Homily – October – 2023


 Readings Ezekiel 18:25-28 Phil 2:1-11 Gospel Matthew 21:28-32

The Scriptures are the essential food for Christians.  Without our pondering and treasuring of the Scriptures we are, as Christians, lost and walking in darkness!

Sometimes the Scriptures present us with a great window.  This is a way in which we can look out into our lives in Christ and see our beginnings, our present and our future destiny.

The Second Reading today is like this.  It is the famous description of who we are in Christ from Philippians Chapter 2.  It has often been said that this passage even predates St Paul’s writings and could have even been a liturgical hymn in the decades soon after the Resurrection.  It is essential Christianity!

In this panoramic window view, we see how God comes down to us into our humanity in Jesus and in His Life, Death and Resurrection returns to the Father and takes us with Him in his Church, the Body of Christ.

Some of the Patristic writers have beautifully summarised this panoramic view of our Salvation in the following manner; “Jesus became what we are, so that we can become what Jesus is.”

Then, on the other hand, sometimes the Scriptures are like a mirror in front of us.  They force us to look honestly and directly at our life in Christ.  We see portrayed in the Scriptures all our human contradictions, our foolishness, pride, arrogance and, at the same time, the greatness of Christ in us through His Holy Spirit.

The First Reading and the Gospel are like this mirror image of the Scriptures.

When we examine the Reading from Ezekiel we see two types of personalities that seem to be in contradiction to each other.  One is “the upright man who renounces his integrity to commit sin…” and the other is “when the sinner renounces sin to become law-abiding and honest…”

The Gospel continues these contradictory moral ethical positions when Christ opens up the parable of the Two Sons.

The man tells one of his sons to go out into the vineyard and work.  The son answers, “I will not go, but afterwards thought better of it and went.”  The father says the same thing to the second son who answers, “Certainly, sir, but did not go.”

Sometimes when we read these Scriptures, in our own vanity, we place ourselves on the good side and everyone else on the bad side.  That is just the point.  Both contradictions are found in each one of us.  The Scriptures are a mirror to force us to be truly honest in all our contradictions.

The main thing to remember here is found in the Responsorial Psalm.  The response is, “Remember your mercies, O Lord.”

In the midst of this frank assessment of human frailty, the main point to remember is that God is merciful to us.  He draws us into the integrity of life that He wants from us.  He waits for our contrition but draws us into the conversion of His loving embrace.  We can always start again with our Merciful Lord Jesus.

With these thoughts in mind we can consider some of our own moral choices both as individuals and collectively, on this Respect Life Sunday.

One of the difficulties with our human frailties is that we look at ourselves in a very subjective way.  But in our life, both as Christians and human beings, good ethics always begins with the mixture of subjective and objective realities.

One of these objective moral realities is that life is to be protected from conception to natural death.  This is not simply a Christian belief.  It is the essence of good ethics.

This is why, in the Catholic Church particularly, we have certain ethical teachings on Abortion.  We believe that human life begins at conception and must be preserved from attack.  Therefore we say that Abortion is to be replaced by Adoption and special care for women with unplanned pregnancies.

At the other end of the Human life spectrum, Human life is to be preserved to natural death.

We are in the midst of a radical turning point at the moment in regard to State and National legislation legalising Euthanasia.  The ACT Government is also positioning itself to move in this direction shortly.

In our Catholic Teaching we proclaim that those who are dying of terminal illness are best served by us offering them palliative care at a high level, which should also be available in rural areas and not just urban areas of Australia.

Most of us would know these moral positions well.

There is another moral issue that we are all called to make a decision on soon.

It is about human life as it is embraced in the integral web of culture.

We are aware that the Voice to Parliament Referendum on the 14th of October 2023, just a few weeks away, will ask us to make an important assessment of our current situation, here in our fair land, regarding our First Australians, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people of Australia.

A good place to start ethically is to ask ourselves the presenting question, “What ought I do?”  How ought I and We respond to the Referendum?

Yet if the question remains only at this level we will end up with a Political answer.

The Bishops of Australia in two Pastoral Statements now, one very recently, have asked us to look not only at the political issues but also at the deep ethical and moral issues.

To do this we need to ask a deeper question…”What ought I / We Be?”  These sort of questions define who we are as a people in the future.  They require great reflection, looking at the arguments for and against to help us to inform our consciences and make a considered decision on Referendum day.

To assist us on this deeper level, may I suggest, that we revisit the wonderful and prophetic speech that Pope St John Paul II gave on the 29th November 1986 in Alice Springs to a gathering of Aboriginal leaders of Australia.

