Homily for Mass for the New Evangelisation on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 17 February 2017
Brothers and sisters,
It is a great honour for me to welcome you all to our Cathedral as we celebrate the opening Mass for the Golden Anniversary of Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Australia. I welcome Archbishop Christopher Prowse, Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, my old teacher in the seminary, Fr Ken Barker, Moderator of the Missionaries of God’s Love and delegates from near and far. I pay tribute to the many prayer groups which have fostered that love of prayer and personal commitment to Christ.
Pope John Paul II said in 1992: “The emergence of the renewal following the Second Vatican Council was a particular gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church. Certainly one of the most important results of this spiritual awakening has been the increased thirst for holiness which is seen in the lives of individuals and in the whole Church.”
We gather to rejoice in being open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts we receive for our own sanctification and for the building up of the Church. The Holy Spirit is present with the Church in many ways. The Spirit sanctifies the People of God and guides it. The Spirit generously endows and enriches the Church with special gifts which build up the Church. The Spirit enriches the Church with surprises which wake us up and shake us up. The Spirit restores restlessness to a Church which it is tempted to become tired and timid.
Pope Francis caused a bit of a stir when he said he wants to create “a mess” in the Church. I think he meant he wanted the status quo challenged, especially when that status quo is not where the Church should be.
The Church needs a bit of shaking up so that it may be more alert and responsive to the presence, the voice and the movement of the Spirit in history and in the lived realities of human experience. Otherwise, it will fail to be a living church for people, especially those who struggle for acceptance, recognition, equality and a place at the table.
Thus for example, it may be politically expedient to trumpet a strong border protection and a strong economy for middle Australia at the expense of the homeless, the marginalised and the asylum seekers. But as a church, we are guided by a much more radical vision of inclusivity, fullness of life, love and human flourishing. The church needs to hold itself up to the person, the message and the example of Christ. We need to be challenged and shaken up in order that we may be faithful, authentic, committed to our mission of being the sacrament of God’s love and the visible face of Christ in the world.
Christianity is not a religion of fear, non-involvement, indifference, complacency and mediocrity. Rather, it is radically incarnational, meaning that it dares to follow the pattern of Christ who accomplished the triumph of love over hatred, life over death and good over evil by his life, death and resurrection. It is He who came that others might have life and have it to the full. It is He who showed us the ultimate example of a missionary journey towards the other, a self-emptying process that brought Him close to us through the form of a servant. Therefore, it is fundamental to Christian discipleship to re-enact the missionary journey of Christ and to enable others to have the fullness of life and to share God’s triumph of love.
Today, perhaps more than at other times in the history of the Church, work of new evangelisation is so necessary that it needs to be open to the all the charisms which the Spirit gives to re-awaken and renew and nourish the life of faith of the People of God. We need a spirit-filled-Church which can welcome all those who seek the light of faith.
Today we need a new and vibrant affirmation within the entire Church of the “Joy of the Gospel”. A Church which does not at all levels radiate the “Joy of the Gospel” is a Church doomed to stagnation, closed in within an unreal comfort zone, focused inwards. Such a Church will never truly reach out and embrace the marginalised and bring them and our society towards experiencing the “Joy of the Gospel”. We experience the Joy of the Gospel when we spread the Gospel. You do not spread the Gospel simply through decrying the evils of the world or through spiritual narcissism. We will never understand the joy which springs from the Gospel by just looking into a mirror at ourselves.
We are honoured by your presence here among us and I have no doubt that you have been a grace for the Church in Australia. As Catholic Charismatic people you have a unique role in educating the Church about the joy of the Gospel, the power of the Holy Spirit, the importance of prayer, and the privilege and responsibility of each and every person for mission in the world. May the Holy Spirit continue to bless your renewal with the same energy it has now displayed for 50 years. May it grow from strength to strength. May Mary the Mother of Jesus continue to be your inspiration as she intercedes before the Throne of God for your mission of renewal within the Church and within the world.
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