Be missionaries of grace and truth
Campion College Graduation Mass
My episcopal motto is Gratia et Veritas, Grace and Truth. The scriptural basis for it is found in John 1:17: “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The motto expresses my own Christian experience, my personal journey of faith. It was my experience of the grace of God during my student days that transformed and inspired my personal faith. This experience enabled me to understand that God acts immediately and directly in our lives. God is interested in each one of us. This experience transformed the way I prayed. It opened up the scriptures to me in a new way, discovering them as the living Word of God speaking directly into my life.
I describe my experience as that of grace. It was something wholly unexpected and certainly undeserved. The experience revealed to me that God loved me personally and wanted to actively work in my life and lead me on the paths he had chosen for me. It set my life and ministry on a significant trajectory. Still today the result of that experience burns as a fire in my soul.
Grace is an expression of the graciousness of God. It is about the mercy of God towards humanity. It is about the depth and power of the love of God for each individual. It is about the desire of the heart of God to reach into our lives and effect his saving work within us. God, as this Advent season testifies, is a God who saves.
Grace, in its more immediate expression, is the presence and movement of the Holy Spirit within each of us. The Holy Spirit is not just a sanctifying presence, but a wonderfully active agent of God’s intentions for our lives. The Holy Spirit not only transforms the heart, but drives its intentions. Thus, I have learned that the Christian life is one of seeking the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Allowing God to do wonderful things in us, as the Virgin Mary joyfully professed in the Magnificat.
Grace touches and transforms the human heart. We are simply to allow ourselves to be caught in the stream of grace. I could spend the whole homily speaking about grace.
However, I have come to recognise that there was a second movement of God in me. It came as a consequence of the grace I received. It was the enlightenment of my mind. I found that I had a fascination for the truth, for Christian truth, for revealed truth. It was a thirst to know Christian truth as revealed in the sacred scriptures and as faithfully taught by the Church.
I remember well my desire to read the scriptures, the Fathers and the great saints of the Church. I developed a special love for the spiritual tradition, the great spiritual writers, the writings of the saints. In our rich heritage of Christian thought was the exploration and discovery of truth. This truth is no more evident than in the writings of holy men and women. Like St Catherine of Siena, truth was not arrived at simply by the exercise of the mind, but it was revealed to souls who sought divine wisdom.
One very special moment of joy for me was the English publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1994. In the confusion and uncertainty of the post Vatican II years, I longed for a definitive exposition of the Catholic faith. In my efforts during the eighties and nineties to help young Catholics build a solid foundation for their faith, I was acutely aware of the lack of a definitive presentation of the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church provided this.
I went down to Canberra to be present as the President of the Bishops Conference, Archbishop Frank Carroll, formally launched the Catechism in Australia. I bought a copy there and then. In the coming weeks I read it cover to cover and my soul sung!
Over the years I have desired to promote the beauty and richness of Catholic teaching. I was captivated by the writings of Pope St John Paul II. Here was truth being offered which addressed the challenges of our own time. I soaked up all his writings.
He wrote one document entitled Veritatis Splendor. I am sure it is very familiar to you. The very title excited my mind – the splendour of truth. Truth is luminous. Truth is glorious light that shines in our minds. Pope John Paul II said in the opening paragraph: “Truth enlightens man’s intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord.”
Truth cannot but lead us to God. Truth reveals also the wisdom and glory of the Lord.
Today we are celebrating this Graduation Mass within the Advent season. The reading from the Prophet Isaiah is replete with joyful expectation. God’s heart for his people is revealed: “Console my people, console them.”
The cry goes out: Prepare a way for the Lord. The joyful messenger is urged to shout from the heights: “Here is your God.” God is coming, be ready to receive him.
It is an invitation to each of us to turn our full attention towards the Lord, towards the Lord who comes. The Advent season invites us to savour the promises of God and be buoyed up in expectation of the marvels that God does and will do.
My dear graduands, as you look now to your future, I invite you firstly to recall what I believe would have been your experience at Campion College. It has been an experience I am sure for each of you, that is, it has been an experience of grace and truth. In this you have been deeply blessed. Lift up your hearts in deep gratitude for what you have experienced, for what you have received.
The Advent setting of this Mass invites you to look to the future will confidence. The prophet exhorts us to shout without fear our belief in God. We have known the grace of God in our personal lives. We have tasted something of the splendour of truth, so now we must take this forth into our society and into whatever paths open up for us.
In a few simple but significant words: be missionaries of grace and missionaries of truth.
Archbishop Julian Porteous
Monday, December 10, 2018