Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Celebration of the Passion of the Lord Year C 2019 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
19 April 2019
“A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another as I have loved you”
Brothers and sisters,
These words of our Lord, which we heard last night in the celebration of the Maundy Thursday come to perfect fulfilment today as we commemorate his passion and death on the cross.
The command to love God and neighbour, of course, was not new. It had been the core teaching of Judaism. But it was the way Jesus lived it out that had the wedge of newness.
Throughout his ministry, we can see the difference between the way he exemplified love and the way those trained in “the old school” did. In his embrace of the most vulnerable, despised and marginalised, Jesus presented a whole new way of seeing, acting and relating. He embodied the God who loves without limits and empowers wounded humanity for a life of grace and dignity.
It was the cross, however, that gave perfect expression to the radical newness of the commandment of love. By his passion and death, he made good the prophecy of the Suffering Servant – one who resisted all forms of evil and totally faithful to God’s purpose for him.
He became the seed of a new humanity, founded on a new law of love, people who succeed, not by their own power, but by power of the love of God.
There lies the Good News.
Even though the passion story ends with the cry of abandonment, Jesus shows us that the cross, suffered for the sake of others has transformative power. It enables us to enter into communion with the God of love and to flourish the life of others.
As we gather on this Good Friday, we are challenged to follow the example of Christ even at the cost of our own comfort, privilege and power.
If we are to be faithful to his memory, this commemoration of the Passion commits us to live out his command to love with radical newness.
Jesus did not follow the script of the empire. He came as a poor and humble servant in order to minister at the thresholds of human vulnerability. He exposed the status quo as being short of God’s vision for a human society.
We therefore must examine our own attitudes and the conventions of the day in relation to the treatment of the poor, the powerless and the marginalised of our time.
As Christians, we have an opportunity in the upcoming election where we must put the command to serve and to love one another and especially the most vulnerable among us at the heart of our society.
We must bring the Christian inspired values of decency, fairness, justice, compassion, openness in public discourse and policy against fear, indifference and hardness of the heart.
Good Friday also gives us a glimpse of the triumph of love over hatred and life over death. It was not evil that had the upper hand. It was God’s unflinching fidelity, his unconditional love in Jesus that brought about this triumph.
We, therefore, stand united with one another, with men and women of good will in working for the coming of the Kingdom.
We stand united with Pope Francis who has challenged us to replace indifference with compassion, ignorance with respect and suspicion with love.
In this time of devastation, we must seek to rebuild, renew and reimagine the Church. We do so by following Jesus’ footsteps: to leave the security of its status, to accompany the most vulnerable, to minister at the liminal and precarious places of extreme human vulnerability, to empower all people to live life more fully.
Only by standing on the side of the powerless and the vulnerable, only by living authentically the call to poverty, simplicity and humility can our voice be credible and our trust regained.
As we venerate the cross, let us live by its wisdom and power.
May we be strengthened to walk humbly in the footsteps of the Master, who “through suffering who became the source of our salvation.”