Homily – March 2020


 Readings  Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7  Rom 5: 8-13  Gospel Matthew 4: 1-11

 Today is the first Sunday of Lent. It is the first of March. It is the first day of Autumn. We say goodbye to a troubling summer that we have endured together. For too many, especially eight Parishes in this Archdiocese, this last summer has been visited with horrendous bushfires that has reduced so much to ash and dust and led to destruction.

We began Lent last week with Ash Wednesday. On that day we placed ash and dust on each other’s foreheads saying, amongst other things, “Repent and believe in the Good News”, and perhaps more particularly to the summer we have just had, “Remember you are but dust and to dust you shall return.”

We seem to have two types of “ash and dust.” One form of ash and dust leads to destruction. The other ash and dust leads to redemption and eternity.

Let us examine more clearly the “ash and dust” that leads to destruction. I am not so much thinking about the external bushfire but the bushfire within the human heart that can lead to the ash and dust of destruction.

We see some introduction to this with the Gospel of today. It is Mathew’s Gospel. It portrays to us the three “temptations” that Jesus endured from the Devil, after His forty days of Prayer and Fasting, prior to the beginning of His Public Ministry.

I suppose, all together, these three “temptations” bring out a perennial truth: that when we try to play God we will always fail. It will always lead to our self-destruction.

The first “temptation” of Jesus by the Devil is the temptation to selfishness. Jesus is very hungry. The Devil tempts Him to make bread out of the stones and to give in to His selfishness. He calls Jesus to live for the NOW only. To see Himself as the giver of bread and circuses for the crowds who will acclaim him a great political leader.

Jesus says “Man does not live on bread alone” and dismisses the temptation.

The second “temptation” is the temptation toward vanity. The Devil leads Jesus up to a tall building and calls on Him to throw Himself over and to test God who presumably will send his Angels to save Him.

The Devil places seeds of mistrust in God in the heart of Jesus. He says that we don’t really need God for the big things of life, we can rely in our own resources.

Jesus dismisses the Devil by saying that God is not to be tested.

The third and final temptation of Jesus by the Devil is what could be called a temptation to success.

The Devil seems to be saying that Jesus can become His own God. There is a temptation here to, using a technical word, “apostasise”, which means we can find another God or make ourselves God. There is a resonance here with what the Old Testament people did at the foot of Mount Sinai as they waited impatiently for Moses to return from receiving the Ten Commandments.

Jesus dismisses outright the Devil and proclaims that we are to serve God alone.

Now let us look at the “ash and dust” that leads to redemption or eternity.

From the First Reading today we hear about our creation as humans. We are made “of dust from the soil.” Hence the Ash Wednesday crossing reminds us that we were made of dust and to dust we shall return.

The next great sentence shows how we are made in the dignity and likeness of God, the apple of His eye. The scripture says, then God “breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.” This is such a truly magnificent biblical sentence that shows our true dignity.

This breathing over is called “Ruah” and it is seen again in the New Testament at the day of Pentecost. The Risen Jesus comes into the frighten Apostles locked in the room, he greets them with peace, shows them his wounds and then breaths over them so that they might receive the Holy Spirit. Once again it is “Ruah.” Jesus came into the world to give us the Holy Spirit – the breath of God deep within us. We have a dignity beyond compare. It will never be taken from us. Embracing this leads to eternity.

This is the “ash and dust” that we are made of but does not lead to destruction but redemption and eternity.

We welcome, particularly in this Mass today, two groups of people who are clearly choosing the “ash and dust” of redemption.

We welcome those adults who are to become Catholics in the upcoming Easter season. There are 37 of them today from 10 surrounding Parishes. We welcome them. We had a special ceremony before Mass and many became, in our ancient tradition, “The Elect.” So here we have Catechumens and Candidates placing Jesus at the very centre of their lives and wanting to see that centre fully embraced in the community of the Catholic Church. We welcome them!

Secondly, we welcome the 130 or so youth and leaders who over this weekend have been participating in the Youth Ministry Equipping School.

At the end of this Mass I will be commissioning them to go out as Missionary Disciples, not only in this Archdiocese but in other Dioceses around this part of Australia and indeed the 20 or so who have come from various countries of Asia and Oceania. We thank you so much for your good example and we ask God’s blessing upon you as Youth Ministers.

