The Church does not need window dressing and public relations, it needs the living spirit of God, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, Apostolic Nuncio in Australia told delegates to the Proclaim 2014 conference for parish renewal in Chatswood on 22 August, 2014.
In a homily focused largely on Ezekiel’s vision depicting Israel as a valley of dead and dry bones, Archbishop Gallagher said the Church was presently “injured by innumerable self-inflicted wounds”.
“She is bloodied but staggers like a drunken man, but a cold shower of sobriety is being administered,” he told the 1500-plus delegates, adding that “despite the pain, we must be grateful”.
“We would not be here if everything was beautiful in the garden that is the Catholic Church,” he said.
“We know we live in painful, critical times.
“We recognise many have written us off as a shrivelled desiccated stump of a once healthy tree.
“We are struggling on many fronts and it is not easy to maintain confidence that we will regain the vital flourishing of our foundation.”
But just like those elderly members of the community who, in spite of the limitations of old age, retained great vitality and intellectual vigour, so, too, the Church can be reanimated through its faith and hope in God.
The evangelising community knows that God had taken the initiative in loving us first, Archbishop Gallagher said, citing words from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel).
“The bones in Ezekiel lose their dryness and acquire flesh and sinews and are covered with skin again, but they lack the one essential thing, life.
“Our Church does not need window dressing or public relations. Like the bones in the valley, we too need life, and life comes through the breath of God from his living spirit.”
Referring to the Gospel’s depiction of a Pharisee who wished to disconcert and confound Jesus, Archbishop Gallagher wondered whether or not the man had perhaps been motivated by his own, inescapable longing.
“[Perhaps] it is he, the Pharisee, who is really uncomfortable, ill at ease in his self-righteousness,” he said.
“Perhaps it is he who is looking for a way forward and who is implicitly begging Jesus to throw him a lifeline.
“When he asks about the greatest commandment it is the same as asking, as others do: ‘What must I do to obtain eternal life’?.”
Pursuing communion with God was not a “soft option, a satisfying intellectual game”, but required our entire heart, mind and soul.
“I am in it for life. I live for what I can get out of it to discover why and for what purpose I exist and have been.
“I cling to the words of Irenaeus … ‘A living man is the glory of god’. This is, I believe, the true reality and the prospect for eternity.
“It is a great vision, much greater than a valley of dry bones … a Church of living souls.”