Homily – March – 2024

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
3rd MARCH 2024
THIRD SUNDAY OF LENT
MEDITATION/HOMILY NOTES
LENTEN LIGHTHOUSES

LAST WEEK

3rd  LIGHTHOUSE – WONDERFUL
4th LIGHTHOUSE – ONLY JESUS

THIS WEEK (John 2/13 – 25 – THE EXPULSION FROM THE TEMPLE)

FIFTH LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – “MY FATHERS HOUSE”

THE SITUATION:          Turning “the Father’s House” into a marketplace…” STOP!”
Is Jesus the centre of our worship or have other “SEPARATE” priorities taken precedence and confused our living out of our Baptismal promises.  Let LENT purify us all.

FOR EXAMPLE:

  1. Helpful separation.

 Praise for the Portugal Marian Shrine of FATIMA.  (World Youth Day 2022)

  • Clearly separating Devotion from Devotional Shops.
  • In our homes? Can we separate domestic activity and prayer room?
  1. Exaggerated Separation.
  • Movie Star: “I am not religious BUT I have a deep yearning inside myself.”
  • Yet, “yearning” and “religious” instinct are inseparable! (…I am human therefore I am religious) (Really, “I do not align myself with irrelevant Church organisations and seek illumination of my own resources.)
  • If you expel Church structures, what are you left with?
  • Religious instinct is SOCIAL (so difficult to believe)
  • It can be eclectic and expensive – Dangers.
  • Cherry picking various favoured, mainly oriental religions.
  • Buying (books, videos, objects) copious supplies of self-help “religious” materials on self-fulfilment philosophies. Astrology – signs of Zodiac (predetermined future – attack on human freedom.)

SIXTH LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – “THE SANCTUARY”

GOSPEL COMMENTARY – “(Jesus) was speaking about the sanctuary that was his body.”

  • Yet, (as above) the Church is often seen as irrelevant (secularism)/ Sinful (sex abuse) – no longer “fit for purpose.”
  • 2 points: The Church is perpetually reforming herself (eg. Synodally)
    The Church is made up of sinful yet forgiven people.

QUOTES

  • “It is not suffering for the Church that bothers me, it’s suffering from her.” (Irish Catholic)
  • Advice of one new Catholic to another even newer Catholic: (RCIA)
    “Congratulations but get ready.  It’s a rather untidy outfit you’re joining up with.”
  • The Italian and popular Catholic religious writer of a generation ago, CARLO CARRETTO, wrote: in his autobiography, (1984).
    “How much I criticize you, my Church, and yet how much I love you.
    You have made me suffer more than anyone and yet I owe more to you than to anyone.
    You have given me much scandal and yet you alone have made me understand holiness.
    Countless times I have felt like slamming the door of my soul in your face, and yet, every night I have prayed that I might die in your arms…”

REFLECTION

  • Let’s be patient with the Church.
    No use inventing another.
    As soon as we join, it would be defective because they happen to be our many defects too.
  • “What could I know of Jesus without her?” (Church)
    (Major Church theologian of Vatican II.  French, Henri de Lubac.)
  • The Church – The Crucified and Risen Body of Jesus is our SANCTUARY. Forever!

“Gospill”:
I am her (the Church)
And she (the Church) is me!

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
 10th MARCH 2024
FOURTH SUNDAY OF LENT
MEDITATION/HOMILY NOTES
LENTEN LIGHTHOUSES  

LAST WEEK

5th  LIGHTHOUSE – MY FATHER’S HOUSE
6th LIGHTHOUSE – THE SANCTUARY

THIS WEEK (John 3/14 – 21 – LAETARE (Rejoice) SUNDAY)

SEVENTH LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – “SO MUCH” 

“…God loved the world so much that he gave his only son.” (v.16)
(Also, First Reading: “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy.” (Ephesians 2/4)

  • On this Laetare Sunday, the scriptures “shout out” that God loves us with
    so much love and mercy in sending us Jesus – his life, death, resurrection – Easter.
  • In this Lent, let us reflect on this so much love = a summary of the entire Gospels. – Let it be “lifted up.”

e.g. ARMS OUTSTRETCHED.

