Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B 2018 with the Rite of Installation of Rev Suresh Kumar as Parish Priest of Padre Pio Parish, Glenmore Park
4 February 2018
Beginning again after an interruption like a birth of a child, a permanent separation, a job loss, a relocation et cetera can be unsettling. But it can also be an opportunity for us to approach our lives with new insight, fresh energy and revitalised sense of purpose. Steve Jobs, who was best known as the inventor of the Apple iPhone, wrote in his autobiography that “the heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” Steve Jobs was forced out of the company he had co-founded and yet it was this “exile” which proved to be critical in the making of a successful innovator.
We can all learn to embrace “the lightness of being a beginner again” from time to time, not so much to become great entrepreneurs or geniuses as to live life according to God’s intent and purpose for us. For if there is anything certain that we must embrace as his people, it is this: God’s ways invariably involve the pain of letting go, of beginning again, of going forward with fresh vision and renewed hope and trust. The Bible bears witness to this through countless stories of God’s people embarking on a journey that mirrors the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
Today, we have come together to celebrate a new beginning or a new chapter in the life of this community. After a period of discernment, preceded by some rather unsettling events, we are called to begin again through the leadership of Fr Suresh. I am confident that he will rise to the new challenge and like a good steward, he will work with you in bringing forth treasures both old and new, for the benefit of the community. It will be an opportunity for us to build on the legacy of the past as well as to meet the new challenges of the future.
Scriptures today challenge us to be bold, trustful, yet passionate and daring as we live out the demands of our Christian discipleship. In the first reading, Job reflects on the costs of being faithful to God. It is a song of lamentation and mourning which accounts for the bulk of the book of Job. On the face of it, we can only detect sentiments of sadness, despondency and even pessimism. Job gives free rein to his frustration and hurt. Remember! He has been tested to the limits of his endurance. His possessions have been taken away; his children murdered by his enemy and his status reduced to nothing. As he sits on a dung heap, his wife and his best friends join the chorus of rebuking him. They urge him to curse God and die, thinking that he is somehow culpable for his woes.
Job, however, is tenacious. He rejects the idea that success is the ultimate measure of one’s faith or that one’s integrity is compromised by his failure. Job is therefore the critic of the Gospel of prosperity which is the notion that if we do certain things by God, he will make us prosper. Job shows us the power of faith which can transform us even through testing times. One can see in Job a reflection of Jesus the Suffering Servant.
The Gospel tells us how Jesus goes about announcing the coming of the Kingdom and embodying the reality of that Kingdom in his public ministry. In him, we meet a God who heals the sick, casts out evil spirits and makes people whole again. In him, we see God’s definitive response to the perennial questions that Job raises on behalf of humanity. Jesus conquered the forces of evil, not only by his miraculous powers but by his commitment to the reign of God’s mercy, justice and love. He has shown us the way to defeat the footprint of darkness by his own suffering, death and resurrection. In Him, we can draw the same power with which to conquer the evil forces today.
The Word of God infuses us with hope and optimism. God’s love revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus will help us overcome all things. It is for this reason that Paul was able to say, “I made myself all things to all people in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.” Mother Teresa was another who refused to give in to pessimism and hopelessness. She was determined to make a difference to others by coming to their aid without asking questions; by seeing the face of Christ in them no matter how disfigured they look.
Today, as we begin the task of rebuilding our community again, we renew our commitment to follow the footsteps of Christ. We pledge ourselves to be the church that heals the sick, eradicates evil, cares for the weak and strengthens the weary. Let this new beginning be the opportunity for us to deepen our sense of being a presence, an oasis of hope and Good News. May we learn to be a soothing presence, a warmth of God’s care and a gentle reach of God’s hand, affirming, healing and uplifting. May God bring to fulfilment what he has begun in us as Padre Pio Parish 14 years ago.