Homily for Mass of Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

26 Aug 2015

“And the Word was made App and dwelt somewhere in the virtual universe”. It is easy today to inhabit or at least slip in and out of an alternative reality created by devices – iPhones, iPads, Androids, Notebooks, Tablets and Kindles – each with almost endless connectivity, apps and tools, social networks and so on. The average young man in the West is said to send 120 messages a day; that seems incredible to me but then I think of Fr Umbers and just maybe it’s true… Most smartphone users check their phones several times every hour; 20% of young people do so every couple of minutes; watch people in cafes today and instead of animated conversation or staring into each other’s eyes, they are likely to be ignoring each other and reading or texting someone else; sit anywhere near them on a train and you are likely to get to overhear their phone conversations and bad taste in music. Four-fifths of smartphone users now keep them nearby through all their waking hours, half check them regularly even when on holidays, and a whopping two-thirds keep them close-by and active even when they are asleep: I expect that the Marriage Equality movement will soon be campaigning for the right to marry your smart phone! Research suggests that we are fast passing the stage of ordinary reliance on these technologies and coming to a point more like addiction, with all the associated dependency, anxiety, stress and distraction.[1] Half of those who use these devices predict that they would suffer a high level of anxiety if their smartphones were out of action for a few days.[2]

Now don’t get me wrong: I am no technophobe. I use these things as much as the next guy. I’m there amongst the daily users of word-processing, email and Google; I’m amongst the seven out of ten managers and professionals who check their phones within an hour of getting up each day and the seven out of ten ‘online adults’ with a Facebook account;[3] I from time to time tweet or have others tweet for me; there’s an Archdiocese/ Archbishop Anthony App; I’ve got a YouTube channel and all my homilies are podcast or vodcast and sometimes live-streamed. I even once had a man take a mobile call in the middle of my hearing his Confession and he blithely discussed his shopping list for the way home![4] I was too flabbergasted to tell him off.

All this can be for good or ill. It is said that spirituality and pornography are amongst the most common uses of cyberspace.[5] “How to meditate” is amongst the most popular Google “how to” searches, “Who is Jesus?” the most searched “who is…” question and “What is love” amongst the most asked “what ises”. People use technology in search of the deep and meaningful and not just the fleeting and self-indulgent.

But it’s risky. Pope Francis recently questioned whether for all the information we are any wiser and for all the social networks we really have more or deeper friendships. Families, he suggested, should have some technology free zones and times to just chill out and talk to each other. We need to recover the arts of attention to one thing or person and face-to-face conversation.

The prologue of St John’s Gospel tells us that “The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us” (Jn 1:14). God didn’t want to be a virtual God, only a theory, a principle, an app; He didn’t want to dwell only in inaccessible light, in ‘the heavens’, in the virtual universe. Our Catholic faith is grounded in the two mysteries St John intimates here: the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation, the transcendent and the immanent, the Incarnate one, true God and true man. Christians do not believe in esoteric gnosis, secret knowledge and hidden gods, but a God made man so we might have real friendship with Him and salvation through Him. The Word and the Sacraments that extend this Incarnation are the true and highest connectivity, the Church is where we are online with what is really real about God, creation and ourselves.

Tonight St Paul pleads with us “to live a life worthy of God” and Jesus exhorts us to eschew hypocrisy and live with clean hands and pure hearts (1Thes 2:9-13; Mt 23:27-32). Residents of the Warrane community, assisted by the Opus Dei chaplaincy, are given every encouragement to live lives of such authenticity, holiness and apostolate. The world is yearning for mature and responsible young men to lead in the home, the academy, the market, the professions, the Church. In his recent, much discussed encyclical, Laudato Si, Pope Francis recommends a very ancient and very modern asceticism: that we give up some of our creature comforts and focus on what really matters: creation and the wonderful creatures in it, humanity and especially the poor amongst us, and God the creator of them all. Perhaps you can take a lead by fasting from your devices in Lent, on Fridays, or on Sundays, at least for a few hours, and focus on those around you and the One above you; fasting from food and drink before Communion, and in Lent, on Fridays; praying a bit more and engaging in acts of charity. Freeing yourself from some of the technocratic rat-race might give you space for cultivating character and making a difference, for being not virtual men but men of real substance…


