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Bishop Anthony's Homily: Installation of Rev Bob Sheridan as Parish Priest of Sacred Heart Parish, Blackheath

Bishop Anthony installs Fr Bob Sheridan as Parish Priest.
Bishop Anthony installs Fr Bob Sheridan as Parish Priest. Photo: Tony Jacques

Our first reading (Isa 66:10-14) is full of that rejoicing that is proper to Christians at all times, but especially at celebrations such as this one today. The particular occasion for Israel’s joy is return from years of exile and the prophet Isaiah is positively exuberant about this homecoming.

Prosperity will flow like a river in torrent. Hearts will rejoice and bodies flourish like the grass. All creation will be as new as a suckling child. And Jerusalem, we know, is a metaphor for the new creation that is the Church. All who love her are called to be glad for her, to savour her nourishment, to enjoy her comfort and peace.

Now Paul, with his characteristic directness, takes up this theme (Gal 6:14-18): to be baptised is to be a new creature at home in a new creation, and though our past and the Cross itself can leave its mark on us, we should rejoice in Christ’s making all things new.

In our Gospel passage (Lk 10:1-12,17-20) the disciples experience that jubilation, as they return to Jesus on a high after their first experience of the evangelical life, the life to which each one here is called.

Today we install as Parish Priest Fr Bob Sheridan, erstwhile Administrator of this parish made up of Sacred Heart, Blackheath, of St Joseph’s in the Megalong Valley and St Paul’s at Mt Victoria.

Today the Lord instructs him as He does the first disciples: to go to you and stay put, rather than forever looking for greener pastures, to receive with open heart the hospitality of your community, to recognise the fruits of God’s work among you, to bring healing and to assist you in the spiritual battles that come to us all.

There is a parallel, too, to the old and new creations of our readings. There is the old familiar home that is your parish community, and the novelties of a new bishop and a new local pastor. Obversely, there is the new creation that is the community of the baptised of Blackheath and Fr Bob’s ‘homecoming’ to you.

It will be his task to teach, sanctify and lead, to give the priestly service of proclaiming the closeness of the kingdom of God to you, of feeding you with that divine food of Isaiah’s imagery that we know to be the Eucharist, of leading and working with you to ensure that a new creation truly flourishes in Blackheath and beyond.

Jesus recalls us all to our mission this morning. “Carry no money, no rucksack, no boots,” he says, be ready to let go of comfort and security, of what you’re used to, the familiar and comfortable.

There will be trials ahead, wolves, serpents, scorpions, devils – you name it – and some people may not welcome you. There will be joys, too, of peace and hospitality, given and received, of the Word of God preached and converting, of the healing of bodies and souls, of the kingdom of God so close to home.

But Christ knows us all too well. We can become cocky and complacent. We can delight in our own talents and plans and achievements. The 72 return, measuring the success of their mission by who or what they’ve subjugated. Jesus responds, “Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but because your names are written in heaven.”

That’s a good lesson for us all. As members of an evangelising and worshipping community, whatever success you have – and please God you will have many – will only be because of Christ’s work in you.

You must be arms for Christ, reaching out to those who haven’t been here before, or not for some time, drawing them closer to God’s kingdom. You must be His eyes and ears, appreciating the fecundity of God and the potential harvest among you and collaborating in bringing it in.

You must be Christ’s voice, speaking words of tenderness and challenge. You must be His hands, offering and receiving the Eucharistic sacrifice that nourishes our faith and life.

Your pastor, too, must be these things and help to energise and coordinate, to serve and direct you all in these godly tasks. At my own recent installation, I retold the tale of the early Dominicans in Western Sydney and the Hawkesbury who set some precedent for Dominican pastoral care in our region. I know that Sr Lyn Eastmure op was Pastoral Director here from 2002 to 2008 and so you are well-used to Dominicans.

Now, Fr Bob does not have the advantage of being a Dominican, but he has many other fine qualities for the pastoral care of this parish and he has the talents and graces of each one of you to draw upon.

The Rites of Installation that we are about to perform might seem a little otiose as I introduce Fr Bob to various people with whom he is already well acquainted and to various points in this church in which he has already laboured for some time. You might say that he, rather than I, should be doing the introducing.

But our Rite is a useful reminder to us all of his vocation and yours, rather like the renewal of baptismal vows which we do at Easter and, in a sense, at the time of the Creed in every Mass. Listen, then, to its description of his mission and yours. I ask you, of your mercy, to pray for and support your new Parish Priest, as he prays for and serves you.

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