Homily for the Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
St Mary’s Basilica, Sydney, 24th September 2022
The Bible is ambivalent about monarchy. The kings of the earth threatened the security of Israel, and the people long resisted having their own king, lest he be a rival to God’s sovereignty. The Jews were taught to “put not your trust in princes, in mortal men in whom there is no help”. On the other hand, they thought of God as their heavenly king and of themselves as His subjects. Adam was a sort of overlord of creation. Abraham was blessed by Melchizedek “priest and king” and promised royal descendants. Moses’ covenant made Israel “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. Eventually there were some great kings such as David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah, who made God’s law their own, and great queens such as Deborah and Esther.
But even Israel’s heroes were flawed, and most of the kings “did what was evil in the sight of God”—with disastrous effects. There were bad queens also, like Jezebel and Athaliah. One day, the Jews hoped, a worthy prince would occupy David’s throne and bring eternal peace and justice. But in the meantime they prayed, as when Zadok the Priest and Nathan the Prophet anointed Solomon king: “God save the King, Long live the King!” (1Kings 1:38-49; cf. Handel, Zadok the Priest)
The New Testament also knew bad kings, such as the two Herods, and good ones, such as the Magi. From conception to death Jesus Himself was celebrated as heir of David and king of the Jews. His mother Mary was called ‘Queen Mother’ by her kinswoman. While He resisted being proclaimed king or messiah too soon, Jesus accepted the role in the end. I suspect many people think Christ was Jesus’ surname: it is actually his title Anointed One, King.
So, when Jesus entered in triumph into the City of David, it was to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah: “Look, your king is coming to you, humble and riding a donkey” (Zech 9:9; cf. Mt 21:1-11). Waving palms the people prayed: “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord! Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Jn 12:12-19; cf. Sanctus from the Mass) But His kingdom is not of this world. Indeed, as we heard in our epistle, God’s reign will ultimately do away with every earthly sovereignty (1Cor 15:20-28,51-57). All worldly monarchy is temporary.
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family.” So said the Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday, in what was effectively her betrothal to her people.
“Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern… [your] Peoples according to their respective laws and customs?” Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher asked six years later at her coronation. “Will you to your power cause Law and Justice, in Mercy, to be executed in all your judgements? …Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel?” “All this I promise to do,” she said. Then she arose, went to the altar, and laying her right hand upon the Bible, swore “So help me God.” Pray for me, she asked, that she might be faithful to her calling. Pray for me, because we all need saving. And pray for her we did, every time we sang the Royal Anthem.
We prayed that God save her. Many find God’s will for their lives hard to discern. Elizabeth’s vocation was clearer than most. Yet still, she had to choose. Her uncle had said No; her grandson would also; her father Only-because-I-must. It came too soon. It might extend a long time. It would be challenging. But if God laid this task on her young shoulders, He would grace her to be a “gracious queen”. She responded with fidelity, praying regularly, attending church, living Christian civility.
Elizabeth preached the Christian faith by her life, but also in words, especially at Christmas. The God-man Jesus had been her anchor, bedrock, inner light. His teachings, she said, provide consolation and inspire reconciliation. They guide us to do small things with great love, promote goodwill, and instill hope. Gathering for worship, she said, gives purpose and prayer renews us in God’s love. Those invited to preach to her when she was at Braemar and Crathie were instructed to be brief and practical, and warned there would be a critique from the Duke! Only in the context of Christian discipleship can we make sense of the Queen’s devotion to duty and her people.
From sin and damnation, sickness and early death, poor government or defeat, we prayed God save her to be our Queen. Our prayer was answered. As our new head of state, she was received with jubilation on these shores in 1954 and would be enthusiastically welcomed ‘home’ to this country 15 more times. She proved indefatigable in her service. She was patron of over 600 charities and other organisations. Prince Philip once observed that his wife was idolised in her youth, inspired less interest in her middle age, but would be most deeply loved as she grew older. Sure enough, whatever people’s views of empire, monarchy or particular royals, admiration for the Queen was undimmed. Like Deborah, Esther and Mary of old, she gave herself completely to her vocation and we loved her for it.
