Homily: Housekeepers and Secretaries Mass St Brendan’s Parish, Shepparton

Feast of St Mathias
Housekeepers and Secretaries Mass
St Brendan’s Parish, Shepparton

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26 and John 15:9-17

Today, we gather to give thanks to God for the grace of making it through yet another year in the front line! Being a housekeeper or a secretary can be pretty tough at times. The chances are that you have done a lot of things that people would be surprised to find out. You have probably taken the blame when the boss double-booked himself without telling you; when he forgot to mention a deceased person’s name at Mass; or when he was absent in order to avoid a difficult customer. In your absence, you may have been blamed for something that he had done: for example “The secretary put a wrong time in my diary; she did not put that request in the bulletin etc…” or: the housekeeper forgot we were having four guests and not just three”. How do I know these scenarios? Perhaps over the years I may have been guilty as charged, of some of the above.

All humour aside, I want to say thank you for your role in making the Church, the local community, a positive experience for others. Some of you may be the first port of call for your parishioners. You help facilitate the links in your parish. You are the welcome interface between the people and the pastoral team. In your own way, you and your service are part of the mission of the Church in supporting, empowering and caring for one another and especially those in need.

Today we celebrate the feast of St Matthias who took over with the other Eleven, the responsibility of an Apostle, which was to hand on, with accuracy and in its entirety, the message of Jesus’ life, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection as the Incarnate Son of God. This is what we now call ‘Tradition’ with a capital ‘T’. There were, of course, later traditions which became part of the life of the Church which did not have the status of Apostolic Tradition.

Perhaps the very heart of that Tradition is expressed in the Gospel reading. It is part of the long discourse at the Last Supper which is recorded for us in St John. It begins with Jesus saying: “As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love.” The word for ‘love’ throughout the passage in the original Greek is agape. This is a very special kind of love. It is not a grasping, clinging love. On the contrary, it is an outreaching love, unconditionally wanting the wellbeing of the other. This is the love which the Father extends to Jesus and it is the love that Jesus extends to us.

And how are we to stay in that love? We do it by keeping the commandments of Jesus, just as Jesus himself remains in his Father’s love by keeping his Father’s commandments. And what are these commandments? They are not the Commandments of the Old Testament; in fact, there is only one which is all-embracing. “This is my commandment: - love one another as I have agape-loved you.” The whole of the Gospel, the whole of the teaching of Jesus is there. If that was all we had of the Gospel, it would be enough.

And Jesus goes further: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” And who are his friends? “You are my friends, if you do what I command you,” that is, all those who unconditionally love their brothers and sisters. And if that is the measure of Jesus’ love for us, it is also to be the measure of our love for others. If we all kept this commandment, our world would be transformed! We would become a world of people who spent their lives caring for each other’s needs.

To have heard that message is a huge privilege but also a huge responsibility, because it is a message that the whole world needs to hear. As Jesus put it himself: “By this will all know that you are my followers, that you have love for one another.” This is to be the distinctive mark of our communities. Would it describe mine?

This is the message that St Matthias and his fellow Apostles inherited and which they passed on. It is for us to spread the same message and it is done most effectively not by words but by the witness of our interacting life together. For each one of us is called to be a faithful witness to the teachings and the deeds of Jesus Christ.

Jesus wants to lead us to the fullness of life. He wants us to listen to his voice. He waits for our time, to enter the space of our life which is his. Time with Jesus is never wasted, whether in listening to his word and mulling over it, or just being with him in peaceful silence. Prayer is the comforting relationship of a sheep to a shepherd, our relaxing into the mystery of being loved by God. If my prayer and my Christian life are dull and lifeless, is it because I do not believe all that Jesus has told me about his love for me? We might do well to reflect on these words from the Gospel, as we take time out of our busy lives and the many challenges we face from time to time, that might test our love for one another!

But today also gives me a welcome opportunity to express my gratitude for all that you do and to acknowledge the spirit of Christian service as housekeepers and secretaries, which you seek to carry out in humility, patience and love. After all that is said and done, the quality of our discipleship must and does shine through. As Christians, we must be able to imbue God’s abundant love and all-embracing presence in our daily lives.

Let us pray also, that as a community of disciples, we learn to be humble servants of one another. May the example of Christ who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for others, inspire us to be true servants of one another, and let us seek to express the love of Christ in our every word and attitude.