Homily – November 2021


 Readings  1 Kings 17:10-16  Heb 9:24-28  Gospel Mark 12:38-44

 During this month of November we remember in our Masses, in a special way, those who have gone before us. The prayer for the Holy Souls is not just simply for those who have died but also those who are left here on this earth grieving the loss of a loved one.

Grieving and bereavement is a pastoral concern not to be underestimated. Society still gives us only a month or two to get over a significant bereavement. Those of us, especially priests who visit those who are bereaved, observe that it takes many years of hard work to try to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. There is an expression which goes, “If you don’t deal with loss in your life, loss will deal with you.” Although rather dramatic, I think this statement is quite true. Dealing with the mess that is left in our lives when others go to God is a big pastoral issue.

Also on this day of Prison Sunday we remember the mess in people’s lives who are now prisoners in gaols. In this year we pray particularly for those who are Wardens and Prison Workers.

Another mess is found in today’s Gospel. In recent weeks the Gospels have focused on intellectual arguments that the Lord has had with certain Religious leaders. Today the attack of the Lord seems to be on their behavioural hypocrisy.

We see that especially in the beginning of the Gospel today when Jesus says, “These are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers.”

So, how do Christians deal with the mess in their everyday lives?

The Scriptures today give us the wonderful example of two widows who respond to the great mess in their lives. Let us recall that widows are the poorest of the poor. There was no Centrelink in those days! When your husband has died and you are now responsible for any children, you are automatically marginalised into the extremely poor category.

In the First Reading today we have the beautiful encounter with the Widow of Zarephath.

It is an encounter with the prophet Elijah. God has sent Elijah to meet this courageous women who has one son and absolutely no means of survival. It seems almost as if God is putting her to the test even when she is as her wits end. Elijah calls upon the widow to not only give him a drink but also to prepare a meal for him. She honestly says that she has only a handful of wheat in her jar and little oil in a jug for a final meal that she is to share with her son. Nonetheless, she does accommodate the prophet’s request and offers the final hospitality.

Her sacrificial love and her deep-seated faith that God redeems and saves is a shining example of Discipleship. Almost like a little miracle of the Loaves and Fish, the prophet Elijah assures her that “the jar of meal shall not be spent, jug of oil shall not be emptied, before the day when the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.” This is what happened. Her life continued on and even in another passage, not in today’s Readings, there was a miraculous healing of her son.

In today’s Gospel a second widow is brought to our attention. Jesus does not personally encounter this widow but observes her from afar.

It is interesting to note that Jesus “watched the people putting money into the treasury.” He noticed that many of the rich put in a great deal. He then noticed that a very poor widow came and put in two very small coins that were almost worthless. Nonetheless, the Lord saw her as a great example of Discipleship and said that “this poor widow has put more in than all who have contributed to the treasury…She from the little she had has put in everything she possessed, all she had to live on.”

This woman’s reckless generosity and courage in the face of her own messiness in her life was a shining example to the Lord. She knew that God would provide for her. Even in her poverty she continued to show great, almost extravagant, generosity.

These two widows offer us a great example for the mess in our own lives with sacrificial and courageous love.

We saw a little of this at hand during the week with the extraordinary story of the four year old girl from Carnarvon, Western Australia. This little girl, Cleo Smith, had been abducted and was found after almost three weeks.

The Catholic parish in Carnarvon, is associated with this family. During this period of the child’s absence they not only prayed to God incessantly with great courage and sacrificial love, but also did all sorts of practical things to try and find this child. They were determined to put their trust in God and truly believed that the child would be found. This is a great definition of hope. When the child was found not only the family in Carnarvon, but also throughout Australia and the world, rejoiced. I was speaking to somebody during the week here in Canberra who said while watching the episode unfold on the television that she was moved to tears of great happiness. All of these feelings are called Joy.

Hope is always the mother of Joy. So whether it be the mess of our own families, the Covid loneliness that still surrounds so many people, or the mess of our lives as we come to the end of this extraordinary year, we put our hope and our joy in God.

