Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent in Year B 2018 on the occasion of the Opening of the Seminary Year at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
25 February 2018
“It is wonderful for us to be here”.
Brothers and sisters, I use these words of St Peter to echo our own sense of gratitude and appreciation. Like the disciples on the mountain, it is great for us to be here with Christ our Master and to renew our commitment to walk the path of faithful discipleship. Despite the enormous challenges that we face as the Church in Western Sydney and in this country at this critical time, we can go forward on a new exodus, trusting in God, walking as pilgrims together, knowing that Christ accompanies us just as he once accompanied his disciples.
Scriptures today challenge us in overcoming our fears and in living our lives with courage, vision and hope. In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham and Sarah were called to leave the familiar behind and embark upon a journey towards the Promise Land. Their faith was tested at every step of the way. In today’s episode, Abraham was told to take his only son and sacrifice him to God on the mountain. It was an incredible test of faith and courage. Abraham had taken many risks up to this point. He had left his family, relatives and friends. He had left his possessions and everything he held dear in his home country. Now came the ultimate test in his faith: he was asked to surrender his own son who was the deepest security he had to rely on. Abraham trusted in God to the point of being utterly vulnerable.
The Gospel today tells us the story of the Transfiguration. It took place at a critical moment in the journey of Jesus and his disciples towards Jerusalem. Jesus had just predicted his own betrayal, arrest and crucifixion. This had upset them and shocked them to the core. Aware of their fears, Jesus took Peter, James and John to go with him to the mountaintop. There he was transfigured and God opened their eyes to see that Jesus is the Messiah “This is my beloved son, listen to him”. The Transfiguration gave the disciples new courage in order to walk the difficult journey ahead, the journey that would ultimately prove to be the litmus test of Christian discipleship.
Our faith today is also being put to the test as that of Abraham and the disciples. Like them, we are challenged to overcome our fears and doubts. We are challenged to embrace the unknown pathways that God has mapped out for us, just as he did for Abraham and the disciples. It is in our human nature to cling to what we know, especially when the alternative is uncertain. They say better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Yet our call is the call not to remain anchored in calm shallow waters. It is a call to launch into the deep, with everything that it entails.
Today we also pray for our seminarians and the formation staff at Holy Spirit Seminary as they begin the new scholastic year. We are blessed with these young men who respond the call of discipleship and ministry with generosity and dedication. Let us pray for them to be formed in the image of Christ the humble servant leader.
The Royal Commission has been a catalyst for the Church in Australia to begin again in earnest the move from clericalism to service, from individualism to partnership, from self-reference to openness, from Baroque splendour to simplicity, from triumphalism to humility, from top down obedience to collegiality and collaboration, from a siege mentality to engagement, from confronting to listening, from culture warfare to dialogue, from imposing rules to accompanying with love.
If the Church is compared to the banquet, then we can say that the new wine of God’s unconditional love, boundless mercy, radical openness and inclusion needs to be poured into new wineskins of humility, mutuality, compassion and powerlessness. The old wineskins of triumphalism, authoritarianism, supremacy abetted by clerical power, superiority, and rigidity are broken.
It is my hope and my passion that the Holy Spirit Seminary which is the pride and the future of our diocese will form men into servants of the humble, listening and accompanying Church. It is my hope and passion that they will be like the new wineskins capable of containing and channelling that new superior and abundant wine of God’s love, mercy and inclusion that the people are thirsting for.
Lent is a time to live with more intensity the call of prayer, self-denial and charity. Let us pray that we may respond generously and trustingly to the invitation to overcome our fears and doubts, and to follow the humble footsteps of Christ with hope and perseverance.