Homily – November 2019
PRINCIPAL CELEBRANT: ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR FOR WAGGA WAGGA
CONCELEBRANT: ARCHBISHOP ADOLFO TITO YLLANA
APOSTOLIC NUNCIO TO AUSTRALIA
WEDNESDAY, 6 NOVEMBER 2019
MASS OF THANKSGIVING
CARMELITE MONASTERY OF OUR LADY QUEEN OF PEACE
Readings Isaiah 7:10-14, 8-10 Ephesians 3:14-19 Gospel Luke 2:41-51
On the 31st of May 1966, the Feast of the Visitation, Bishop Henschke lay the foundation stone of the Carmelite Monastery of Our Lady Queen of Peace, Wagga Wagga.
It is therefore entirely appropriate that the Readings today reflect the infancy narratives of our Gospels.
The Gospel today is “The Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple”.
We hear of the anguish of Mary and Joseph in searching for Jesus. Mary says on finding Jesus in the temple amongst the religious leaders, “My child, why have you done this to us? See how worried your father and I have been, looking for you.” After this episode, the “hidden life” of Jesus begins. For the next 30 years, his life and faith are nurtured in the Holy family of Nazareth.
This is foreshadowed in the First Reading from the prophet Isaiah. There is the prophetic foreshadowing of the coming of the Saviour in the prophesy of Isaiah when he states “The Lord himself, therefore, will give you’re a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means, “God-is-with-us”.
In both the foreshadowing of Jesus in the centuries before and the coming of the Lord through Mary, we see that all is grace. All is gift from our loving God. This surely is one of the fundamental charisms of the Carmelite gift to the Church, and expressed particularly in the Saint and Doctor of the Church, St Therese of Lisieux – that is, all is providence from the God who is all-good.
We see this meditated upon in our Responsorial Psalm today. The psalmist speaks on our behalf and proclaims for all eternity our experience of God and our humble response in return. We are to “Taste and see, taste and see, that the Lord the lord is good, the Lord is good!” (Psalm 33)
Returning to the initiative of Bishop Henschke over 50 years ago regarding the Carmelite foundation here at Wagga Wagga, he certainly had a prophetic dream that expressed the goodness and the giftedness of God to us.
We think particularly of Archbishop Frank Carroll today, most surely he would have wanted to be here. We pray for him in his illness and ask for God’s blessing upon him. Providentially, he was able to write a few reflections about the Carmelites some weeks ago and his comments are published in today’s Mass booklet.
In reference to his predecessor Bishop Henschke, Archbishop Frank writes, “One of Bishop Henschke’s dreams had always been to have two communities of contemplatives in his Diocese – one of women and one of men. He had a great faith in their lives of contemplative prayer and looked to them to be a spiritual powerhouse for the local church.
Now almost in the twilight of his life, half of Bishop Henschke’s dream was realised. He was keen to see the nuns in their permanent home, and would soon bless the foundation stone of their Monastery. He did not live to see the completion of the building but left the privilege of blessing the finished work to his successor, Archbishop Carroll.”
This is exactly what happened. The newly ordained Bishop Frank Carroll blessed the Memorial Shrine and Church dedicated to Our Lady Queen of Peace on the 9th of June 1968.
We pray particularly in thanksgiving for the many Carmelite Sisters who have come to this place almost entirely from the motherhouse in Kew, Melbourne. We welcome today Sr. Ellen Marie of Jesus, the Prioress general from Kew and all visiting Carmelite Sisters. Indeed, it had been early 1963 that Bishop Henschke approached the Mother Prioress of the Carmelites at Kew requesting a foundation of Carmelite Contemplatives in his Diocese. He wrote of the need of “a power house of prayer. Each of us has his or her own particular personal worries, sorrows and problems. We would love to be able to pray more about them but have not the time or are perhaps too distressed to do so. This is when we really learn to appreciate the Carmelites – when as is it were, we hand over our problems to them.” (Circular letter written 1966)
In February 1966, an advance group of two or three nuns lived as guests of The Blue Sisters at Calvary Hospital. Initially San Isadore was the chosen site but it was later changed to this part of Lena Flynn’s property, surrounded by farmland.
In early October 1966, when the founding group of nuns was farewelled from Melbourne, the Kew community encouraged them with much love and prayer. Led by their courageous leader, Sr. Bernadette, the small group of four settled into the plains of the Riverina!
For the first 14 months these four nuns lived in a house in Copland St then in Colong Place and they moved into the monastery while the church was being built.Providentially, Bishop Henschke encouraged the Sisters to visit the Diocese before their enclosure. This they did with great joy and much pastoral impact.