In Jesus Christ Hope is truly found. His Death and Resurrection is our firm anchorage. There can be no doubt about it. When we place our lives in His Death and Resurrection, all Hope and Joy is given a very deep foundation indeed.

I conclude this Homily with a quote from St Ambrose of Milan, the 4th Century theologian. He offered us the memorable quote which seems very appropriate given today’s Readings. He said, “God does not consider what one gives, but what one keeps.”

14 NOVEMBER 2021

 Readings  Dn 12:1-3  Heb 10:11-14, 18  Gospel Mark 13:24-32

 If I was to ask you to describe Christianity in three words, I wonder what you would say? Perhaps you would use the expression of next Sunday’s Solemnity and say, “Christ the King.”

That would certainly be true. Another way to express this would be using these three words: Faith, Hope and Love. These are the three major theological virtues. That means they are given by God. It means that they are all gifts from God.

The Love of God is made present in Jesus’ Death on the Cross. This is “Sacrificial love” or “Agape love.” In the Second Reading today we read, “Christ…has offered one single sacrifice for sins.” Here is the expression of love that is anchored in time but is beyond time.

Then this great gift from God needs to be received by all of us through the gift of Faith. This is the last week in which we have a direct Reading from Mark’s Gospel before the end of the Liturgical Year. Next week our Reading is from John’s Gospel. Over the last Liturgical Year we have been instructed about “Total faith,” “Partial faith,” and “No faith.” This is seen not only with the Disciples but also with the people Jesus meets. He “evokes” faith and we see how people can respond partially or totally to this call.

Last week we had the great example of the two widows. Although they had absolutely nothing, they totally relied on God. They were great examples of “Total faith.”

Then there is the theological virtue of Hope.

Hope is the desire for the Kingdom of God and eternal life. It is a trust in God and not just “me.” We truly desire that one day we will be with God totally and completely and unimpeded from all that distracts us in life.

Today’s First Reading and Gospel Reading are all to do with hope. But, it is expressed in an unusual way. I suppose one way of looking at it is the following. Just imagine we have a diamond. Sometimes when we see diamonds in jewellery stores they are presented with a dark background so that the diamond can be better exposed. This “dark cloth” is also seen in today’s Readings. It is a kind of way of describing what Biblical or Jewish literature is when it is called “Apocalyptic literature.”

We see this very clearly in the First Reading when it talks of “a time of great distress, unparalleled since nations first came into existence.” In the Gospel there is a description of “the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will come falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.”

Here is, as it were, a kind of dark cloud which Jewish biblical literature used to bring out even more fully the diamond of God. We see so much in our own world today of an “Apocalyptic mindset.” There are certain aspects of the Global Warming debate and certainly in television, movies and songs of a “end of the world is upon us” attitude displayed.

Without Jesus Christ and the love of God made present to us, this “Apocalyptic literature” can only cause us to respond in fear and even despair. Conversely, Biblical Apocalyptic literature helps us respond in faith and hope.

As I have said, the diamond shines when it has a dark background behind it. We see hints of this in the First Reading when the Archangel Michael is instructed to “stand up… guard over your people,” with God “as bright of stars for all eternity.” Then in the Gospel in the midst of all this Apocalyptic and Cataclysmic scenes unfolding we hear it proclaimed that, “They will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.” We are then made aware of Jesus’ most comforting words in the midst of all our Covid and Apocalyptic gloom, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Here the diamond of Jesus is hope filled.

I think there are at least two lessons for life given in this Scripture teaching today.

First of all, we must always remember that this life is not the only life. The Scriptures do not talk about when the end of the world will come, but that it will come. Our focus must be on Jesus, our Hope.   The ultimate foolishness in the Bible is for people to live their life as if it was the only life. Never let that be said of us.

Secondly, let us always recall that Jesus is both the journey and the destination in our lives. That beautiful expression again of Jesus, “My words will never pass away.” Let that ring true always in our belief as individuals and as the community of the Church as we journey together (=Synodal) to God in Heaven.

