Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett installed as new Bishop of Lismore

Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett installed as new Bishop of Lismore

Bishop Geoffrey Jarrett

The installation of Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett, a former Anglican priest, as the fifth Catholic Bishop of Lismore (NSW) took place on 12 December 2001. The following is an edited text of his homily. (See www.lismorediocese.org for the full text).

We modern believers are placed in our own day at the cutting edge, where the everlasting Gospel intersects with the culture of our age. Our job is to transform it, to bring it to yield a great harvest.

It has many disturbing aspects that perhaps make us fearful. Especially it has a malign power to unsettle, intimidate, and even overwhelm those who believe. It seems to be able to inoculate, as it were, many of our young against Christian belief, or blight the promising blossom of faith by distorting its content or attenuating its vision.

Today we must be especially on our guard against the weakness of letting the measure of truth be determined by common experience, popular consensus or driven ideologies. In the face of those who complain that the Church lacks contemporary relevance, or that her teachings are behind the times, we must show our own delight and thankfulness that the Church does stand firm on critical modern issues, like strong and wise parents who know what is good and true, and do not give in to their children's every demand.

It is in the environment of determined faith that our family life will flourish, our marriages will deepen, our priestly and religious commitment will be renewed and ministries and apostolates will be energised: in a word, that we will be effective bearers of the holiness of God into the human community of our time and place.

The new evangelisation to which the Church calls us also demands once more a confident and articulate assertion of the bedrock truths of Catholic faith.

In handing on the teaching of the Apostles as it is transmitted down the ages by the Church, we may observe that there have been few times in our history when it has been more necessary for the Catholic people to know well the substance of the faith and its attendant moral teaching, and have the ability to give their reasons for holding this truth and commending it to others.

As the Holy Father exhorted the bishops to do at the closing of the recent synod: "Have the courage to teach and defend the true doctrine of the Church." We welcome the movement of a renewed Catholic catechesis among us, at every level in our parishes, schools and the diocese overall, with the best of modern resources in texts, material and expertise.

Attendant to the faith and central to its practice are the sacraments of faith. And central among them is the Eucharist: sacrifice, communion and presence. The Mass we know makes present in every time and place the one, all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus Christ so that we can in a community, as well as individually and intimately, draw the benefits and strength of His victory over sin and death into our lives. It is at once the very mystery of faith, and at the same time the nourishment of faith.

Whatever else we might have to give up or let go in the week, the Sunday Mass ought therefore to be utterly non-negotiable.

Far from feeling the constraint of a serious obligation, as indeed it is, we ought to feel ourselves captive to the drawing power of that love which will never let us go, and seeks our grateful love in return.

Many of those things that weigh on our hearts are the consequences of sin - our own and the sins of others. I wish to pass on the encouragement Pope John Paul gave all of us, in his letter for the Great Jubilee, for a renewal of appreciation and use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Again, it is not so much a matter of lamenting the all-pervading loss of a sense of sin in our culture, which often seems to make a virtue out of what we must consider most shameful, but rather appreciating our need to experience the mercy of the compassionate heart of the Father.

A real challenge lies here for us priests, says the Pope, in not giving in to passing crises but to be confident and persevering in our teaching, our diligence as confessors, and our own example. The ongoing renewal and regular celebration of individual and personal confession will, please God, be a great grace for us in the way ahead.

Another hope is that God may inspire an adequate number of young men to dedicate their lives to the priestly service of the Gospel in this diocese. Having done so well for so long, we must be unremitting in prayer and encouragement in home and school, that responses to the Lord's call will speedily mature in the minds of many of our boys and young men.

There can never be a substitute for a priest, and there cannot be a parish without him. A priestless Church would no longer be a Church; it would but die away. Because the priest is meant to model his life on the mystery of the Lord's cross, and to stand among the people sacramentally in the Lord's own place - "another Christ" - of course serious and demanding things are required of him, things which are of the very stuff of faith and high Christian idealism. I will be doing all in my power to seek and encourage vocations and, as a bishop, I will know no joy like that of bestowing the priesthood on those generous men who respond.

We may be sure that the Apostles as they embarked on their mission drew great inspiration and strength from the constant faith of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Lord, from the beginning to the present the unfailing Help of Christians. She who believed that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled will also help you and me in our common endeavour in this time ahead.

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