From a secular point of view, the Catholic Church in Australia has outlived its usefulness. Health care for the poor, schools in the bush, support for migrants, centres for community – these services are now provided by the government and charitable organisations.
We are gathered here to discern how the Holy Spirit is calling us to renew the life, mission and structures of the Church. But this is all in vain unless we rediscover the heart of who we are and why we exist. The beating heart of the Church, the source of our vitality, and the end goal of every initiative is Jesus, present Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist.
“Every commitment to holiness,” wrote St John Paul II, “every activity aimed at carrying out the Church’s mission, every work of pastoral planning, must draw the strength it needs from the Eucharistic mystery and in turn be directed to that mystery as its culmination…Were we to disregard the Eucharist, how could we overcome our own deficiency?” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia 60). Vatican II exhorted us, “For the most holy Eucharist contains the Church’s entire spiritual wealth: Christ himself, our passover and living bread. Through his own flesh, now made living and life-giving by the Holy Spirit, he offers life to men”. (Presbyterorum Ordinis 5)
At the beginning of this Council, we heard Jesus’ words to St. Francis, “rebuild my Church.” Archbishop Tim also called us to “return Christ to the Church and the Church to Christ.” During these days we have heard the Spirit calling us to recover the Church’s mission and our responsibility in proclaiming the Kingdom of God. But in Jesus, the messenger is the message; the way is the destination; the Kingdom is the King. In Jesus’ Eucharistic presence, we find the best answer to all our questions.
The First Provincial Council in 1844 asked that the Eucharist be the central feature of the emerging Australian Church. To make us a more prayerful, missionary and evangelising Church, I pray that the Fifth Plenary Council confirm the priority of a Eucharistic renewal in the Australian Church and seek concrete ways to renew devotion to this priceless treasure.
Only when the Church in Australia falls in love again with Jesus present in the Eucharist will she become what she was created to be. And to echo St. Catherine of Siena, only then can she set the world on fire.