The nuns were taken quickly into the hearts of generous, welcoming friends and helpers throughout the Diocese. A network of help quickly spread.
A Mary Horsley called the first Auxiliary meeting in November, a month after their arrival in 1966 drawing in friends from Ganmain, Lockhart and surrounds. Many of their children are now the grandparents present this afternoon.
Quickly gathered a close circle of men, led by Charlie Croker, Greg Knight, Bob Houston and Gordon Saggers who formed the Men’s Committee.
It is hard to underestimate the gratitude the Sisters have in their shared journey of contemplative prayer at this place over the last 50 years without the dedication and friendship of these Committees and friends from throughout the Diocese. The Sisters also worked hard to pay the financial debt by Offset printing, taking orders of every kind. They also made sweets and chocolates. There was the annual fete that started small but ended up quite a logistical exercise. The lamington business took off with immediate success and addiction for 20 years! As sales increased, the monastery was built and the debt diminished. In 1996, Sr. Bernadette said no more fetes and that enough is enough! It appeared that their primary work of prayer was being upstaged by their magnificent lamingtons!
Over these 53 years, the Sisters have, in a joyful spirit of peace and loving intersession filled a deep spiritual need throughout the region. We think of this in our present situation in times of drought. There have been many “droughts” over these years, especially the confusion and concerns as the local Churches started to implement the changes of the Vatican II Council. In all of this, the Sisters have been a home of nurturing intercession and peacefulness.
The apostolate of the Book of Remembrance started in 1970 through which people from all over Australia have been drawn into the network of God’s love and prayerful contact with Carmel.
It is clear, that the Sisters see all that has been as a gift. Let us see their presence with us as a gift from God, which we now at this rather sad moment, give back to God in thanks. Returning to Archbishop Carroll’s written comments, he reflects, “While it is very sad the Sisters are leaving us, we remain grateful for them being the powerhouse of prayer for those more than 50 years and it is fitting that this celebration is a Mass of Thanksgiving.”
Dear Sisters represented here today, especially led by the Mother Prioress from Kew, we thank you and all those who have gone before you especially those who have been members of this wonderful community of Carmel for 53 years. You have been a great gift to us in so many ways. A wonderful gift from God! Therefore, we now pray God’s blessings upon you as you return to Kew. We know that the prayers that you pray here in this place will continue at Kew. We pray over you the prayer of St Paul to the Ephesians in the Second Reading today.
We pray to you that, “Out of his infinite glory, may God give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden selves to grow strong so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God. AMEN.
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2019
CORPUS CHRISTI SOUTH TUGGERANONG
THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
Readings 2 Macc 7:1-2, 9-14 2 Thess 2:16-3:5 Gospel Luke 20:27-38
Over the next few weeks, we are moving towards the end of the Liturgical year. We then begin the Liturgical season of Advent. Christmas is coming!
The Readings over these next few weeks examine what is called “the end times.” We focus on our ultimate destiny in Christ.
All of us live in two dimensions. We live in the finite and the infinite. We live in the earthly and the heavenly. As Mary MacKillop so often said and it is written on her tomb, “We are but travellers here.”
The First Reading today particularly examines our finite existence here on this earth.
It refers to an Israelite tribal group – the Maccabees.
Let us not forget the tribal communitarian aspect of our spiritual ancestry.
We live in an atomised individualistic world. We are inclined to think, this is the way things have always been and the way things will always be. In fact, our biblical heritage, particularly from the Jewish Bible of the Old Testament, indicates that we are radically communitarian.
This is described the First Reading. The King of the time becomes despotic and insists that all people, including the people of Israel, are to obey him even to the point of compromising fundamental tenants of their faith. The Maccabees resist.
They say to the King, “What are you trying to find out from us? We are prepared to die rather than break the Law of our ancestors.”
One by one, the seven sons and mother of this large family are executed. The King and his attendants are determined, but also impressed by the faith of the Maccabees. The Scripture says, “The King and his attendants were astounded at the young man’s courage and his utter indifference to suffering.”
In the Gospel today, the focus is not so much on the political realm and an arrogant King, but on Jesus himself confronted by intellectual elite who are very arrogant in their own particular way.
It is not appropriate at this time to go into the rather complex issues surrounding the discussions of the Gospel. Sufficed to say, that their discussion is about the resurrection after death. We all know in the Life of Jesus, in His Death and Resurrection, the resurrection from death is offered to us through, with and in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus foreshadows in His Life, Death and Resurrection that this life is not the only life, the heavenly life awaits us all.
The point of the Scriptures today is clearly to make sure that we keep in balance the finite and the infinite.
We live in finite lives here. We are not to live our lives as if this is the only life.
