Safeguarding Sunday 2021

Homily given by Bishop Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay
24th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B
Safeguarding Sunday
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral, 12 September 2021
Watch Bishop Anthony's Homily here

I was standing in a “physically distanced queue” during the week at one of the Service NSW Centres because it was time to renew my Working With Children card. While I was waiting, a person standing not too far away from me was not coping very well with the heat, the long wait, and the multiple requirements for checking in. They were reciting what seemed like a litany of woes and it would have been very easy to make a negative judgement about their attitude and their situation.

Thirty years of priestly ministry has taught me not to jump to conclusions, especially when people are under stress, are anxious, or agitated. After a few minutes, that person simply said out loud, “I lost my partner four weeks ago. I am not normally like this. I just don’t seem to know what to do”. Their personal revelation in a public space must have been quite a challenge. It was a vulnerable moment for that person, and I was edified by the charitable way those nearest to them made that person feel safe and secure.

There are many circumstances in our community of the Church and in our wider society at the moment, that are causing people to feel vulnerable. It may be tempting to question why is there so much suffering in our world? Why do we have to endure so many trials, tribulations, and crosses? 

The sacred Scripture chosen for today’s Mass goes some way to provide us an answer. The prophet Isaiah speaks about a willingness to make an offering of oneself for the sake of others. And in the gospel, Jesus himself rebukes Peter who obviously wanted to live a life to the full, where there was no suffering or pain. Jesus warns Peter about the danger of getting caught up in his own reality, his own life.

This is a great temptation for all of us – to run away from the harsh reality of life and possibly to create false gods and false life situations. However, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “God’s ways are not our ways.” Out of the most difficult and terrible situations, God can draw goodness and new life. Jesus has proved this through His resurrection from the dead. Our attitude to suffering is so very important. Some people go through life ignoring their difficulties, and for others the burden and pain is so heavy that it can take years to acknowledge. Suffering is real and eventually it catches up with all of us.

For some in our community the pain and torment of abuse that has been inflicted is so harmful that as the bishop I apologise. Some of the behaviour in our Catholic Church has been criminal and sinful. To those who have been inflicted with this burden, with this pain, with this abuse, I apologise. Every person in our community of the Church has a right to live life to the full, as Jesus promised. Every person also has the responsibility to care for others, especially to safeguard children and vulnerable people. These duties begin with me, the bishop, and work their way through every member of our community. Together we are called to reject and to reform the culture of pain and abuse.

My sisters and brothers, together, in a spirit of goodness and charity we are called to renew the Christian culture of courage and honesty, justice and peace, forgiveness and mercy. The choice is up to each one of us. The way we approach difficulties is vital to emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being, but most importantly, the way we love others will uphold our life as Catholic Christians. That is why Saint James says in the second reading today that it is not enough to talk about faith. We actually have to live it. 

The words of Jesus in the Gospel are demanding, “anyone who wants to follow me must take up the cross. Anyone who wants to save their life must lose it.” Very often it is only when our security is chipped away through trials, when we are faced with problems and sufferings which we never imagined we could have, only then do we discover our inner resources. Often that is when we discover the life of God within. Frequently, that is the first step to true freedom.

As we commemorate Safeguarding Sunday in our diocese and in the Catholic Church right across Australia today, my brothers and sisters, might we put into practice the faith in Jesus Christ that Saint James calls us to. To listen and not judge, to accept and not reject, to ask humbly for forgiveness and to console charitably the people we have harmed, especially our brothers and sisters who have survived abuse.