The speech in every aspect is worthy of our consideration and can easily be electronically accessed.  There is one phrase that is very memorable and perhaps we can begin to consider these deeper issues by listening carefully to what the Pope said.

To the Aboriginal peoples of Australia he said, “You are part of Australia and Australia is part of you and the Church herself in Australia will not be fully the Church that Jesus wants her to be, until you have made your contribution to her life and until that contribution has been joyfully receive by others.”

So on this Respect Life Sunday let us think about life in its fragility and also human life in its complex cultural and social realities.  Let it assist our mature listening to those on the peripheries of our Australian shared life.

For the “Gospill” today, I return to my early comments, let us recall “Jesus became what we are, so that we might become what Jesus is.”

8th OCTOBER 2023

 Readings  Isaiah 5:1-7  Phil 4:6-9  Gospel Matthew 21:33-43

 The image of a vineyard is a very important symbol used both in the Old and New Testament.  In the Gospel today, late in Matthew’ Gospel, when the forces are lining up against Jesus, He uses the parable in a clever way as he speaks to Religious leaders.  He reprises the First Reading of today from the prophet Isaiah, 800 years before the time of Jesus.

The vineyard is a symbol of God’s Kingdom.  Entrusted to us all, it is to produce grapes that are ready for wine making.  All is in readiness.  In the Gospel the vineyard is handed over in stewardship to the tenants but they produce sour grapes.  In a clever way, Jesus uses the parable and then asks the leaders in front of Him to declare an adjudication on these bad tenants.  As one, they say back to Him, “He will bring those wretches to a wretched end.”  In doing so, they make a judgement on their own bad stewardship as Religious leaders.

To me the important word is the word, “Entrusted.”  All of us are entrusted in stewardship with the Sacred Mysteries, as our ancient Tradition says.

The arising question is for our own time: Do we produce sour grapes or live out the Eucharistic wine in service of others?

As we all know, it is an ongoing battle.  Especially in today’s world, there is almost a culture of negativity and cynicism.  It is as if we need to discuss what is going wrong rather than what is going right with our society.  As the old expression goes, “movie critics don’t make movies!”  Living out the Eucharistic life is noticed by others by our hope, joy, love and service, not by continual negativity and cynicism.

So perhaps the “Gospill” for today is nicely phrased at the end of today’s Gospel when the Lord says, “The Kingdom of God will be…given to a people who will produce its fruit.”  May that be our hope and joy.

Two brief reflections now on this message.

The first is an observation on some of the wonderful comments Pope Francis has made, in the last few days, in regard to the opening of the Synod on Synodality in Rome.

In the opening session, to the over 300 delegates from all around the world (about 16 from Australia) he says to them all gathered in circular tables that they are to respond freely and boldly about what they listen to.  If they disagree with what has been said, than rather than keeping it to themselves, in truth and in love they should speak out.

He states that the Holy Spirit, the protagonist (main animator) in all the synod, can then work freely amongst them.  In a witty way, he says that talking underneath the table, can only give rise to gossip and negativity.  By this he means that adjudicating peoples comments outside the sessions is like speaking under the table rather than on the table!  As the good Jesuit, he says that gossip and negativity are poison to the action of the Holy Spirit.  This advice is for all of us surely.

Secondly, and once again, I would like to make an observation regarding the upcoming Referendum on the Voice to Parliament.

What are we to do?  This is related to what we ought to be as an Australian people.  Regrettably, there seems to be such confusion because this debate, over the last few weeks, has become highly politicised and moved into party politics.  If we are to bear good fruit we must be able to form our consciences in peace and deliberate and discern carefully.  This is always best done by listening to the voice of the Aborigines themselves.

In regard to the diseased intergenerational social structures that we have all inherited that work against Aboriginal advancement, we hear from our Aboriginal friends in the Uluru Statement from the Heart, a very significant observation….”proportionally, we are the most incarcerated people on the planet.  We are not an innately criminal people.  Our children are alienated from their families at unprecedented rates.  This cannot be because we have no love for them.  And our youth languish in detention in obscene numbers.  They should be our hope for the future.”

Over the last few days I have published a short Pastoral Statement on this matter which includes this quote.  You may want to access this and hopefully this will assist your own observations and decision making.


