Homily – June – 2023
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
4th JUNE 2023
THE MOST HOLY TRINITY (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE
Readings Ex 34: 4-6: 8-9 1 Cor 13:11-13 Gospel John 3:16-18
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity. We move directly into the Mystery of love given to us by our almighty loving and merciful Father.
Just a few days ago, in preparing children to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation, I visited their school. I asked them a question. The question was, “Who loves you the most?” I noticed a boy thinking very deeply about this question and finally he put up his hand. When I asked him to give his response he said the following, “It’s a toss-up between my dad and my dog!”
I suppose this is the world we are now in. It appears sometimes that Whales, Dolphins, Koalas and even Kangaroos seem to get a better deal than some human beings!
As always, there is to be balance here. Psalm 8 speaks so much about the wonder and beauty of creation. Then it proposes the big question. Out of all creation why did God choose human beings to be the apple of His eye?
The Christian answer to this pivotal question of, “Why does God love us the most?” is eluded to in the Second Reading today. St Paul greets the people and says, “The God of love and peace be with you.” Here it is! God is love. Here is the basic definition of God from our Judea-Christian heritage. In Latin it is, Deus caritas est.
God is pure love. God is not empty love. All pure love is the love of someone or something. You cannot just love on your own without being other directed. God’s love is always extrovert. It is always missionary. It always evangelises. It is always invitational.
In the first thousand years of the Church’s theology we pondered on the Trinity in a focused way.
It is clear that in the Scriptures there was reference to what we now call the Trinity. Jesus so often spoke about His Father in Heaven. He also spoke about how He would send the Advocate. At the end of the Second Reading today, 2 Corinthians, we have the ancient Trinitarian blessing given in the early years of the Church by St Paul. He blesses the people of Corinth and says, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
Our early theological reflection says that pure love requires a lover, one to be loved, and love itself. It was the great African Bishop Augustine in the 5th century who phrased it most articulately and began a school of theology based on his understanding of the Trinity. Here he ultimately says that God the Father is the Lover, His Son Jesus is the Beloved and the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son.
In the second millennium of Christianity this fundamental Catholic belief was expanded. In answer to the question, “Why did God become man?” The early Church stressed that God became one of us to redeem us from sin. Here is the time when the understanding of Original Sin is given birth and how Jesus represents all of us as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
However, in the second millennium this was taken for granted but it was expanded upon. Here salvation is not just limited merely to the remission of sins. The great Italian Dominican Theologian, St Thomas Aquinas, in his 13th century School of Theology, arising from his theological insights, made it clear that we are saved not simply by the suffering of Jesus but by His love…His crucified love. The Gospel of John holds the foundational understanding here when Jesus says to Nicodemus, “God loved the world so much…”
Perhaps I am becoming too abstract in my theological generalisations.
Nonetheless although it seems a very complicated belief, the understanding of The Trinity is very important for us today.
Many commentators talk about how the people of today thirst for love but ignore its source. This Sunday of The Most Holy Trinity points us to the source of all love: Jesus. We sacramentally enter into the Trinity through our Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist – the initiation Sacraments of the Church. In a most particular way the Trinity is mirrored in those who live out the Sacrament of Matrimony.
I recall only a few weeks ago re-entering the Cathedral after greeting people following the Mass. People were gathering in the Cathedral for Baptism of their children. Like metal to magnet, I was drawn to a married couple holding their child as they were preparing for the Baptism. There seemed to be a Godly beauty about this wonderful scene of the lover and the beloved and the expression of their love in a new born child. We say that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life. We never argue when we look on a beautiful baby in the arms of its parents. No matter what our differences of opinion we all agree that there is nothing more beautiful than the innocence and tenderness of a child in the arms of love and the expression of love of the parents.
Let us go on with the Mass as we enter into the mystery of the Trinity. If you recall some weeks ago I mentioned about mystery in regard to theology. I said it is like entering into the ocean. We cannot contain the ocean just as we cannot contain God’s love. Nor can we embrace the ocean. Nor can we embrace the love of God but the love of God can embrace us. Just as we can enter into the ocean by swimming, we can also enter the love of God by swimming in the ocean of God’s love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Let us do that in these days coming up.
Let us use for our Biblical expression to be memorised the ancient Trinitarian blessing in today’s Second Reading – “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
18th JUNE 2023
ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
AND MASS ONLINE
Readings Ex 19: 2-6 Rom 5:6-11 Gospel Matthew 9:36-10:8
Liturgically speaking, a new chapter has arrived for us. We now return to a systematic presentation of Matthew’s Gospel in this year of St Matthew.
