Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP,
10 Jun 2018

St. Charles Borromeo Church, Ryde, 10 June 2018

Image result for no true scotsman would do such a thing

"Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the 'Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again'. Hamish is shocked and declares that 'No Scotsman would do such a thing.' The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: 'No true Scotsman would do such a thing.'" (Antony Flew, Thinking About Thinking: Do I Sincerely Want to Be Right? (London: Collins Fontana, 1975), p. 47)

The 'no true Scotsman fallacy' is a well-known phenomenon in philosophy and the passage I just read, from the classic text Thinking about Thinking. It highlights the human tendency to categorize things, especially people, sorting them to one side or other of some line. But when this proves inconvenient, we often engage in 'ad hoc rescue of a refuted generalisation' - that is, we move the line so we can go back to our simple universe of cowboys and Indians, believers and gentiles, true Scots and false.


There's a bit of that going on in today's Gospel, as people argue over who is a true Jew, or relative, or insider (Mk 3:20-35). The Church has always seen Mary as the New Eve, the enemy of the Serpent, her seed of his, promised in our first reading (Gen 3:9-15; cf. Rev 11:19-12:6), and so the New Testament gives her a very good reference. It describes her as 'highly favoured', 'full of grace', the 'most blessed' woman (Lk 1:28,30,42,48); as 'handmaid of the Lord' and Mother of God's son (Mt 1:18-21; Lk 1:31-33,35,38,43); as blessed because she believes and exalted because she is humble (Lk 1:45,48-49). We see her pondering God's deeds and patiently suffers people's wrath, precipitating Jesus' first miracle and interceding for more, and finally being given to the Church as Mother (Lk 2:19,34-35,51; Jn 2:1-11; 19:26-27; Acts 1:12-14). Yet in today's Gospel Jesus seems to deny her any special access to his inner circle… What's going on here? Have Mother and Son had an argument? Is Jesus spending too much time with His mates and neglecting his poor old Mum? Has his career become all-consuming? Or is Mum being unreasonable, given how busy He is saving the world? As usual, there's more to the Gospel than first appears...

The first thing to remember is that not all of Jesus' extended family were as supportive as Mary was. Our Gospel passage opens with some of the rells wanting to restrain Him, because they think He's nuts. What was the evidence of this madness? That He was missing His meals! "No true relative of ours would miss his tucker," they said. Well, there's no doubt that Jesus and His mates liked to party, and so missing meals was out of character. But He did fast at times, on one famous occasion for 40 days and nights! Either way, it's hardly a hanging offence…

But some big-wigs had come down from Jerusalem to take a look at Him. They decided pretty quickly this was more than a case of a bad son missing family dinners. "No true Rabbi, no real Jew, no good person would behave like that," they declared, "He must be in the thrall of the Prince of Devils!" Now, thems fighting words, and so Jesus called it out for what it was: a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. "You think I'm possessed by an evil spirit?" He says, "Well, look again: rather than being possessed I do the possessing; and the Spirit I possess is the Holy Spirit. You blaspheme Him when you write Me off. Your categories might be right, but you've mixed up who is on which team."

The in-groups and out-groups thing has been very evident in our country this past week. Everyone had to line up, for Barnaby or against. The big universities declared Western civilisation unworthy of treatment in history and literature. And, worst of all, public dissent from abortion was all but banned in our state.

I won't today enter into the morality of 80,000 children killed by abortion each year or the tragedy of their mothers damaged and abandoned. But the idea that no-one can pray against it in public, no-one offer women alternatives, no-one demonstrate against it even silently on pain of a year in gaol seems to me draconian in the extreme. Soon we may have laws like they have down South, requiring every health professional to take part in abortions or enable them - no exceptions, no conscientious objections allowed. It's the in-groups and out-groups thing gone mad.

