Australian National Prayer Breakfast Welcome Service, Great Hall, Parliament House, Canberra
TALK GIVEN AT 26TH AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL PRAYER BREAKFAST WELCOME SERVICE
GREAT HALL, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, CANBERRA
ON SUNDAY, 26TH OCTOBER 2014, 6PM
ADDRESS: ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
ORGANISER: MS LOUISE MARKUS MP
Thank you so much for inviting me to the 26th Australian National Prayer Breakfast. We pray for all our politicians here present and also all the groups from around Australia that have a particular role to play in prayer ministry for our elected officials.
I thank particularly Mr Russell Broadbent MP (Member for McMillan, Victoria) for his beautiful introduction of me. I have spent four happy years in his electorate over recent years. We all admire him as a man of profound integrity and ethical depth. When I think of Russell, I am reminded of the description Jesus gave to Nathanial in the Gospels. He described him as a man “without guile (deceits) (John 1/47). That is a good description of our Russell Broadbent!
I’ve been asked to reflect for a few minutes on the subject for this year’s breakfast – “I Believe.”
First of all there are two words here – “I” – “Believe”. Let us start with “believe.”
“Believe” or “belief” is quite different from the word “religion.” A person can be very religious, but have no belief. For example, an academic might even be of an atheist background, yet, have a great intellectual or philosophical interest in Christianity. He might even become an expert on Christian religion. But that doesn’t mean he is a Christian believer.
Christian belief or faith comes from a personal encounter with the Easter Jesus. This becomes the beginning blocks on true Christian belief. As St Paul would say “It is Christ that lives in me.” (Galatians 2/20)
If we take the scriptures from John’s Gospel, Chapter 20, we see this difference between religion and belief in some of the great early Easter conversions at the end of John’s gospel.
In John Chapter 20/16, there is the encounter of the Easter Jesus with Mary Magdalene. Mary Magdalene’s first words to the Easter Jesus are words based on non-recognition of Him as her Lord and Saviour. Indeed, she feels He is someone who has stolen the body of Jesus. She believes that He is the gardener, as indeed they are in a garden. It appears that we are back in the Garden of Eden! Here we don’t have the old Adam, but we have the new Adam, Jesus Christ, at the centre of this encounter.
Finally, when the Easter Jesus says her name, Christian belief is activated and ignited spontaneously in the forgiven heart of Mary Magdalene. When Jesus says to her “Mary,” she responds with the word of recognition, “Rabboni.” The look of love transforms her sad and unbelieving heart into one that is full of joy and hope. The Lord then gives her a mission. He tells her “To go” and inform the Apostles that He has risen. She becomes the first Christian Apostle.
And then, in the next chapter of St John we find the encounter of the ?Easter Jesus with St Peter. He asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” (John 21/17). This is in response to the three denials of Peter at the time of Jesus’ arrest. It is a beautiful encounter of Jesus, full of love going out towards Peter, full of doubt and impetuosity. It is a transforming experience where Jesus accepts Peter, where he is and tries to move him on. We know from Peter’s final testimony of love to the Lord that indeed this total love was given witness value in his martyrs death.
Let us pause for a moment and allow Jesus to call us by name as He called Mary Magdalene. Let us also petition the Lord to ask us the same questions that he asked Peter three times, “Do you love me.” (silence)
We all can pray these beautiful prayers. Prayer doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be long and complicated. Sometimes I pray the prayer of Mary Magdalene. I just imagine Jesus calling me by my name “Christopher.” I repeat that over, many times, asking the Lord to call me with the same love that He called Mary Magdalene, so that I too might be freshly converted to His Easter presence.
Let’s now move on to the second word of expression “I believe.” And that is the word “I.”
None of us can believe on our own. The “I believe” must ultimately became “We believe.” Pentecost shows us that individual belief is transformed ultimately into communal or ecclesial belief. This is the birth of the church. If we don’t believe this, then why are we here tonight? We could just remain at home and say our prayers. But we do want to gather in our churches and in our communities to witness to the presence of the Lord who speaks in His body – the church.
As people of common belief we pray for our elected politicians this night. We ask that God blesses this whole Parliament House with a real spirit of compassion and a deep presence of God in all that takes place here.
We pray particularly for our politicians as they make major decisions on our behalf in two particular areas. For example, the area of the family is one such crucial area. The Catholic Church has just concluded a two week Synod in Rome, beginning to discuss marital and family matters over the next few years.
We cannot put family life in one area and society life in a separate area. They are both interwoven. Society passes by the family. To encourage healthy families is to encourage healthy society. To place out of focus marriage and family life is to place out of focus society’s life and its health. Let us pray for our politicians that they make wise and prudent decisions about family and marital life in the years ahead.
A second example where we are praying for our politicians is in policy pertaining to present situations in the Middle East. Our Christian communities in the Middle East are telling us that the situation now evolving in the Middle East is quite unprecedented. The area is becoming de-populated of Christian communities. They find it almost impossible to be able to express their religious and familiar relationship in an adequate way in these days. They are fleeing the Middle East. This is of grave concern because over the centuries Christians have been interlocketers of peace in the Middle East. By and large they are the ones building the schools. They are the ones who have been building the hospitals. They are ones who have been building the orphanages.
What will happen to these in the years ahead? Our ultimate aim is to create a situation as an international coalition to really assist the people in the Middle East to return to their homes. This is not only for Christian communities, but it is also for Muslim minorities and ethnic minorities.
Just in these two examples we find that the deliberations and decisions that happen in this Parliament House are of great significance to Australians and to our contribution in the world.
Let us now pause in silence and pray for our politicians.