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Third Sunday of Lent

Homily given by Bishop Anthony Randazzo
Bishop of Broken Bay
Sunday 3 Lent B – 07 March 2021
Our Lady of the Rosary Cathedral

In recent weeks, the mass media has made much of situations regarding morally questionable behaviour and relationships of potential criminal conduct. The subjects of the reporting vary from high profile political figures to teenage students in several schools around Australia.

It is rare for bishops to speak on these issues of late. I suspect that some feel that we no longer have a credible voice. Given the dreadful way some church leaders have responded, their failure to uphold our moral beliefs, and their failure to protect innocent people from criminal behaviour and abuse. I can relate to the frustration, disillusionment, and pain that is felt across our community.

And yet, speak we must. Not with any sense of superiority or arrogance, but with compassion for those who suffer and with humility and authenticity regarding the truth of the Gospel.

It would be an understatement to suggest that at times the moral compass which guides and gives direction to our human society, has been disregarded or ignored.

There are strong advocates for unbridled freedom. Freedom of choice, freedom of identity, freedom from order. However, what seems to be laced through much of the media reporting, is the reality of irresponsible freedom. Irresponsible freedom denies the common good and replaces it with a system that is bent on satisfying the individual alone.

The rule of law is designed to protect individuals while promoting the common good. It requires that individuals and communities be co-responsible. It allows each member of the community room to flourish as members of the human family. It protects the vulnerable, at all stages of life and in all situations. It is designed to guide all people while bringing about order so that peace and justice are possible in society.

The great challenge in our time – both in the community of the Church and in the society in which we live, is to resist the urge to see ourselves as an independent and autonomous civilisation with no connection to God. Without God, human society becomes uncivilised, self-serving, and abusive.

Time and again throughout history, the human family has spiraled out of control into destructive patterns which can best be described as a life of slavery. Slavery to self, slavery to the most dominant voice or power, slavery to sin.

The Book of Exodus recounts the liberation of the People of Israel from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. God’s chosen people had succumbed to a form of irresponsible freedom. They had become self-preserving and self-satisfying. In some instances, the pursuit of the common good masked a hidden desire for unbridled freedom. Freedom of choice, freedom of identity, freedom from order.

Moses was not perfect, and yet he was chosen to be God’s instrument. The law was given through Moses, not to limit freedom, but to realise the true freedom that liberates the human family to live fully in the image and likeness of God.

My dear people, is not the Lord asking the same of you and me today? Are we not also called by God to be co-workers with God?

The commandments listed in the reading from the Book of Exodus today are not given by God to limit human life and freedom. (cf Ex 20:1-17) They are provided as a guide for life. They provide pathways for freedom. They are the foundation for responsible freedom, fullness of life, and the building up of the human family.

The strict interpretation and rigid implementation of rules and regulations does very little to promote a civilization of love or the Kingdom of God. However, the total abandonment of divine law, or disregard for the common good is equally destructive for both church and society.

The Good News that greets us today, my brothers and sisters, is that this work is not ours to bear, as if all depends upon you or me. This work is the work of God. In our local Church of Broken Bay, you and I are called to be co-workers with the Lord.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council brought about a new understanding of discipleship and what it means to participate in the work of God. The challenge is to learn how to be a disciple in the modern world by being a servant to humanity, seeking union with Christ, showing concern for the poor, struggling to build peace, and believing in God’s love.

As we continue our Lenten pilgrimage this year, might we pause along the way to ensure that God’s law has a genuine place in our lives as individuals, as a community of the Church, and as responsible citizens in society. In this way, the world will know the truth of the Gospel, that God’s law is perfect, that the rule of the Lord is to be trusted, and that the command of the Lord is clear.

In the week ahead, may our souls be revived, may our hearts be gladdened, and may we be enlightened to live as beloved children of God. AMEN.