Second Reading from the letter to the Hebrews. The letter says, “Let us not lose sight of Jesus, who leads us in our faith and brings it to perfection.”

Particularly now as we move towards the second phase of the Plenary Council of Australia and ask, “What is God doing in our midst?” Let us never lose sight of Jesus who leads us at this very fragile time. Let us, as we move into a time of discernment in Australia through the Plenary Council, discover what is from God and what is not from God. For this, we pray. Amen!


 Readings  Numbers 11:116-12, 14-17, 24-25  1 Cor 13:1-13  Gospel: John 15:9-17

We are all now aware of the seminal question of the first phase of the Plenary Council of Australia: “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?”

Invariably one of the top three or four national responses to this panoramic question comes the answer…“God is asking us to encourage youth participation in the Church.”

Here in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, I believe the Holy Spirit has already anticipated this response from us over these early months of the Plenary Council consultations.

As the Archbishop, I can see the wonderful slow but sure mature growth of the Youth Ministry here in this Archdiocese. I welcome all the youth from this Archdiocese and beyond to the Ordination tonight of our dear brother, Alexander.

I have learnt so much from our emerging Youth Apostolate here in this Archdiocese over the last couple of years. One is the axiom…BELONG, BELIEVE, BECOME. Here are the three “B’s” that the youth have articulated as they invite their youthful brothers and sisters to be missionary disciples in the life of the Catholic Church.

Let us take a little time to meditate on these three “B’s”, BELONG, BELIEVE, BECOME in the light of this ordination liturgy.

The first “B” is for BELONG. My eyes were drawn to the Second Reading today from the First Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 13.

To belong together in the Church is to, fall in love with the God of love, Jesus the source of all love. This passage is often used in marriages and is known as one of the most beautiful definitions of love not only in the Bible but also in the whole of literature. It can be so often sentimentalised and given a very subjective understanding but it is also the bond that makes us truly belong to each other. We belong to the community of love, to the body of love called Christ. We have so much to repent of and to ask the Lord to help us with. If we replace the word love with “we are” then we can see we are on the way but with the Lord’s help we have got a long way to go. It leads us to repentance, conversion and humility.

For example can we say that “we are always patient and kind, we are never jealous; we are not boastful or conceited, we are never rude and we never seek our own advantage. We do not rejoice at wrong doing but we find joy in the truth. We are always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.”

Such a reading of the love that makes us truly belong to each other makes us realise that without the grace of God any purely human response will always fail and be feeble.

Alexander Osborne knows all about the love of belonging to the Church because of his family. His parents are here tonight. We welcome them in a special way. Peter and Sylvia are both Roman Catholics who come from the United Kingdom. Alexander has a brother Adam and a sister Louise. Louise’s husband Josh is here, along with their daughter Penelope. The family migrated to Australia and Alexander spent most of his life in the parish of Charnwood. It is only in recent weeks that the legionary Parish Priest of Charnwood, Fr Neville Drinkwater, has retired. For many years before the Seminary Alexander was one of his altar servers. Alexander was baptised in Liverpool in 1992 and was confirmed in 2005 at Charnwood by Bishop Max Davis.

In all these formative years of his life he has learnt to belong to both the natural family and the spiritual family. The family of blood and the family made of Baptismal water.

We know that this family is of great Christian love because they prepared their son beautifully for this day. They have encouraged him to live out his Catholic life in freedom and to open his life up to the grace of God. We thank the family and the parish for initiating our dear brother into the “B” of BELONG.

The second “B” is for BELIEVE.

To believe truly that we belong to the family of God takes a whole life time and beyond to appreciate. Faith is always a gift of God and can never be taken for granted. The seeds of faith are to grow, mature and progressively take on responsibilities as we have seen Saints and leaders of the Church over the centuries do in living out their Baptism.

It is interesting to note in the First Reading from the Book of Numbers, chapter 11, when Moses complains that the weight of responsibility lies too heavily on his shoulders alone, God immediately shares that responsibility of responding to God’s covenantal love by instructing him to gather seventy elders together in the Tent of Meeting. Then we find that “The Lord came down in the cloud. God spoke to Moses and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders.” Christians look at this passage and see it foreshadows the day of Pentecost.

It is in this beautiful Ordination liturgy to the Priesthood that we continue this calling down of the Holy Spirit upon our brother Alexander to take up further responsibilities now in living out his Baptismal call into the ministerial Priesthood. We do ask that the Holy Spirit will bless us all, everybody in the Church tonight with the abundance of the Spirit that speaks the language of love to a very fearful world. Our prayer today is that the Spirit will fall on any young man here tonight, in a particular way, who might feel the call to become a priest to receive that inner yearning and attraction to the priesthood as a particular gift from tonight’s ceremony.

