Mass at Australian Catholic University, North Sydney

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6 May 2013

I must confess that prior to becoming a bishop, I had not given very much thought to the corporate component of our role. While we like to think that our role is pastoral and grounded in the traditions and teaching of the Church, as a bishop, we are also overseers of a very large corporate organisation, which in turn has to be managed properly. One of the ways of doing this, is to ensure that there is adequate “succession planning” to enable the transitions, when they inevitably occur, to go as smoothly as possible.

All of us would, I am sure, be aware of situations  when some of the key people on a particular committee or commission retire at the one time.  Quite a considerable amount of the “corporate memory”  goes with them.

In a few minutes time, as the conclusion to the words of consecration, we will be reminded of the words of Jesus “do this in memory of me.” In the Gospel passage, Jesus is preparing the disciples for some difficult days ahead, when he says “so that when the time for it comes, you may remember that I told you.”

At the heart of the Church, there is memory. The Church is founded on the memory of words of Jesus as they have been heard, experienced and received. The memory that we have is an inheritance which we treasure as we experience our faith in Jesus in our personal and the life of faith that we share will fellow believers.

The Church is, as we well know and believe,  the people of the Word, and it lives by the memory of  what God has revealed to us. That memory is subject to the work of the Holy Spirit who, as the Gospel passage says, bears witness to it.

We, all of us here,  have been called to receive that memory together and to pass it on as best we can. “You too will be witnesses, because you have been with me from the outset.” Like the Word, the memory only exists so that it can be shared, otherwise it is lost. “That you may remember” directs us towards the future, and it encourages us to leave behind the past. Both our memory and our faith operate in the terms of hope and expectation which is both a comfort and a challenge.

All of us  are empowered to hope in  the memory of  the actions of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel. Those of us who are bishops have a unique role in preserving and carrying forward the memory of Jesus. It was because of our concern that the true memory of Jesus was becoming faded, that we came to the decision to have a Year of Grace. There are many indications that Pope Benedict XVI had something similar in mind when he initiated the concept of the Year of Faith which began in Advent last year.

Here in this establishment there is a memory to preserve, to foster, and to enlarge. The Australian Catholic University was built, as I understand, upon the shoulders of various Teacher Training Colleges dotted around the nation, mostly established in the first place by religious congregations, and staffed by their members. The ACU has many memories to preserve, to foster and to build on, in the preparation of those who will move into the professions related to the courses in Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Health Sciences, Law, Theology and Philosophy  and various Institutes and Centres which ACU also operates. There is a precious opportunity here to enlarge on the memory which comes from the Gospel.

“Do this in memory of me.” That is what we are doing again this evening here in the beautiful new Chapel of the North Sydney Campus of the Australian Catholic University. It is the most precious memory of all, and this post-Easter time is set aside to remind us of that treasure, and of our responsibility to cherish it and to diffuse it as best we can whatever the particular circumstances of life in which currently we live.