Homily – June – 2022

19 JUNE 2022

 Readings  Gen 14: 18-20  1 Cor 11: 23-26  Gospel Luke 9: 11-17

 Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ – Corpus Christi Sunday. Liturgically, we celebrated just a few weeks ago the great Solemnity of Pentecost. Here we recall not only the particular moments when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles, but a perpetual coming down of the Holy Spirit (Epiclesis) on the Church.

Last week we celebrated how the Holy Spirit takes us up for us to live in the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This Trinity is expressive of the Mystery of God in essence as the God of love.

In today’s Mass, we celebrate how that Holy Spirit now comes down upon us transforming the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus wants to be food for us in the journey of life.

Perhaps some thoughts on this Corpus Christi Sunday.

We have from the First Reading today the introduction of this mysterious High Priest, Melchizedek. He carries the title of High Priest, handed down throughout the generations. Jesus is seen to be of the line of Melchizedek as our High Priest. The Priesthood today continues this line through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. In a few days’ time one of our Deacons, Eden Langlands, will be ordained to the Priesthood and the line of Melchizedek.

In the Second Reading today we also find that Jesus is not only the High Priest but He is also the Victim. In 1 Corinthians, we have a very ancient text regarding the Eucharist. This text probably predates event the Gospels. Here we find the rudiments of what we now call the Mass. We do what Jesus did at the Last Super. St Paul tells his people, “Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death…This is my body…This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood…do this as a memorial of me.” The word “Memorial” is a deep Theological word. It simply means, that when we celebrate the Mass we re-present the Eucharist of Jesus at the Last Supper.

The Gospel today then reinforces that the Eucharist is also the way Jesus feeds us. In the miracle of the Loves and Fish, as accounted in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells His Disciples, “Give them something to eat yourselves.” We find here how Jesus consigns His Body and Blood to the Church. In the Eucharist, the Church feeds the hungry and gives them power from on high by the proclamation of the Word of God in the Scriptures, and the Eucharist in His Body and Blood.

More recently, I have had a wonderful experience of the freshness and dynamism of the Eucharist. It was last Sunday afternoon. I was at Cooma for a special Mass in the morning, and I stayed on to celebrate two Masses at the Cooma Correctional Centre, one in the high security section and one in the low security section.

Over the years, when I have always made it a priority to visit prisoners. I have found the Masses have led me to believe that they are generally the best congregations with whom I have ever had the privilege to celebrate the Mass. They are always on time for the Mass, they are so hungry and attentive and grateful during the Mass, they sing together with great joy. The main point is their hunger for Jesus, the Eucharistic food.

In this Cooma Correctional Centre, I was shocked to see so many inmates in quite a small area, and also that they were locked up from 3pm in the afternoon until 7am the next morning. When I also heard that about a third of the inmates were of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander background, and given that only about 2% of people in that area are of Aboriginal background, it made me feel that the social dimension of the Eucharist is a priority. These inequalities must be addressed. This excessive incarceration of our First Nations People must have attitudinal and structural dimensions that go deep. We know that this has been an issue for so long. Regrettably, I did not see many signs that this particular situation is being attended to adequately.

Finally, another symbol of the Eucharist could be our own patron Saint here in this Cathedral, St Christopher. He is the “Christ bearer.” He carried Jesus on his shoulder. Jesus the Bread of Life, converted him in this encounter.

Today is quite historic. After this Mass, I invite you to join me outside the Cathedral on the Canberra Avenue side. We will bless a new bronze statue of St Christopher, which has only been in place in the last few days.

Here we will see, in Art form, the tenderness yet the strength of the conversion of St Christopher by the Christ Child.

We have installed the statue of St Christopher with the Child Jesus on the side of the Cathedral facing the busy Canberra Avenue. Let it always be seen as a work of public Religious Art. Hopefully motorists who pass by can feel the intercessory blessing of our Saint, who is also the patron Saint of Motorists and Travel.

St Christopher’s face is facing the Cathedral, the home of the Eucharist and the Mother of all the parishes of this Archdiocese. The face of the Child Jesus is facing Canberra Avenue. There is the suggestion that all those passing are receiving the blessing of the Lord in their travels. May this be our prayer!

Let us now return to celebrating the Eucharist and find on this great Solemnity the strength and faith that sees Jesus as the High Priest, the Victim, and Food for the journey of life.

