Homily: Sunday 4 March 2019: 8th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday 4 March 2019
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Reading the posts and tweets that have come in on social media this past week has been a sobering experience. As you will have read yourselves, there have been vastly divergent positions taken with regard to the conviction of Cardinal Pell – from people who are deeply angry to people who are deeply distressed; from cries of condemnation to cries of injustice.
What has spoken to me in all these posts and tweets is that they express something of the point of desolation at which God’s Church in Melbourne has arrived. There is the desolation of those among us who have suffered the terrible scourge of abuse; there is the desolation of survivors, families and communities struggling with a leadership who failed them; there is the desolation of believers whose faith and hope has been choked by damning revelation after damning revelation. The soul of our Church – God’s people – has been grievously wounded from the evil of sexual abuse. It feels like we have reached Golgotha, where the smell of death is thick in the air, and the sense of panic and confusion is pervasive.
As I hold onto these dark feelings, wondering what I am to do with them as your Archbishop, I am nonetheless standing here with you as a fellow Christian, having listened to God’s word for all of us today. And what have we heard together? That a good person draws what is good from the store of goodness in their heart; a bad person draws what is bad from the store of badness. For their words flow out of what fills their heart. (Lk 6.45)
We are sensate creatures, constantly receiving signals from the world around us in what we hear, see, smell, taste and feel. There is nothing ordered or purposeful to these stimuli – our senses simply register what the world presents in all its variety and value. If this is all that we are, creatures determined by our five senses, then our lives would be in constant turmoil and traumatic confusion.
But this is not all that we are; it is not even the half of it. For we are also – and especially – creatures of perception, created by God to bring meaning to what we receive and give purpose to our lives. We are, as Jesus might very well say today, creatures of mind and heart, created to transfigure what we take into ourselves and produces that which is true and good and beautiful. It is what comes out from us, not what is received into us, that truly reveals who we are.
When Jesus reached Golgotha, he was by then carrying with him all that was (and is, and will be) evil in the world. He experienced this evil in the sights and sounds of the baying crowds; in the smell and taste of his own sweat and blood; in the weight and feel of a wooden cross. But it is what he did with this that truly matters. His mind was focused on saving us from our evil, and his heart was focused on transfiguring all that our sin has disfigured. It’s what flowed out of Jesus at Golgotha that matters, for from his heart flowed rivers of healing, mercy and forgiveness.
If we have truly reached the moment of Golgotha, having received into us all the stimuli of evil that has disfigured the Church of Melbourne this past week, and months, and years, then know that we also can focus that into producing fruits that are good, and actions that are transfiguring. The sting of death does not need to be victorious when we are united,
mind and heart, with Jesus. As St Paul encouraged us: Never give in; keep on working at the Lord’s work, knowing that you are not labouring in vain. (1Cor 15.58)