10 Nov 2019

St. Mary’s Basilica, Sydney

Drought, death and diaconate: three themes in our minds today. Drought because the Church in Australia is praying throughout the month of November for our parched land and those affected. Death because this is the month of Halloween, All Saints, All Souls and Remembrance Day. Diaconate because today we ordain Alfredo to that office so he might serve God and His people as a minister of the word, altar and charity.

Drought. For ancient Israel the ordinary rhythm of nature was of rains in due season and the land yielding its produce.[1] Drought, on the other hand, threatened disaster, and was considered a divine punishment or portent of the end.[2] Many times the people cried out to God for mercy and many times God heard their cry and sent rain (1Kgs 18:1,41-5; Jer 17:8 etc.). For desert people and for those living precariously on marginal land, the promise of plentiful rain and produce was a promise of heaven (e.g. Isa 30:23). Our Communion Antiphon today quotes the Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where He gives me repose. Near restful waters He leads me to revive my drooping spirit.” (Ps 22:1-2) The world, as God intended it, is beautiful and generous; but it is fragile also, and sin or neglect can render it uncooperative. So in praying for rain we also pray for appreciative hearts and responsible behaviours.

Apart from our physical environment, rain and drought sometimes describes our emotions, relationships, prayer-life or other experiences of plenty and privation. Like thirsty Israel we cry out to God in our need or plead on behalf of others. And as a Samaritan woman once learnt from Jesus (Jn ch. 4), only Baptism – the water Jesus gives – can quench our deepest thirst.

Drought is before our eyes today: death also. The seven Maccabean brothers give testimony to the Resurrection by their courage and hope amidst cruel persecution. “It is better to die at men’s hands, relying on God’s promise that we shall be raised up by Him,” the fourth brother said, “than to apostatize and lose eternal life”. Not all the Jews believed this. The Pharisees shared the brothers’ faith in the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the righteous; but the Sadducees – Jesus’ interlocutors today – did not. So they try to trick Him into denying there will be literal life after death (Lk 20:27-38). But Christ insists, as all Christians must, that there really is a resurrection.

Heaven for human beings will be all that is good about us and more, not less. There will be continuity with who and what we are today, but without many of the limitations. If the water our land craves, and every dry heart also, is ultimately the water of Christ, He tells the Samaritan woman and us that His Baptism is water that “wells up to eternal life”. Creation is moaning for its eventual renewal; so is every spirit. To all our dear departed whom we commended to God on All Soul’s Day past, and to all those lost in war whom we commemorate tomorrow, Baptism promises not just refreshment in this life but eternal life beyond.

Drought, death, this morning we also celebrate diaconate. Here we have a sacred order that builds on the Baptismal call of every Christian and extends that call by baptizing newcomers to our faith. Alfredo Bouroncle has discerned that this is his vocation and has been formed by the Church for it. His journey to this point has been a unique one. His family came from France via Canada to Peru, and he came, with Ida his wife, from Peru to Australia. He works in IT, presently for AMP, and coaches soccer. He has been blessed with three children. He’s an ordinary guy. But he’s had a hankering since his youth to assist at the altar and with the sacraments; to open the word of God with large groups in the Liturgy, with smaller groups in the parish, or one-to-one with those who are spiritually thirsty; and to take part in the Church’s works of charity and witness.

My son, our readings today speak of hope – for freedom from persecution and bigotry, for freedom from physical want in drought or other need, for freedom even from death. You are now commissioned to be a beacon of such hope and freedom. At your hands babies and adults will through holy Baptism be remade as children of God and members of Christ’s Body the Church. With your assistance at the altar bread and wine will undergo an equally extraordinary transformation into the Body and Blood of Christ. You will then tender that precious sacrament to the faithful, the sick and the dying, or lead them in adoration of that sacrament and Benediction with it. You will witness singles become couples and families through the awesome sacrament of Matrimony. You will experience the conversion of the unevangelised and uncatechised, through the saving Word of God. You will attend to the transformation of the poor, through works of diaconal justice and mercy. And, finally, you will witness Christian lives brought to their fulfilment and ready for the greatest transformation of all, as you bury us in the dust and commend our souls to God. As a servant of the word, the altar and the people, you will be a servant of God. Draw us closer to Jesus Christ – “the Resurrection and the Life” – as He draws you closer to Himself. In the words of St Paul today: “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father who has given us… such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.” (2 Thess 2:16-3:5)

Drought, death and diaconate: three cares in our hearts today. And so we pray:

Eternal Father, in wisdom and love You created our earth to sustain us and give us life. We turn to You now in faith, hope and love, asking You to look with favour on our drought-stricken land, our starving animals, our failing crops. Sustain and give new heart to our farmers and all who are affected by drought. Be with those who support them. In Your loving providence, send abundant rain and restore our parched earth. Amen.

Holy Spirit, through You Jesus was raised from the dead. Grant eternal rest to all our deceased loved ones, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.

Lord Jesus, You came to serve, not to be served. Stir up in our deacons and all who serve in your Church a generous spirit. Fill them with your love that they may love the Father and all humanity as you love them. Fill them with Your compassion and courage so they may serve as You served. Fill them with Your Spirit so they may be true ministers of word, altar and charity. Amen.


St. Mary’s Basilica, Sydney

Welcome to St Mary’s Cathedral for our Solemn Mass today.

This morning I am privileged to ordain Alfredo Bouroncle to the permanent diaconate. Along with Alfredo I especially welcome his wife Ida, their children Natalie and Aldo (Martin is overseas), and their other relatives and friends. I also acknowledge parishioners from the Spanish-speaking chaplaincy and from the parish of Our Lady of the Southern Cross Enmore, led by Fr Chris Higgins.

I also recognize those who have assisted in Alfredo’s discernment and formation, including Frs Michael de Stoop and Ed Travers, and those at the Catholic Institute of Sydney. It is with great joy that the Deacons of the Archdiocese of Sydney welcome a new brother into their ranks today, and that the people of the Archdiocese welcome a new minister of word, altar and charity.

To everyone present, including visitors and more regulars, a very warm welcome!

[1] Lev 26:4; Dt 11:11,14; 28:12; Job 5:10; Isa 55:10; Jer 5:24.

[2] e.g. Gen 41:53-4; Dt 11:17; 28:22; 2Sam 1:21; 1Kgs 8:35-6; 17:1,7; 2Chr 7:13-4; Amos 4:7; Jer 3:3; 14:1-6; 17:7-8; 51:43; Isa 19:5-7; 35:7; 44:3; Hag 1:8-11; Zech 14:17; Mt 24:7.