Homily – September – 2022

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
4 SEPTEMBER 2022
TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Wis 9: 13-18  Philemon 9-10, 12-17  Gospel Luke 14: 25-33

 Catholics are never fundamentalists with regard to our prayerful reading of the Word of God. We take the Scriptures very seriously. We are not literalists or fundamentalists.

With this in mind, a fundamentalist would find the second sentence of today’s Gospel rather troubling to say the least. Jesus says, “If any man comes to me without hating his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, sisters, yes and his own life too, he cannot be my disciple.”

This was a grammatical form in which the Ancients expressed something extremely important.

We can understand this by referring to a similar passage from Matthew (par 10) to understand what “hating” means.

Here Matthew expresses the words of Jesus as “preferring God above all else.”

It is a “Sacrificial love.” It is an “Agape love.” It is a love that is part of the cost of Discipleship.

Therefore, we are to give our complete allegiance over to Jesus even if this means relinquishing our great and enduring love for other prime relationships, including family and friends.

We see a good example of this in the Second Reading today from the short Letter of St Paul to Philemon.

Here St Paul refers to his friendship with the runaway slave of Philemon, Onesimus.

It seems that Onesimus was a slave of Philemon but did something that caused him to exit quickly from Philemon’s household. Maybe it was a theft or some other unacceptable behaviour.

After exiling him from the house, Philemon then eventually encounters St Paul. The preaching of St Paul converts Onesimus and he becomes a very strong Christian disciple and constant companion of St Paul.

St Paul writes a letter to Philemon releasing Onesimus back into his original household.

The important matter here, I believe, is not about Onesimus but St Paul. He now describes himself in this letter, “an old man now…I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me.” He is in prison nearing the end of his life. It seems that Onesimus gives great comfort to him. Even this comfort must give way to his preference for Jesus the Risen Lord above all else. He therefore sends back Onesimus to Philemon with a letter of recommendation that Onesimus is “not a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me.” St Paul then recommends that Philemon welcomes and forgive Onesimus “as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord…welcome him as you would me.”

St Paul is in great need of friendship and care in his perilous state but he prefers Christ above all else even distancing himself from his close companion, Onesimus.

Today is Father’s Day. On this day I think of the Fathers I have met over the years who have also given total preference to God above all else.

One wonderful Father and Grandfather from my parish life that comes to mind is Bill. Bill and Clare were great parishioners. I grew to know them very well when Clare was diagnosed with terminal cancer. In the time following her death, I kept a pastoral eye on Bill who found her death a terrible pain to his heart. He suffered tremendous grief and his bereavement was very deep indeed. Even today, people do not appreciate what grief and bereavement really mean. So many have great suffering but suffer in silence.

I noticed in the years following her death that Bill would sublimate his grief by walking. He let his feet do the grieving! Whenever I would drive the car around the parish, inevitably I would see Bill on his daily long walks.

Bill also became more involved in the St Vincent de Paul Society following Clare’s death. Although he continually told me that he preferred to be with Clare in Heaven, he waited patiently and sometimes impatiently for his own death.

He became our “Night Angel!” Whenever the doorbell sounded late at night and there was a homeless person looking for accommodation, we would inevitably ring Bill. Sure enough, Bill would arrive in his car and take the homeless person to emergency accommodation. He would then return in the morning to pay the Motel bill and ensure that the person had a good breakfast and then send them on their way. This is the kind of person we are talking about!

He also had a great sense of humour. He often commented to me that in waiting for his own death that he was robbing the undertaker of a good day work!

Another humorous tale I recall on this Father’s Day regarding Bill, related to when he was babysitting some of his younger Grandchildren. He left the house for half an hour to do some shopping and when he returned, he noticed that all the furniture in the lounge room, all the crockery and glassware in the crystal cabinet had sticky pieces of paper on them. He enquired what was going on. They said that they were just playing a game but would not indicate what the game was. Under further pressure one admitted that they were working out who would own what after their Grandfather died. Bill was alarmed! He said “I am not dead yet!” I remember him telling me that his little Granddaughter said, “Oh but you are so old Grandpa you will be dead soon!”

Sure enough, he did die in the months following this humorous experience.

The Lord, finally heard his preference for leaving everything and going to God. I now often pray for these two wonderful uncanonised Saints – Bill and Clare.

To conclude, I would like to draw your attention to a great canonised Saint from the 16th Century – St Philip Neri (1515- 1595). They often say that he is the second founder of the Christian community in Rome following St Peter and St Paul, 1,500 years later comes St Philip Neri. It is interesting to note, however, that he also had a sense of humour and is the Patron Saint of Comedians.

