St Finbar's Glenbrook Parish

Bishop Anthony Homily: Golden Jubilee of Rev Fr Eugene Szondi and Blessing of Church, St Bernadette’s Church, Castle Hill, Saturday 19 July 2014


Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and Golden Jubilee of Rev Fr Eugene Szondi and Blessing of Church, St Bernadette’s Church, Castle Hill, 19 July 2014


Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and Golden Jubilee of Rev Fr Eugene Szondi and Blessing of Church, St Bernadette’s Church, Castle Hill, 19 July 2014

Welcome to this celebration tonight: first, Fr Eugene Szondi’s Golden Jubilee of Ordination to the priesthood on 18 July 1964, which was celebrated yesterday; today marks a half-century since his first Mass.

It happens also to be the 11th anniversary of Deacon Nicephorus Tan’s ordination to the diaconate; he is assisting at tonight’s Mass and we congratulate him also on reaching this milestone.

I acknowledge them and also friends and family of Fr Eugene and Deacon Tan, Rev Fr John Boyle EV, Parish Priest, Rev Fr John Watkins, Assistant Priest, Deacon Tony Hoban, the Hon Dominic Perrottet, State Member for Castle Hill and Minister for Finance and Services, and his wife, Mrs Helen Perrottet.

When you hear that the sky is falling in, you might think of one of the five novels, three films, nine pop songs or video game of that title.

Or you might think of Chicken Little or Henny Penny who cried out that the sky was falling when it wasn’t. Or you might think of the YouTube clip that showed that when they said it at St Bernadette’s the damage was real and substantial.

In fact, I know it was a cause of considerable anxiety for Fr John Boyle, the parish team and many of you here. The months spent down in the crypt and other locations must have tried your patience. So I am delighted that tonight we can formally mark the restoration of the church including its ceiling.

Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and Golden Jubilee of Rev Fr Eugene Szondi and Blessing of Church, St Bernadette’s Church, Castle Hill, 19 July 2014

I must confess to never having blessed a ceiling before, though I did try painting one once and I can only hope blessing one is easier. My congratulations to you all in being back in your customary place of worship: may God continue to bless the faithful of Castle Hill who gather here and who are, ultimately, the real church of St Bernadette.

This weekend Catholic Mission is also holding its appeal here at St Bernadette’s and you’ll see envelopes in the pews. Your generous donations will be used for causes such as not just renovating churches without ceilings, but erecting the first church in poorer parts of the world that have none, and providing not only for worship, but education, healthcare, counselling and formation. I ask that you please give generously so that our brothers and sisters in poorer places might have places of worship at least partly as worthy as ours.


Homily of Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) and Golden Jubilee of Rev Fr Eugene Szondi and Blessing of Church, St Bernadette’s Church, Castle Hill, 19 July 2014

On 14 December 1981, John Paul II held a prayer vigil for Poland in which he used the term ‘solidarity’ six times. By then it was a common word on his lips. Though the idea had a long history in Catholic social doctrine, its particular resonance then was with the Polish organisation, Solidarność, that emerged after Wojtyła’s first visit to Poland as Pope. John Paul had just published his great encyclical on Human Work and the rights of workers, Laborem exercens, in which the word appeared 10 times.

Now the Communist government of General Wojciech Jaruzelski had banned the organisation and imposed martial law. Thousands, including the head of Solidarity (and future President), Lech Wałęsa, were arrested and terrible violence visited upon the pro-democracy demonstrators.

The Pope made an “urgent and heartfelt appeal” to the General (Weigel, Witness to Hope, 430-4), but Jaruzelski held on to power until the end of the decade, presiding over the departure of 700,000 Poles from their homeland, the collapse of their economy and the eventual demise of his regime.

Jaruzelski died in May this year, living just long enough to see his old enemy, John Paul II, canonised just a matter of days before. By then the old atheistic communist had been reconciled to God and the Church: a few days before his death he asked for the Last Rites.

At the funeral in Warsaw Cathedral Wałęsa generously knelt in prayer and crossed the aisle to shake hands with Jaruzelski’s widow and children at the kiss of peace. St John Paul II watched from heaven. Current President Bronislaw Komorovski said it was ultimately for God to judge Jaruzelski, not men.

I’m not sure whether Aussie politicians would be as generous about each other or as conscious of divine judgment. Ours is a contradictory culture marked both by adversarialism and non-judgmentalism. Tolerance is supposedly the highest virtue, though many of its lobbyists are especially unmerciful when it comes to dealing with perceived enemies such as the churches. Consumer spirituality and therapeutic religion sideline the prospect that one day we will be the subject of scrutiny by a divine judge.

