Feast of All Souls

Jesus exclaimed, ‘I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.’

Mt 11:25-30

The feast of ‘The Commemoration Of All The Faithful Departed’, also known as ‘All Souls’ Day’, finds its origins in the monastic communities just prior to the tenth century. It was common practice for monks to set aside a day of prayer for their deceased. By the turn of the tenth century, this had become common practice in the wider church and today it is a major feast day in the Church’s liturgical calendar. The readings for this Sunday are those proper to the feast, not those for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A).

The feast itself follows on from another significant feast in the Church’s liturgical calendar, that of the feast of ‘All Saints’. This feast, again with its origins in the eighth century, celebrates all deceased ‘Holy Men and Women’ now in glory with Christ, known or unknown. A saint by definition is a person who has died and is now with Christ in glory. This includes canonised Saints such as St Peter, St Paul, St Francis of Assisi, St John Baptist De La Salle. It also includes those that, whilst not canonised are still with Christ. They may well be your grandparent, an uncle or aunt, your mother or father, a sibling or a friend. God alone knows who they are. Indeed this day is also a commemoration of our own communion with the saints.

This brings us to the feast of ‘All Souls’ Day’. On this day, the Church prays for the Holy Souls that, after undergoing further purification (purgation), will enjoy glory with Christ.

Over the years, some have thought the notion of Limbo and the Catholic Church Teaching of Purgatory were the same thing. They are not. Limbo was a notion proposed by St Augustine and was not, and is not Church Teaching. The Catholic Church Teaching on Purgatory on the other hand is crystal clear and well explained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The teaching represents some of the most ancient of teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. The passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church is set out below.

What this feast of “All Souls” clearly celebrates is the hope of new life in Christ and the love of God for all. It is a day in which we are rightly called to remember those that have gone before us, saints and sinners alike. We should of course hope that when it is our turn to be born into eternal life, that the prayers of our faith community will indeed go with us. The feast of ‘All Saints’ and the feast of ‘All Souls’ are strong reminders of the constant call to conversion and the call of Baptism, to be a faithful and a faith-filled disciple of Christ.

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them” 

David Ivers – Education Officer: Religious Leadership, Learning and Development

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’

Matthew 22:34-40

It is in Matthew’s Gospel that Jesus affirms “do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets, I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” (Mt 5:17). Throughout his public ministry the Pharisees went to great lengths to prove that this was not the case and to this end they probed Jesus endlessly with questions that might have elicited heretical responses. Fully aware of the attempts to ensnare him Jesus often castigated the Pharisees and their followers, branding them hypocrites and vipers for their devious plotting (Mt 22:18).

Jesus was often asked about the Law, which both underpinned and was central to daily life in Jewish society. In this encounter his response encapsulates the essence of his public ministry – a love of God and of neighbour. This was not something new or something exclusive to the Christian Scriptures and the Gospel of Christ. Rather, Jesus’ response summarises the Law that was given to Moses, around which individual and communal life functioned. The first three commandments relate to the love of God and the second seven to love of neighbour. Such is this importance of these loves to the Jewish people that they form the basis of the Shema, a daily prayer recited even to this very day.

While Jesus’ response affirmed the importance of the Law, his public ministry revealed that faith-filled action was needed in order for it to be fulfilled. Unlike the Pharisees who were bound to the Law in blind observance, Jesus asserted that the Law needed to be animated by the Spirit in order for it to be meaningful and life-giving. Rather than being captives of the Law Jesus proclaimed a good news in which the Law gave freedom and sight.

Anthony Cleary : Director, Religious Education and Evangelisation

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

The Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap Jesus in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

Matthew 22:15-21

As was so often the case, the Pharisees were again looking for an opportunity to trap Jesus so that he might repudiate the Law. In this instance they endeavoured to bring him into conflict with the authority of the Roman occupiers, or if that failed, they hoped to place him at odds with Jewish custom and practice. On appearances Jesus’ position was unenviable: either he could acquiesce to foreign taxation and therefore betray his own people or he could risk punishment for an act of civil disobedience by encouraging people not to pay taxes.

Fully aware of their plot, Jesus sharply rebukes them ‘hypocrites, why do you set this trap for me?’ But as was the case throughout the Gospels the trap fails. Calling for a Roman coin, one of the men hands a denarius to Jesus. This act alone discredits the man for devout Jews were not meant to carry Roman currency because it made them complicit with the foreign occupiers. It was considered to be idolatry, because the Romans considered their emperor to be a God. Bearing the image of Caesar Tiberius Jesus advises the onlookers that such coins must therefore belong to the Romans, and thus should be given to them.

Jesus’ concern is not with financial or political matters however. Rather, he is adamant that our obligations should focus on the spiritual realm, and that ‘we should give to God what belongs to God.’ To give one’s life to God, Jesus argued that one could not follow the Law through empty ritual or hollow worship. Nor could one treat a man as a deity, as the Romans did with their Caesars. Rather, one has to give their life fully to God in order to live life to the full.

Anthony Cleary : Director, Religious Education and Evangelisation

500th Anniversary of the Reformation Commemoration

An historical event from the 16th century which left its imprint on many areas of society throughout the centuries and launched a history of learning.

