Sunday Homily by Fr Ian Hellyer

20 06 2011

Fr Ian Hellyer from the Southwest Ordinariate Group celebrated his first Mass as a Catholic priest on Sunday. Here is his homily:

And the LORD descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood there with Him. (Exodus 34:6)

The ordinariate begins properly now in these masses being celebrated by the priests with the people of God. The ordinariate wagon’s wheels are now hitting the road. You and I together, we are this new thing, this ordinariate. So where do we go from here?

Perhaps we should set up a commission. And send delegates from every group and have lots of meetings. And publish reports… maybe not!

But where do we go from here?

I am not alone amongst the clergy of the ordinariate to think that I did not give up my position in the C of E to form some sort of catholic holy club ; a place to feel comfortable in, within the Catholic church. I believe a very significant part of the establishment of the ordinariate is missionary. We have work to do in the new evangelisation of the people of England. And as clergy we have been struggling to make sure we have time to go out there, to meet people, to field their questions, to allay their fears, to teach… Our time could very easily have been taken up with diocesan work, very easily. But we haven’t joined the ordinariate for that. We are very happy to help the parishes of the diocese but that is not our main work. The ordinariate has been set up to reconcile the English people with the Catholic Faith, the Catholic Church. We have a mission.

There is however a temptation with having a vision for mission. And that is to think that mission is just to do with projects, with doing things. Obviously we have to have projects, we have to do things, or else nothing would happen. But we have to be careful. And I think that whenever we think about mission it is important to think of the words of our risen saviour: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” You might remember hearing them last night at the ordination. But I think we need to fix these words in our minds, to realise that mission begins not in us, but in God the Trinity. “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Mission begins in the very being of God, in the relationship of the persons of the Trinity. If you like mission begins not so much in doing as being. That’s where it begins, and where authentic mission begins in us.

You see what goes wrong in some missionary endeavours is that with all the enthusiasm and energy they forget the basis of what they are about.

And the LORD descended in the form of a cloud, and Moses stood with him there.

It’s very noticeable in that first reading. Moses stood there with the LORD in the cloud. The prophet before his God. Before there is any dialogue, asking God for things, Moses stands before the LORD – a creature before its Creator. It is absolutely imperative that we stand before our God, as creature before the Creator. We need to do that because mission begins that way, it begins with humbling. God humbled Himself, in fact we say emptied Himself, to become a man in the womb of Mary. That was the first step of mission: self-emptying. And we have to do it like that – humbly. If we are too full of ourselves, people will run a mile! It’s a real work but it’s what we have to be about as the ordinariate begins. We need to empty ourselves: “As the Father sent me, so I send you.”

And so we gather to celebrate these sacred mysteries, for in them God gives Himself to us. In this sacred food that is God Himself we find food for our souls, for through the grace of the sacrament we are brought into the communion of the divine life.

As the Father sent me, so I send you.