Monday, August 4, 2008

Bp Jarrett's Catechesis at Juventutem WYD

Having contacted His Lordship, Geoffrey Jarrett, Bishop of Lismore, N.S.W., I have received his kind permission to post the texts of his catechesis and homily delivered at St Augustine's, Balmain, to the Juventutem and other pilgrims there, on Wednesday the 16th of July 2008, during the week of WYD in Sydney. (These will also be available at the website of his diocese.) I would like to record how great a debt I owe to him for this and also for the great influence for good that he has had, over his priestly and now episcopal life, on myself and so many other former and current parishioners and Catholics around Australia and beyond.

Here, then, is his Catechesis:

WYD08 — CATECHESIS; Wednesday, 16 July
at St Augustine’s, Balmain.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful, and kindle in them the fire of your love.

Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created,
And you shall renew the face of the earth.

O God, you have taught the hearts of the faithful
by the light of the Holy Spirit,
grant that in the same Spirit
we may always be truly wise
and ever rejoice in his consolation.
Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

May I begin this catechesis by saying how happy I was to be invited, at the nomination of Juventutum, to speak to you this morning and to celebrate the Mass which follows. It is good to be with you, WYD pilgrims whose particular characteristic is that you have discovered and are entering into a more profound experience of the Church’s rich liturgical tradition in the celebration of what we now term the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, according to the Missal of Blessed Pope John XXIII. At many levels in the Church’s life today, forty years after the Second Vatican Council, we see all sorts of reconnections taking place, often made by people like yourselves born long after 1965. In finding yourselves attracted to the great tradition I am sure it is not because you are youthful antiquarians, or because you enjoy a sense of mischief in taking up what many of your elders have discarded and thought consigned to oblivion; I would say it’s because you have that gift of faith which enables you to recognise and to love what is itself good and true and beautiful. With regard to the Mass I recall what the Holy Father wrote to us bishops in his letter accompanying Summorum Pontificum last July: “it has clearly been demonstrated that young persons too have discovered this liturgical form, felt its attraction and found in it a form of encounter with the Mystery of the Most Holy Eucharist, particularly suited to them.” Pope Benedict went on to conclude, “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too . . . . It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place.”

As a young man of an earlier generation, I had the good fortune to be formed in these riches, and they have always deeply influenced my life as a Christian and as a priest. I rejoice that the sacred liturgy, having passed through, in not a few places over the past four decades, as the psalmist would describe it, “a barren and dry land,” is entering now into a fresh discovery ahead of those rich pastures which have so nourished the Christian life over the centuries. Again, as Psalm 63 continues: “I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and your glory.” Far from turning the clock back, we might say rather that the Church is looking forward, in a happy and fruitful continuity with all that has gone before on her long journey towards her Lord, in the communion of the saints.

* “Called to live in the Holy Spirit”.
* “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” (Gal 5:25)

In our first WYD catechesis we are going to explore this beautiful theme: we a Christians called to live in the Holy Spirit, called to live as men and women in the gift of a power which is not our own, a gift which raises us beyond ourselves into our true life: the divine life of the Blessed Trinity which floods into time and space in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Who is the Holy Spirit? And how do we know the Holy Spirit? To a person who knows little about Christianity the questions would not make much sense. There are of course many spiritualities and ideas of the supernatural arising out of our experience of the natural world. Today these are expressed in all sorts of vague and eclectic ways. Everybody has some sort of spiritual instinct, but we are seeking to know the Holy Spirit. Now one of the first things for us to understand about the Holy Spirit (Jn 16:13) is that the Holy Spirit does not speak of himself, has no independent existence, but transmits what he hears: Christ tells us that the Spirit takes from what is His, from the union of the Father and the Son, and declares it to us.

The Holy Spirit, we might say, is self-effacing, works in a hidden way. So the world cannot know Him or receive Him, St John assures us, (14:17) but a believer can: “you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

So our instinct in seeking an answer to questions about the Holy Spirit is to turn to the body of believers, that is, to the Church: here He dwells, here He is with us. Thus we are led to the Creed, our profession of faith, in which every Sunday we make those four central affirmations: I believe in God the Father almighty; and in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, and in the Holy Spirit, and in One holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

So who is the Holy Spirit? The Creed affirms Him as the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, with whom He is one in being, beauty and glory, who once spoke through the prophets.