Recall asking Primary School children how much Jesus loves us.  Finally, a little girl stretched out her arms as far as she could whilst standing and said “This much.”
She did not realise it, but she was making a profound theological statement.
Her body was like the crucified body of Jesus on the Calvary Cross – stretched out in crucified love. – “…he gave his only son.”

Lest this example seems a little sentimental, perhaps another example can illustrate the so much of God’s love too.

e.g. “I LOVE YOU.”

  • Mother (St.) Teresa of Calcutta with some of her sisters approach a man near death on the streets of Calcutta. The sisters sit him up.  Only then do they realise the appalling state he is in.  His back is filled with vermin crawling over him.  The sisters are repulsed and move away.  Only Mother Teresa remains with the dying man.
  • She tends to him lovingly. He asks, “Why are you doing this?”
  • She answers: “Because I love you.”
  • “Love me, I have never met you before.”
  • “God is love. His son lives in us.  He lives in you and I love Jesus.”
  • “Then…I love Jesus too!”

This surely is the evangelising love that is so much that it reaches even beyond death.

EIGHTH LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – LIGHT AND DARKNESS.

  • As suggested in today’s Gospel, Conversion and Repentance in Lent is a MOVEMENT AWAY FROM DARKNESS (sin) and a

MOVEMENT TOWARD LIGHT (mercy/forgiveness of God)

  • The purpose of LIGHTHOUSES is to give off strong light in the darkness of treacherous shorelines at night so to prevent shipwrecks.
  • The Gospel observes the tragedy of our humanity. Extraordinarily, we “prefer darkness to the light.”Lent is a time to correct, with Jesus’ mercy, our “human compass.”

This too, needs our scrutiny and repentance.  (“Greyness” is the acceptance of half-truths.)

TWO EXAMPLES FROM OUR SHARED LIFE IN AUSTRALIA:

e.g. ABORIGINAL ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.

  • Acknowledgement of country before events is found everywhere these days.
  • It is good but too easily “lets us off the hook” of corporate responsibility.
  • We tend to think by acknowledging county (usually using a mantra expression) we’ve “done our bit for the Aborigines.”
  • Yet, this week, in the CLOSING THE GAP annual report, we find we are falling behind in efforts to reduce aboriginal disadvantage on most indicators in our shared Australian life.
  • There is GREYNESS here. Accepting half-truths (Acknowledgement) is not enough.

e.g. ENVIRONMENTAL ECOLOGY – INTEGRAL ECOLOGY.

  • We are certainly making progress on our attention to environmental (health) ecology. This is good (enlightening!)
  • Delighted to see in our Archdiocese the growth of the LAUDATO SI TASKFORCE.
  • Yet this week France has made Abortion a constitutional right for the French!
  • Ecology must not just be for the environment but also for the family, married life and the child within the womb. It is to be an integral ecology, as Pope Francis describes it.  Otherwise we are locked in a greyness that overlooks the ones without a voice.

“Gospill”: “So Much.”

ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
 17th MARCH 2024
FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT
MEDITATION/HOMILY NOTES
LENTEN LIGHTHOUSES

LAST WEEK

7th  LIGHTHOUSE – SO MUCH
8th LIGHTHOUSE – LIGHT AND DARKNESS

THIS WEEK – FINAL LIGHTHOUSE BEFORE HOLY WEEK
GOSPEL: John 12/20 – 33

NINTH LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – “THE HOUR HAS COME”

The Greeks: “We should like to see Jesus NOW THE HOUR HAS COME.”
My hour has not come (Cana) – now “the Hour has come” (The Greeks)

  • The universal/for everyone call of the Good News
    However, this will lead to suffering/death (Holy Week).

DRAWN TO JESUS – Like the Greeks: “To see Jesus”

Ignatian Spirituality stress – Be a DRAWN not DRIVEN Christian.

