Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter in Year A 2017 on the occasion of the May Pilgrimage at Mt Schoenstatt, Mulgoa.
21 May 2017
Dear friends in Christ,
I welcome all of you who have come from near and far to this Schoenstatt Shrine. I welcome in particular the Pilgrim Mother Coordinators who will be re-commissioned during this Mass in order to be apostles in the Schoenstatt tradition. You are God’s instruments in helping families and communities to become oasis of hope, faith and love. Indeed, that is the missionary call that all of us received by virtue of our baptism and confirmation. We are meant to be salt of the earth and light for the world. We are meant to go out and share the Good News with others, not by drawing attention to ourselves but by affirming, healing and uplifting. The Church’s mission primarily is in being a soothing presence, a warmth of God’s care and a gentle reach of God’s hand to others.
Scriptures inspire and invite us to go out of our way and in the words of Pope Francis to share the joy of Gospel. Even from the earliest times, the Church was challenged to break loose from its comfort zone and self-referential mentality. It is a church attentive to the signs of the times and incarnate grace at work in the world, even among the unorthodox and the marginalised. Christian discipleship is not about protecting one’s status quo and interests. Rather, it demands from us the courage to live our lives with generous abandon, passion and purpose. It is like an exodus that pushes us into new, uncertain, unknown and at times uncomfortable places.
We are meant to go out and share the Good News with others, not by drawing attention to ourselves but by affirming, healing and uplifting.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the account of Philip sharing the Good News with the Samaritans. In the context of their time and culture, this was an act of outreach that was fraught with danger, not unlike Pope Francis going to Egypt. For between Jews and Samaritans, there was a chasm of mistrust and hostility. Yet Philip and the other apostles reached out to their traditional enemy in obedience to the command and example of Jesus. Like Pope Francis, they went without fear. It was a radical discipleship of vulnerability and powerlessness in the footsteps of the humble Servant of God.
In the Gospel, Jesus also encourages his disciples not to retreat in fear but to engage with and transform the world. His impending departure by way of the Ascension is the end of his earthly mission but also the beginning of theirs. Jesus promises that he will be present with them in a new and more powerful way. He speaks to them passionately about the Spirit. He doesn’t want to leave them orphans. He himself will ask the Father not to abandon them, to give them ‘another Advocate’ that will ‘always be with them’. God’s family project for humanity and all creation will live on and move towards its final fulfilment through the power of the Spirit and our partnership and participation.
Dear friends and pilgrims,
Ever since Pope Francis unexpectedly came onto the scene, he has challenged us to go out and seek to share the Good News with others. For him, it has little to do with doing the minimum, with complacency and mediocrity. In fact, it has everything to do with taking risks and living with enthusiasm and commitment.
We cannot be the disciple of Jesus and stay put.
If one can detect the direction of Pope Francis’ pontificate, it has something to do with the movement from security to boldness, from inward looking to outward looking, from preoccupation with our status quo, safeguarding our privileges to learning to be vulnerable, learning to convey God’s compassion to those who are on the edges of society and church.
We cannot be the disciple of Jesus and stay put. God’s ways often involve the pain of letting go, of beginning again, of going forward with hope and trust. Discipleship is a journey that demands courage because it forces us to abandon security in favour of vulnerability, self-interest in favour of passion for justice and compassion for God’s poor.
The paschal rhythm summons us to a discipleship of humility, weakness and vulnerability, of dying and rising in Christ. We must learn to be the Church that must go out of itself in order to be close to those in need. Let us pray that we have the courage to respond to God’s call to live our discipleship authentically. May we follow Christ in the nurturing and realising of God’s reign of love and justice, even in the midst of doubt and uncertainty. May Christ’s victory on the cross be our guiding light and our inspiration at all times. May Mary who goes to others and responds to their needs inspire us to do the same.