Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2019 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta
Readings: Amos 6:1-7; 1Tim 6:11-16; Luke 16:19-31
29 September 2019
God indicts our indifference to the crying need of the world
We live in the world in which people amass wealth and place self-interest as number one priority, even at the cost of the common good of humanity and planet earth. This past week has seen a global demonstration, galvanised from the grassroots level, against political indifference and inaction in regards to pressing environmental concerns. The Gospel calls us to listen to the signs of the times and respond with openness to the Spirit.
The Word of God this Sunday challenges us to place the common good and social justice at the centre of our lives. It warns us against self-centred living, personal gain and indifference to the crying need of the world. Amos was a rural prophet who was not afraid to speak truth to power.
He was scathing in his denunciation of the rich and the powerful in Israel. “Woe to the complacent in Zion, who dine on choice lambs and fattened calves, who use finest oil!” he says of those who luxuriate themselves while others suffer from hunger and despair. They do not care about the ruin of Joseph, which is a metaphor for God’s people. This prophetic indictment is still valid today as we stand before the world on the brink of environmental collapse and the crying need of our brothers and sisters.
Such indifference and insensitivity are also reflected in the parable of Dives and Lazarus. In fact, there is a striking resemblance between the prophecy of Amos and the parable of Jesus. Like the complacent in Zion, Dives 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. We are challenged by the prophetic message of Amos and Jesus to confront what the Holy Father calls “the globalised indifference”.
There is so much indifference and inaction with regards to critical issues of our time. There is so much resistance and opposition to the call to change the status quo, even when the status quo is failing the poor, the powerless and the environment.
The prophets often upset the status quo and challenged the people to embrace the new ideas instead. Hence Amos spoke of ethical relations and particularly justice to the poor as the key to Israel’s future. Jesus likewise made it clear that following him has to do with an alternative mode of existence where the healing, restoration and transformation of the world are more important than our quest for prosperity, security and self-interest.
This Sunday is marked as Social Justice Sunday. Australia’s Catholic bishops launched a major social justice statement on digital communications, calling on all levels of society to overcome the hatred, division and exploitation. As a faith community we can also be more prophetic in standing up for minorities and vulnerable groups who are subjected to vilification, hate speech and threats of violence online or otherwise.
Being the People of God calls us beyond seeking measures for the protection only of our own rights. We are summoned to build a world where God’s vision of peace and harmony for all his creatures, great and small, is enacted.
We cannot remain unconcerned in the knowledge that a brother or a sister lies hungry or sick at our gate. We cannot rest undisturbed when indifference and inaction leave urgent questions of our time unaddressed. We cannot be salt and leaven if we allow our Christian conscience to be desensitised by the crying need of the poor and the gaping wound of the earth.
It is God’s vision of justice, mercy and a dignified life for all that guides our actions.
Pope Francis shows us a leadership that seeks to serve from below. He brings the image of Christ the humble servant of the poor into sharp focus. He challenges us with a prophetic boldness so that we may take action to safeguard the conditions for a dignified life for all God’s children everywhere.
As we gather to listen deeply to the voice of the Spirit through the cry of the poor and the cry of the wounded earth, we renew our commitment to be catalysts and agents of God’s reign of justice.
In the words of St Paul today, “Let us fight the good fight” as we give ourselves to the cause of the Kingdom.