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Bishop Vincent homily from 18 September, 2016

Homily from 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 18 September 2016
Bishop Vincent, Parra Catholic, Western Sydney Catholic, Blue Mountains Catholic
Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta

Homily from 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta

18 September 2016

 

Dear friends,

It is my great joy this morning to welcome you all to our Sunday Mass. In particular, I welcome our married couples and together with them we celebrate their wedding anniversaries and to pray together for God’s blessings upon them. Fidelity is the gift and grace of time given to you by God and shared by you with one another for 25, 50 or more years. Let us give thanks to the God of faithfulness, love and mercy.  All of us today, truth be told, also celebrate God’s faithfulness, love and mercy in our lives. None of us are perfect and we depend upon God to “write straight with crooked lines.”

 

My dear people,

Over the past two weeks, I have been in Italy attending a silent retreat which was organised by the Congregation for Bishops. Though it was difficult for me to be away from the diocese and its many demands, I felt the retreat was much needed time to review, refocus and recharge my spiritual life. Jesus gave us that example of unmitigated commitment to prayer and renewal even when others were making demands on him. We must try and seek that better portion like Mary did even in the midst of the flurry of activities.

One of the things I learned or became ever more conscious of is the utter gratuity with which God has loved me and enabled me to be his instrument despite my unworthiness. I don’t mean to say this just because I got to sit next to Pope Francis at the dinner table the other day.  That was an utter fluke or better an absolutely unexpected blessing. Out of the blue, I was given a seat next to his Holiness like the beloved disciple at the Last Supper. In fact, my whole life when I look back has been a series of unexpected blessings. It is like God wrote a straight line on crooked dots which has been characteristic of my life. It is this gratuity of God’s love towards me, this unmerited grace that has shaped me that I am compelled to proclaim.

The readings this 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time also remind us of our duty to imitate the God of utter magnanimity, graciousness and forgiveness. In the first reading, the prophet Amos sternly cautions the people about the unjust practices that go against the heart of their religion. The lowering of the bushel, the raising of the shekel and the tampering with the scales etc… are some of these practices. They betray the very purpose of the Exodus which was the liberation of the people from their slavery and oppression. They betray the very God that liberated them and formed them into a new society of justice, solidarity and equality.

The Gospel confirms this message, albeit in a way that may not be so obvious to us. It tells of the parable of the unfaithful servant who has failed his duty of stewardship. He faces the prospect of unemployment, reduced status and even ridicule. He was more roll of the dice and he does it wisely. He calls the master’s debtors and writes down the debts. In other words, he banks on his master’s generosity.  By writing down the debts, he actually makes the claim that his master cannot fault him: that the master forgives those who owe him, that he is generous and magnanimous.  For banking on this defining virtue of his master, the dishonest servant was praised.

The Word of God thus challenges us about our relationship with God and with one another. If God is so generous and forgiving to us, we too must be generous and forgiving with one another. We cannot be the disciples of Jesus and think and act merely in terms of the raw justice of the world. None of us could be saved if God applied the strict justice on the basis of our merits. The parable is actually designed to prod at our sense of entitlement and merit. It challenged to think and act in the way that God in Jesus has shown us, which is not a raw justice of the world but the justice of the Kingdom and the very mercy of God.

All of this helps us understand what we are really celebrating today. It is about more than your toughness, durability or tenacity of putting up with each other for a half century. You are not here as those who have “survived” marriage, as if it were an endurance test!

To be sure, your resilience and hardiness is admirable and a great witness to us all, but even more important is the faith that allowed you to detect the grace of God working in since the day it was promised to you. Yours is faith that believes that it is precisely in the limited circumstances and the limited relationships of your life that God has called and graced you. Today is about acknowledging and celebrating that you have been able to keep your promises because God has kept His to you. In all of that, let God leave you today with a sense of wonder and awe as you think of all the many moments He has pulled you back from the edge of danger, saving you from the full consequences of your mistakes sinfulness.

All of this helps us understand what we are really celebrating today. It is about more than your toughness, durability or tenacity of putting up with each other for a half century. You are not here as those who have “survived” marriage, as if it were an endurance test!

Today is a day to congratulate you for keeping your promise, but you know better than I that it is even more so a day to thank and praise God for keeping His promise to you.

Whatever path we walk in our journey of giving and receiving love, we are not meant to be alone. We need community, and it is here that the church has a key role, in supporting us as we strive to build love and in supporting us when our efforts to collapse about us.

Whenever we find ourselves in our relationships, let us remember the good news that God is love, and that all God’s grace is now being offered us to find the truth that will set us free. Everyone in this church, whatever our past history, is capable now of loving and receiving love. We must not compare ourselves to others, or attempt to measure our love. We must not compare ourselves to others, or attempt to measure our love. Knowing that we are not meant to be alone, let us take whatever small steps of love present themselves to us and we will be astonished at the results.

God is love and so love – any real love – is the stuff of which miracles are made.

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