Homily – May 2019


SUNDAY, 12 MAY 2019

 Readings Acts 13: 14, 43-52  Apocalypse 7: 9, 14-17  Gospel John 10: 27-30


I have been absolutely delighted to be with you over these days during my pastoral visitation to St Anthony of Padua Parish Wanniassa.

The image of today’s Scriptures mirrors the image of my pastoral visit to you – The Good Shepherd.

This is Good Shepherd Sunday. During this Mass we will particularly think of the educational requirements of seminarians for the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn and pray for vocations to the Priesthood. Practically, there will be an opportunity for you during this Mass to offer a financial contribution to assist us in the very financially burdensome, though vitally important, responsibility of paying for the education of our seminarians.

Here I am as your Archbishop visiting you over these days. This is not something that is new, but it goes back to our New Testament Times. We see an example of it in the First Reading, in fact. The Church leaders, St Paul and St Barnabas, are travelling in the southern part of present day Turkey and they are either establishing Christian communities or visiting ones already established, encouraging them in the faith.

The Acts of the Apostles state, “Paul and Barnabas…in their talks with them…urged them to remain faithful to the grace God had given them.”

Like St Paul and St Barnabas, I also urge you to remain faithful to the grace God has given you.

The greatest gift that God has given us all, apart from our human life, is our Baptism. This is the gateway Sacrament of the Catholic Church. In our Baptism we are incorporated into the Body of Christ. We have been physically born, but in Baptism we are born into eternity.

Our Baptism commitment is something we live out every day as a grace. It is not something that we do so much as something God does in us, to which we are fully open and accountable. That is the meaning of grace. It is a gift. The greatest gift that we can offer the Lord is to respond to His great love by creating bridges of love and encounter with the Lord in this difficult Australian world in which we now live.

As I travel around your parish I can see that there are many ways in which people are practically living out their Baptism. Thank you so much.

For example yesterday, I visited the Goodwin Retirement Village.

I had no idea that it was such an enormous undertaking by the community. I met many Catholic people and it was a real joy to be there.

At the Goodwin Village I celebrated Mass. The little chapel was full of very enthusiastic and elderly Catholics. After the Mass an elderly man immediately came up to me and insisted that he needed to talk to me briefly on a very important issue. He then explained to me the question he wanted some advice on.  He asked, “Am I able to be cremated?”

He explained a little bit more about the reason for his question. I then gave him my answer. I said he may proceed with cremation under two conditions. The first being that he must first wait until he dies before he is cremated! Secondly, I said that he is to instruct his loved ones, or those involved in his Estate, that after his cremation his ashes will not be scattered but will be planted either in a cemetery or interred in a Church mausoleum as we often find in parishes today. This will ensure that future generations can come and pray for the repose of his soul. He readily agreed with this. In fact that was his intention.

These and other incidences remind me of how living out the Priesthood today is very much living out the Gospel of today, following Jesus the First Priest but also the Good Shepherd. Jesus in today’s Gospel says, “The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.”

One of the great things about the Archdiocesan Priesthood is that you really do get to know your parishioners over a period of years. Look at your parish priest, Fr Lachlan Coll. He is very much loved by you and certainly loves you in return.

We need to pray that the Lord will send more shepherds into the vineyards to take Fr Coll’s place as your priest and also for priests in the other parishes of this Archdiocese.

At the moment we have five seminarians that come from different backgrounds. One is from a rural Anglo-Saxon background. The others are from Vietnamese, Samoan, Indian and English backgrounds.

The English seminarian is Deacon Alex Osborne. Please God, I will ordain him a priest later this year. All of them are pursuing a course which will take six or seven years. Each seminarian involves himself with developing his prayer life and his pastoral and academic life in many different ways. I obviously see this as one of the top priorities of a Bishop…to enable a good flow of mature and holy men to become shepherds in this Archdiocese.

Practically, this is a huge financial impost on the Archdiocese. It costs at least $43,000 per seminarian per year. On this particular Good Shepherd Sunday, all of us make a financial contribution to this important task together. I know last year there was a very generous response. It was able to pay for at least one seminarian for the whole year. I hope that we can do that again or even better this year. Thank you for your generosity in this area. You will find envelopes and information regarding this day in the Church pews.

Let us now continue our Mass and pray for our Archdiocese and this parish in the difficult times in Australia today.

