Homily: Housekeepers and Secretaries Day 2017

Housekeepers and Secretaries Day
Mooroopna   May 30

Acts 20: 17-27 John 17: 1-11
Thank you all for coming together here in Mooroopna, to celebrate this Holy Mass and to renew your dedication to your work in the roles of housekeepers and secretaries. I thank you all for your generous work in these fields of service, which are an essential part of the mission of the Church, in every diocese.

In our first reading today, these words of St Paul form one of the most touching passages in the New Testament.  Paul was a tough man in many respects but he was also a very emotional one, and this comes out very clearly in this moving discourse, towards the end of his life.
In summary he tells the elders:
•    Since the time he came to the region, his life has been an open book for all to read.  He has nothing to hide
•    He has served the Lord faithfully with tears and some trials arising from the opposition from some of his fellow Jews.

His last advice to the leaders of Ephesus (and through them to all leaders in every church) is vigilance, selflessness, charity.   In all of this, Paul appeals to his own example: the discourse therefore draws a faithful portrait of the apostle himself. Paul concludes today’s passage by saying that he does not think that they will ever meet again in this world, but his conscience is clear as far as the efforts he made to share the Gospel with them.

Chapter 17 of the Gospel of John is the end of a long reflection of Jesus, begun in chapter 15, on his mission in the world. The early Christian communities preserved these reflections in order to be able to understand better the difficult moments that they were going through: with tribulations, abandonment, doubts, and persecution.

The long reflection ends with the prayer of Jesus for the communities. In it are expressed the sentiments and concerns which, according to the Evangelist, indwelled Jesus at that moment in which he was leaving this world and going toward the Father. With these sentiments and with this concern, Jesus now finds himself before his Father, interceding for us. Because of this, the Priestly Prayer is also known as the Testament of Jesus.

Many persons leave some message, in the moment when they know they are moving towards the end of life. People often keep the important words of a father and mother, especially when they are the last moments of life. To keep these words is a form of respect and of affection.

Our Gospel then takes us to this final part of Jesus discourse at The Last Supper. It consists of a long prayer, sometimes called the Priestly prayer of Jesus. But though Jesus’ prayer is positive, we hear an urgent, concerned tone. He is, after all, about to depart, leaving his disciples in a difficult world with a critical mission. He includes three petitions for the disciples in this prayer, and our reading is concerned with the first, when he prays, “Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us.” (v. 11).
In fact, our whole reading has to do with the interrelationship between Jesus, God and the disciples. Jesus was effectively praying that he might make God known to the world.  That was his deepest desire. He yearned to convince people that God, simply, was love.

In today’s world, that need is as urgent as ever.  Most people who seem to have not even the least interest in God, or who do not want to know God, have no idea that the God they choose to ignore is a God who loves them.  Within our present culture, God is not generally known as the God who loves passionately, consistently and unconditionally.

Jesus knew the problem.  He knew that the only real hope of leading people to discover the truth of his Father was to reveal the Father’s love by medium of his own love for them.  Sadly, people chose, also, to deaden themselves to the love that animated him.  He longed for them to recognise his love.  That is what he meant by asking that God “glorify the Son”: he wanted people to see his love, to believe it, to trust him, and to draw close to him in genuine intimacy.

In the process, Jesus’ prayer made it clear that the signs that he had worked, the dialogues and discussions in which he had become involved, and the discourses that he had given, were all done with the overriding purpose of making God known.  

This is the witness we bear in our work of service: of making it known that God loves everyone, without exception, and that we seek to serve in his name and in the name of Jesus. As Pope Benedict said “A Christian knows when it is time to speak of God and when it is better to say nothing and to let love alone speak. He – or she – knows that God is love and that God’s presence is felt at the very time when the only thing we need do, is to love.

Thank you, again. Thank you for your faith, for your being willing to give your time, your hands, your intellect to the tasks of service as housekeepers and secretaries, where God will use you, just as he uses my hands and words, those of a priest, in the action of this Mass.

 May God bless our work and sustain it always. May our simple kindness and charity to others always be to God's greater honour and glory. May it serve to keep alive in our society the rumour of God's love for all, a love which excludes no one and offers everyone the path to new life.