Mass of the Third Sunday of Easter Year C + Paschal Eucharist for Neophytes

01 May 2022

St Mary’s Cathedral, 1 May 2022

Two years before he was catapulted to stardom as “Crocodile Dundee,” Paul Hogan graced American TV with an advertisement for Australian Tourism (1984).[i] He demonstrated the cheerful, laid-back demeanour of Aussies, while showcasing some of our beautiful landscapes including Sydney Harbour. Hogan’s invitation Down Under climaxed with a sentence that was cemented into Aussie vernacular and global memory: holding up a large prawn he said “I’ll slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya.” Even if he used the American word for prawn, Hogan captured Aussie keenness to share our country, food and selves with others—and also our love for the barbecue!

Barbecues go back a long way in this country: for tens of thousands of years, Aboriginal cuisine relied upon open air cooking on hot coals. Though the European settlers preferred to cook indoors in wood-fired ovens and then on gas or electric stoves, outdoor bullock roasts were held for public events in the nineteenth century. As early as 1903 the Waverley Bowls Club was advertising an outdoor “Leg o’ Mutton Barbecue”.[ii]

With the rise of homeownership on quarter-acre blocks, Australians enjoyed the great outdoors by cooking chops and sausages (rather than whole animals) on an outdoor grill—accompanied by tomato sauce, beer cardboard cask wine. By the 1960’s gas-bottle barbies had arrived and the sausage sizzle became our culinary icon.

The barbecue caught on because it suited the great Australian weather (at least until lately!), because it was versatile (there aren’t many things you can’t “chuck on a barbie”) and because it brought people together, whether an extended family around the home grill or strangers around a public one at a park or beach. The smoky food was secondary to the fellowship it occasioned.

Jesus loved such fellowship.[iii] The Gospels have Him regularly eating with newlyweds, pharisees, undesirables, friends or even crowds of thousands picnicking on the hills. This was not just in times of leisure. Jesus’ most precious moments are marked by eating and drinking. His first great sign is turning water into wine; His most recorded is multiplying loaves and fishes; and His last wonder is today’s haul of fish (Mt 14:13-21; Jn 2:1-11; 21:1-19).

All three miracles were of end-time proportions, divine in their extravagance. As His ministry came to its climax, He took His closest friends aside for a last meal, transforming the Passover into His own Pasch, and perpetuating our participation in it as the Eucharist (Mt 26:20-30; Jn chs 6 & 13).Before returning to the Father, He dined again with despairing disciples in Emmaus (Lk 24:13-36), with confused ones in the Cenacle (Mk 16:14) and with excited ones at today’s lakeside barbie (Jn 21:1-19). And all of this partying, replete with spiritual significance, came very naturally to a man who loved people and loved to party.

Jesus also loved food and drink. This particular aspect of His temperament coloured His theology and preaching. Rather than a patristic, scholastic, liberation or eco theologian, He was a culinary theologian! The Gospels read as a veritable cookbook. They are replete with talk of vineyards, grapes, wine, spirits and vinegar; of wheat, flour, barley, yeast and bread; of fruit trees, olives, figs, mulberries and more; of eggs, pigeons, fish, lamb, pig, goat and a fatted calf; of salt, honey, mustard, herbs and spices.[iv] Jesus described prayer as asking our Father for daily bread and forgiveness as a father feasting his prodigal son’s return. Christian life is bearing fruit and yielding a harvest. Preaching should be savory and Christian leaders wise stewards feeding their charges at the proper time. The kingdom of God is like a wedding party and in that kingdom Jesus’ disciples will eat and drink at His table.[v]

How does Jesus describe Himself? My food is to do the will of my Father; I am the bread of life. And how does He leave Himself for us? Again, as food: his Body and Blood, under appearances of staple foods. Jesus is remembered in the meal, substantial in the food and drink.[vi] Some didn’t approve. John the Baptist’s disciples expected more asceticism. Jesus’ critics called Him ‘glutton and drunkard’ (Mt 11:9; Lk 7:34).

Why all the foodie stuff? Well, one thing it reminds us of is that, though divine, though glorified, the Risen Jesus was the same man as He was pre-Easter. And the best way to prove to us that He was no ghost was to eat with us. This is the God-man whose incarnation shows the goodness of our physical natures and their potential; whose living and dying alongside us shows He loves human companionship and sympathises with our lot; whose leaving us the Eucharist shows He still wants to ‘party’ with us.