Wednesday 11 October
10.00am to 5.00pm-  St Mary’s Cathedral Chapter Hall
Adult -$40. Concession – $20 (including  morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea)
Enquiries: (02) 9390 5172
Register here

Speakers include:

  • Most Reverend Anthony Fisher OP –  Archbishop of Sydney
  • Most Reverend Peter Elliott  –  Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne
  • Reverend Mark Lieschke  –  Bishop of the Lutheran Church of Australia – NSW District
  • Reverend Andrew Sempell  –  Rector, St James’ Anglican Church, Sydney
  • Dr Robert Andrews  – Lecturer Church History, Catholic Institute of Sydney
  • Rabbi Dr Benjamin Elton –  Chief Rabbi of The Great Synagogue, Sydney
  • Reverend Professor Gerard Kelly  –  President of the Catholic Institute of Sydney

inter-religious prayer gathering

Following the Commemoration during the day, there will be an Inter-religious Prayer Gathering and Reflection on The Reformation and its Relevance to Religion and Society Today.

All are welcome to this open event led by the Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, Archbishop of Sydney on 11 October at 6.30pm in St Mary’s Cathedral.

Family Educator Showcase 2017

You are invited you to the inaugural
Family Educator Showcase.

Family Educator showcase logo SCS

This event will enable Principals, Priests, Regional Directors, Consultants and ARE Team members to gain a broader understanding of the Family Educator role , as well as the myriad of initiatives involved in the Family and Faith program.

The Showcase will allow guests to see what happens in different communities, encouraging them to be even more open to the role of Family Educators in the area of family faith formation and evangelisation.

The Family Educator Showcase will involve Family Educators showcasing 3-5 most effective initiatives/events that have been implemented in their school community. Each will have their own stall, with photos and resources on display, answering questions from those attending.

The Showcase will run from 10am-12noon.  The morning will begin with a short SPaR and then guests will wander from stall to stall for as long as they wish. Morning tea will be set-up for guests to eat at any time.

Please find below the dates and venues for each Region:

Inner West Region:         Tuesday 19th September (CIS Strathfield Auditorium)
Eastern Region:               Wednesday 20th September (SCS Daceyville Room 1)
Southern Region:            Thursday 21st September (SCS Revesby Room 1&2)

If you wish to attend any of the showcases, please register via your Family Educator, or  contact Meredith Lemos via meredith.lemos@syd.catholic.edu.au or 0457 808 626

I strongly encourage your attendance at this exciting event, in order to gain a greater understanding of the breadth of the Family Educator role and new strategies and initiatives to implement in your respective communities.  I also hope it will be an occasion where their hard work and dedication will be showcased and celebrated.

Thank you in anticipation for your support of this inaugural event.

Anthony Cleary
Director: Religious Education and Evangelisation


22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Matthew 16:21-27

Jesus began to make it clear to his disciples that he was destined to go to Jerusalem and suffer grievously at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, to be put to death and to be raised up on the third day. Then, taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him. ‘Heaven preserve you, Lord,’ he said. ‘This must not happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.’

Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it. What, then, will a man gain if he wins the whole world and ruins his life? Or what has a man to offer in exchange for his life?

‘For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of his Father with his angels, and, when he does, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.’

Fully aware of his own future death and suffering Jesus foretells his disciples of the fate that awaits him. Having grown closer in friendship with Jesus, and conscious that he was truly the Messiah, Peter is disturbed and pleads with him that this cannot happen.  He is astonished that the Messiah will undergo suffering and be put to death.

A recurring theme of Matthew’s Gospel is that the events of Jesus’ life were the fulfilment of the Old Testament. The verse ‘all of this happened so that Scripture might be fulfilled‘ occurs no fewer than sixteen times. At the time of this encounter Peter would have been unaware that these future events of passion, death and resurrection were necessary not just for the fulfilment of the Hebrew Scriptures but for the redemption of mankind.

Unwittingly Peter sides with the devil in attempting to deter Jesus from fulfilling his mission. Jesus rebukes him saying ‘get behind me, Satan!‘ and goes on to forewarn the disciples of their own imminent suffering. Whilst not speaking specifically of their impending persecution Jesus refers to the fact that Christian witness will have a price. Even before his own crucifixion Jesus refers to the Cross as a sign of Christian fellowship and discipleship.

Jesus’ injunction ‘if anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross and follow me‘ is a message to Christians of every generation. Many in the early Church were martyred on the Cross as a sign of their faithfulness. Today however we bear crosses of a different nature as a sign of our Christian witness. Often we experience persecution or marginalization as a result of our Christian principles or we make sacrifices as an ongoing commitment to and sign of the beliefs that we hold to be true. While we may not lose our lives in a physical sense, true Christian living is the giving of oneself to God and others in the spiritual sense. By rejecting a life of individualism and hedonism, and by making the needs of others a priority, we experience life in abundance.

Jesus proclaimed ‘I have come that you may have life and have it to the full‘ (John 10:10). Paradoxically, this fullness of life comes not from self-seeking but from self-emptying.    

Anthony Cleary
Director: Religious Education and Evangelisation