Homily – September 2019


Readings: Sirach 13:17-20, 28-29 Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24m Luke 14:1, 7-14

We have just had the Gospel reading from Luke. If I did not mention to you that it was from Luke’s Gospel before I proclaimed it, you might be able to detect it was Luke because two of his major biblical themes are showcased in this short Gospel passage.

The first major theme from Luke is hospitality. It’s a special type of table hospitality. In Luke’s Gospel, there is always banquets and there’s always invitations to and for people to come to banquets. But the invitations to these banquets and the placement of people at these banquets is of great interest to Jesus.

It is mentioned in the Gospel that Jesus told them a particular banquet parable “because He had noticed how they picked the places of honour.” The parable He tells is about taking the lowly place in case you are very much embarrassed by being asked to go from a higher place to a lower place when a person more important than you arrives.

Jesus clearly wants our hospitality not to because of pride or arrogance but, as with our life in general, we should approach our life with great humility.

We learn of this from the book Sirach in the first reading today. The author says, “Be gentle in carrying out your business … behave humbly … accept the homage of the humble.”

Some scripture scholars use the expression “disinterested hospitality”. This is a strange term in English but it clearly means selfless hospitality, a hospitality without “hooks” attached.

In a second Lukan theme, Jesus is often seen in this Gospel in reversing society’s expectations and societal order. We see this in the second part of the Gospel.

In continuing to use the image of the banquet, when dinner invitations are sent out we are not just to invite friends and relatives who might be able to help practically in other business concerns of our lives, but we are to invite those on the periphery of life. Jesus says, “When you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame. That they cannot pay you back means that you are fortunate, because re-payment will be made to you when the virtuous rise again.”

All of these thoughts are summarised in the important biblical axiom … “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled and the man who humbles himself will be exalted.”

I thought of this Gospel in recent days when we’ve had two major liturgical gatherings in this Cathedral.

On Thursday night we celebrated a wonderful Mass for those involved in Catholic education in the Archdiocese, particularly those who have shown talent in the way they have offered service in this area of evangelisation.

But the point I want to make is that afterwards we invited everybody to come to the hall for a reception. We could have asked just those who had won awards and their families. But no, we invited everybody. And we had a good time!

The next day, Friday night, we had the priestly Ordination of Fr Alexander Osborne. Again his family, originally from England, were there in big force after the Ordination which was truly a most prayerful and hope-giving liturgy. We invited everybody into the hall. I thought we would have logistical problems in doing so because there was a large crowd. I suppose we could have just invited Fr Osborne and his family, but we did not. We all fitted into the hall and had another great time. There seemed to be just enough food for everybody.

I ask you to offer special hospitality in your minds and hearts and hands to two causes that present themselves today.

We all know it is the first day of spring and it is Fathers’ Day. We will have a special blessing for all fathers in the Church and we greet them during this Mass right now with great love and tenderness. It is also our Fathers’ Day Appeal for the 30 retired priests of this Archdiocese. As you would know, priests don’t have superannuation and when they retire their retirement arrangements from a financial point of view stem from the generosity you offer every year to this Fathers’ Day Appeal.

Just in recent weeks, Fr Neville Drinkwater retired. For over 40 years he was the foundation and only parish priest of the St Thomas Aquinas parish at Charnwood. He is much loved. But he has transferred now into retirement and making all sorts of arrangements there that are all financed by this fund that we are giving to generously today. So you will notice around the pews special envelopes which you might want to place some money in or write down your credit card details. On the way out, Chris Koelmeyer, who manages our priestly retirement and does a wonderful job in doing that, will be able to talk to you and invite you to ‘tap and go’ on a machine he carries.

Thank you so much for your typical generosity.

On the other end of the life spectrum, it is the beginning today of Child Protection Week. We all know that children thrive when their parents are supported. We give particular focus to that today.

We are joined in this Mass today by three of my leaders who oversee thousands of young people in different ways and are here to assure you, along with me, that in this Archdiocese child protection is the highest priority. So I welcome Ross Fox, the Director of Catholic Education for the Archdiocese, Anne Kirwan, the manager of Catholic Care, who along with Marymead offer young children and their families support in their difficulties. I also welcome Maria Hicks, the manager of my Institute of Professional Standards and Safeguarding (IPSS). These wonderful leaders oversee the important work of making sure that this diocese has the high standards of child protection. I thank them for their important work in the way they nourish and nurture the families of our children.

So now let us continue with our Mass knowing that this hospitality that the Lord calls us to is shown again to us now when the body and blood of Christ is given in the great sacrament of the Eucharist.