24 JUNE 2022

 Readings  Ezekiel 34: 11-16  Romans 5: 5-11  Gospel Luke 15: 3-7

I wish to reflect briefly on the Priesthood in this new millennium. Given the Solemnity of today, perhaps we could describe these reflections as “Priests living in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

I will use the word “JESUS” as an acronym – each letter having an individual meaning for my mediation.

Firstly, there is the letter “J”. It is “J” for “Joy.” The word “Joy,” is used frequently in tonight’s Readings. We hear in tonight’s Gospel from Luke, how the Good Shepherd “Joyfully takes (the lost sheep) on his shoulders.” Jesus proclaims that, “there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous men.” The Second Reading meditates about the “Joyful trust in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Joy is an infallible sign that the Holy Spirit is living, not only in a person but also in the community called Church.

Pope Francis warns in his Apostolic Exultation “Joy of the Gospel” (2013) to be very wary of people in the Church who have a perpetual “Funeral face” or who live their lives in some sort of “Perpetual Lent.” You could hardly say such people are animated by the Holy Spirit of Joy.

Joy is never a superficial or sentimental action of the Holy Spirit. The Gospels, and particularly the Early Church, testify that it is a “Tough” joy. The Holy Spirit, in our prayers and hymns, is declared “the comforter of the Afflicted.” On the other hand, also the “afflictor of the Comforted.”

The Holy Spirit, according to Pope Francis, causes a great “ruckus” in the Church. The Holy Spirit stirs us up and is never happy with complacency or passivity. The fire of the Holy Spirit, who animates the Church and leads us forward, particularly in these days of the Plenary Council of Australia, is the fire within the Church. Even under persecution, the joy of the Martyrs and the Saints indicates that no matter what situation the Church finds herself in it is always expressed in joy. We pray for Eden that this joy of the Lord will always be with him no matter what trials and challenges await him in the years ahead.

The Second letter is “E.” “E” is for Evangelising.

In the Gospel today we hear the story of the Good Shepherd who will “leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the missing one.” This expression “go after” is surely a paradigm of the great dynamic movement of the Church, which is always on the move outwards. It is never inward looking or even worse some so sort of sect or devotional group quite removed from the “joys and sorrows” of the world in which she is planted.

This Evangelising and Missionary dynamism must always find the new context in which the Gospel is inculturated.

The image offered in tonight’s Reading of the Good Shepherd is well known in the Scriptures. It is not the only well-known image. Another image is that of being “Fishers of people.”

It has been noted in more recent times, throughout the Church, particularly in the developed world, that Priests are generally good Shepherds but poor Fishermen. It is not quite enough for the Good Shepherd to tend to his own parish and people that he might see on a weekly basis. This might represent perhaps 11% of practising Catholics in his parish. But the priest who has become a good fisher of people will want to speak to the 89% that may not be at Church and indeed the vast majority of people in general who have no links with Christianity at all in the Australian context.

For this to happen, Eden, you will need to be not only a good Shepherd but also a good Fisherman. You will need to activate all that God has given the modern world to evangelise and to make Jesus known and loved. In your particular age group, we see hope that some new tools of evangelising will include the social media. People comfortable to give a personal testimony of Christ in their lives, and the gradual kerygmatic movement in recent Roman Catholicism, are all new nets that may be used for the greater glory of God.

It would be disastrous for priests, especially a newly ordained priest, to be content to be on the shores just simply washing and mending nets. Nets are to be hurled into the deep waters of yearning and desire for God. We have seen, as we come out now of the Covid pandemic crisis, the new media indicating to us that people are far more open to the possibility of a Religious experience than was first imagined. Let us seize these opportunities as best we can.

The third letter is “S.” It stands for “Sanctification.” This might seem an old-fashioned word to many. However, we need to ask the following primal question at an Ordination to the Priesthood: what is the ultimate purpose of Christian life and Priesthood? Surely, the answer is the following: to lead people onto the road of Holiness and Salvation. In other words, their sanctification through the grace of God.

In the 6th century St Gregory the great (540-604), referred to this imperative for priests as the Pastoral “Art of Arts.”

Over the years, dear Eden, you have always found a tremendous amount of encouragement for you own sanctification through prayer and silent Eucharistic meditation. May that continue in the Marian way of “listening and treasuring” all that God gives you. In so doing, you will over time, become what the First Reading describes as “a true shepherd to them.”

The next letter is “U.” The letter stands for “Unity.”

