Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for Mass with Commissioning of Way of Mercy Representatives, St Patrick’s Cathedral
02 July 2016
Brothers and sisters,
It fills me with great joy and hope to commission you during this Eucharist as ambassadors for the Jubilee of Mercy. It is a daunting task and a tall order. Nevertheless, representing and being the face of a merciful God and a merciful church is not something reserved to the elite or the extraordinary. It is an integral part of our Christian life and mission.
For Pope Francis, the Church is not a museum for saints or an enclosure for the virtuous. It is more like a field hospital which heals the wounded, strengthens the weak and lifts up the lowly. Our very credibility is at stake when we lack merciful and compassionate love for those who are on the periphery or estranged from the Church by one reason or another. The Jubilee is opportune for us to respond anew to the clarion call of the Council to engage with the hopes and joys, the griefs and anxieties of the people of our age.
In the words of Pope Francis “The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more. It is time to return to the basics and to bear the weaknesses and struggles of our brothers and sisters.”
Through the lens of mercy, we learn to be a missionary and inclusive Church – a Church that reaches out to those who struggle and fall short of the Christian ideal; a Church that does not demean or marginalise people on account of their sexual orientation, their marital status or their life circumstances. It is a Church that dialogues, that accompanies, that encourages, that engages with people’s struggles, wounds and failings. We do so with respect, empathy, compassion and humility. We are reminded of how the early Church accommodated and enabled people like Thomas to make their personal journey from doubt to faith, brokenness to wholeness. Today more than ever, we are called to make this ecclesial inclusiveness, this big tent church a real experience for all of our brothers and sisters.
We are called to be instruments of mercy, which means that we have to open our hearts to those living on the outmost fringes of society. We are called to believe that no one is ever beyond hope, past the point where God’s grace and love apply to them. God does not give up on people, even if they give up on themselves. After all, we are not called to have all the answers or fix everyone’s problems. But we are called to love especially the least of our brothers and sisters, to assuage their wounds, to heal their hurt and brokenness.
We can only be effective instruments of mercy when we recognise our own sinfulness and our need for metanoia or conversion. The Royal Commission into sexual abuse has revealed just how far we have drifted from the vision of Jesus. It is a shameful indictment not simply on the perpetrators and their enablers but the Church’s collective systemic betrayal of the Gospel. We cannot preach mercy without taking a long hard look at this collective systemic failure. Mercy then is not only reaching out to those on the margins. It is not a one way street where we the lucky and the privileged dole out favours to the unfortunate and the unorthodox as it were. Far from it. We can only be true ambassadors of God’s mercy when we recognise our own need for mercy; when we live authentically the beatitudes of the Gospel; when we reclaim the innocence and powerlessness of the humble Servant-Leader.
In this Jubilee of Mercy, let us reflect on and live out how we can best be the church of the poor and for the poor; how we can be an oasis for the unchurched and the disenchanted; how we can facilitate an encounter with Christ’s radical equality, inclusiveness and justice for the marginalized, wounded and victimized. Let us also reflect on and live out how we can be a more repentant, humble, listening and learning Church, the Church that does not prefer status quo but leads people in the direction of the kingdom, the Church that points humanity to fuller life, inclusion and justice.
Brothers and sisters,
I am very edified by your commitment to be the ambassadors of the Jubilee of Mercy and to carry the unconditional love of God to our parishes, hospitals, communities and other places in the diocese.
Let this Jubilee of Mercy be a time of true conversion to God’s total self-emptying in Christ and his audacious identification with those on the periphery. Let it be a time in which we as the Church reclaim the powerlessness of Christ and the fundamental ethos of care for the weak and justice for the excluded. Then the Church can truly “stand with confidence” as the conduit of mercy and the sign of hope for all.