Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the occasion of the Handmaids of the Lord Conference at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
25 May 2017
Dear friends in Christ,
I welcome all of you couples for Christ handmaids of the Lord who have come from near and far for this celebration. You are God’s instruments in helping couples and families to become an 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 interest. 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 be salt of the earth and light for the world.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear the story of the apostles returning to Jerusalem after a tumultuous event that had shaken them to the core. They had grown fearful, anxious and demoralised as a result. Yet, when they were gathered together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus in the upper room, they were transformed. They were filled with Holy Spirit and began to proclaim the Good News without fear.
The Gospel today is brief but quite significant. Jesus is surrounded by the intimate circle of friends and family members most of whom are women. It’s no sheer coincidence. In the life of Jesus, it was the female followers who showed faithfulness and enduring love more so than their male counterparts. Nowhere else is this discrepancy more obvious than at the final hours of our Lord. This leads me to believe that is the Church has a bright future, it is due to the example of many female followers who are like those early female disciples, Mary Magdala, Mary wife of Clopas and most of all Mary of Nazareth.
The Gospel today is brief but quite significant.
Another reading of the text has to do with the courage to confront and engage the world around us. In the midst of hopelessness, sorrow and death, Jesus leads his followers beyond the harsh reality. Jesus encourages his disciples not to retreat in fear but to engage with and transform the world. His final act of entrusting Mary to the beloved disciple and vice versa is symbolic of mission of the Church. We are represented in the beloved disciple and therefore commanded to care for Church symbolised by Mary.
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 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.
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 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 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.