Homily – April – 2024

7th APRIL 2024

 Readings Acts 4:32-35  1 John 5:1-6  Gospel John 20:1-9

Over the next six weeks, until the Feast of Pentecost in our Liturgy, we will be celebrating the Easter Season.

This Sunday we remember the Divine Mercy of Jesus as He meets His fearful followers as the Risen Lord Jesus.

Today’s Gospel showcases St Thomas.  Poor old St Thomas!  He misses out on the Easter encounter with the other Apostles.  He feels left out.  He throws a bit of a temper tantrum.  He starts posturing and saying that he is not going to believe unless certain scientific investigations prove positive!  The other Disciples are conspicuous in their silence.  It is almost as if they are trying to say, “We are not going to join your pity party!”

In the midst of all this tension once again the Risen Lord Jesus enters.

Interestingly He does not reproach St Thomas for his tantrums.  He could say to him, “Come on Thomas, ‘man up’ and stop being such a performer!”

The Lord’s response is full of Divine Mercy, as today’s focus suggests.  The Lord wants to bring Thomas in, not out of the community of those who have witnessed the Resurrection.  The Lord’s Divine Mercy is full of forgiveness and compassion as He says to them, “Peace be with you.”

Here is one of the Biblical truths of Easter.  Without the Divine Mercy encounter, which is a face to face encounter, it is so difficult to be a Missionary Disciple of the Lord.   Let us reflect upon this in our Year of the Holy Spirit.  We can talk a lot about discipleship and mission in regard to evangelisation but unless this Resurrection encounter with the Lord takes place, then the other aspects seem to be rather mechanical and lacking true motivation and life.

So, it is on this day of Divine Mercy that we particularly welcome in today’s Mass our Migrants and Refugees of the Archdiocese.  In this Multicultural Mass I welcome you and thank you so much for all that you do in this new and final destination of your lives.

So many of you have come to this wonderful country from countries of origin where it is often very difficult or even illegal to practice your faith.  You come to this country which does technically bear the title of a Christian country and you find that the Christian faith is very low key.  You have often come to me quietly to tell me this.  It is true.  At present, perhaps only about ten percent are going to Sunday Mass regularly in Australia.  This is despite the fact that over the last couple of weeks we have had absolutely record crowds and huge numbers of adults in this Cathedral parish who want to become Catholics.  So there are the statistics and yet there is often the reality behind the statistics which are quite different.  What seems to be the situation is not always the situation!

You are aware that so many lapsed Catholics and Christians in Australia are a bit like St Thomas.  They too refuse to believe unless it “stacks up with science.”  Many of our beloved lapsed Catholics often say that the Church is out of date and is not scientific enough.  Whereas we must listen carefully to what they say and learn from it, we must not dumb down our Catholic faith in any shape or form but as evangelisers go out and meet them with a real Risen Lord and Thomas encounter…face to face.

So let us give a Divine Mercy response to cultural Catholics.  I cannot think of any group better to do this than you wonderful Catholics from countries of origin or countries of transit where your faith has been tested and found deepened.  So many of you have such strong family links that ensure the faith is passed on one to the other without ambiguity.  Again I thank you.

So please help us!  Please don’t retreat into country of origin groups that do separate themselves from others.  It is important that in a Multicultural society, cultural groups form to assist those coming to this country to make bridges between country of origin and country of final destination…Australia.   At some point in time, however, there must also be, not simply Multiculturalism but Inter-culturalism.  Here we work in together and act as evangelisers for the Church here in Australia.

It is in this light that I introduce you to, if you haven’t already heard about this, our Archdiocesan Assembly.  This will take place on the 18th, 19th and 20th of October 2024.  I want you to be engaged in this even now as we discuss what is going to happen.  After the Mass today I would like all Migrant leaders to meet with my Vicar General, Fr Richard Thompson and to learn about the “Round Tables.”  These incorporate the templates regarding synodality and the way the Church Universal is starting to engage afresh with the Holy Spirit, who is always the chief protagonist.  There will also be a special round table for Migrant groups coming up and there are notices regarding this at the entrance to the Cathedral.

I also have great pleasure in announcing today that we will be forming an Inter-cultural choir.  This choir will be having its debut at the Archdiocesan Assembly.  Our wonderful Cathedral Choir leader, Jaki Kane, and the marvellous Daniel Yi from the Korean community, a crackerjack organiser, will assist us in the times ahead in the formation of this choir.  I am here today to announce that this is happening.  Stay tuned for further details.  This will be a great example of us working in an inter-cultural way in the midst of all our diversity, yet at the same time singing in unity of the presence of God amongst us.  This is synodality in a practical form.

