This homily was delivered by the Moderator, Fr Paul Chandler, on the occasion of a Solemn High Mass in the Extraordinary Form for the Third Sunday after Pentecost, June 14th, 2015
Today’s Solemn Mass and Vespers is the third of three events that mark the formal establishment of the Brisbane Oratory in Formation. Each of the three events have had their own character and purpose.
Common to each though has been what an abiding sense of wonder at God’s benevolent grace, and our gratitude for His blessing.
Another common thread has been the gathering of people: family, friends and benefactors of the Oratory.
I invite you at this Mass to join me in humble wonder and deep reverence before God, who has chosen us six men to form this first Oratory community in Australia; and selected Brisbane as the place where the joyful and practical spirit of St Philip would be planted.
Every celebration of the Mass, from the most simple to the most sublime, takes us into the presence of God, who is awesome, majestic, powerful, and resplendent in holiness.
The form we celebrate today does this superbly. In complementarity to the Ordinary Form, this solemn traditional Mass asks us not to focus upon our reasoning and our understanding, though that is not abandoned completely. Rather it coaxes us, through our senses, to surrender to beauty, and in doing so to surrender to God, who is Himself infinite beauty.
We have heard many times, and we experience it daily, that there is a clash, even a silent warfare, going on, both within ourselves and in the world, between the forces of good and evil; between the principalities and powers and the Spirit of Christ, who has conquered sin and death, as St Paul tells us.
We are reminded of that again today in the scripture readings of this Third Sunday after Pentecost.
In most evocative imagery, St Peter teaches us in the Epistle that our “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, goes about seeking whom he may devour.”
This is in stark contrast to Christ himself to whom the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep can be compared. Likewise, the woman seeking one coin when she has nine others, also reveals the heart of Christ, the Sacred Heart.
So we are presented with two absolutely opposite and indeed opposing modes of operating. The Devil seeks to destroy. Christ seeks to find and restore. Both have the human person as the object of their actions. But the Devil’s actions bring unhappiness and destruction. Christ’s actions bring rejoicing, both in heaven and in the human heart and our “eternal glory”, to quote St Peter again.
But notice what St Peter adds: “after you have suffered a little.” That does not surprise us. For who among us does not experience the devouring intentions of the Devil: in our temptations and in our attractions to illicit pleasures? Lest we be overwhelmed by the thought and prospect and reality of the insistent attacks of the Devil and his fallen angels, Christ has not only promised us a share in his victory but given us the means to gain our part. He has given us the Mass through which we participate, obtain our share, in his Paschal and saving mystery of death, resurrection and ascension.
Christ has sought us and found us. By means of holy Baptism he has admitted us to his Church and whenever we have sinned he has sought us and found us in the Sacrament of Penance. God’s infinite love and mercy is always available to us.
However, in the Holy Eucharist, at Mass, Christ, in a most clear way, finds us and restores us to the safety of the sheepfold. He brings us to the haven of the treasury of all graces. He establishes us in a fortified city, the heavenly Jerusalem, which we experience in part now, and he stirs up in us the desire for our permanent place at the heavenly liturgy.
The Mass is the doorway through which we enter into an experience on earth of all the utter beauty and joy of heaven. There may not be a smile on our face at Mass but Christ places within our hearts and souls the peace and joy that comes from him, the peace and joy that are the hallmarks of heaven.
We come to Mass wounded and scarred from the attacks of the devouring lion, the Devil. That is why, I think, the image from Pope Francis of the church as a field hospital has captured attention. In that image the Holy Father has described well the experience of so many Catholics, as well as the teaching of the Church. We come to Holy Mass, not because we are perfect but because we are so acutely aware of our sins, our wounds, our faults and our failings. We come as to the “physician who will save our life” as St Thomas Aquinas says.
It is my experience that many Catholics feel that their sphere of influence is very limited; that they can be of little use in the new evangelisation. Perhaps the question that often comes to our mind is: “What difference do I make on this society of ours that seems to be sliding, and at times rushing, towards a neopaganism and a virulent atheism?”
To that I say do not under-estimate the power and effect of your regular attendance at Mass; and this for two reasons. The witness value of your going to Mass is not wasted. Your neighbours, even your family members, will be affected by your fidelity in coming along to Mass.
But the even greater effect is your participation in effective sacrifice of the Mass, that is, to join ourselves with the offering made by the priest at the altar; that offering of the perfect sacrifice of Christ himself. I say to you exercise your baptismal priesthood and offer along with the ordained priest the perfect sacrifice for the good of all those you want to pray for and for the good of the world.
I invite you too at this Mass to pray for the Oratory, its current and future members, for those who are and will be closely associated with us, for our apostolates and for our future. May God who has begun this good work bring it to fulfilment. St Philip Neri, pray for us.