Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Second Sunday of Lent Year C 2019 with the 100th Anniversary of St Patrick’s Primary School, Blacktown at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown
Readings: Gen 15:5-12; Phil 3:17-4:1; Luke 9:28-36
17 March 2019
We gather here to mark a very significant milestone in the life of St Patrick’s Primary School, Blacktown – 100 years of Catholic education. I acknowledge the presence of many past and present principals, staff, students, and parents who are here with us.
I salute especially the Sisters of Mercy who established St Patrick’s and left an indelible mark of the Gospel spirit in this place. This spirit is kept alive and reenergised by a new generation of leaders in our ever-changing world.
“It is wonderful for us to be here”. These words of Peter express our own sense of wonder, gratitude and appreciation. Like the disciples in the presence of Jesus, we renew our commitment to walk the path of faithful discipleship.
Despite the enormous challenges that we face as the Church in this country at this critical time, we can go forward on a new exodus, walking as pilgrims together, trusting in the God who always accompanies his people.
Scriptures today challenge us in overcoming our fears and in living our lives with courage, vision and hope.
In the first reading from Genesis, Abraham was asked to enter into a covenant with God via the ancient sign of animal sacrifice. This covenant would require him to leave his home and embark upon a journey into the unknown. Abraham struggled to come to terms with the demands of the covenant.
The reading says, “he fell into a deep sleep and terror seized him”. In the end, he embraced the radical vulnerability of the pilgrim faith and became the great icon of our Judeo-Christian tradition of going beyond the known horizons.
The Gospel story of the transfiguration also encourages us not to settle for temporary glory but to have the courage to walk the exodus. The transfiguration took place at a critical moment in the journey of Jesus and his disciples towards Jerusalem. Jesus had taught them what his mission was and what following him meant. The disciples, however, were still transfixed on the power and glory of the earthly Messiah.
This is why on the mountain top, they were told of “Moses and Elijah speaking of Jesus’ passing in Jerusalem”. Jesus revealed himself – contrary to their expectations – to be a God of love and suffering.
The transfiguration is a moment of theophany even for the disciples as they learned to let go of power and glory. It empowered them to follow the suffering and vulnerable Servant just as Abraham was empowered to walk into the unknown after the covenant made with Yahweh.
Today, we also honour a great saint who encapsulates the call to launch into the deep for the sake of the Good News. Born and raised in Wales, Patrick was captured by the Irish raiders and taken as a slave to Ireland.
He lived out his miserable existence for six years in a foreign country before escaping and returning to his family. But he did not stay for long in the comfort and safety of his home. Not only did he return to the land of his captivity, he transformed it in a way no other figure in Irish history has done since. He was a foreigner who overcame fear and prejudice with his love and loyalty to his adopted country. Who could have imagined that a former slave and a foreigner would achieve so much and earn a place in history? Yet that is often the way of God.
This week, we witnessed a very tragic event in Christchurch, New Zealand. The attacks on innocent lives at a worshipping place just like this Church were sadly motivated by hatred and prejudice against people of a Muslim faith.
Times like this should make us reflect on the way we treat one another in words and actions. We will reap what we sow. Let us therefore not only eliminate the fruit of prejudice, hatred and violence but also its seeds in their many forms and on many levels of our society.
Our faith today is also being put to the test as that of Abraham and the disciples. Like them, we are challenged to overcome our fears and doubts. We are challenged to embrace the unknown pathways that God has mapped out for us, just as he did for Abraham and the disciples.
It is in our human nature to cling to what we know, especially when the alternative is uncertain. They say better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Yet our call is the call not to remain anchored in calm shallow waters. It is a call to launch into the deep, with everything that it entails.
Lent is a time to live with more intensity the call of prayer, self-denial and charity. These are the means to purify ourselves and to move away from the self-centred tendency. Let us pray that we may respond generously and trustingly to the invitation to overcome our fears and doubts, and to follow the humble footsteps of Christ with hope and perseverance.