Today let us learn from St Thomas as Jesus said to him, “Doubt no longer but believe.  Thomas replied, My Lord and my God!”   So let this be our “Gospill” “Doubt no longer but believe…My lord and my God!”

14th APRIL 2024

 Readings Acts 3:13-15  1 John 2:1-5  Gospel Luke 24:35-48

 Over the last few Easter weeks the Scriptures have indicated that if we are truly searching for the Risen Lord in our lives, we aught start by looking in empty places!

What do we mean by this?

Well a few weeks ago on Easter Sunday there was the empty tomb.  From this empty tomb comes the Risen Lord.  Then last week we had the empty faith of St Thomas who offered Jesus a conditional response.  Jesus offered back to him an unconditional response of Resurrected love.

Today in the Gospel we have the empty minds and hearts of the Apostles, locked away in the upper room.

As always the Resurrected Jesus enters the scene unexpectedly and says the Resurrection word, “Peace!”  He finds them in a state of peacelessness.  The Gospel of today indicates that Jesus notices that they are, “agitated…alarmed…frightened…doubts in your hearts” and even the more significant word, “dumbfounded.”

In other words, they like the others over the last few weeks, have a pervading experience of emptiness – helplessness.

What is the Lord’s saving strategy for emptiness/hopelessness?

First of all, there is the renewed encounter with them.  The Risen Lord offers some encouragement.  More importantly He asks them to “open their minds.”  He has encouraged them to see what seems to be emptiness and desert is in fact the promise and hope of the fullness of God’s presence and His great abundance.  We find Jesus coming forward from the empty places of our lives.

Secondly, in regard to the Year of the Holy Spirit and the second aspect of Discipleship, there is the hint of the Eucharist in their encounter.  At the start of the Gospel, St Luke states, “The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised Jesus at the breaking of the bread.”  These Emmaus Disciples coming back having recognised Jesus in the Eucharist.  The Eucharist is later hinted at when the Lord calls them to have a meal with Him and is keen to eat with them.  Jesus is always the hospitable one who calls people to be hope filled witnesses of the Risen Lord.

In regard to being “Witnesses of the Resurrection,” as noted last week as the primitive definition of the early Christians, they are to begin this road by repentance and belief.

In the Gospel Jesus says to them, “You are witnesses to this.”  In the First Reading it is St Peter who stands up and declares those who testify to the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.  He begins by saying, “We are witnesses.”   He then calls them to “repent and turn to God.”

So what is our response to finding God in empty and lonely places?

Clearly we aught look at empty places in our own lives and the lives of our society and see them not as places of hopelessness, but in Resurrected hope, see them as places of possible encounter with the Risen Lord.  We begin to investigate in our lives the places of selfishness, addictions, loneliness, as the seemingly unlikely but in fact likely places where God will begin his Resurrected life and encounter with us.  This is the source of our hope.

Let nobody say that they have no empty places in their lives.  Meditate more deeply!  What about gossiping and the excessive use of Social Media in our lives.  Our experiences of places of loneliness in our lives are too often filled up with things that make us even lonelier.  Loneliness can easily be built onto loneliness if we don’t have our eyes on the Risen Lord.

In opening ourselves and waiting in joyful hope for the coming of the Lord in these empty places, we start looking at the empty places of others in our society.  Clearly as Jesus has said so directly, “As I have loved you so much, you must love one another.”  Therefore, if the Risen Lord has come into our empty places, as “Witnesses of the Resurrection” then we are to seek out the empty places in the lives of others in the world in which we live and encourage them to hope in the loving presence of Jesus.

I would like to conclude by offering you for our “Gospill” this Sunday the popular prayer St Padre Pio (1887-1968).  He was canonised by St John Paul II in 2002.  He remains one of the most popular Saints in recent centuries coming from Italy.

One of his popular prayers is as follows (I have added a little at the start of it).  Let us say to Jesus, “In my emptiness, My past I leave to Your mercy; my present to Your love; my future to Your providence.”

21st APRIL 2024

 Readings  Acts 34:8-12  1 John 3:1-2  Gospel John 10:11-18

It was not until the end of the great persecution of Christianity in the year 312 that Art work depicting the Death and Resurrection of Jesus became quite popular.  This period was important because it was around the time of the conversion and Baptism of the Emperor Constantine.

Two of the earliest expressions of Christian Artistry are mentioned in today’s Readings.

I will mention the first one briefly and then concentrate more on the second.

The first image is of Jesus as the “Keystone.”

It is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles that Saint Peter says, “This is the stone rejected by you the builders, but which has proved to be the keystone.”  In the Responsorial Psalm today we sang, “The stone rejected by the builders has become the cornerstone.”  We are familiar, in today’s world, with Foundation stones.

