Homily – March 2019


Sir 27: 4-7 1   Cor 15: 54-58  Gospel Luke 6: 39-45


I wish to offer you a word of comfort and faith in this very difficult time for us all following the news about Cardinal George Pell.

I have sent a short Pastoral Message to all the parishes of the Archdiocese and asked that it be read out at Mass.  I wish to do that now amongst you.

Dear friends in Christ, I reach out to each one of you in Jesus by way of this simple Pastoral Message.

The revelations regarding Cardinal Pell over these last days have deeply shocked and disturbed us.  We find in our hearts so much emotion and confusion.

We hold deeply in our hearts all survivors of Sex Abuse and their families.  We pledge to do all we can to stand alongside them in prayerful, transparent vigilance.

Given that Cardinal Pell’s conviction will now be subject to an appeal in court, we best leave aside further comment on this matter.

Be assured of and comforted by my prayers and thoughts for you my dear people, in this fragile time.  Please find strength in your care for each other and affirm each other in the faith.

Together let us turn, as always, to the Lord Jesus and our Mother Mary, during our Masses and our prayers to guard and guide us in this “Vale of tears.”

Please pray also for our Priests, Deacons and Seminarians.  They who seek to serve you with great pastoral care are in need of care in these days.

I hope these words are of comfort to you dear people in this most distressing time.

As always, the Scriptures come to help us in our good times and in our bad.

The Gospel today, as always, finds Jesus getting to the heart of the matter.

In our assessments of other people Jesus says, it must not begin on our lips or in our eyes, but in our hearts.

He says “A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart…words flow out of what fills his heart.”

In the Biblical language, the word “Heart” has a special meaning.

In our common usage today the word “Heart” seems to be the centre of feelings and sentiment.

In the Scripture, however, it describes a far deeper understanding.  It is not simply a biological pump moving blood around our body, nor is it at the centre of sentiment and feelings alone.  It is like the “Brains” of all that we do.  It is the very centre core of a person.  It is the inner sanctum deep within each one of us.  This description approximates better what the word “Heart” means in the Scriptures.

Jesus says we are to first ponder what’s happening in our hearts before we make judgments of situations and other persons.

He warns us, as always, against hypocrisy in assessing others and excusing ourselves from all sorts of things.  Using an image that would have caused laughter when the people of His time heard it (but seems to be lost in our Australian English today).  He says “Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?”

The idea of a plank coming out of somebody’s eye would have been the source of great amusement to Jesus’s listeners.

Nonetheless, the understanding is crystal clear to us as it would have been years ago.  Jesus is referring to the “fault finder” within each one of us.  He cautions us to watch our conversation and to listen more than we speak.

In doing this, he takes up some of the expressions of the First Reading from the Book of Sirach…”The test of a man is in his conversation…do not praise a man before he has spoken.”

Such thoughts are very appropriate, given that in a few days we start the great Lenten Season of Conversion, Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving on our way to the Easter Mysteries of our faith.

This coming Wednesday is Ash Wednesday.  We have a few days now to think carefully about focussing our attention on the “Heart” of this Liturgical Season.

May I conclude by offering you in these fragile times a beautiful word of encouragement, faith and hope that is mentioned at the end of the Second Reading today from St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

“Never give in then, my dear brothers, never admit defeat; keep working at the Lord’s work always, knowing that, in the Lord, you cannot be labouring in vain.”



Deut 26: 4-10 .  Rom 10: 8-13 .  Gospel Luke 4: 1-13


The people of God in the Old Testament were in the desert for 40 years.  In today’s Gospel Jesus was in the desert for 40 days.  As Lent begins now we begin our 40 day pilgrimage to the Easter Mysteries of our faith.

With the people of the Old Testament, the New Testament and now us today, there is temptation.  Let us be clear.  Temptation is not a sin.  It is what we do with temptation that determines whether it becomes sinful.

The people of the Old Testament, as summarised in the First Reading from the book of Deuteronomy, really struggled with temptation as a collective group.  But at all times our merciful God was with them in their faithfulness and in their unfaithfulness.

He led them eventually to the Promised Land after teaching them, over the many years of their wandering in the desert.  There was gratitude in the hearts of the people of the Old Testament.  They said, “The Lord brought us out of Egypt with mighty hand and outstretched arm, with great terror, and with signs and wonders.”