We prayed God save her to be our gracious and noble Queen and that prayer, too, was answered. People of every creed, colour, culture and cohort witnessed her grace, human and divine, and her nobility, inbred and cultivated, which is why so many have grieved her passing. Here was a leader, not driven by ideology or political expediency, by desire for power or personal gain, but determined to uphold vital traditions, support her ministers, and encourage her people. Decent, hardworking, adaptable, patriotic, unshowy, personable, humorous—in the language of our first reading, she was a virtuous queen, appointed to rule over nations and tested like gold in a furnace (Wis 3:1-9).
We prayed that God send her victorious, happy and glorious. Still a girl in World War II, she helped steel her nation’s resolve to resist the evil of Nazism. Thrust too soon into duties of kingship, she helped her country emerge from its post-war gloom and her former colonies find their feet. There would be many other challenges, national or personal, each faced with stoicism, wisdom and charm. God sent her victorious in building a Commonwealth of Nations from the ashes of empire. He made her happy and glorious in maintaining her composure through adversity and her smile that lit up rooms and racecourses. There was surely satisfaction in a job well done, without sentimentality or looking for thanks. But gratitude there was, as millions gathered for and billions viewed her jubilees, pageants and funeral.
Lastly, we prayed that God send her long to reign over us and that prayer too was answered. Over her 70-year reign, for more than half the life of this Australian federation, she was a principle of continuity amidst cultural change, a reservoir of tradition in the face of the cut of ideas and thrust of politics, a beacon of hope in time of trouble. Her unyielding “till death do us part” commitment was not just to her beloved husband but also to her peoples.
Now we pray that King Charles will be guided by such beliefs and virtues, above all by that dedication to God-given vocation that should inspire all Christians. In his grief and ours, we recall that the departing Jesus promised His disciples that, as in Buckingham Palace, “there are many rooms in my Father’s palace”—including one being prepared for us (Jn 14:1-6).
The grandmother of nations was also our sister in faith, and we pray she now enjoys the Banquet Hall of heaven. As she entertained people from time to time by singing old favourites, she now sings her favourite psalm to us: “The Lord was my shepherd so I did not want… My head he didst with oil anoint… and me to walk didst make within paths of righteousness… Now goodness and mercy shall surely follow me, and in God’s house forever more my dwelling place shall be.” (Ps 23 Crimond)
One last time we pray for you: God save the Queen!
 The Hebrew word מֶ֫לֶכְ֒ melek (= king) occurs more than 2,500 times in the Old Testament and the Greek word Βασιλευς (= king) 275 times in the New.
 The Jews resisted monarchy as a rival for God’s sovereignty: 1Sam chs 8-12. Israel was taught to “put not your trust in princes, or in mortal men in whom there is no help”: Ps 118:9; 146:3; Isa 34:12; 40:23; Ezek 21:12 etc.
 God as a king, enthroned in the heavens, whose faithful are His earthly subjects: Ex 15:18; 19:5-6; Num 23:21; Dt 33:5; Jud 8:23; 1Sam 8:7; 10:19; 12:12; 1Chr 16:31; 28:5; 29:10-12; 2Chr 13:8; 20:6; 1Kings 22:19; Ps 9:7-8; 10:16; 29:10; 45:6; 47:2,6-8; 93:1-2; 95:3-6; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1; 103:19; 104; 114:2; 136:1-9; 145:11-13; Isa ch. 6; 37:16; 44:6; Ezek ch. 1; Dan 4:3; 6:26; 7:9 etc. Adam as overlord of creation: Gen 1:26-30; 2:15-17. Abraham blessed by Melchizedek “priest and king” and told that his descendants would include kings: Gen 14:17-20; 17:6; cf. 49:10; Dt 17:14-20; Heb 7:3. Israel saved in the Exodus to become “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”: Ex 19:6. David, Solomon, Hezekiah and Josiah were among Israel’s great kings: 1Sam 13:14; 17:49-50; 2Sam 2:1-4; 2Kings 18:3-7; 22:2; ch. 23; 2Chr 13:21; 18:1; 27:2; 32:26; 34:2. Good queen Deborah: Jud chs 4 & 5. Good Queen Esther: book of Esther. Good monarchs made God’s law their own: Dt 17:14-20; 1Sam 11:14-12:25; 13:13; 15:11,23; 2Sam 12:7-13.
