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Homily of the Archbishop on the occasion of the new library
Redemptoris Mater Seminary, Perth
Before I speak on the Word that we have just listened to, both Fr Michael and Toto spoke of the origins of the Neo Catechumenal way here in Perth, and spoke about the development of this seminary. From my point of view the coming of Toto and Rita and the opening of the Seminary was a huge act of providence, act of God, for this Archdiocese, and I will tell you why. It is connected with the Gospel (Jn 1: 1-21). We hear St John speaking as an old man; it is almost a reflection of his own experience of who Jesus was, of who Jesus is because he is risen. He goes way back to the word that came from God and that word was spoken from all eternity and it was light. It was light in darkness. The darkness sought to overcome it, but couldn't and he goes on with John the Baptist, then the coming of the Word made flesh, part of our human race and how he had Moses. Moses, the law and that was a great grace. But God has now given us Jesus Himself an even greater grace, and we must be thankful because Jesus is the light, the light of the world.
I often try to work out what is going on in the world, it’s dangerous if you do that, you might come up with the wrong conclusions. But it seems to me that since the beginning of my priesthood, which was 52 years ago, there have been forces of opposition against the Church, and they are growing, and some are very dangerous, and some have already taken a lot of people from us, giving them false promises of secular happiness, and happiness without God, and at the same time we have seen drugs, we've seen how suicides and other things which should give us a hint that perhaps the secular lifestyle isn't what it’s meant to be, what it’s claimed to be.
Many of us who have come from a Catholic background where we were peaceful, where we had years of tradition. My tradition, although it’s been Australian since 1835, was Irish, my mother’s side was not. My mother’s side was German, and German Protestant. The Irish culture was the one in which I grew up, here in Australia.
Ireland was Catholic, Ireland was happily Catholic, and it wasn't questioned, and we knew our faith and we practiced our faith and all was quite Catholic. Ireland today is going through a huge crisis. Australia too is under forces that would undermine our faith. We can no longer take it for granted that our faith will go from one generation to the other, to the other, to the other. We have to beware of the enemies of the Church, the enemies of Christ, even if they don't describe themselves in such terms and not treat them lightly. We must be also aware that if the transmission of faith by families is not as easy as it used to be, then the duty of the Church is to go back into the world, not retreat into a ghetto. Go back into the world and hold up the light in darkness. Christ is the light in darkness.
And I have found that the Neo Catechumenate, which helping people understand the importance of baptism and how it is a sharing in the Risen Lord, and helping those already baptised to unfold the glories of their baptism, and others who are not baptised also go through the same experience over many years. To recapture what happened in the early Church when baptism was given. When people saw that it meant a change of life, a change of vision, a change of understanding, a complete change of self awareness, in awareness of how God is so close to us. So we are reliving that today. And if we should ever be too concerned about the enemies of the Church, in this sense, if we hold up the light of Christ, the darkness will be resplendent, it might take some time. If we are complacent and think that everything is okay and will be okay then we will not be proclaiming Christ as the light of the world, we will be unaware of the darkness and therefore unaware of my duty to raise Christ in the world.
The Neo-Catechumenate does that, it knocks on doors, it goes around letter-boxing. It seeks to draw those who are far from Christ into the communities, so that their faith can be nourished. They are missionary in a modern sense, and I have sensed that, I said we need something like this in this diocese, and they came. They have their critics, something new is always criticised, so we should not take those criticisms too seriously. But see the good and the purpose and the vision, because the vision is astounding.
I would like to thank all those here this afternoon who have contributed to the building of this library, materially or with their volunteer efforts or financially. All these things have produced a wonderful work, a building, an act of providence touching the hearts of people to be generous. So if you have contributed in any way whatsoever, know that your gifts are like the five loaves and the two fish that Jesus received from the little boy. He multiplied them so that they could feed five thousand. And your gifts are going to be multiplied through the work here in this library and in the seminary, feeding five thousand people and probably many more. So in God's name I thank you and I think we receive that message load and clear from the Gospel today that Jesus is the light of the world there is much darkness, so let us bring that light out into the open and dispel that darkness.
Archbishop Barry James Hickey, DD
Pastoral Administrator, Perth
March 4, 2012
Texts used for the Liturgy of Blessing the Library: Isaiah 55:1-13; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-3; John 1:1-18.