Whereas the people of the Old Testament faulted in the midst of temptation, Jesus in today’s Gospel was triumphant even when tempted by the devil three times.

Let us recall that there are three types of spirits.  There is the Human spirit, Evil spirit, and the Holy Spirit.

The Evil spirit tempted Jesus in three ways.  First, there was the temptation to give into selfishness.

Jesus had been in the desert for 40 days and was hungry.  The Devil, the Evil spirit, the great deceiver, tempts Jesus to question His basic identity.  He says, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf.”  It is a temptation to give into basic bodily needs.  The Devil places doubt in Jesus’s mind.  But Jesus won’t have anything to do with it and he dismisses the Devil saying, “Man does not live on bread alone.”

Secondly, Jesus is taken by the Devil to a mountain top where there is an enormous panorama of all the surrounding lands.  The Devil, again the great deceiver and liar, says that all these lands are his and will be given to Jesus as long as He does the following, “Worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.”  It is a temptation of power, a temptation to control things.  A temptation of dominance.  Jesus dismisses this outright again.

Thirdly, the Devil leads Jesus up to the top of a tower and tells him to throw himself down.  Again he questions Jesus’s identity by saying, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here…”  He says that the Angels will come and protect Jesus.

It is a temptation too great vanity.  A temptation to become a circus act for the people who would place him in great admiration, however temporary that admiration might be.

Again the Devil is dismissed by Jesus as He says, “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”

There is an interesting final comment in Luke’s Gospel where the Devil, exhausted, leaves Jesus “to return at the appointed time.”  Here is a reference to the Lord’s Death at the end of His public ministry: the Devil reappears at Gethsemane.

In this time of Lent, we make our pilgrimage journey, also to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, afresh in our hearts in these troubled times.

We too are tempted in many ways to give up or lose hope, especially when there is so much hostility towards the Catholic Church in the Australia community at this time.

Again, the Lord comes to us and offers us three great medicines to fortify us in our faith and give us hope.  First of all the Lord gives us the gift of Fasting.  This helps to end our selfishness and to make us see that, just as our body croaks with hunger so our hearts yearn for the Living God.  It is a medicine that promotes selflessness rather than selfishness.

Then we have the great gift of Prayer during Lent.  It is not simply babbling prayers, but prayer coming deep from the heart, where we can silence ourselves for a long period of time and reflect on the triumph of God in all that we do and say.  It is a great medicine against using power to subvert and dominate others.  This is a power to help us to be servants and missionary disciples in clear and transparent ways.

Then there is the medicine of Almsgiving.  In Almsgiving all the vanity of our life is curbed.  We lose so that our brothers and sisters gain.  It is not simply a matter of skipping a meal so that we feel better about our physical appearance.  This is real nonsense.  It is about the practical charity which is the essence of our Christian faith.  So, rather than skipping a meal and saving ten dollars.  The idea is to skip a meal, save ten dollars and place it in a Project Compassion Box where the money will be given to those most in need.  We do not put the ten dollars back into our wallet!

So now let us enter into our Lenten Season in these first days of our pilgrimage to Easter.  Like Jesus we have temptations.  But like Jesus, we can call upon the Lord and the power of his Cross, and the blood of the Lamb that takes away the sins of the world and be fortified in our faith with the medicines of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.



Genesis 15: 5-12, 17-18  Philippians 3: 17-41  Gospel Luke 9: 28-36


It has been 150 years since St Patrick’s Parish School Bega was established. On this sesquicentenary we now bring to a climax the days of celebration of our community in thanking the Lord for the many gifts that have been given over these years. We welcome past students and teachers, particularly the Josephite sisters who are here in considerable numbers. Welcome everybody!

Lest we lapse into a sentimental “remember when” only approach to these celebrations, let us recall the great gift that St Patrick has given us through his total abandonment to the will of God.

In the First Reading from the Book of Genesis we read about Abraham. There is a beautiful expression here, “Abraham put his faith in the Lord, who counted this as making him justified.”

We could perhaps say the same thing about St Patrick. This 4th & 5th century Saint, paraphrasing this quote from the Book of Genesis, “put his faith in the Lord who counted this as making him ready to become a missionary disciple to the people of Ireland.”

St Patrick’s life was very difficult, as with all the Saints.

