Bishop Vincent’s Homily: Working towards God’s reign despite appearances to the contrary.

By Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, 16 June 2024
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


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

Homily for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2Cor 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

16 June 2024


Working towards God’s reign despite appearances to the contrary.


Sisters and brothers,

In the midst of war, violence and destruction, there are stories of heroism, bravery and selflessness that lift up the human spirit and inspire us to work for change. Australian Zomi Frankom was one such story. Young, energetic and compassionate, she devoted herself to helping people in areas of conflict. While on their way to distribute vital food and medicine, she and her colleagues were killed in Gaza. They epitomised the Christian teaching of self-giving love. Another story was that of a Palestinian teacher, Nihad Badreia, who established a tent school for 500 children living in a refugee camp. Given the circumstances, her act of heroism was deemed a waste of time or even foolhardy. However, she persisted because she said she believed in the power of education to heal and to transform.

Often times, we are tempted to give up when things get too difficult or when we do not see the result of our efforts. It is especially true when we work for cultural and systemic change. We feel a sense of fatigue or even frustration. Today’s Scriptures give us new heart. Anchored in the power of God’s love, we can stay the course even when we come up against the forces of resistance and our own limitations and failures. The Word of God teaches us to persevere in the work of the Kingdom even if the harvest is not within our horizons.

In the first reading, Ezekiel speaks to his people during a tumultuous time in their history. The golden era of David and Solomon have long gone. In place of prosperity and stability, they experience shocking violence, war, invasion and occupation. In the midst of this dire situation, Ezekiel offers a message of hope. He rekindles their imagination with powerful visions such as the valley of bones, the new temple and the giant cedar. Each of these images remind people that God does new things to bring about a revitalised Israel.

Despite appearances to the contrary, God’s plan moves forward. Israel will become a great cedar tree and the nations like the birds will take shelter in its branches. Like Isaiah and his prophecy of the mountain where all nations will come to worship, Ezekiel speaks of Israel’s universal vocation. The exile acts like a catalyst for a new Israel which grows beyond its tribal identity. It is precisely through the captivity that the faithful remnants known as the Anawim will rise and become the nucleus of the new Israel. Like a stump of Jesse, they will produce the expected Saviour.

Following the prophetic tradition, Jesus speaks of his own mission against the background of increasing hostility and opposition. Not only did his adversaries oppose him, his own family and relatives rejected him. It was a sober lesson for those who followed him. They should be under no illusions about the kind of Messiah he was and what it meant to be his disciples.

Today’s episode reinforces the notion that God works in ways we do not expect. His Kingdom does not manifest itself in size, in success and in power. Instead, it is found in the smallness of the mustard seed, in in the poverty of the widow’s mite, in the rarity of the pearl or in the insignificance of the yeast.

Jesus teaches something quite radical through these parables. God’s Kingdom though begun in dishonour and ignominy will reach its fulfilment in a way that defies human expectations. More importantly, the way to actualise God’s reign is a discipleship of vulnerability, humility and powerlessness. Just as Jesus embraced the journey of downward mobility that brought him humiliation, betrayal, defeat, failure and death on the cross, the disciple’s proof of authenticity is not popularity, success and acclaim. Rather, he/she will have to prove his/her mettle in the crucible of suffering in imitation of the Servant Master.

Like Ezekiel before him, Jesus opens us to the vision of the fulfilment of divine purpose. Like a noble cedar that provides a home for every winged creature, we are called to persevere in the enterprise of the Kingdom. The Church becomes the instrument by which the Kingdom extends its branches worldwide and brings forth fruits from all nations. But as Paul sounds a cautionary note in the second reading, we are guided “by faith and not by sight”.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We are living in a time of tremendous upheaval. The Church is rightly scrutinised not only by the society but even more so by its own members. The prophet Ezekiel teaches us to resist the way of power and embrace God’s way of vulnerability. Jesus himself embodies powerlessness and cautions us against worldly success and triumphalism. Our hope is not attached to results and successes. It is rooted in the life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. This paschal pattern challenges us to embrace vulnerability not invincibility, knowing that God brings life out of death. Let us anchor ourselves in God’s way shown in Jesus.  May we become humble servants working for the Kingdom even if the harvest is not within our horizons.

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