Bishop Vincent’s Homily for the Diocese of Parramatta’s Annual Red Mass

05 Febuaray 2024
Bishoop Vincent delivers homily at the Annual Red Mass. image: Diocese of Parramatta

2024 Red Mass- Towards God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity. Readings: Corinthians 12:4-13; John 16:5-13

Dear brothers and sisters,

To you all, especially judges, barristers, solicitors, professors, legislators, government officials, and all who support and sustain our legal system, I extend a warm welcome to St Patrick’s Cathedral for the annual Red Mass. With the people of God in this great city, particularly here in Western Sydney and the Blue Mountains, we give thanks to God and pray for your service to the community.

You might know that the first Red Mass was offered in Paris in 1245, in England around the year 1310, in Sydney in 1931 and in Parramatta only since 2019. We thank the District Regional Law Society and St Thomas More Society for your organising this celebration. Thanks to your effort, Parramatta may be the only non-metropolitan diocese in Australia that hosts an annual Red Mass.

Upholding justice and the rule of law has never been easy. Strong currents in our society today call into question the values that are foundational for our society: justice, equity, common good, equal dignity and the intrinsic worth of every person. Ideological positions are widening on every issue whether it is immigration, environment, gender or indigenous reconciliation. As people of faith entrusted with the administration of justice and care for the community, we are called to listen, discern and act with Christian wisdom, integrity and truth.

The scriptures for this Red Mass call us to be the catalysts for a transformed world. We are challenged to commit ourselves to work towards God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.
In the first reading, St Paul reminds us of the duty to build up the community which he calls the body of Christ. It is a powerful symbol of unity and shared destiny. Our gifts and talents are given not primarily for ourselves but for others and the greater good of the whole. The consciousness that we are connected with one another as parts of the same body must be the driving force for community building and mutual empowerment.

In the Gospel, Jesus also encourages his disciples not to retreat in fear but to engage with and transform the world. His impending departure by way of the Ascension is the end of his earthly mission but also the beginning of theirs. Jesus promises that he will be present with them in a new and more powerful way. He speaks to them passionately about the Spirit. He doesn’t want to leave them orphans. He himself will ask the Father not to abandon them, to give them another Advocate that will always be with them. God’s family project for humanity and all creation will live on and move towards its final fulfilment through the power of the Spirit and our partnership and participation.
Jesus calls us as he did his disciples to break loose from our comfort and security, from self-interested and enclosed living to a life open to the kingdom vision of integrity, solidarity and justice for all. It was this call that guided the early Church to grow beyond its Jewish confines and to respond to the signs of the times. We must be likewise guided to respond to our own needs and changes today.

Dear brothers and sisters,

The Word of God today shows us that faith has a social and political dimension. The early Christians understood this and showed to the world a way forward in how they lived, how they related, how they shared resources. In the face of a fractured society, they shone as a community of radical inclusivity, hospitality and justice. Against the dominant system of exploitation, self-interest and greed, they enacted an ethos of communion, justice and compassion. The Church was transformed beyond the original company that Jesus had gathered and yet this creative process remained faithful to his core values.

We are a community grounded in God’s love. Despite all of our failings and distortions, individually and institutionally we host God’s power for life. The Church in a quite specific way is the place where large dreams are entertained, songs are sung, boundaries are crossed, hurt is noticed, and the weak are honoured. We have no monopoly on these matters. Yet we take this agenda as our primary mission. The Church raises the human questions of justice, reconciliation and peace, of welcome and friendship, of hospitality and love. When the Church fails in this mission of ministry, it weakens its identity, and needs to hear again the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Your noble profession and vocation is to ensure that the law is administered equally justly, one could say blindly, so that the law can fulfil its basic purpose. We pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on our work for the right ordering of society, the advancement of the common good, the protection of individual rights within that common good, so that society can enshrine its values and live by them and that all God’s children can live in justice, equality and peace.

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