Archbishop Mark Coleridge’s homily from the 2015 Multicultural Mass.
We hear this afternoon of the letter from St James; now St James was the leader of the Church in Jerusalem, which was at the time the mother church. He says to us that we have been made the children of God by the message of the truth. So the question then is what is this message of the truth which has such power? It is power enough to make us no longer strangers to God but children of God and therefore no longer strangers to each other but brothers and sisters. James himself gives us a clue when he says at the very end of what we have heard. Pure unspoilt religion, and there is religion which is impure and spoilt, but pure unspoilt religion in the eyes of God is coming to the help of orphans and windows.
In the bible orphans and widows are true stars and the bible makes a great fuss about them because at this time, in the world that gave us the bible, if you were an orphan and a window you were seriously vulnerable. There was no social welfare. Therefore the bible makes a fuss about orphans and widows because they tell the truth of human vulnerability. I stand here and look at this great gathering in the Cathedral and I see a gathering of widows and orphans; all of us and starting with me – because we are all very vulnerable. To the extent that I deny or run away from my vulnerability I line up with the scribes and Pharisees who say they are strong and they can do it all themselves. What fools! What hypocrites, says Jesus.
So the first part of this message of truth which makes us children of God is the truth of our vulnerability; we are much more vulnerable than usually meets the eye. Yet there is a second part of this truth, and it is that the real God comes to meet us precisely at the point where we are most vulnerable; precisely at the point where we are week and wounded. At that point God embraces us and turns our weakness into strength and our wound into a fountain. This is the God who has made himself vulnerable, weak and wounded so that we might be healed and strong. So there is the message of the truth; we are deeply and permanently vulnerable but we are infinitely embraced by a God who makes himself vulnerable with us. This is the God who takes flesh. He becomes one of us, a god with mud on the boots.
Just as each human being is vulnerable but embraced by God, each human culture has about it its own power and beauty, its own truth. God embraces every human culture just as God embraces every human weakness. Here today what we celebrate is the power and the beauty and the truth of every culture represented in this cathedral and every culture known to the earth. God takes flesh in every one of them. We listen to their songs; we hear their voices; we see their faces and in the end what we hear is the song of God; we hear the voice of God in every human culture. Christ breaks down all the barriers and makes of all our many voices one voice. All our different hearts with their different accents; he makes one heart. That is what God does in Jesus.
We stand at a moment in the church when we are crossing a great historic threshold, and the threshold is this; that the face of the Bride of Christ is changing around the world and by the day. As the centre of gravity in the Catholic Church around the world moves to places like Africa, Asia and Latin America, we see all of them represented in the cathedral here this afternoon. What you see in the world you see in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. A great deal of the true spiritual and human energy of this diocese is to be found in the communities that are represented in the Cathedral today and that is why this Mass matters.
In the past these so-called ethnic communities, I loathe the term, but in the past the communities represented in the cathedral were treated as exotic satellites. Well let me be clear that you are no longer satellites. You are right at the heart of what the church is and does in this part of the world. That is why I as Archbishop am keen to do whatever I can to bring the energy of your communities right to the centre of the stage in the Archdiocese of Brisbane and not be left on the margin.
In many ways the Anglo-Celtic moment, of which I myself am a product, is passing if it has not passed already. The future of the church in this country, in this archdiocese and indeed right around the world, lies in other parts of the world from which my forebears came. It is no accident that we have an Argentinian Pope and all I can say is stay tuned for more. I’m not sure where we’re going but I know we are going somewhere different and that God is leading us into that future. Uncertain it may be but in many ways exciting and exhilarating as well.
So here today we look back on the journey that has lead you and your communities to this country and we praise God. We praise God too for the indigenous cultures of this land and I thank David Miller for his welcome to country. Yet to the many cultures that have come here and have put down roots in this soil, for that too I praise God here today. My praise becomes a prayer that these cultures will all become the single culture of God in this land and that all our many voices will become one voice without losing any of their difference; all our hearts will become one heart without losing any of their differences. So that from the church in the future as in the past, but with different accents and songs, there will rise the great chorus of praise; who of all the peoples of the earth makes a single people who understand that pure, unspoilt religion is living that message of the truth that draws us to this moment today. Amen.