Greg Bennet’s homily from Inaugural Eucharist

Homily Opening Mass

First Reading   Jeremiah 20:10-13
Gospel John 10:31-42

Dear Friends,

A visiting US theologian said during her visit to Melbourne a few years back, “if you dare to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, then you better wear a hard-hat.”

The journey of faith isn’t always so easy. Look at what happened to both Jeremiah and Jesus, as proclaimed to us in today’s readings from the Word of God.

There is so much conflict, misunderstanding and even threats of violence directed to Jeremiah and Jesus.

It’s clearly not an easy path to be a prophet!

Even our prophetic Pope Francis these days has his critics and enemies – ‘throwing stones’ at him. Often these voices, unfortunately often expressed in print and broadcast media claiming to be Catholic, criticise Pope Francis for introducing topics such as discernment, dialogue, mercy, gradualness to help us understand better our Christian lives.

Perhaps, Jeremiah and Jesus in today’s readings were dealing with what our Pope Francis colourfully calls “sourpusses” !

What such ‘sourpusses’ miss in their criticism ( according to Cardinal Cupich of Chicago)  is that everything the Holy Father is saying is based on his core conviction, one shared by his predecessors, that Christ is truly risen and active in the church and in each of our lives. As Pope Francis puts it, this means “Christ is always doing something new.” 

All of you here at YTU – administration, academics and students are involved in this task of discovering  and re discovering this  ‘newness’ with Pope Francis.  The Spirit of Christ keeps on speaking to us.

As Timothy Radcliffe notes your special mission as teachers and students of theology is to widen and deepen hearts and minds. That means that you, as theologians,  must always make a crucial distinction between rigour and fundamentalism. Fundamentalism means that you think you can have all the ‘answers’. Religious fundamentalism arises when things are described too simplistically and fundamentalists are unable to talk to those who think differently from them. It can occur on the ‘left’ and the ‘right’. Its special tactic is ‘throwing stones’ at other people…

Your mission is different. The rigour with which you approach your study of theology is quite different. Rigour means doing all you can to understand the great questions: deep analysis is very different from fundamentalism.That is is your ministry here at YTU…

And so let us pause on your journey and pray for each other at the beginning of the new academic year for YTU..

We all need to stop from time to time to ponder the life and mission given to us.  For it is in the silence of prayer that our deepest insights into the Mystery of God unfold.

When words seem to fail, the book of Proverbs often uses a poetic little structure:
Three things I don’t understand. Four are too marvellous for me.

And so to all of you at YTU I leave you with this word for 2018:

Three things I don’t understand.

Four are too marvellous for me:

Our vast Australian land under the sheltering sky
Human life in its extravagant beauty
The breadth and height of God’s ways among us
The length and depth of his mercy.

May God bless the Yarra Theological Union community in 2018.