Homily – November 2020

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
1 NOVEMBER 2020
ALL SAINTS DAY (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE

Readings     Rv 7: 2-4. 9-14.    1 Jn 3: 1-3.    Gospel Matthew 5: 1-12

Did you hear a “Biblical” drumroll at the beginning of today’s Gospel? When something really important is about to happen we quite often hear of an important mountain, the going up or sitting down of a man of God, the proclamation of something of great importance. Sometimes there is thunder and lightning to emphasise the gravity of the moment.

The “Biblical” drumroll is because Jesus is proclaiming the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel. These are attitudes of being Christians in our world. Jesus, like Moses when he ascended Mount Tabor to receive the Ten Commandments, ascends the mountain as the “new” Moses, sits down, and proclaims the Beatitudes.

The translation that we have today uses the word “Happy” rather than “Blessed” for the Beatitudes. It is widely understood by Biblical commentators today that the word “Happy” is far too shallow. The word “Blessed” is more appropriate.

I see this reflected in today’s Second Reading from the First Letter of St John, sometimes called “The Gospel of God’s Love.” In this beautiful Reading, it is proclaimed, “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us, by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are.”

What a wonderful word – “Lavished.” Jesus lavishes His Love and Mercy upon us. It is a great gift from God, to which we respond as best we can. It is for this reason God blesses us. Therefore, the Beatitudes are the many ways that God has gifted us and for us to respond in our attitudes and actions to the Kingdom of God in our midst.

To offer some meditation on the Beatitudes I would like to introduce for your consideration the word “MOST.” I propose four “MOSTS” to you.

First, which of the Beatitudes is the “MOST” important?

We often hear from our ancient Tradition that the First Beatitude is the MOST important. “Blessed are the poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” When we hear of the word “Poor”, the western world immediately thinks of money and possessions. This is part of being poor in spirit but the poverty in spirit of the Beatitudes, which seems to be contained in so many of the others, is far more panoramic than simply financial or monetary considerations.

What is really meant here is that God calls us to be completely detached from the things that drag us down and cloud our vision of our eternal home in God. We are to be detached from all the things that turn us away from the Lord and attached to the things that draw us up to God. In other words, we are not to be “possessed” by our possessions. This is not simply financial or monetary possessions. It includes all our addictions and obsessions. To be poor in spirit means that we ask God to help us detach ourselves from such matters and to have only God’s vision in sight.

The second “MOST” concerns the most misunderstood Beatitude. This is possibly the Beatitude that proclaims “Blessed the pure in heart: they shall see God.” There seems to be some allusion to this at the end of the Second Reading today also. When St John says, “Surely everyone who entertains this hope must purify himself, must try to be as pure as Christ.”

This Beatitude is often misunderstood in the Western world. The reason being, when talk of purity arises people think of the sexual connotations of purity. Again, this is part of the consideration but pure in heart is far more expansive than this.

It means there is no hate, bitterness or resentment in my heart. My heart is purely for God and God alone. Again, we must ask God for this gift. We all find this a very difficult Beatitude to open ourselves up to.

One recent example was a woman in tragedy who gave us all a great model of purity in heart in early February this year 2020. You may recall that some children in outer Sydney were going for a walk to the shops. Tragically, a car veered off course and killed three children from the one family. They belonged to a very committed Maronite Catholic family. In the days ahead, the mother of these children so tragically killed made international news when she declared that she forgave the driver of the car that killed her children. She said that she had no hatred in her heart for him. She prayed for him. This surely is a great sign that purity in heart is defined in such and extraordinary Saintly way.

On this All Saints Day, we ask ourselves the third “MOST.” Which of the Beatitudes refers to the MOST people?

At the time of the Gospels writing, and certainly in the First Reading today, it could be said that the following Beatitude concerned too many people. “Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of right: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” It was at the time of the persecution of Christians in the early centuries of the Church’s life that such encouraging words would have clearly given great hope to the people under incredibly severe persecution to the point of blood.

In the First Reading from the book of Apocalypse, they are “dressed in white robes…These are the people who have been through the great persecution, and they have washed heir robes white again in the blood of the Lamb.” The Reading talks about huge numbers “a hundred and forty-four thousand.” In other words an immeasurable number. To these the Kingdom of God is their reward for their courage in the face of such horrendous persecution.

