Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Pontifical Mass with the Rite of Ordination to the Presbyterate of Tom Green at St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta
Readings: Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 88:21-22, 25, 27; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Matthew 9:9-13
21 September 2023
Ordained to serve that the remnant people can flourish again
It is with great joy and gratitude to God that we have come to celebrate the priestly ordination of our Deacon Tom Green. We commend him for this ministry of pastoral care, service and leadership in the Church, which he has discerned, pursued and prepared for during the last seven and a half years, along with fellow seminarians, especially those from our own Holy Spirit Seminary. As he himself reflected, preparing for the priesthood is not just an individual affair. It is very much a journey towards full configuration in Christ that he has walked with others, including his own family, formators, teachers, peers and the People of God.
I wish to pay tribute to his parents, Stuart and Donna Green, for giving the Church two of their sons as priests, a feat that is a rare achievement these days. Thank you for nurturing, guiding and entrusting them to the care of the Diocese of Parramatta.
It is your example of living the Catholic faith, particularly in difficult times, that has formed Jack and Tom into the persons and the instruments of God they are today. I’d like to also acknowledge the role of the formation team at Holy Spirit Seminary and many others who accompanied Tom with care, professionalism and dedication. I am grateful also to the clergy and particularly the Parish of Mary, Queen of the Family, Blacktown, who have welcomed and supported Tom during his time of pastoral placement. I want to give a big shout-out to the pilgrims of World Youth Day. Tom attributed his vocation to his experience at World Youth Day. He even performed an impromptu rap dance on the bus when he heard the news of his acceptance to priestly order. May the many fruits of World Youth Day be born among the pilgrims.
The Word of God on the feast of St Matthew tonight speaks of a calling to embody God’s gift of love, mercy and grace to rise to be one’s true self. In Jesus, God embraces, heals, restores, dignifies and honours the downtrodden. In Him, we are called to be – in the words of Pope Francis – an ecclesial community where everyone is accepted, loved, and empowered to live the Good News.
The first reading tells us about the call of Isaiah which is situated in the context of the exile. “The spirit of the Lord has been given to me. He has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up the broken-hearted, liberty to captives and freedom to those in prison.” Isaiah was sent to give fresh vision and hope to a people in distress. He was charged with a mission of reframing the hopeless reality into a new hopeful future for his people. That is also the task of the priest-prophet in the new exile. We have to live and minister in such a way that the remnant people can flourish again. Our love for God and his people and our resolve to serve humbly and faithfully after the example of Christ will clear the path towards a vision of hope for all.
That is a sobering and poignant lesson for the Church today. We too enter a kind of cultural captivity whereby we no longer enjoy the status of majority or popularity. Our task during this time of cleansing and purification is to become what we are meant to be: salt of the earth and light of the world. In the midst of diminishment and even antagonism, we can learn to spread the fragrance of the Gospel and to shine like the Church of the catacombs.
The Gospel on the feast of St Matthew highlights God’s love and mercy revealed in Jesus. At his invitation “follow me”, Matthew has the courage to leave everything behind and risk his life for the sake of the Gospel. He begins the journey of total transformation. A sinner is transformed into a saint. It is truly a story of redemption, which is made possible by God’s offer of unconditional love.
Pope Francis is fond of saying that 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. It is a Church that listens, accompanies and engages with people’s struggles, wounds and failings.
We cannot live our consecration fully, especially as ordained ministers, without getting ourselves immersed in the messiness of life, without going out and embracing those at the periphery. As a result, Tom is going to imitate Christ more perfectly in his identification with the poor and forgotten. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, his own heart and, indeed, his very being have been made one with Jesus the High Priest. In the person of Christ the Head, he will utter the ‘I’ of Jesus and not his own. As he offers the Eucharistic Sacrifice, he will speak with the very ‘I’ of Jesus when he says: “This is My Body; this is the Cup of My Blood.” He will seek to imitate the One whose body was broken and blood shed for the life of others.
Deacon Tom. We pray that Christ’s self-sacrificial love, which you will celebrate daily at the altar, will nourish and strengthen you on the journey that you have just begun. In the words of St Paul in the second reading, we pray that by word and example, you may build up the body of Christ. In this way, we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. Amen.