In regard to opening ourselves to believe in all that the Catholic faith has to offer, I feel that Alexander has responded very well in this area particularly through his seminary years at Good Shepherd Seminary in Sydney. We welcome and thank seminarians and staff in all they have done to enwrap our brother in faith over the year.

I remember once visiting Alexander at the seminary a couple of years ago. Two things were noticeable immediately. First of all he is a very tidy man. The room was immaculately clean and everything was in place. I am not sure if I gave him any advance warning that I was coming to visit him! The second thing I noticed was the prominence given to the academic side of his seminary training. I do recall a computer with a light shining on a desk with some books about. He clearly was writing a theological essay. He has often told me how much he has enjoyed the studies at the seminary and relished in the essays. I have sometimes heard him preach and delighted that he was able to integrate his theological training in being able to produce a Homily that drew people to truly believe in all the Catholic Church proclaims to be truth. Our prayer is that this continues now in the Priesthood he is soon to receive.

The third “B” is for BECOME. It is to become missionary disciples, as Pope Francis would say. We see this underlined in today’s Gospel from John, chapter 15. It is the passage of Jesus in the last supper discourses. Having instructed the twelve Apostles to remain in His love, He then begins to call them friends and reminds them that “You did not choose me, but I chose you, and I commissioned you to go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” This missionary commission to go out and bear fruit that will last is not an added extra. It is intrinsically part of becoming who we are called to be, friends of Jesus, the love of our lives.

Of course we do this in the Church. We are not lone rangers. We don’t do it on our own. Alexander is very much aware that he is becoming a priest at difficult times for the Church, particularly here in Australia for all sorts of reasons, which are better articulated in other places.

Suffice to say, he is hopeful and indeed excited about being a missionary disciple within the Church that he loves so much.

In a recent interview that he gave to our Catholic newspaper, The Catholic Voice, he had this to say, “At about the age of 15, I took to reading. I stole my brother’s copy of the lives of the Saints. I read it four or five times over. I read the entire Bible – one chapter a time in three years. There was something inside of me that was so hungry to learn more. It was around this time I fell in love with the Church. She wasn’t old, grey, cynical, negative and unwelcoming. She was the Bride of Christ, young, beautiful, intriguing and radiant with the reflected glory of God.”

This sort of imagery is almost poetic. It is certainly sincere and comes from a loving heart that loves the Church with all her wrinkles and deficiencies because it is made up of people like you and me, human beings. Alexander is even more aware of the fact that she is resplendent and radiant because the Church is the body of Christ as he describes her as the reflected glory of God.   Thank you dear Alexander, for your youthful hopefulness and missionary zeal. May it be with you throughout your life and in all the challenges that await you in future years.

It is important to say this because we know the lives of all of us, including the priests, do have their moments of Transfiguration on the Mount of Tabor and also their moments in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. We know that we are always accompanied by the Lord and he will never take us anywhere without accompanying us. I am reminded of a wonderful saying of the late Cardinal Archbishop of Milan in Italy, Cardinal Carlo Martini. Reflecting the conclusion of St. John’s Gospel, at a vocation seminar here in Australia many years ago he said to a group of young men thinking of the Priesthood that, “Our vocation is to be taken where we would rather not go.”

This reflects on the passages of the New Testament and the experience of the Apostles on their road to martyrdom. Even if we are taken “to where we would not rather go,” we know that we would never be there unless the Crucified Lord was with us more intimately than we have ever thought or imagined. May this be, again, your gift dear Alexander.

As we move on now to the Rite of Ordination, could I draw your attention finally to a comment made in a beautiful long letter from His Holiness Pope Francis to all the priests of the world on the occasion of the Feast Day of St John Vianney earlier this month on the 4th of August 2019.

He told the priests of the world to remember two particular things about living out the Priesthood.

I quote him directly when he said, “First, our relationship with Jesus. Whenever we turn away from Jesus or neglect our relationship with him, slowly but surely our commitment begins to fade and our lamps lose the oil needed to light up our lives.”

Secondly he spoke about our relationship with our people, particularly in parishes, he said, “Do not withdraw from your people, your priest friends and your communities, much less seek refuge in closed and elitist groups. Ultimately, this stifles and poisons the soul…In our going forth, we walk sometimes in front, sometimes in the middle and sometimes behind: in front, in order to guide the community; in the middle, in order to encourage and support, and at the back in order to keep it united, so that no one lags too far behind.”

So let us pray for all our Clergy. That, in the light of firm instruction given to us by Pope Francis, we may always live in a very dynamic relationship with Jesus, the High Priest and Victim, and also serve our people, the people God sends us to serve, with all our hearts in the many future years of our Priesthood.