Homily: Mass of Thanksgiving

Mass of Thanksgiving
Sacred Heart Cathedral Bendigo
15th September, 2019

Exod 32:7-14; Ps 51:3-19; 1 Tim 1:12-17; Luke 15:1-32

Jesus invites us to think about salvation today. Lots of times, just like the people who lived in the time of Jesus, we only want to be saved when what we have been doing brings us into a difficult situation. When things are comfortable for us, we rarely want to be saved.

The Gospel story today speaks about ordinary human experiences that so many of us have. The younger son wants to have his inheritance right now so that he can have a good time in life. If his money had lasted, would he ever have returned home? Perhaps not! And we all remember the story and the obvious lessons it offers.

In fact, the Gospel parable is so filled with lessons today that we cannot even speak of all of them. The love that the father has when his son returns is one lesson. Another is the joy of giving a party for the lost child who has returned. Yet another is the reaction of the elder brother, who deeply resents this generosity on the part of his father.

We are invited to check out our own reactions today. How do we feel about accepting the person who has harmed us or who has misused our property or possessions? Are we people who can and do forgive others? Are we willing to be like Moses in the first reading and even argue with God so that our sisters and brothers can have life?

In St Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul is expressing his gratitude to Christ. In doing so, he speaks of Jesus as ʻour Lordʼ, thereby focusing attention in a special way on Jesus as the one through whom God exercises his power to save.

In a very special way, today, Paul’s letter is expressing much of that which I wish to say on this my final Mass before I retire, here in our beautiful Cathedral, and before we welcome the new Bishop of Sandhurst on the 16th October. What it means to know something by faith is explained by Paul and he offers a rich definition of the true goal of Christian teaching. Paul never tires of advising us to ʻlive in love‘, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. What stands out is Paul’s lifetime of intimacy with Christ through more than thirty years of committed service as an apostle and through deep prayer. It has been a life of faith, a life of love, and Paul knows that it is not his faith and his love that has carried him through the years. God graciously poured into Paul’s heart the very faith and love of Jesus himself: ‘it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ Jesus who lives in me’.
Coming amongst you in 2012 to take up the call to be your Bishop - sanctifier, teacher of the faith, and leader - I did so humbled by the confidence shown in me and confident, through the Holy Spirit, of a blessed outcome.

In a particular way, I accepted my responsibility to lead in worship and moderate the Liturgy of the Church; to teach and proclaim sound doctrine in union with the Holy Father and the universal College of Bishops, and to give leadership and governance to the Diocese, that responsibly husbands the resources of the Diocese to the benefit of the faithful and the assistance of Christ's poor. This has been my privilege and pleasure in all that this has entailed.  As my model, I take Christ Jesus himself who is the sanctifier, teacher and leader par excellence. For this reason, I chose for my Episcopal motto: IN CHRIST’S NAME, which has influenced my life and work.

Now, as I move on, St Paul’s expression of his gratitude to Christ “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, the source of my strength”, mirrors the thoughts, which have filled my mind over these past weeks, as I have reflected on my years as priest and Bishop.

However, as I celebrate the Eucharist with you today, I am conscious also, that some may be thinking more along the lines of Shakespeare’s famous line “parting is such sweet sorrow”!

However, maybe if we think about it, that is true for everything in life, for instance, when we relocate to a new job and have to leave family, friends, parishes and other people behind, or when someone dies and we are filled with grief and sadness. Yet, through all those circumstances ... the sweetness is that we have memories, wonderful memories, of what life has been with those people we have loved.

And so, today I want to assure all the priests and parishioners of the Diocese of Sandhurst that as I move gently into retirement, I will hold on to many beautiful memories, including those of the prayerful liturgies and celebrations in in this Cathedral, the welcoming priests and parishioners on parish visitations and Confirmations which provided me opportunities to meet so many. The blessing of many school buildings and meeting the students, their families and all the teachers at school and college Masses; at marriages, baptisms, as well as in the sad times; all will remain in my heart with much gratitude to all who walked with me as your Bishop.

Our Sandhurst community seems to come together at the Eucharist, because it is who we are. We are people of faith, hope and love who worship our God and here we serve one another and strive to provide His light to the world.

Finally, I wish to express my sincere and deep gratitude to everyone, for all the support and love that has been shared with me over these years as Bishop of Sandhurst. I will always carry you in a special place in my heart and I look forward to the occasions when I can be amongst you for events in the life of the Diocese.

Today’s readings are so wonderful and we can give thanks for such warm and loving teachings of our Lord. May His Holy Spirit draw us deep into these mysteries and form us into people who truly love and serve ‘In Christ’s Name’. May God bless you all and keep you always in his love.