One of the great treasures of the Archdiocese of Brisbane is this precinct, standing as it does right at the heart of the Central Business District, the capital. Thank goodness Archbishop Duhig did not build the Holy Name Cathedral. He’s probably turning in his tomb as he hears his successor say this. Yet if he had built we would not have this treasure which is the precinct. It stands surrounded by the towers of business and finance and the law all the business of this world. Of course this is important business too, but here, quietly and unmistakably, sits a different precinct that looks to a greater world.
This space then, which is our workspace and worship space, is seriously countercultural, and more so than you think if you listen to what we have just heard from the letter to the Hebrews. You might say that you have come to the cathedral precinct; you have come to an office; you have come to a bureaucracy, and of course the Catholic Church is a very big operation sustained by very large and expensive bureaucracy; so it is all true you have come to that but the mystery is far deeper and grander because in the words of the letter to the Hebrews: “What you have come to is nothing known to the senses, not a blazing fire”… “we have none of them here “… or “gloom turning to total darkness…”. We don’t want more gloom! There is also “… or a stall or trumpeting… ” and so on. So what you have come to is Mount Zion albeit it doesn’t look like Mount Zion – that’s over in Jerusalem, but Mount Zion is wherever the faithful gather to worship the living God in space which belongs to him.
So this cathedral and its precinct don’t belong to us. They are the place where God has chosen to make not just an office but a home. It is a space where God pitches his tent; the “city of the Living God” and here it is within this precinct according to what we hear from Scripture. It is a place where millions of angels have gathered for the festivals – not just us, although we’re in our hundreds in this cathedral, but around us in this precinct gather millions of angels and the whole Church. it is not just some other Church but mystically and symbolically the whole Church gathers at the heart of the CBD. The Church in heaven and the Church on earth. There is also Agatha, the Virgin Martyr of Catania, Sicily whose feast we celebrate today and who we should never forget down through the millennia as the little girl who died for Christ. She too gathers in the precinct with all the saints and the millions of angels. And in this space, if you have eyes to see and ears to hear, then you will see that you are in fact the first-born daughter or son, not just another person in an office and certainly not just another bureaucrat. You come to this place as a first-born daughter and son of the firstborn, and a citizen not just of Brisbane but a citizen of heaven.
So here we are on a mountain that doesn’t seem to be a mountain, but a mountain which is Mount Zion because it is the city, the home of the Living God. To this space – this holy place – we cannot come alone and that’s the power and importance of us gathering together here in our hundreds today. You notice when Jesus sends out the disciples in the Gospel of Mark that we have just heard He sends them out in pairs. The mission that has its roots in Christ at least can never be done on your own. It can only be done with an other or others. Now we all live in and work in office space and I’m very conscious that my side of the precinct over there can be seen as a thousand miles away from the other side of the precinct, even though it’s only a stone’s throw away. We can be in the same space but we can be in hermetically sealed private spaces. Well an end to that kind of silo approach and fragmentation is what this morning is all about. We can only come to Mount Zion if we come together. So the importance of what we do this morning is that it reaches beyond all the barriers that might keep us apart and gives us that true and strong sense that what we do we do together in this space where all are first-born sons and daughters.
Many of you belong to what is rather grandly called the Curia in Roman Catholic Church speak. We have the Curia in Rome, the Vatican, and we also have the Curia here in Brisbane – that team of people that gathers around the bishop or in the case of Rome, the Pope. Now the danger of this is that it can make this precinct seem like a space in which a court gathers because in the end that’s what Curia means. Pope Francis time and again has said in Rome of the Vatican and to the Curia that “this is not a court”. And what he also means by that is “I am not a king”. Well how much truer is it of the Archbishop of Brisbane? I don’t have to say I am not a king but I might have to say this is not a court. This is a community of brothers and sisters so I am here as Mark your brother, not Mark your boss let alone Mark your king.
St Agatha died a martyr’s death – and it was shocking – not all of us will be called to share her fate – none of us perhaps. Yet the word martyr means witness and all of us without exception – I don’t care who you are or where you are on the spiritual journey – all of us are called to witness to the truth the Gospel in some way. No matter how mundane your work may seem; how much it may seem work of the Central Business District; how much of this world it may appear to be – everyone who is called into this precinct – this sacred space – every one of us in the cathedral now is called to witness to the truth of the Gospel. And what is that truth at the heart of all that we are and do?
The truth is this: that there is death but there is a life that’s bigger than death. There is sorrow all around us but there is a joy that’s bigger than all the sorrow. There is sin within us and all around us but there is a mercy that overwhelms every sin. This is the truth that this space proclaims at the heart of Brisbane and this is the truth that we each of us like Agnes and Agatha are called to witness to. Amen.
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
February 5, 2015