of my early tasks as your Archbishop has been to get out and about in the
Archdiocese so as to get to know this large and multifaceted family of faith. It
has been a good few months of meeting you, and to hear of your circumstances. As
I am sure you can imagine, many folk have raised with me the past years of
crisis faced by the Church, and the way in which trust needs to be rebuilt and
Christian life supported.
my conversations, I’ve been picking up two dominant, but somewhat divergent thoughts:
there is a genuine sense of pain and humiliation among ordinary Catholics at
what has happened at the hands of those whom they have trusted, along with
confusion about what is or isn’t been done by Church leaders like me.
But at the same time, there has also been a rather strong expression of humble
pride in the unsung good that local faith communities continue to do at this
time of deep crisis. That the Church in its institutional dimension is much in
need of reform is a common theme, but so too is the view that the Church in its
personal and local dimensions is full of hope.
The reason for mentioning all this today is because our present time of crisis –
and the feelings it is generating – is something that finds an echo throughout
the history of God’s People. Pain and pride, humiliation and hope have often
gone hand-in-hand in our history, and today’s readings are a good example of
we heard in today’s first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah: Shout for joy, daughter of Zion! Exult with
all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!, we may be inclined to think these
were words spoken at a time of peace and harmony for the Israelites. But it
wasn’t. Rather, they were said at a time when God’s People had been under
Assyrian occupation for a century, with little prospect of liberty. Zephaniah
was bringing a message of hope into a time of deep crisis and despair.
was the same when St Paul said to the Philippians: I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want
is your happiness, [for] the Lord is very near. Paul was in prison when he
wrote these words, and the Christians of Philippi were being ridiculed by their
fellow citizens. Into this situation of great difficulty, Paul encourages his
brothers and sisters to find again their trust and hope in the Lord and to
unite around each other.
finally, we have John the Baptist – the herald of the Good News. We all know
that 2000 years ago, the ordinary Jewish people were suffering under the rule
of the Roman empire, and felt abandoned by God and by their own leaders. The
promised Messiah had not come to save them. Into this loss of hope, John proclaimed
the imminent arrival of the Lord, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit
and fire. His was a message of preparation: be ready, salvation dawns.
so, to us. At a time when there is much to be saddened by in our Church, much
to be humiliated at, much to be angry or disillusioned or simply frustrated, it
is exactly at this time that the Lord comes with a word of hope and a hand of
encouragement. As we prepare to celebrate again the birth of Jesus Christ, let
us remember that God has not – and will not – abandoned us.
[25th Anniversary of St Jude’s
Church, Langwarrin: In a parish context, the building of the Church – as
God’s Pilgrim People – goes hand in hand with the building of Church
facilities. On this occasion of the 25th anniversary of the opening
of this particular Church building, the sense of the presence of the Lord in
this location is a powerful reminder that the faith of those who precede build
hope for those who follow. May the vision and toil of those who built St Jude’s
be a source of encouragement for you to continue to build God’s Kingdom. Happy