Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily at Parish Secretaries Day at St Joseph’s Centre for Reflective Learning, Baulkham Hills
15 December 2017
Life in and around the Church can have its lighter moments. Remember last year, I told you the things that you have to do to cover for your boss. You have to lie, to make excuses, to take the blame for him. There is an episode in Keeping Up Appearances where the vicar’s wife informs him that Mrs Bucket is at the door. He runs and hides himself in a corner. “Tell her I’ve gone away to Africa” he says to his wife. How many times your parish priest did a runner leaving you alone with a difficult customer!
But then, there were times you were probably guilty, like making bloopers in your parish bulletin. Here are some examples.
- Low Self-Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 to 8:30pm. Please use the back door!
- Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our church and community.
- At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be “What is Hell?” Come early and listen to our choir practice.
- Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Father’s sermons.
All humour aside, I want to say thank you for who you are and what you do for the community. You are the first port of call for your parishioners. You help facilitate the links in your parish. You are the welcome interface between the people and the pastoral team. In your own way, you are part of the mission of the Church in supporting, empowering and caring for one another and especially those in need.
The Gospel today challenges us to be the face of the humble servant Jesus to others. Jesus declares that the mysteries of the Kingdom are revealed not to the learned and the clever, but to mere children or the little ones. In its context, Jesus has encountered much opposition and rejection, particularly from the supposedly enlightened ones like the scribes and Pharisees. He might have felt bitterly disappointed at the lack of success of his mission when he said: “We played the pipe and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.”
In contrast, it was the poor, the gentiles, the unclean, the tax collectors and sinners who are more open and receptive to his message. It was the lowly and insignificant who could best understand God’s revelation. Thus, everything about Jesus smacks of a reversal of human expectation and an affront to human wisdom. And yet, that is precisely the way God has worked in history and continues to work in our lives today. He uses the unlikely, the weak, the lowly, the despised, the rejected to achieve his way.
My dear friends,
As a Church, we are invited to live this time of crisis and uncertainty. In a way, we are in a new exile just like the Jews of old. The Church is being marginalised by the secular society. Its loss in terms of prestige, power, influence and reputation continues unabated. The downward journey seems to mirror that of Christ, which culminated on the cross. Yet we can be confident that God will bring about a purified and revitalised Church, not necessarily large and powerful like the imperial Christendom of old, but a more authentic sacrament of God’s grace in the world. As individuals, we are called to constant conversion and renewal, especially by means of the adverse changes around us. At the end of the day, if God can renew humanity out of a few faithful through the exile, there is hope for us in adversity. We can indeed see adversity as a means of grace and transformation.
Dear friends and colleagues in ministry,
I wish to acknowledge the spirit of Christian service which you seek to carry out in humility, patience and love. They say the proof of the pudding is in the eating. After all that is said and done, the quality of our discipleship must shine through. We must be able to imbue God’s abundant love and all-embracing presence. We pray that you may continue to be ambassadors of God’s mercy and the faces of the Church that we believe in.
Let us pray that as a community of disciples, we learn to be humble servants of one another. May the example of Christ who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for others inspire us to be servants of one another, especially the least of our brothers and sisters.