Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2019 at Festa tal-Vitorja, Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes
Readings: Amos 6:1-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31
29 September 2019
Festa tal-Vitorja – Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes
Dear brothers and sisters,
We gather to celebrate one of the most significant feasts for Maltese Catholics.
The little island of Malta in the middle of the Mediterranean should have been an easy target for the ambitious empires of the world. It could have been conquered, colonised or even destroyed by powerful nations. Yet somehow, it has managed to survive and thrive along with its unique religious and cultural identity.
Over the centuries, Mary, under the title of Our Lady of Victories has been venerated with great fanfare in Malta because of the belief in the power of her intercession.
Diaspora Maltese Catholics have faithfully observed this celebration for many years here in Greystanes. The Festa Tal-Vitorja has been adopted by all parishioners and has become de facto the feast day for Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish.
We honour Mary not only as the mother of Jesus but even more so as an exemplar of Christian discipleship. She became a model disciple who followed her Son faithfulfully. Therefore, this celebration commits us to follow her example and become the community of disciples.
Mary modelled her life on Christ who, St Paul says, did not cling to his divine status but became servant and humbled himself even more by accepting death on the cross. She likewise did not stay in her comfortable environment.
Rather, like a missionary disciple, she constantly went out of her way to respond to God’s invitation and to the needs of others. She was undaunted by life’s many uncertainties: the flight into Egypt, the years of living in exile, the constant uprooting and replanting, the journey to Jerusalem, the agony at the foot of the cross et cetera. Mary lived out the demands of faithful discipleship.
The Gospel tells us the story of how God’s plan unfolds and impacts on the lives of Mary and Joseph. In the story of the Annunciation, Mary was disturbed by the words of the angel that she would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. Her plan to have a normal life with Joseph was interrupted. In spite of the mystery and uncertainty, Mary gave that faith-filled response, “I am the handmaid of the Lord and let it be done unto me according to your word”.
How difficult it is for us to accept God’s plan for us that can come through unexpected circumstances. We need a faith and trust of Mary to surrender ourselves to God.
My dear friends,
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.
The Church in Australia is also facing an interruption of tremendous proportions. The Royal Commission has made sure that we cannot go on the way we have. It has exposed the kind of Shakespearean rottenness in the state of the Church.
We must humbly and boldly address the biggest challenge of our time and build a healthier Church for our children and future generations. This interruption calls for Mary-like deep discernment and courageous action rather than fear, intransigence and defence of status quo.
It is not time to fend off criticisms and go back to business as usual. After hearing the angel’s message, Mary’s life was fundamentally changed. She aligned her heart and mind to God’s unfolding plan. We must do the same as a community of disciples. We must have the humility and courage to see how far we have drifted from the vision of Jesus, repent of our institutional arrogance and orientate ourselves once again to the self-emptying journey of the humble Servant-Leader.
We must be grateful for the work of the Royal Commission. More importantly, we must seize this Kairos, this moment of grace as a catalyst for change and not treat this period as a temporary aberration.
Pope Francis reminds us that we are not merely living in an era of change but change of era. It means we ourselves have to change in order to be in sync with the Holy Spirit who guides us through the signs of the times. Let us pray that we have the faith and courage of Mary in responding to unexpected events and interruptions that come our way.
May we learn to live in vulnerable trust instead of holding on old patterns. May our Yes be total and unreserved as we endeavour to carry out the plan God has us as individuals and as the Church.