Blessing and opening of the Emmaus Centre
On Tuesday last the priests of the Anglican and Catholic Churches came together at Hamilton to discuss our relationship, particularly in the wake of the recent Lambeth Conference held at Canterbury in August. Archbishop Aspinall and myself spoke at length and answered questions. Reminiscing on my past as a young priest in Goondiwindi in 1962 I mentioned how I had been asked to address the Goondiwindi Rotary Club about what in those days was called the Ecumenical Council then about to commence in Rome, later to be known as the Second Vatican Council. Because it was called Ecumenical, in my ignorance I suggested that it might have much to do with bringing our Churches closer together. That was a part of its agenda of course, but only a part. In replying to my speech the local Anglican Priest of Goondiwindi Noel Ludlow said prophetically “The wheels of God turn slowly”. He was referring to the future of our relationship but he could just as easily have been referring to the future progress of the Second Vatican Council. In the aftermath of that Council spirits were high. It was a Council for renewal that in defining the Church as the “People of God” emphasised the responsibility of its members to reach out to the world through evangelisation. Certainly it freed the Church to engage in social justice which was admirable, at the same time it gave birth to a new theology that retired Archbishop of Milan Cardinal Martini recently described in an article as equal to the theology that drove the church at the time of the great theologians St Jerome, St Ambrose, St Augustine. There certainly was a rush to the world by Catholics, but the brilliant theology and spirituality developed by the Council seemed to have been left behind, often to the detriment of people’s faith. Social justice thrived, based perhaps on a theology of communion, but the magnificence of Christ’s vision in its totality was neglected.
At the present time in the Church, ever so slowly, theology seems to be once again rising to the surface, giving focus to its important area of evangelisation. By no means is there any lessening of the importance of social justice but there is a growing realisation that it should be based on a solid foundation of theology. The theology that is employed in this Archdiocese is the theology of Jesus, Communion, and Mission. By doing so the Christian vision that we seek to communicate is nothing short of magnificent. Communicated effectively, it is almost impossible to reject. The vision of the good news is about a renewed world, a new creation, people filled with life and vitality, a recognition of our connection with all people through a theology of Communion, a recognition of the enormous dignity of each and every person made in the image and likeness of God, a capacity to see God in each and every person, and a recognition of God’s gift of fullness of life here and now, with its ultimate climax to come beyond death. It seems trite to say there is nothing miserable in the vision of Jesus. In its fullness it is an expanded vision of life that extends well beyond money, possessions, and power. The carefully chosen scripture tonight opens this vision for us. The Book of Isaiah points to a new world created by a Messiah whom we recognise as Jesus, as Isaiah did not. There is every reason therefore to “Break forth into singing” as the scripture suggests because of the new creation present in Christ. That new creation exists around us if only we have eyes to see. In the Gospel of Luke we see the risen Christ walk into the lives of two disciples, unrecognised as He often is even when He also walks into our lives. But if we understand that the risen Christ lives in the Body of Christ then we will see Him everywhere. As Father Paul McPartlan said when he came to the Archdiocese in 2004, “When you look into the eyes of the person beside you, you look into the eyes of Christ”. We therefore have a magnificent vision to share with others if only we will first of all grasp the vision ourselves. It is entirely appropriate then that in this supreme meeting place with Jesus, namely the Eucharist, we should ask Jesus to help us recognise His presence in the breaking of the bread as the disciples did at Emmaus. Jesus is here in our midst if only we will open our eyes to see. For starters just look at the person beside you.
Could I congratulate Shayne, Shanelle and the Emmanuel Covenant Community on this marvellous new “Emmaus Centre for renewal and evangelisation.” Let us rejoice in its opening and let us pray that it will truly become a powerhouse of spiritual vitality that will renew all who come in contact with it before they go forth from here as the disciples did on the road to Emmaus, to share good news with the entire Archdiocese and to spread that good news throughout Queensland, Australia and perhaps the world. As Cardinal Martini said, there never has a better time to belong to the Church than there is now. Let us rejoice therefore in the fact that we live in interesting times and that in the power of God’s Holy Spirit we can do great things for ourselves and the world. May God bless you always as we open this brand new centre at the heart of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
Archbishop John Bathersby
October 16, 2008