Homily – April – 2022

3 APRIL 2022

 Readings  Is 43: 16-21  Phil 3: 8-14  Gospel John 8: 1-11

 It is now one week before Holy Week with its beginning next Sunday, Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.

Today’s Gospel is from John, not Luke in this year of Luke, and it is Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan Woman.

The First Reading today prepares us to understand this encounter by referring to the prophet Isaiah.

At this point of Salvation history, the People of God know that they have sinned and rebelled against God. Recall that the word “Rebellion” is an important word in understanding the Scriptural understanding of “Sin.” It is rebellion of the heart against God, which has social repercussions.

However, they are very much aware that God demonstrates mercy and forgives them. Through their experience of liberation from Egypt, they are looking forward now to a future filled with hope. We can see this when Isaiah speaks of the Lord as saying, “No need to recall the past, no need to think about what was done before. See, I am doing a new deed…The People I have formed for myself will sing my praises.”

With these saving beliefs expressed, we can now examine the Gospel in greater depth.

The first thing to say is that everybody agrees with the facts of what has happened. Both the Religious academics, Jesus and all, realise that this woman has a sinful past. We then find two responses to her sinful past (a type of confession).

The Religious academics use this situation to depersonalise this very fragile woman even further. This expression, “In full view of everybody” indicates her even more profound humiliation when she is objectified to make an academic point. These academics recall the dictates from earlier times when an adultness woman was on the same level as a murderer. This person was to be stoned to death. They then call on Jesus to comment on this…”looking for something to use against him.”

This is a rigorous approach to justice without showing any mercy whatsoever. Justice without mercy is heartless and when expressed on a social level can lead to tyranny. Look at what is happening at present regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine!

Secondly, we have the response of Jesus. Strangely, He starts drawing in the dirt at His feet. What exactly He is doing we do not know. Early patristic writings tend to indicate that He is writing the sins of these academics. Nevertheless, two things happen. First of all the academics one by one start to leave the scene. Secondly, the tone of the situation changes from something that is quite toxic to a situation whereby “Jesus was left alone with the woman, who remained standing there.”

What happens now is almost like a type of Sacrament of Reconciliation or Sacrament of Penance.

There are four dimensions to this Sacrament of the Catholic Church. First, there is the confession. This has already happened in the Gospel scene. Everybody knows in a public way that this woman has been found committing adultery.

The second aspect of the Sacrament is contrition, whereby we become truly sorry for our sins. This is indicated in the dialogue between Jesus and the woman. He says to her, “Has no one condemned you?” she replied “No one, sir.” I am particularly struck by the word she uses to address Jesus, “Sir.” Here clearly, she does not know who Jesus is but she understands that He is giving her respect and showing her the beginnings of mercy in her life. She responds with equal respect and quite possibly sees Jesus as a kind of mirror on her past life. We all know, no one can meet Jesus eye to eye and remain the same. I believe that she is being taken to a very deep level of contrition and mercy for her sins.

The third aspect of the Sacrament is Absolution. There is a kind of absolution here when Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.”

She is not condemned by the Lord. She is shown mercy. Clearly here mercy is the way that Jesus shows justice. Rather than being heartless like the others, He gives her a future founded on hope and forgiveness.

Fourthly, however, He does give her a penance. He says to her, “Don’t sin anymore.” This is important. He makes it quite clear her sinful ways are to stop and she is to repent. Her conversion is complete now that she has been given a second chance. She has been given a glorious future by the miracle of forgiveness.

As Lent nears towards its completion, let us associate ourselves with the forgiveness given to the Adulterous Woman. Let us think seriously about the possibility of going to Confession over the next two weeks. There are extended periods of Confession in this Cathedral. The times are available in today’s bulletin. This would really make this Lent something where we all really do enter into the Biblical spirit of repentance as it has been showcased in all the Gospels of these weeks.

People do seem to have hesitancies about going to Confession.

I do notice sometimes there are extremes.

One of the extremes is that people say that they do not go to Confession because they cannot think of any sins in their life. They seem to have no past sins. They know that this is not right but they feel they just cannot locate a sense of sin. This is a common experience in today’s complex world. When we allow Jesus, like the woman in today’s Gospel, to look at us with His merciful light, we soon understand that the dark areas of our life are present and we do want to confess them. Let us allow Jesus to bring His light more deeply into our lives so that we can in fact locate His mercy by confessing our dark sins.

Another extreme is that people feel that their life is nothing but sin. This is perhaps more common in times past. They feel they have no future because they are weighed down by sin. People seem to get stuck here. God’s mercy always frees us and gives us a new lease of Spiritual life. Like the woman in today’s Gospel, we receive hope, joy, and feel that we can move on by focussing more on the future than recalling the past, as mentioned in today’s First Reading from Isaiah.