Down twenty centuries that same Spirit of the living God, referred to by Christ our Lord repeatedly as ‘the Spirit of Truth’ (Jn 14,15,16) has spoken through His Church: the Church, the Catechism says (688) is the place where we know the Holy Spirit, and describes the ways in which He is revealed:

In the Scriptures which He inspired; in the Church’s Tradition and her magisterium, which the Spirit inspires; in the celebrations of the sacred liturgy through which the Holy Spirit puts us into communion with Christ; in prayer, in which the Holy Spirit intercedes for us; in the charisms and ministries, by which the Church is built up; in her missionary and apostolic life reaching out to all nations; and in the witness of her saints, in whom the Holy Spirit shows the power of holiness shining through transformed human beings, continuing the work of salvation.

What strikes me particularly about these ways in which we know the Holy Spirit is the way His presence and work begins in such veiled and hidden ways, gently taking possession and revealing, and then working outwards, as it were, through words, signs, symbols and persons to bring His power into the world to transform it.

So in the Mass of Pentecost you may have well rediscovered the beautiful Sequence, the hymn unique to that Feast, the Veni Sancte Spiritus. It is attributed to an early thirteenth century Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, and together with its peerless plainsong melody I think well deserves its description of “The Golden Sequence.” It expresses, from the heart of our tradition, who the Spirit is and what the Spirit does, and the calmness and gentleness of His power at work in the world. The translators of the several English versions may well have felt themselves quite inadequate in rendering the quality of the Latin original, but here is one of them, by Edward Caswell:

Holy Spirit, Lord of Light . . . (Catholic Worship Book 317)

The point I would like to make about the ‘interior-ness’ of our knowledge of the Holy Spirit and His work, is that it would be impossible to believe in the Holy Spirit apart from faith in Jesus Christ and His Church. We are sons and daughters in the family, and it is precisely the Holy Spirit who makes us able to recognise our Father, indeed to familiarly call Him “Abba”, and enables us to bear witness to Jesus the Son. The reciprocal effect then of the Spirit in our own lives is to enable us to know the Church better for what she really is, a Mother to each believer, and to love and trust the Church in the light of that relationship. Thus we show an attitude of openness, of docility, even of enthusiasm, towards the Church in her teaching and the means to holiness which she places before us.

There have always been criticisms of some aspect or another of her affairs in this world, even attacks on the Church and sometimes made by her own members. Appreciation of our real relationship to the Church enables us to distinguish between the Church as God’s instrument for continuing His divine work in the world on the one hand, and the faults, failings and sins of her members, clergy or lay, on the other. In her essential nature, as St Paul says to the Ephesians (Eph 5:27), Christ is presenting the Church to himself in splendour, like Bride to Bridegroom, holy and without blemish; but in her human aspect not all her children walk as children of the light, according to their new nature, created after the likeness of God in true holiness. (Eph 4:24) From St Paul’s time to our own, the Church has always struggled with the contrast between this ideal of the Church’s inner reality, and the actual conduct of many of her members.

In the same letter to the Ephesians (2:22), St Paul describes each of us as built into the Church as into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. St Peter uses the metaphor of living stones. Let’s look at the means by which this building in takes place. We will look at the first two Sacraments of initiation, Baptism and Confirmation.

In my thirty years as a priest I have baptised, according to the figures I have kept, over a thousand people. Apart from the celebration of Mass, it is the sacrament I have loved most to celebrate. I do not think I have ever baptised anyone without being moved in some way by the thought of what a totally marvellous thing is happening to this human life through the sacramental action I am performing. To begin with, this child or this adult is being purified by the flow of this water from all sin, original and actual. This person is passing from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, and so emerges from the font as
* a totally new creature, who has become a sharer through grace in the divine nature itself.
* a person who has become a member of Christ’s own body, the Church,
* a temple of the Holy Spirit, an heir to the Father’s kingdom, to eternal life,
* and as one who for time and eternity shares the priesthood of all believers and in the communion of saints.