Following Holy Communion the Archbishop made the following comment, “I draw your attention once again to the Pastoral Statement I have written.  It is available in hard copy here at the exits of the Church and also on the Catholic Voice website.  I will be voting “Yes” in the upcoming Referendum.  I respect anybody who will vote “No”, as long as we all have formed our consciences and determined what God is saying to us in this very significant area of our life together.  May we work towards our common good and use our communal responsibility to the greater glory of God.”

15th OCTOBER 2023

 Readings  Isaiah 25:6-10  Phil 4:12-14. 19-20  Gospel Matthew 22:1-14

 We now continue with further parables where Jesus uses well known expressions of everyday life to draw out lessons regarding the Kingdom of God.

Last week Jesus used the common image of a Vineyard.  Today in both the First Reading and the Second Reading the image is of a banquet.

Symbolising God’s plentiful and abundant love of His people, in the First Reading the promise from Isaiah is that God will deliver “a banquet of rich food…fine wines…food rich and juicy.”

There is a lovely Biblical word used in the Second Reading from St Paul’s letter to the Philippians which again emphasises the extravagant love of God for us with his grace.  The word used here is “Lavish.”  St Paul says, “My God will fulfil all your needs, in Christ Jesus, as lavishly as only God can.”   What a beautiful word!  God provides for us, loves us and shows mercy to us in a lavish manner.

In the Gospel today this symbol of a rich banquet is offered by Jesus, in the midst of discussions with the Religious leaders of the time, as “a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding.”

Like in today’s world, in antiquity what we might call a “date claimer” is given out prior to an official invitation.  A subsequent invitation is given out just before the feast is to take place.  Recall, that in antiquity they didn’t have the refrigeration and ovens that we use today.  Once the meal was ready all were to come!

It is at the time of this second invitation that the King’s servants receive a major rebuff from so many who have been invited.  Some “were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business.”  Not only that, they “seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them.”  Clearly the King was furious with such a cruel response.

He then muses to himself and says, “Those who were invited proved to be unworthy.”  This is a major assessment which brings great sadness.  The Kingdom of God is offered to those who have been chosen and invited but they have been “proved to be unworthy.”  May this never be said of any of us, as individuals and as a community, to God’s gracious invitation to be taken up in His Kingdom.

The second strategy of the King is to “invite everyone you can find to the wedding.”

This is the first point for our deep consideration.

The Kingdom of God has moved from the house of Israel to everyone.

This is where the word “Catholic” comes about.  The word Catholic means “everyone.”  It is a word meaning a “universal invitation to everyone.”  The olive tree from the house of Israel has now planted a new seed that sprouts out to a completely new creation embracing all of humanity.

The second point for us to consider is the obvious fact that invitations invite.

In today’s Gospel four times the word “Invite” is stressed.  There is no forcing of people to come to the wedding.  The banquet feast of God is always invitational.

We Catholics have always said this about our work of Evangelisation.  It is always proposed to the world and it is never imposed.  We Catholics are never proselytisers.  We do not hesitate to say that the Wedding Feast is ready, “come to the wedding.”  We do this in invitational ways that propose, particularly through Education, Health and Social Services.  There is a subtlety in our outreach.  It is a non-verbal invitation through “the attractive force” of the Gospel in practical ways that draw people to the Kingdom of God.

There seems to be a question at the end of today’s parable.  It almost seems like a second parable within the bigger parable.  It is the issue of the King going into the wedding reception and noticing “one man who is not wearing a wedding garment.”  The King, although calling him “my friend”, does not receive a satisfactory and reasonable answer as to why this person is improperly dressed.  He certainly is given the exit very quickly.  The parable ends with the expression, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”  It seems that many are called but so many are frozen!

What are we to make of this wedding garment issue?  Although the invitation is opened to everyone, when people do come in to the Kingdom of God there is always the need for ongoing conversion.  One doesn’t just come passively but actively into the Kingdom of God.

Even today we sometimes here people saying that they are Catholics but they never go to Church or they are Catholics but they fully disagree with, for instance, the moral teaching of the Church.

I suppose we could say they are Catholics “not wearing a wedding garment.”

In our Eucharist, especially now in our Mass, we are always called to be actively receptive in Word and Sacrament to allow the grace of God to convert us more and more into the full embrace of the Kingdom of God.

Let this be our attitude as we continue on with the Mass.

For our “Gospill” today the wonderful expression from the Second Reading is something that we all find gives us great hope and strength.  St Paul boasts, on behalf of all of us, that “there is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who give me strength.”  Let us now come to the Altar of God who gives us strength and lavishly feeds His people with plenty.