Drawn people in a Driven world (“I will draw all to myself”)

  • Driven” is often a complement BUT
    • a lonely world (“Me/Myself/1”)
    • single cause focus to the neglect of all else.
    • “Burn out” (“Rust out!”)
      e.g. Retirement to spend more time with family.
  • Drawn” is rarely mentioned but so human!
  • Something/one, greater than I, impels me forward.
  • g. RCIA Candidates (deep down “calling”)
  • g. Smell of a Rose (“intoxicating” – Pentecost)
  • “Confessions” – St Augustine (c400)
    “You did breathe fragrance upon me,
    and I drew in my breath and I do pant for you.
    I tasted you, and I now hunger and thirst for you.
    You touched me and I have burned for your peace.”

However – St Augustine’s greatest regret “Late have I loved you.”
(i.e. Too late in my life)

Don’t be LATE like St Augustine, Don’t delay – Be DRAWN NOW
“Smell the Roses”

The HOUR has come (LENT) to change from Driveness to breathe in the Fragrance of Godly silence and presence.

TENTH AND FINAL LENTEN LIGHTHOUSE – WHEAT GRAIN.

A Key Gospel image of Jesus’ Ministry and our life in Christ: …The wheat grain…”Unless it falls to the ground and dies.”

  • The necessity of falling, suffering, dying, rising, harvest.

Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa (The Papal Preacher) observes about the wheat grain:

  • “It takes quite some time for the wheat grain to be threshed, winnowed, ground and baked before it can become bread.”
  • Imitating the suffering of Jesus (especially over Holy Week) takes a lifetime of “fasting, repentance and exposure to the fire of the Holy Spirit before we become united in one body of Christ – Holy Bread for the hungry world.”
  • The Cardinal suggests we begin by giving up …”give up justifying ourselves and always wanting to be right and the winner.”…”accept being corrected by others.”
  • This requires humility and simplicity and suffering.
  • Not too late to start now as we approach Holy Week. Start with SILENCE when corrected by others.

 “Gospill”: “Jesus learnt to obey through suffering.” (2nd Reading: Hebrews)

HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL
5.00pm 25 MARCH 2024
CHRISM MASS
AND MASS ONLINE

 Readings  Isaiah 61:1-3, 6. 8-9  Apocalypse 1:5-8  Gospel Luke 4:16-21 

This text is being fulfilled today even as you listen.”  From tonight’s Gospel, we hear the proclamation of the fulfilling of this saving Biblical text from Jesus on this magna carta address of the incoming Kingdom of God.

This text is in the present tense.  It talks about today.  The “today” moment is the time of Jesus but it is also the “now” moment in our own times.

So, in the “now” moment, as we bless the oil for use in the Sacraments of our Archdiocese and also for the Military Ordinariate of Australia.  Also, in this Mass Priests manifest their communion with their Bishop and renew their priestly vows.

The first thing that could be said, is that this Mass in a special way shows forth the paternal communion or encounter of the clergy with their Bishop.

In recent days we have celebrated the Funeral Mass of Archbishop Francis Carroll.

Although not unexpected, when it did happen it did arise a number of sentiments in us all, especially our priests.

When the day of his death occurred, we received a phone call as we were meeting for the Council of Priests in the Archbishop’s House.  The Vicar General, Fr Richard Thompson, left the room to take the call and came back and informed us that Archbishop Carroll had just died.

Immediately there was a silence in the room filled with priest representatives of the Archdiocese.  Soon after we then prayed for the repose of his soul.

As I looked around the table I realised that some priests present knew Archbishop Carroll extremely well.  Some had been confirmed by him and many had been ordained Priests and Deacons by him.  However, around the table there were some priests who had never met Archbishop Carroll but had certainly heard of him.

This moment of his death and the different reaction from priests does raise a very significant issue.  That is, the significance of a Priest and Bishop and the paternal bond they share.

In my own case, for example, Archbishop Frank Little from the Melbourne Archdiocese ordained me a priest.  Sometime before my ordination we had a face to face meeting.  It was the first time for a long time that I was able to talk to the Archbishop.  I left the room feeling quite encouraged and grateful for the gathering.  Then of course he ordained me.  The Sacramental gesture along with the promises I made that day engendered a very special bond between the Archbishop and me.  Although it has been many years now since he died, I still pray to him at times and when I renew my own priesthood I think of him with gratitude.