Early in his pontificate Pope Francis was asked about a supposed “gay lobby” in the Vatican. He responded by joking with the reporters that he’d heard a lot of talk about a gay lobby, but had never seen it on a Vatican ID card. In other words, he couldn’t read other people’s hearts.

But this much is clear, he said. “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of such a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? They shouldn’t be marginalised. The tendency is not the problem … they’re our brothers.” The media went haywire with the headline ‘Pope approves homosexuality’.

Whatever we think about the prudence of his words, the Pope’s meaning was quite clear: if a person is trying to live a good Christian life, including living chastely, who are we to wag fingers at them. But the premises of this judgment are these: (1) that there is a right and wrong; (2) that while we don’t know people’s inner motives and private struggles we can assess their behaviour; (3) that those struggling to live rightly should be praised rather than condemned; and that (4), as President Komorovski recognised, God will indeed judge us according to what we have chosen and have made of ourselves in the process.

Now that’s very different to how the media took it. Strangely the same journos who are looking for the papal nod of approval for popular causes at odds with Catholic tradition are usually suspicious of any talk of right and wrong and decidedly unsympathetic to talk of divine judgment. The Christian faith is, in fact, framed by the prospect of judgment, as is the rhetoric of Pope Francis.

In a few moments we’ll profess our faith that the Lord Jesus “will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead”. That belief comes from texts such as tonight’s Gospel where Christ says that come harvest time at “the end of the world” the wheat will be saved and the weeds burnt; that the Son of Man will send angels to identify the evil-doers and “throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth”; but that “the virtuous will shine like the sun” (Mt 13:24-43). It might not make the Sydney Morning Herald headlines, but it’s the Catholic faith, certainly.

When Christ returns it will not to be to do more of the same that He did last time. His revelation is complete: His words and deeds, his mighty signs and soothing gestures, His inspiring life and saving death. Next time it will be at the harvest of the world. St Augustine used this Gospel passage as an occasion to remind us: “Listen, dearest grains of Christ, precious ears of wheat, Christ’s dearest corn: take a good look at yourselves, interrogate your faith and love, stir up and search your consciences” (Sermon 73A). In the end, even generals and presidents, popes and bishops, all will be tested in the burning love of Christ, the just judge.

Sounds a bit frightening: yet faithful Christians have always prayed with confidence “Marana tha – Come Lord come!” (1Cor 16:22). We long for a time when every wrong will be righted, every injustice removed, every innocent and harmed person will be restored to full health and dignity. We pray in our liturgy for Christ’s return to usher in “an eternal and universal kingdom, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace” (Preface for the Mass of Christ the King). True solidarity with those who suffer requires judgment: human judgment about the right and wrong of their situation and what can best be done about it; divine judgment so that innocent suffering is vindicated. Without judgment there is no solidarity, no genuine common interest and concern, no mutual support and action.

Yet in Jesus justice and mercy embrace: God is in solidarity with those who suffer and those who perpetrate the suffering; God highlights the just and welcomes back the repentant sinner with His last rites. So Wisdom calls Him tonight the God who is “mild in judgment” (Wis 12:13-19). The Psalmist sings of Him tonight, “O Lord, you are good and forgiving … A God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, abounding in love and truth” (Ps 85). And He shows us this mercy even before we die and are finally judged. He gives us the Church which is God and in saints in solidarity with sinners. The Church is the mustard-seed-become-tree, in which birds like us may find shelter, solace and hope (Mt 13:24-43).

Commenting on our Gospel passage St Augustine observed that some that “used to be weeds He changes into grains”. The Church is the field where weeds like General Jaruzelski may meet and gradually be transformed themselves into wheat like John Paul II. We pray that by God’s grace we may join those virtuous who shine like the sun. Marana tha: Come Lord Jesus!


One of Poland’s neighbours, that also suffered terribly under communism, was Hungary. There in Budapest young Eugene Szondi was born to Eugene senior and Anne. The family escaped to Australia, put the boy through Catholic schools and sent him off to seminary in Springwood and Manly. Cardinal Gilroy ordained him at St Mary’s Cathedral 50 years and a day ago.

Since then, he has been a pious, loyal, humble priest of Jesus Christ. His appointments have included Bankstown, Auburn, Carlingford, Lurnea, Sutherland, Baulkham Hills South, Liverpool, Richmond, South Blacktown, St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish and Castle Hill. He has been a leader in the Marian Movement of Priests and has assisted the bishop in very particular ways. As we reconsecrate this church building we thank God for those who minister here. We thank God and Fr Eugene for this faithful service. May God bless him for many years to come! Ad multos annos!
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