Just in recent days I have had a very good example of the dark background but the diamond of Jesus shining forth.

Friday last, one of the Bishops, who was terminally ill, telephoned all the Bishops connected together on Zoom during our bi-annual meeting. So here was Bishop Bill Wright phoning in to say that his terminal lung cancer had advanced and that the doctors were saying that it was unlikely that he would last till Christmas. He phoned us to say goodbye and to offer us words of encouragement. He also quoted the words of St John Henry Newman in his beautiful poem, “Lead Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom.” Extraordinarily yesterday, only 24 hours after he had talked to us, we were notified that he had died. So we ask God’s blessing upon him as he rests in peace. We pray for all those who have died especially in this November month.

So here is the Gospel for today, it is the prayer that gave great hope to Bishop Bill Wright. It is the prayer of St John Henry Newman when he was at a very vulnerable time of his life marooned in Sicily, Italy in 1833. He prayed the beautiful prayer, “Lead Kindly Light, amidst the encircling gloom.”

Let us pray that prayer often in our difficulties too and be given Faith, Hope and Love in greater measure. Amen!


 Readings  Numbers 3:5-9  1 Timothy 4:12-16  Gospel: Matthew 20:25-28

Perhaps in the times ahead, local Catholic historians will look back on this Diaconate Ordination of Eden John Langlands here in St Christopher’s Cathedral and say that he was ordained a Deacon in the middle of the Plenary Council of Australia. This would be true. Eden Langlands will become a Plenary Council Deacon because he has been ordained between the 1st and 2nd Assemblies of the Plenary Council of Australia. He also is being ordained a Deacon as we begin to prepare for the International Synod on Synodality in Rome in the years ahead.

Clearly, the key word and key pastoral posture is the word “Synod.” This Greek word simply means “Walking together,” “Walking alongside.” It implies listening attentively to the whisper of the Holy Spirit as a Church community with great humility and mercy. These two great words must characterise your Plenary Council Diaconate, dear Eden.

Surely, there would be at least three major characteristics of serving out the Diaconate in this Plenary Council time.

The first could be described as our “Synodal” deep relationship with Jesus.

There is a significant phrase in the First Reading where the Lord speaks to Moses and tells him to gather the people together “in their service of the tabernacle.”

This implies a silent Adoration before the Almighty God. The two beautiful words of the Responsorial Psalm tonight from Psalm 83 seems to say it all that in our silent Adoration. Our souls are to be “longing and yearning, for the courts of the Lord.”

Deacons of the Catholic Church are to give leadership here.

This is not a difficult request, because young people today show extraordinary attraction to Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. One only needs to go to a World Youth Day to see that one of the highlights of the whole week of the International Youth Festival is the silent Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. This is of extraordinary Spiritual power when this is witnessed by over a million people. Clearly, away from all the noise of mobile phones and social media, young people discover that their deepest longings and yearnings are found in profound silence before our Eucharistic Lord.

A Saint of our New Millennium, Blessed Carlo Acutis (1991-2006), gives an extraordinary example here that included Eucharistic Adoration. He died 15 years ago and when he was only 15 years of age. In dying of Leukaemia, he was able to grow in extraordinary spiritual maturity well beyond his years. He talked about the 5 important steps in his life, Mass, Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, Confession and Spiritual Guidance, Devotion to the Saints and practical works of charity.

May Blessed Carlo Acutis lead us on and draw many people, especially young people, to a closer understanding of the Scriptures and Sacraments. As his body rests in a Church in Assisi, Italy, we find he is buried with his Nike shoes and tracksuit on. So let the Saints lead us on!

However also, let us be aware that we are not adoring the Lord in a static way. Simply focusing on Adoration alone could lead to a piety that is not worthy of the Lord. We don’t want any Sacristy Deacons that might lead to different forms of clericalism. That is not worthy of Holy Orders.

Whereas Adoration might begin with our knees, it must also be expressed with our hands and feet. We are looking for a dynamic tabernacle devotion.

