Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 2024 Diocesan World Day of the Sick Mass at St Patrick’s Church, Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown
Readings: Isaiah 66:10-14; John 2:1-11
10 February 2024
Mary the Christian model of care for others
Dear brothers and sisters,
Today, we gather to honour Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, which is a place of healing, wholeness and transformation as well as a symbol of care, solidarity and compassion. Of all the places we visited during the last World Youth Day Pilgrimage, Lourdes by far was the most inspiring for the young pilgrims. The visibility of the sick, the suffering and particularly the people with disability had a powerful effect on us. We were struck by the beautiful image of nurses, healthcare professionals and volunteers pushing the wheelchairs and caring for the latter. It was there that we experienced the best of humanity and the Church which in the words of Pope Francis is called to be a soothing presence, a warmth of God’s care and a gentle reach of God’s hand, affirming, healing and uplifting.
The Word of God that we’ve just heard encourages us to reach out to others offering comfort, healing and hope in times of affliction. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah writes about the imminent liberation of Israel. For 50 years or so, the people of God had to live in exile and their homeland was destroyed. When the people of Israel had given up any hope of returning home, when they felt crushed and despondent, Isaiah consoled them with a message of hope. Like a mother, the Lord will comfort and nurse her afflicted children.
The captive Jews did return to their homeland and they learned a valuable lesson. They learned that true faith was not about building magnificent temples and elaborate ceremonies; they learned that being God’s people was not about being strong and powerful in the worldly sense. It was all about humble faith and tenacious trust. It was all about living in justice, tender love and goodness. It was all about living justly, loving tenderly and walking humbly with God.
The Gospel illustrates how faith and trust in God can save the day. We are told that the wine ran out in the middle of the wedding banquet. It was Mary who was aware of this potentially embarassing situation. Perhaps it is a woman’s instinct when it comes to feeding others. I know every time I come home, the first thing my mother worries about is to feed me. Mary not only picks up the crisis but she also knows where to turn to for help. They have no wine left, she tells Jesus. Despite his mysterious answer, Mary already believes that Jesus will intervene. She tells the attendants: “Do whatever he tells you”. These words contain all of Mary’s faith and trust in Jesus. She acts in solidarity with the afflicted and demonstrates her tremendous faith and love.
Pope Francis, in a reflection upon the gift of faith, offered this insight, “The proof of authentic faith in Jesus is self-giving and the spreading of love for our neighbours, especially for those who do not merit it, for the suffering and for the marginalised.” The self-giving that Pope Francis invites us to embrace is quite evident in today’s Gospel – in the actions of Jesus – in the concern of Mary – and in the efforts of unknown servants who were willing to go beyond themselves for the wellbeing of others.
Such selfless love is a love that we are all challenged to make our own – even those of us who ourselves are sick and suffering. Just as Jesus’ selfless embrace of his cross gave way to life, we’re called through Baptism to carry our crosses with the same selfless spirit that Jesus maintained – and so find meaning, life and peace, even in our suffering.
Brothers and sisters,
As we gather to honour Our Lady of Lourdes today, we give thanks for her maternal care and protection. Mary has cared for and protected us in our journeys of life, through all changes and upheavals. Mary, who acts in solidarity with those who are in every kind of need. Therefore, we cannot simply honour her without following her example of care and protection for others. May Mary then help us to be carers and protectors of those who have been entrusted to us. Mary is also the embodiment of the mystery of suffering. She suffered with her Son Jesus, especially at the foot of the cross. Therefore, she became a model of vulnerable trust in times of our suffering by sickness, misfortune or even by death.
Let us pray that the miracle at Cana may happen again in our lives and in our Church. May we learn the rhythm of dying and rising, of letting the new wine flow in place of the old. May Mary’s example of surrendering in trust help us to respond to our situations of need and calamity. May we learn with the wedding guests at Cana to drink the new wine of deep trust, deeper love and deeper commitment each day in our pilgrimage to God.