However, there are difficulties in regard to the paternal bond of a Priest with his Bishop.  In my case, I became a Bishop when I was 49 years old.  It is very hard to create a paternal bond, I found, when many of the priests in your Diocese are older than you.  Rather than you being a fatherly figure you are more often seen as a son or even a grandson by the more senior members of the clergy!  That is not the case 43 years later!

Also there are difficulties with priests from overseas, (as many of you are) when your ordaining Bishop is a long way from Australia and in some cases you didn’t get to know him all that well.

Yet despite these difficulties, living out the priesthood without a paternal bond with your Bishop is very difficult indeed.   It is hard to live out the priesthood in a synodal way when you haven’t really walked with the Bishop in his vision and leadership in a Diocese.  Being in communion with him, even if he didn’t ordain you but you now Minister in his Diocese, is an important moment indeed.  It brings a deep Catholic understanding of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

We now strengthen that bond in this Mass, regardless of whether we are incardinated into the Archdiocese or not.  In renewing our priesthood vows we thank the Lord for the paternal link he gives us by sending the Holy Spirit amongst us.  Be assured, this Archbishop loves you.  We walk together synodally for evangelisation in this Archdiocese.

This topic raises the issue of the Ministry of the priests and the promises they make, as mentioned in today’s booklet, to be “faithful stewards of the Mysteries of God.”

This vital aspect of the Ministry of a priest in a Diocese in regard to the Sacraments was brought out recently when I liturgically installed Fr Emil Milat as the new Parish Priest of our parish at Peace.

Quite often when we try to understand the role of a priest, turning to the Liturgy can be of great help.  The Liturgical Rite of Installation of a new Parish Priest, is almost like a little Catechism of the role of the priest in the parish.  This theology is to be experienced and not just studied in Seminaries.

The Liturgy encourages that the Bishop take the new Parish Priest on a synodal journey within his own parish in front of his people.  This is what happened at Pearce.  I began by taking the Parish Priest to the parishes Baptismal Font.  The Sacrament of Baptism is the gateway Sacrament of the Church.  By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God.  It is a great opportunity for the Kerygma to be proclaimed when we prepare people or their children for Baptism.  In the early Church this was done over many years to adults.  Given the fact that so many approach the Sacrament with a more cultural understanding of the Sacrament, there is a real need for proper preparation.

I then led the new Parish Priest to the Ambo.  Here the preaching of the Word of God is pivotal.  In this Year of the Holy Spirit we pray that the preacher truly does preach the Word of God that brings people home to God.  I so often hear great complements of our priests’ homilies by parishioners.  Thank you so much.

Although commentaries of the Holy Scriptures are important, the preacher should not run to them in the first instance.  He should be able to struggle with the text to see the bridges between the living Word of God pondered upon in a Marian style over the last 2000 years of our Tradition, and linking that word now with the people of his parish with their special needs and cultural sensitivities.  Making that bridge is so important for our Homilies.

We then went to the Altar where the Eucharist is celebrated.  Of course the Eucharist is the mother of all the Sacraments.  It was Pope Benedict XVI that stressed that in the Eucharist Jesus allows us to use His “I” of the Eucharist.  When the priest says “This is my body, This is my blood” he does not use his own words.  He uses the words of Jesus. What a tremendous grace this is for a priest to become the alter Christi capitis (the other Christ, the Head).

Then we moved to the Confessional.  This is the place where we as sinners encounter the mercy of God.  This Sacrament is in need of a new Catechesis.  People are so confused about identifying what is sin and what is not of sin.  Let us remember that the basic definition of sin in the Bible is: leading your life as if God does not exist.

Then we move towards the front of the Altar where the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony is celebrated.  Also it is where we have the coffin during the Funeral liturgies.

In regard to Marriages in today’s world it is too often a neglected Sacrament.  We really do need a developed Catechumenate of Marriage and Family life in today’s world which is culturally confused.  Over the centuries we have always proclaimed that the Sacrament of Matrimony is a sharing in the Trinity.  It is the bond of love sharing and life giving.