 David and Solomon were imperfect: 2Sam chs 11-13 & 24; 1Kings 10:14; 11:3-13, 30-34. Many of the kings “did what was evil in the sight of God”: e.g. 1Sam 13:8-15; 1Kings 21:25; 2Kings 12:26-33; 2Chr 12:14; 21:18; 22:9-10; 25:16; 28:27; 33:24; 36:5,9,11; Ezek 22:6,25; etc. Bad Queen Jezebel: 1Kings 16:31; 18:4, 13; 19:1-2; 21:5-25; 2Kings 9:7,10,22,30,37; Rev 2:20. Bad Queen Athaliah: 2Chr 22:10-12. The promise of an eternal king who would bring peace and justice: 2Sam 7:12-16; 23:1-7; Ps 89; 132:11-12; Isa 2:1-5; 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 35:1-10; 40:9-11; chs 52 & 53; 55:3-5; Jer 23:5-6; Amos 9:11-15; Ezek 36:24-28; Zech 9:9; 14:9; Dan 2:44; ch. 7; cf. Acts 2:29-36; Heb 1:8.
 Two Bad Kings Herod: Mt chs 2 & 14; Mk ch. 6; cf. 10:18. Good kings: Mt ch. 2. Jesus celebrated as a king: Mt 1:1; 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9,15; 27:11,29,37,42; Mk 10:47-48; 12:35; 15:9,12,18,26,32; Lk 1:32-33,69; 2:26,32,38; 23:3,37,38,42; Jn 1:49; 7:42; 18:33,38-39; 19:3,14-15,19,21; Acts 13:22-23; 17:7; Rom 1:3; 1Cor 15:24; Rev 11:15; 17:14; 19:16. Mary called Queen Mother: Lk 1:42-45; cf. Rev 12:1-6. Jesus resists being proclaimed king or messiah: Mk 1:43-45; 8:27-30; 14:61-65; Jn 6:15. Jesus accepts the kingship: Mt 20:21; 21:1-10; 22:41-45; 25:31-46; 27:11; 28:18; Mk 8:27-30; 11:1-11; 12:35-37; 14:62; 15:2; Lk 19:36-40; 20:41-44; 23:2-3,43; Jn 12:12-15; 18:36-37; 19:12. Jesus compares God’s presence and sovereignty with a kingdom and goes everywhere proclaiming the good news of the kingdom: Mt 3:2; 4:17,23; 5:19-20,35; 6:10,33; 7:21; 8:11-12; 9:35; 10:7; 11:11-12; 12:28; ch. 13; 16:28; 18:1-4,23; 19:12-14,23-24; 20:1; 21:31,43; 22:2-13; 24:14; 25:1; 26:29; Mk 1:14-15; 4:11,26,30; 9:1,47; 10:14-15,23-25; 12:34; 14:25; 15:43; Lk 4:43; 8:1,10; 9:2,11,27,60,62; 10:9,11; 11:2,20; 12:31-32; 13:18,20,28-29; 14:15; 16:16; 17:20-21; 18:16-17,24-25,29; 19:11; 21:31; 22:16,18; 23:51; Jn 3:3,5; 1Cor 15:24; 1Tim 1:17; 6:15; Rev 15:3.
 Jesus says His followers will inherit the kingdom: Mt 5:3,10,19; 6:33; 16:19; 21:43; Lk 6:20; 7:28; 12:32; 18:29-30; 22:29-30 etc. They are a royal priesthood: 1Pet 2:9. But Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world: Jn 18:33-38.
 She kissed the great Bible, the Word of God was proclaimed, and the Creed professed. Dressed in alb and seated on the chair of her sainted ancestor St Edward, she was then anointed with sacred Chrism, vested liturgically, and invested with orb, sceptre, ring and crown, all with cross of Christ on them. After enthronement and homage, she confessed her sins and returned to the altar to receive Holy Communion. http://www.oremus.org/liturgy/coronation/cor1953b.html
 Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Broadcast 1952: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-1952: “pray for me on that day—pray that God may give me wisdom and strength to carry out the solemn promises I shall be making, and that I may faithfully serve Him and you, all the days of my life. May God bless and guide you all through the coming year.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, O Little Town of Bethlehem: Christmas Broadcast 2011: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2011: “Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves – from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person – neither a philosopher nor a general (important though they are) – but a Saviour, with the power to forgive.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Broadcast 2014: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2014: “For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life. A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, he stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.