Although in Australia we are not persecuted to the point of blood, there is a great deal of subtle persecution happening and happening more frequently in our world. One Bishop of Australia described it to me as “persecution with a velvet glove.” We also in this Covid-19 time must be courageous and live in the hope of being “Blessed in the eyes of God.”

The fourth “MOST” of the Beatitudes is perhaps the Beatitude that is MOST needed today.

Today, All Saints Day, we remember those Saints canonised and uncanonised who are enjoying the fullness of God’s Kingdom. We call on their intercession and try to imitate them as they point us to Jesus. Tomorrow, All Souls Day, and for the rest of November, we pray for those who are most needing of our prayers in their death. Heavy on my heart is that so many have nobody to pray for them in their death. Therefore, in the month of November we pray especially for all those who have died, our family and friends, but even more so those who die in isolation and need our prayers of intercession. We ask God to purify them on their journey towards the Heavenly Kingdom.

Although, sometimes we might have doubts whether our prayers for the living have been heard, we should have no doubt that our prayers for those who have died are heard by God. This is an important act of charity in Christian life, to pray for those who have died.

Eternal Rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen!

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
8 NOVEMBER 2020
THIRTY-SECOND SUNDAY (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Wis 6:12-16  1 Thes 4:13-18  Gospel Matthew 25: 1-13

 The Liturgical Year is slowly coming to an end. Over these weeks of November, we are certainly praying for those who have died.

There is a beautiful teaching about our attitude to those who have died in St Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians, one of the earliest Scriptures and written before the Gospels. It says the following, “We want you to be quite certain…about those who have died, to make sure that you do not grieve about them, like the other people who have no hope….those who have died in Jesus: God will bring them with Him.” We are to be people of hope in the midst of those who have gone before us. There is the “Spiritual vaccine” for a Covid-19 world – Hope!

Ultimately, in our prayers we release those who have died to the merciful and loving arms of Jesus. As the Scripture says, “God will bring them with Him.” This is our hope and our belief. It is a kind of “purgatory.” Purgatory is not only a cleansing and merciful time after our death but to a certain degree in this life also. Especially in this most difficult of years, there is always the purifying by the Lord as we approach our own deaths.

Going now to the Gospel. Over these weeks, there is a seminal statement: This life is not the only life! Are we ready for death?

The Gospel of today offers us a parable on these issues. Recall, parables have one major meaning. The major meaning is at the end of today’s Gospel. It is Jesus saying, “So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.”   So we are to be prepared for whenever the Lord taps us on the shoulder and calls us home.

The parable portrays this lesson with the story of the ten bridesmaids. In ancient times, the groom would go to the home of the bride. There would be a little ceremony. Then he would take his bride and with the family go to his own home. Before he reaches his own home, the bridesmaids would form a procession and there would be lighted lanterns and great joy.

The trouble here is that the bridegroom was late. The bridesmaids, waiting at his home, went to sleep. When the bridegroom was soon to arrive, they woke and trimmed their lanterns. The wise bridesmaids had plenty of oil in reserve when needed. The foolish ones had only basic supplies but it was not enough for this delay. They had to go off to find an open shop and buy extra supplies. When they returned, the bridegroom, the bride and the official party had gone into the home, and the door was closed.

It was not so much that they went to sleep. The problem was that they were not prepared!

I recall once visiting a hospital in reply to a call to minister to a dying man.

When I entered, the hospital room there were quite a few family members and some medical staff. People turned around to see me. No doubt, some thought I was the grim reaper! The dying man asked everybody to leave and called me to speak with him privately. He was not an old man. If I used the analogy of the four seasons, he was possibly in late summer. When I looked into his eyes as the “doctor of his soul”, I saw something else. By ancient definition, Priests and Bishops known as “Doctors of the soul.” Gazing into the eyes of another is often a window to the soul. Whereas his body may have been late summer, his eyes were in the midst of winter. They were full of fear. He was very frightened.

He then said something that many say in such tragic circumstances when their life is soon to end. They often say their priorities were very much incorrect during their life. They had given so much time and energy to things that do not really matter. Now that their life is on a hinge, it became a real reality check. Thanks be to God, through the Sacraments, prayer and conversion it is never too late to come to the Lord.