I thank you so much for your strong faith, for your loyalty and participation in such a fulsome measure in the Catholic Church here in this part of the world.

May the Lord Jesus, on this Mother’s Day continue to bless all mothers present and those elsewhere and also those in heaven. We pray for all parishioners that they be blessed on this day of Easter joy.


SUNDAY, 26 MAY 2019

Readings Acts 115: 1-2, 22-29 Apocalypse 21: 10-14, 22-23 Gospel John 14: 23-2


At first glance there seems to be a contradiction between the First Reading and the Second Reading in today’s Liturgy of the Word.

The Gospel today from John is taken from the Last Super discourse. Here we find Jesus making it quite clear that he will not abandon His people and that he will be with them forever. Jesus says, “He and the Father have made their ‘home’ within them.” There seems to be a hint of the Trinity here.

Then there is the promise of the Holy Spirit from Jesus, “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” Here there if the promise of Pentecost.

At all times peace will be the gift to the Church and there is no need for “your hearts to be troubled or afraid.”

So it is quite clear from these readings that the early Church has solid knowledge that at all times and in every place all will depend on God who is ever present.

However, in the First Reading there seems, on first glance, to be a different approach.

Like ourselves in our troubled world here in Australia, the early Church encounters fresh and very substantial issues and problems. One of the first pastoral problems the early Church approached, and which is the context of today’s First Reading, is whether it was necessary for new Christians to first become Jews before they were Baptised.

The First Reading says, “this led to disagreement, and after Paul and Barnabas had had a long argument…they were to discuss the problem with the apostles and elders.”

Eventually a delegation was sent to the trouble makers and the approach of the Church was the following…” We hear that some of our members have disturbed you with their demands and have unsettled your minds. They acted without any authority form us.”

Thanks be to God, the issue was settled without endangering the early Churches’ unity and we are beneficiaries of this very significant decision made 2,000 years ago.

The point I wish to make is that it seems as if there was no direct answer to this issue by Jesus. By direct I mean, it wasn’t as if a voice came from heaven giving specific responses to specific pastoral issues.

It is also as if the early Church had to do everything as if everything depended on themselves.

Today we live in an “either or world”, the situation is either A or B. But here we find once again that the Christian Church lives very much in a “both and world”.

By this I mean that it is not either, we do everything without depending on God or we do everything whilst depending on God. It is both.

There is no contradiction here at all. In fact, it shows how a principle that has been articulated right back to the 5th Century is activated in the Scriptures and indeed part of our own pastoral wisdom today.

That is the principle that says, “Do everything as if everything depends on ourselves but knowing always that everything depends on God.”

We know that the Holy Spirit is deep down within us. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in the depths of our being through our consciences and when we come together as a Church, we have every confidence that God is with us and has not abandoned us. But we are not robots. We have been Baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit. We need to rely on God but use our own God given resources as best we can to see where the Spirit is moving us in our own time and place. This is easier said than done.

We see many ongoing challenging issues in today’s Church. But this all the more reason to trust in God and to pray for His Spirit to be with us. We are always placed in a position of utter trust and dependence on God, whilst at the same time, using God’s gifts for His greater glory in our time and place.

In our Catholic world today, married life and family life give particular communal leadership to us in this regard.

Married couples and their families, often called “the domestic Church”, do in microcosm what we do globally. We are the family of God and married couples really help us to understand leadership in today’s Catholic world.

We are joined today at our Mass by a married couple who have shown conspicuous leadership in this Archdiocese over many years in all kinds of different ways. Kevin and Margaret Croker and some of their family are with us today. Over many years they have both, in a very humble and low key way, done extraordinary work behind the scenes to assist particularly elderly, sick and retired priests.

They have also been involved in so many aspects of the Churches life here in the Canberra and Goulburn Archdiocese including finance, assisting with visas for our Seminarians, visitations of the sick and so many other ways. I am so pleased to announce to you today that Pope Francis has recognised their contributions to this Archdiocese over many years and has bestowed both of them with a special Papal Award.

They have been awarded the honour of Knight and Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great. This is a great joy, not only to them but to the Archdiocese.

I am delighted that the Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Yllana is here today with the two monsignors from the Nunciature. They join us because this is not only an honour for this Archdiocese but also for the Church in Australia. We welcome the Nuncio and I ask him now to come and present these Papal Honours to Kevin and Margaret Croker.