[Archbishop Timothy Costelloe]
Good morning everybody it is great to be here once again and to have this chance to be with you all and thanks to Bishop Sproxton for those words of introduction.
Those who know me at all might recognise that my voice is a little bit husky this morning, like probably lots of you and your families. I’m battling a little bit with the I won’t call it the man flu, but whatever it is going around I seemed to have picked it up so if I sound a bit croaky I hope you will forgive me that’s why the water is handy there I can grab it if I need it.
Stating the obvious I guess if I say we that we are all here for the LifeLink launch today for Catholic schools. I don’t think anyone is wondering why we are here so that’s the reason why we have gathered here this morning and it’s the reason why Bishop Don and I want to speak to you about our LifeLink agencies and the work they do they do in the Church here in Perth particularly but spread right across WA.
One of the reasons for getting together here this morning is for us to encourage you to become real leaders, I am sure you are already but to kind of focus again on this challenge of being real leaders in your own schools, so that you can be the ones who actually spearhead some effort in your local community to raise some of the money we need to keep our LifeLink agencies going.
Many of you will all know a lot about those agencies already and what they do and how many people that they reach out to, it’s really important work, it’s really hands on work, it’s really practical work and we need our students in our schools to support us so that we can keep that good work going.
But this morning also gives me an opportunity just to spend some time with you, to share some of my thoughts and dreams with you and in a sense to give you a chance to share with me and with Bishop Don, some of your thoughts and dreams, some of your questions, some of your hopes maybe for the Church. Some of you have heard me speak before so you will have heard me say this before.
But I want to say it again to you all because it is the most basic thing I know about the Church and it won’t be a surprise to you that I as the Archbishop am a bit keen from time to time in talking about the Church, probably more keen than some of you are to always hear me going on and on about the Church but I think it’s pretty important, it’s what I wanted to speak to you about this morning. Because when you stop and think about it, simply by being a student or a staff member in a Catholic school you are in fact already in one way or another a part of this thing that we call the Church here in WA. And I think you have a right to know what the Church stands for, what the Church believes and teaches and most importantly or very importantly why it actually believes these things when so many people don’t.
I’m conscious that not everybody here belongs to the Catholic Church, not everybody here necessarily belongs to another version of Christianity and other Christian Church. Some of you will be followers perhaps of other religions.
And I also realise that for many of you, perhaps for a big number of you the question of faith and where you stand in relationship to this question of faith is still an open question. Still an undecided question.
And I wanted to say it at the start because I do want to talk about these things that I understand that and I respect that. It’s not my intention or my job as a Christian or as the Archbishop to try and force anyone to believe what I believe. That’s not my role, But what I simply wanted to do this morning was to help you or to offer you some help, no matter where you happen to stand at the moment on the question of religion, to have as good an understanding as possible of just why the Catholic Church exists, therefore why Catholic schools exist, and therefore why your particular school exists. It exists to be a school obviously but it is a Catholic school. So why is this so important?
As far as I am concerned it’s all summed up in the title which Pope Francis gave to his set of reflections. He wrote them following a meeting of the world’s Bishops in Rome last year, he called the Bishops there, not all of them of course but a representative group of them to discuss the importance of young people in the life and in the mission of the Church.
The central topic sounds a bit complicated, it’s sort of Church speak. Young people faith and vocational discernment, but in the end when the Pope actually came to write his reflections, having sat through the senate participated in it, listened to everything that the Bishops and the other people including a large number of young people had to say.
When he sat down to write those reflections he used a different phrase, a different title and it’s there on the screen; Christus Vivit, that’s Latin. Christus Vivit. Christ is alive. The very first words of that reflection you can now see on the screen.
They capture I think the most essential thing about the Catholic Church and about Christianity in all its many forms. Christ is alive. That’s a strange thing to say about someone who died 2,000 years ago. But what Pope Francis believes and what I believe and what most of us who belong to the Catholic tradition and the wider Christian tradition believe is that Jesus Christ isn’t just a great hero from the past, but someone who is alive today.
That after all is what we just celebrated at Easter a few weeks ago. He is alive and what it means for us that he is alive is partly the question I wanted to invite you to reflect on with me this morning.
If he is alive, if he’s not just someone who died 2,000 years ago and we look back and admire. If he is alive, what difference does that make to us if any difference at all?