We need look no further than Mary the Mother of God in this regard. She became as it were, a walking tabernacle, at the time of the Annunciation. Not only that, one of pregnant Mary’s first actions was to rush to her cousin Elizabeth so that she might share her joy. The walking of pregnant Mary to her cousin surely is the first Corpus Christi procession in salvation history. It is a real dynamic image.

Mary goes to her cousin as a first evangelist carrying the Lord within her and proclaiming out God’s praise in the Magnificat. We see here “Synodal Mary.” May we learn from this. The silent Adoration of the Annunciation was intimately linked with the dynamic image of going out to those in need in the Visitation.

Secondly, we pray that there be a deep relationship with God’s People for all Deacons in a Synodal way of preaching and teaching.

Our eyes move to our Second Reading today from St Paul’s letter to Timothy when he says, “Make use of the time until I arrive by reading to the people, preaching and teaching. You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you; do not let it lie unused.”

There is an urgency here in the words of St Paul, that we must enter into a deep relationship with God’s People through the way of walking with them and preaching and teaching in a way that builds up the faith.

Clearly, preaching and teaching are the quintessential mission of a Deacon at any time.

In today’s Australian world the preaching must not simply be a sharing of doctrines of the Church in a catechetical manner. There must be a proclamation of the Kerygma in which your own personal testimony, dear Eden, of God’s life is shared for the building up of God’s Kingdom. This can be done by words but more so by non-verbal good example. From here, our Church’s treasury of ancient and treasured doctrines can be taught persuasively.

Synodal evangelisation has already emerged as a major theme in the Plenary Council of Australia. Give us a lead, dear Eden. Show how this can be expressed as a new Deacon.

Thirdly and finally, Deacons are to enter into a deep relationship with the poor – the Lost, the Lonely and the Least, in Synodal service.

We understand what this means, being a disciple of Service, by listening carefully to the Gospel of today’s Mass.

Jesus here reminds us once again that “anyone who wants to be great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be their slave, just as the Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I remember many years ago that one of the Deacons I taught, in the Theological College in Melbourne, received a great surprise after his appointment as a Deacon to one of the parishes.

The Parish Priest there gave him many duties. One of the duties, that surprised the new Deacon, was to clean the Parish toilets every Saturday afternoon before the weekend Masses. He thought, at first, that this was a most unusual duty to be given! Surely the domestic staff or the Sacristans could look after such a mundane responsibility, he thought.

The Parish Priest was very wise, he understood that being a slave of all as a Deacon was not just theoretical but also very practical. To give him great credit, this Deacon at the time somewhat reluctantly but in the end dutifully made sure those parish toilets were the best cleaned toilets in the whole region!

Not that I am suggesting, dear Eden, that you be given this duty when you take up responsibilities as a Deacon at St Bernhard’s Batemans Bay. However, the Parish Priest of Batemans Bay, Fr Martins Aloga is here. Let’s see what happens?!

The important thing to know is that as a Deacon your duty is to be a slave to all in the light of Mary’s Magnificat where she declares that the almighty has done great things for her when she has given her love completely over to Him.

As a Deacon in Synodal service, make sure you seek out wherever you are, the Lost, the Lonely and the Least. Give them preference of your time and energy. Respond to them, using a lovely expression in the preface of today’s Mass, with “unfeigned love”. This means sincere and genuine love not just being of service in a tokenistic and patronising way. That is not worthy of the Diaconal calling.

Dear Eden, I have every confidence that you will be able to be the Plenary Council Deacon that God wants you to be. We have all befriended you over many years now and have seen that God is clearly leading you into Holy Orders.

May this Ministry of “serving at table” coming from the Preface of today’s Mass, be the fundamental motivation in all you do as a Deacon. It now takes on a particular Liturgical function in the Eucharist as we move towards your ordination to the Diaconate. Be aware that we are praying for you, we walk alongside you in Synodal fashion and have every confidence that God is with you.

21 NOVEMBER 2021

 Readings  Dn 7:13-14  Rv 1:5-8  Gospel John 18:33-37

 We now begin the last week of the Liturgical Year on a very high note – The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ King of the Universe.

