The following homily was given by Archbishop Peter A Comensoli at the official opening and blessing of the new church (Mary Immaculate Church) and parish centre of the Mary Mother of the Church Catholic Parish Ivanhoe.
We began our Mass today with these words: ‘Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is a day of rejoicing.’ And indeed, it is, as we have come together to offer to God this newly renovated Church, along with the new Lady Chapel. The very same sentiment was experienced by Zacchaeus on being recognised by Christ: ‘He hurried down [from the tree], and welcomed [Jesus] joyfully.’
Pope St Paul VI described joy quite succinctly as that disposition when a person finds his or her peace and satisfaction in the possession of a known and loved good. Joy is an experience God has made just for people. It is a deeply human encounter, where, in our finite and limited reality, we can experience something of the infinite life of God. Joy is a sign of God’s presence in us, and a sure hope that our lives have a meaning far beyond the mere physical. In joy, and with joy – in Christ, and with Christ – we find the peace that is our purpose.
We can each understand the kind of experience Zacchaeus felt – a heart that was bursting that he was recognised, even in his troubled existence. His neighbours did not wish to acknowledge him for the injustice and corruption he exhibited among them. But Jesus did acknowledge him – not for what he had done, but for the life he might have with him. Jesus wanted to stay with Zacchaeus in his home because he had come to save those who were lost, to other and to themselves.
Joy was the right response to this invitation, for joy is a way of living, not just an outcome of an experience. Joy is rightly a gift of the Holy Spirit, who always drives us out. The spirit drove Mary to seek out Elizabeth; the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert; the Spirit drove the disciples out of the upper room. The Spirit of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, drove Zacchaeus to his home, rejoicing as he went.
The same Holy Spirit has driven the work of this renovation, and driven us into this temple dedicated to God. Joy ought to be the sign nailed to the doors of this place, for it is a place where we are reconciled with God and each other; a place where we are nourished in Word and Sacrament; and a place from which we are driven to go out to our neighbours with the charity of Christ. No one is excluded from the joy of the Lord, and this place ought to be an inviting home into this joy.
As we rejoice in today’s re-dedication of Mary Immaculate Church, might we recognise that Jesus is inviting us into a share in his life. You have honoured this building with your work of beauty, not because of any inherent value in its brick and mortar, but for who is honoured here, Jesus Christ, who says to you, ‘come down, I wish to stay at your house today.’ May today – in this House of the Church – be for you a day of rejoicing in the Lord.
Banner image: The original Stations of the Cross by Matcham Skipper were reinstalled in the newly refurbished Mary Immaculate Church.
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli26 November 2023
Archbishop Peter A Comensoli25 November 2023