You know as well as I do that the Catholic Church these days is under enormous scrutiny. Especially not only but especially because of this terrible abuse of the young people. The scandal of abuse, in our Catholic Church. Not just here in Australia but sadly right across the world. The Church is under enormous scrutiny and so it should be.
But one of the things which makes this scandal which is widespread of course right throughout our society not just in the Churches, but one of the things which makes it so terrible is the unavoidable fact that it is such a shocking betrayal. A shocking betrayal of everything that we as a Church are supposed to stand for. And when I say that, I guess I’m inviting the question which I think is a very important question for anyone who has any kind of connection with the Church is this;
What is the Church supposed to stand for? What is the purpose of the Church in our modern world today?
There is another way of asking this question given that we believe as Catholics that the Church exists not just because it was created or not in fact not because it was created by the first followers of Jesus, something they just dreamt up and decided to get up and running. But rather because Jesus himself called this Church, this community of people into existence. He’s the one who set it up. He’s the one who got it going. And that would lead us to ask an even more fundamental question, why did God send Jesus in the first place?
And why did Jesus in response to this mission from God set up the Church? And then another question that flows from that might be why in spite of the dreadful failures and scandals in the Church and the betrayal by so many people in the Church including its leaders both in the past and in the present, why does God still continue to keep the Church going?
Because it would be the conviction event of many of us that in the light of all the terrible things that have happened the Church would have collapsed long ago if it wasn’t God who was keeping it going.
Why is the church still around today in spite of these terrible things? And of course we also have to recognize that the whole story of the Church is bigger than its failures. I don’t want to pretend for a minute that these are easy questions to answer, I’m not even going to pretend there’s only one right answer.
But I am convinced that at the heart of any satisfactory answer, must be the conviction that the Church makes no sense at all. And therefore the existence of your school, your particular school makes no sense at all, we might even say has no right or reason to exist if the Church isn’t meant to be and is supposed to be and can be when it’s at its best God’s preferred way of bringing people into an encounter with Jesus.
I’ll say that again because I think that’s really important. It’s at the heart of why I keep going as the Archbishop why I haven’t walked away, why the Church still matters very much to me because I’m convinced that it is God’s chosen way of making sure that through the ages including in the 21st century here in Australia and all around the world, people can still encounter Jesus.
That’s what the Church is for. That’s what it’s supposed to be all about. The next question would then become well that’s very well, but who is this Jesus Christ? And what is the relationship between this man Jesus Christ and the Church?
In wanting to share with you some reflections about this I just want to say to you something that’s been a conviction of mine probably since I was the age that many of you are now and in saying this I realise that it’s not necessarily the conviction that you would all share but it was mine then and it stayed with me ever since and it’s this.
That knowing about Jesus Christ and actually knowing Jesus Christ, not just having knowledge about him, getting to know him as a person is absolutely essential to a full and complete and happy life.
Where does that belief come from and I’m talking about myself now I can’t speak for anybody else but you might find something in what I say rings bells for you and your own experience maybe, maybe not.
In my case first of all it came from my family. I was born into a Catholic family with parents who believed that it was both their responsibility and their wish for me to experience what it meant to be a person of faith within the Catholic community.
So I was part of the local parish in which I grew up and as part of that there was this growing sense deep within me that what I was being taught at home by my mum and dad what I was being taught in my primary school education a Catholic school in Melbourne and then later in my secondary education another Catholic school in Melbourne was actually true. And that’s a big step to take.
You think about all the things you learn and have learned over many years in your RE classes and think about whether you believe those things or not I came to the conviction over a long period of time that it’s actually true. It’s not just myths it’s not just legends, it’s actually true.
And that belief has never left me in spite of the scandals, in spite of the failures, in spite of all sorts of changes in science and technology, for example our growing understanding of the nature and extent of the universe, in spite of all of these things I’ve never lost my conviction that what the Church is basically on about represents the truth. Not just my truth, the truth.
That there’s an objective truth that the Church exists to share with us. This is what I and many people would call the gift of faith. The gift of faith. It comes to us if it comes at all in different ways and in different times in our lives. The question of religious faith, the power of religious faith to make a difference in a person’s life can come in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
My experience was that it was just part of my growing up as a kid growing up in Melbourne. But that won’t necessarily be anybody else’s experience and certainly not everyone else’s experience.