You will recall that last week we considered the Apocalyptic Literature of these weeks. We noted how a certain darkness in the description of the “End Times” is present so that the sparkling diamond of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour is given even greater prominence.

So, today we celebrate our belief that Jesus Christ is eternally and for all times our Lord and Saviour.

There is a beautiful expression coined by Gerard Manly Hopkins, a Jesuit English poet of the 19th century, when he described Jesus Christ as the “IMMORTAL DIAMOND.”

This is a wonderful expression! It comes to my mind when I ponder the first two sentences of today’s First Reading from the book of Daniel, “I gazed into the visions of the night. And I saw, coming on the clouds of heaven, one like a son of man.”

The visions of the night – The Apocalyptic dark cover…..coming on the clouds of heaven – the immortal diamond Jesus our Lord and Saviour. In the Book of Daniel it is a prophecy of King Jesus’ reign. The Christians look at this Old Testament text and see the description of the Kingship of King Jesus described as, “His sovereignty is an eternal sovereignty which shall never pass away, nor will his empire be destroyed.”

We come to understand what type of King Jesus is in today’s Gospel. It is the encounter on the last day of Jesus’ life with Pontius Pilate.

Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” Jesus’ answer is, “Mine is not a Kingdom of this world.” Jesus then goes on to say, “Yes, I am a King. I was born for this, I came into the world for this: to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”

It is interesting to note that at the beginning of Jesus’s public ministry, at his Baptism, the father’s voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased, listen to Him.”

Now, at His last day on this earth, Jesus himself says that He is a witness to the truth and truth is on the side of all who “listen to my voice.” Even during the last hours of His life Jesus is calling people to repentance and belief in the Good News!

It is quite clear from this encounter that Jesus’ contribution is not one of Politics but of the Kerygma – calling people to repent and believe in the Good News.

This is emphasised in the Reading from the Book of Revelations in the Second Reading of today when it is said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega says the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

It is interesting to note that in the early Church the Kingship of Jesus as the Beginning and the End of all creation was represented widely in Christian Iconography in two letters from the Greek alphabet – Alpha and Omega.

The Solemnity today is, indeed, an ancient one! In more recent years we have celebrated the Kingship of Jesus in a very popular Catholic Hymn – Hail Redeemer, King Divine.

The refrain goes, “Angels, Saints and Nations sing: Praise be Jesus Christ our King; Lord of life, earth, sky and sea, King of love on Calvary.”

Given today is World Youth Day around the world and I am gathered at the Mass today with many of our youth, my eyes are also drawn to the third verse of this popular hymn that was composed less than one hundred years ago.

It states, “King most holy, King of truth, guard the lowly, guide the youth.” I am also joined today by one of our youth who I ordained a Deacon last Friday night – Deacon Eden Langlands.

The youth, I have found, sometimes are more open than the adults to this fundamental and basic proclamation of the Kingship of Jesus. They have even coined a wonderful expression that our unity in Christ has three phases – Belong, Believe, Become. Let us pray for all youth of the world today, on this World Youth Day, particularly our own. I am so pleased to say that the youth apostolate in this Archdiocese is flourishing with so many wonderful youth deepening their life in the Catholic faith.

As we go on now with the Mass, let our “Gospill” for this weekend be the refrain line from the hymn Hail Redeemer, King Divine, “Praise be Jesus Christ our King.” Let’s pray this often during the week to come and call upon the Kingship of Jesus to guide us in all the challenges that await us. Let us now be fed by the food of the Eucharist to give us nourishment for the challenges in our lives.

28 NOVEMBER 2021

 Readings Jer 33:14-16 1 Thes 3:12-4:2 Gospel Luke 21: 25-28. 34-36

I am not sure who makes these popular expressions in the community, but here is one for your consideration. It is the expression, “It is what it is.” Have your heard this before? It seems to be a response to a messy situation people find themselves in and there seems to be no way out. There is a stoic resignation behind this expression that one responds to the messiness of life in a somewhat passive manner.

