This is an edited version of a homily Archbishop Mark Coleridge gave at a Mass for the Brisbane archdiocese Curia and cathedral precinct staff in St Stephen’s Cathedral on February 5.
ONE of the great treasures of the Archdiocese of Brisbane is this cathedral precinct, standing as it does right at the heart of the central business district of the state capital.
It sits here surrounded by the towers of business, finance, politics and the law, all the things of this world – important things for sure; but here, quietly and unmistakably, we have a different space that looks to a larger world.
This precinct, which is our work space and our worship space, is seriously counter-cultural. But it’s even more counter-cultural than you think – certainly it is if you take seriously and really hear what we have read from the Letter to the Hebrews.
You might say that you have come to the cathedral precinct, yes – but that means you have come to an office, you have come to the base of a large bureaucracy.
The Catholic Church is a very big operation, sustained by a very large and expensive “system” – so you’ve come to that, you might say.
Yet the mystery is far deeper and grander than that, because in the words of the Letter to the Hebrews, what you have come to is nothing known to the senses – not a blazing fire or a gloom turning to total darkness, not a storm or trumpeting thunder, though we’ve had plenty of those.
What you have come to, we are told, is Mount Zion – though it doesn’t look like Mount Zion which is over in Jerusalem. But that’s what it is.
Mount Zion is wherever the faithful gather to worship the living God in a space that belongs to him, so this cathedral and its precinct don’t belong to us; they belong to God.
They are the place where God has chosen not to set up an office but to make a home, a space where God has pitched his tent.
In this space, we have heard, millions of angels gather for the festival. So we’re absolutely not on our own.
We’re hundreds in this cathedral, but around us here and in the precinct, we have not only millions of angels but the whole Church – not just some of the Church, but mystically the whole Church gathers at the heart of the CBD – the Church in heaven and the Church on earth.
Agatha, the virgin martyr of Catania in Sicily, whose feast we celebrate today and whom we shall never forget through the ages, the little girl who died for Christ: she is here with us with the host of saints and angels.
If you have eyes to see and ears to hear what Hebrews has said, you will see that in this space you are a first-born daughter, a first-born son, not just another hack in an office, not just another bureaucrat.
You come to this space as a first-born son, a first-born daughter, a citizen not just of Brisbane, but a citizen of heaven.
To this holy space we cannot come alone, and that’s the power and importance of us gathering together here in our hundreds today.
You notice that when Jesus sends out the disciples in the Gospel of Mark, which we’ve heard, he sends them out not alone but in pairs.
The missionary journey that has its roots in Christ can never be done alone. It can only be done with another or others.
We all live in and work in an office space, and I’m very conscious that my side of the precinct over there can seem light years away from the other side of the precinct where most of you work, even though it’s only a stone’s throw away.
We can be in the same place but we can be holed up in hermetically sealed spaces, cozy private pods.
Today we say: enough of the private pods and their fragmentation. We come to Mount Zion together.
This celebration matters, because it reaches beyond all that might keep us apart and gives us the sense that what we do, we do together – in this space where we all are first-born daughters and sons, brothers and sisters.
Many of you work within what is grandly called in Roman Catholic Church-speak, the Curia. We have the Curia in Rome, the Vatican, and we also have the Curia here in Brisbane – the team that gathers around the bishop, or in the case of Rome, the pope.
The danger here is that it can seem that this precinct is a space where a court gathers, because that’s what the word “Curia” means.
Pope Francis has said of the Vatican, the Curia, “This is not a court”, which also implies, “I am not a king”. If that’s true of the pope in Rome, then how much truer is it of the Archbishop of Brisbane?
Here there is no court, and I am certainly no king. Here we have a community of brothers and sisters; so I am Mark, your brother, not Mark, your boss, let alone Mark, your king.
Agatha died a martyr’s death, and it was shocking. Few or none of us will be called to share her fate.
But the word “martyr” means “witness”; and all of us without exception are called to witness to the truth of the Gospel in some way, no matter how mundane your work may seem.
Everyone called to work in this precinct, this sacred space, everyone of us in the cathedral now, is called to witness to the truth of the Gospel, the truth of Jesus Christ, “the same yesterday, today and forever”.
And His truth is this: that there is death, but there is a life that is bigger than death; there is sorrow, but there is a joy that’s larger than all the sorrow; there is sin, within us and all around us, but there is a mercy that overwhelms all sin.
This is the truth that this space proclaims at the heart of Brisbane; it is the truth of which this cathedral speaks; and it is the truth to which we, like Agatha, give witness in our own way. Amen.