My homily for Perpetual Day of Remembrance Sunday 2021, as preached during the live-streamed 9.30am Mass from Sacred Heart Cathedral, Hamilton.
The readings proclaimed were Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 14:7-9; Luke 7:46-56.
The tex of my homily can be found below.
As I mentioned at the beginning of today’s Mass, it is this Sunday that we mark the Perpetual Day of Remembrance. This day is a day inscribed in the liturgical calendar of our Church of Maitland-Newcastle when we are called – individually and corporately – to recall the dreadful history of our Church that has been laid bare by the stories of victims and survivors.
Yet this is no simple recalling of a dark past, a simple recollecton of facts. For the Christian, the act of remembrance is so much more than just an acknowledgement of what has been.
For us, the act of remembering is about connecting with the past – good or bad – and making it real and present here and now. It is what we do, we Catholics, each and every time we gather to celebrate liturgically. Here in this setting, space and time is transcended and the act that we remember becomes our present – and indeed our future.
And so, on this day, this Perpetual Day of Remembrance, we remember the victims of child sexual abuse who cries for justice reach our ears and become our cry for justice, for them and for all who have suffered injustice at the hands of the Church.
On this day, we remember the survivors of the horrible crime of child sexual abuse, and their righteous demand for support and healing becomes our demand that support and healing be available to all those whose lives have been unalterably changed by what they experienced.
As Catholics, we have no other choice.
Like Ezekiel confronted with dry bones in the valley we hear of in today’s first reading, we cannot pretend that we do not see or hear the plight of our brothers and sisters whose lives have been forever changed by the crimes of members of our Church. Those stories have been bravely told again and again – and we must listen. And we must act.
Ezekiel is commanded by the Lord to prophesy, to speak boldly of God’s truth in the face of what Ezekiel sees. In doing so, new life is brought to the dry bones; they are restored to “the soil of Israel”, to the fullness of life that is theirs because they are God’s People, created in the likeness and image of God, and imbued with the fullness of God’s spirit that they might live and flourish.
Similarly, we are called to prophesy here and now, in this time and place. We are called to speak boldly of God’s truth, to let the Light of Christ shine into the dark recesses of our history, and to stand with those whose cries for justice have reached our ears and become our cry.
Our task, as the Church of Maitland-Newcastle who rightly remembers our horrible history, is to boldly and unreservedly commit ourselves to a different present and future, to a Church where those who are the most vulnerable among us can have all they need to live safely, to flourish and become all that they can become. We also boldly and unreservedly commit ourselves to supporting those whom we have failed, those whose fullness of life has been impacted by criminal acts.
In the act of remembering, above all, we commit ourselves to the ongoing conversion of heart and mind that our belief in Jesus Christ calls us to. It is not just a conversion of individuals but also – and more significantly perhaps in light of our dreadful history – a conversion of the whole Church of Maitland-Newcastle so that in everything we do, we act and speak as what we claim to be – the followers of Jesus whose concern was first and foremost for those who were among the most vulnerable of society.
As Catholics, as Christians, as human beings, we have no other choice.