 Readings: Amos 6:1, 4-7  First letter of St Paul to Timothy  1 Tim 6:11-16  Gospel Luke 16:19-31

In today’s Gospel we have the parable of contrasting a rich man who was poor and a poor man who was rich.

The Gospel from Luke describes the rich man “who used to dress in purple and fine linen and feast magnificently every day”.

The poor man, given the name Lazarus, was in contrast described as “covered with sores, who longed to fill himself with the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even came and licked his sores”.

The scene quickly changes once both die. On the other side of death their fortunes are reversed.

The rich man finds himself “in torment in Hades”. Whilst Lazarus found himself with Abraham and “in his bosom”.

Both men were clearly good people. Even the rich man is described by Abraham as “my son”. But the rich man was poor in the sense he was blind to the suffering that surrounded him in his life. He did not listen. He was completely indifferent and insensitive to the poor man at his gate. It wasn’t as if he did anything deliberately wrong to the poor man, he just didn’t focus that there was some moral imperative to do something about this poor man.

Whereas the poor man on earth became rich in heaven because he was seen as honest, truthful and humble. He was rich in the sight of God.

Let us always recall that if justice does not appear to be done in this life, it will take place in the fullness of time. This is alluded to in the second reading which talks about the end of time being “the appearing of our Lord, Jesus Christ”. There will be a restoring of the balance which is at the essence of a Christian understanding of justice.

Let us keep this in mind. Doing nothing for those who are on the periphery of life and being indifferent to them is something that we should learn immediately from the mistakes of the Gospel’s rich man in his life.

Secondly, I’d like to make a brief appreciation of this Gospel to our special focus in today’s Mass.

I’d like to particularly welcome so many of our wonderful Catholic community who come from a refugee or migrant background. You’re here today in great numbers and very colourfully carry your national costumes and evidence of your place of origin.

Some years ago I was at a Catholic school and the leadership said to me that they had “broken the ton!” This meant that in the school student community there were representatives from more than 100 nationalities. It seems to me as I visit the 56 schools of this Archdiocese that each one, in its own way, is a little United Nations.

Refugees and migrants certainly understand and can empathise with Lazarus in the first reading.

You often come to this wonderful country with very few material possessions and you come from lands of tragic handicaps in regard to prosperity and employment opportunities.

Yet in so many ways you are so rich in the sight of God. So many of you have come from countries where your Christian faith has been persecuted and you’ve come to this country eager to be able to express your Catholic faith unencumbered. Not only this, you have brought to this fair, ancient but new country the incredible unique richness of your Catholic Christian faith. You know, better than most Australians that have lived here for many years, that it is actually the religious dimension that keeps your family and keeps society together.

Generally Australians fail to focus on this point. That is, that a multicultural nation like Australia, is, at the same time, a multi-religious culture.

I have heard so many of you make a complaint about this wonderful new country that we all find ourselves in. Whilst admitting its incredible greatness, you’ve often asked, “Why have the Australians living here for generations dumbed down religious belief? Why is religion put on one side and culture and economics on the other side of society?”

Although you yourselves are prone to the blindness of the rich man in the Gospel like anybody else, you do notice rather acutely the blindness in the well-established Australians in this particular way. Let us learn from you not to be insensitive or dismissive of not only the poor in our midst but also the religious poverty that can often find itself into the way we conduct ourselves in Australian society. May refugees and migrants teach all Australians about what true richness is. That is, love of God and love of neighbour.

Finally, during this Mass, I launch our special appeal for a new statue of St Christopher to be constructed outside our Church on our pavement looking down on Canberra Avenue.

It will become a wonderful non-verbal way of evangelisation and letting all Canberrans know the full truth of Jesus Christ. The placement of a large statue outside this Cathedral of St Christopher showing the child Jesus on the shoulder of the patron of all travellers, St Christopher, blessing them as they pass through this part of Canberra (a name meaning ‘meeting place’) will become a great gift of our Catholic community to the wider Canberra.

I invite you to make this vision a reality and give generously to this launch appeal.

It will make all of us in Canberra think, at least for a moment, about what true richness is, that is, being rich in the eyes of God made present in Jesus Christ, who is acclaimed by St Paul in the second reading as “the king of kings and the lord of lords”.

I particularly welcome to this Mass His Excellency General David Hurley, the new Governor General of Australia, and Mrs Linda Hurley, his wife. I also welcome local parliamentarians, particularly Senator Zed Seselja, representing the Prime Minister at this Mass. I also acknowledge the presence today of various religious leaders from various faiths. You are all most welcome.