HOMILY FOR CATHOLIC WOMEN’S LEAGUE MASS
Catholic Women's League Mass Homily
The following homily was delivered by Very Rev Peter G Williams, Diocesan Administrator, Diocese of Parramatta at the Catholic Women's League Mass, 22 September, St Patrick's Cathedral, Parramatta:
Words! Words! Words! I’m so sick of words!
I get words all day through;
First from him, now from you!
Is that all you blighters can do?
So sings Eliza Doolittle to the hapless Freddy in ‘My Fair Lady’ because she is so exasperated with Henry Higgins.
Words – we rely on words as our principal means of communication. One definition describes words as “a unit of language, consisting of one or more spoken sounds or their written representation that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.”
Already in this celebration we have heard many words, some spoken, some sung and there is more to come! But importantly the words we have just heard proclaimed in our readings from God’s Word – the Holy Scriptures have particular importance because the form the very foundation of our corporate act of worship to God. For the Church, the word is not only that which is contained in the Bible, but also is Christ himself, the eternal Word that St John tells existed from the beginning!
Our readings this evening specifically call us to ponder and reflect on the meaning of God’s word. Deuteronomy is the source of our first reading. The book consists of three sermons or speeches delivered to the Israelites by Moses on the plains of Moab, shortly before they enter the Promised Land. Our passage comes from the third sermon which reminds the Israelites of the need for exclusive allegiance to one God and observance of the laws (or teachings) he has given them, on which their possession of the land depends. Remarkably, after exhorting the people of Israel to keep the Law, it concludes with the following: “No, the Word is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for your observance.”
Moses is saying to the people, that God’s word is not something remote and unobtainable, but it is as close to us as we are to ourselves. For a religion that constantly stressed the separation between God and God’s people – with communion only possible by the fulfilment of particular rituals and sacrificial practices this was an extraordinary utterance. This passage heard in the Christian assembly has resonances with our understanding of Jesus as God’s definitive word to us.
The Gospel passage from Luke also draws us deeper into an understanding of God’s Word. The preceding passage to our portion is the parable of the sower – its focus being what happens when a person is open and responsive to the Word. As the noted Lucan scholar George Caird says: “When God kindles a light in the lives of men and women, they must let it shine for the benefit of others. God’s revelation begins as a private discovery and ends as a public trust… those who are brothers and sisters to Jesus must be sons and daughters to God, and to be that they must do the will of their Father.” And therein hangs the challenge for those of us identified with the Christian faith and manifest that in our membership of the Catholic Church.
To do God’s will (which we pray every time we recite or sing the Lord’s Prayer) is to place ourselves at the disposal of Christ’s call to discipleship, and to give ourselves unstintingly in the cause of truth and justice. That might mean difficult times, struggles that seem insurmountable, hostility and outright rejection both from outside the institutional Church and regrettably sometimes from within. Many of those we now identify as saints and whose memory we keep alive through liturgical commemorations were often victims from within. On the website for the Catholic Women’s League we read the following:
“We are dedicated to building a culture of life; advocating for the respect of human rights with a particular focus on women and children; promoting the teaching of Christ and his Church concerning the dignity, integrity and freedom of the human person; promoting and supporting the formation of women to meet contemporary challenges; upholding the dignity of women through education and encouraging their participation in social and public life; promoting and supporting the duty of Catholic women to be educated in the teachings and traditions of the Church; promoting the role of lay women in the mission of the Church; and enabling women to participate more effectively in working for and building the Kingdom of God on earth.”
If this statement reflects the core purpose and activity of the League, then this can only be achieved through an openness at all times to the Word of God, to challenge, to probe, to unsettle and also to comfort and inspire as we all seek to live out our baptismal dignity as the daughters and sons of God.
Eucharist becomes then our staple food and our principal source of nourishment – being open to the Word proclaimed in our midst, and coming to this Table to receive the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation. That has been the way of Christians from the beginning of the Church and will continue to be our way of being assured that this Word is not remote from us, but that effectively a wonderful transaction occurs as we not only receive the Word of God, but as St Augustine so wonderfully expresses we become that Word to the world as the Body of Christ. This experience of enlightenment begun at baptism and renewed at each Eucharist provides a unique moment for each of us to recognise God’s will for us – the question always is – how will we respond?
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