Homily – January 2020


Readings  Is 49:3, 5-6  1 Cor 1:1-3  Gospel John 1:29-34

As we begin to return to Canberra in this very dangerous bushfire season, we ask God’s blessings upon our Archdiocese and Australia in general. We pray particularly in this Mass for more rain and the alleviation of bushfires particularly in our South Coast and the High Country.

In all our troubles, we turn to Jesus.

Indeed, in the Gospel today it is the great prophet, St. John the Baptist, who points out Jesus with great vigour.

In the Gospel today, he says to people who come to him enquiring whether he is the Messiah, “Look, there is the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” He always deflects attention away from himself and towards Jesus. If this particular scene was in a film, we could imagine John the Baptist physically pointing out Jesus.

The other “great one” who points out Jesus in the Bible is Mary, the mother of Jesus. We know, of course, of the “Miracle at Cana” where those with problems at the wedding feast have come to Mary and asked for guidance. Like John the Baptist, she points out Jesus to them and says, “Do whatever he tells you.”

I can see in the First Reading today a certain suggestion of Mary when the Lord speaks to Israel saying, “He who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him, to gather Israel to him.” With this quote, the pointing out of Jesus starts even in the womb and one thinks immediately of Mary who enabled Jesus to begin salvation by saying “Yes” in the Annunciation.

There is a lovely pious practice from Eastern Christianity, not well known in Western Christianity of which you and I belong, with the carrying of a small Icon.

If I was to ask any of you today to please put your hands up if you are carrying Rosary Beads, I can imagine a great many of you would put your hands up.

However, in the Eastern Church, if I asked those present to put their hand up if they were carrying a small Icon of Jesus, St. John the Baptist and Mary, many would put their hands up.

This Icon is a beautiful way of continuing our pilgrimage in life with the Lord. It is what is called a “Triptych”. In this case, it is three small Icons hinged together and folded one over the other for easy transportation. Normally we see these Triptychs in museums. However, there is a tradition of a much smaller version being carried by people in their pocket. As they go through life and on their journey of life, they always have the presence of the Lord in this particular form, as we do with Rosary Beads.

An extremely popular Triptych carried around by people in the Eastern Church is the following: Jesus is in the centre. On the left hand side is St. John the Baptist who is pointing to Jesus. On the right hand side, is Mary pointing to Jesus also.

There, in this Triptych, we have a beautiful gospel lesson. The great Saints of the Old and New Testament are pointing to Jesus who is the centre of our pilgrimage of life.

Let us do the same always in our life, knowing that Jesus is at the centre of our life in our difficulties and that the great Saints of the Church are tremendous sign posts to help us locate Jesus in all our troubles.

I begin this afternoon a Pastoral Visitation of the fire effected Parishes of the South Coast and the High Country. I ask for your prayers for those who have died, and for those who have been impacted by property loss and whose lives are in great confusion at the present. Thank you so much.


Readings  Is 8:23 – 9:3  1 Cor 1:10-13, 17  Gospel Matthew 4:12-23

In Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus calls disciples there seems to be at least three characteristics.

Firstly, the Lord comes to them in their ordinary life and occupations. There is no appointment made. There is no waiting until University courses are finished or particular clothes, shoes, and cars are bought. The Lord comes to us just as we are.

This happens in the Gospel today. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus calls the two sets of brothers directly. In their everyday lives as fishermen Jesus comes to the sea of Galilee and calls Peter and Andrew. “They were making a cast in the lake with their net, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’” Jesus then goes to the sons of Zebedee – James and John. Once again, Jesus comes to them in their ordinary lives as fishermen. Jesus calls them as they are “mending their nets.”

Secondly, they respond immediately to the call of the Lord. When Jesus calls them it seems there is an irresistible attraction or light that comes into these disciples’ hearts. Not to follow immediately and freely is unacceptable to them.

In the First Reading, the light of the Messiah is foreshadowed by the prophet Isaiah. He says, “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” This is precisely the expression that St. Matthew uses in today’s Gospel but compares this light to the coming of Jesus.

Let us ask the Lord today to give us a fresh awareness and experience of His irresistible light so that we can, at the beginning of 2020, come to the Lord with all our hearts and as spontaneously as the apostles of today’s Gospel.

Thirdly, Jesus is always sending them out on “mission.” They are to leave everything and follow Him no matter what the consequences. They are sent out on “mission” and this means complete obedience to whatever the Lord wants. I often think of how the father of James and John, Zebedee, felt when his sons “At once, leaving the boat and their father, they followed him.”

All of this call to discipleship is happening in this part of Australia during a very dangerous bushfire season.

We are experiencing a summer of bushfires, drought and smoke. Those of you who live in Canberra could add to that list hailstones and nearby fires. That has been our experience over the last week.

I have just returned overnight from a week long Pastoral Visitation to eight Parishes that are experiencing bushfires over these times in our South Coast Parishes and in the High Country.

Everywhere I go I also meet, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, very courageous Christians.

It is so wonderful to see ordinary Australians showing extraordinary courage in the midst of venomous bushfires. For example, I could not imagine our lovely Catholic Church at Cobargo surviving a terrible bushfire in that area if it was not for the unbelievable courage of two non-Catholic women living next door. They spent well over twelve hours, not only defending their own property but also defending the Church next door. They were victorious. We are most grateful.

Another example of extraordinary volunteerism, apart from what we already know of the Emergency Services who always do a great job, has been the local farmers. These local community people have shown great courage in defending other properties before they even defend their own. This is something great for us to remember on this Australia Day. It is a wonderful human virtue to witness.

I conclude by mentioning a response by a couple who lost their house at Bodalla. I was with them in front of the ruins of their home and we reflected on this. The husband said it could have been a lot worse. He said, “We are alive! His wife agreed.

As we now not only continue in this bushfire season but also open up to the challenges of a New Year, let us remember we are also alive in Christ and this is the source of our strength and hope.

Difficulties abound and frustrations will occur but let us always remember we are alive in Christ!