 Queen Elizabeth II, More in giving than receiving: Christmas Broadcast 2008: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2008: “We can surely be grateful that, two thousand years after the birth of Jesus, so many of us are able to draw inspiration from his life and message, and to find in him a source of strength and courage.” The hopes and fears of all the years: Christmas Broadcast 2021: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2021: “It is this simplicity of the Christmas story that makes it so universally appealing: simple happenings that formed the starting point of the life of Jesus — a man whose teachings have been handed down from generation to generation, and have been the bedrock of my faith. His birth marked a new beginning. As the carol says, ‘The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight’.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, Each day a new beginning: Christmas Broadcast 2002: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2002: “I know just how much I rely on my own faith to guide me through the good times and the bad. Each day is a new beginning, I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God. Light of the World: Christmas Broadcast 2020: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2020: “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Broadcast 2000: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2000: “The teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life. I, like so many of you, have drawn great comfort in difficult times from Christ’s words and example.” Festival of the Home: Christmas Broadcast 2017: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2017: “We remember the birth of Jesus Christ whose only sanctuary was a stable in Bethlehem. He knew rejection, hardship and persecution; and yet it is Jesus Christ’s generous love and example which has inspire me through good times and bad.” O Christmas Tree: Christmas Broadcast 2015: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2015: “Despite being displaced and persecuted throughout his short life, Christ’s unchanging message was not one of revenge or violence but simply that we should love one another. Although it is not an easy message to follow, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather, it inspires us to try harder: to be thankful for the people who bring love and happiness into our own lives, and to look for ways of spreading that love to others, whenever and wherever we can.”
“Christians are taught to love their neighbours, having compassion and concern, and being ready to undertake charity and voluntary work to ease the burden of deprivation and disadvantage. We may ourselves be confronted by a bewildering array of difficulties and challenges, but we must never cease to work for a better future for ourselves and for others.” Do Unto Others: Christmas Broadcast 2010 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2010. Silent Night: Christmas Broadcast 2014: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2014: “A role-model of reconciliation and forgiveness, [Jesus] stretched out his hands in love, acceptance and healing. Christ’s example has taught me to seek to respect and value all people of whatever faith or none.”It Came Upon the Midnight Clear: Christmas Broadcast 2019: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2019: “Of course, at the heart of the Christmas story lies the birth of a child: a seemingly small and insignificant step overlooked by many in Bethlehem. But in time, through his teaching and by his example, Jesus Christ would show the world how small steps taken in faith and in hope can overcome long-held differences and deep-seated divisions to bring harmony and understanding. Many of us already try to follow in his footsteps. The path, of course, is not always smooth, and may at times this year have felt quite bumpy, but small steps can make a world of difference. As Christmas dawned, church congregations around the world joined in singing It Came Upon the Midnight Clear. Like many timeless carols, it speaks not just of the coming of Jesus Christ into a divided world, many years ago, but also of the relevance, even today, of the angels’ message of peace and goodwill. It’s a timely reminder of what positive things can be achieved when people set aside past differences and come together in the spirit of friendship and reconciliation.” Queen Elizabeth II,
 Queen Elizabeth II, Remembering the poor and helpless: Christmas Broadcast 2007 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2007: “Throughout his ministry, Jesus of Nazareth reached out and made friends with people whom others ignored or despised. It was in this way that he proclaimed his belief that, in the end, we are all brothers and sisters in one human family. The Christmas story also draws attention to all those people who are on the edge of society – people who feel cut off and disadvantaged; people who, for one reason or another, are not able to enjoy the full benefits of living in a civilised and law-abiding community. For these people the modern world can seem a distant and hostile place… A familiar introduction to an annual Christmas Carol Service contains the words: ‘Because this would most rejoice his heart, let us remember, in his name, the poor and the helpless, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved.’” Small things with great love: Christmas Broadcast 2016 https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2016: “Jesus Christ lived obscurely for most of his life, and never travelled far. He was maligned and rejected by many, though he had done no wrong. And yet, billions of people now follow his teaching and find in him the guiding light for their lives. I am one of them because Christ’s example helps me see the value of doing small things with great love, whoever does them and whatever they themselves believe.” Also: To labour and not to ask reward: Christmas Broadcast 2003: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2003.
