Homily – July 2019


SUNDAY, 21 JULY 2019

 Readings Gen 18: 1-10  Col 1: 24-28  Gospel Luke 10: 38-42

I wish to make one pastoral reflection from today’s Readings in four different ways.

First, let me make a reflection from the First Reading from the Book of Genesis. Here we have the Lord appearing to three men standing near Abraham at the Oak of Mamre. Abraham offers some typical hospitality. Strangers were always viewed as an opportunity to offer hospitality and even more so from God-fearing people like Abraham and his wife Sarah.

Abraham and Sarah are a God loving couple; however, they carry a big burden. They are infertile.

Such was the hospitality that Abraham and Sarah offered the three strangers, symbols of God in the Trinity, they were promised by the time the three men returned the following year, Sarah would be with child. Given their age and infertility, this seems incredible. When God’s grace is at hand the impossible always becomes the possible. Sure enough as time goes on Sarah becomes pregnant with her son Isaac.

The second point is somewhat similar. It comes from the Gospel of today.

It is the familiar story of Martha and Mary.

We have gone beyond the simplistic understanding of this story. It is not as if Jesus is choosing between Martha and Mary. Clearly, both their attitudes are important but there is a nuance to the situation, which Jesus draws out.

Like Abraham and Sarah, Martha and Mary are God-fearing sisters. However, they too carry a big burden. They are irritable with each other.

Indeed, it is almost as if Jesus walks into a domestic argument. Martha complains to Jesus. She says “Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself? Please tell her to help me.”

Rather than enter into a domestic dispute Jesus takes the broader perspective, lovingly correcting Martha’s tendency to “worry and fret about so many things.” He points out that Martha’s short sightedness is complimented by Mary’s long sightedness. Mary simply is happy to sit “down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.”

In her genuine desire to be hospitable to Jesus, Martha overdoes it. Perhaps half the food, which she is preparing, would be sufficient. This would leave her more time to truly listen to the Lord like her sister Mary. This is the point that Jesus is making. Mary includes listening attentively to the “food” that comes from the mouth of the Lord. In this regard, “Mary has chosen the better part.”

Thirdly, I would like to mention something that came to my attention last week when I was in London with an International Educational Conference. Some of our teachers from the Archdiocese attended and had already begun visiting places of interest in London before I arrived. Some of them were very touched by the experience of visiting Tyburn Abbey. Historically, this is a place of infamy. Hundreds of people were executed here, including over 100 Catholics who later became part of the English Martyrs. They were executed for simply being active Catholics. For many decades now, there has been a convent of nuns occupying this same place. From a place of infamy, it has now become a place of Eucharistic Adoration, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Following the teacher’s visit and on their way out, the religious sister that was hosting them, Sr. Thomasina, said to them: “As you leave please leave your burdens here with us. Do not take your burdens of life with you. Leave them with us. In our prayers we will bring them to the Lord.”

This had a very big effect on the teachers. Problems we will have always however, carrying the burden of those problems needs challenging. The nuns are suggesting, through prayer intercession, that they are more than happy to carry the burdens of their visitors. They place their visitors in a position of trust in the Lord in the midst of the issues of life that surround us.

They too are good God-fearing women. Their invitation is to take the burdens of the world from the shoulders of those heavily laden.

One teacher said to me, “I didn’t realise how burdened I was, until I was relieved of my burdens by these wonderful nuns.

Fourthly, let us now all do the same in this Eucharist.

I suppose all of us could consider ourselves being good God-fearing people. Perhaps that is one reason we are here at Mass. Yet, all of us carry burdens of life. Let us follow the good example of Abraham and Sarah, Martha and Mary, and the nuns of Tyburn Abbey and leave the burdens of our life with the Lord rather than dragging them along on our journey of life together.

In this Eucharist, the Lord takes our burdens and carries them on his Calvary Cross to His Resurrection. Do not forget that the name of this Cathedral is St Christopher’s and the name of the Archbishop preaching to you now is Christopher. Christopher was the one who carried the burden of people as they crossed a dangerous river.

Let us therefore in this place and in this Eucharist relieve ourselves from the burdens of life by placing them at the foot of the Calvary Cross.

My prayer is that you leave this Church today relieved of your burdens although the problems attached to them remain. Nonetheless, you will be given a great gift of trust in the grace of surrender to the Lord. This will give you a joy and a hope that cannot be found in our material world, but a joy that is never to be taken from you.