He was born in Roman Britain. As a 16 year old boy he was enslaved by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked as a shepherd boy for 6 years.

Even in his enslavement we can see how God worked within him. He was able to learn the language and observe the culture of the Irish. After 6 years he escaped back to England and from there renewed, in a very dramatic way, his Catholic faith and eventually became a Catholic priest.

Filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit he returned to the place of his enslavement – Ireland. Eventually he became the second Bishop of Ireland. Many Christian institutions had already started to rise up through the good work of the first Bishop but Patrick’s missionary evangelistic approach was different. He was not concerned with building institutions but more so with building up new Christian communities and bringing people to Christ.

He did this in two special ways. Try to memorise these. First of all, St Patrick was a great Jesus seed bearer of the Gospel.

He planted the seeds of the Gospel in new areas that had yet to hear the liberating Good News of Jesus. He encouraged people to become Catholic Christians and he nurtured them in their initial periods of gathering together as a community.

Secondly, he was a great Jesus Easter fire starter!

By this I mean, he grew to know the culture very well and therefore was able to reach out for the first time as a Christian missionary to the clan leaders of Ireland.

There is a wonderful story of how, around Easter, he converted the King of Tara to Christianity – the time that we are preparing for now in our Lenten season on this second Sunday of Lent.

One evening the King of Tara looked out from his Castle on top of a hill and noticed on another hill a fire blazing. His curiosity was aroused. He learnt that it was a man by the name of Patrick lighting a fire. He invited Patrick to come and explain what he was doing. This gave the perfect opportunity for Patrick to talk about what you and I would know as the Easter Vigil fire. Jesus was the light that would never be taken away from us. Through his mastery of the culture, language and persuasiveness in speaking of our Christian Mysteries, he converted the Kind of Tara, and subsequently so many others under the Kings rule, to Christianity.

This was typical of St Patrick. Many other stories or perhaps fables are based on hearsay. Particularly the story of him removing all the snakes from Ireland or even the story of him explaining the Trinity by virtue of a three leafed shamrock. Nonetheless these “little stories” are indicative of a great story of Christian faith.

And so on this 150th Anniversary of this wonderful school we thank the Lord for all that He has given. Just imagine the number of people that have become “Jesus seed bearers” and “Jesus fire starters” over the decades following the example of St Patrick.

In the many years ahead of this wonderful school, please God, may we always keep in mind the central missionary vision that we have for all our parishes, especially the schools that bear the name of St Patrick. That is namely, that we at all times are never ashamed to be “seed bearers” of the Gospel for a new generation. At the same time, we place the light of Christ into the encircling gloom of today’s very troubled world and make faith and hope in Jesus, as the light to the nations, our number one priority.

For this we pray.


Exodus 3: 1-8, 13-15   1 Cor 10: 1-6, 10-12   Gospel Luke 13: 1-9


The Church today offers not simply her saving Scriptural teaching but also a beautiful symbol from the Old Testament that foreshadows the Easter Victory of Christ – a bush on fire but not burnt. In other words, blazing but not consumed.

This blazing but not consumed bush is what startles Moses as he tends his flock at the base of Mount Horeb.

The bush speaks!

It first of all tells Moses, “Take off your shoes, for the place on which you stand is Holy ground.”

On our Lenten journey let us always recall that Holiness is something that comes from God. It is God who is the Holy one. Holiness does not emanate from us, but must be reflected from us as we come close to the Holy one of God. Holiness presumes a “shoes off” attitude from us all. There is to be reverence. It is “awe – some.”

Secondly, the Holy One of God wants to speak words of liberation. Like Moses, we are to listen. As Moses listens God makes it clear, “I have seen…I have heard…I am well aware…I mean to deliver them out of the hands of the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land rich and broad, a land where milk and honey flow.”

Thirdly, the Blazing but not Consumed God of ours is a “NOW” God. When asked by Moses what His name is, God gives the answer “I Am who I Am.” So, he is a God not of the past or the future, but a God of the “NOW”. In this Lenten season let us live every moment as a “NOW” moment. We leave the past to God’s mercy, we leave the future in hope to the Lord’s providence, but we focus on the present moment where God speaks to His people and, as the responsorial psalm says, “the Lord is kind and merciful.”

Fourthly, the Blazing but not Consumed God is a God who sends us off on mission.