Dear Eden, as a Priest of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn, you are called to a Ministry of unity. This is not just referring to ecumenical unity. It is also intra-unity, within our own Archdiocese. You are always to be seen, in the future, as a great “gatherer” rather than a “scatterer.” The priest who is a scatterer is more attuned to ideological energies and overly conscious of political aspects of our shared humanity. Taking the emphasis from the First Reading today, you are to see yourself as the one who gathers those who “have been scattered during the mist and darkness.” You are to “gather them together.” Your particular Pastoral gaze should be on gathering, especially, “the lost one…the stray…the wounded…the weak.” We must not forget also “the fat and healthy.”

In the light of this, this coming Sunday’s emphasis on the World gathering of Families and our participation in this Roman gathering in the Dioceses throughout the world, may I suggest that you particularly give emphasis to gathering Married and Family life in these difficult times in Australia for this most fundamental unit of society. Within the Priesthood itself, never be seen as a Priest gossiper but always value fraternity and gather with us whenever possible. As an Archbishop, I have always seen the wisdom in the expression that a priest who is a “Lone Ranger is a real danger.” May that never be said of you.

Finally, there is the letter “S.” The letter “S” is for Sacraments.

I believe, especially for Diocesan priests who are so profoundly involved in parishes, the celebration of the Sacraments must always be a moment of particular grace and worthy of our every preparation and Pastoral celebration. It is a type of real Incarnational Ministry when different groups gather together especially for Baptisms, Marriages, Confessions, Funerals and most especially the Eucharist. In all these moments of Sacramental grace, you will be called to preach the Word of God appropriately to the people in front of you, always drawing them back to conversion and repentance in the life of the Church and to celebrate the Sacraments according to the mind of the Universal Church, in a way that excites a deepening of faith and devotion.

Never forget that in your own personal life, dear Eden, that the Eucharist has been pivotal to you in hearing the call to the vocation of the Priesthood. You declared that even at a young age you had a profound awareness of God’s presence in the Eucharist. The intensity of your desire for the Priesthood increased as you deepened your love of the Mass. It helped to develop your friendship with Christ which today remains as the most fundamental aspect in your life. You were struck by, Mark’s Gospel in the call of the Apostles, the penetrating phrase of the Evangelist when he writes that Jesus called them “to be with him and to be sent out to preach.” May you always be with the Lord especially in the celebration of the Sacraments in a sacrificial lifestyle in imitation of Jesus the Great High Priest and Victim.

As the psalm of tonight mentions, “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” May Jesus always be your “enough” dear Eden. May you want nothing more than to do His Holy Will. This will be assisted by attending to, what Pope Francis describes in his February 2022 Symposium of the Priesthood, the four closenesses of the Priest – “Closeness with God, with the Bishop, with other Priests, and with people.”

Putting these letters together, dear Eden, we find we have the word “JESUS.”

For a priest Jesus is the centre of absolutely everything. As a priest this baptismal call is centred on serving the Universal Priesthood of all the Baptised. He becomes for all the “Alter Christus Capitis.” He always acts “in the person of Christ, the Head.”

We pray down upon you now, dear Eden, the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is only the Holy Spirit that makes us the Priest that Jesus truly wants us to be, in this complex time of a great change of era.

May you, dear Eden, always be a priest living in the Sacred Heart of our merciful and loving Jesus, the first and chief evangelist. May you always be a servant to Only Jesus, Always Jesus, Forever Jesus.

26 JUNE 2022

 Readings  1 Kings 19: 16. 19-21  Gal 5: 1. 13-18  Gospel Luke 9: 51-62

 Today we definitively farewell the Easter Liturgical Season and the major Solemnities that have followed in recent weeks.

We return now to Ordinary Time. Hence the green vestments! This means it is the time of growth whereby we have a systematic meditation on Luke’s Gospel – the year of Luke in Year C.

Today’s Readings reflect on Christian Discipleship. The encounter with Jesus, who is love and mercy, calls for a radical response to this Discipleship.

I do recall many years ago reading a book on the Christian Discipleship. I still remember the title rather than the content of the book – this sometimes happens! The subtitle of the book was – “Costing little less than everything.” This certainly brings out the radical nature of Christian Discipleship.

Discipleship is foreshadowed in the First Reading today from the Old Testament Book of 1 Kings.

Here the Lord calls on the great prophet Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor.

This is not just a career but it is a vocation. The call and the response are the essential characteristics of a vocation.