As we now launch into our Lenten period of Prayer, Fasting and Alms giving (especially Project Compassion) as we move towards Easter we pray that we will enter into this Lenten season with great fervour, especially at this Mass. It is a time to repent and believe that the “ash and dust” of selfishness leads to destruction and is to be rejected outright in its many devious forms.

Together as a community and especially in this Mass we choose the “ash and dust” that leads to redemption and eternal life. Let us allow Jesus with Mary and all the Saints to lead us by the hand and bring us to the eternity that awaits us in Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.


 Readings  Genesis 12: 1-4  Timothy 1: 8-10  Gospel Matthew 17: 1-9

 We are only in early 2020 and have already been frightened by two key words: Bushfires and Coronavirus.

Helping us in this Lenten Season, to move from fear to a point of faith and trust in God and His Death and Resurrection which we celebrate at Easter, the Church in its Readings gives us five key words.

The first word is LEAVE. Coming from the First Reading the Lord says to Abram-Abraham “Leave your country, your family and your father’s house, for the land I will show you.”

It is interesting to note that God does not give Abraham further directions apart from this word LEAVE. God does not provide the precise destination of the journey. He doesn’t give a road map. He doesn’t give us any details, what so ever, apart from the command to leave. As God has given this command and because he places his complete trust in God, Abraham leaves the comfort of his home and tribal lands and begins a journey of faith. For this reason, we see Abraham as the father of our Faith. This Reading is the beginning of our journey of faith that will ultimately culminate in the Second Coming of Jesus.

Lent is a time to not remain in our comfort zones. Lent is a time to be stirred up by God who tells us to leave the darkness of sin and engrained habits that do not bring life and to return to Him with all our hearts.

With this word LEAVE, we think also of those who have left home to come to this fair city of Canberra to begin their university studies.

Canberra is certainly a University City, graced with many substantial universities of high quality. At this Mass today we particularly welcome those who are beginning a new academic year at the universities. We also welcome the priests and other lay leaders that assist us in giving those students, that have come from all over the country and around the world, a place of faith in their few years here in Canberra. May each one of you university students realise that we are praying for you today and that you will always be welcome amongst us.

The second word that engenders faith and not fear is the word LISTEN.

This is the important word that God the Father says to Peter, James and John at the place of the transfiguration in the Gospel today.

Jesus brings His “inner cabinet” up a high mountain and is transfigured in their presence. Present with the Transfigured Lord is Moses, the one who has received the Ten Commandments and Law of God, and the prophet Elijah, representing all the prophets who point to repentance and strict following of all that God desires. God proclaims from the clouds, “This is my Son, the Beloved; He enjoys my favour. Listen to Him.”

Lent is a time of listening to God. It is different from the word “hearing.” Listening is something that comes from the heart but never stays in the heart. It is always linked with the word “obedience” and therefore is a key Lenten Word.

Our journey’s destination is to find our true home in obedience to Jesus who conquers death and rises on that first Easter day in joy and hope.

The third word is RELY. It comes from St Paul’s Letter to Timothy and is given not only to Timothy’s community but to all of us. Paul says we are to be always “relying on the power of God who has saved us and called us to be holy.” Relying on the power of God means that we do not rely on our own power or the power of other interests. The only power that gives us energy and life, and that directs us towards our ultimate destiny in Christ, is the power of God made present in Jesus Christ. In this Lenten Season let us never rely on our own power and repent from doing this.

The fourth faith word in TRUST.

We hear the beautiful response from the responsorial psalm today, “Lord, let your mercy be on us, as we place our trust in you.”

All the Saints and the Scripture commands ultimately end in trusting in God at all times.

Trusting in anybody else but God does not give us the Joy, the Hope and the Happiness that all of us yearn for. In this Lenten Season let us trust in Jesus who at all times trusts in God.

Finally the fifth word is JESUS.

Towards the end of the Transfiguration Gospel of today we hear that the Apostles “when they raised their eyes they saw no one but only Jesus.”

This expression “Only Jesus” is so important to me personally. Indeed it is my Episcopal Motto. When we rely on only Jesus we never rely only on our own resources, we know at all times that everything depends on “Only Jesus.”

So let us, on this Second Sunday of Lent, be led by only Jesus, not only now to the Eucharist but also to the practical charity and the Lenten disciplines of Prayer, Fasting and Alms Giving which we continue in these times on our journey towards Easter.


