Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemn Pontifical Mass during the Night of the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord in Year A 2019 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Isaiah 9:1-7; Titus 3:4-7; Luke 2:1-14
25 December 2019
Dear brothers and sisters,
Christmas is a time of joy and hope for all. But this year, there is not a lot of joy and hope for many in our community. I am thinking of people who lost their homes in the catastrophic bushfires, those farmers whose crops are without water and animals without food. In rural Australia, entire towns are at risk; livelihoods are threatened and a bleak future awaits future generations.
It is not enough for us to simply express our empathy or even share our donations with our fellow Australians in need. We need to recognise the crisis we are in and respond in a radically life changing way. As people of faith, we are called to read the signs of the times, to discern God’s vision in the midst of upheavals and to align our attitudes and actions accordingly. We must have the courage to move to the new future where God beckons. The time has come for Christians to show the alternative pathway of hope, inclusion and sustainability against the ingrained culture of denial, fear and defence of the status quo.
Tonight, we are summoned to that new future. Christmas is the venue for possibility. Christmas is the in-breaking of cosmic kingdom of justice, love and peace. In Christ, God has come to make all things new. In Him, God has come to make all things new. In Him, the alternative universe of compassion, equality and fraternity to the unjust, corrupt and unsustainable status quo is indeed possible. One can begin to dare to live again and flourish. Humanity is ushered to a new level.
Christmas opens us to the dawn of this new era of God’s justice, love and compassion in Christ. The imperial culture of domination, exclusion, and consumption can no longer hold sway. The trickle-down economy that favours the rich and disadvantages the poor can no longer be the only viable option. Christmas calls us to place the care of the vulnerable and the stewardship of all God’s creation at the centre of human endeavour.
A new ethic of communion not just with each other, but with all life forms must guide our way of life. Thus, in Laudato Si, Pope Francis warns us of the need for urgent ecological conversion, otherwise we “will leave future generations only rubble, deserts and refuse”.
Christmas then challenges us to embrace vulnerability not invincibility, communion not dominion and downward mobility and not upward mobility. We marvel at the Creator God who enters into the chaos and fear of our world. We are taken aback by the disarming presence of the Child Emmanuel who is surrounded by the lowliest people and the lowliest environment. It epitomises the upside down way of God. It subverts our way of thinking and acting. Yes, Christmas is God’s race to the bottom.
My dear friends,
As God breaks ranks and becomes vulnerable for us, so must we have the courage to leave our comfort zones and discover the presence, the beauty, the love of God in unfamiliar places, in the margins and the shadows of life. We cannot worship the Christ Child in truth without honouring him in the needy, the poor and the marginalised. We cannot be part of God’s new future if we continue to subscribe to the imperial ideology of dominion, consumption and exploitation.
As the Church, we too must not drag our feet before the change of mind, heart and action needed to bring about God’s future. A few days ago, Pope Francis quoted the late Cardinal Martini in saying that we are 200 years out of date because we fear the new. We must have the courage to lead by example. The Church loses its prophetic role when we resist the status quo which is a culture still steeped in clerical power, privilege, dominance and upward mobility. Instead of circling the wagons, we must go to new frontiers. Christ’s way of humility, inclusivity, compassion and powerlessness must guide us if we hope to have relevance and credibility for others.
Tonight, we rejoice with Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the angels at the birth of the Christ Child. Let us pattern our lives on the self-emptying God. Let us learn to abandon our default position of self-interest and mutual exclusion that leads to an unsustainable future. Let us show to others the alternative future that is inspired and guided by the vision of the God of vulnerability and radical communion. Then, we can sing with joy the song of the angels: “Glory to God in the highest heavens and on earth peace to all people on whom his favour rests.”