Indeed, this beautiful Church here at the Corpus Christi Parish architecturally displays this important balance between the finite and the infinite.
Here we are in the body of the Church as finite people on planet earth. In the courtyard surrounding the Church are the memorial gardens with plaques and remains of many of our loved ones – former parishioners of this Parish. What would they be saying to us? I am sure they would be saying many things, one being that indeed this life is not the only life.
In the Holy Eucharist, the finite and the infinite worlds come together in Jesus Christ. This huge Crucifix planted in the middle of the Church brings the earthly and the heavenly worlds together in the Mass. The Mass, as we Catholics know, is the continuation of Jesus’s sacrifice on the Calvary Cross. Jesus brings us into the infinite. Jesus brings the infinite down onto the earth. The heavenly and the earthly realms come together in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
This is why the Eucharist and all the Sacraments are the very essence of our faith. They give us nourishment for the journey of life as we progress to our heavenly home in Jesus.
A Catholic Parish brings people together in this communitarian spirit alive with the understanding that we are journeying together to our heavenly home with Christ leading us.
Over the last three days, I have been able to meet so many of you. Parish leaders, secretarial staff, Parish priests, school leaders and principals, Parish council and finance council leaders, Youth leaders, RCIA, Liturgy and service groups have all come together over these days to talk with me about where they feel the Holy Spirit is leading us.
Let us all join in with the Church and particularly with the Plenary Council discussions and learn what Jesus is saying to us, not only as individual Parishes but also as the Church of Australia, as we set the pastoral agenda for the generations ahead. I encourage you to participate fully in the Plenary Council of Australia.
I do believe that a new chapter is beginning in this Parish. There have been all sorts of difficulties along the road but there is a sense that a new phase in this wonderful Parish history has begun. The exhibition of all the Parish activities, as we gather in the foyer of the Church following all the Masses over this weekend, is a great idea. We can be part of a Parish without really knowing what is happening in that Parish. We can become attached to our own particular Mass time without realising that we therefore are not meeting the people that go along to the other Masses. Gathering together to see what God is doing is very commendable.
As your Archbishop, I want you to feel very aware of my encouragement and hope for the years ahead in this Parish. I thank you so much for your generosity in time, talent and most of all in your faith.
Let us encourage each other along the way as we now continue with the Mass.
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 17 NOVEMBER 2019
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
THIRTH-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
Readings Mal 3:19-20 2 Thes 3:7-12 Gospel Luke 21:5-19
As we move towards the conclusion of the Liturgical Year, our Readings today again focus on the “end times.”
The “end times” means we are at the time before the First Coming and Second Coming of Jesus.
In the Early Church, it was thought that the Second Coming of Jesus would be any day…certainly within the life span of the early Christians. That was not the case. Many of them, indeed, went to the extent of stopping work and refusing to begin families because it would be largely futile.
It is in this context that we have the Second Reading today from St Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians. This is a very ancient Reading. Indeed, it could well predate the Gospels. Here St Paul makes it clear that they are to continue with their everyday life as they wait for the Lord’s Coming and not become idle or lazy in this waiting. He says, “Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s. In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.”
The Gospel today focuses on how people were very curious to know the “how” and the “when” of the Lord’s Second Coming. They question Jesus explicitly on these matters. Jesus reminds them, not so much of the “how” and “when” but the “that”, there will be a completion of this world as the next world comes to fruition.
Jesus talks about how at this time there will be cataclysmic events, imprisonment and persecution of Christians. He declares “that will be your opportunity to bear witness.” Jesus counsels people, “you are not to prepare your defence, because I myself shall give you and eloquence and a wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict.”
The end of time, as Jesus explicates, will be a time also of great joy as people persevere in the faith. Ultimately, Jesus says, “Your endurance will win you your lives.”
Even now 2,000 years later we are in this “end time” and are waiting for the Lord’s Second Coming.
It reminds us that we do live in the two worlds of the “finite” and the “infinite”, of the earthly and the heavenly. The issue is to find a balance in Christ. To feel that this life is the only life makes us place all our attention and resources in making the best of this life without any thought of a world to come. So many in our fair country tend to live their lives in such a manner.
On the other hand, however, to dismiss this life as irrelevant and focus our attention purely on the life to come is an irresponsible way to live also. We have a responsibility to humanise the world that God has given us, albeit finite, with the values and attitudes of the beatitudes.
Secondly, however, a time of reckoning will occur.
In the First Reading today, the image is of fire, “The day is coming now, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and the evil-doers will be like stubble.” Throughout all this purification there will be The Coming of the Lord and the Lord’s Coming “will shine out the healing in its rays.”
