Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 2023 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Annual Mass and Awards Presentation at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Matthew 28:16-20
3 November 2023
Embodying the temple of God
Dear brothers and sisters,
It’s great for us to be here and celebrate together Mass in a spirit of praise, thanksgiving and gratitude for the ministry of CCD in our diocese. We do so conscious of the fact that we do not stand alone, we do not exist in a vacuum or a world of our own. Instead, we stand united with one another; we are intimately bound in a network of relationships that give us meaning and identity, life and nourishment. As Christian leaders, we recognise that leadership is not about a career but a service; not a quest for self-fulfilment but a mission of empowering others. We are not driven by a desire for greatness, for public acclaim or entitlement, but instead, we are guided by the spirit of the Humble Servant who came to serve others and not to be served.
The Word of God speaks to us about the God who challenges us all to build a new world where all shall be treated with dignity and love as God’s children. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks of the mountain Temple as a symbol of unity for all the nations. The old Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. But God will build a new one which will not only be the focal point for the nation of Israel but will also bring all peoples together. They will no longer relate with each other as rivals and enemies. Instead, they will be brought into unity of God’s children. They will “hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles”.
This is an extraordinary prophecy that breaks down all barriers and summons the exiled Jews to lead all peoples of the world in the task of building God’s Kingdom. The remnants of Israel, that is, those who persevere despite of the trial of the great exile, will be the nucleus of God’s universal household. This community will be the antidote to the imperial ideology of division, oppression and dominion by the strong over against the weak and the vulnerable. The faithful exiles are summoned by Isaiah rebuild a post-exilic society where fraternal communion, justice, solidarity and care for the vulnerable will be its distinguishing feature.
In the Gospel, Jesus chooses his first disciples and sends them on a mission to heal, restore and transform the lives of the poor and sick and the broken-hearted. Just as he himself was sent to bring God’s justice, mercy and compassion to all, the disciples are given the same missionary mandate.
When we look at the group of people Jesus chose, we notice that they were ordinary people. In fact, they were like a motley crew of assorted characters and mismatched individuals. Most came from lowly background, and some had dubious careers such as a tax collector and a guerrilla fighter. In spite of these oddities, the disciples were somehow transformed into a dynamic, unified and mission-driven community. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit emboldened and launched them forward as a leavening force in the world. They put concern for justice, inclusion, dignity and fraternity at the top of the early church’s missionary agenda. It was out of these concerns that the poor were cared for, the outsiders were welcomed and the rights of the minority were upheld.
This Eucharist is also a thanksgiving to God for your active, faithful and generous discipleship. As Confraternity of Christian Doctrine volunteers, you embody the missionary spirit of Jesus and Mary. You choose to go beyond yourselves in order to enter the world of the young people; you meet them as they are; you share your knowlege of God with them; you enrich them not only with the gift of the head but more so with the gift of the heart. Your faith lived in the crucible of everyday life, with all its trials and tribulations, its joys and sorrows is the best gift that one can share with others. I am tremendously indebted to you for being the heralds of the Good News. God only knows the impact of your ministry to the young people in our diocese.
Today, you are being commissioned for service of leadership. You are to lead in the example of Jesus who always ensured that no one was lost and that the most needy received due attention. Like the Good Samaritan, you are to care for those in need without counting the cost to yourself. You are like those disciples being sent on a mission to make a difference in the world through the values of the kingdom. Jesus makes it clear that following him has to do with an alternative mode of existence where the healing, restoration and transformation of the world are more important than our prosperity, security and self-interest.
As we gather to listen deeply to the voice of the Spirit, we renew our commitment to be catalysts and agents of God’s reign of justice. We must be witnesses of hope, justice and sustainability against the ingrained culture of denial, fear and defence of the status quo. Jesus Christ is the true source of our hope. Let us do everything we are inspired to do to bring about a better future and a better world for all. Let us go forward in our mission to make a difference in the world. May we grow in our authentic discipleship, in our service and in our capacity to be the kingdom builders.