Homily for Faith & Life Vicariate Commissioning Mass
Statement Released: Monday, April 24, 2006
The more I grapple with the Mystery of Faith, the more complex it seems, at the same time the more fulfilling. Each year seems to push back the envelope of the mystery just a little further as Liturgical Seasons come and go in the church’s calendar, or as theologians in books or workshops penetrate the mystery just a little more deeply for the benefit of us all. The visit of Bishop Thomas Wright was one such instance when he spoke of the life of Christ, but then challenged us to try and grasp the mystery of the kingdom of God, a mystery of heaven and earth in the midst of which the kingdom is present, so that life here on earth and life after death mix together, interpenetrate, and coexist, so that we live in the presence of the Communion of Saints past present and future in a world that defies our imagination to grasp. It is all heady stuff is immensely demanding, and yet the attempt to do so brings its own special rewards. Easter is a good season to think about these matters as we celebrate the mysteries of Christ’s life, and view the stumbling attempts of the apostles and disciples to cope with it as we do. Quite obviously something incredible happened to them when they were confronted by the death and resurrection of Christ as we read in the Acts of the Apostles this morning. We ask ourselves “surely these are not the same people we read about in the long reading of Holy Thursday and Good Friday when terrified out of their minds they crumbled under the pressure of fear, anxiety, despair, and the threat of violence”? And yet most surely they are the very same people, as they now proclaim the fact of resurrection, the truth of Christ, and accuse Christ’s enemies of unacceptable conduct. What on earth happened to them? The clue to the change is contained in the small phrase we can so easily overlook namely “filled with the Holy Spirit.” This change in the apostles both surprises us and fills us with the hope that if it happened to them it can also happen to us. In the Gospel we are confronted with this mysterious world of the kingdom. On the sea of Tiberius the apostles seem both to know Christ and yet not know Christ. It is a passage filled both with reality and metaphor as Christ tells them where to catch fish, referring I am sure both to fish and people, as well as reminding them of the feasts of the kingdom, and the kindness and love of God. With the meal prepared on the shore there are signs again of the feast of the kingdom, again the kindness of God, and again the mysterious presence of Christ in his risen body, a reality that Paul the Apostle would later develop into his magnificent theology of the Body of Christ. Grasping all of this, even if imperfectly like most of us, the apostles and disciples went even further in the power of the Holy Spirit as is indicated in the first scripture reading when they become quite fearless as they preached the good news.
I mention all of this today because you who do sterling work in the appropriately named Faith and Life Vicariate of the Archdiocese are people who are trying to exactly what the apostles were doing as they grappled and wrestled with the mystery of the good news so that they could share it with others. In doing the same thing you are on the cutting edge of evangelisation as you deal with this challenge in a remarkable variety of ways. I also try to respond to that challenge day in and day out as you do, never to my satisfaction, I suppose that the “trying” is the main thing. Constantly we all try to remind ourselves of the presence of Christ. Yesterday I was walking over to say Mass for the Brown Sisters as I do each Thursday morning. A young man in walking gear, a total stranger to me, crossed the street to tell me that he was from North Queensland and had been with me on the World Youth Day rally in Toronto in 2002. He thanked me for what is happening in this Archdiocese and moved on, leaving me just a little feeling of resurrection joy. I couldn’t help but think of the Risen Christ. It was so like the chance encounters of the post resurrection apostles in which the kindness and love of God was manifest. I only wish I could think of the Risen Christ more frequently than I do. It is comparatively easy to do when I give Communion to people in the Cathedral or church and say in my mind and only in my mind, after I say ‘the Body of Christ” “my sister” or “my brother”. I try to apply that same recognition when I drive down Brunswick Street and look at the motley parade of people on the footpaths, rich and poor, young and old, drunk and sober, male and female, indigenous and non indigenous. These attempts are merely my own small way of trying to cope with the mystery of our lives and our faith. Each one of us has this remarkable gift of faith that we try to share with other people. It is not easy. The occasional Brunswick-ite who stops at the front gate of Wynberg normally late at night and shouts foul abuse at me and the church is a gentle reminder how much further we all have to go. Nevertheless we are conscious always that Christ who lives in other people also lives in each one of us and that we also must allow the spirit to fill our minds and hearts as the apostles did so that Christ can then speak the good news through us to others both by word and deed.
This morning in this great act of thanksgiving “The Eucharist” let us celebrate our faith and ask God to help us understand it and communicate it by word and deed as effectively or ineffectively as the apostles did. At the same time let us be filled with hope as we notice the sheer maddening humanity of the very people personally chosen by Christ himself, as we are.
May God bless the Faith and Life Vicariate always as you continue your enormously important role of evangelisation. I thank Geoff Gowdie and each and every one of you for what you do.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office