Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost Year A 2023, and the Convocation Mass for the Diocesan Synod at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Acts 2:1-11; Psalm 103(104):1, 24, 29-31, 34; 1 Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13; John 20:19-23
28 May 2023
Ploughing the fields and sowing the seeds of a synodal Church
This Sunday, the Diocese of Parramatta formally launches the journey of listening and discernment as we celebrate the historic Diocesan Synod together. Even though daunted by the enormity of the task ahead of us, we are encouraged by the work of the recent Plenary Council and the universal synod which has the potential to transform the way of being Church. Indeed, Pope Francis has inverted the pyramid model with its penchant for triumphalism, pomp and circumstance. In his teachings and symbolic gestures, he has challenged us to embrace the Church of simplicity, poverty and humility. It is a kind of paradigm shift that we are yet to fully appreciate.
The time has come for us to take seriously our baptismal mission, agency and discipleship. The Church, as the whole People of God, should walk together, sharing the burdens of humanity, listening to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth, bringing about the Kingdom vision of Jesus. This is the path of synodality or togetherness rooted in the awareness of the web of integral relationships, which according to the Pope is what God expects of the Church in the third millennium.
We are inspired by the example of the early Church which was at its best when the Holy Spirit transformed it a into a dynamic, unified and mission-driven community. At Pentecost, they underwent a complete metamorphosis. The Acts of the Apostles describes this transformation for us in dramatic terms. A powerful wind filled the house where they gathered and tongues of fire came to rest on the head of each of them. In the Bible, these are signs of God’s revelation such as the wind and fire that accompanied the people of the covenant during the Exodus. Just as God had done in the past, life-giving spirit enabled the disciples to move beyond old boundaries to new horizons of universal fraternity and cosmic wholeness.
At Pentecost, these new horizons stretched the limits of their understanding of what it meant to belong to God’s people. The Galileans, as the disciples were known, spoke in a way that the many cultures and nationalities could understand. Thus, Pentecost was the antithesis of Babel where people were divided on account of their differences. Pentecost was and is the celebration of unity in diversity.
The Church as a community of disciples is the embodiment of unity in diversity. We are given the task of bridging the gaps and bringing down the barriers that separate people. We are called to embody the Spirit who transcends all boundaries and divisions, be they of race, culture, social status, gender, ability or disability. Just as the predominantly Jewish Christian movement was forced to examine its assumptions, beliefs and practices, today we too must seek fresh ways of transcending and healing divisions, and embodying God’s all-embracing love. It is our Pentecostal mandate.
No easy task in a world where the strong make the rules and the privileged hold on to the existing structures of power. No smooth sailing enterprise when the cult of individualism and self-made success underpin the very foundations of our society. Infused with the Gospel, it pertains to us address systemic injustices, inequalities and not to mention ecologically unsustainable ways of living.
The Pentecostal mandate means that we must be the catalyst for the common good and the strengthening of the sacred bonds that bind us all together. This means the Church must emulate Jesus’ unwavering solidarity with the disadvantaged. We cannot be comfortable with the status quo when it is linked to the oppression of the past. With the referendum on the Voice, we Catholics must be guided by the principles of social justice and address the legacy of dispossession that places our indigenous in an institutional and intergenerational disadvantage. It is the work of the Gospel community to create policies and practices, institutions and a culture in which the deprived can live and stand on their feet.
Brothers and sisters,
Pope Francis has invited all Catholics to set out on a journey, to “walk together,” as he puts it, and to reflect the true nature of the Church as a People of God. In the light of Pentecost, the Church is challenged to broaden its horizons and enlarge the space of its tent. We cannot have a better future if we are not responsive to the call of the Spirit to go out into the deep and step into a new future beyond the safety, familiarity and security that we have known.
The diocesan journey of synodality is the source of renewal for us moving forward. I urge you to give the Diocesan Synod your wholehearted response: every person, parish, school, agency, deanery and other entity. Let us plough the fields for the seeds of the synodal Church to grow and bear fruit. Let us pray that we may grow through chaos and uncertainty in order to be more aligned with God’s purpose. May the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent to be our advocate guide us on the journey to truth, life and wholeness. May the gifts given us be unleashed from within and find new expressions for the building up of Christ’s body and transformation of the world.