As I’ve said I grew up with faith as just a natural normal part of my life. Other people come to faith when they have a really tough experience that really tests them.
That can happen at any stage in a person’s life. There’s some interesting statistics for example that show that after World War two from 1945 on for the next fifteen or twenty years, right across the world monasteries and convents were just full of people who’d lived through the terrible experience of the Second World war, lived through it personally and experienced it as such a destructive thing in the history of the world and were looking for some answers to this question of the awful suffering and destruction that World War two had caused.
Many of those people found the answer in their religious faith. Up on the screen you can see an image of Jesus reaching out to Simon Peter who went through just such a difficult experience. I won’t tell you the whole story but you’ll remember the basic outlines of this story,
Peter and the disciples are out on a lake they’re fishermen, they’re traveling at night doing their fishing, Jesus isn’t with them, a storm blows up and it’s a really violent storm and it looks like they’re going to drown. And then out of nowhere, walking across the lake, Jesus comes towards them, they’re terrified, they think it’s a ghost. As he gets closer he says have courage. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. And when Peter hears those words, he’s full of energy, full of excitement, he jumps out of the boat, starts walking to Jesus across the water in the middle of the storm and as long as he’s got his eyes fixed on Jesus he’s OK.
But then the power of the wind and the waves everything sort of attacking him in a sense, he takes his eyes off Jesus and what happens? He starts to sink. And he calls out to Jesus “Save me! I’m going under!” And Jesus stretches out his hand grabs him by the hand, lifts him into the boat and says “why did you doubt me?” That’s faith.
Why did you doubt me. Reminds me of another occasion in the Gospels where Jesus is presenting a teaching that lots of people are having a really hard time with so much so that some people say “this is ridiculous, I can’t believe this nonsense” and they walk away. And then Jesus turns to his disciples including Peter and he says “what about you?” “Are you going to walk away too?” And Peter says he’s the leader he speaks up for everybody else he says “Lord, where else could we go?” “You have the words of life.” That’s faith.
So let me talk a little bit about faith, and as I do you might just be asking yourself in your own mind or your own heart, Where do I stand at the moment in this question of faith? I think faith is a mysterious thing. I think it’s a tricky thing.
And I guess each one of us at some stage or another we’ll have to ask ourselves have I received the gift of faith? And if I have, what am I doing with it?
Our Catholic tradition would teach us that the very fact that we’ve been baptized means that we have received the gift of faith. But receiving the gift of faith and using the gift of faith could be two very different things.
You might have received it in baptism, but it might be lying dormant just waiting to be activated. And who knows when and how God might step into your life and activate that gift of faith.
What I’ve come to understand however is that it’s all about a gift. It’s all about God’s generosity. God holds out to us this wonderful gift of faith and all that it’s going to mean for our lives but he leaves us the freedom to say yes or no.
And I think many of you know that before I became a bishop, before I became- I was a priest already. I was a teacher in a Catholic boys secondary school in Melbourne. My experience there was that the years in secondary school are one of the most important times when people get to think about this question what am I going to do about this question of God? What am I going to do about this question of faith?
Am I going to make a decision that allows it to really influence me in my future? Or am I maybe not ready for that yet? Or if I maybe decided already not to be interested and not to think about it.
One of the things I would hope to do this morning is just say to all of us, me included it’s never too late to say yes to the gift of faith. Faith for us as Christians anyway is faith in Jesus. In the God in whom we believe Jesus can be seen.
These days whenever I talk about faith or think about faith or reflect on my own story of faith and it’s a long story now, 65 years worth. I always add the adjective you can see I’ve got a cold I’m not concentrating too well. I always add the adjective either in my mind or out loud trusting. When I think of faith now, I think that it’s all about trust.
It goes back to what I said earlier about whether we’re going to believe or not in what the Church tells us about God. Because if what the Church tells us about God is true, then what you saw on the last slide, that idea of Jesus reaching out and saying to someone in trouble “why did you doubt?” Have courage, don’t be afraid. I am with you, that’s all true. And if that is true then no matter where you find yourself and no matter what struggles you might be facing at the moment in your life, you can rely on this Living Jesus, the one who Pope Francis reminds us is alive you can rely on him to help you get through.
Jesus didn’t turn the storm off straight away. When he came to Peter and the other disciples across the water. He came to them in the middle of the storm and helped them in the middle of the storm.
