03 Jun 2020

God is good indeed - Archbishop Patrick's installation homily

The Southern Cross  |  June 2020

God is good indeed

My dear sisters and brothers, I greet each one of you today. Had things been different, I would dearly have loved that as many of you as possible could have been here today.

I am sad that you cannot be here but am pleased that this virtual alternative gives you a chance to share in today’s installation ceremony in some small way. You can see us even if we cannot see you.

Just under one week remains of the great Easter season. But for many of us we may still be waiting to feel the joy of celebrating Christ’s resurrection. It is the greatest cornerstone of our faith, and yet this  year it is has been hard to find just where the new life, hope, triumph over death, and the glory of God is, in the midst of a global pandemic.

The world has been turned upside-down. The events of the first Easter were chaotic. The fickle crowds that welcomed Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem turned on him but a few days later with such violence that he ended up dead on a cross.

The chaos of the disciples was everywhere. The confusion of the stories unfolding with some saying he was alive and that he would see them in Galilee, other seeing this as preposterous, abounded. Chaos, confusion.

It almost seems that God needs a bit of chaos to get going, maybe that is why God likes us humans so very much. It was the Spirit that breathed over the tohuwabobu. Yesterday we celebrated the great feast of the Ascension, a feast, which in a notable way, celebrates loss, distance and isolation, as well as great hope. All things with which, over the last two months or so, we have become all too familiar.

So Jesus leaves, ascends to the right hand of the Father; the Apostles experience loss and a feel isolated. They are plunged into an unfamiliar time. This in-between time seems interminable. The liminal becomes the normative; the waiting becomes the real.

And yet they were harbouring in their generous hearts a promise. A promise that the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit would come upon them. They could hear the slightly enigmatic words two messengers left behind after his ascension whispering in their hearts, ‘Jesus will come back’ and the promise of Jesus himself, ‘know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’.

The liminal space gave time for thinking, anticipating and waiting upon the Lord. The disciples didn’t have to wait, long, but they had to wait.

Next Sunday we celebrate the great feast of the Church, Pentecost. The day we see God’s utter faithfulness made manifest. The Spirit was promised; the Spirit appears; on that day the gathered disciples and Mary were overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Next Sunday we pray what is known as the Golden Sequence, the Veni Sancte Spiritus.

It really is a treasure and deserves to be better known and prayed. Some of its lines show what the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit does for us: Come, Thou Father of the poor, Come with treasures which endure, Come, Thou Light of all that live. Thou in toil art comfort sweet, Pleasant coolness in the heat, Solace in the midst of woe. Heal our wounds; our strength renew; On our dryness pour Thy dew; Wash the stains of guilt away. Bend the stubborn heart and will; Melt the frozen, warm the chill; Guide the steps that go astray.

Today we celebrate Mary under the title of Help of Christians. On the front of the small memorial card for today I have chosen an image of the Annunciation which comes from St Michael & John’s Cathedral, Bathurst.

I love the slightly raised finger of Gabriel just about to tap, or having tapped, Mary on the shoulder, and the Holy Spirit overshadowing her.

Mary and the early Church were both overshadowed by the Spirit. Each day the Holy Spirit overshadows us. As someone said in an email to me, as far as we know the Holy Spirit does not practice social distancing. The Spirit continues to overshadow us all.

I feel as if my life has been on a different trajectory since December last year when the bushfires started to ravage Eastern Gippsland and then witnessing their lasting impact first hand through February and March. I shall not forget my visits to Buchan and Mallacoota.

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