24 Nov 2019

St. Mary’s Cathedral Basilica, Sydney, Solemnity of Christ the King

Thank you all for taking part in the annual Walk With Christ procession, this year on the Solemnity of Christ the King. I acknowledge today the presence of the auxiliary bishops, clergy, religious and lay faithful who helped organise or assisted in today’s procession.

Raison d’etre means the most fundamental reason for a thing’s existence. We might say “art is the artist’s raison d’être”. Or as D.H. Lawrence said once of a rather gloomy fellow: “He would have no raison d’être if there were no lugubrious miseries in the world.”[i]

So what, we might reasonably ask, is the raison d’etre of Christianity, the Church, Christians? We know what Christianity does: it does cathedrals and churches and many activities within them; it does parishes, with all the community building and service they provide; it does universities, secondary colleges, primary schools and pre-schools; it does education and research across all disciplines, but especially philosophy, theology and catechesis; it does hospitals, aged care and hospices; it does orphanages, food vans, housing for the homeless, all sorts of welfare; it does marriage preparation, pregnancy support, counselling and other support for families; it does art and architecture and music and so much that contributes to our culture; it does consciousness-raising on the dignity of every person and acts to end human sacrifice, cannibalism, the old slavery and more modern trafficking, abortion and infanticide, euthanasia, racism and other prejudice…

We know all this, but it doesn’t really get to the heart of what we are about. After all, we’re no longer the only ones who run such good services. Nor are we the only ones, or even the first, to seek the truth, goodness and beauty that inspire such things. These things may mark the Christian faith, but they do not define it.

So, what is the raison d’etre of the Church? Let me be daring today and say: it is the Blessed Sacrament.

That might be a bit surprising: surely what Christianity is about is, first and foremost, the kerygma: the proclamation that Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, who lived, taught, healed, died and rose again for our salvation, who reveals and enables us to commune with the Trinitarian God and each other in this life and attain perfect happiness in the next. Christianity is about knowing, loving and worshipping that God, understanding and living His plan for us, becoming better people – saints – on our way to heaven and making this world a better place as well… To all of which I say: Amen! But what better proclamation of all that than the Blessed Sacrament?

First, because the Blessed Sacrament is no mere theory, word, symbol or custom, important as those things are: it is a Person, Jesus Christ, our Universal King; really, substantially present to us, body and soul, flesh and blood, humanity and divinity; present not just for our adoration but for our communion; a divine-human Person who wants to feed our hearts and transform our souls by becoming a substantial part of us.

We turn to Him at this time in the history of our Church in Australia and in the history of our city and state and nation. When Christianity is threatened in many ways, it is this sacrament that marks out our faith from all other faiths, philosophies and ideologies: that God is really with us, as one of us, and for us, whole and entire, a wellspring of love from which our identity and mission and endeavours flow. When we rejoice in good times, we sing to our Eucharistic Lord. When we grieve in hard times, we mourn in His presence. When we are physically sick, morally wounded, spiritually afraid, we seek healing and protection in the arms of Christ. When we are healthy, we return to give Him thanks. He is the centre from whom the whole of our faith and life flows with ever-increasing centrifugal force.

This is why we gather every year with Christ and take Him out onto the streets of Sydney and bless the city with His presence. Not out of some triumphalist desire to rub people’s faces in our religion, nor because we are in denial about our failings. No, we walk with Christ through our streets because He is the raison d’etre of our faith, institutions, ministries, our very lives.

Nothing but boundless Love, all-giving Love, divine Love could have entrusted His Only-Begotten Son into human hands, could have allowed His Beloved Son to suffer at those hands, could have perpetuated that gift of His Eucharistic Son received through our hands. This is the raison d’etre of our Church, our faith, every Christian. Why Christianity? Through Christ, and with Christ, and in Christ, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, Almighty Father, for ever and ever.

[i] D.H. Lawrence, Women in Love (1920)