On the way back to the house where I was staying, I thought of an elderly lady I had visited over the years with Holy Communion. Going back to the four seasons, her body was late autumn but when I gazed into her eyes, her eyes were in springtime. She was ready to die. She had her priorities right. She was prepared. She was the “wise bridesmaid” of the Lord!

The Real Estate Agents tell us it is always about location! As we ponder on the redeeming fact that this life is not the only life and as we ready ourselves for death, we find the location we should find ourselves in coming from the First Reading today.

The Book of Wisdom states, wisdom can be found in a certain place. The First Reading says, “You will find her sitting at your gates.” That is where our location is to be in life! At the gates! At the gates means that we have not sold out completely for this life and we are waiting in hope for the life to come. It is like being at the gates and not selling out to one “world” to the neglect of the other. It is the “all ready but not yet gate-world” that Christians live in.

To help those who find their eyes are in fact in “winter”, I like to ponder upon the beautiful prayer of the 16th century Spanish Carmelite nun, a great mystic in our Tradition, St Teresa of Avila. The prayer dispels fear from our souls.

Let me pray her wonderful prayer deep within to your soul to give you hope and true perspective in life.

“Let nothing disturb you, let nothing frighten you, all things are passing away: God never changes. Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lack nothing; God alone suffices.”

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
TUESDAY, 10 NOVEMBER 2020
FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT
FAREWELL MASS FOR THE VICE-CHANCELLOR, PROFESSOR GREG CRAVEN
AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY – SIGNADO CHAPLE (CANBERRA CAMPUS)

 Readings  Titus 2: 1-8, 11-14  Gospel Luke 17: 7-10

 In these weeks, the Liturgical Year is coming to a close.

It is only a few weeks before the liturgical season of Advent starts and then our movement liturgically towards Christmas.

In these closing weeks of the Churches Liturgical Year, the Gospel literature in our Masses is often described as, “Apocalyptic.” “Apocalyptic” used in the Gospel is quite different to “Apocalyptic” in today’s world.

The common use of the word “Apocalyptic” is often used describing the end of the world. There seems little hope or future in this secular context. We see it particularly in films and in television.   We see it in people’s conversations in our Covid-19 pandemic world, which seems very dark and unending.

However, “Apocalyptic literature” in the Bible does paint a very dark picture of the world but there is always hope and light because of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

“Apocalyptic literature” reminds us that this life is not the only life. We are waiting in hope for the Second Coming of the Lord. We take the long view. We take the big panoramic view of salvation history. For this reason, though battle scared and emerging from the night, the eternal dawn of God will surely come. This is the basis of Christian hope.

Also on this day, we celebrate the feast of St Leo the Great.

He was Pope from 440-461. During his Pontificate as Pope and doctor of the Church he needed to be not simply a man of profound Catholic faith but also very politically astute. During his Pontificate, the political worlds that had been successful for centuries were collapsing with the fall of the Roman Empire and an uncertain future seemed to await the world. In this environment, it was an “Apocalyptic” world.

Pope Leo the XIII was known for his great unifying leadership with a political twist, given the fact that the political world at the time was so fragile. We hear of this particularly with the way he was able to repel the invasion of Rome by Attila the Hun. There were also other examples of him making political moves to stop the vandals from moving into Rome.

He was clearly thinking not of the next few years but the future of his world.   They often say that a Politician is somebody focussed on the next Political Election, but a Statesman is concentrated on the next generation, the big picture! In this case, Pope Leo the Great was certainly a Statesman of his time from both Religious and Political contexts.

Talking about Rome, just over a year and a half a go all the Bishops of Australia were in Rome. We had our meetings with Pope Francis and his colleagues. It was a wonderful time. Before I came back to Australia, I took a few days leave. I made a stop on my way to visit Italian friends in Treviso by visiting Bologna. I visited the oldest University in the World, the Bologna Catholic University. It was established in 1088. Its motto over these many centuries has been “Alma Mater Studiorum” (Nourishing Mother of Studies.) This university is certainly not going out of business.

There was much life in the corridors and already advertising was present reflecting their hope for the future. Their marketing slogan I read with interest was “Innovating the future since 1088.” What a great slogan! Over these hundreds of years through so many “Apocalyptic” centuries, this University has stood out as a beacon of “Veritas” (Truth). In the corridors of the University, there was a real sense of those who had gone before and paved the way for making this University a great European University, even into the future.

