2022 Commissioning for Catholic social services in Victoria

The Commissioning Mass for Catholic social services in Victoria was held at the John Pierce Centre on 27 April. Bishop Martin Ashe celebrated the Mass with Father Wayne Edwards, assisted by Deacon Mark Kelly. The homily he shared on the day was a commissioning for staff and volunteers of Catholic social services throughout Victoria and is gratefully reproduced with the Bishop’s permission.

In being present with you today, I am reminded of Pope Francis’ words soon after he became Pope over 9 years ago.  He was speaking of the reality of the universal church that he was experiencing at the time.  Instead of it being inwardly focus on its own problems, He desired it to be more outgoing and life-giving.  He used the image for the Church as a “Field Hospital” for the wounded. It is to go out of itself, and close to others in their need. For him the the focus needed to be more closer to the poor in their situation, to be with those who are struggling and needing to experience the closeness of Christ to them.

You and your 43 member organizations are near to people who are vulnerable and in need.  You are seeking to accompany and respond to people in all kinds of situations.  You and your work of service is one revealing example of the kind of Church we continue to need in our world at this time. You speak up for the wounded and you seek to be close to them bringing dignity and hope to them.

The gospel proclaimed today within the Easter season is a call to be renewed again with that sense of mission of reaching out with Christ’s love and to be given the God’s grace to do it.  Some say that the first few verses of our gospel today are the most uplifting.  “Jesus said to Nicodemus: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” At the heart of this Easter season we are celebrating the Risen Lord and his love for us and our World.

In John’s gospel, when John speaks of the world, it can be from a negative perspective because of people’s rejection of God’s ways and the works of darkness being to the fore. There is a rejection of the creator God, the source of all light and life. Yet, in today’s Gospel we hear in a very straightforward way that this is the world that God loves in all its messiness and struggles and evil behaviours.  It is to this world that God reaches out to us. 

He sends his only Son not to condemn the world  but to reveal through his humanity the extent of God’s love.  It is a love through which Jesus gives his all on the cross for humanity.  This is the most profound sign of God’s love for us and the Resurrection of Jesus is the victory of Love over hatred, of light over darkness.  It is drawing humanity in a new life, to be forgiven, to be healed, and to be restored in our dignity as human beings.

Each one of us is invited personally to be open and trusting of this Love.  There are times when a part of us can doubt our innate goodness, some corner of our being might be touched with darkness.  Yet, God’s gift of love is still offered to each of us.

Indeed, it is to be drawn into the dynamic movement of the Love of Christ who has reached out to us.  It is to be part of that Divine movement of reaching out to our world restoring dignity to people’s lives.  It is to continue to embrace and be part of his mission of making Christ’s love real in our world.

The mission of the Catholic Social Services is to become a real sign of God’s loving activity in the world today. We are all deeply aware of the challenges we face today. We are confronted with the spirit of darkness in its many forms where people find themselves marginalized and disadvantaged. There is the increasing reality of homelessness, older people struggling with the increasing cost of living and the concerns of our indigenous community.  There are many other examplesl

Yet, at the same time, the work you do seeks to bring a sense of dignity into people’s lives, to restore their humanity.  Advocating for those in need is to bring hope into their lives, to bring light into their darkness.  We can all resonate with psalm response today – “The Lord hears the cry of the poor”. It is allowing the Lord’s spirit to resonate in our hearts and to hear for ourselves the cry of the poor around us too“.

The example of Pope Francis continues to encourage us in his commitment to those who are suffering and in great need.  All the pilgrimages he sets out on always give a preference to seeking out and visiting the most needy, the most vulnerable of human beings.  The pope’s presence is consoling and uplifting for them.

For all of us here, continuing to respond to the mission of Jesus in reaching out to the poor is part of our identity within Catholic Social Services.  Pope Francis highlighting the image of the Church as being like a ‘Field Hospital’ is indeed reminding us of the reality of our situation – the many wounded that are there to be reached out to and cared for.  May we allow God’s grace to be alive in us and to recognize that as members of Catholic Social Services Victoria our contribution is one of the revealing signs of God’s love being made real in the world of our time.