Discerning the Will of God for the Church in Australia - Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel 2018

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Discerning the Will of God for the Church in Australia - Feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel 2018

The Church in Australia has been invited to enter into a time of discernment leading up to the Plenary Council in 2020. The question that is being presented for us to consider is: What is God asking of us at this time?

It is a very provocative question. Indeed, how dare we presume to know the mind of God? Yet, at the same time, it is the nature of the Christian life to endeavour to discern God’s will. The Christian is one who desires God’s guidance for their communal as well as their personal life.

We who have faith know only too well that we are not to do our own will, but rather seek, as the Lord evidenced, to do the will of our Father in heaven.

We pray every time we say the Our Father, “Thy will be done.” The disposition of the Christian is to desire that God’s purposes be realised not only broadly in the world, but also in each of our lives.

We know our own understanding and our human wisdom is so limited. We know the shallowness of our own thoughts and perceptions. We know that God’s ways are as high above us as the heavens are to the earth.

The Christian, then, must perennially be alive to the question – what is God asking of us at this time? We cannot escape asking this question. Indeed, we need to pause often in our busyness to ask: Is this what I should be doing? 
To discern the will of God, there is no replacement for prayer. Yes, experiences can teach us or give us insight into the workings of God, but in the end, we will sense the movements of God only when we enter deeply into the interiority that is prayer, ultimately, contemplative prayer.

Our frantic, noisy and distracting society makes it very difficult to be sensitive to the voice of God. We need to find a place of silence and we need to still the whirling mind long enough to focus on the presence of God. This is the first discipline of prayer – to learn to be still. Indeed, we need to learn to stop thinking and talking, and understand how to be attentive and listening. This is no easy task for our generation.

It is when we have stilled our soul and have the patience to wait on God that we allow the Spirit of God to move within us. “Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist says.
At this moment for the Church in Australia, the question being posed is very important. Amid all the activity, all the good ideas, all the genuine intentions of those engaged in the life and work of the Church, we have to seriously stop and ask: what does God really want of us?

Prophets, like Elijah, were people who were able to speak the word of God and reveal the mind of God to a people who were so immersed in the daily concerns of life that they had lost touch with what God really wanted of them. The prophet was a man who, like Elijah, had to withdraw from society. Elijah sought solitude on Mount Carmel. It was in the isolation and silence that he became acutely aware of what God was doing. God would move not in the earthquake or powerful wind, but in the gentle breeze.

This is captured in the first reading this morning. We are told that Elijah climbed to the top of the mountain. He bowed down to the earth as though he needed to withdraw from what his natural senses may reveal. From this moment of withdrawal he sensed the movement of God. An inspiration came to him. He gave instructions to his servant to go and observe the horizon. Nothing was revealed on the first occasion. Elijah knew that something was about to happen. He sent him back seven times. 

He knew that the rains were about to come. A small cloud on the horizon was enough to assure him that now was the time. He sprang into action.

The prophet is one who waits on God and learns to be patient. Everything is in God’s good time, and not our own. The prophet is one who senses the movements of God and knows what is about to transpire. The prophet is the one who discerns what God is about to do, and engages with God’s purposes.

As we prepare for the Plenary Council, the question of discerning what God wants of us is most important. The Council will be a great undertaking. It will harness the energy and the hopes of the Church here in Australia. It will generate much activity, and much emotion. It will be an historic moment.

The great question is: Will it pick up what God is doing? Will the Church in Australia move forward in sync with God’s plans and purposes? We cannot afford to miss the grace of the moment. Without being in union with God, all our great plans and endeavours will remain still-born.  

Sisters, you have devoted your lives to being on the mountain, like Elijah. Like Elijah, you have learned to wait upon the Lord. Like Elijah, you have learned to be attentive to signs of the movement of God. Like Elijah, you are only concerned with God’s will and purposes, and desire that they be achieved.

So I ask you, I invite you, to join with your brothers and sisters in the faith throughout this nation, and seek what God wants for us at this time.

I will be ensuring that this community offers its contribution to the discernment of the Church in Tasmania as we present the results of our common search for the will of God.

Happy feast day.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, July 15, 2018