So that quote that you see on the screen now is a quote that I find very helpful. It comes from a New Testament letter called a letter to the Hebrews and it talks about trust.
Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. I can’t see God but I trust that God is with me. I can’t see God but I trust that God cares for me. I can’t see God but I trust that God will walk with me during my times of peace and during my times of turmoil and during my times of challenge and during my times of suffering.
In one way it’s kind of an attitude of the mind I will trust but it’s not just going on up here it’s also going on down here.
We need to have people we can trust, it makes life much easier if you’ve got people around you whom you can trust.
As Christians we believe that we can trust that God is with us. I don’t know how you feel about what I’m saying I don’t know if it’s making any sense to you, all I can tell you is that this is the way it is for me. And this is the way it’s been for me.
Not without struggles and difficulties, but being for me since I was your age and might well have found myself sitting in a hall just like this. I’ve learned from experience that you can trust God.
And when I think about it and I ask myself this question it all becomes a bit clearer. What if it’s not true? What if everything that I believed in that I’ve grown up with and that I’ve committed my life to what if it’s not true?
What’s the alternative? If God does not exist or if God does exist but doesn’t care about me or isn’t with me as I journey through my life and isn’t leading me through this life to eternal life, then what’s the point? Ultimately what’s my life going to be about if everything that I have learned and committed myself to is a pack of lies. All of this leads me back to Jesus.
Helps me to understand why Jesus is so important and so central to my life as a Christian and to the life of the Church.
I said at the start and this is Pope Francis’s conviction that Jesus is alive, not just a fantastic man who lived 2,000 years ago and whose memory we honour but someone who’s alive today.
Behind that is the idea that Jesus is actually God among us, as one of us.
This is where Christianity parts ways with both its Jewish origins and the very close relationship we have with Islam for example. Both of those traditions revered Jesus as a very significant person as we do.
But for Christians he’s more than just a very significant person, he is the presence of God among us as one of us. If that’s true then of course Jesus is still alive. Because God doesn’t die. That’s the whole point of the death and the resurrection and the Ascension of Jesus that he continues to live, continues to be close to us, continues to be present to us as one of us.
We use a technical word it’s up there on the technical word it’s up there on the screen, incarnation. Those of you who are English scholars, and even more if there are any Latin scholars here you know what the word means, it literally means in the flesh or enfleshed.
We believe that Jesus is the incarnated God amongst us. The God who created everything present amongst us, as one of us, in this man, Jesus.
And what that means is that when Jesus speaks God speaks.
When Jesus acts, God acts.
When Jesus relates to somebody, God relates to somebody.
When Jesus is telling us a story or a parable, God is telling us that story or that parable.
This is really important for us as Christians because what it means is this if you want to know what God is really like, have a look at Jesus. So I wanted to spend just a few moments now doing that but leaving you then to maybe when you get back to school in your RE classes, pursue this a little bit further.
So I want to move on to the next slide which is about a parable that Jesus told and that you’ll all be very familiar with. I won’t go through and read the whole thing. But I’ll just give you the outlines just to refresh your memories.
Now remember what I said, when Jesus tells a story to teach us something it’s God telling us a story to teach us something. The parable I’m talking about is the parable of the prodigal son.
Sometimes called the parable of the loving father and his two sons. Because there’s a good boy and a bad boy in this story. But I don’t want to go into too many of the details now the point about the story is this, Jesus tells that story because he wants us to understand what the relationship is like between God and us. So in a sense you could put yourself in the story, not really as the father in the story but as one of the two sons or maybe as both of them at different times in your own life.
You remember the story the father had two sons, the youngest son decided he’d had enough he wanted to go off and enjoy himself so he said to his father “give me my share of the inheritance and I’m off.”
Now normally children wait for their parents to die to get the inheritance so it’s a bit of an insult to go to your mum and dad and say look I can’t wait you know you’re not dying quickly enough, hand over the money now but that’s what the son did. So he gets his share of the inheritance he takes off and we’re told that he lived the high life.
He did all the things he’d wanted to do because he wanted to be free of his father’s influence all of that sort of stuff. And of course as usually happens in these sorts of stories, when he ran out of money because he spent it all he found he had nothing. Nothing to live on, no friends to look after him, nobody to care for him, no family around him,
So he ends up working as a swineherd feeding the pigs. And those of you who know much about the Jewish tradition will know that’s almost the worst job someone who belongs to the Jewish tradition can have, to feed the pigs.
