Strengthening the bonds of love at Padre Pio
First homily of new Padre Pio Glenmore Park Parish Priest Fr Robert Riedling - Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday 3 June
When Bishop Anthony Fisher OP visited Padre Pio Parish on the weekend following the news of Fr Kevin Lee’s marriage in the Philippines, he opened his homily with the words: “What to say to you, my dear people …?”
I am tempted to begin my first homily to you with the same words. What can I possibly say to you at this time as I come here as your newly appointed Parish Priest, an unknown quantity to you, a stranger and no doubt, for a few of you at least, a figure to be approached with a degree of apprehension?
Well, one thing I can say is that I was as shocked as the rest of you at the news that came through just on a month ago. Then the Bishop asked me to be your new pastor. So it’s been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for me, as I know it must have been for you.
I come to you as a pastor and so as one who wants to work with you and for you, as a leader, a servant and a brother. If there is hurt or division I want to help heal it. If there has been damage to your confidence in the priesthood or the Church I want to help restore it. Where there are strengths in this community I want to help build on them.
Listening to and caring for one another
If there is one word that I want to emphasise today it is “listen”, for that is my primary objective as I begin serving you as your Parish Priest. I don’t come here armed with a checklist of action points that I intend to tick off in the coming days, weeks and months till “the job is done.”
Such an approach would fail to respect the uniqueness of the situation we find ourselves in as together we struggle with myriad emotions and feelings of confusion, betrayal, deception and hurt. Such an approach as your pastor also fails to respect your God-given dignity.
Nor do I come with a series of platitudes such as “It will soon be all right” or “Let’s just get over it and move on.” Such statements do nothing to help us but instead paper over some very real cracks that demand a more patient and pastoral approach.
If I have any “action plan” therefore, it is to be present to you and listen. It is to hear your stories, to gauge your feelings and to be present to you in any way I can as your pastor as well as encouraging you to listen to and care for one another as we journey together.
It is my task to get to know you as a faith community for as your priest I can only serve you effectively if I know you well and gain your trust, so that we can move forward together and look to a bright future.
In essence, I am talking about relationships. The practice of our faith is not about those dreaded checklists to which I alluded earlier but it is about deepening our love for God and each other and letting others know the joy of such intimate relationships.
It is thus a happy coincidence that we celebrate the most perfect of all relationships this weekend with Trinity Sunday. In the Trinity we see the truth of our God revealed – a relational God with Father, Son and Spirit caught up in an inextricable whorl of love, a love which cannot be contained and finds its expression in God’s love for us, made evident in God sending His Son into the world that we might also be caught up in that amazing, overwhelming and inexplicable love.
This love of God is felt most acutely and fully in the love that people share with one another in their regular relationships, be those relationships within families, workplaces, schools, sporting groups or in parishes such as ours here in Glenmore Park.
At this moment in the life of our parish, it is worthwhile examining the various relationships that exist here. My impression of those relationships so far has been very positive and gratifying.
I want to say a big thank you for the warm welcome I have received from many of you during the week that has passed before I even celebrated my first Mass here. There is clearly a genuine sense of community, hospitality and warmth here at Glenmore Park. God’s love is certainly evident here! I commit myself to doing whatever I can as your Parish Priest to foster and make fruitful the Christian love you value so much.
Confident that God will gift us for the journey
In the Gospel today Jesus tells His disciples to teach those to whom He is sending them to “observe all the commands I gave you.” Jesus was not referring specifically to the commandments we find in the Old Testament, though He knew them well of course, but to the commandment which sums up the whole Law: to love.
Love casts out fear. I am aware that there will be some fear and apprehension at this uncertain time. May this commandment of Jesus give us the confidence and certainty we crave in the time ahead.
It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Fr Kevin Lee’s work in this parish as its first pastor, building this church in which we worship today and building this Christian community. I acknowledge his years of leadership and his pastoral care.
I would like to thank too those who have been present here since Kevin’s departure: Bishop Anthony, Bishop-elect Robert McGuckin, Fr Chris de Souza, Deacon Owen Rogers and especially Fr Joy who has been tirelessly celebrating Mass here on a daily basis over the past few weeks.
Their commitment to this community at a difficult time has, I know, been much appreciated. I also want to thank all the parish staff and parishioners who have worked to keep things as normal as possible here over the past few weeks.
So, I am here to be present to you, to listen to you, to get to know you, and to pray with you and for you. I want to know “where you are at” and armed with that knowledge do all within my power to help this wonderful parish community move forward as it lives out its mission to build God’s Kingdom here in western Sydney.
As we commence celebrating the Year of Grace, let us be confident that God will gift us for the journey we will be undertaking together. Know that I have been praying for you and will pray for you always but perhaps a little more intently over the next few weeks!
One of the great paradoxes of life is that it is often in times of adversity that the bonds of love between people and with God are strengthened, that God’s presence is most keenly felt.
It won’t happen however if we turn in on ourselves and resist the healing that needs to take place. It will happen if we are attentive to the lessons of the Gospel, especially the mandate for our mission and the command to love.
Some hesitated when Jesus first sent them out; Jesus reassured them not by recalling His authority so much as by promising His presence: “And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” These words, the last in Matthew’s Gospel, are addressed just as much to us here at Padre Pio Parish in the early 21st Century as they were to those early 1st Century disciples on the mountain in Galilee.Together, let us hold these words, this truth, before us in the days, weeks and months ahead that we may be truly aware of the loving presence of our Trinitarian God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Photo Gallery: Fr Riedling's first Mass as Padre Pio Parish Priest
New Parish Priest for Glenmore Park
Bishop Anthony's Pastoral Visit Homily (video, audio & text)
Western Weekender article
CathNews: New priest aims to listen closely
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