22nd OCTOBER 2023

 Readings  Isaiah 45:1. 4-6  1 Thessalonians 1:1-5  Gospel Matthew 22:15-21

Geographically speaking, the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn is almost entirely situated within Australia’s Great Dividing Range.  This important mountainous range starts right up the North Eastern part of Australia down our Eastern seaboard and concludes at the Western part of Victoria.

Culturally, on the other hand, there is also a great divide that we are in the midst of at the moment.  Last weekend we had the Voice to Parliament Referendum.  I am not referring to whether the people voted “Yes” or “No” to the Referendum.  I am concerned though about the enormous divide in Australia’s culture evident when we tried to debate maturely a very significant issue for our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.  We failed!

We have so much to learn to successfully walk together in peace and listen carefully to each other in Australia.  Pease God, here within the Catholic Church of Australia, and in our own Archdiocese, we can give a lead here, particularly during the Synodal process which is happening both internationally in Rome at the moment and also our own Year of the Holy Spirit here in this Archdiocese.

The Readings today, as always, assist us in these great challenges before us.

We return once again to the Prophet Isaiah on our Sunday Readings and we hear the Prophet’s prophetic Word of God speak to us in the Readings which proclaims, “I am the Lord, unrivalled; there is no other God besides me.  Though you do not know me, I arm you that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that, apart from me, all is nothing.”

There is such profound wisdom in that line.  The beautiful image of the Sun rising and setting is also reprised in the third Eucharistic Prayer which we will pray in today’s Mass.

The Prophet Isaiah says that God does not know us.  However with the Life, Death, Resurrection and Pentecost of Jesus Christ, we do know God.  We know God directly because of Jesus and today through the power of the Holy Spirit we boast of and interpersonal relationship with Jesus.  This is our Kerygmatic proclamation of our faith!

We also see in Mary, the Mother of God, not the rising or the setting of the sun, but the moon.  So often in Artistic representations over the centuries, Mary is seen standing on a moon or a crescent of a moon.  Recall that the moon does not give off light but only reflects the light of the sun.  Mary is the great reflector of the light of her son, Jesus Christ, upon us.  As we gather for this Marian Procession today we call upon her intercession to lead us closer to Jesus than ever before.

Mary is First amongst the Faithful.  She is the Saint amongst the Saints.

When I prayerfully read the Second Reading today from 1 Thessalonians, I could see some characteristics of Christians articulated by St Paul and seen in resplendent depth in the intercessory life of Mary.

St Paul talks about Christians and offers three boxes to be ticked.  Mary ticks all these boxes and sets a fine example for us.

The first Faith box to be ticked is from the Second Reading today.  We are to “show your faith in action.”  Mary does that spectacularly in the Annunciation were she shows her Virginal faith as a young women when she encounters God through the Archangel Gabriel.  Her immediate “Yes” to become the mother of God is inspirational.  May we too have the courage to say “Yes” to God’s invitations to us.

The second characteristic is that we “persevered through hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In this Year of the Holy Spirit, we are developing a culture of Discipleship.  It is a Discipleship that perseveres with hope and conviction through whatever comes our way, good or bad.  Mary is seen in this as she “treasures and ponders” all that has happened to her.  We see her challenges in the presentation in the temple and the finding of the child Jesus in the temple in the Joyous Mysteries of the Rosary.  This is quite apart from her perseverance and hope in the incredible suffering she had at the bottom of the Calvary Cross in the death of her son, Jesus.  May we too persevere through hope in Jesus all the days of our life in our good times and bad, especially in our country of Australia.

The third characteristic of Christians and seen most resplendently in Mary is that we “worked for love.”  This is done…as “utter conviction.”  Here the culture of Mission is seen in Mary.  Remember at Cana when she said to those having all sorts of practical difficulties at the wedding reception that they were to “do whatever he tells you.”  She is always seen to be working for love.  She sees and anticipates the needs of our human life and continues to be ready to intercede for us just as she did at Cana.  We therefore turn to her in this Mass and once again reconsecrate the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn to her Immaculate Heart and to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

So I do encourage all of us to get involved, over the next twelve months, in evangelisation circles so that we can also focus on these three vital characteristics of Christian life that Mary excels in.  Let us not walk in parallel lines but walk together and listen to were the Holy Spirit’s murmur is speaking to us in our own time and place so that we can build on this, through the activation of our Baptism and the full use of our God given Charisms, to be the people God wants us to be.

In this light I am delighted to announce to everyone that the dates for our Archdiocesan Assembly next year will be the 18th, 19th and 20th of October 2024 at St Christopher’s Cathedral and surrounds.

