Fr Frank’s Homily – 18 September 2022

By Fr Frank Brennan SJ, 17 September 2022
Image: Shutterstock.


Homily for the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C

Readings: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 112; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13 

18 September 2022


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In today’s second reading which comes from Paul’s first letter to Timothy we are advised to offer prayers for everyone –  petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving – and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.

Scripture scholar Thomas Soding points out the universal scope of this call to prayer.  We are to pray not only for believers but for ‘everybody including those political governors who often act against Christians’.[1]

God is proclaimed as the one who wishes to save every creature: ‘God wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth’.  Soding makes the bold claim that this statement in one of the little quoted Pastoral Epistles popularly attributed to Paul but written some time after Paul’s death ‘is one of the most important theological statements in the entire New Testament’.  ‘Jesus is presented as the saviour who is mediator sharing in the life and death of all human beings in order to unite them with God’.

This past week, I’ve had cause to reflect on this injunction to pray especially for kings and others in authority, with the saturation coverage given to the pending funeral of Queen Elizabeth and speculation about the likely regal performance of our new King Charles. Like many of you (I presume), I am an Australian republican, but I do respect the contribution that Elizabeth has made not only to public life in the United Kingdom but further afield even here on the other side of the world.

I continue to hope that one day Australia’s head of state (both practical and symbolic) will be an Australian.   But that is a matter for another day.  Praying for Elizabeth, our Queen, our symbolic head of state, I have been helped by the words of Australia’s most trenchant republican prime minister Paul Keating.  He wrote:

“In the 20th century, the self  became privatised, while the public realm, the realm of the public good, was broadly neglected.  Queen Elizabeth understood this and instinctively attached herself to the public good against what she recognised as a tidal wave of private interest and private reward.  And she did this for a lifetime. Never deviating.”

“With her passing her example of public service remains with us as a lesson in dedication to a lifelong mission in what she saw as the value of what is both enduringly good and right.”[2]

Joseph Raz, one of the world’s great political philosophers who wrote about jurisprudence, died recently.  He dedicated his life to investigating what is both enduringly good and right.  Like many philosophers of our age, Raz prized individual autonomy.  That was his starting point, but not his finishing point.  He never valued autonomy just for itself.  Some people think nothing is important other than individual freedom – to do what one likes, provided only that no direct harm is caused to another doing what they like.  These people espouse only a night watchman-style state, with the state, government and the law having no role other than making sure the citizens do not cause direct harm to each other.

Writing an obituary of Raz, his professional colleague and friend, Professor Jeremy Waldron, pointed out that Raz was a critic of ‘liberal neutrality about values and about the definition of the good life’.  Raz ‘thought autonomy – the self-authorship of a person’s life – was worth nurturing only in the service of genuine values and worth respecting only in a life dedicated to the pursuit of what really mattered’.[3]

In his book The Morality of Freedom, Raz said ‘there is more one can do to help another person have an autonomous life than stand off and refrain from coercing or manipulating them’.[4]  We can help each other ‘in creating the inner capacities required for the conduct of an autonomous life’ and we, the law, and the state ‘can help create an adequate range of options for the person to choose from’[5].

That’s why the author of Paul’s first Letter to Timothy urges us to pray especially for kings and others in authority, so that the conditions of the public good might be created so that we may all be able to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet.  The religious and reverent life is a life of full human flourishing enhanced by our faith community and by a state which is committed to the well being of all its citizens, especially the most marginalised.

Like many others, whether republican or monarchist, I do wonder about the regal potential of our new king.  But I do take heart that he delivered one of the most sensitive addresses at the Australian Bicentenary.  At the Opera House before the tall ships made their way into Sydney Harbour on Australia Day in 1988, Charles spoke of Captain Cook’s discovery and the quest for knowledge.  He conceded: ‘For the original people of this land it must have all seemed very different, and if they should say that their predicament has not yet ended, it would be hard to know how to answer, beyond suggesting that a country free enough to examine its own conscience is a land worth living in, a nation to be envied.’[6]

As we prepare for the national dialogue about an Indigenous Voice to Parliament, let’s pray for all those in authority that they might lead us towards a successful referendum respecting the just entitlements of all Australians, being duly attentive to the constitutional architecture of the nation.

In the week ahead, let’s pray at the time of Elizabeth’s funeral that those in authority on both sides of the globe may help all people to live religious and reverent lives in peace and quiet, giving praise to the Lord who lifts up the poor.

Praise, you servants of the LORD,
praise the name of the LORD.
Blessed be the name of the LORD
both now and forever.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

High above all nations is the LORD;
above the heavens is his glory.
Who is like the LORD, our God, who is enthroned on high
and looks upon the heavens and the earth below?

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

He raises up the lowly from the dust;
from the dunghill he lifts up the poor
to seat them with princes,
with the princes of his own people.

Praise the Lord who lifts up the poor.

[1] Thomas Soding, ‘First Timothy’, in The Paulist Biblical Commentary, Paulist Press, 2018, p. 1457 at p. 1461

[2] Statement by P J Keating, 9 September 2022

[3] Jeremy Waldron ‘Philosophy’s gentle giant’, New Statesman, 13 May 2022, available at

[4] Joseph Raz, The Morality of Freedom, Clarendon Press, 1986, p. 407

[5] Ibid, p. 408

[6] See Frank Brennan, Sharing the Country, Penguin Books, 1991, p. 2

Fr Frank Brennan SJ is the Rector of Newman College, Melbourne, and the former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA).




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