Jesus’ attitudes to food and friendship infected His disciples. On Easter Sunday we saw that John the younger disciple was faster running to the tomb; today he has better eyes for seeing distant shores and first identifies Jesus. Peter was slower getting there, but when he smelt Jesus’ fish burgers he was so excited he leapt ashore, almost forgetting to get dressed first! When the others arrive Jesus says “I’ll slip another shrimp on the barbie for ya.” With 153 fish between them, like after any Middle Eastern meal, we can safely assume no-one went home hungry!

Jesus loved to party but those parties were always occasions for some deep conversation, profound learning, miraculous grace. At the beachside barbie Peter’s three Good Friday denials were reversed with three protestations of love. His previous calls to be a follower-disciple of Jesus, a fisher-evangelist of men, a rock-solid security-man for the Church, a key-holder for heaven are all reprised in the call to be a shepherd. Jesus underlines the responsibility of the pastor, and again He uses foodie language: Peter must feed young and old, sheep and lambs, feed minds and hearts.

And to cap it all off, amidst the intimacy of the meal Jesus tells him—tells us—what Christian friendship and pastoral service will cost: being ready to lay down our lives for others. Christian love is cross and resurrection love, the paradoxical self-giving that regains itself for keeps. Jesus’ great mate Pete is told he’ll be led where he’d rather not go. But his death will “give glory to God” and so to Peter also. The Easter Church has begun, and with it the companionship of the disciples, the witness of the martyrs, and the celebration in the sacraments.

It is into this Christ’s death and resurrection that you were grafted, dear neophytes, by your Baptism at Easter; it is into this Church that you were incorporated by your Confirmation; and it is with this eternal banquet that you commune now in Holy Communion. Welcome to the before party: look forward to the heavenly banquet to come!

[i]         https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xn_CPrCS8gs

[ii]        https://australianfoodtimeline.com.au/first-australian-barbecue/

[iii]       Partly this reflected Jesus’ Jewish culture: his relatives, especially his good Jewish mother, seek to ensure that his ministry does not get in the way of his having proper meals; Peter’s mother-in-law, cured of her fever, gets up immediately to serve them supper; having raised Jarius’ daughter, Jesus’ first direction was to give her food; and his dear friends Martha and Mary squabble over serving the dinner: Mt 8:14-15; Mk 3:19-21; 5:42; Lk 10:38-42; Jn 4:31; 12:1-8.

[iv]       Vineyards, grapes, wine, spirits and vinegar: Mt 6:25,31; 7:16; 9:17; 11:18-19; 20:1-16,22-23; 21:28-41; 24:38,49; 26:27,29,42; 27:34,48; Mk 2:22; 10:38-39; 12:1-12; 14:25; 15:23,36; Lk 1:15; 5:30,33,37-39; 6:44; 7:33-34; 10:7,34; 12:19,29,45; 20:9-15; 22:18; 23:36; Jn 2:1-11; 4:46; 15:1-8; 17:8,27-28; 18:11; 19:29-30. Wheat, flour, barley, yeast and bread: Mt 3:12; 4:3-4; 6:11; 7:9; 12:4; ch. 13; 14:17,19; 15:33-36; 16:5-12; 26:17,26; Mk 2:26; 6:8,37-44,52; 8:4-6,14-19; 14:1,12,20,22; Lk 3:17; 4:3-4; 6:4; 9:3,13,16; 11:3,5-10; 12:1; 13:21; 14:15; 15:17; 16:7; 22:1,7,19,30-31; 24:30,35; Jn 4:31-38; ch. 6; 12:24. About orchards, fruit trees, olives, oil, figs, mulberries and other fruit: Mt 3:8,10; 6:17; 7:15-20; 12:33; 13:23; 21:1,18-21,43; 24:3,32; 25:3-8; 26:29-30; Mk 4:20; 6:13; 11:1,12-14,20-21; 13:23,28; 14:25-26; Lk 1:42; 3:8-9; 6:43-44; 7:46; 8:14-15; 10:34; 11:12; 13:6-9; 16:6; 17:6; 19:29,37; 21:29,37; 22:18,39; Jn 1:48; 4:36; 8:1; 12:24; 15:2-8,16. About eggs, pigeons, fish, beef, lamb, pig, goat, and a fatted calf: Mt 4:18-19; 7:6,10; 8:30-33; 13:47-50; 14:12,17,19; 15:34,36; 17:27; 21:12; 22:4; 25:32-33; Mk 1:16-17; 5:11-16; 6:38-43; 8:7,32-34; 11:15; 25:32-33; Lk 2:14,16,24; 5:2,6,9; 9:13,16; 10:3; 11:11-12; 15:15-30; 22:7; 24:42; Jn 1:29,36; 2:14-15; ch. 6; 13:18,26-30, 21:3-17. About salt, honey, herbs and spices, mint, dill/anise, cumin, rue, mustard seeds and myrrh: Mt 2:11; 5:13; 13:31-32; 17:20; 23:23; Mk 4:30-31; 9:49-50; 15:23; 16:1; Lk 11:42; 13:18-19; 14:34; 17:6; 23:56; 24:1; Jn 19:39-40.