In regard to Funerals, I wish to congratulate the priests in the wonderful way they try to negotiate with families, coming from all sorts of different backgrounds, in regard to celebrating our Funeral Rites.  I have heard so often of priests spending large amounts of time with people, with great sensitivity, to be able to incorporate their perspectives.  At the same time they encourage them to understand why the Church speaks of Funerals.  We call down first of all the mercy of God on the person that has died. Then we do appreciate the many gifts and charisms that the person has exhibited in their life. Then we finally pray for those who mourn the loss of their loved one.  We are under great pressure to turn this Funeral Mass into some sort of Canonisation ceremony and I thank the priests for their patience in this regard.

We then moved to the Presidential chair with Fr Emil.  This is the “Jesus” chair.  Here we keep the chair warm until the Lord comes at the Second Coming.  Here the priest presides over the assembled People of God in charity “until he comes.”  It is always a symbol of hope on the journey that we make towards the Lord’s Second Coming.

Finally, our paternal bond of Priest with Bishop and the Ministry of the priests in parishes is always linked with the fraternity that we share with all the People of God for the Mission of the Church into the future.  We walk together in a synodal way.  In these days of the Synod of Synodality and our own pending Archdiocesan Assembly, we return home to a full understanding of the Sacrament of Baptism with its different discernments and charisms.  Perhaps one of the important gems of the Vatican II documents is the importance of Baptism which has been represented in a more focused way in our times.

So we walk in the future of the Archdiocese with great confidence.  Two marvellous Religious orders that have given great ministry to the Archdiocese over the years, the Dominicans and the Carmelites have left or are soon to leave the Archdiocese.  Some doors close but new doors open.  The Holy Spirit has sent us the Blessed Sacrament Fathers from the Philippine province to establish a pastoral presence amongst us.  In even more recent times we welcome the Voluntus Dei priests that are moving into the Archdiocese with their special Ministries and Charisms.

So we proceed with the Mass with great confidence and hope knowing that the Holy Spirit is with us walking on a synodal journey in which God leads us on the way of encounter, discipleship and mission – the work of evangelisation.

GOOD FRIDAY
29th MARCH 2024
PASSION OF THE LORD
HOMILY
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, CANBERRA
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
ARCHDIOCESE OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN

READINGS: ISAIAH 52/13-53:12; HEBREWS 4/14-16, 5/7-9; JOHN 18/1-19, 42

We have all grown up with Good Friday.  The Crucifixion of Jesus is something we respond to with great fervour and attention.  We know it is at the very centre of Christian faith.  However, perhaps the horror of the Crucifixion, as is took place over 2,000 years ago, is something we fail to appreciate.

Crucifixion was one of the most horrific physical tortures of antiquity.  It was not even used on the worst of the Roman Empires citizens.  It was considered too degrading.  It was reserved for the non-Romans and only then for the worst of the worst criminals.

This is what Jesus was subject to on the first Good Friday.  We have the advantage, of course, 2,000 years later, of knowing what happened three days later.  At the time of the Crucifixion that was something only hoped for.

So for those who participated in the first Good Friday there was nothing particularly good about it.  It was in fact “Bad” Friday!  The early Church writings often described it as the great scandal of the Cross!  This was not supposed to happen!  Palm Sunday expectation was that Jesus would come as a kind of “New David” and liberate the people from the bondage of the Roman Empire.  They sang Hosanna and crowded Him with cheers and shouts of joy.

But on Good Friday nothing like this happened.  We hear from the Disciples on the road to Emmaus soon after the death of Jesus that, “we had hoped…”  They had no hope despite the fact that the Risen Lord was walking with them!  This first Good Friday was full of betrayals, denials, the absence of God, darkness, loneliness, emptiness.  In one of the Gospel passages of the Passion when Judas left the Last Supper table the evangelist said, “It was night.”  This was not just simply a comment about the lack of sunshine, it was a comment about the despair and gloom encircling those gathered in Jerusalem.

The real shock was that the Crucified Jesus died largely alone.  Yes there was Mary, Mary Magdalen, St John and some other women but the other Disciples were absent.