I reflected on this in the Gospel of today from St Luke. Here we find Jesus saying “When you have done all that you have been told to do, say, We are merely servants: we have done no more that our duty.”

I am sure these words Professor Greg Craven would say as he concludes shortly his 13-year tenure as Vice-chancellor of our Australian Catholic University.

He has served the University at an incredible time of growth. When you think of the University 13 years ago and what it is now, under his leadership, there has been unbelievable growth on all levels to make this University one of the top Catholic Universities in the English-speaking world.

We are here to thank the Lord for both Greg and his dear wife Anne’s service to the Church over these 13 years.

Could I just make three brief comments about Greg’s leadership. I will leave it to others to explain far more articulately than me his many gifts.

As one of the Bishops of Australia, I find that Greg, if I can use and unusual expression has been a leader of “transcendence.”

He has been a searcher for the beauty of “Truth” and how “Veritas” can give a sense of transcendence to all that is in the University. You see this particularly in how he has gone out of his way to beatify and make a priority our Chapels in each of the Campuses. His many trips overseas have often found him looking for works of Art in Sculpture, Literature or cloth that he has brought home to Australia and visually gives the sense of transcendence to all that we do. For bringing this deeper sense of the Catholic faith into our University, we thank you Greg and Anne.

Secondly, he has certainly been a Statesman concerning Educational thinking. Greg is such a great Orator and Writer. He always seems to be a decade or two in front of the pack. I have noticed this particularly when I was on the Senate of the Australian Catholic University. He has been a big picture Vice-chancellor. We see this in what seemed to take place in Bankstown outside of Sydney. We have certainly seen this in the Rome Campus of the ACU in Italy. For this transformative and Statesmanlike leadership here at this University, we also thank you dear Greg and Anne.

Thirdly, and on a more personal note, I would like to thank you Greg for not forgetting about us here in Canberra at the ACU Campus. This Campus of the Australia Catholic University is not in the big league like Sydney and Melbourne in numbers but you have never forgotten us. You have committed many resources into building up this campus into the beautiful campus that it is. So once again, we thank you dear Greg and Anne for what you have done here in this place.

Finally, I would like to thank you Greg for your great loyalty to the Catholic Church over the last 13 years. It has been a very “Apocalyptic” and dark moment for the Catholic Church in this land for various well-known reasons. You have shown extraordinary leadership in the middle of this darkness. A bit like a Rembrandt painting, you put a great deal of light into the darkness of the Catholic Church here in Australia and continue to dream that the brilliant masterpiece of Christ will shine out like the stars and the moon in the darkness of the night.   We will be forever grateful.

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
15 NOVEMBER 2020
THIRTY-THIRD SUNDAY (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Prv 31:10-13. 19-20. 30-31.  1 Thes 5:1-6  Gospel Matthew 25: 14-30

 Next Sunday begins the concluding week of our Liturgical Year for 2020.

The Readings over these days continue the theme mentioned last week: Apocalyptic literature. In other words, the reminder to all of us that this life is not the only life. Are you readying yourself for death?

When we us the word “Apocalyptic” we need to make an immediate clarification. In secular use, the word “Apocalyptic” is very common, especially in films and in songs. It is, as they say, the time of “The end of the world as we now know it.” There is much despair and fear. We get a taste of this in our Covid-19 world.

Apocalyptic literature in the Scriptures also talks about dark times with much foreboding. However, in the Scriptures there is also great healing light and hope promised.

In the end, there is God who is full of hope and mercy. Judgement Day will come but it is for us to “Stay awake” as mentioned in the Second Reading and last week also.

St Paul in the Second Reading from the ancient text 1 Thessalonians talks about this explicitly. He says “But it is not as if you lie in the dark, my brothers, for that Day to overtake you like a thief. No, you are all sons of light and sons of the day we do not belong to the night or to darkness.” So light and the dawn of Christ has the last word!

With this panorama, we can now examine the rather complex Gospel parable of today.

It is the parable of the talents. It is complex because there are aspects that seem to suggest a particular type of financial system and a particular image of God displayed. However, we must remember that it is a parable with one or two basic meanings and not an allegory whose every aspect needs examining.

Simply it is of a master leaving his estate for a prolonged period of time and entrusting his property to three servants. This word “Entrusting” is a beautiful Biblical word.

He gives out talents, which are not skills but vast amounts of money, to his servants. He gives five talents to one, two to another and one to a third.