Please schedule this as a “Date Claimer” so that we can gather together and share the fruits of the next twelve months from our Evangelisation Circles and listening carefully to what God has spoken to us.  Coming together in hope and utter conviction that God is with us, we will receive from the Lord the direction we need in our very confused and divided world.

29th OCTOBER 2023

 Readings  Exodus 22:20-26  1 St Paul to the Thessalonians 1:5-10  Gospel Matthew 22:34-40

 The Gospel today seems straight forward enough.  When asked by others, in regard to the greatest Commandment of the Lord, Jesus quotes two pivotal texts of the Scriptures.  The first is from the Book of Deuteronomy, the great Shema Israel which was repeated in full at least twice a day in the everyday life of the pious Jew.  This continues even today.  Then from the Scriptures, Jesus also quotes the important passage of Leviticus which insists that a love of God and a love of Neighbour are the same.

The radical claim of Christianity, is that Jesus insists that these two Scripture texts be welded together in an unbreakable bond.  Jesus brings them permanently together.  In other words, you can’t have holiness without pastoral action and you can’t have pastoral action without holiness.

It is bringing the mystical and compassionate together.  It is a Practical Mysticism.

A good example of this has come to my attention recently.

Last Sunday we celebrated Sunday Mass at the Old Cathedral of Sts Peter and Paul, Goulburn, for the Marian Procession.

Following the Mass, the Missionaries of Charity Sisters (Mother Teresa’s Sisters) from Queanbeyan came to see me.  They asked me to pray for their Sisters who are helping in the one and only Catholic parish in the city of Gaza, in the troubled area of Palestine.  They informed me that their Sisters had been asked to leave this Northern part of Gaza and move to the Southern part immediately.  The Sisters, in their apostolate, tend to the elderly and people with disabilities.  The Sister refused to move.  Why should they move when the elderly and disabled are unable to move?  The Sisters here asked me to pray for them.

Isn’t this a great example of Practical Mysticism?  These wonderful Sisters are placing their lives in great jeopardy because of their love of God and love of neighbour.  Again, they see they can’t have one without the other.

So I do ask you pray, particularly today, for this troubled area of the world.  As a side note, the name of this Catholic parish in Gaza city is the Holy Family Catholic parish.  What a beautiful name! In the time of Jesus and His birth, Jesus, Mary and Joseph, exiled from Bethlehem, went down to Egypt, as we know, as refugees.  They would have definitely passed through present day Gaza city because it was the major way into Egypt from Palestine.  Most regrettably, this area continues to be a troubled spot in the world today.  We pray for peace!

A second example came to my attention just a few days ago.  It was triggered by the recent death of Mr Bill Hayden, who died at the age of 90 years after serving, in such a tremendous way, the people of Australia as a Politician and Governor General.  He was well respected.  Interestingly, in recent years, he had converted to Catholicism.  He stated that his meeting over many years with a Sr Angela Mary Doyle, a Mercy Sister, was the catalyst that led to his conversion.

Sr Doyle is alive today.  She is 98 years of age.  For twenty three years she was the Director of the Matar Catholic Hospital in Brisbane.  Her leadership here was exemplary.  It is in this area that Mr Haydon met her.  In recent years he visited her as an elderly lady in a Retirement Village.  He stated, following a visit, “The next morning I woke up with the strong sense that I had been in the presence of a Holy woman.”  This attractive power of Practical Mysticism in the life of Sr Angela Mary Doyle led to his conversion to Catholicism.

Again, we see in Sr Angela, the coming together of love of God and love of neighbour in an unbreakable bond.

Both the Missionary of Charity Sisters and Sr Angela are great evangelisers in the heart of the Catholic Church.  We should follow their good example.

So, the challenge of today’s Scriptures is to live a life of Practical Mysticism.  It is to be a life of contemplation and action.

We need to find ways that we can do this subtly and persuasively.  The word “Attraction”, is a very important word in our Catholic Tradition on evangelisation.

I leave you with the “Gospill” for today, in this Year of the Holy Spirit for the Archdiocese, with the famous words of St Theresa Lisieux.  Recall, this year is the 150 year anniversary of her birth.  Pope Francis has recently written a beautiful Apostolic Exaltation on her spirituality.  I commend this letter to you.  One of her famous expressions is so brief, but so penetrating to the Spiritual life.  So often she said to the Lord, “Draw me.”

So let us very often in these days following, say to the Lord sincerely from the heart, “Draw me.”