 Readings  Ex 17: 3-7  Rom 5: 1-2, 5-8  Gospel John 4: 5-15, 19-26, 39-42

 It is lovely to be back with you here at Goulburn. Following the Creed today we will have the Installation of Fr Joshy Kurien as your new Parish Priest.

It is a time for us to reflect on the life of the parish with a new Parish Priest. It is also a time for us to reflect on the context, at present, of our mission – the time of the Coronavirus Pandemic.

As always, let us receive inspiration from the Word of God.

In the First Reading from the Book of Exodus the people of God are described as, “Tormented by thirst.”

In the Gospel today a women who is also tormented by thirst meets Jesus. It is a twofold type of “thirst.” There is the thirst that has drawn her to Jacob’s Well to retrieve water for her family at midday. At midday there are no shadows. All is revealed. She is transparent before the Lord who encounters her and initiates a conversation. Her deeper thirst is a spiritual thirst. She is tormented by her inner thirst. Jesus understands this. He breaks social taboos by talking, as a Rabbi, to a women and talking to a women whose people are marginalised – the Samaritan people.

All this takes place in a particular setting. It is Jacob’s Well. Jacob’s Well becomes a symbol of the Eucharist. It is the place people come and go from. It is the place of encounter with the living springs of God himself in Jesus.

Jesus is seen as the Master Evangelist in this wonderful encounter. He is both Shepherd and Missionary. We think particularly of Fr Joshy today as your Parish Priest. He is to see his life as both a serving shepherd and merciful evangelist of the Good News for all of you over the next period of years.

Then there is the Samaritan woman. She represents all of us. Not only those in the Church today but indeed the whole world. She represents all who thirst for God. She particularly represents those, being a Samaritan woman, who are on the outer. We think in Australia of the new “Samaritan women” – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, the refugees, the homeless and so on.

Now let us look at the pastoral approach of Jesus in this setting.

First of all, Jesus sits alongside the Samaritan woman. He is prepared for “the long haul.” He seems to be in no rush and enters quietly into dialogue with her. There is initial resistance but slowly and surely the women gains confidence in the Lord. She feels her inner thirst slowly being quenched by the man who she starts to address as “Sir.” Hers is a pilgrimage of walking along side Jesus from a starting point of no faith, to partial faith and ultimately the fullness of faith. It is as the psalmist says, “deep calling on deep.” There seems to be a forward, backward motion as she makes a slow but sure movement from a “head” knowledge to a “heart” knowledge of faith.

Finally, let us think of the vision, aim and objective of Jesus in this encounter. It is surely the aim of all of us as pastoral people activating our Baptism. It is the vision and aim of your parishes of such great Catholic tradition, representing the Goulburn Mission.

The vision is simply this. It is to draw people to become fully human and truly Christian in Christ Jesus. This is what Jesus does for the woman by drawing her into Christian faith. She becomes more and more who she truly is. She becomes more and more fully human and she becomes simultaneously truly Christian.

At the end we see something wonderful happen. The woman, the evangelised, now becomes the evangeliser. She returns back to her village and tells the villagers about all that has happened. She places a deep question in their hearts to truly believe, “Is he really the saviour of the world?” The villagers’ then rush back to Jacob’s well and discover this for themselves.

All of this happens at Jacob’s well. All of it happens in the Eucharist.

Dear Fr Joshy, in greeting you now we thank you for saying “yes” to my invitation to become the Parish Priest here. May you find in today’s Gospel all that you truly need to be a shepherd in the heart of the shepherd Himself, Jesus.

Dear friends in Christ, Fr Joshy hasn’t come all the way from India just simply to teach you some new curry recipes! Although he is a very good cook, but truly he is here as your chief evangelist!

You will find in Fr Joshy a priest whose life is poured out in service of you, the people of God. I encourage you to engage with him and continue the cycle of evangelisation in today’s Gospel-here in the Goulburn Mission.

We also welcome over these months Fr Alexander Osborne, the new Assistant Priest. Now you have priests from India and England…welcome to Multicultural Australia!


 Readings  1 Sm 16: 1. 6-7. 10-13  Eph 5: 8-14  Gospel John 9: 1-41

 If we look simply at the appearance of what is happening in the world today with the Coronavirus Pandemic, we would say that the world is in very bad shape.

At the same time, God looks at our situation with deeper eyes.