In theological language we describe what has actually happened as justification; that is, a person is put right with God. That’s the effect of faith and baptism. It is important to understand the reality of what has occurred. Just as over the centuries there have been those who have not accepted that a real change happens at Mass when the priest consecrates the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ, and the Real Presence comes about, so in regard to Baptism there are those who see the sacramental action as merely an external sign or symbol, a pledge or token, but without effect on the interior, essential reality of a person. In the Eucharist of course the very nature or substance of bread is changed, so that there is no longer any bread or wine present. Only their outward appearances remain by which we behold Christ Himself, body, blood, soul and divinity. In Baptism our human nature of course remains, but it is raised up, divinised: Christ truly lives within. Our original estrangement from God is not just excused or covered over by Christ’s merits; all that Christ achieved for us by His death and resurrection actually enters into the deepest parts of our being, every shred and fibre, every cell and molecule, of our humanness. That’s real justification. It’s also the reason why baptism once properly given, can never be repeated. What it effects is permanent; it indelibly marks the soul with a new character, for time and eternity, which not even sin can erase.

I’ve tried to explain it in this way so that we might reflect upon our real status and dignity and appreciate it more deeply. As a Christian, this is who I really am, a man, a woman, in whom Christ actually lives through grace. Upon this foundation He continues with boundless love to offer grace upon grace, most especially through His ongoing Eucharistic presence with and within us.

When a priest is ordained, and when a priest is ordained a bishop, similar indelible marks conferring a character are impressed upon the soul. When this happened to me seven years ago of course my life changed very considerably. Among the changes in ministry I especially noticed was that I rarely celebrated baptisms, only in somewhat special circumstances like the Easter Vigil. It’s the priests in the parishes that regularly baptize. What I soon found that I was the constant minister of another sacrament, Confirmation. Up and down the parishes of my diocese since 2001 I have confirmed more than ten times the number of children I baptised in thirty years as a priest; forty, sixty, a hundred confirmations in each ceremony, over 2000 each year.

Repetitive as it might seem, I find myself very conscious of what is happening in the soul of each person upon whom I lay my hands and seal with the Sacred Chrism. The grace of the baptism of water is now completed and perfected with the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and that person is bound more perfectly to the Church. A special grace, poured into the soul as the seven gifts of the Spirit, enables the confirmed to act as true witnesses of Christ, to spread and defend the faith by word and action. My hand, constantly immersed in the Chrism, for days afterwards gives of the perfume soaked into the skin; but for a lifetime and beyond the sweet odour of each one anointed with the Spirit, as was Christ, will ascend heavenwards from a beloved son or daughter in whom I pray that the Father will likewise be well pleased.

Whenever I meet with the candidates for confirmation, mostly eight-year-olds, in the days before the celebration, I always try to make sure that they understand the connection between what happened to the apostles at Pentecost and what is going to happen to them in Confirmation. Most often, thanks to good catechesis, this is already the case, and they know why they are waiting for the bishop to come to give them this sacrament. To strengthen the point I hold up my pectoral cross and tell them that bishops wear a cross like this to remind them that they must, like the Apostles, be the first witnesses to the Cross and Resurrection of the Lord, and that they, the candidates, are going to have to give their own witness when they are confirmed. To illustrate the link between the apostles at Pentecost and their confirmation today I undo the chain and hold it lengthwise. I ask them to imagine that the first big link which starts the chain is Pentecost in Jerusalem in the year 33, and represents the 11 apostles; then the next link represents the first bishops to whom the apostles passed on the spirit they had received at Pentecost, and then the next bishops, and the next, as the Church grew and grew by the witness of all the baptized and confirmed Christians . . through the year 500, 1000, 1500, 1900, 2000, the original apostles are now the 4,500 or so bishops all over the world, and now their own bishop here in their own parish in the Diocese of Lismore on the far north coast of NSW is passing on to them their own share in the Spirit of Pentecost today in 2008.

At the end of each Confirmation, from where I stand I often wonder how it will go with each one in that that eager and excited group of newly confirmed. Will they learn by practice to use the gifts they have been given, or like a new gift that soon gets forgotten will they end up at the back of a cupboard? Will some of them at least become apostles of the new evangelisation, in high school and university, in career and marriage, be upfront in living the Gospel and faith of the Church, and unafraid to advance its cause when it is unpopular to bring religion into the public square? Will some of them have the courage to respond to a call to the priesthood or religious life? Will the trajectory of their lives be towards friendship, intimacy with God or estrangement from Him? World Youth Day is a good opportunity for each participalt to ask, “Well, how’s the graces and gifts of my Confirmation in the Holy Spirit going with me right now?”