Let us conclude today’s Homily with the beautiful text from the Second Reading, which places the blazing merciful light of Jesus before us. It comes from St Paul. St Paul of course knows about his sinfulness once he encounters the blazing light of Christ mercy on the road to Damascus. Later in life, he says the following in his letter to the Philippians, “I believe nothing can happen that will outweigh the supreme advantage of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Let us repeat this many times over in the week ahead and try seriously to encounter God’s mercy in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

10 APRIL 2022

 Readings  Isaiah 50: 4-7  Philippians 2: 6-11  Gospel Luke 20: 2-14. 23-56

 Given the fact that we have heard the Gospel of the Lord’s Passion, I will make two very brief reflections.

First, may I draw reference to the saving dialogue of Jesus on the Calvary Cross with the good thief.

Jesus never stops evangelising, even on the wood of the Cross. Jesus, continually in His life and now in His final moments, makes the face of God visible to all who seek God. In this case it is to the, what is sometimes called, “good thief.” In legend he is often given several names one popular one being, “Dismas.”

For the good thief, it is never too late to turn to Jesus. He goes against the opinion of his companion and calls out using the name of Jesus, not in blasphemy, but in surrender, to remember him in paradise. The saving words of Jesus from the Cross are, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” The word “Paradise” is a Persian word meaning, “Walled garden.”   So here, we are back in the garden. It is reminiscent of the Garden of Eden in Genesis. There, Adam and Eve failed in responding to the Lord’s Covenant. Now with the “new” Adam, Jesus Crucified, the final and definitive “Yes” to God has been given in the Death and Resurrection of the Saviour.

Also, there is the “new” Eve. The new Eve is all of us as the Church born out of the side of the pierced Saviour.

Could I recommend to everybody in this week that we all turn to the Lord afresh and at a deeper level. Nobody should feel they are too late to come to God.

There is a lovely poem about a man who is thrown from a galloping horse, hits the ground and subsequently dies. The poem goes as follows, “Betwixt the stirrup and the ground, mercy I asked and mercy I found.” In the few seconds before his death, the man falling from the horse turns to God. God answers his call for salvation. It is never too late to turn to the Lord. Let us never forget that.

Secondly and finally, In Luke’s version of the Passion of the Lord we find Jesus at prayer. Throughout the whole of Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is represented in prayer to the Father. Even at the Cross, His last words are, “Father, into your hands I commit my Spirit.” Here He calls upon Psalm Verse 31/5. Perhaps it was Mary and Joseph who taught Him this beautiful prayer.

In our lives, many of us would recall our own parents teaching us a little prayer before we sleep. One little prayer that comes to mind is the famous “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

Perhaps the Lord prayed this final prayer before He went into the slumber of His death. He does add the word, most significantly, “Father.” The essence of all Jesus’ prayer was the way He addressed God as Father. He now dies into the Father’s arms. In His death, the Father then raises Him on high in the Resurrection.

Let us also find ourselves in deeper prayer in this week that now opens up – Holy Week. Let us also say with Jesus many times in the week ahead (as our Gospel) “Father into your hands we commend our Spirits.”

5.00pm 11 APRIL 2022

I am rather stilled by the beautiful expression in the Gospel of the Chrism Mass today – “All eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him (Jesus)”. It suggests an atmosphere of great reverence and a tone of deep silent respect as Jesus proclaims the Word of God.

In this Luke 4 Gospel reading, Jesus has just completed his 40 days of a type of Lenten testing/retreat in the desert and now begins his public ministry. He enters his home synagogue, takes the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and reads from Isaiah 61 – the First Reading of today’s Mass. Clearly, Jesus is aligning the inauguration of his ministry of mercy among us with the Old Testament Covenant. This proclaims the anointing of the Spirit upon the poor and captives and proclaims the Lord’s year of favour.

Holy Week re-presents for us the fulfilment of this Old Testament Covenant in the New Covenant sealed in the blood of the Lamb on Calvary and the Lord gloriously Risen from the dead on the first Easter morning.

On this Chrism Mass now let us try to recapture the serenity and reverent quietness of the Nazareth synagogue. Let our eyes too be “fixed on him (Jesus)”.

We know that this serenity did not last long in the synagogue. Soon in Luke 4, the congregation became enraged when Jesus suggested that the Gentiles at times showed greater faith than the People of God. They eventually wanted to throw him off the cliff.

We too are resting in the beauty of this Chrism Mass. However, soon we will leave to resume our response as witnesses of the Resurrection in the “battle fields” of families, parishes, Australians before a Federal election, and global citizens in a world trying to recover from the Covid pandemic and now the most troubling war in Ukraine.

Yet, as believers, we know that the death and resurrection of Jesus brings the God of all hope and mercy so close to us through the Holy Spirit.