Foundation stones are more of a Memorial stone indicating when the building was opened and perhaps by whom.  The expressions of Keystone and Cornerstone are more significant.  Given today’s building techniques, we may not grasp the full understanding of this important metaphor.  At the time of Christ, when the buildings were made almost certainly of stone, the Keystone was the main stone by which the rest of the building was aligned.  Similarly with the Cornerstone, it was the first stone placed and everything was aligned vertically and horizontally to its position.  Even in the construction of a stone doorway the Keystone was the main stone that held the building together.

Hence the link between this symbol, which was of pagan origin, being used as a Christian symbol of Christ who is always seen as, “The Keystone…” whose Death and Resurrection binds the whole Church together.

The other and more significant metaphor in today’s Readings is from the Gospel.  It is Jesus as the Good Shepherd.  Jesus Himself says, “I am the good shepherd…who lays down his life for his sheep…I know my own and my own know me.”

Jesus makes a comparison between a good shepherd and a bad shepherd.  The bad shepherd has no commitment to the sheep.  Possibly he is only hired.  Jesus sees Himself as a good shepherd because He indeed lays down His life for His sheep.  Jesus is the personification of the image.  Also, it is stressed that our Jesus knows His sheep and they know Him.

Recall that at the time of Christ sheep were not like what we have here in Australia where Sheep farms might have thousands and thousands of sheep.  At the time of Christ the Shepherd, surely one of the most underpaid and undervalued workers, would only have a small number of sheep.  He would know them by name and they would respond to his call.  I suppose they were like pets.

So let us meditate a little more on this major metaphor of Jesus the Good Shepherd.

The calling of the Good Shepherd, the Risen Lord, to us His sheep needs some clarification.

Over the centuries the Church in its Spiritual theology has spoken of the three basic “Calls” of the Good Shepherd to us His people.

The first is the “Fundamental call.”  This pertains to life’s basic choice of choosing the good and avoiding the evil in our lives.  This is Sacramentalised in Baptism and Confirmation.  Here we choose, at the most primal level of our lives, Christ as our “Keystone.”  I have noticed, as a Priest over the years, when people are at a primal moment this “Fundamental call” becomes more obvious.  Generally, we take it for granted.  At the time of death or birth, when we see the beauty and life’s limits, we often defer to our choice of Christ as our Redeemer and Saviour.

The second basic call of the good shepherd is the “Life call.”  This is not simply a career, although it might be an expression of something deeper.  That which is deeper is our vocation in life.  It might be to the Religious life, Married life or even to remain single for the Lord.  These “Life calls” are also Sacramentalised in our Sacraments…the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

On this Good Shepherd Sunday we particularly reflect on Religious vocations and pray for an increase of Priests, Deacons, and Religious Brothers and Sisters in our Archdiocese.

The “Life call” requires time and mutual discernment.

In regard to Seminarians who are thinking seriously of becoming priests they co-discern, with me as their Bishop, over a period of seven or eight years!  At present we have Deacon Mark Ha who is preparing to become a Priest towards the end of the year.  He originally was a Chemistry graduate from the Australian National University and is at present a Deacon in Young.  We also have Bran Grgic who is progressing through the Seminary.  Bran originally spent many years employed in the Navy.  Cinnil Thomas who is now in his second year was a Civil Engineer before joining the Seminary.  In very recent times Nicholas Barry has begun his first year in the Seminary.  Up until last year Nicholas was a Teacher at St Clare’s College here in Canberra.

We pray for them and we pray for an increase in Vocations.  I am pleased to mention to you that we have four or five young men considering joining the Seminary.  They are undergoing an initial discernment with my Vocations Director and myself regarding their suitability.  We pray for them.  We also take this opportunity, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, to advise how in your generosity you can offer some financial assistance to this important apostolate in our Archdiocese, details are available in the Bulletin.

The third and final basic call of the Good Shepherd is the “Continual call.”  Here every day we have practical ways of saying “Yes” to this and “No” to that with regard to choices we make in our life.  They are expressions of my “Fundamental call” and my “Life call.”  It is from these calls that we then are able to make good practical choices on an everyday basis.  Sometimes we fail and therefore the Church offers us the Sacrament of Penance.  Every day we need nourishment and we need to ensure that the “Food” we use to nourish our calls to the Good Shepherd is not replaced by other types of “Food” not worthy of our humanity.  Therefore, of course, as the mother of all Sacraments, we come to the Eucharist.   Here Jesus gives us His own Body and Blood in the Living Word of the Scriptures to help us on our journey in life.

