Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B 2018 on the 90th Anniversary of the Laying of the Foundation Stone, Our Lady of the Nativity Church, Lawson
Readings: 1 Kings 17:10-16; Hebrews 9:24-28; Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
11 November 2018
It is with a great joy and gratitude that we gather to mark the 90th anniversary of the construction of Our Lady of the Nativity Church, Lawson.
We pay tribute to the late Alice and Richard Meagher who in 1923 generously donated the land.
We honour the memory of our pioneer parishioners who built this Church, school and presbytery which are now the great patrimony of this community.
The Church, however, is not about buildings, even if Fr Paul Slyney PP, now enjoys the comfort of the Meagher’s holiday house in one of the most idyllic settings in Australia. We are primarily about nurturing relationships. We are meant to be a presence, an oasis of hope and Good News.
In the words of Pope Francis, we are the field hospital which heals the wounded, strengthens the weak and lifts up the lowly. We endeavour to be the Church where everyone can feel welcomed, forgiven, loved and encouraged to live according to the Gospel.
The Word of God this Sunday calls us to act not out of fear but with vulnerable trust when we face hardship and adversity. A faith-filled disciple is one who is not controlled by fear and self-interest but guided by divine generosity and fidelity. He or she is called to move from self-centred and survival-oriented behaviour into a generous self-giving mode of living that Christ exemplified.
In the first reading, we hear an inspiring story of generosity and vulnerable trust from the Book of Kings. Elijah was on his way to confront 400 false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.
It was the most challenging mission and Elijah soon learned that the way to fulfill that mission was not to rely on his devices but on the power of faith. He had been fed by the ravens in the wilderness. But here in a foreign land and during a death-dealing famine, he met a destitute but incredibly generous widow. She gave him the only meal that she and her son depended on for their own survival after Elijah had reassured her that her jar of meal and jug of oil would not fail.
We find the echo of this story throughout the Bible. For instance, in St Mark’s story of the loaves and fishes, the little boy was the unlikely character of trust and generosity. It was his deep faith that was the catalyst for divine blessings and possibilities. His surrender to Jesus made it possible for the miraculous feeding of the multitude.
The point of these stories is that people who act with vulnerable trust in the face of evidence to the contrary can bring about the transformation beyond their limited capacity. God shows his power through our small but generous acts of love, compassion and solidarity. In modern times, such acts as those of Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Mary MacKillop, Oscar Romero catalysed humanity to greater justice.
More often than not, the abundance of God is made possible through the generosity of the poor rather than the narrow channel of the rich and the privileged. We can see the proof of this through the Gospel story today.
Jesus points out to us something that is beyond the naked eye. It is the widow’s mite that counts in God’s sight more than the riches of the rich.
For the latter has given from his superfluous wealth whereas the former has given all that she depended on. She has surrendered everything into God’s hand. In this way, she is at the mercy and providence of God. Jesus commends the widow’s generosity and vulnerable trust. As he often does, he turns human convention on its head. In God’s scheme of things, it is not how much one gives but how vulnerable one is willing to be.
Brothers and sisters,
Today, we are challenged to embrace the path of authentic Christian discipleship based on the teaching and example of Christ. The sexual abuse crisis has highlighted a Church culture that is far from the vulnerability and powerlessness that God’s Word challenges us to embrace.
Instead of acting out of the courage and trust of the widow, the Church has shown itself to be dictated by fear and preoccupation with its status. Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees for “swallowing the property of widows” has haunting relevance for the way the Church has treated many survivors. We cannot regain our moral credibility without first reclaiming the compassion and powerlessness of the Suffering Servant and making it the cornerstone of all that we do and all that we are.
As we celebrate the milestone of our faith journey, we are resolved to follow the path of the vulnerable and humble Christ.
Only by dying to power, domination, ostentation and rising to humility, simplicity, servanthood can we be catalysts for renewal and agents of the Gospel.
Let us pray that as a community of disciples, we learn to be humble servants of one another. May this parish be known for its generosity, compassion and solidarity with all people, especially the poor and the vulnerable.