On this Chrism Mass, may I offer humbly four manifestations of the presence of the Holy Spirit among us now. There are no doubt many more, but these come to my mind immediately.

First, the Holy Spirit is with us now in His Church. Look around in this Cathedral. It seems that the entire gathered People of God are visually and symbolically present right now. We have representatives of our lay faithful from throughout the Archdiocese here and those participating on live -stream. We have our new Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Balvo and some of his key staff representing the pastoral embrace Holy Father. With have, very large numbers of the priests and deacons here both from the Archdiocese and the Military Ordinariate of Australia based here in Canberra.

We are all between the two Assemblies of the Plenary Council of Australia. We are learning what it means, as Pope Francis continually reminds us, to be on a synodal journey. We are trying to listen, and not simply hear, the whisper of the Spirit drawing us to take up evangelisation afresh in our world.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit is with us as a global community in these apocalyptic times. We are all yearning for peace and hope. This is so beautifully symbolised by the presence of Fr Wally Kalinecki, from the Ukrainian Catholic Church (absent due to illness but spiritually present) and Archpriest Alexander Morozow, from the Russian Orthodox Church of Canberra. The Chair of the ACT Christian Churches Council, Senior Minister of our nearby St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Reverend David Campbell, joins them in solidarity. After all, we are neighbours here. Neighbours support each other in times of bushfires, covid, flash floods, mice plagues and, now, the dehumanising sounds of guns, missiles, tanks and desperate human cries. It is a great Australian characteristic to help the fragile.

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit is with us in our priests and deacons. Shortly, the priests will renew their vows made on their ordination day. One of our deacons today, Deacon Eden Langlands, will pledge for the first time these vows when, in a few months, he is ordained, God willing, to the priesthood, here in this Cathedral. We pray for him but pray too for an increase of vocations to the priesthood and Religious Life in the Archdiocese.

Pope Francis offered a beautiful sharing on the 4 “closenesses” of the priesthood in a recent talk in Rome. He meditated on the closeness of priests to God, to their bishop, to other priests and to the People of God. According to our beloved Pope, it is incomprehensible to live the priesthood without a dynamic activation of their baptism. Priests are not to become functionaries. They are in continual need of being evangelised and to live out their lives with the flavour of the Gospel. They are to demonstrate to the world God’s style: closeness, compassion and tenderness. This is our prayer for our priests tonight. I am sure you will agree that they already do this so well.

Fourthly and finally, the Holy Spirit is with us as we serve our people in their primal moments. This is symbolised in the Oils that will soon make their way in processions to the sanctuary for blessing. They will show forth the sacramental presence of Jesus in Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and times of serious illness. As always, we are at the service of all, especially those at primal moments in their life, and especially if this involves suffering and loneliness. There is a beautiful expression in one of the prayers about to be prayed over the Holy Oils. In referring to the priests administering the oils in the Sacraments, they are described as “Stewards of the Mysteries of God”.

So just before we continue with these Mysteries of God in this Chrism Mass, let us return to the expression of Luke’s Gospel mentioned earlier and remain a little time in serene and reverent silence as with the congregation in the synagogue of Nazareth we have “all eyes fixed on Him”.

24 APRIL 2022

 Readings  Acts 5: 12-16  Apocalypse 1: 9-13, 17-19  Gospel John 20: 19-31

We welcome to our Divine Mercy Sunday Mass today on this the second Sunday of Easter many Migrant and Refugees in our Archdiocese celebrating our annual Multicultural Mass.

Some years ago now, a very wise Aboriginal academic had suggested that Australia’s history could be divided into three periods.

The first period would be the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders long presence in this ancient land of Australia. This could go back 60,000 years or more. Let us never forget that our dear First Australians represent one of the oldest living cultures in the world today.

The second period, over 200 years ago, is the Colonial phase of our history. This represents people coming from mainly Anglo-Saxon lands. This would include in a special way the English, Scottish and Irish.   These and so many others from other lands have contributed much to Australia’s present understanding of itself.

The third period of Australia’s history has occurred over more recent decades. It could be called the Multicultural phase of Australia. Here is where Australia has opened itself up to all the nations of the world. Despite the fact that we have many areas we could improve, we like to think that Australia’s Multi-ethnic, Multi-cultural and Multi-faith dimensions in today’s Australian society makes us one of the most successful multicultural nations in the world.

In a particular way, we welcome so many of you from this third period of Australia’s history – its Multicultural dimension.

One immediate area I am so grateful to God for, is that when you wonderful people came to Australia you brought your faith with you! You might say to me, “Of course we brought our faith with us Archbishop, it is the essence of our life!” However, I do not want to take it for granted. You are people of great faith, you are aware that God has shown your great mercy and you are grateful Easter missionaries of the faith that holds us all together in Christ.

