Addresses and Statements

FERVERINO FOR BENEDICTION AFTER “WALK WITH CHRIST”

02 Jun 2024

ST. MARY’S CATHEDRAL FORECOURT, SYDNEY, CORPUS CHRISTI, 2 JUNE 2024

The term “communion” translates the Greek word κοινωνί koinonia and the Hebrew word חַבּוּרָה chavurah. Both indicated an association or cooperative, such as Jonah and Sons, and Zebedee and Sons, who were in partnership in the fishing business at Lake Galilee, until the boys ran away from home to join Jesus and fish instead for people. Already at the time of Jesus, as today, a chavurah or minyan of at least ten men was required to represent the community of Israel at a synagogue service, wedding or funeral. Without such a quorum, the תּוֹרָה Torah and הפטרה Haftara (the Law and the Prophets) are not proclaimed, the קדיש Kaddish and קידושה Kedusha (hymns of praise) are not chanted, and the ברכת כהנים Birkat kohanim (the priestly blessing) is not given. The twelve apostles gathered for Jesus’ Last Supper represented the twelve tribes of Israel, but even after Judas had left, there was a sufficient minyan or communion to represent the People of God.

Something then happened that had never happened at any previous Passover. The Creator, who had come so close to His creation as to take on our human flesh, had been rejected and soon would be killed: as John said in his Gospel, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, it did not recognise him. He came to his own people, but his own received him not.” But before His return to the Father, He gave us one last chance to receive Him, now as spiritual food. “Yet to all who did receive him,” John continued, “he gave power to become children of God” (Jn 1:10-12). Here the Son of God so unites Himself to us that when the Father looks at us He sees His Son! In that moment of recognition, He adopts us as “children of God”. Receiving Him unites us to Him and to each other.

But how? Think for a moment of Jesus’ analogy with wine (Jn 15:1-11). God the Father is the vigneron, who tends the vineyard. Jesus is “the true vine”. We are the branches. If we are grafted onto Him, we will bear much fruit. But without His sap, wine, Blood coursing through our veins, we wither and die.

Or consider Jesus’ self-description as our daily bread (Mt 6:11). On the occasion of His multiplying loaves to feed us (Jn 6:1-14), He taught us that being with Him is to have Bread from Heaven, Bread of Angels, Bread of Life (Jn 6:31-35,50-51). But then, as at the Last Supper, He says something very strange: “I am that living bread come down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.” Though some recoiled, He insisted, “Truly, truly I tell you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you cannot have life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day.” (Jn 6:53-54)

Communion with God and each other is not achieved by force of arms, by walking the corridors of power or wealth, by utilising spinners and influencers, by synods, negotiations or other human efforts. To unite us as His company or communion, Jesus gives us His substance in “Holy Communion”.

In 2022 the Plenary Council of Australia reaffirmed “the pre-eminent role of liturgical worship in the life of the Church” and pointed out that “our communal worship witnesses to unity and hope in a fractured world increasingly hostile to public acknowledgement of God”. Today you have very publicly acknowledged God. Today you have witnessed to unity and hope. The Plenary Council thought the time was ripe for “renewal in catechesis, formation and devotion to this Sacrament”. To that end, it reverberated our request and that of the Bishops Conference to the Holy Father “that the 2028 International Eucharistic Congress take place in Australia.”

This would allow for “a time of prayerful preparation for the People of God”. But how are we to prepare? The Plenary Council called on dioceses to “commit to planning and promoting communal public events that focus on the Eucharist, in service of forming Catholic belief, culture and identity. These might include feast day celebrations, Eucharistic processions and adoration, and the development and performance of music well-suited to worship.” Today, my dear friends, you have done as the Council asked and helped prepare this city and country for that event we devoutly hope Pope Francis will grant us in 2028.

My dear people, you have just proclaimed to our city the gift of redemption in Christ Jesus. Not through robust argument, clever rhetoric or special effects, but simply by Walking With Christ whom you love. You have formed a chavurah, a minyan, a communion, not of ten but more like ten thousand! Like a priest calling down the Spirit upon the elements of bread and wine to change them into Christ’s Body and Blood, you have exercised your priestly power as the baptised to call the Spirit down upon this city to change it into God’s kingdom. That His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as in heaven, you brought Sydney our daily Bread, the Bread of Life. You proclaimed that Christ lives in our city, our communities, our hearts. He has given us His all, His very Body and Blood, all His substance and reality, all His spirit and grace, so no one would be left behind. Give Him your all in return!