The “Gospill” that I want to recall today that summarises everything is one of his famous expressions: He said, “I prefer Heaven!”

His preference for Heaven helped him to get through the days that were often troublesome. He said, “Let me get through today, and I shall not fear tomorrow, Oh Lord!”

Therefore, our “Gospill” is “I prefer Heaven.” So, whatever situation you find yourself in, which inevitably has its own challenges in our pilgrimage towards Heaven, let us always keep our mind towards that to which we are headed – the Lord’s Resurrected Embrace in the fullness of time.

Not only do we say “I prefer Heaven” but in this Eucharistic community now we say, “We prefer Heaven!”

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
11 SEPTEMBER 2022
TWENTY-FOURTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Ex 32: 7-11. 13-14  1 Tim 1: 12-17   Gospel Luke 15: 1-10


Before I comment on today’s Scriptures in the Homily, I would like to make two points, if you allow me.

The first point is that today around Australia is “Safeguarding Sunday.” This is the day when we offer an update and assurances that in the Catholic Church we are doing all that we can to prioritise and ensure a safe environment for children and vulnerable people in our Catholic communities. It has been just over five years now since the Royal Commission on Sex Abuse released it’s very significant results. I am proud to say that here in the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn we have been continually monitoring and improving all that we do in this area of Professional Standards to provide a safe environment for our people.

The second point is a brief comment on the recent death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. So many comments have been made, since her death, regarding the enormous contribution she made to not only the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth but also the world.

She clearly was a woman of deep Christian faith and this animated the over 70 years of dutiful service every day of those long years. It seems to me, that she became a mother like figure in the world, in an age of great uncertainty and fluidity.

We pray for the repose of her soul in our Mass today. Also for God’s blessing upon King Charles III.

Now to the Homily.

Our Gospel Readings today are from Luke 15. Commentators often agree that Luke 15 is a kind of Gospel within the Gospel of Luke. In this very significant chapter, there are three parables regarding things lost. There are the parables of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and The Lost Son. All of them have a similar structure to them. There is the lament of something lost. There is the joy of finding that which is lost, and lastly, celebrations of joy consequently.

We have taken the shorter version in the Gospel today and therefore we have omitted the longer and very significant parable of The Lost Son. Some have called this the parable of The Prodigal Son. This title is better given way to a more accurate description of what happens here. It is the parable of “The merciful father who had two sons.”

So let us reflect on the first two parables of The Lost Sheep and The Lost Coin.

First, there is the parable of The Lost Sheep.

Although the one-hundred sheep were probably collectively owned, the day-to-day management of them would have been delegated to a lowly Shepherd. When one of them goes astray, the Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to look for the lost one. All of us would say on one level, he is foolish and his strategy is “over the top” and very risky. Would he not also loose many of the ninety-nine when he goes away searching for the one that was lost?

It does bring out the point that Jesus wants to make in this parable. It is because God who is merciful that has made God do things that other people might find foolish or risky.

In the First Reading today we find how the people have apostatised and God indicates to Moses that he is intending to issue harsh punishment. Through the incredible personal relationship God has with Moses, Moses is able to draw out the merciful dimension of God and call for leniency. In this plea, God relents and shows a merciful response.

The fact that God will relent yet the Religious leaders at the time of Jesus are unable to do so is something that really concerns Jesus. At the beginning of the Gospel, they are scandalised by Jesus’ leniency to the public sinners and tax collectors. They notice, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!” It is from this contrast that Jesus shows in the parable of the lost sheep just how God is “over the top” in His mercy for those who have strayed.

The second parable is “The Lost Coin.” Here we find a woman who has lost a coin. In the times of Jesus, rooms would have been dark with only one small window letting in minimal light. The floor would have been beaten earth and covered with straw and straw matting. Hence, trying to find a lost small coin would be like trying to find and needle in a haystack. Yet the woman in the story is determined to find the coin. When she does, she throws a party costing her more than the drachma that she lost.

Again, we find the woman’s response seems to be “over the top” or even obsessive.

Let us keep in mind some cultural background on this. First, there might be an economic dimension. A lost drachma could be equivalent to the wage that a worker would gain from a day’s work. A decline in the woman’s wage may mean, especially if she is poor, a crisis concerning feeding her and her family.

There is also a romantic dimension here. At the time of Jesus one way that a married woman could identify herself was the placing on her head, by a silver chain, ten drachmas indicating she was Married. Perhaps to lose one of these ten coins was tantamount to, in our days, losing one’s Wedding ring! Have you gone to an obsessive “over the top” response when you have lost your Wedding ring!! Of course you have!

