Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of the Lord in Year C 2019 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
21 April 2019
I welcome you to this Cathedral to celebrate the most sacred day of days in our Christian calendar.
Everything we believe and hold dear is grounded in the paschal mystery. Easter gives us the meaning, strength and power to transform the world in which we live. Easter provides us with the horizons of hope within which we strive for the full realisation of the reign of God.
I want to thank you for living out your faith in a particularly challenging environment.
Last night, we welcomed new members into the Catholic family. With all the negative publicity, one wonders if it is a good time to remain a Catholic, let alone to become one.
Yet, here we are, drawn by the power of Christ and the communion of love in him. What has brought us all here, old or new, firm or wavering, is our faith in the crucified and risen Lord who can bring out of despair, hope, and out of darkness, new possibilities.
The Gospel today speaks of the bewilderment and disillusionment of the disciples as they were confronted with an empty tomb. Perhaps, their experience was not unique.
Many also go searching for Jesus in the Church and instead find it empty and void of what they thirst for. It is incumbent on us especially as leaders to gain your trust and to work with you in making the Church the place where people can meet and experience the risen Lord.
The Church in Australia is committed to chart a new way forward through the Plenary Council 2020. The time has come for us not only to admit the need for change but to discern together as to what the process and the agenda for change should look like going forward.
Pope Francis said poignantly that we are not living in an era of change but change of era. In other words, what we need is the cultural shift and the conversion of minds and hearts to be a truly humble, listening, inclusive and synodal Church.
The Gospel also speaks of a time of solitude, concealment and ambiguity. Mary of Magdala and the other women disciples went to the tomb while it was still twilight. It was there in the silence and stillness of the dark that they attended to their grief and longing for Jesus. She is the symbol of the Church, which stands between the old and the new.
Our task in this moment of uncertainty is to live contemplatively the creative tension between the pain of the present and the hope of the future yet to unfold.
Liminal time, that is, transition time is not a time for cynicism or nostalgia. There is a lot cynicism in the Church today. The cynics see no point of remaining within the institution. They join the Catholic Alumni Association and play no part in the life of the Church.
Nostalgia is rife too. Their belief is that the past was better than the present. They say that this post-Vatican II Church is doomed. They seek refuge in certitudes, symbols and rituals of a bygone era.
We Catholics just don’t handle transitions well. Like the Jews of old, we want to either quit or go back. But, like Paul at Damascus, we must undergo a time of ambiguity, vulnerability and darkness, until we can learn to see, act and relate in a radically new way.
It is a time for deepening of commitment, of grounding in our core values and of discerning what needs to die and what needs to rise. It can’t be rushed and put aside.
Liminal time calls us to grieve before we can emerge cleansed, renewed and transformed. We must grieve for being an experience of exclusion instead of an encounter of radical love, inclusiveness and solidarity. We must grieve for the way we have allowed the preoccupation with the status quo, wealth, privilege and security to undermine the mission of the humble and poor servant church.
The Easter story does not end with Mary in grief. It tells us of her encounter with the Risen Lord who calls out her name and sends her out on a mission of proclaiming to others the Good News of the Resurrection.
We too need to hear our names called and our personal relationship with the Lord reaffirmed. In the midst of our despair and uncertainty, we need to hear the affirmation of Our Lord with crystal clarity: “Be not afraid”. Be not afraid to launch into the deep, to journey beyond the known boundaries of our worldview and the safe moorings of the past.
Brothers and sisters,
In the face of painful transition, let us be empowered by the presence of the risen Lord, calling us beyond the fear of the unknown.
The paschal rhythm summons us to die to the old and rise to the new. We must abandon the old paradigm of a fortress Church, which is prone to self-protection, exclusivity and elitism.
We must learn to rise to Christlike way of humility, inclusivity, compassion and powerlessness.
May we be strengthened to walk the journey of faith and we may be leaven to the Kingdom through our active discipleship, witness and engagement in the world.