While he is away the three respond somewhat differently to this “Entrusting” by the master. The first two invest the money and double the investment by the time the master returns. He is very pleased with their stewardship.

However, the third servant with the one talent buries the talent and when the master arrives unearths it and gives it back to him without any interest. He says to his master “I had head you were a hard man…so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.”

The first issue here is the image he has of the master. He describes him as a harsh man. In fact, the master is the opposite. There is every indication in the parable that he intends to give these vast amounts of money to his servants upon their good stewardship.

This is often a problem with us all when we have an image of God, which is not Biblical.

If our image of God, and regrettably it is still quite common, is of a harsh and mean God who looks forward to tripping us up at any mistake, then we will end up burying our own capacity to live out the Christian life. When we look at the broad panorama of the Scriptures this is not the image of God. The Scriptures continually tell us “God is slow to anger, rich in mercy, and in Him we find the fullness of redemption.”

The master rebukes this mistaken servant. He calls him “wicked and lazy.” He dismisses him from the estate all together.

Clearly, the major meaning of this parable of the talents is that God wants us to take this passing life seriously. He wants us to use our time profitably and to take “Biblical risks.”

This is foreshadowed in the First Reading, which speaks of a “perfect wife.” When Christians look at this reading from Proverbs we see it as a foreshadowing of the Church. The Church is often described in the feminine, for example, “Holy Mother Church.” “She”, is described in this Reading as very diligent, trustworthy and hardworking. “She opens her arms to the needy.”

In the light of last week’s Readings, we note with interest she is to be found “at the city gates.” In other words, the Church realises that we are in the “In-between time.” God will come again in the fullness of time and judge our stewardship of God’s Kingdom.

This saving event will be showcased in next Sunday’s Gospel, “The Solemnity of Christ the King.”

I would like to make two brief examples of what taking “Biblical risks” could mean.

First, I recall an engaged couple’s evening I attended. Here married couples are mentoring engaged couples who are preparing for marriage in the Catholic Church. Afterwards, at the cup of teatime, I met a wonderful couple. They seemed to be so vital in their love for each other and very much attuned to the Catholic faith. Without asking them, they made known to me that they were not going to live together before marriage. They also indicated they would be very open to any children that the Lord might give them.

Later on, I thought that this wonderful couple were actually taking a big “Biblical risk!” in a sense; they were going against the tide of popular opinion and secular behaviour on such matters. It did not concern them at all. Clearly, they did not mind risking peer group pressure or ridicule and they were advancing towards the future with great vibrant faith.

Secondly, in more recent times, I met a priest who also was taking quite a big “Biblical risk.”

He excused himself from a meeting. He was going to have a very serious and challenging talk to an extended family who had just lost their elderly mother.

Apparently, what had happened is as follows. The elderly children of this woman had decided that their mother would not have a funeral Mass. There would simply be prayers at the graveside.

What irritated the Priest was that their elderly mother was very well known to the parish. She would come to Mass every day when she was healthy. She loved the Mass and now the children seemed to be depriving her of a Mass at her death. He was taking a risk bringing this conversation up! The family may tell him to mind his own business!

However, I was delighted with his courage and very much supported his special pastoral talk with this family!

Let us now continue with the Mass. Let us reflect during this Mass and the days ahead on our own response to God in this Apocalyptic time! Let us always realise that God takes the way we live out our life in this “In-between time” very seriously. God wants us to use our time and talents profitably and to stand alongside the poor. God would also want us, when it is appropriate and following careful prayerful discernment, to take “Biblical risks” in responding to the mandate of the Gospel.

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
22 NOVEMBER 2020
SOLEMNITY OF CHRIST THE KING (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Ez 34:11-12. 15-17  1 Cor 15:20-26. 28  Gospel Matthew 25: 31-46

 On this the last Sunday of the Liturgical Year, the Great Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe, we pause for sombre and yet hopeful reflection on our future destiny in Christ.

The three great interventions of God in human history as King of the Universe are as follows.

First, at Creation. Here God is the Creator of the Universe.

One of the first questions of the traditional editions of Catholic Catechism is this: “Who made the world?” the answer is “God made the world, He made it from nothing.”

