Chapel of Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop, North Sydney Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Readings: Acts 14:19-28; John 14:27-31a

Looking at you from up here, you don't seem a particularly restless crowd. Yet it's often said that this is a restless time, and I think it's true. But there's surely more to it than restlessness. Ours is a time of the troubled heart when fear seems to hold sway. It's an age of anxiety, a time of deep frustration, even anger; and all of this is not just "out there". It's in the Church as much as elsewhere, and it leaves its traces in each of us, even the Bishops. We seem to stand before a closed door – the doorway into peace, into the fullness of life for which we long. We see the door, but it never opens – and we can't open it ourselves. To make matters worse, the one whom Jesus calls "the prince of this world" tells us that that's the way things are and that we should just get used to it – in other words, abandon hope. And if we dare even to approach the door, "the prince of this world" pelts us with stones, just as Paul was pelted in what we have heard from Acts. We're caught between a hard place and a rock.

Into all of this comes Jesus, waging war against "the prince of this world", who is the Lord of hopelessness. Jesus says simply, "Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid...Peace I leave you; my own peace I give you". He says this because he's the only one who can open the door. That's what Easter is. When Jesus rises from the dead, the door is flung open for ever. As the prophet Isaiah says, foreshadowing the Messiah: "He shall open and none shall shut" (22:22). The Book of Revelation follows suit: "He who has the key of David shall open and none shall shut" (3:7); and in the O Antiphon of Advent, we find: "O Key of David...controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and lead your captive people into freedom". And finally the Easter Preface of today says that "the halls of the heavenly Kingdom are thrown open to the faithful". The open door – the doorway into life – is what we call grace. We can't do it ourselves, but we don't have to: the totally unearned love of God does it for us in Jesus. All we have to do is walk through.

But that's harder than it sounds, because to make matters worse, we're paralysed by the stroke of sin. Faith is the power that enables the paralysed to walk. It enables us cripples to walk through the door that Jesus opens. That's what Barnabas and Paul mean when they make their report to the Antioch community after the first ever Christian mission outside Palestine. They say that "God has opened a door of faith to the Gentiles". The door is open; the paralysed, the seriously disqualified, can walk through. No-one is excluded.

That was something well understood by St Mary MacKillop whom we remember in a special way today, entrusting the Year of Grace to her intercession. Mary and her Sisters went out where no-one else could or would go in order to open the door of faith to the young, whoever and wherever they were. They could do that because they themselves had first walked through the door of faith. That's why they could be women of grace.

As we begin the Year of Grace, we all walk through the door of faith. In a Holy Year, we have a Holy Door which looks back to the mission report of Barnabas and Paul. Through the Year of Grace and Faith, we may not have a Holy Door – though I wouldn't exclude that. But Holy Door or not, we walk together through the door of faith into the world of grace where the human heart is no longer troubled and afraid, but knows the peace which is in Jesus crucified and risen. What we will do through this year will be an invitation to everybody, but especially the troubled, the fearful, the angry and the frustrated – an invitation to join us on the journey into the world of grace, casting down as we go "the prince of this world" and glorifying the One who is truly in charge, Jesus Christ, "the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Rev 1:5), "the prince of peace" (Isa 9:6). Amen.

+Mark Coleridge
Archbishop-designate of Brisbane



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