I feel that this expression needs to be baptised into the Catholic Church! We would agree with the expression but would insist on adding a further comment. It might be something like the following: “It is what it is…but there is always hope.” Here is the Christian response. There is always the presence of God in the vulnerabilities of our lives and in the lives of society. This is exactly what St Luke’s Gospel offers us.

We now begin, on this First Sunday of Advent, our preparation in repentance for the coming of the great Solemnity of the Christmas Season. We also begin a new Liturgical Year. It is the year of St Luke’s Gospel. So we bid farewell to St Mark’s Gospel and we open ourselves up to the Gospel of St Luke.

St Luke’s Gospel was written by a Gentile (non-Jewish person). He was writing to a Gentile (non-Jewish) community. His Gospel was written after St Mark’s Gospel, indeed, he probably had St Mark’s Gospel in front of him while he was writing.

A major theme of St Mark’s Gospel is linked with the expression above. It is finding hope in the messiness of life. He would certainly insist that it is not simply, “It is what it is,” but there is always Christian hope in the Holy Spirit’s way of turning something that seems to be very messy into a masterpiece of God’s Grace!

In the weeks ahead, as we lead up to the Christmas Season, we see the messiness in the Holy Family. There is the messiness with regard to the arrangement of Mary and Joseph’s betrothal afer the Annunciation. There is the messiness of the trip down to Bethlehem for the census, when Mary was ready to give birth to Jesus. There is the messiness of trying to find suitable accommodation…the messiness continues!

Throughout all this, there is the beautiful Canticle of Zechariah (Luke 1/68) which states triumphantly, that in this messiness there is hope…”God has visited His People and redeemed them.” The Visitation of Jesus happens in our messiness and God redeems us in this messiness.

This hopeful message is foreshadowed in the First Reading from the prophet Jeremiah. There is the promise that God is going to “fulfil the promise I made with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.” Because of this, God’s People “shall dwell in confidence.”

This hope of God’s visitation, in the midst of the exile of their lives, is fully realised in the Coming of Jesus.

Strangely we do not have a Reading today from the first chapters of Luke’s Gospel. Somewhat strangely, it is from towards the end of the Gospel. It pertains to the Second Coming of Jesus and not His First Coming at Bethlehem.

The Second Coming of the Lord describes that God will come giving hope and redemption in Glory at the end of time. Because of this our posture should always be one of readiness and repentance as we await the Lord’s Coming. This Gospel says that we are to “stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”

Once again, we are to “stand with confidence.” The Lord is coming in the fullness of His Second Coming.

Apart from Redemption and Hope in the midst of the messiness of our lives, a second major theme in Luke’s Gospel is perhaps represented by the word “Theophilus.” Please be aware that the author of the Gospel of St Luke is also the author of the Acts of the Apostles. We often place these two sections of the Scripture together and call them “Luke/Acts.” Together they represent about a quarter of all the Scriptures of the New Testament.

Who is this “Theophilus”? Is it a person? Is it a symbol of something deeper?

This question is unlocked, somewhat I believe, by understanding that the word “Theophilus” means “Lover of the Lord.” Whereas, Theophilus could be a person that Luke is writing to directly, it could also be and attitude of those who are reading his Gospels. They are to approach it, not passively or in a negative way, but full of hope and full of love. To really muse on the Gospels as a “Theophilus” means that as “Lovers of the Lord” we are open to be drawn into an encounter with the God of all love in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

So as we begin now our Advent Season and the beginning of a new Liturgical Year, let us all take on a new name – Theophilus.

Perhaps for our “Gospill” this week we might recall this beautiful phrase from the Benedictus of the Canticle of Zechariah. It is, “God has visited His People and redeemed them.” In the midst of the messiness, that will surely come in the next few weeks as we prepare for Christmas, let us always have great hope and tranquillity as we know that even in our messy arrangements God, as we completely trust in him, will in His own good time make masterpieces out of our “messterpieces.”

For this we pray. Amen!