[v]        Eating, drinking, table etiquette: Mt 15:26-27; 26:6-13; Mk 7:28; 14:3; 16:14; Lk 5:29-32; 7:36-48; 10:7; 11:37-39; 14:7-14; 16:21; 17:7-8; 22:14,21,27,30; Jn 12:1-8; 13:4,12. Prayer as asking for bread: Mt 6:11; Lk 11:3,5-10. Forgiveness of prodigal son: Lk 15:11-32. Christian life as fruit / harvest: Mt 3:4,8; 7:16-20; 9:37-38; 12:33; 13:23,30,39; 21:34,41,43; Mk 1:6; 4:20,29; Lk 3:8-9; 6:43-44; 8:14-15; 10:2; 13:6-9; Jn 4:35-36; 12:24; 15:2-8,16. Preaching as salt: Mt 5:13-16; Mk 9:50; Lk 14:34. Christian leaders as stewards/shepherds/parents feeding: Mt 9:36; 24:45-51; Mk 6:34; Lk 11:27-28; cf. Lk 16:1-13. God’s kingdom like a wedding party: Mt 9:15; 22:1-14; 25:1-13; Mk 2:19; Lk 5:34; 12:35-38; 14:7-24; cf. Jn 1-11. Eating in Christ’s table: Lk 22:18,30.

[vi]       My food is to do the Father’s will: Jn 4:31-34. The bread of life: Jn ch. 6. Body and Blood: Mt 26:26-29; Mk 14:22-23; Lk 22:19-20; Jn 6:48-51; 1Cor 11:17-33. Bread/Wine of the kingdom: Mt 26:29; Mk 14:25; Lk 14:15; 22:18,30.

Introduction to Mass of the Third Sunday of Easter Year C + Paschal Eucharist for Neophytes

St Mary’s Cathedral, 1 May 2022

Welcome to St Mary’s Basilica in Sydney for the Solemn Mass of the third Sunday of Easter. This morning we greet the Risen Lord of Easter with great joy. We also greet with delight our neophytes who were elected for Baptism here at the beginning of Lent and were baptised into the family of God in their parishes at Easter. We welcome you back today, no longer as Christians-elect but as fully-fledged brothers and sisters in Christ, acknowledging our communion as one spiritual family! We give thanks for your journey to Easter 2022 and for all of those who had a hand in preparing you along the way.

To everyone here this morning, including visitors and more regulars, a very warm welcome.

Remarks to Neophytes at Presentation of Gifts after Mass

 Cathedral College Hall, 1 May 2022

Dear Neophytes, our newest Catholic Christians, welcome brothers and sisters. It has been a privilege for all of us to witness a defining moment in your lives on earth and the life to come. Above all, of course, we give thanks to Christ to whose life, death and resurrection you have been joined, and whose identity and destiny is now yours forever. Keep proclaiming Him just as the disciples continued to proclaim Him even in the face of trials and tribulations. You are now part of a spiritual body that consists of more than 1.2 billion people right now, a body that reaches back to the apostolic age and forward into eternity! 

I encourage you to keep learning about Christ, studying your Catholic Faith, asking your questions and contemplating the mysteries. Be zealous in sharing that faith with others through evangelisation and service. To that end, I am delighted to launch The Catholic Mass Booklet that each of you have in your ‘goodies bag.’ This resource, while quite small, is packed full of richness. It was produced by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation as a tool that will help you unpack the beauty of our Mass. You will find information on each part of the Mass and it draws upon the deep wells of our faith including Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the wisdom of the Saints. I pray that this will assist your active participation in the sacred liturgy. Congratulations newest Christians! Welcome to the family of God! God bless you always!