Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for Various Needs and Occasions for Giving Thanks to God on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary of Emmaus Catholic College, Kemps Creek
25 May 2018
We thrive on dreams, adults no less than children. Dreams galvanise our energies and drive us foreward. Dreaming is part of achieving and realising our personal fulfilment. When I was a child, I dreamt of becoming a soccer player. I trained hard and tried to make up for my physical shortcomings, my height especially. But despite all the breakfasts of champions that I ate and the stretching exercises that I did, it was all to no avail. My dream of becoming a soccer player never really fell flat. I didn’t have the brains to do medicine and so I tried the priesthood instead.
2000 years ago, a group of young people had a big dream with Jesus. They dreamed that he would be the Messiah and the Saviour of their long suffering people. He would be the one to set Israel free from the Roman occupation and oppression. He would be the one to restore the golden days and the fortunes of a once powerful nation. They invested everything they had in it. They had left their homes, their livelihoods, their families and friends in Galilee. And so when Jesus died on the cross that Friday afternoon, their dream turned into a nightmare. They felt immensely disappointed, empty and disillusioned. Their world was turned upside down and they were overwhelmed with sadness and confusion.
The Gospels tell us in no uncertain terms the effects of the crucifixion on the disciples of Jesus. They were left without joy, without purpose and without meaning. On that dusty road to Emmaus, we are told that the two disciples walked home with heavy steps and downcast faces. So overcome with hurt and disappointment that they did not recognise Jesus who joined their company and walked by their side. They gave vent to their feelings when the stranger asked them about what had happened. They retold the story of the life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus. It was a story seen through their narrow, myopic and self-centred lense. Through this lense, Jesus had failed himself and failed them by dying on a cross.
Jesus the stranger however saw things differently. He began to open their eyes to the way God worked through suffering and tragedy. As in the past, and now in the present and in the future, God’s way is never the easy way, never the way of gain without pain. Jesus challenged his disciples to look at his life of humble service, compassion, justice and solidarity which culminated in his courageous acceptance of death on the cross with new eyes. He helped them to understand the way God worked in human history and how the Messiah stood in the biblical tradition of bringing God’s justice to the poor irrespective of personal cost. Their eyes were opened and they recognised him at the moment of breaking of the bread, that is, the eucharistic re-enactment of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
My dear friends,
Today, we gather to give thanks for the story of our college which bears the name of Emmaus. As the disciples of Jesus were accompanied and transformed by Jesus, we also are accompanied and transformed by his presence and power as we journey through the years. The transformation we seek is not only limited to the skill set, knowledge and ability we gain. Rather, like the two disciples, we seek to have our life stories lifted and changed by the story of Jesus. We seek to have our hearts burning with passion for the Kingdom and our energies directed towards the transformation of the world.
The story of Emmaus is emblematic of the Christian story. It is the story of sadness which was changed into joy, despair into hope, death into life. However, there was no magic formula that effected the change. What Jesus demonstrated to the disciples was that a life worth living was a life lived for others. He showed by his own example that the love given wholly for others even at the cost of one’s life is the risk worth taking.
We know that there is no shortcut or magic formula for the transformation that we seek at Emmaus College, either. We’re grateful for the example of dedication, service, accompaniment on the part of staff, teachers, parents and friends. It’s the quality of relationship and Christlike example of so many that makes a difference to who we are. Using the words of Isaiah, “we will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord, because of all the Lord has done for us” in these past 30 years. May Emmaus continue to be the place where we find companions on the journey and our shared stories of transformation. May our hearts burn within us and may we be inspired to tell others the Good News story.