In recent days I have written a pastoral letter as bishops tend to do from time to time; a letter to the entire community of the Archdiocese, as we move towards the end what I have called in the letter, the year of grace and faith. We have been journeying since Pentecost last year on a journey that will take us to the end of November, so we are in these last weeks; and it’s really with an eye to the end of this year of grace and faith and the journey that it’s been, that I have written this letter. It’s too long for me to read our here for you today but I commend it to you; it’s not bad. So it will be widely available and I can commend the whole letter to your reading, not just skim reading, but reading with the eyes and the ears of the heart; that deeper reading that we call spiritual.
But I’ll read the letter in part: In the Gospel of John, we are told that after the death of Jesus, the apostles are locked in an upper room because they are afraid of the Jews. But then, out of the blue, the risen Jesus appears to, then breathes into them the Holy Spirit, and the locked doors are suddenly blasted open. The apostles then set forth fearlessly on the mission that will lead them to death, but also lead them beyond death. Now we don’t open the doors for ourselves; because we can’t. It’s God, in Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit; it’s He who opens the doors. That’s what it means to speak of grace. It’s our task to walk through doors that are already open; opened by God. But which doors? That’s the question. In scripture, we’re told that God opens to us the door of faith, and the door of the world. And these are the doors through which we are called to walk, all of us, together. That’s what new evangelisation requires of us now. Just as it was with the first evangelisation required, when the apostles left the upper room, to walk the highways of the world. In the Acts of the Apostles, Barnabas and Paul make a report when they return to Antioch, their mission base after the first ever Christian mission outside Palestine. They tell of how God had opened a door of faith to the gentiles; the non-Jews. The gentiles had encountered not just the mission team (Barnabas and Paul); they’d encountered Christ crucified and risen. Once they had encountered Jesus, the gentiles had decided to entrust their whole life to Him, which is what faith means. They recognised in Jesus the doorway into life; the fullness of life, and they were prepared to say “yes” to Him, to walk through that doorway now open. Driving around Brisbane I am totally dependent, I must confess upon my GPS. Now sometimes the lady in the GPS says some very strange things that I don’t understand, and I don’t always like. But in the end, I have no real choice. I have to do what she says, or else end up in a serious mess, because Brisbane, to the uninitiated, can be a labyrinth. Now, it’s a bit like that with Jesus. Sometimes I hear from Him, things which I don’t like, and which are decidedly strange, for instance, consider what we heard in the gospel this morning. When you give a lunch or dinner, don’t invite friends or brothers or relations or rich neighbours, for fear that they might repay your courtesy by inviting you in return. No, when you have a party, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Why? Because they can’t repay you. Now this is absurd, is it not? Surely you would invite people so that they would pay you back. They would owe you one. Jesus says “no”, he puts a bomb under that logic, which is always the logic of paganism. I give something to you so that you give something to me. I give something to you, God, so that you give something to me. In other words, the world where I am at the centre. That kind of world, Jesus puts a bomb under. These are strange words we have heard, and sometimes we’re so familiar with them we forget how strange they are. But listen again with new ears. And you will hear what is strange, but, we choose to put our faith in the voice that we hear, the words that come from the lips of Christ, and we choose to do what we hear, whether we understand or like it. We do what He says, because in Jesus, God has provided for us and for the whole world the cosmic GPS. Ignore what you hear from Him at your own peril. You will end up in a serious mess. Once we have walked through the door of faith, put our trust in Him, then the door of the world beckons. We’re not to walk in some churchy little corner; Christ beckons us to walk through the door of the world as He himself has done. Go out to all the world and tell the good news, that’s what He says; beckoning to us. These days, we can’t just sit back and wait for others to walk through the door of the church. One fact is that many catholic people have never really walked through the door of the church. They are baptised pagans, which doesn’t mean bad people, but baptised pagans. Another fact is that many Catholics no longer walk through the door of the church. They’ve chosen other doors; not all of which lead to life, let alone eternal life. Now we could just sit back and lament such facts, refusing to walk through the door of the world and preferring to stay in some self- protective, inward-looking church, that would not be the church at all, or at least not the church of Jesus. His church is a church which not only has a mission, His church is a church that is a mission; that’s what we are! That’s why we’re here. Mission is why Jesus has called the church into being, and why He saves the Church [His Body] from moment to moment. The question, therefore is this; The Catholics who have never come, or gone elsewhere, as well as the host of those who have had no contact of any kind with the church; If they won’t come to us, then how might we go to them? They have a right to hear the good news of Jesus, which means that we have a duty to offer it to them. But how might that happen? The question is a challenge to our imagination and our courage. It challenges us to a kind of Copernican revolution, which allows us to see that just as the sun does not revolve around the earth, so to, the world does not revolve around the church. If the world will not come to the church, then the church has to go to the world; this is what the spirit is saying to us now.
Brothers and sisters, in these last weeks of the year of grace and faith between now and the end of November, I’ll be moving around the diocese with even more energy than usual speaking of the call to a new evangelisation. That’s what I’m talking about. A new outreach. A new surge of gospel energy in Brisbane and beyond. So I urge all of you to join with me in this process by attending one of the sessions or at least by reading the letter, part of which I offered this morning. So I urge you to be part of the great journey which began at Pentecost last year; the journey of grace and faith to an end. And it will also mark the start of another journey. On to the highways of the world; the journey that Christians have always called ‘mission’. This is the journey that will lead us in words that we have heard this morning, will lead us to Mount Zion, the city of the Living God. The heavenly Jerusalem where the millions of angels have gathered for the festival in the whole church in which everyone is a firstborn child and a citizen of heaven. Amen.
Most Rev Mark Coleridge
Archbishop of Brisbane
September 1, 2013