Tonight, I have the privilege of baptizing and confirming Yiwei Neo who will take the name Edward and whose sponsor is James Kwa. Welcome Edward to God’s family the Church! Welcome into the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Welcome to the communion of saints with the Blessed Trinity! With St Paul in tonight’s epistle we give thanks to God that when you heard “God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it”. Now, like Paul, you should be a hard worker, “impeccably right and fair”, by your words “teaching what is right”, by your actions treating every one fraternally even paternally, living “a life worthy of the God who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom”.

Q&A Themes


– all marriage laws create “marriage inequality” because they define some relationships or indiv as marriage & some as not; only way to avoid that is abolish marriage; but if we are going to have it, we have to ask what it is

– in gen gvts should keep out of relat business: don’t want bureaucrats telling us who to love, how long, how to express; only friendship gvt rightly sticks nose into is kind that brings together husb & wife as potential Mum & Dad because society serious interest in having children & their upbringing

– relig liberty clauses better than nothing; but no confidence will stick: everywhere SSM introd liberty of relig believers has been trampled

SSM debate

– this wk’s Media Watch: drew attention to refusal of some major media outlets (7 Network, 10 Network, 2DayFM, Australian Radio Network, Nova) that willingly take ads from Marriage Equality to allow equal time or any ads at all from Marriage Alliance or other pro-M groups; asked “Whatever happened to freedom of speech?”

– notes ad was inoffensive but that not only did some refuse to air but that those who did were subjected to abuse & commercial intimidn; also docum bias in who interviewed & how often & what is reported as if only one view

– one side having no trouble getting message across (ABC & Fairfax free adv for them): why fear of any other voice; what became of all the talk about a more diverse, tolerant, inclusive society, upon which SSM marriage campaign originally claimed to be based?


– building bridges to moderates: Martin Place siege; Bali two…

– importance of forgiveness & charity

– but we must not hide persecution suffered…

IS & relig freedom

– Xns now face worst persecution in 2,000 yr history; estimated that 100,000 martyred p.a.; being wiped out in Middle East where Xnty grew up: Iraq ¾+ left in last 2 decades; Lebanon gone from 84% Xn to 40% in less than century; Turkey from 1/3 Xn to 0.15% in same period…

– in West world much freer but shouldn’t be naïve; there are those determd to chase relig out of public sq, private businesses, even privacy of home

– what to do? Aus Bps have helped establ Xn university in Iraqi Kurdistan… similar ventures in Jordan, Abu dabi etc.: univs as bridge builders


– at intersection of certain cultural chasms in Western world: prob of suffering & attitudes to it; autonomy & responsibility; moral absolutes & human rights

– recent debate civil & young people very engaged

– goes to heart of kind of civilin / community we are & will become…

Future of religion

– death of God predicted many times before: fact is we’ve bounced back from attempts to wipe us out by: ancient Roman empire; barbarian invasions; Muslim caliphates; French rev & Napoleon & others; communism; Nazism; ideologies of Nietzsche, Marx, Darwin, Pol Pot… Xnty extraord resilient -> “blood of martyrs seed of Ch”

– few would pretend globalised consumerism fills void of human hearts or has made us more successful at justice, compassion

– I admit that many young adults alienated from family, Ch, politics & institutions, sceptical of authority esp Ch authority; think Xnty hypocritical or irrelev; my job to show Xt perennially relevant

Celibacy and the priesthood

– priests can be married…

– but priestly celibacy has been a real strength for the Ch…

– would be more ‘costly’ than many appreciate…

Contraception and declining fertility

Free market economies

President Obama

Existence of God

Involvement in politics

Dangers of pornography for young men

Merits of Opus Dei

SSM & Totalitarianism:



Marriage & Family

Synod opportunity for Church to reflect on value of marriage and family and help ppl live out this important vocation; have said many times that modernity has forgotten how to love: not Valentine’s heart shaped loving, but Cross-shaped Easter loving.