Today, Jesus turns that sort of thinking on its head. Hamish McDonald says no-one that transgresses his standards is a true Scot; Hamish is the measure. But Jesus doesn't say, "I'm the measure of all things, I set the standards, so pick your team," as He so easily could. He doesn't say His tribe are best, bad luck for the rest of you. "No," He says, "in the house or outside, relative or not, Jew or not, what matters is whether you're trying your best to do God's will. Mary My Mum does, so she's a good model. But you can welcome the same Holy Spirit that she did into your heart. You can express that Spirit in your lives. Do that and I'll count you mine, whatever the differences or imperfections..."

Related imageOur Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church 

If Mary, the Queen of Peace, showed how to be a Christian parent by her daily Fiat, so Charles Borromeo, your other patron, demonstrated what it meant to be Jesus' brother or sister. He preached and pastored, reformed the stray, formed leaders, fed the poor. The rich and powerful fled Milan in times of plague or famine: but St Charles stuck around, so totally was he committed to his people. That Marian availability and Charlesian commitment are now demanded of your new pastor, Fr Greg.

Fr Greg inherits a parish that demonstrates they are Christ's family in its ministries: liturgical ministries such as servers, musicians and readers, wardens and welcomers; sacramental ministries such as baptism or marriage prep, catechists or Lenten groups, RCIA or healing Masses; outreach ministries such as CWL, Justice & Peace, Spark, SVdP, Home Communion and Seniors Ministry; ministries to the young, such as schools, children's family educators, Ignite and more.

Truly, this is a vibrant parish! There are many causes for celebration - but not for complacency. Out of ten thousand or so Catholics in Ryde-Gladesville, around 1400 attend Mass regularly. We thank God you do; we recognize this is a better strike rate than in many places; but we ache for the missing 8,000 or so… We must ask ourselves, again and again, how we can best reach out to the unconverted and the diverted, and make this the sort of place they will want to be on Sunday.

With Fr Alfredo's help, Fr Greg will now be responsible on my behalf for the worship, evangelisation and service in this parish. In his priestly service, he must sanctify you by prayer and sacrament. In his shepherding, he must lead and serve as Christ did. In his prophetic ministry, he must proclaim the Gospel and Church teaching in season and out. But he cannot do this all by himself. Together, priests and people achieve far more than any one of us could do alone. To strengthen Fr Greg for his new task, we now have the formal Rites of Installation of a Parish Priest. They are a useful reminder to us all, not just of his mission but of yours as brothers and sisters of the Lord. I ask you, of your mercy, to keep supporting Fr Greg, as he prays for and serves you.


St. Charles Borromeo Church, Ryde, 10 June 2018

Welcome to this morning's Mass, when I will formally install Fr Greg Morgan as Parish Priest of Ryde-Gladesville. I am pleased to acknowledge my brother priests and fellow religious, especially from the men's branch of Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity: the former Superior General of the Male Branch, Rev. Filipe Vaz Pardal FMVD, and the Regional Leader, Rev. James McTavish FMVD; and from the women's branch, the local superiors of Sydney and Brisbane, Srs Malou Tibayan FMVD and Frances Drum FMVD; and other brothers and sisters.

From our local schools, I acknowledge Mr. Phil Stewart, Principal of Holy Cross College, which school I attended for two years as a boy; Mr. Peter Watkins, Principal of St. Charles Borromeo Primary and Ms. Karen McGinlay, Principal of Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary, our parish schools. I also welcome representatives of other churches. From our civic community Mr Callum Fountain is representing Hon. Anthony Roberts MP, the state Minister for Panning, Minister for Housing, and Special Minister of Justice.

I also welcome members of Fr Greg's siblings, Michael, Peter and Cathy, with their spouses and children, his other family and friends, and his new-found family and friends, the Ryde-Gladesville Parish. In witnessing the Rites of Installation of a Parish Priest we all have a chance to reflect on the stages of our faith journey. So as we begin this Mass giving thanks for our Catholic faith and church, let us repent of our sins…