Once again, it is the way God “goes after us” when we find ourselves in a very dark and lonely place, in a dead end street of our lives. Even before we go to God, God comes to us with His merciful hope and hopefulness.

Both these parables bring out an important point. If that is how God is towards us, then we ought to be like this to each other.   This is the real moral of the story or the main point of the parable. This somewhat exaggerated stress to go out after the Lost, the Least and Sinner is what God is wanting us to do as Missionary Disciples of the Resurrection.

As we move towards our “Gospill” for the day, we can see a great example of God’s mercy in the Second Reading today concerning St Paul. Let us not forget he was the one who was persecuting Christians and organising their execution before his conversion. In this wonderful Reading from 1 Timothy he really stresses the following phrase which we could all learn by heart and remember as the week unfolds itself. This is when St Paul says, “Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

So let this be our “Gospill.”…Christ Jesus came into the world to save Sinners…Christ Jesus came into the world to save Me…Christ Jesus come into the world to save Us. Amen!

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
18 SEPTEMBER 2022
TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR C)
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Am 8: 4-7  1 Tim 2: 1-8   Gospel Luke 16: 10-13

In the Biblical world, taking interest on a money loan was condemned and against the law.

This was because it had two terrible consequences.

Firstly, this placed the poor in a “money repayment trap”. The poor became poorer. This was a type of slavery. Even today, the Church is conscious that distribution supply chains, under scrutiny, can produce a type of slavery! Making the poor poorer, in this way, was condemned outright by the prophet Amos in the First Reading. Summarising people who want to “buy up the poor for money,” he said speaking the word of God that, “Never will I forget a single thing you have done.”

Secondly, the other terrible consequence of this is that you tended to become possessed by your own possessions. You can be totally distracted from your worship of God and the things of life eternal. This is another type of slavery.

We see this in today’s Gospel. Jesus says, “No servant can be the slave of two masters…You cannot be the slave both of God and money.”

This overview of money and loans, is exemplified in the Parable of today’s Gospel.

Suffice to say it is a complex Gospel. Suffice to say that in essence it is a Parable about a Master who is an absentee and possibly corrupt Landlord, his astute and equally corrupt steward, and the poor debtors.

Be aware that a Parable contains one main point. It is not an allegory where every aspect is of significance.

The main point therefore of this Parable is that if only we were as shrewd or as astute with the things of Heaven as we are with the things of this world, then our life would be in better balanced.

Mind you, the opposite is also true sometimes. We can be as astute and shrewd with Heavenly things to the complete neglect of things of this earth.

In this light, I recall a Pastoral episode that happened many years ago. A couple of days after my Sunday Mass in another part of Australia, a woman came up to me and mentioned that she had been at my Mass the previous Sunday. She shared with me about her life with God. She felt that she had been lapsing into unbelief and a form of Agnosticism.

She decided to do a deal with God! She would give God one last chance to prove that He was present and real. She in a shrewd (used in a negative sense) way, told God that over the next two weeks he would have to make himself obvious to her. The two weeks lapsed and nothing happened. She said to herself that she would be going to her final Mass that morning. If she did not receive a sign from God, she would be leaving Christianity completely.

I was the priest at that Mass. Apparently, as I was leaving Mass during the final hymn I spoke very briefly to her. I apparently said to her, “Good to see you here, God Bless, see you next week.”

For this woman, was the sign she was waiting for!

What would be the take away lesson for us for the week ahead given the lack of balance between things of this world and or the things of the world to come.

I would think that the main take away message is to take the long view. To take up the panoramic view that serves both Christ in this world and in the world to come!

Over these recent days, Queen Elizabeth II, in her death, has provided a great testimony of a woman who was both astute in the things of this world and in the things to come. She had this panoramic perspective. So many people noted her wisdom, her dignity and her service to duty over 70 years. They are keen to “pay their respects” certainly not only to her but also perhaps to this life and eternal life balance that she had.

We pray for her in her death and the new King, in light particularly of the Second Reading from today when we are called to pray “petitions, especially for kings and others in authority”, we pray for his leadership in the years ahead.

Let us take away as our little “Gospill” for the week ahead an expression from the Second Reading, which I think, is significant. It is significant because if we are to have great balance between the things of this world and the things of the world to come we must embrace the full knowledge of truth in Jesus Christ. This is something St Paul says in his letter to Timothy when he calls that we must “reach full knowledge of the truth.”

Let us “reach full knowledge of the truth” by focusing on Jesus in this life and the life to come.