The inaugural Diocesan Mass for Deceased Clergy at St Bernadette’s Parish, Castle Hill
Readings: Apocalypse 20:1-4, 11 – 21:2; Psalm 83(84):3-6, 8; Luke 21:29-33
Dear brothers and sisters,
We are approaching the end of the liturgical year. The scriptures for this period often use apocalyptic language and imagery to describe God’s judgment on the world. But the end time is not doom and gloom for those who believe. Rather, it is a time of purposeful discernment and intentional discipleship. Crisis awakes in the disciples a sense of deep listening that leads to alignment with God’s will and courageous action. It is an opportunity for us to participate in the eschatological liberation and the birthing of the new heaven and the new earth that God would bring about in Christ Jesus.
Our world may not be spinning out of control and the end time may not be imminent. However, everywhere we look, there seems to be chaos, division and uncertainty. The global pandemic, the war in Ukraine, the increasingly rancorous polarisation between and among communities of citizens have exposed the flaws of Western democracies. The Church too is still struggling to regain membership and even more importantly, credibility. The hope of bringing the millions of disenfranchised Catholics into the life of the Church seems to be beyond the realms of possibility, even for the synodal processes that Pope Francis has unleashed around the world.
In the first reading, John speaks of the overpowering of the dragon by an angel as a prelude to a new era of joy and consolation. The dragon here stands for the forces of evil which are not only spiritual but also political. In fact, John uses the metaphor of a dragon to denounce the evil ideology and praxis of empires. Just as the prophets called God’s people to resist the dominating forces, John gives new hope to the early Christians who endure great calamity and persecution by the imperial power of Rome. He assures them that God would bring about a new future for his people.
John maintains against all evidence to the contrary that God will triumph over the forces of oppression and evil. A time of suffering will be followed by a time of celebration. In poetic language, he speaks of God’s faithful who will be invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. Likewise, he uses the metaphor of a new heaven and a new earth to describe the ultimate victory of God over evil. The lesson for us is that pain and suffering will make us more authentic to our calling. Therefore, we should not fear and shirk from testing times. Rather we should embrace them and grow through them.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of the kingdom against the background of popular expectation of a Caesar-like Messiah. The Pharisees and many Jews at the time were expecting someone who would restore the economic and political fortunes of Israel. Luke and indeed other Synoptic evangelists make clear that Jesus is not a hero in a conventional sense. Rather, he is every bit an anti-hero.
A few chapters earlier, Jesus used a series of parables to underline the hiddenness of the kingdom. The kingdom does not manifest itself in size, in success and in power. Instead, it is found in the smallness of the mustard seed, in in the poverty of the widow’s mite, in the rarity of the pearl or in the insignificance of the yeast. These images remind us of intentional, faithful and courageous discipleship.
“The kingdom of God is near”. With these words, Jesus alludes to himself as the presence and the realisation of God’s reign in the world. This reign is the polar opposite to the way of Caesar because the way of the empire is all about conquest, subjugation and control. The way of Jesus’ kingdom flies in the face of ambition, upward mobility, power and glory. In effect, he teaches us that Christian discipleship is about the willingness to suffer with others, to be vulnerable with the vulnerable, to be last with the least, to be powerless with those without power.
Today, we gather to pray for the deceased clergy of our diocese. They endeavoured to be the presence of Christ to others. They were the men who laboured in the Lord’s vineyard and gave themselves in service of God’s people during the fledgling years of this young Church. We think of men like Bishop Bede Heather, Frs Louis Breslan, Dave Scott, John Walsh, Roger Wynn, Eric Burton, David Humes… to name but only a few. There were also religious priests who contributed so much pastorally, spiritually and more. We owe to them our gratitude and prayerful remembrance. They have truly enriched us with their Christ-like love and service.
We give thanks to God for the priestly ministry and legacy of these men. As St Paul said, they have generously shared with us not only the Gospel of God but their lives as well. They have lived the paschal mystery to the best of their ability. They have shown us the true priesthood of Jesus Christ: compassion, humility and servanthood. May Christ is the way, the truth and the life who has guided them also guide us on our pilgrimage until the day we are reunited with her and all our deceased loved ones. Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace!
Share this Homily