Commissioning Mass of St Bakhita's Pastoral Council
Statement Released: Monday, June 20, 2005
All of scripture is ultimately about God, about the goodness of God, about the love of God. This truth is communicated partially in the Old Testament scripture, but most perfectly in the New Testament when God, in the person of Jesus Christ, came to tell us what his Father is like, and then to prove it by his own actions. God loves us so much that he gave each and every one of us the gift of life, not just earthly life, but eternal life, and then showed us how to love so that we would be as happy as possible in this life and in the eternal life to come. God sent his son to teach us how to love God and to love other people. That is the great truth that we find almost impossible to grasp in this life; God loves each and every one of us individually and eternally. Moreover Christ came not merely with empty words about love, but to show us what love truly is as he reached out to all people, the rich – the poor, the sick - the healthy, the old – the young, the Jews – the Gentiles, the Greeks- the Romans. But such love was not only restricted to his earthly life in Palestine, but to the life he lived as the Risen Christ, within the Body of Christ, where he loves people still today. It is His existence in our midst we spend a lifetime trying to grasp. When we experience love it is Christ in other people loving us, when we give love to others it is Christ in us loving other people, so that the love of God is not just an empty promise, but a love we actually experience through our interaction with other people. Moreover we experience this most powerfully in the Church when we come together as a group, as we are doing today, not merely to remember Christ and his love, but to experience it in this Mass, this Eucharist. When before Mass, a person acknowledges you, and calls you by your name, it is Christ doing that, when in the Mass a person turns towards you and says “Peace be with you” it is Christ wishing you peace, and when after Mass someone shows concern for you and asks you how your family is, how your work is going, how the education of your children is going, again it is the risen Christ doing that. Likewise when we in turn act in the same way to others it is Christ in us reaching out to others. The love of God for us, is not just abstract theology, it is as real as the human love we experience in our lives.
Today we gather with others in Eucharist to hear this truth once again, and to try to experience it ourselves. The Scripture today from the Old and New Testament tells us of occasions in our life when we might be inclined to doubt God’s love. It shows first of all Jeremiah who is weighed down by a multitude of problems, as we sometimes are. In this particular case Jeremiah is being persecuted by other people and he asks “Where is God? Where is justice in the world?”, as he tries to live a good life, but all he receives is persecution from others. Have you ever experienced that in your own life, being attacked by other people, being disliked by other people? As Jeremiah said, “All those who used to be my friends, watched for my downfall.” Does it all sound familiar? Of course it does. But what does Jeremiah pray “I have committed my cause to you (God), sing to the Lord, praise the Lord.” That is the most difficult thing to do, to go on loving God, praising God, when we are not experiencing love in our life. However, not only do we have Jeremiah as an example, we also have Christ, who went on loving others even when he was rejected by them, even when he could only find God’s love in his mother, and the few friends who stayed with him on Calvary. It is all summed up in the Psalm we pray today,
“In your great love, answer me O God
with your help that never fails.
Lord answer, for your love is kind,
in your compassion turn towards me.
In the Gospel Christ carries this further when he describes the same situation but says “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul”. He explains this from the very depth of his own experience. Look people can hurt you, but such hurt cannot touch your soul. If you stop believing in a God of love, if you lose your faith, then you are truly hurt, but as Christ says that is the only thing that can hurt you permanently. Moreover it is a hurt you inflict on yourself.
Finally in St Paul’s letter to the Romans he explains that evil things do happen to us because sin does exist in the lives of people, but he goes on to explain “that the divine grace, through the one man Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant gift”. Jesus has overcome sin, so that there is always more love than sin. Even though we may go through a bad time when we are hurt, by others – sometimes for a long time, ultimately it will change, because it will be conquered by love. All of us I am sure have experienced those bad times in our lives, when we wondered if God really loved us, because we could not feel the love of people, but eventually the love came back from people, and through people from God. I am sure that many of you Sudanese people who have come from another land to make a new life in Australia know exactly what I am talking about. You have probably suffered rejection as we Australians have not but please God here within this, your new country, you are experiencing love, acceptance, which is ultimately the love and acceptance of God. As a host people we need to show that love to you. Today, we want to welcome you officially to this your new country.
Each time we gather in Eucharist we do so to celebrate the love of God, in the life of Christ, in the body and blood of Christ we share, and in the Body of Christ, of which we are all a part in this great act of worship this morning. Let us realise our togetherness in the Body of Christ, and when we open our hearts to Christ, and give and receive the sign of peace this morning let us ask God to help us experience his love so that it becomes the fundamental reality of our universe, and our lives.
Released by the Catholic Communications Office