Funeral Homily for Brian Harradine - The Just Man

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Funeral Homily for Brian Harradine - The Just Man

There is a figure who is periodically referred to in the Sacred Scriptures. This figure is a rare type of person. Various attributes are ascribed to him. Very occasionally he is mentioned in relation to a particular individual, but mostly he is proposed as an ideal, as the embodiment of the highest of human virtues. He is considered an exceptional and treasured individual. This figure is simply called “the just man”.

His attributes are variously described. There is no comprehensive outline of his qualities. For example, the first of the psalms speaks of him in these words,

Blessed indeed is the man
who follows not the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the path with sinners,
nor abides in the company of scorners,
but whose delight is the law of the Lord,
and who ponders his law day and night.

In this psalm we are told that such a man is like a tree planted beside flowing waters and he will yield good fruit at the appropriate time. It further states that all he does will prosper.

Another psalm, this time Psalm 15, says that such a man “walks without fault”. It says that this man will do what is just. It says that he will speak “the truth from his heart”.  It adds that he does not slander with his tongue, he “does no wrong to a neighbour”. This person is clearly an exceptional individual. He is one who attracts respect and admiration. He is someone looked up to. Such a man stands amidst his peers as an individual who is seen as different, and admired. His ways are pure and uncontaminated. Even his enemies recognise that he possesses a quality of character that they respect. The counsel of such a man is wise and prudent. It has depth and insight.

There are other texts that explore the characteristics of such a man. The Prophet Isaiah, for instance, says that such a man “speaks what is right and rejects gain from extortion”. Such a man walks with integrity and does not allow evil to touch him. He is a man of high principle.

Such a man has an inner source of inspiration and strength. The Scriptures speak of this man as one who has learnt not to rely upon himself but has learnt to put his trust is in God. He is a man of faith. In one place St Paul simply says, the just walk by faith (Rom 1:17). A just man is aware that the final vindication for his life and actions will come from on high. He does not seek or expect approval from this world. Thus, he has an inner freedom whereby he does not depend on what people around him may think. He is able to hold virtue and principle as worthy in their own right. Such a man has an inner freedom to act purely according to his conscience in the pursuit of the good.

The Scriptures speak of such a man having light around him. His life is transparent and all his actions open to full scrutiny. They radiate truth.  There are no things done in secret or deals conducted in the shadows. People know that this man is exactly what he says he is. There is no mask, no attempt to disguise the truth.

In the Christian Scriptures some individuals are described as “just men”. In the Old Testament Job is described as a just man. In the Book of Job it is recorded that Satan comes before God and claims that Job can afford to be just as life has been good to him. Test him with suffering and he will curse God, Satan argues. God gives permission for Satan to bring down calamity on Job. He is tested to the limit but does not reject God. The just man can be tested by adversity. His integrity is not dependent on his personal wellbeing. 

Another individual described as just is Joseph, the husband of Mary. Scripture presents him as a faithful husband and father. His was not a life of notable achievements. Indeed his life was one of accepting a destiny not of his own choosing. His life had its moments of challenge, but he proved steady and faithful. He was a man who did what was expected of him, not seeking any personal advancement. Pope John Paul II spoke of faithfulness and purity of heart as two defining qualities of Joseph.

Sacred Scripture presents the image of the just man to us. Such a man stands with integrity before both God and man.

The man we have come to bury today can be aptly called a “just man”. Brian Harradine has gained respect as a man of high principle and integrity. He is seen by allies and by those who opposed him as a man who would not go down paths of expediency or compromise in order to achieve his ends. His beliefs were oriented to the good of others. Holding to these beliefs he would negotiate a way forward whereby the truth of his views was preserved.

Brian worked tirelessly for the common good seeking to promote the conditions necessary for the advancement of individuals; he sought to protect the dignity of human life from conception to natural death. Brian Harradine recognised that politics ultimately should not be viewed in terms of parties but instead should recognise its role of service to the community.  Brian provided a clear example of the role of someone in political service. His Catholic faith was the inspiration of what he did. It motivated and informed his actions. He did not seek to impose his beliefs but allowed his faith to provide the inspiration to his decisions and actions.

Today we can look at the outcome of the life of a just man. We can see that integrity and honesty bear good fruit not only in the character of an individual, but in the fruitfulness of his life and service. Brian leaves behind an extraordinary legacy of good. His was not the path of shallow expediency or short-gain compromise. His life witnesses to the fact that truth and principle are what makes things ultimately fruitful. 

There are two particular aspects to the character of a just man that deserve mention.

The first is that such a man is humble. Brian never sought personal advancement. He shunned personality politics. He was always content to be in the background. He never claimed the limelight or sought to gain credit for what he achieved. He never wanted fuss and would probably think that today is a little over the top. Humility is the mark of the just man.

Secondly, a just man sees his life essentially as service. This is how Brian Harradine went about this life in politics. He sought to assist the needs of the poor and struggling. He defended the sacredness of human life, speaking out for those who could not speak for themselves - the children in the womb. He dedicated his work as an independent senator to the advancement of the State of Tasmania. He ensured that this island state benefited from its rightful place in the Commonwealth.

In the 25th chapter of St Matthew Jesus tells a parable, often known as the Parable of the Talents. Three servants are given various amounts of money. The master then tests them to see how they used the gifts given them. Two trade with what they have and one buries his money in the ground. The master praises those who have used their money well with the comment, “Well done good and faithful servant, you have proved yourself faithful in small things, I will entrust you with greater; enter into your master’s happiness”.

Brian Harradine was the wise and prudent servant who used what God had given him to the full and for the good of others. One can hear the Lord greeting him with the words, “Well done good and faithful servant, enter into your master’s happiness”.

Like every human being Brian would have known the reality of personal sin and so, as we pray for the repose of his soul, we commend him to the mercy of God. May the God of mercy receive Brian Harradine into eternal beatitude. May we be inspired by his example to become just men and women.

Amen.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Tuesday, 22 April 2014