In the midst of this loneliness and scandal of the Cross we can see Jesus like never before. Focussing on His encounter with Pontius Pilate, the humility of Jesus is portrayed in a special way.

G.K. Chesterton, who died in 1936, the English Writer, Philosopher and convert to Christianity commented that “humility is the mother of giants in life.”  We find the humility of Jesus on the day of His death most evident, indicating His greatest strength as a human person.

G.K. Chesterton makes an observation about modern life that, “People were meant to be doubtful about themselves, but undoubting about the truth.  Now, however, we are undoubting about ourselves but doubting about the truth.”

During His interrogation with Pilate, Jesus says very little.  He humbly moves to His death on the Cross.  At the same time he is totally trusting in God.

On the other hand, Pilate spits out any notion of truth and reacts back to Jesus and says, “What is truth?”  He is totally confident in his own status and abilities.  Historians suggest that the Gospel writers were too soft in their assessment of Pilate.  However, they looked to secular historians, for instance Josephus, who indicated that Pontius Pilate was a ruthless Administrator in the Roman Empire.  There seemed to be no soft side to him.

G.K. Chesterton goes on to observe that the humble work all the harder to embrace truth.  This could be said of Jesus.  On the one hand we hear in the Scripture text, just before His Passion, that Jesus “resolutely” took the road to Jerusalem.  On the other hand, the ones who never doubt themselves find they cannot make decisions in a crisis.  Possibly this is because they don’t want to make a mistake.  They’re perfectionists.  It is interesting to note here that Pilate asked the Religious leaders to decide on the fate of Jesus because they wanted the Crucifixion of Jesus.  They hand Jesus back to Pilate because he is the only one who can permit this.  It is like a tennis match.  Then Pilate goes to the mob and offers them the choice of Jesus or Barabbas.  Again Pilate is not making the decision but getting others to make it for him.

In the midst of such observations of Jesus and Pilate in the hours before Jesus’ death, the arising question comes to confront all of us…where do we stand in today’s world in this regard?  Are we Pilate or are we Jesus?  The truth is, maybe we are a little of both.  We are in that grey area.  Sometimes we act humbly and place our complete trust in the Lord and the truth that he gives.  Other times we find ourselves acting in a very “Pilate” way, with arrogance and self-assertiveness, responding as if humility is not even present.

On this day when we try to quieten ourselves in the shadow of the Calvary Cross, may I offer you three ways that could assist us.

First, let us ponder in silence on all that took place on the first Good Friday.  Silence returns us home to our true selves.  If we can limit talk and activity that would be great.  Recall that this Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence.  Allow our body’s to grumble a little in hunger so that our spirits also hunger and grumble for the presence of God.

Secondly, let’s unite our scandals with the scandal of the Cross from whence comes salvation and hope.

The question is, what do we do with all the mess in our lives?  Jesus Himself says, “Come to me all you who are burdened and overloaded and I will give you rest.”  Jesus is often described as “the great burden bearer.”  So let us not hang on to the things that way us down and all the troubles that confront us on a daily basis.  As we come forward in a moment for the Adoration of the Cross let us place our burdens and nail them to the Calvary Cross with Jesus.  It is only in doing this that the Resurrection and the Blood of Jesus will save us and redeem us in the midst of our own woes.  Don’t take the issues back to your seats.  Nail them to the Saving Tree of Galilee.

United in the Risen Christ, let us wait for the Resurrection that will surely come.

The Liturgy of the Church often talks about how we are “waiting in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ.”

This is precisely what happens tomorrow, Holy Saturday.  Here Jesus goes down into Hell and releases those under the control of the evil one.  So let us be patient and wait for the three days between Calvary and Resurrection.

Thirdly, let us be converted to Christ in humble truth.  Today is the day to think about renewing our Baptismal vows at Easter.  Along with our many R.C.I.A. candidates who will become Catholics, let us allow the moment to be a time of placing ourselves at the truth that God is our Saviour.

Sometimes we think of our Baptism as something of a cultural event but it is far from that.  Through our Baptism we are reborn into eternal life.  We are reborn in Christ and through God’s mercy we wait for eternal life.  Let us be faithful in humility like Jesus and not place all our hopes on success like Pilate.