 Queen Elizabeth II, More in giving than receiving: Christmas Broadcast 2008: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2008: “I hope that, like me, you will be comforted by the example of Jesus of Nazareth who, often in circumstances of great adversity, managed to live an outgoing, unselfish and sacrificial life. Countless millions of people around the world continue to celebrate his birthday at Christmas, inspired by his teaching. He makes it clear that genuine human happiness and satisfaction lie more in giving than receiving; more in serving than in being served.” Once in Royal David’s City: Christmas Broadcast 2018: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2018: “The Commonwealth Games, held this year on Australia’s Gold Coast, are known universally as the Friendly Games because of their emphasis on goodwill and mutual respect. The Christmas story retains its appeal since it doesn’t provide theoretical explanations for the puzzles of life. Instead it’s about the birth of a child and the hope that birth — 2,000 years ago — brought to the world. Only a few people acknowledged Jesus when he was born. Now billions follow him. I believe his message of peace-on-earth and goodwill-to-all is never out of date. It can be heeded by everyone. It’s needed as much as ever.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, Light of the World: Christmas Broadcast 2020: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2020: “The Bible tells how a star appeared in the sky, its light guiding the shepherds and wise men to the scene of Jesus’s birth. Let the light of Christmas — the spirit of selflessness, love and above all hope — guide us in the times ahead.”
 Queen Elizabeth II, Everyone needs to believe: Christmas Broadcast 2001: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2001: “As so often in our lives at times of tragedy – just as on occasions of celebration and thanksgiving – we look to the Church to bring us together as a nation or as a community in commemoration and tribute. It is to the Church that we turn to give meaning to these moments of intense human experience through prayer, symbol and ceremony. In these circumstances so many of us, whatever our religion, need our faith more than ever to sustain and guide us. Every one of us needs to believe in the value of all that is good and honest; we need to let this belief drive and influence our actions.” Light of the World: Christmas Broadcast 2020: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2020: “The teachings of Christ have served as my inner light, as has the sense of purpose we can find in coming together to worship.” The First Noël: Christmas Broadcast 2013: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2013: “For Christians, as for all people of faith, reflection, meditation and prayer help us to renew ourselves in God’s love, as we strive daily to become better people. The Christmas message shows us that this love is for everyone. There is no one beyond its reach.”
 Charles Moore, “The Queen was loved because, for more than 70 years, she did what she had promised,” Telegraph 8 September 2022.
 Robert Barron, “Queen Elizabeth II: Faithful disciple,” Word On Fire 13 September 2022; Michael Cook, “We myanot see her like again,” Mercatornet 9 September 2022; Ed Condon, “God save the Queen,” The Pillar 9 September 2022; Joel Hodge, “The devotion of Elizabeth II,” Spectator 14 September 2022; “Miles Pattenden,” What the Queen meant to Christians,” ABC Religion & Ethics 9 September 2022.
 Princess Elizabeth, 21st Birthday; Queen Elizabeth II, Christmas Broadcast 2008: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2008; In the Bleak Midwinter: Christmas Broadcast 2012: https://www.royal.uk/christmas-broadcast-2012.
Introduction to the Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass for Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, St Mary’s Basilica, Sydney, 24th September 2022
Welcome to St Mary’s Basilica in Sydney for the Pontifical Requiem Mass for Her late Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, of our state and her other realms and territories. With so many throughout the world, we celebrate the life and mourn the death of this truly great monarch. A model of faith expressed in public service, of calm and steadfastness in adversity, and of leadership and comfort for her people, she loved Australia and Australians reciprocated.
I acknowledge in attendance the representative of His Majesty King Charles III, Her Excellency the Hon. Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales, with Mr Dennis Wilson; the former Premier of New South Wales, Hon. Barrie Unsworth; the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales, Hon. Jonathan O’Dea; along with present and former MPs;
From other levels of Government: the former Governor-General of Australia, General the Hon. Sir Peter Cosgrove AK CVO MC, with Lady Cosgrove; present and former members of the Commonwealth Parliament; and the Lord Mayor of Sydney, Rt Hon. Clover Moore, and councillors;
From the judiciary: the President of the Court of Appeal, Hon. Justice Julie Ward, and other judges;
From the consular corps: representatives of Bangladesh, Malta, Namibia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the United Kingdom;
From our sister churches: Very Rev. Archimandrite Christophorus of the Greek Orthodox Church. Concelebrating with me today are Auxiliary Bishops Most Rev. Terry Brady and Richard Umbers of Sydney; the Ordinary of Our Lady of the Southern Cross, Monsignor Carl Reid, and priests of the Archdiocese and beyond. I also acknowledge members of religious orders and lay leaders of our Catholic universities, schools and agencies.
To everyone present, a very warm welcome to you all!