Let us pause for a moment in silent prayer now as we place our burdens at the foot of the Eucharistic Lord and thank Him as He carries the burdens of life for us as our Lord and Saviour. Let us trust him with all our hearts, Amen.

FRIDAY, 26 JULY 2019

Readings  Book of Exodus 20: 1-17  Gospel Matthew 13: 18-23

 Welcome everybody to this Mass. I am aware that some of you have come from a great distance within the Archdiocese to be here today. Thank you so much for your efforts.

In this Mass, we particularly pray with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander friends. I am drawn to the theme of this year’s NAIDOC week, “VOICE. TREATY. TRUTH. Let’s work together for a shared future.”

I think this is one of the great challenges in Australia – we must work together more fully for a shared future with our First Australians – who have been here for well over 50 or 60 thousand years and for us who have arrived in recent centuries.

Although some progress has been made, we still have a long, long way to go. When I look at the statistics with regard to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander hardship, in particular with health, attendance in Prisons, infant mortality, and so on, we still have a very long way to go.

Therefore, we do need to “work together for a shared future.”

The Gospel today indicates Jesus offering us the image of the sower who throws out the seed of the Gospel in a very generous way.

The seeds of God, which challenge us to work with our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, have been thrown over this new but ancient land for over two hundred years. It is quite clear that a lot of the seeds have fallen on rocky ground, producing nothing. However, other seeds have fallen on fertile ground and have produced a marvellous harvest of generosity, compassion and practical charity.

Let the seeds of God’s love fall upon us in this Mass and may these seeds find fertile soil in our hearts. I do not mean this in some sort of magical or poetic way. I mean it in a very practical way with regard to working towards bridging the gap between what most of us share and what a lot of us do not share in this land of wealth, particularly in our Aboriginal Communities.

It is incredible to think that over two hundred years after European settlement in this land that so many of our First Australians still feel alienated from their land.

I think the Catholic Church has and will continue to make a particular contribution here.

I remember years ago, how I was honoured to be a Priest Chaplain at an Aboriginal retreat. There were perhaps 30 or 40 First Australians and only a couple of non-Aboriginal people. During the week, I started to learn more and more about the genius of this ancient and living culture of our First Australians.

Two areas where I think Christians, and Catholics in particular, can make a great contribution with our First Australians are the following:

First, all of us do share a common spiritual foundation. In my time away with the Aboriginal people and the many times since I have quite easily seen the great spiritual bridge between our various cultures. Aboriginal people are spiritual in their DNA as indeed are we Catholic Christians. There is a mystical and a transcendent reality that we both share. This is a seed falling on fertile ground. It is something in the years ahead that we can build upon and a bridge that can draw us together.

Secondly, there is family life. In both our “cultures”, we find the importance of family life and kinship bonds with clan and family members.

In the First Reading today from the Book of Exodus, we have the Ten Commandments. In a sense, they are like a treaty between God and us. So much of the Ten Commandments are set in an environment of family life, respect for elders and honouring God in our midst as family.

Today in the Catholic Church, we also celebrate the Saints Joachim and Anne. These are the parents of Mary. This means that they are the grandparents of Jesus. Although not mentioned in the Bible, soon after in the early centuries of Christianity their names became articulated and their role in the gift of Mary the mother of God to the Church was honoured. We all have parents and grandparents. We honour them, we thank them and we show respect to them. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have a tremendously deep love of family and particularly parents and grandparents.

This surely is a bridge we can use to draw us together and in coming closer, we can offer something more to the wider society of Australian. The wider Australia today seems to be lacking more and more with regard to the importance of family life. Everybody seems to be an individual separated from each other. This is not good for peace in society. Society comes through the family. Christian and the Aboriginal culture know this.

Therefore, there are two great challenges for us in the times ahead. Let us come closer to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people particularly by developing stronger bridges in areas of spiritual life and family life.

We do not have to wait until we are grown up to do this. We can do it now.

I am particularly encouraged to know that perhaps up to 400 students in our education system are from Aboriginal backgrounds. I hope there will be many more in the years ahead.

I think the present generation of adults still have so far to go with regard to Aboriginal reconciliation. But you, my dear young boys and girls, not only in the future but now can do all you can to create a new culture of tenderness and reconciliation as all of us together, especially in this Mass try to “work together for a shared future.”