He tells Moses “to go”. His going to Pharaoh is something that absolutely terrifies Mosses. But further on in that third chapter of Exodus, after four or five times of asking God to choose somebody else, reluctantly and with great faith Mosses agrees to be the Missionary Disciple of God.

This Blazing but not Consumed God is crystallised in the coming of Jesus Christ and in His Death and Resurrection as universalized for all humanity. Our Victorious God, with whom we are on Lenten pilgrimage, leads us all to the Father’s merciful embrace.

In the Gospel today from Luke, Jesus, dispels all falsehood. He dismisses that tragedy, either from human or natural sources, is a punishment from God. A popular belief at that time was, that if you died unexpectedly and tragically, it was due to some sinful issue in your past life. Jesus dispels this but says, “Unless you repent you will all perish as they did.” Also, this Blazing but not Consumed God, the Risen Lord, demands fruits of discipleship that assist the hungers of the world.

We see this in the image of the fig tree. Despite the fact that it was given so much, it gave so little. We too have been given so much in our lives, particularly in being Baptised and Confirmed and now in the Eucharist. All this demands of us, a responsibility to be God’s presence in the world today, especially those administering to those on the periphery of life.

Now let us continue our Mass enabling our Risen Lord, this Blazing but not Consumed God of ours, to dispel the darkness of the night. We think particularly of those massacred in the terrible tragedy in New Zealand last weekend. We pray for all the victims and their families. We pray that our Blazing God will remove all violence from our world and bring in more fully His reign of peace. We also pray for victims and survivors of sex abuse. Our attention in Australia is focused intently upon these issues. We ask our Blazing but not Consumed God to heal the broken hearted and to bring us all under His reign.



Josh 5: 9-12   2 Cor 5: 17-21   Gospel Luke 15: 1-3, 11-32


Today is sometimes called “Laetare Sunday” it means “rejoice!” We are half way along our Lenten journey towards the Easter Mysteries. If I was to choose one sentence that might summarize why we rejoice in the Good News of Jesus Christ, it would be as follows – “Humanity finds her true home in Jesus.”

In the First Reading from the Book of Joshua we learn how the People of God find, after such a long journey in the desert, a home in the “promised land.” This expression at the end of the First Reading says it all, “And having manna no longer, the Israelites fed from that year onwards on what the land of Canaan yielded.” We know that this geographical home was a land “rich in milk and honey”, God did not disappoint. God never disappoints us. But, it is always in God’s time.

The Gospels indicate to us that God’s time reached its fullness with the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, into our world.

Last Monday was the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord. Here, Jesus finds a home in the “Yes” of Mary. God never wants to see himself as distant from His people. In a most incredible way, through Mary’s “Yes”, “The word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The Gospel today from Luke, makes quite clear the chief characteristic of God coming amongst us – Mercy.

The merciful Jesus offers us the grace to find a “home” for sinful humanity.

The beautiful encounter of the loving father with two very complex and sinful sons, in today’s Gospel, says it all.

This lovely expression is high in symbolism and shows God amongst us. The Gospel says “While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was moved with pity. He ran to the boy, clasped him in his arms and kissed him tenderly.” Again it is always God’s initiative. It is the merciful father that runs to the son, with all his complexities, and not the other way around.

The Easter Mysteries of our faith indicate that the Risen Jesus offers humanity a permanent home IN HIS CHURCH. Through our Baptism and Confirmation we become members of Christ’s Body and share in His Death and Resurrection.

Although this might sound rather academic, it is certainly otherwise.

You may recall that just a few Sundays ago over 40 adults joined us for this Mass. Through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), they requested to become Catholics over Easter.

In a time when the Church’s failures and sinfulness are exposed for all to see, it is a wonderful work of the Holy Spirit to see so many actually going against the current. They are saying “Yes” to the merciful embrace of Jesus, in the midst of the complexities of our response back to Him, just like the two sons of the loving father in today’s Gospel.

So the key message of the Scriptures is that humanity finds her true home in Jesus. Humanity finds her true home in an encounter with the Risen Lord Jesus, who is the merciful love of the Father amongst us.

Let us therefore continue our Mass with hope and joy deep in our hearts, even in the midst of the fragilities of our times.

No matter what situation, either in the Church or in our individual lives, we find ourselves – Jesus always takes us home.

Home is Jesus, Jesus is Home.