It is good to be with you in Bundanoon, meaning place of deep gullies, especially at the significant milestone of the 120th year of the foundation of St Brigid’s Church.
I was fascinated to learn that your quarry provided stone, not only for Berrima Gaol and St Mary’s Cathedral Sydney, but also for many other sandstone buildings in Goulburn and Wagga Wagga, not to mention the altar here in St Brigid’s Church.
Mining, timber, quarrying and farming were the business activities that provided the livelihood of the early inhabitants and built the town of Bundanoon. The railway later brought tourists to experience the natural beauty of your environment.
A solid core of caring, community-minded people built this attractive town on the original Cobb & Co coach route.
The very inclusive Bundanoon community is a highly significant aspect of our celebration today of 120 years of St Brigid’s Church, which was opened on 31 March 1895 by Bishop Joseph Higgins of Maitland. St Brigid of Kildare was no shrinking violet. The generosity of a member of Trinity Anglican Church, Mr William Augustus Nicholas, provided a block of land in Hill Street – 35 and a half perches – so that the Catholic population and visitors in Bundanoon and surrounding districts would have a place to worship. Other churches were already established here.
On 10 March 1891 the foundation stone was laid by Cardinal Moran, third Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, assisted by Bishop Higgins, with several priests and over 200 people from the community.
A lot of fundraising was necessary to begin the building which progressed, despite the local bank collapse in 1894 which swallowed up the funds. Dismayed, but undeterred, the community of Bundanoon raised more funds so that the building could be completed.
So, on this important anniversary, which I am honoured to be part of today, I want to acknowledge and sincerely thank the total Bundanoon Community, of those early days and of today, who have worked hand-in-hand with their neighbours, no matter what their denominational allegiance, to provide the current Catholic Community and their predecessors with this lovely sacred space for worship.
A simple image for today could see us a bit like the person rowing a boat: in a row boat we look backwards in order to row forwards. As the Irish say: we always see much further into the future when we stand on the shoulders of those who went before us. We are encouraged by the sacrifices of our ancestors in the faith as we look back in order to keep going forward.
Each generation passes on the baton of Christian faith and culture to the next generation. As recipients of that gift of Christian faith, hope and love, it now falls to us to ensure we do not drop the baton but pass it on to our children and grandchildren.
Every church building in a town or neighbourhood is a sign and a reminder that God lives among his people – that “we do not live by bread alone,” that there is a spiritual reality that is inescapable in our everyday living, no matter how much people might try to suppress it, no matter how much the flesh tries to overcome the spirit.
So our physical church building is really the house where we, the Church, the living stones, gather to hear the Word of God, to pray, and to celebrate the Sacraments of Salvation.
When you come into this 120 year old building, just think of countless parishioners whose prayers have been offered in this space, and made it sacred and holy. This place is drenched in the personal prayers of six generations of people, drenched in the liturgical prayer of the Word of God proclaimed and preached here and the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist, celebrated here.
You can think of all those baptised here, both infants and adults; those who have been Confirmed; those who have exchanged their Marriage vows here; penitents absolved of their sins here; people farewelled from here with the funeral rites of Christian Burial. Church buildings are focal points for celebrating the joyful rites of passage in our lives and places of solace in the dark and difficult times of our lives. Jesus Christ is here when two or three gather in his name; Jesus is speaking to us when his Word of Scripture is proclaimed in this assembly; Jesus is present in his ordained minister who acts in his name and is present sacramentally in the Eucharistic sacrifice and sacrament - the same Jesus who in today’s gospel cured the deaf man who had a speech impediment.
In the Gospels we find that people who came to know Jesus were deeply impressed by his merciful compassion for people who were troubled. We also note the great good Jesus did for people in need.
Jesus cured lepers, he made the deaf hear and the dumb speak, he freed people from the power of evil spirits, he fed the multitude with a few loaves and fishes and he even raised people from the dead. “The people’s admiration was unbounded” and they said, “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37.)
Now you and I can’t perform such dramatic miracles as these, but as disciples of Jesus, you and I are to be known by our love and compassion – to show something of the goodness of Jesus Christ in the way we behave, because that’s the way our God-given response to Jesus, whom we love, has formed us in our living as his disciples. As St James says, we are called to be “rich in faith.” (James 2:5)
St Augustine, in the fourth century, was a very intelligent man who, in his young life, was far from God, until converted to a great extent by the incessant prayers of his mother Monica, plus the preaching of St Ambrose, Bishop of Milan. In his book called the “Confessions” is this beautiful passage where St Augustine says to the Lord:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new; late have I loved you!
For behold you were within me, and I outside; and I sought you outside and in my ugliness fell upon those lovely things that you have made.
You were with me and I was not with you.
I was kept from you by those things, yet had they not been in you, they would not have been at all.
You called and cried to me and broke open my deafness: and you sent forth your beams and shone upon me and chased away my blindness: you breathed fragrance upon me, and I drew in my breath and do now pant for you: I tasted you, and now hunger and thirst for you: you touched me, and I have burned for your peace.”
To be Christ-like can help us make a very positive contribution to our broader community so that people are glad to see us. You might remember this old verse with which I’ll finish. It says:
“Is anybody happier because you passed this way?
Does anyone remember that you spoke to him today?
Is a single heart rejoicing over what you did or said?
Does one whose hopes were fading, now with courage look ahead?
Did you waste the day or lose it, was it well or poorly spent?
Did you leave a trail of kindness or a scar of discontent?”
The questions stir my thoughts:
“Did I help lift someone’s spirits today?
Did I see something I could affirm or praise?
Did I miss an opportunity to tell someone they were looking smart today, that their presence was a tonic that their smile was ever warm and friendly, that the way they bore the pain of their lives was an inspiration?
Now I pause to think about it, I realise there must have been so many opportunities that I missed. Did I not notice?
Was I too shy to take the risk and the initiative?
Was I really present to the people I spoke to?”
The little poem continues:
“As you close your eyes in slumber do you think that God would say: ‘You have earned one more tomorrow by the way you lived today?’”
As the American Quaker, Stephen Grellet said, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow-creature, let me do it now; let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Most Rev Peter W Ingham DD
Sunday 6 September 2015