The Church’s Catholic tradition wisely talks about the final things and has presented before us the realities of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell.
The experience of Purgatory is often underestimated but this is foolhardy. It is quite clear when we die we will have an encounter with the Lord’s merciful love. It is almost like a person who is frost bitten and comes from the snow into a warm room with a blazing fire. The person is not in oneness with the atmosphere in the room but is quickly moving there as they defrost and melt into the warmth of this new atmosphere. This is not a bad image of Purgatory. It is a time of purification by the Lord, whilst being in his presence we are aware of our lack of being at one with the Lord’s love and mercy.
Clearly, Hell is the absence of God’s love. It is we who freely choose to opt for Hell by our lives decisions in the present times. As one of the Saints has declared, “it is heaven all the way to Heaven and hell all the way to Hell.” Heaven of course is attaining heavenly happiness in the presence of the Lord. Our ultimate destiny in Christ who is merciful.
In these weeks when we contemplate the “end times” let us think seriously about our own commitment to this world while at the same time realising that this world is not the only world. Our true home is in Heaven and we move in that direction with great hope and trust in the Lord’s mercy.
Indeed, the celebration of the Mass brings together the earthly and the heavenly reality. It is the only moment, along with the other Sacraments, were Heaven and Earth meet. So let us really participate now in the Mass and be fed and nourished by the Lord’s Word and Sacrament.
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY, 24 NOVEMBER 2019
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, KING OF THE UNIVERSE
LAST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
Readings 2 Sam 5:1-3 2 Col 1:12-20 Gospel Luke 23:35-43
In the First Reading today we witness King David at the height of his reign. The Lord said to him, “You are the man who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you shall be the leader of Israel.” As a result, the elders of Israel gathered with King David and he “made a pact with them at Hebron in the presence of the Lord, and they anointed David king of Israel.”
On this feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, you would expect and even greater enthronement and solemnity for crowning Jesus as King Jesus. Indeed, the opposite seems to have taken place.
The Church offers us, on this feast day of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, a Reading from the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary. Here is the “new king David”, King Jesus. He is not anointed in great grandeur by the elders, He is anointed in blood from His wounds, in total abandonment by all except the few at the foot of His Cross, including Mary.
The throne of Jesus is the wooden cross to which He is nailed. His first act as King Jesus is to forgive one of the thieves crucified beside Him. You will recall, Jesus was crucified between two thieves. One wanted Jesus to use His influence to free them to resume their earthly existence. He said, “Save yourself and us as well.” The other thief, often called the “good” thief, rebuked his colleague and asked Jesus the following, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Here the “good” thief does recognise Jesus as a king although nobody else does. Jesus sees this as a sign of his faith in the last moments of his earthly life and as king promises him paradise. The crucified Jesus says, “Indeed, I promise you, today you will be with me in paradise.”
The Church and its Scriptures have always seen the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as the very centre of our faith. However, we must not think this was an instantaneous realisation by all. On the contrary, there was a slow realisation as to why Jesus found it necessary to make Himself king on a Calvary Cross.
We see a sign of this in the presence of Christian art in the early centuries. It was not until the 5th century that the explicit display of the Cross in Christian art was manifest. It was not until the 6th century that crucifixes began to appear. The scandal of King Jesus, in Christian artwork, took at least five hundred years to move from the shame and horror of all that crucifixion meant in the time of Jesus and be viewed as something to be glorified.
Coming to terms with the Crucified Saviour is something that continues to be an enormous challenge in our own lives even today.
In an Australian world full of words pertaining to success, the death of Jesus on the Cross seems to be something contradictory. Our King butchered on the Cross is beyond our comprehension.
Yet it was for this that God sent Jesus into the world. St Paul meditates on this in the most extraordinary Christological Hymn in Philippians Chapter 2. We worship a king who has suffered for the hopeless and the despised of the world. In coming into our pain and into our wounds, He has redeemed them and set us free in His love. This is a costly grace. This “kingship” we celebrate today. We thank and praise Jesus for sharing with us His redeemed wounds through which we come to our salvation.
All this happens because God sent his own Son into the world through the “Yes” of Mary and the incarnation and birth of Jesus.
Next week we commence a new Liturgical Year as we begin the Advent Season. We will meditate for up to four weeks to be able to comprehend, a fresh, the enormous love of God who made himself present to us at Christmas.
This feast of Christ the King is a “hinge” Solemnity. It links the earthly end of Christ’s life on the Calvary Cross with his coming into our lives in the humble wooden stable of Bethlehem. Let us now continue with the Mass and worship King Jesus as we ask Him continually to show us that “in His wounds we are healed.”