We see God’s creative work showcased in the Old Testament, particularly in the Book of Genesis and the Psalms. In the Psalms, Psalm 8 particularly shows that the beauty of Creation is reflective of the beauty of the Creator. This is still an important point given the sensitivity we now have regarding ecological issues in the world. We appreciate so much more clearly the preciousness and the beauty of Creation. May it always assist us to give glory to the Creator of such beauty, the almighty Creator, God.

Secondly, by sending Jesus. King Jesus rules triumphantly from the Calvary Cross.

St Paul is perhaps the best articulator of this pivotal intervention of God in human affairs. In the Life, Death, and Resurrection, and in sending the Holy Spirit upon us, Jesus makes of us a “new creation.” Even in the Second Reading today from the Letter of St Paul to the Corinthians, this is nicely expressed when St Paul says, “All will be brought to life in Christ.”

Thirdly, at the end of time. King Jesus will come again! Although it might seem a bit strange to say it like this, we already know the two major questions that Jesus will ask us at that particular and universal moment of the “End times.”

Initially He will ask us “Did you love Me? Did you love Me? Did you love Me?” and the second set of questions could be phrased as follows: “Did you love Me by serving others especially the three ‘L’s” – the Lost, the Last, the Least?”

The First Reading from Ezekiel and the Responsorial Psalm use the famous pastoral analogy of Jesus as the Good Shepherd and we the sheep. As Jesus, the Good Shepherd, looked after the “lost one”, the question will be “Have we followed in our own life to do the same?”

This weekend, the last weekend of the Liturgical Year, we bid farewell to the Gospel according to St Matthew. Next Sunday begins the first Sunday of Advent on our pilgrimage to Christmas. The Gospel of the new Liturgical Year is St Mark.

Here in the Gospel today, Matthew as it were, “signs off” by giving us in unambiguous terms that which will be asked at the end of time.

Here in this Gospel today, more strongly phrased than any other of the Gospels, there is a fourfold reiteration of the 6 corporal works of mercy. They are pertaining to our relationship in our lifetime to the hungry, the thirsty, the homeless, the naked, the sick, and those imprisoned.

Sentence will be pronounced from our merciful and loving God on how we have been responsible in this “In-between time” between God’s First and Second Coming. Over the last number of weeks, we have been told in various parables to always “Stay Awake” and “Be Prepared” for opportunities to express God’s love for the periphery people. More so, we are to see in the periphery the unlikely face of God today. Indeed Jesus Himself states this in today’s Gospel when he says “In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.” This expression was a favourite of St (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta. She famously said that the Gospel can be summarised on our five fingers – “You did it to me.”

Along with the spiritual works of mercy, these corporal works of mercy seem inevitably placed on a lower level in our priorities of this world. Yet, it is upon these, we will ultimately be asked by God for our response.

This is not simply a final list. Over the centuries, the Church has added some other corporal works of mercy. Famously, there is the addition of the requirement to “bury the dead.” It seems a strange requirement of mercy in today’s world. Of course, we will bury the dead! This has not always been the case.

Indeed, in the early Church when Christians were persecuted and executed at an incredibly high rate, even our enemies noticed our merciful response in the midst of their hatred towards us. They noted that the early Christians would do something that nobody else was at all interested in doing. They would go around the streets and look for corpses. In those days so many of the poor dead where simply cast into the streets to become food for vermin. Christians took these anonymous corpses and buried them with prayer and great dignity. Enemies noticed this as an act of extraordinary mercy!

In his latest encyclical, “Fratelli Tutti”, Pope Francis it could be said, continues to articulate other works of corporal mercy that all of us would be attentive to in our day and time. He talks so much about “social friendship” in the encyclical. Our friendship is not just for our family or our friends, he calls the universal friendship that all of us are to engage in a “social friendship.” I recommend this wonderful encyclical for your attention.

As we go on with our Mass, in the midst of this Covid-19 pandemic, many opportunities for expressing corporal works of mercy are offered to us on a daily basis. I suppose it is always true to say that “true” need whispers in the outer world. There is a certain subtlety about need. We need to look for those who are feeling isolated in these times, whether they be in our neighbourhoods or in our cities. “Need” does not knock on our doors, but “need” and those on the periphery are certainly to be found. This subtle need shouts out in our inner world – our conscience. May we see this as a call of today’s Gospel to do something about it.

I end with the famous words of the Australian Saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, who could articulate things in very straightforward Aussie way! She said, “Never see a need without doing something about it.”