So on this Good Shepherd Sunday let us pray to the Lord in the light of today’s Gospel which reflects a very popular Psalm, Psalm 23.  Our “Gospill” is, “The Risen Lord is my Good Shepherd.  There is nothing I shall want.”

28th APRIL 2024

 Readings  Acts 9:26-31  1 John 3:18:24  Gospel John 15:1-8

In the First Reading today from the Acts of the Apostles, we encounter two of the greatest Conversion stories to the Risen Lord, in the New Testament.

One has just taken place.  It is the Conversion story of Saul who becomes St Paul.  It is sudden and dramatic.

The other which takes place in this Reading is the Conversion story of the community.  It is gradual and low key.

Both are linked by the intercession of one of the Apostles co-workers, St Barnabas.  Indeed, without St Barnabas we may never have heard of St Paul!

So what is the situation?

After his conversion, Saul – Paul goes to Jerusalem.  In the First Reading we hear that the Apostles don’t want anything to do with him.  From Acts it says, “They were all afraid of him…they could not believe he was really a disciple.”  This is surely understandable.  He had been persecuting them.  He supervised the execution of St Stephen, the first Martyr to the Church.

The Holy Spirit sends a co-worker of the Apostles, St Barnabas, into this impasse.

St Barnabas was a converted Jew.  His name literally means, “Son of Encouragement.”  This encouragement was both his name and his charism.  Some have suggested that he is the author of the Letter to the Hebrews.

Barnabas’ pastoral strategy of evangelising the Early Church is worthy of note.

The first thing we hear is that Barnabas “took charge of him.”  Barnabas took charge of Saul.  In other words, Barnabas became the self-appointed mentor of Saul.  Having done that, the work of evangelisation begins on the three levels that we are familiar with in this Archdiocesan Year of the Holy Spirit.

First there is Encounter.  Barnabas “introduces him to the apostles.”  In other words, Barnabas brings the outsider inside.  He ensures that everybody meets Saul.  A unification begins to happen via encounter.

Then there is the stage of Discipleship.  Barnabas “explained” Saul’s dramatic conversion story.  It is an exercise in Discipleship because it is an exercise in truth speaking.  This is the essence of Discipleship.  So many of our fears and uncertainties of others are often based on the fact that we have never met them or never had the true story told.  People who are seen as enemies are often shrouded in myth and misunderstanding.  Barnabas makes sure this doesn’t happen here.

Then Saul’s Mission, already started, is proclaimed by Barnabas.  He gave testimony to Saul’s beginning of the Mission into Damascus via the mission of “preaching boldly.”

So a gradual conversion of the entire community to Saul’s place in the Early Church begins.  Paul’s conversion brings about the adjoining conversion of the community.

As a result of the communities’ acceptance of Saul, and other signs of the Holy Spirit, the Early Church was, according to the First Reading, “…left in peace…building up the Christian community in its infancy, filled with the consecration the Holy Spirit.”  Saul now becomes St Paul.  Following his acceptance by the community he is given a new identity, a new name, a new destiny.  We then hear it said that St Paul “started to go round with them in Jerusalem, preaching fearlessly in the name of the Lord.”

History now shows us that St Paul became probably the greatest Evangeliser the Church has ever produced.  A full circle has occurred here.  St Paul who was initially supervising the killing of Christians, now as a Christian, is targeted by non-believers who plot his death!   The full circle of evangelisation is manifest.

So what are some of the lessons of these two conversions for today?

Taking the lead from the Second Reading of 1 John, often described as the Gospel of love, we become very attentive to the phrase, “Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active.”

This is exactly what St Barnabas did.  His love for the Lord Jesus was certainly real and active.  He brought Saul into the community from the outside.  The arising question surely is, how can I be a person of encouragement in my life?  As St Barnabas was the great encourager of the Early Church, how can I be an encourager of the Church in our present time and place?

Secondly, clearly the essence of Christianity is “that we love one another.”  This too is taken from the Second Reading of St John.  This is our overriding motive.  All else is not worthy of our life in the Easter Christ.  It was certainly Barnabas’ motive.  Pure love and nothing else.  Let us examine ourselves to make sure that is also our deepest motivation in the way we relate to others.

Finally from today’s Gospel of John 15, we find the Unity Principal.  At all costs we are to “remain” in the true vine, the Easter Jesus.  So important is this word “remain” that it is mentioned seven times in today’s Gospel!  We are to unify, we are never to break off or scatter people.  Barnabas prevented this from happening to St Paul.  Perhaps it is the “Barnabas insight” from today’s Gospel that we could carry into our “Gospill” for today, “Remain in my love.”  If we do not remain in the love of the Lord nothing of any significance is going to happen.  As Jesus himself says in the Gospel, “Cut off from me you can do nothing.”