Coming with your faith, you brought many treasures.

By treasures, I do not mean physical possessions. On the contrary, so many of you came with only what you could carry in your hands. I think of two priests in this Archdiocese who are Vietnamese refugees. They certainly came here as people with little possessions but they have made such a great contribution to the life of this Archdiocese and continue to do so. You are all part of this.

One great treasure you have brought is your belief in the importance of Marriage and Family life.

Australians are currently somewhat unfocussed in the really import role of a stable society that is based on family and married life. However, you have no such difficulties. You offer us all a great treasure in living out Family life and believing in the importance of children and grandchildren.

You also come to us with a great (what Pope Francis might say today) Social Ecology.

We all know about Environmental Ecology but this is an “ecology” of our shared life together. I have noticed when I visit you in your Parish life and when you gather, you always give such a great example in knowing that the social dimension of our lives together is more important than simply looking at each other in an individualistic way. Regrettably, this later proposal is still very tempting to many Australians today. You all know better.

I suppose this is a problem with St Thomas in today’s Gospel. He saw things in a very individualistic way. His demand to, almost scientifically, prove the existence of the Resurrection of Christ before he believed, is seen in his encounter with the Risen Lord. However, once the Lord accepted him with the very limited parameters he imposed upon the Lord, he, as Australians will say, “Went to water.” He could see that a new dimension of human life – Our insertion into the Easter Resurrection of Jesus, overtook scientifically proving something that needs to “believed”. Here the “ours” becomes more important than the “mine” and the “we” becomes more important than the “I”. To flourish as a human family we need a “Social Ecology” that makes us truly believe in our common humanity and in the common good.

In all this, you give Australians great hope. I notice your hope is expressed especially when you are undergoing trials. I have always noted how so many of you, in the trials that inevitably come your way, never stop being hopeful even to the point of laughing in the face of great trials and adversities. Your hard working nature has given you great patience and your faith makes you see things from a broader perspective.

I wish to lovingly draw to your attention three challenges that I have noticed more recent Australians as Migrants and Refugees have when they come to this country.

Over the years, you have shown great hospitality to me and I have been able to learn so much from you when invited to your tables and your homes.

In listening carefully to you, I know there are many challenges you have – but three seem to be enduring and very common.

The first is shopping! You love shopping centres! You love buying things! Studies show that some of the greatest consumers in Australia are, in fact, New Australians!

I suppose when you may have come to Australia with only that which you could carry and now find yourself with a lot more money than you had in the past, the tendency is to spend up big! All this is well and good. We do need to buy the houses, the land and the cars. Let us not get obsessed with this. It is so easy to be possessed by possessions. Please recall that possessions can buy pleasure but can never buy joy.

Secondly, I notice a great challenge is negotiating conflict with your children.

It is so difficult when the parents are born overseas but the children are born in Australia. Differences of expectation and assumptions in life tend to abound very early in the children’s lives. I know that you try as best you can to lovingly dialogue with your children. Long may it continue! One area of grievance is children’s reluctance to learn fluently the language of their parents. It seems so easy just to learn “Aussie English.” Over the years, I have noticed that may children regret having refused to learn the Spanish, Vietnamese, Indonesian and so many other languages represented in Australian households. So, although it is difficult, young people of migrant parents, please try to learn your parent’s mother tongue. Being bilingual has so many advantages later in life!

Thirdly, and finally, I have noticed that you are so busy with life that you have very little time for things outside your immediate challenges. By the time you work to pay your mortgages and educate your children, and tend to your own parents and grandparents back in your home county, there seems to be very little time, energy or money to do anything else.

I am looking forward to the time when a lot more migrants, for example, are involved in the political life of Australia. We are in the middle of a federal election campaign now. What a joy it is when someone from a migrant background puts their hand up and places their talents at the service of the nation. May many of you, with your strong human values and beliefs, engage with Australian life, especially on the political level.

I could also say the same thing about engaging with the wider Church life here in Australia. We are in the middle of the Plenary Council of Australia. This is such an important time for us to set the Pastoral Agenda and priorities for the Church in this ancient but new country for the generations ahead. However, I notice that when I go to Archdiocesan, Parish or Regional gatherings, there are very few of you present. I would be very interested to know what you think and believe should be the Church’s future priorities. So please get involved in these wider discussions if you possibly can. I know that you are very attentive to your own parish and your duties as Catholics, but this wider commitment to the Church in Australia is something that would delight me.

Let us continue on now with the Mass and thank the Lord for the many graces and gifts that He has given us. Let us go together and learn from each other as the Holy Spirit in this Easter time show’s us the way forward. Thank you for the great love that you give to us in the Archdiocese and to Australia.