Deacon Michael Tan’s homily for Safeguarding Sunday 2023

By Deacon Michael Tan, 11 September 2023
Deacon Michael Tan. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


Homily for the 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A and the Australian Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Sunday

Readings: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Psalm 94(95):1-2, 6-9; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 18:15-20

10 September 2023


Our response to the psalm this Sunday is “if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” In other words, this is a plea to remember that we are called to have hearts of flesh, and not hearts of stone. A heart of flesh is fragile, vulnerable to being hurt and betrayed, and yet is also capable of being alive, and of loving God and loving one another as God loves us – this is the meaning of living life to the full, for in Jesus we live and move and have our being. This is also the meaning of Divine Mercy and the devotion to the Sacred Heart.

The heart of stone, on the other hand, is hard and cold, unable to bleed and therefore cannot respond in love to the God who loves us. The price for love is the willingness to accept our fragility and our vulnerability. For love in this sense led Jesus to the Cross, to his death and resurrection. This, however, does not mean that we do not set boundaries in our relationships – boundaries are set to protect our fragility and vulnerability from exploitation on this Safeguarding Sunday.

Our Gospel tells us the logical and consistent rule of love in resolving difficulties and wrongs done by our siblings – Jesus tells us that the first step is to try to attempt to resolve these issues on a one-to-one basis, and if not resolved, take it to the community, for where two or three witnesses are involved, it no longer is one person against another. Yet, if still unresolved, Jesus tells us to treat our brother as a pagan or a tax collector.

However, this does not mean that we stop loving our brother or our sister. For example, Jesus when he said to the pagan Canaanite woman, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house dogs” (Mt 15:21-28) also recognises her faith and responds accordingly to her rely, “but even house dogs can eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.” Also, regarding tax collectors, remember that Matthew, one of the disciples, was a tax collector. There is also the meeting of Jesus with Zacchaeus (Lk 19:1-10), the rich tax collector, when Jesus shared hospitality with Zacchaeus, prompting Zacchaeus to say, “Look, Half of my possessions, Lord, I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much.” So, treating someone as a pagan or a tax collector is not the end of the story as far as Jesus is concerned!

Today, as mentioned earlier, is also Safeguarding Sunday. The Diocese of Parramatta held a Safeguarding and Trainers Commissioning ceremony at Marayong last Tuesday. The theme of the Commissioning ceremony was Every child in Every Community Needs a fair go. Where we start matters. One of the basic starting points for safeguarding is that prevention is better than cure. We need to nip things in the bud, and not allow things to build up until a case of abuse happens.

This is why safeguarding is everybody’s business. There has been training for safeguarding champions in the Diocese, and I recommend that everyone of us take an interest in keeping our children and vulnerable adults safe.

Safeguarding goes hand in hand with synodality. As we prepare for the Diocesan Synod and then the Synod of Bishops’ Synod on Synodality, let us remember that synodality is like the heart of a body that pumps blood and life through the body. In this regard, safeguarding is like the spine of a person, providing structure and a safe space for synodality to grow and become the heart of flesh that is our response to the psalm today. We need both the heart and the spine if we are to grow in our love for one another as the People of God in St John the Evangelist Parish, Riverstone and the Diocese of Parramatta.

Deacon Michael Tan is Deacon Assisting at St John the Evangelist Parish, Riverstone.


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