MASS AT ST. FRANCIS XAVIER CATHEDRAL, ADELAIDE
Tuesday, 21st April 2020
Theme: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes… So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn.3:8)
Good afternoon and welcome to this Eucharistic celebration, as we join our universal Church and our global family in worshipping, praising, thanking, and praying to our Triune God, from whose generous hands all good things flow.
The famous Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore once said: “Faith is like the lark that sings to greet the dawn even when it is dark.” In spite of the ink-black darkness all around, the lark instinctively, hopefully and joyfully knows that God will not fail to send us a new, bright, and beautiful day with a host of new possibilities.
We are presently passing through some very uncertain, fearful, and nerve-wracking times. But we know for certain that our Triune God, who looks after the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields, will unfailingly protect, preserve, and deliver us. That is just what we celebrated on Easter Sunday and then again on Mercy Sunday.
Theme: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes…So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn.3:8)
My Professor of Sacred Scripture in the Seminary once said: “Jesus was both an intellectual and an intelligent teacher.” Sensing our bewilderment and curiosity, the scholarly priest went on to explain. He said: “An intellectual is one who has a lot of knowledge. Stated differently, his knowledge is voluminous. But an intelligent man is one who is able to share the wealth of his wisdom with his listeners in terms that they can easily understand.” That indeed is the hallmark of a truly good teacher.
Such a brilliant teacher was Jesus. He had a wealth of wisdom. As a matter of fact, as the Son of God, he was literally ‘wisdom incarnate’. But he also had the uniquely pedagogical knack of sharing his profound wisdom with his listeners in words that they could easily understand. And this precisely is what he was doing when he said: “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes.” (Jn.3:8)
Jesus wanted Nicodemus to understand what it meant to be “born from above” (Jn. 3:7) But Nicodemus did not understand, and Jesus knew it. Yet he did not give up on him. Rather, like a sensitive teacher, Jesus gently tried to draw Nicodemus closer to the truth by using the analogy of the wind – something Nicodemus could easily understand. “The wind blows where it wills, and, even though it is invisible, you can hear the sound it makes…So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn. 3:8)
And this precisely is how God communicates with us – silently, wordlessly but powerfully – in and through the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit. As C.S. Lewis so eloquently said: “God whispers in times of prosperity, but shouts in times of adversity.”
These powerful words have been so unmistakably recognizable in our global family over the recent past. God is speaking for sure, and his message is inescapable. “I am the Lord, your God…Can a woman forget the child she nurtures at her breast or show no compassion to the child of her womb? Yet if she does forget, I will not forget you. I have carved you on the palm of my hands; you are mine.” (Is. 49:15)
If I may be permitted to be personal, when I served in the Adelaide Cathedral Parish, we priests would be required to administer the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a Monday and Wednesday evening before the Evening Mass at 5.45. Like the other priests, I too would be rostered. My practice was to arrive at 4.55 p.m. and walk into the Cathedral and then into the Confessional. There are, as you can see, two entrances – one to the south and closer to the Car Park and the other to the north and nearer to Wakefield Street.
On one particular Wednesday, I clearly remember an inaudible but unmistakable voice – clearly and distinctly the prompting of the Holy Spirit – saying to me: “As you are free, why don’t you go earlier and spend time in prayer?” And so, I did. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes.” (Jn.3:8)
I reached the Car Park and instead of taking the southern entrance, as was my customary practice, I walked to the one at the northern end. I just cannot explain why I chose that option. But, as I was soon to learn, God certainly had a mission for me, and I was privileged to be his ambassador. “The ways of God are mysterious, but always marvelous!”
On entering the Cathedral, I found myself all alone. Just then the door opened and in walked a man, who was obviously a visitor. I greeted him. He told me that he was a visitor from the US. And then he added: “As I was passing this Cathedral, Father, I said to myself, ‘I haven’t been inside a church for the past twenty-five years.’ And I could almost hear God say to me, ‘Please enter.’ And that is why I did.” I listened attentively. “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes…So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn.3:8)
Suddenly, of his own accord, he said to me, “Father, it is twenty-five years since I left the Church and turned my back on God. Can I please make my Confession?” I willingly agreed and that is just what he did. When he finished, he was so joyful. He thanked me sincerely and left literally with a spring in his step. My joy truly knew no bounds. Said Jesus: “There is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk. 15:7) “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes.” (Jn.3:8)
The ways of God are mysterious, but always marvelous!
- It was God who prompted me to leave earlier that evening.
- It was God who ordained that a visitor from one continent would meet a priest on another continent in the city of Adelaide, in the Cathedral of St. Francis Xavier, on a Wednesday evening and at 4.30 p.m.
- It was God who arranged that I would be at the Cathedral at the right time.
- It was God who directed me to take the northern entrance and not the southern.
- It was God who invited that visitor to enter at the precise time that I was at the entrance. And,
- it was God who was gently beckoning that visitor “back home”, and I was privileged to serve as God’s ambassador, and to welcome him.
“There is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine virtuous people who have no need of repentance.” (Lk. 15:7) “The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes.” (Jn.3:8)
One psychiatrist said to a Catholic priest: “Father, if many of my clients were to come to you in the confessional, I would be out of business. I listen to them and provide what professional help I can give. But what my clients really need is the assurance that they are unconditionally forgiven; that a heavy load is off their shoulders and their minds; that they can make a fresh start and turn over a new leaf…I charge a hefty fee, Father, but you do it for nothing. I am a professional, but you are God’s ambassador of unconditional forgiveness and divine love.”
“The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound it makes…So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (Jn.3:8)
“God whispers in times of prosperity, but shouts in times of adversity.”