Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2019 at St Madeleine Sophie Barat Parish, Kenthurst
Readings: Gen 18:20-32; Col 2:12-14; Luke 11:1-13
28 July 2019
Persistence of Vision
Wherever we look these days, the world seems to present to us with a plethora of intractable problems: forced migration of people, large-scale environmental destruction, war, poverty, homelessness, crime et cetera.
Yesterday on the news, it was reported that over 1,000 young girls in Pakistan alone are forced to convert to Islam every year and many of them are also forced to marry older married men.
It is beyond belief that this and other barbaric practices still exist in the 21st century.
In the midst of these situations of seeming hopelessness, it is easy for us to be overwhelmed and numbed. We feel unable to meet the challenge of making a difference to the lives of so many unfortunate individuals.
Even as believers, we are tempted to give up the good fight and take a back seat.
Today’s scriptures call us to follow a pathway that is oriented to the Kingdom in spite of all things to the contrary. The task of nurturing God’s vision for us and for the world is a long Game of Thrones – to use a popular analogy.
As St Paul says, we must fight the good fight, even if we ourselves may not be able to see the reality of what we hope for. We must plant and water the seeds of the Kingdom even if harvest is not within our horizons.
This was what Abraham did as recounted by the book of Genesis. He and his wife Sarah left their secure and comfortable home in order to go to the Promise Land into which they never actually set foot. But they remained committed to the vision that God had revealed to them.
In today’s episode, Abraham was frustrated by the lack of good people for whom he could prevent the destruction of their city Sodom. Strange as it sounds to us, Abraham bargained with God. He kept haggling and badgering for a lower number, just as some might barter for a lower price at the open market.
What emerges, though, is the realisation that God’s plan survives human sinfulness.
The sin in question here is not so much sexual as the failure to care for the strangers. The people of Sodom were punished for inflicting violence on the vulnerable aliens in their midst. Abraham and his nomadic clan learned to be a community of hospitality, generosity and acceptance as shown in last week’s episode. They learned to counteract the culture of fear and hostility around them.
In the Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples a model prayer and then follows up with a parable about praying as part of their response to God’s integral vision.
In the Our Father, Jesus situates our concerns in the larger context of the Kingdom and its values. This is not to dismiss our personal needs and petitions as unworthy and unnecessary. Jesus teaches us that God is the God who cares for the whole of life, even its minuscule detail. God is the god of goodness who knows and gives what his children need. However, it is being aligned with the mind of God and having God’s expansive vision that we can bring all of life to its proper end.
The Parable of the Persistent Friend is about a God who has a persistence of vision and it is through prayer that we learn to align ourselves with that vision. Prayer is the core activity by which we are nourished in hope, by which we keep the focus on God’s justice and by which we stay the course.
Today’s parable finds echo in the Parable of the Widow who nags the corrupt judge until she gets justice. It also resonates with the story of Jesus who was nagged by the Canaanite woman.
God can be nagged to a good verdict. As baptised people, we cannot give up too easily the quest for justice, dignity and integrity for all. We cannot lose sight of God’s vision for the world.
We see the still pictures, the individual scenes that make up our lives. God sees the whole mosaic picture while we see only the individual tiles.
Consequently, when we pray, we should ask God to help us see the big picture, too, and to put an editing touch on our particular frame at that moment in time.
Brothers and sisters,
Scriptures today call us to live our lives firmly grounded in God’s love and oriented towards His Kingdom. Our journeys can take us through many twists and turns.
At times, like Abraham, we cannot see clearly the road ahead. Yet, by walking with the God of infinite horizons and by pursuing the justice of His Kingdom, we are nurtured and transformed.
As we are caught up in the pressures, demands and diversions of our own lives, let us not lose sight of the big picture, the grand vision that God has for us and for the world.
Let us not give up our task of nurturing and advancing that vision for lack of result we desire. Let us practice generosity in a world of indifference, hope in a world of despair, hospitality, compassion and kindness in the world of in the world of fear.
Then God the Master Builder will bring all our efforts to fruition.