He’s there in the squalor and the grime and the dirt and he’s miserable and he’s unhappy and suddenly it’s like a light bulb goes off in his head. And he says “I know what I’ll do” “I’ll go home” and I’ll say to my father “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”
He might have been foolish this boy but he wasn’t stupid. He knew how to tug at his father’s heartstrings. So he sets off and you can imagine him rehearsing this story over and over in his head practicing his lines making sure he gets them right because everything depends on him winning his father over.
So he’s walking along the road he’s saying father I’ve sinned against heaven and against you. I’m not worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants. He’s got the lines perfect. He’s heading down the road and as Jesus tells the story the father spots him coming and the implication is the father has put everything else on hold and has been sitting in the front room looking out his window hoping against hope that maybe his son will come back.
So he sees him coming along the road he goes rushing out to meet him, the son sees him coming, he starts practicing his lines really quickly, the father comes up to the Son and the son starts his speech. Father I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am not worthy to be called your son. But he only gets halfway through the speech and his father throws his arms around him, gives him a big hug, welcomes him back, takes him back to the family home, puts new clean clothes on him, tells the older brother to go out and get a party ready, to celebrate because our brother who was lost has been found.
The point of the story really there are many points in it but the main point of the story is see how the father treats his son, that’s how God treats us.
Remember if Jesus is God in the flesh, then when Jesus speaks God speaks. When Jesus explains things God explains things. When Jesus tells you a story, God is telling you that story. And the question for us since the question I’ve often asked myself over my life is this have I got the courage to believe that God is as good as Jesus says he is. Have I got the courage to believe that no matter what I do or no matter how badly I might go wrong all I have to do is come home and God will figuratively throw his arms around me and welcome me back. Is this the kind of God that I’ve got the courage to believing.
There’s another story that I just wanted to remind you of briefly and it’s up on the next slide. And again it’s a story that you’ll all know very well because Jesus isn’t just talk. Jesus is a man of action. As I said before, if Jesus is God amongst us as one of us then when God encounters someone and deals with someone and relates with someone when Jesus does rather that’s God doing it.
So this is the story of the woman caught in adultery. You all know that story it’s another one that’s pretty famous, it’s about a woman who has been caught doing the wrong thing.
She’s dragged in front of Jesus by the religious leaders of the day. If there are any kind of villains in the New Testament it’s the religious leaders of the day. So they drag this poor woman in front of Jesus and they say in the law of Moses, women who had been caught in committing adultery have to be stoned to death. What do you say.
Now it’s really interesting to think about this story. The religious leaders couldn’t have cared less about the law of Moses or they were interested in was trying to embarrass Jesus.
Because if Jesus said well I’m a good Jew like you and I follow the law of Moses like you do so let’s all get stuck into it. Hand me the first stone and off we’ll go.
If he done that then people would have said for all these talk about the love of God, when it comes down to it, he’s all talk and no action.
But if Jesus has said “No no no. Moses got it wrong. You can’t” “possibly do that that would be a” “terrible thing to do” then they could say “Well look at this. He calls himself a religious leader” “and he’s refusing to” “obey the laws of our religion.”
So they’ve tried to wedge Jesus. They’ve got him in an impossible situation. No matter what he says They’ve got him. So what does he do? He says nothing.
Instead of opening his mouth he squats down picks up a stick and starts doodling in the ground. And I think what Jesus is doing is just trying to break the tension so that these vicious men have got a chance to come to their senses and realise what they’re doing.
But it doesn’t work, so he stands up and he looks at them, not in an accusing way but he just looks at them and he says “okay” “What about this.”
“Let the person who’s never committed a sin himself,” “Throw the first stone.” And of course no one has got the courage to pick up a stone and throw the first stone because everybody there knows that he or she has already done bad things in their own life.
So Jesus says that and then he squats down again and scribbles on the ground again. In other words he’s not trying to kind of eyeball them into submission and gradually they walk away. One after the other. So then Jesus stands up he’s left there just with the woman he says to her “Where have they gone? Hasn’t anybody condemned you?” and she said “No, nobody.”
And then Jesus said some words remember when Jesus speaks, God speaks. Jesus said “I don’t condemn you. Now go, change your life, don’t sin anymore.”