May I leave you know with a little “Gospill”, that you may want to memorise, which could summarise this reflection on the Lord’s Passion according to St John’s Gospel.  It comes from St Mother Teresa of Calcutta.  She says, “God has not called you to be successful.  God has called you to be faithful.”

EASTER SUNDAY YEAR B
31ST MARCH 2024
HOMILY
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, CANBERRA

READINGS: ACTS 10/34, 37-43. COL.3/1-4. JOHN 20/1-9

Both today and over the next few weeks we will hear numerous Scriptural accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus.

In general we could make an observation on all these Readings: nothing is what is seems.  This is a great Biblical irony.  Jesus’ death on the Cross seems to be an end but in fact it is a beginning.  What seemed to be a death was in fact a new life.  What seemed to be a defeat, was a victory.  This is the Easter message.  It is the great surprise and joy of Easter!

In particular, and we see it in today’s Gospel, everyone has their own special way on the journey to believe in the Resurrection.

When we look at Mary Magdalen in today’s Gospel, she goes to the tomb to anoint the dead body of Jesus.  She finds that the stone has been rolled away.  The Scriptures say that it is dawn.  Has the body of Jesus been stolen?  Or deep down within herself, does she feel that the Lord has risen from the dead?

She runs back to the Apostles who have locked themselves away in fear.  They think that they might be the next ones to be crucified.  She tells the Apostles.  It is Peter and John who make the next response.  We see this in today’s Gospel.  They run to the tomb.  What is going on in their hearts?  With Peter we see the fallen leader who has denied Jesus three times but now has repented.  In John, the youngest of the Apostles, we find that he is described as the one that Jesus loved most.

When they arrive Peter examines what is in the empty tomb.  Here is the fisherman from Galilea who observes the seas and the skies to assess the best opportunities for fishing.  He is almost like a Lawyer making observations about the empty tomb but it is John who makes the immediate response.  The Scriptures say, “He saw and he believed.”  Love recognises love.  Heart speaks to heart.  There is an immediate dawn of belief in St John!

Later, and it is seen in the First Reading today, we hear the conversation regarding what happened at the Resurrection.  St Peter fearlessly tells those who are prepared to listen, “We are those witnesses (of the Resurrection).  We have eaten and drunk with Him after His resurrection from the dead.”  Here we have the ancient definition of what a Christian is.  Christians are witnesses of the Resurrection!  St Peter following Pentecost certainly is showing no ambiguity in witnessing to the Lord’s Resurrection.

How are we to understand what happened at the Resurrection?  In more recent times a great Catholic theologian of the last 100 years, Joseph Ratzinger has pondered on this question.  As we know he later became Cardinal Ratzinger and then Pope Benedict XVI.  In reflecting on the Resurrection in his writings he says it is, “a breaking out into an entirely new form of life…a life that is no longer subject to the law of dying…a new kind of future.”

All of this is beautifully summarised by St Paul in the Second Reading today from Colossians.  He says, “When Christ is revealed and he is your life you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.”  Witnessing to the Resurrection and making Christ the very essence of our life means that we too will be taken up into Heaven through our Baptism in the glory of God.

This is such an important insight into Christianity on this Easter Sunday.  It is that the Risen Jesus Christ becomes our life through Baptism.

Last night we had 23 adults become Catholics.  I see many of them are here today.  It has been a delight to accompany them over these months of preparation.  They are so full of joy and it gives all of us a sense of great hope.

This hope is important because the vast majority of us who have been Baptised as babies need to activate our Baptism afresh today, otherwise we will lapse into a sort of cultural Catholicism.  Our Baptism will be like a Museum piece.  Something we can tick off and say has been done.  That is not good enough.

In this Archdiocesan Year of the Holy Spirit we appreciate afresh that it is the Holy Spirit who activates our Baptism.  Therefore, let us allow “the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life” to do exactly that right now.  In a moment I will be going around sprinkling you all with Easter water.  We will do this immediately after the renewal of our Baptismal vows.  Let the Risen Christ be our life and let us witness to this all the days of our lives!