With good reason we think of Pentecost as the definitive outpouring of the Spirit, the birthday of the Church, the beginning of the mission, and so on. I’d like to mention a reading of St John’s gospel which opens up another rich understanding. On the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, the Jewish harvest festival (Jn 7:37-39), Our Lord proclaimed: “If any one thirst, let him come to me and drink. He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” The evangelist comments “Now this he said about the Spirit, which those who believed in him were to receive; for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” Until when, then, did believers have to wait? The answer is that Jesus is glorified in his death, resurrection and return to the Father, and each stage of this glorification is marked by the gift of the Spirit to the Church. St John records the death of our Lord in these words, “And he bowed his head and gave up his spirit”, literally, he gave over his spirit. He is the only evangelist to describe the moment in this way. To whom did Jesus bow his head, to whom did he give over his spirit? Is this the solemn fulfilment of that proclamation at the Feast of Tabernacles, and is it upon Our Lady and St John and the faithful disciples at the foot of the cross that the Spirit is first poured out as upon the new-born Church? The moment is immediately connected with the outpouring of water and blood from the pierced side, and indeed linked later by the same evangelist in his first Letter (I Jn 5.8), “There are three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood; and these three agree.”

This explanation in St John does help us to understand, I think, a little more of the intimacy of the relationship of the Spirit, as Christ’s empowering gift, to the Christian and the Church.

If we are to be any sort of effective witness to Christ and the Church today we have to be really serious about the way we cultivate this intimacy in our personal lives. That means we must make time, as a number one priority, for a daily personal encounter with our heavenly Father, just as Our Lord always did, a time of quiet and silence, a time of prayer, of just waiting upon God and letting the Spirit inspire his way, as it were, into our souls, and make in us His home. It’s an old saying, “There may be noise around us, but it is in silence we grow.” There could not be any sort of fruitful witness or apostolate in our lives if it was not built upon quietness and prayer, the regular retreat into that private room and shutting the door to be in secret with God.

This is the way to enable the gifts of the Holy Spirit to have some chance of being released into our practical living and attitudes: Wisdom, to counter our foolishness; Understanding, to prevent us from being superficial and shallow in our thinking and insights; Right Judgment, to enable us to make right decisions rather than acting rashly; Courage, against the cowardice which paralyzes our witness; Knowledge, to counter our ignorance; Reverence, to protect us from going cold and losing our sense of the sacred; Wonder and Awe, or a spirit of holy fear in God’s presence, to guard us from preferring our own will to His.

I think one of the most wonderful things in the life of the Church today is the recovery and spread of Eucharistic Adoration, especially among young people who have had the good fortune to be introduced to this way of contemplation and prayer. We can’t but grow in the use of the gifts of the Spirit than by showing our love for the Eucharistic Lord in this way. It’s not a coincidence that all the new movements and the new forms of consecrated life exemplify this practice, which in turn radiates the Lord’s presence and inspiration into their apostolates.

In concluding this first catechesis, I recall that one of its objectives set by the WYD organisers was to help young people appreciate more deeply the beauty of the calling each of us has received through baptism, and the beauty of our calling to live the Christian life. The quality of beauty can never be far from our lives as Christians, but it is quite different from the qualities of ‘beautiful people’ that might be portrayed to us in the secular media. The beauty that our lives must reflect has a different source: our encounter with Jesus Christ whose life has entered into our own through faith and the sacraments of faith, brought about, made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who is closer to us that we are to ourselves.

It is this Spirit of Christ living in us that makes a Christian sensitive to beauty in visible forms, not only in nature, but in the art created by human mind and hand. This is what drives our instinct for beauty in the liturgy, in which above all we meet Christ and are nourished by Him. If the effect of beauty is to shift our gaze to what is beyond ourselves, to the ultimate realities of truth and goodness, to God Himself, then beauty is a necessity in all that contributes to the celebration of the sacred liturgy. The Mass celebrated in that beauty of holiness in which we are called to present ourselves to the Lord serves to nourish our faith; the opposite is sadly true when beauty is neglected. Along the journey to our heavenly homeland, the beauty of the liturgy lifts up our hearts and hopes until we arrive, in Bernard of Cluny’s words, in that Land of beauty, where all things of beauty meet.

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