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Homily from Solemn Dedication of Stella Maris Church, Maroochydore

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This nameless woman, from Samaria, we’re told she comes to the well. Now there could be nothing more ordinary than a well. In that part of the world, at that time, every town and every village had a well. There was nothing unusual about it. Everyone, or at least all the women who did the work, came to the well. So there was nothing exceptional about the well. Nor about this Samaritan woman without a name coming to draw water. It could hardly be more ordinary.

A church! Well every town and every village has at least one, doesn’t it? It’s not true to say that everyone comes but a lot of people come, not just for the dedication; and a lot of them happen to be women. But it’s just another church! It’s not St Peter’s in Rome, is it? In some sense it’s just another building. What could be more ordinary? It’s just another church; just another building. And yet at the well something absolutely extraordinary bursts from that which is so ordinary. It’s because at the well the woman meets Jesus and that makes all the difference. It’s not so much the well, but the well that He is – the bottomless well of the divine mercy. That’s the well from which she draws when she comes to the town’s well – the bottomless abyss of the Mercy of God. In the power of that Mercy, of which this candle speaks, she discovers who Jesus is. He looked to be just another troublesome Jewish traveller, and that’s how she relates to him first up. ‘You a Jew, talking to me a Samaritan!’ ‘You, a man, talking to me, a woman!’ ‘What’s up with you?’ But once the Mercy breaks into her life, and she has had a troubled life; a life of looking for the right thing in the wrong place, she has tried marriage 5 times. She’s tenacious, resilient, but she hasn’t found what she is looking for. So she is you and me; we are gathered here tonight as a bunch of Samaritan women. We may not have 5 marriages but you take the point. It’s only when she meets Jesus at the well that she begins to find what she’s been looking for through her troubled life without finding it. It’s the mercy that unlocks the door for her. She eventually sees that this is not some troublesome Jewish traveller, a man who should not be talking to woman, but this is ‘God with Us’. The extraordinary bursts free from the heart of the ordinary and then she discovers who she really is – not the sinful Samaritan woman to turn your back upon and shun. She discovers who Jesus is and in that moment she discovers who she really is. Finally she comes to that moment of truth and then she’s able to worship, as Jesus has said, ‘in spirit and in truth.’ And this is true of all of us Samaritan women! It’s only when we encounter the infinite mercy that is in Him that we discover who Jesus really is; who we really are and we can worship in spirit and in truth as in the depth of our being, even without being able to recognise it, we want to do. She then rushes off in mission, the mercy gives birth to mission. She runs off and tells anyone else she can find that she has met the one who has told her everything that she has ever done. She has met the one who has unlocked the door of mercy and who has shown her the truth of who she is.

This dedication of the church tonight is part of a religious ritual; it has its beauty and power as you shall see. But it is not just another ceremony. We have had a lot of ceremonies in these Easter days, but in dedicating this church we say it is not just another building. We say this is Holy ground. It is the work of human hands, human effort, human money; but tonight is something that God does in making this building a Holy place on Holy Ground. Why? Because here we Samaritan women, and any of the other Samaritan women out there who care to come, will meet Jesus. And He will do for you, and for anyone who comes, what he did for the Samaritan woman. He will reveal the truth of who He is and he will reveal the truth of who you and I are, and therefore what we can become. In other words we say that this church is a bottomless well of an infinite mercy and what could be more extraordinary than that. So again here tonight, the extraordinary bursts free of all that is most ordinary. Here the risen Christ is met and here real hope is born. It’s not cosmetic hope that vanishes with the dawn but the real deep and lasting hope without which the human heart shrivels. How strangely right that we do all this on ANZAC Day. At first I thought it was a quirky choice for a dedication, and yet the sacrifice that is the very core of what we celebrate on ANZAC Day is also the very core of what we celebrate here this evening. This place will become Calvary where the sacrifice of Christ is celebrated as not just once upon a time but as here and now in Maroochydore. The sacrifice will become the feast, the altar will become the table, and we feast upon the one who is sacrificed; His body, His blood – just as Christ became for the Samaritan woman – a feast that never ended for her and so it is for us. So on this day of remembrance we too consecrate this altar to be the altar of sacrifice and the table of the feast. Here we will say ‘do this in memory of me’, lest you forget, and we will remember with such depth and such power that what we celebrate becomes present. Jesus is here and now to be encountered in the sacrifice and in the feast.

On behalf of the entire Archdiocese and the church beyond, I congratulate everyone who has been working with God to create this Holy ground; to dig this well. First and foremost I congratulate Fr Joe Duffy, who has been parish priest here for a very long time and one of the most remarkable and gifted pastors of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Without Joe’s vision, his pastoral sense, his energy – even in his seventies – and with all the gifts that Joe brings to the priestly ministry this would not have happened. So here tonight I pay a very special tribute to Joe Duffy who is a very, very special priest. Thank you very much Joe.

But also to the people of St Vincent’s Health Care, this is not a church in isolation. The well, as it were, exists in the middle of a whole village that has been created, and again I pay tribute to the great vision of not only health and aged care but the vision of the church that goes hand in hand with that. So the combination of a formidable organisation like St Vincent’s Health Care, who do such magnificent work in caring for the vulnerable, the sick and the frail, has come together with Joe Duffy, Fr Marty Larsen and all of those who have worked on the project, without which this could not have happened. This is a new form of collaboration, so it is saying something to the rest of the church as we move into a future where nothing can be quite as it has been in the past. Yet really this is the work of an entire community and how right it is that we gather in such numbers tonight. I congratulate all of you, whoever you are, that are part of this parish. You have been absolutely part of the journey and without you this building could not stand and it could not become the power that it has become and will become more and more as we move into the future.

This church bears the beautiful name of Stella Maris – Star of the Sea. So our thoughts turn to the Mother of Christ, who broods over this church and this community. She again was just an ordinary young Jewish woman but she was touched in the most extraordinary way and she became the living well that gave birth to the living water that is her son. So my prayer and the prayer of the whole church here tonight is that she, who is light of every ocean and mistress of the deep, will never fail to guide this community – this living temple – on the journey into the future; that she herself, bearing her son, will be the light that dispels every darkness. Star of the sea – Stella Maris. Amen.

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