Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees and the 110th anniversary of the first church opening at St Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook
Readings: Amos 6:1, 4-7; Psalm 145(146):7-10; 1 Timothy 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31
25 September 2022
Time to realign to God’s vision, to change and to live differently
During the week, I was privileged to join Caritas Australia staff and the visiting Vatican Cycling Team at a mobile exhibition on the Stolen Generations. The survivors from the Kinchela Boys Home, which was one of hundreds of similar prison-like institutions across the country, travel to schools and communities to shine a light on a cruel chapter of Australia’s history. They want to make sure that the injustices of the past are not forgotten and that truth-telling is vital to Australia’s future going forward. We cannot close the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians without addressing the gap within the gap.
The Word of God this Migrant and Refugee Sunday obliges us to place social justice and the care of the vulnerable at the centre of our lives. It warns us against self-centred living, personal gain and indifference to the cry of the oppressed.
In the first reading, Amos who was a rural prophet, spoke without fear to the movers and shakers of society. He was scathing in his denunciation of the rich and the powerful in Jerusalem. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, who dine on choice lambs and fattened calves, who use finest oil!” Amos painted a picture of their moral decay, social irresponsibility and apathy. Their indulgence and “business as usual” approach were completely at odds with the plight of the poor and the impending disaster. Amos condemned their foolhardy behaviour and predicted a reversal of fortunes. Those who lived unjustly would fall victim to their own unjust practices. Thus, they would be the first to be exiled.
Amos’ central insight is that a society that is not aligned to God’s vision of justice, equality and harmony is not sustainable. Israel collapsed because its social fabric and internal relationships had disintegrated. Australia may not be in the same situation that Israel was before the Babylonian exile. However, we see the same attitude in those who want to insist on the privileged way of life at the expense of the poor and the environment. But instead of protecting the status quo at all costs, we can learn to see the big picture that God desires for us. Instead of seeing refugees as invaders and destroyers, we can learn from them for they can alert us to the realities of injustices in our world and the obligations we all have to address them. For only by building together a more just world and a more sustainable planet can we survive and thrive into the future.
In the Gospel, there is a striking resemblance between the prophecy of Amos and the parable of Jesus. Like the complacent in Zion, the rich man was totally caught up in his own affairs. He dressed himself magnificently; he feasted every day sumptuously; he enjoyed a good life without any reference to Lazarus who longed for the crumbs that fell from his table. Like Amos, Jesus condemned those whose only concern was to increase their influence and affluence instead of seeking justice for the poor. Against their settled securities and arrogance, he issued a warning that God would align himself with the weak and the vulnerable.
The Word of God is a reminder to us of our collective and personal responsibility to bring about a new society and a new world where the reign of God is evident. The Holy Father in his annual message writes that God seeks justice for the downtrodden and gives priority to those living on the peripheries. Therefore, the Kingdom is to be built with them, because without them it would not be the Kingdom that God wants. Indeed, the inclusion of those most vulnerable is the necessary condition for full citizenship in God’s Kingdom.
As catalysts for the Kingdom, we are called to imbue the culture and the fabric of our society with the leaven of the Gospel. As Christians, we cannot ignore the needs of the poor, the aged, people with disability, the homeless, the indigenous people and the asylum seekers. 10 years after the start of the offshore processing, there are still over 200 people languishing in limbo in PNG and Nauru, irreparably damaged and scapegoated by Australia. Surely, we can do better than this with the promise of a new parliament and the reset of this country’s direction.
Dear sisters and brothers.
Today we celebrate the 110th anniversary of blessing and opening of the original St Finbar’s. It was a tribute and a testament to the faith, dedication, tenacity and generosity of the people. Our forebears, like Mary MacKillop, saw a need and decided to do something about it. They took the initiative to respond to the influx of railway workers at the time. As the population ebbed and flowed, the sisters for a time used it as a school. Thus, this church was more than a building. We, therefore, celebrate above all the witness of this community through its commitment to worship, education, support and outreach that has made a difference to so many families and individuals.
Our celebration of this milestone anniversary is a time of gratitude, trust and joyful hope in the future. We are grateful for what has been achieved. But we are also confident of a hope-filled future knowing that God will guide our efforts to model the Kingdom community and bring them to fruition. As we walk in the footsteps of our forebears, we renew our commitment to seek justice for the oppressed, care for the vulnerable, hospitality for the unwelcomed, shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and the fullness of life for all. May we become catalysts for a better Church, a better society and a better world. Then we can truly be the conduit of Gospel and the sign of hope for all.