Homily at the Eucharist – Bishop Geoffrey Robinson
In everything he did and in everything he said, Jesus Christ sang a song. Sometimes, when he cured a sick person, he sang softly and gently, a song full of love. Sometimes, when he told one of his beautiful stories, he sang a haunting panpipe melody that, once heard, is never forgotten. Sometimes, when he defended the rights of the poor, his voice grew strong and powerful, until finally, from the cross, he sang so powerfully that his voice filled the universe.
The disciples who heard him thought that this was the most beautiful song they had ever heard, and they began to sing it to others. They did not sing as well as Jesus had – their voices went flat, they forgot some of the words – but they sang to the best of their ability, and the people who heard them thought in their turn that this was the most beautiful song they had ever heard.
And so the song of Jesus gradually spread out from Jerusalem into other lands. Parents began to sing it to their children, and the song passed down through the generations and the centuries.
Sometimes, in the life of a great saint, the song was sung with exquisite beauty. Sometimes, however, it was sung very badly, for the song was so beautiful that there was power in possessing it, and people used the power of the song to march to war and to oppress and dominate others. Always, however, the song was greater than the singers and never lost its ancient beauty.
Among the last places on earth that the song reached was a far off land that would later be called Australia. At first the song was sung there very badly indeed, for the beauty of the song was drowned by the sound of the lash on the backs of the convicts and the cries of fear of the aboriginal people. But even in that world the song was greater than the singers and gradually, in little wooden homes and churches throughout a vast and dry land, the song was sung with love and affection.
At last the song came down to me, sung gently and lovingly by my parents. Like so many millions of people before me, I too was so captured by the song that I wanted to sing and dance it with my whole life.
A great Council of the Church came, and I was inspired by the beauty of the song that seemed to be at the very heart of that Council. The overwhelming message I received was that here were two thousand bishops, divided by many issues but united in the song. We met with other churches and found, perhaps to our surprise, that they loved the song as much as we did. In the Scriptures and in the council I found the firm foundations on which I could live my life.
There was always a tension between the beauty of the song and the weakness and the pettiness that I found within myself and in so many others who shared this song with me, but the song sustained me throughout the years.
But then the darkness of evil within the Church gathered around me, and at times it was so deep that it seemed that the very song itself had been conquered. But in the depths of that darkness, when my clinging to the song was based on blind faith rather than on any warm feeling within me, I realised that the song is quite simply part of who I am and it is in the darkness that it is most important to me.
The song must not stop with us and we in our turn must sing it to others. In doing this we must remember that this song has two special characteristics.
The first is that we, too, will never sing the song as well as Jesus did – our voices lack strength and go flat, we misunderstand the words – but, if we sing this song to the best of our ability, people do not hear only our voices. Behind us and through us they hear a stronger and a surer voice, the voice of Jesus.
The second is that we always sing the song better if we can learn to sing it together – not one voice here, another there, each singing different words to different melodies, but all singing the one song in harmony. Then people will truly know that it is still the most beautiful song the world has ever known.