Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Diocese of Parramatta Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Annual Mass and Awards Presentation and Mass of Appreciation and Farewell for Mrs Cecilia Zammit at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Apocalypse 10:8-11; Pslam 118(119):14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131; Luke 19:45-48
18 November 2022
Embodying the temple of God
Dear brothers and sisters,
We are approaching the end of the liturgical year. The scriptures for this period often use apocalyptic language and imagery to describe God’s judgment on the world. But the end time is not doom and gloom for those who believe. Rather it is a time of purposeful discernment and intentional discipleship. Crisis awakes in the disciples a sense of deep listening that leads to alignment with God’s will and courageous action. It is an opportunity for us to participate in the eschatological liberation and the birthing of the new heaven and the new earth that God would bring about in Christ Jesus.
Our world may not be spinning out of control and the end time may not be imminent. However, everywhere we look, there seems to be chaos, division and uncertainty. The global pandemic, the political and cultural protests and the increasingly rancorous polarisation between and among communities of citizens have exposed the flaws of Western democracies. The Church too has been rocked by tumultuous events, both at home and abroad. The hope of bringing the millions of disenfranchised Catholics into the life of the Church seems to be beyond the realms of possibility even for the global Synod. How can we be people of Good News in such a hopeless situation? When will there be a time of fulfilment of God’s purpose?
In the first reading, John speaks in apocalyptic imagery about the prophecy of the end time. He was told to eat the scroll from the hand of an angel. The scroll was as sweet as honey in his mouth and then it turned sour in his stomach. The story seems strange to us. But we ought to remember that it was a time of fierce persecution that John and his fellow Christians experienced. John wanted to remind them of the demand of Christian discipleship in such situations. The bitter taste is a metaphor for a time of purification and cleansing. Just as the best medicine is cleansing, the burden of Christ can become light and easy.
John maintains against all evidence to the contrary that God will triumph over the forces of oppression and evil. A time of suffering will be followed by a time of celebration. In poetic language, he speaks of God’s faithful who will be invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb. The lesson for us is that pain and suffering will make us more authentic to our calling. Therefore, we should not fear and shirk from testing times. Rather we should embrace them and grow through them.
In the Gospel, Jesus also prophesies about a time of destruction and vengeance. Jerusalem would be laid to waste and its citizens would be put to the sword. But it is not a time for fear and trepidation. On the contrary, crisis can be a catalyst for the faithful to act as agents of hope and Good News for the kingdom.
Things may be disheartening now but the future belongs to God and the disciples must not lose heart but must act in favour of that future. Therefore, we are exhorted to discern the way of God in times of turmoil and upheaval. What distinguishes us as true believers is the ability to discern and to live the creative power of the Spirit through the chaos of decline, death and renewal.
We are living through a trying time in the Church. But this can also be a kind of blessing in disguise. Just as Jesus cleanses the temple by driving out the unworthy elements in the worship of God, we might also need this kind of cleansing to get rid of all the things that are contrary or unconducive to true Gospel living
This Eucharist is also a thanksgiving to God for your active, faithful and generous discipleship. As Confraternity of Christian Doctrine volunteers, you embody the missionary spirit of Jesus and Mary. You choose to go beyond yourselves in order to enter the world of the young people; you meet them as they are; you share your knowlege of God with them; you enrich them not only with the gift of the head but more so with the gift of the heart. Your faith lived in the crucible of everyday life, with all its trials and tribulations, its joys and sorrows is the best gift that one can share with others. I am tremendously indebted to you for being the heralds of the Good News. God only knows the impact of your ministry to the young people in our diocese.
We pay a special tribute to Cecilia Zammit who has led CCD Diocese of Parramatta with dedication, commitment and generosity. Her collegial and caring leadership has seen a growth in both the quantity and quality of our catechists. In fact, the Diocese has one of the highest number of young SREs in the country, the majority of whom are our secondary school students.
I thank you most sincerely for the service you render to the young people. May we all become imbued with the light of Christ and shine that light of faith to others. Mary, who is the example par excellence of faith, hope and love, intercede for us and make us instruments of grace.