Homily: St Michael’s Church Sandy Creek Centenary Mass 3rd March, 2018

St Michael’s Church Sandy Creek Centenary Mass, 3rd March, 2018

Ex 20: 1-17; 1 Cor 1:22-25; Jn 2:13-25

Gathered together in this beautiful old Church, it gives me great pleasure to join with you today to offer my congratulations and to mark the commencement of the celebrations by offering the Sandy Creek centenary Mass.

I can imagine that everyone here today will have good memories of important events, joyful or sad, in their own lives, and how this Church building and the community around it played central part in such events.

The readings begin with the Exodus description of Moses receiving what we later called the Ten Commandments.  The gospel from St John describes one of the few occasions where Jesus is angry – he drives moneychangers and sellers out of the Temple precincts.  In between these two dramatic episodes, we have a gentle passage on Jesus being the wisdom of God.

Throughout St John’s Gospel, the language of signs is distinctive. Jesus’ miracles are called signs, and the people look to these signs for proof of his authority. Here we learn that the sign par excellence will be Jesus’ passion, death, and Resurrection.

And so during Lent, we reflect upon the meaning of this sign for us and for our world. We might take this opportunity to consider the quality of our prayer and worship. In our prayers we seek to deepen our relationship with the person of Christ. In our worship with the community, we gather to experience anew the passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus and its significance in our lives. Christ promises to be present with us when we gather for prayer.

Let us look also at this passage from St Paul.

St Paul is dealing with a multicultural mix of people from different social and ethnic backgrounds – all recent converts trying to work out what being ‘a good Christian’ meant in 1st century Corinth.  He was taking the Decalogue as given. 

What gave fire to Paul’s preaching was his belief that foolishness and weakness was where God is strongest.  When do we see weakness as a sign of strength? Maybe... when disaster strikes us as individuals or groups; maybe... when we ourselves face illness and death – our own or that of others.

Sometimes, we hesitate at stumbling blocks on our way to help others.  We ask ‘What will people think’?  Maybe the question should be, ‘What would Jesus do?’ The history of Sandy Creek is one which tells us that numbers of courageous settlers from many countries would have sought to embrace a faith community and many times might well have asked themselves the question “What would Jesus do? As they sought to share and care in those frugal times.

We recall and we admire the commitment and the generosity of the parishioners, as the foundation stone for this Church was blessed and laid in 1918, and soon after the old timber church was moved to Kergunyah and this fine Church became a beacon of hope to the post-war First World War Catholic community of Sandy Creek. I know there are present parishioners who have been baptized and confirmed and married here, and you will have wonderful memories of those blessed events.

There will also have been moments that are even more deeply personal when you will have come here to this Church quietly and alone perhaps at a moment of trial, or to thank God for some special blessing. The history of this community of Sandy Creek is intimately intertwined with what this Church has meant for many.

On an occasion like this centenary celebration today, people look back with justifiable pride at what their Church community has achieved over more than one hundred years. What emerges is the extraordinary contribution that a faith community of Sandy Creek has brought to the society around us during the hundred years we are now celebrating.

No sealed roads, no fast cars, no telephones, fasting from food and drink from midnight before celebrating Mass are but some of the issues which we can so easily overlook when we thank God for the efforts of the pioneer priests and laity of our Diocese.

So like the early Christians, we embrace the opportunity to welcome newcomers, become our best selves, sharing our gifts of nature and grace in building up a community of love that embraces everyone.

Furthermore, our mission remains the same as that of the first Catholics in St Michael’s parish, Tallangatta, established just two years before this St Michael’s church was built, as it was for the first Christians in the time of St Paul. It is firstly allowing God’s grace to purify our way of living so that we will be true disciples of Jesus in every aspect of our thinking and living.

Secondly, it is to take our Catholic heritage seriously. We must be committed to the Catholic vision and have a truly welcoming, open and all-embracing heart, yearning to play our part in carrying on the mission of Jesus so that the whole world, as brothers and sisters in the one God, will live in love communion, and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Today, is a day for thanksgiving – to God first and foremost – and then to all those, parents, teachers, religious and priests who have allowed God to work through them to touch the lives of countless young people and help them to live the rich and fulfilling lives that God created them to live.

What is more important is that we are truly grateful for the one hundred years of Catholic life and practice that has characterised the church here in St Michael’s Sandy Creek. Congratulations to you all as we celebrate the achievements of the present and past and look with optimism and hope to the future!

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