Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily from the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2022 and the Commissioning of the Diocese of Parramatta Interfaith Commission at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 112(113):1-2, 4-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
18 September 2022
Truth-telling and justice over individual gain, wealth accumulation
We live in a developed Western society that has many positive features such as freedoms, respect for human rights, diversity, the rule of law etc. However, as the Pope pointed out, the pandemic has exposed the Achilles’ heel of the capitalist system. It has revealed the delusion of individualism as the organising principle of our Western society. It has given the lie to a myth of self-sufficiency that sanctions rampant inequalities and frays the ties that bind societies together. We cannot continue to maintain the status quo when the common good of humanity, the destruction of indigenous cultures and the planet’s sustainability are at stake.
Surely, we cannot go on living as if we were deaf to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth. Surely, we cannot be complicit in perpetuating the social architecture that favours the privileged, disenfranchises the dispossessed, hollows out the care economy and undermines the foundations of an egalitarian society.
The Word of God this 25th Sunday presents an alternative mode of consciousness and living. It subverts the dominant culture of entitlement, power and might. Truth-telling, community building, public responsibility and justice for the oppressed are prioritised over individual gain, wealth accumulation and upward mobility.
In the first reading, the prophet Amos sternly cautions the people about the unjust practices that go against the heart of their religion: the lowering of the bushel, the raising of the shekel and the tampering with the scales etc… are some of them. By acting unjustly, the Israelites betray the very purpose of the Exodus, which was their liberation from slavery and oppression. They betray the very God who freed them and formed them into a new society of justice, solidarity and equality.
Amos warns Israel that a society that is not aligned to God’s purposes is not sustainable. The Northern Kingdom where Amos ministered was particularly susceptible to undue foreign influences, including religious and moral malpractices. Amos urges them to follow the dictates of God’s law. He calls them not to conform to imperial pressure but to become an alternative society under God’s rule, a community of hospitality, compassion, justice and neighbourliness.
The Gospel confirms this message, albeit in a way that may not be so obvious to us. Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest servant who has failed his duty of stewardship. He faces the prospect of unemployment, reduced status and even ridicule. He has one more roll of the dice and he does it shrewdly. He calls the master’s debtors and writes down their debts. In other words, he banks on his master’s generosity. By writing down the debts, he actually makes the claim that his master cannot fault him: that the master forgives those who owe him, that he is generous and magnanimous. For banking on this defining virtue of his master, the dishonest servant was praised.
The Word of God thus challenges us about our relationship with God and with one another. We cannot be the disciples of Jesus and think and act merely in terms of the raw justice of the world. None of us could be saved if God applied strict justice on the basis of our merits. The parable is actually designed to prod at our sense of entitlement and merit. It challenges us to think and act in the way that God in Jesus has shown us, which is not the harsh calculus of the world but the justice of the kingdom and the very mercy of God.
This morning, we thank God and pray for the recently formed Diocesan Interfaith Commission which is being sent on our behalf to strengthen the social fabric of Western Sydney through interfaith engagement. At my Installation, I pledged to continue the legacy of my predecessors in building stronger relationships with non-Christian people. I believe we must foster pathways across the political and religious divide to create an inclusive and harmonious society.
We are the epitome of multicultural, multi-faith and ethnically diverse Australia. It is for this reason that we are privileged to host the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations. It has played a vital role in building bridges in our community, bridges of understanding, inclusion and solidarity instead walls of prejudice, division and exclusion. The Diocesan Interfaith Commission will leverage this vital connection and promote harmony among all our brothers and sisters. As Pope Francis said recently, “I don’t renounce my faith if I speak with the faith of someone else, rather, I make my faith known because I speak to others, and I listen to them.”
This is what faithful discipleship looks like. It is a journey that demands courage because it forces us to abandon security in favour of passion for justice and preferential option for God’s poor.
Let us pray that we may prioritise the common good and reflect the divine goodness instead of self-interest. May the teaching and example of Jesus guide us as we endeavour to build relationships and communities that mirror the Reign of God. May we reflect the largesse, magnanimity and compassion of God revealed in Christ.