1. Pilgrims’ Encounter of Beauty
Whatever we might state as the challenges facing the Church in Australia today, our reflections are to be seen from the panorama of our deepest need: conversion afresh to the centrality of Jesus.
Written on her tomb in North Sydney, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop offers us an essential wisdom. She said, “Remember we are but pilgrims here.”
Christians are never nomads, or wanderers. We are pilgrims. We know what our ultimate destiny is: happiness with God in the Father’s House. We are led to this destiny by Jesus, “the Way, the Truth and the Life” (John 14/6). Like the disciples on the Emmaus story (Luke 24/13-35), we walk together alongside the Lord. From this image the word “SYNOD” is derived.
Christianity is an encounter religion. Our way forward on pilgrimage is by encountering Jesus continually in mercy and humility. It is the path of conversion that we choose. There is no room for egoism, gossiping or narrow ideologies.
Pope Benedict expresses it wonderfully:
“Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction”. (Deus Caritas Est, 2005, n.1)
The Kingdom of God is already upon us in the Grace of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection but no yet fully realised. In Faith we allow Jesus to lead us, just like Mary, St Joseph and all the Saints, into the fullness of the Kingdom of God along with the entire cosmos.
This saving encounter as pilgrims is the opposite of the predominating context in which Australians live today.
All that draws us to see life in terms of power and competition, of egotistical individualism and gratification must be avoided. Although we need to deal with this societal context every day, succumbing to such forces is not worthy of our human dignity. This is why our journey ahead is crafted as a path of conversion.
It is not simply “conversion from” all this chaos but a “conversion to” all that is of beauty. This leads us to all that is good and true.
All that is beautiful truly moves the human heart and brings us into the presence of God – the author of all beauty and present in the Holy Trinity.
The saints are beautiful. Icons are beautiful. The scriptures are beautiful. The Sacraments are beautiful. Prayer is beautiful. The fragrant rose is beautiful. The sunrise and sunset are beautiful. True love and forgiveness are beautiful. Selflessly working to alleviate poverty and misery is beautiful. A community/diocese trying to live in the truth and goodness of Jesus in the middle of our grave challenges in Australia is beautiful.
God is all beauty – the purest light “in whom there is no darkness”. (1John 1/5). Let us let God lead us forward!
Archbishop Christopher Prowse
Catholic Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn
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