Homily for the Solemnity of St Mary of the Cross with the beginning of the Way of Mercy, St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 08 August 2016
Today, together as a diocesan family, we launch the Way of Mercy by carrying the symbolic cross of mercy and the relics of Mary MacKillop and Mother Teresa from the Cathedral to the churches, schools and communities across our great diocese. It is a celebration of the Jubilee of Mercy whereby we acknowledge our need of “ecclesia semper reformanda”, that is a repentant church in need of God’s reforming grace, on the one hand. On the other, we commit ourselves to reach out to others and enable them to receive the same mercy and love that we have been given.
Thus, the Way of Mercy is symbolic of the missionary journey that we are called to make individually and as a community. Just as God in Christ did not hold on to his divine status but emptied himself and made himself close to us, we are called to go beyond ourselves and make ourselves neighbours to others. It is a journey, as Pope Francis reminds us, of encounter, dialogue and engagement with our brothers and sisters. And like Jesus, we especially reach out to those who are on the margins, those who are excluded or stigmatised in anyway, those who are victims of intolerance, discrimination and hatred. We in this journey, we learn not only to give but also to receive, not only to grow in our conviction but also to be challenged, not only to share the gift of our faith but also to be enriched by others’ spiritual insight.
Far from an exercise in religious superiority and triumphalism, ours is a humble pilgrimage that is encompassed in the vision of the Vatican Council. We seek to walk with all people, identifying with their griefs and anxieties, their joys and their hopes. We seek to strengthen and encourage one another to follow Christ. Through the Way of Mercy, we especially accompany those who struggle to live and still fall short of the Christian ideal. We endeavour to live out the ecclesial inclusiveness which is characteristic of a Church that walks with the suffering, to assuage their wounds, to heal their hurt and brokenness. We commit ourselves to make a space in the church and in our hearts for those who have been hurt, damaged or alienated, be they abuse victims, survivors, divorcees, gays, lesbians, or victims of racial and religious intolerance.
Today, we honour in a special way St Mary MacKillop who embodied characteristics that typify the best of the Australian spirit. There is that sense of “going in to bat” for the battlers of life, to give a helping hand to the needy irrespective of colour, culture or creed; it is that sense of a “fair go for everyone”. It was the genius of Mary that in seeing Christ in every person, she was deeply appreciative of the dignity and worth of every person made in God’s image and likeness. She saw the image of Christ in every person and saw that each had an eternal inheritance. We realise more and more the need for people to stand up for the lives and dignity of the needy and defenceless, the vulnerable and dependent and how the charism of Mary MacKillop stands as a blazing light of hope in our fractured and fractious world.
Mary MacKillop met the great challenges of her time with vision, passion and creativity. She challenged the status quo and envisioned new ways of living and sharing the Good News. May she intercede for us to do the same as we face the challenges of our time. May we also follow her example of making the missionary journey to our brothers and sisters in need and by our active discipleship, witness and engagement be the leaven for the Kingdom.
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