Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord and the Consecration of Ukraine and Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10; Pslam 39(40):7-11; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Once again, the world has been thrown into shock, chaos and despair. The unprovoked military assault against Ukraine is unfolding before us with all its ferocity and ruthlessness. We are saddened by the scale of destruction and overwhelmed by the prevalence of evil. However, as people of faith, we are united in solidarity with those protesting against the war, some at the cost of their own safety, with those fighting for justice and especially with the suffering innocent. We are inspired by the kingdom vision of Jesus and strengthened by the hope that it will prevail despite all things to the contrary.
The Word of God challenges us to be a force for positive transformation in the world. At the end of the day, we are known by the fruits that we bear and the impact that we make. Following the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph who were intimately involved in the mystery of God becoming one of us, we are called to be people who are on the side of truth, justice, dignity, starting with the oppressed, the least and the last.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks to King Ahaz concerning God’s plan for his people during the turbulent time prior to the collapse of Judah, the Northern Kingdom. Ahaz has allied himself with the powerful King of Assyria at the expense of its sibling rival, Israel. He has sought to strengthen his power base through astute alliances! In so doing, Ahaz has little regard for the welfare of his people. He saves his own skin first; he prioritizes personal well-being, security and wealth over against the care of those he has been entrusted with.
Isaiah, though, goes against the grain of survival politics. He told Ahaz that God would save his people not through powerful alliances but through a vulnerable and helpless child. “A virgin will soon give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means God is with us”. God works through weakness and vulnerability is a poignant lesson for the people of the covenant as well as for all of us, believers.
The Gospel reinforces this lesson through the story of the Annunciation. Mary’s life was thrown into chaos when she was told of God’s plan. In spite of the mystery and uncertainty, Mary gave that generous faith-filled response “I am the handmaid of the Lord and let it be done unto me according to your word”. Like King Ahaz, Mary and Joseph, we must be open to God’s way, which often shakes us out of our familiar and secure environment. It is not easy to let go of our ambitions and ways in order to accept God’s will. Yet we must align our attitude and behaviour in favour of God’s revelation through signs of the times.
We are guided by the Gospel values that Jesus embodied in his teaching and ministry. We endeavour to live up to our call to be the light and the catalyst for transformation. In the world in which people prioritise personal well-being, security and wealth over the care of the vulnerable, we are called – as the prophet Micah reminds us – to live justly, to love tenderly and to walk humbly with our God.
The Word of God today is a summons to us to live our lives with radical openness to God’s will that is revealed to us in so many ways. Like Mary, we need to be ready for divine interruptions; we need to adjust to life’s constant changes. Growth and transformation can occur if we learn to discern and act on what God requires of us in the light of lived experience.
Brothers and Sisters,
Today, around the world, we join with Pope Francis in consecrating humanity, Russia and Ukraine in particular, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. We lift up to God through his Mother and ours, the cry of pain of the victims of war and the cry for peace on the part of the whole human family. This celebration fills us with hope and consolation because it anticipates the final victory of God over evil, violence and death. In the power of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we partake of God’s love, which is stronger than death.
Mary is the sign of hope for humanity. Her incarnational faith and active discipleship enabled the victory of God to manifest itself in the world. She followed the downward journey of Christ in serving others in every kind of need. May we who honour Mary today be inspired by her to live out our discipleship of commitment and service. May Mary help us to show the mercy and compassion of God to the poor and lowly in these times of adversity. Then we too may be counted among her sons and daughters in the glory of God’s kingdom at the end of time.