“I don’t condemn you.”
I put the same question to you that I put to you a little bit earlier. Have we got the courage to believe that God is as good as Jesus says he is? That in spite of what lots of people believe about God and in spite of what lots of very religious people believe about God, Jesus tells us that God is not a God of condemnation.
God is a God who wants us to live better lives, God is a God is asking us to go off now and to lift our game if you like. But God is not a God who condemns. But of course if we’re followers of Jesus that means we also should be people who don’t condemn others.
Where’s Mr. Mendez? How much longer? Five minutes okay.
I can’t possibly say everything I wanted to say in five minutes I’ll try and shorten it a little bit. What I’ve been trying to do is first of all get you to think about who this Jesus is, but now I just want to finish by getting you to think about what’s the relationship between this man Jesus and the Church.
Because there is a 2,000 year gap between this man who said those words to that woman and us sitting here at Aranmore College this morning.
So what’s the link? Between this Jesus this extraordinary person who we as Christians believe he’s actually God amongst us what’s the link between him and the Church?
And partly that’s what the next slide is all about. If we take Jesus seriously, if we believe that when Jesus speaks it’s God speaking.
Then if you look across the whole of the four Gospels you’ll find that one of the things that Jesus does very deliberately is create a community around him. At the heart of that community our 12 men whom Jesus chooses especially after a long night in prayer and he calls them apostles.
And at the heart of that group of 12 apostles there’s one whom he chooses as the leader. And that person’s name was Simon. He was a fisherman, but interestingly Jesus decided to change his name from Simon to Peter.
Now the word Peter in our language comes from the Latin word Petrus which is the Latin word for the Aramaic word Cephas. So whether it’s Cephas or Petrus or Peter the word actually means rock.
So at a certain stage and I won’t go through the whole story now, Jesus calls these Twelve Apostles aside, he calls Peter out of the midst of them and in the context of a particular incident that had happened he says to Peter to Simon, “You are Peter, you are rock.” “On this rock I will build my Church.”
So if it’s true that when Jesus speaks, God speaks then it was part of Jesus plan to call a group of people together who would become the beginnings of the Church. And at the heart of that is this group of 12 who have a leader and that leader is Peter. In our Catholic tradition we’ve always understood that Peter this is a bit anachronistic because no one in Peters life would have called him this but Peter was what would today we would call the first Pope. The first leader of this community of followers of Jesus which was to become the Church.
I just want to move to the next slide now and focus on the present Pope, the 260 something successor of Saint Peter and just say a couple of words about him because what I’m trying to do is to say that for all of our difficulties and all of our challenges and all of our problems the Church today with the Pope as its leader is in fact the continuation of something that Jesus decided to do which he thought was at the heart of his mission.
And so that means I think and it’s always been a conviction of mine long before anybody had thought of me becoming a Bishop and I’d never thought of me becoming a Bishop, so I’m not saying this to sort of protect my own position but the Church has always believed that at the heart of the Church is this figure of the Pope who together with the other bishops around the world take the place of those original 12 apostles as the leaders of the Church.
And one of the things that Jesus said to Peter towards the end of his life was this “When you have recovered” because remember Peter was a bit of a failure. The one stage Peter dismally failed by betraying Jesus pretending that he’d never known him.
Jesus said to him “When you have recovered” “When you’ve got over this” “When you have received the gift of forgiveness” “that will be yours if you’re truly sorry for what you’ve done” “Your job will be to strengthen your brothers and sisters in the faith.”
I mentioned all of this and I thought I’d just give you something that some of you might know already but a little interesting piece of history.
You know that Pope Francis lives in Vatican City which is just on the edge of the old part of Rome and the Vatican City is in fact the smallest independent sovereign state like country in the world so Pope’s kind of in charge of this tiny little independent state right in the middle of Rome and right in the middle of Italy.
So in Peter’s Basilica is the main Church and the Pope lives just within Vatican city just a few minutes walk across a courtyard from where the Basilica of Saint Peters is to where the Pope lives.
That Basilica of Saint Peters some of you will have been there I’m sure is actually built on an old Roman pagan cemetery. And it’s built where it is because it’s built on the spot where Christians have always believed that Saint Peter is buried.