The median price for a detached home in Sydney is currently $882,000 according to figures published by the Real Estate Institute of Australia.

“If you borrow a $1 million on the current discounted loan rate between 4.5 per cent and 5 per cent, that equates to around $45,000 to $50,000 in interest repayments each year … and if you took a rule of thumb that a bank allows for 30 per cent of income to go to home loan repayments, it means you’re only earning about $150,000 a year – or for two people, that’s $75,000 each – and that’s not too far above the average wage,” he reasoned. [No room for single income families there]

Read more: http://www.afr.com/real-estate/residential/nsw/sydney-closes-in-on-1m-median-house-price-20150408-1mgfi9#ixzz3jJXzMDJl 
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Average salary for full-time adult is around $80K p.a; so median property price for detached house ten times average single income: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/6302.0

Fertility rate in 2013: 1.88 babies per woman: http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/3301.0Main%20Features42013?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=3301.0&issue=2013&num=&view=Australia

Free market economics: Laudato Si: whatever of the merits of Pope Francis’ economic critiques, his spiritual guidance is valuable: asceticism, less greed, greater solidarity with poor and so on.



Approximately two-thirds (64%) of U.S. men view pornography at least monthly

The number of Christian men viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average

Broken down by age:

Eight in ten (79%) men between the ages of 18 and 30 view pornography monthly

Two-thirds (67%) of men between the ages of 31 and 49 view pornography monthly

One-half (49%) of men between the ages of 50 and 68 view pornography monthly

Christian men are watching pornography at work at the same rate as the national average

One-third (33%) of men between the ages of 18 and 30 either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography

Combined, 18% of all men either think that they are addicted or are unsure if they are addicted to pornography, which equates to 21 million men


Why would psychiatrists care how much porn someone watched? As Kuhn and Galinat point out, the internet has given rise to an instant, cheap, and anonymous way to consume pornography, and subsequently, according to multiple reports, people have started watching more of it. Two thirds of adult males in the United States, and a little under half of women, watch porn at least once every month, according to one recent survey(link is external). Even monkeys do it: In another, now-famous recent study, male macaques gave up juice(link is external) to see photos of female macaque bottoms.

There was also a relationship between general internet use and time watching porn. The most voracious porn consumers also spent more time surfing the web than others.


Introduction for Mass of Wednesday of the Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time
Warrane College Chapel, Kensington

Thank you for your invitation to be with you this evening. Warrane College ensures its residents enjoy conditions conducive to intellectual development and especially good study, to friendship and service of others, to knowledge and practice of Christian faith, to full participation in university life and to awareness of social responsibility. As Archbishop of Sydney I am very happy to commend those ideals and that project to all of you.

I acknowledge Monsignor Victor Martinez, Regional Vicar of Opus Dei in Australia, Chaplain of the College Fr Richard Umbers, Master of the College Dr Gerald Fogarty, Dean Arthur Escamilla, the Assistant Deans, staff members, and residents of the College. Above all I welcome Yiwei Neo, whom I will be baptising and confirming tonight, his sponsor James Kwa, and all friends of Yiwei and of the College.

[1] http://time.com/3952333/smartphone-addiction/

[2] http://mindsmattermagazine.com/hook-or-habit-addiction-to-smartphone-apps-and-what-to-do-about-it/

[3] www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheets/social-networking-fact-sheet/

[4] It extends to kids too: a British company’s survey found that 93% of kids aged between 7 and 11 owned some sort of electronic device; those aged 7 and 8 own on average 1.5 devices – when they have turned 9, 10, 11 and 12 they own 2.5; a fifth of these kids spend more than 4 hours a day on their devices: www.mercatornet.com/ connecting/view/do-they-really-need-all-those-gadgets/16673

[5] www.independent.co.uk/news/pornography-most-popular-subject-for-internet-searches-internet-becomes-a-haunt-of-the-dirtymac-brigade-1600801.html; www.google.com.au/trends/topcharts#vm=cat&geo=AU&date=2014&cid