In the First Reading today the prophet Samuel says to Jesse of Bethlehem, regarding his sons and the selection of a new prophet, “God does not see as man sees; man looks at appearances but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Even if the outward appearances look very beautiful or very ugly God looks at things on a deeper level.

Therefore, the wisdom of St Paul in the Second Reading from Ephesians is very important. St Paul says, “Try to discover what the Lord wants of you.” In other words, try to discover what God’s intentions are for us. Try to discover where God is in the present situation.

The Gospel today brings out this challenge in an extraordinary way in the Lord’s encounter with the man born blind.

It is interesting to note that in the scriptures people who should know better fail when challenged; and people who should be excused because of their ignorance often rise to the fore with great wisdom.

This is the case with the man born blind and his encounter with the people of his time.

At the start of the story the man who encounters Jesus he has no faith. At the end of the miracle story the man has complete faith when he says to Jesus, “Lord, I believe, and worshipped him.”

At the same time, the crowds and the people at the start of the miracle showed great faith. They knew what the law was. They knew, although culturally conditioned to their time, how things worked. However, their heart was arrogant and shut off from God. They were simply looking at appearances and nothing deeper. They were certainly not trying to discover what the Lord wanted of them. At the end of the story they seem to have no faith and they miss a great opportunity to see how Jesus worked two miracles with the man born blind.

The first miracle was the healing of his physical ailment – Blindness. This is a finite miracle. One day he would have to die and of course all his faculties would cease. The deeper and more extraordinary miracle is that the man was given inner sight – Faith. This will last for eternity and beyond his own physical death.

You and I, through Baptism, have been given faith. This is not some museum piece or something that we dust down every now and again and arrogantly use to further isolate the periphery people. It is something that grows as it is being challenged.

All of us are being challenged at the moment with the Coronavirus Pandemic which seems to be enveloping the whole world with its dangerous tentacles!

There does seem to be a sense of panic and real anxiety in the community. On one level this is understandable but, we are people of faith. We are people of hope. We are people of peace and we are people of practical charity. On this Laetare Sunday, we recall we are people of Joy.

I have every confidence that in this calamity overshadowing us, we will keep our eyes on Jesus and allow him to take us on a journey of faith that we had never expected or imagined.

So, let us place our complete trust in the Lord in our present situations and allow him to lead us on the path of Truth, Healing and Light, especially on our pilgrimage to Easter.


 Readings  Ezk 37: 12-14  Rom 8: 8-11  Gospel John 11: 1-45

 Dear friends what a beautiful Gospel. This is the extraordinary miracle of Jesus a week prior to His death. It is the raising of Lazarus which in some way prefigures his own death and resurrection. This Reading is full of feelings and emotions and we can find faith at all different levels. We also hear the shortest sentence in the whole of the Gospel, “Jesus wept.”

Martha and Mary, in different ways, are annoyed and upset. They are mourning their beloved brother and everything seems to have gone wrong. They are also annoyed with Jesus. They say to him in a fashion: – “Jesus you are late in coming.”

During this Coronavirus Pandemic we too are experiencing mixed emotions. We are anxious, worried and fearful. We see this, for example, in the panic buying of today. Our heads are whirling, hearts are confused and so often selfishness reigns rather than selflessness.

In the midst of all this, Jesus comes to Martha and Mary and asks them the pivotal question, “Do you believe?”

Jesus then proclaims the great summary of his entire mission when he says, “I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

When we have a heart focused on Jesus and believe in Him completely everything else is put into perspective.

We all have a practical roll to play.

Jesus told those at the tomb, “Take the stone away.” Jesus Himself could have removed the stone but he asked the community to remove the stone.

He asks us too to remove the stones and the blockages that prevent Him from working a miracle in us. He asks us to do this especially during this Fifth Sunday of Lent when Holy Week is so close. Through Faith, through Repentance and Belief we remove the stones that block Jesus from doing miraculous things in us. All sorts of little miracles are already taking place in this pandemic.

So on this Fifth Sunday of Lent, let us focus entirely on Jesus and His initiative of Grace. Let us try, as best we can, to remove blockages for the Lord. These blockages are not just in me personally but also in other people’s lives through practical charity. So many people feel isolated and lonely locked up in their homes. Let us be the ones to keep in touch with them and help them in any practical way we can. We can allow Jesus to work little miracles through our Hands, our Hearts and our Feet.