So Peter was crucified in Rome and the story goes that when he was crucified he said that he was unworthy to die the same kind of death as Jesus and so they crucified him upside down. And then his body was taken down from that cross and buried in this Pagan cemetery and Church has always believed that’s where he is and they’ve built a Basilica on top of it.
During the Second World War, Pope Pius the 12th even in the midst of all of the horrors of the war agreed to a kind of a secret expedition I guess to see if they could recover the original side of Peter’s tomb.
So underneath Saint Peter’s Basilica the present one is built on the remains of an earlier one that was built around the Year 300 but that earlier one and you can go down and see it was actually built on the Pagan cemetery, they excavated the cemetery and they eventually in these excavations during World War two discovered what they believed was the tomb of Saint Peter. It’s a long and complicated story and I’m making it much more simple than it really is but they eventually discovered a container in which they believed perhaps the remains of Saint Peter were.
Because of the new DNA techniques and all of that sort of stuff they’ve done some testing on these bones and in this┬áphoto that you see the Pope is holding, the main picture, the Pope is holding a container which has the bones of we believe Saint Peter contained within it.
The smaller photo is the Pope standing at the tomb of Saint Peter underneath some Saint Peter’s Basilica they discovered that the bones were the bones of a middle-eastern man who died about 2,000 years ago who appeared to have been crucified but there were no feet.
No bones from the feet and the presumption is that if he had been crucified upside down, it was much easier for the Romans to simply cut the body from the cross leaving the feet attached pretty gruesome I know but leaving the feet attached to the cross and the rest of the body was buried.
So there’s really very little doubt we’ll never be able to prove it absolutely, but very little doubt that what we have there is the burial place of Saint Peter.
It’s kind of one of those interesting things which helps support our understanding of this continuity between Pope Francis in 2019 and all the Pope’s prior to him which go all the way back to Saint Peter who was the first Pope. It’s why of helping us to understand that this Church, the Church that has existed for 2,000 years and has had so many changes over that time and looks very different from the Church that Jesus started it was just 12 apostles and a few disciples, that it’s the same Church and therefore that community that Jesus wanted to establish in the first place.
What that means and I’ll finish with this, is that this is how Jesus is alive today in and through this community of which we’re all apart who are meant to be as the Church, the living sign of Jesus still with his people, still reaching out, still caring for people and that brings me to the second last slide, next one. That’s it.
Which is to LifeLink. How do we the community of people who are part of the Catholic Education system of Western Australia, how do we contribute to the task of Jesus keeping the Church alive today?
The screen says it all. It’s a quote from Saint John Paul the second, we do it by following Jesus who is the source of freedom and light. Be open to him so that He may lighten all your ways.
We’re supposed to be people who walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We’re supposed to be people who contribute to the Church being the sign that Jesus is still alive and still present and still with us, still caring about us today. And that’s where LifeLink comes in.
Because our LifeLink agencies are one of the main ways in which the Church here in WA continues to do this. Jesus reaches out to the poor and the lonely and the homeless and the rejected and the suffering and the abused and the marginalized through the people who are part of our LifeLink agencies.
It’s one of the ways in which all this talk that I’m going on about Jesus still being alive is made real for people who need to have the experience of Jesus in their lives. That’s why LifeLink matters. That’s why all of our schools getting behind LifeLink and raising money because we can’t all be the hands on people who feed the poor or clothe the naked or visit the prisoners or care for the sick, we can’t all be those hands on people.
But we can all make our contribution to those who are our behalf are the hands on people. So maybe it all gets summed up in the words of Mary MacKillop our first and so far only canonized Saint, who knows there might be a few others sitting in the room now that in years to come we’ll join the group with Mary MacKillop as the previous slide said don’t be afraid to be a Saint, it’s possible for anybody but one of the things or two of the things that Mary MacKillop used to say have stuck in my mind ever since I heard them the first was this. You’ve all heard it before,
“Never see a need without doing something about it.” That could be a fantastic slogan for LifeLink.
Don’t see a need and then sit back and say “Well there’s nothing I can do about it.” You and your school can do something about it by helping us with LifeLink but the second part is just as important. “Never forget who it is that you are following.” We’re Christians.
We believe that in Jesus we see God and hear God and touch God. We follow him because in following him we become the people that God created us to be.
So thank you very much, I’ve ranged over a whole lot of things I hope I’ve raised a few questions in people’s minds.