Elijah uses the Old Testament gesture indicating the call of God, which might seem rather obscure to us today. Elijah “threw his cloak over him.” This was the sign of the call of God. Concerning Elisha, it seems that he comes from a wealthy family. It is written in the Scripture that “twelve yoke of oxen” are involved in the ploughing. This indicates quite a good financial status in the family.

Once called, Elisha requests the following, “Let me kiss my father and mother, then I will follow you.” Elijah has no difficulty with this request. Elisha then slaughters two of the oxen and uses the plough as fuel for the cooking. In so doing, he symbolises the end of his present way of life as he looks forward in hope and trust to the future. Afterwards “he then rose, and followed Elijah and became his servant.”

The Gospel today continues on these themes of following the Lord but now as response to Christian Discipleship. If you feel that the Old Testament call was tough, then you will now find that the Christian Discipleship and its implications is tougher still.

Jesus does not ask us to do something he himself has not done. In the first line of the Gospel today we hear the significant statement that “Jesus resolutely took the road to Jerusalem.” The word “Resolutely” is so significant here as it speaks of a determination to do whatever God wants. In this case the word “Jerusalem” connotes suffering and “the cost of Discipleship” is responded to completely by the Lord.

We then find that the high demands of Christian Discipleship seems almost too demanding. There are three knockbacks for those who petition the Lord to become Disciples. They do not seem to pass the test! The call seems to be too demanding, almost on one level, cruel to the willing candidates. It does show the honesty of Jesus in not whitewashing the “resolute” nature of Christian Discipleship.

There are to be no creature comforts for “the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” There is no time to farewell family and friends because “no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” There is no time to respond to very significant family farewells and respond to those in the family who have died because Jesus says, “Leave the dead to bury their dead.”

Although by our standards, all this seems incredibly difficult and demanding, it may not be so, given deeper thought.

Living out the tough Christian Discipleship is happening even today.

For example, last Friday night Fr Eden Langlands received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The “cost” of this Discipleship implies that he continues to take on the vow of celibacy and promises me and my successor’s obedience and respect. He also pledges to celebrate the Sacraments and pray an Intercession for the needs of people in the world for the rest of his life.

At this Mass now, we are seeing implications of following the Sacrament of Matrimony in family life. It is the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome over these days. Pope Francis has asked all the Dioceses of the world to share this celebration of family life on the local level. We will do that today and see family life as a real vocation and path to Holiness.

I remember not so long ago I celebrated a Mass in a parish. During the Mass, there was a family with several quite young children. Although all was calm for most of the Mass, towards the end they clearly had had enough and were behaving in a very restless manner creating quite a ruckus. Nonetheless, I marvelled at the way the parents were trying to pacify their children and restore order! It was real tough love for them and involved some embarrassment.

After the Mass, the father came to me and apologised. I dismissed the apology as unnecessary. Indeed, I told him that I marvelled at the way they, as a family unit, battled with the difficulties of the moment.

This is exactly what Married life is. The theology of Marriage can be summarised in four simple words – “Love sharing and Life giving.” This is because Married and Family life mirror to us the great love of the Trinity and Christ’s great love of His Church.

In regard to Love sharing an implication of this is our Teaching on saying “No” to Divorce and Adultery. In regard to Life giving the implication of this is the openness to new life even though infertility is very high in the Australian community at this time. There should at least be the openness to the possibility of new life even if this is remote. Following from this is our teaching on no artificial contraception, our reservations on certain types of IVF, and particularly, as has been focussed on in these last few days, what has been happening in the United States of America, there is always a “No” response to Abortion. Our Scripture and Tradition have always opted “to choose life.” In regard to Abortion, whereas we can discuss women’s rights, there is always a terrible lack of honestly reflecting on the rights of the unborn.

Marriage and Family life, in the Catholic understanding, has become so counter-cultural today. Like all Christian Discipleship, our moral teaching sets a very high standard. God’s mercy is always present for those who find these standards too high to follow.

So today let us pray for families, welcome them and encourage them in any way we can. This encouragement is to affirm them in their vocation by our prayers and encourage them on the path of Holiness as a way of expressing their tough Christian Discipleship.

For our “Gospill” today let us use that lovely word “Resolutely” in our prayer this week.

May our own attempts at responding to the high standard of Christian Discipleship set by the Lord Himself, help us to resolutely walk the path of Sacrificial love in imitation of our Lord and Master.