We are coming from a very High Liturgical Season beginning with Holy Week and culminating in Easter until last weekend when we celebrated the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ the Eucharist. In these past months we have been predominantly wearing White Vestments. As you can see we are now starting to wear the Green Vestments as we move in to the Ordinary Time of growing in discipleship.
As we bid farewell to the High Liturgical Season of Easter to Corpus Christi I would like to summarise this time with a beautiful image that came to me recently by listening to the celebrated Catholic Australian, Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr-Baumann. You may recall that Miriam-Rose was the Senior Australian of the year 2021. She was recently in Rome for Aboriginal week and had a brief encounter with Pope Francis before he entered hospital.
In an interview on Vatican radio she stated that her people “found God in nature.” In regard to the movement from Easter to Corpus Christi (the Eucharist) she said, “We don’t need a calendar to tell us when it is Easter. We know it is around Easter time when the Blue Water lilies appear.” Recall that Miriam-Rose comes from Daly River, south of Darwin, and these are the indigenous people of the area.
She describes to the children she teaches that Easter is when the beautiful petals and fragrance of the Blue water Lilies appear on their rivers, lakes and ponds.
She then said that eventually this beautiful flower, which reminds them of the Easter Jesus, fades and the fragrance disappears. Although seemingly dead, it is still very much alive. She then stated that at this time they can open up the seed pods of the water lily and eat the seeds. The seeds are very nourishing and very good to eat. This is where, she said, Easter and the Eucharist meet…it is the same water lily but it is taking on different forms just like the Easter Jesus who then takes on the form of the Eucharist.
This is a surely a beautiful summary, seeing our deepest theological truths in nature. It comes from a kind of mystic Aboriginal leader of our own people. What a beautiful image!
Now we look forward to the times ahead in this growth season, we are listening to St Matthew’s Gospel, beginning today with the end of chapter 9 and moving on to chapter 10. We begin to be taught by Jesus regarding discipleship. This surely is the great movement in our Christianity, a movement from encounter with the Risen Lord to discipleship, being His Easter presence in the world.
In the Old Testament Reading from today there is a physical geography attached as the People of God walk in conversion through the desert over 40 years. In the midst of their disobedience and stubbornness God reminds them, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” As they “pitched camp” and moved from one place to the other they moved out of “the wilderness of Sinai” into “a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.”
In the New Testament today it is not so much a physical geography described of people walking in the desert, it is more of a human geography of people walking in the deserts of loneliness and living in the peripheries of society. Here Jesus, the “New Exodus”, instructs us to imitate Him.
His merciful love and compassion is described in an expression, “He felt sorry for them…like sheep without a shepherd.” From the Disciples (a word meaning “learners”), Jesus chooses twelve Apostles (a word meaning “the one sent”). We could certainly quibble over the choice of the twelve. They seem a motley group to say the least! Even in today’s Scripture we find Judas Iscariot described as “the one who was to betray Him.”
Nevertheless, in the midst of their human frailties, they are to “go rather to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” The new desert fields here are described as “needing the medicine of salvation.” They are to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”
This is not just a discipleship instruction for the Disciples 2,000 years ago. Jesus is instructing us afresh in the human geography’s of loneliness in our own midst.
We have certainly had a good example of that, haven’t we, in regard to the Calvary Public Hospital saga over the last month or so and the ACT Government’s most distressing policies.
There seems to be a real loneliness in human life today which starts to make fashionable the thought that faith is to be dismissed. We have seen over the last month the slide if faith is to be dismissed, people of faith and institutions of faith are also to be dismissed. This is a real loneliness and poverty in today’s society, when this ideology takes prominence.
The reason for this is that it reduces humanity in its fullness to a very narrow humanity based on efficiency, integration and accounting structures.
Not that any of these are insignificant, but they are not the whole picture. Through, with and in Jesus we have the fullness of humanity offered, not a deformed humanity offered as an ideology and then legislated. Jesus brings us into the fullness of humanity through His own redeemed humanity, the Way the Truth and the Life.
Let us reflect on these important lessons to be learnt after all that has happened over the last month here in Canberra.
Perhaps a fitting expression for us to remember and to repeat in our minds and hearts over the next week is the beautiful expression from the end of the Second Reading today from St Paul’s letter to the Romans. He says, “We are filled with joyful trust in God.” The challenges that we face are not to make us cynical of dismissive. These are the new fields of evangelisation in which we are called to be Missionary Disciples of Christ because Christ leads us and His eagle wings surround us, we are always filled with joyful trust in God.