Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily from the 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2022 and the Centenary celebrations of St Gabriel’s School Castle Hill at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta.
Readings: Amos 8:4-7; Psalm 112(113):1-2, 4-8; 1 Timothy 2:1-8; Luke 16:1-13
18 September 2022
Community building versus private gain
Dear friends in Christ,
Today we come together to give thanks for the centenary foundation of St Gabriel’s, which caters for students with disabilities and forms them in the tradition of Edmund Rice Education Australia. The School has a proud history of delivering special education and continues today by offering very individualised and exciting programs. Your specialist teaching staff and purpose-built environment allows our students to achieve success through a focus on communication, literacy, numeracy and social skills. We are truly grateful to you for your dedication, commitment and witness. May our gathering this afternoon be a sign that the Christian community will never be found lacking in mobilising its charism of love, inclusion and preferential option for the vulnerable.
The Word of God this 25th Sunday presents an alternative mode of consciousness and living. It subverts the dominant culture of entitlement, power and might. Truth-telling, community building, public responsibility and justice for the oppressed are prioritised over individual gain, wealth accumulation and upward mobility.
In the first reading, the prophet Amos sternly cautions the people about the unjust practices that go against the heart of their religion: the lowering of the bushel, the raising of the shekel and the tampering with the scales etc. are some of them. By acting unjustly, the Israelites betray the very purpose of the Exodus, which was their liberation from slavery and oppression. They betray the very God who freed them and formed them into a new society of justice, solidarity and equality.
Amos warns Israel that a society that is not aligned to God’s purposes is not sustainable. The Northern Kingdom where Amos ministered was particularly susceptible to undue foreign influences, including religious and moral malpractices. Amos urges them to follow the dictates of God’s law. He calls them not to conform to imperial pressure but to become an alternative society under God’s rule, a community of hospitality, compassion and justice.
The Gospel confirms this message, albeit in a way that may not be so obvious to us. Jesus tells the parable of the dishonest servant who has failed his duty of stewardship. He faces the prospect of unemployment, reduced status and even ridicule. He has one more roll of the dice and he does it shrewdly. He calls the master’s debtors and writes down their debts. In other words, he banks on his master’s generosity. By writing down the debts, he actually makes the claim that his master cannot fault him: that the master forgives those who owe him, that he is generous and magnanimous. For banking on this defining virtue of his master, the dishonest servant was praised.
The Word of God thus challenges us about our relationship with God and with one another. We cannot be the disciples of Jesus and think and act merely in terms of the raw justice of the world. None of us could be saved if God applied the strict justice on the basis of our merits. The parable is actually designed to prod at our sense of entitlement and merit. It challenges to think and act in the way that God in Jesus has shown us, which is not the harsh calculus of the world but the justice and generosity of God.
Pope Francis, in a reflection upon the gift of faith, offered this insight. He said, “The proof of authentic faith in Jesus is self-giving and the spreading of love for our neighbours, especially for those who do not merit it, for the suffering and for the marginalised.” The self-giving that Pope Francis invites us to embrace is quite evident in the Liturgy of the Word that summons us to public responsibility, pursuit of justice, defense of the vulnerable and building of inclusive society.
From its very inception, Catholic education was an act of prophetic courage, defiance and an alternative vision of social inclusion. Catholic education did not come to existence because Catholics wanted to create a ghetto. Rather, it came into existence because in the words of Mary MacKillop, our pioneers saw a need and decided to do something about it. So, our pioneers launched into the deep and modelled an inclusive, caring and wholesome way of being together.
St Gabriel’s has been at the forefront of modelling a different way of being together. It shines as the best of Catholic education and faith because an option for the vulnerable is its beating heart. As we give thanks, we renew our commitment to model the expansive love of God. Let us pray that we may prioritise the common good and reflect the divine goodness instead of self-interest. May the teaching and example of Jesus guide us as we endeavour to build relationships and communities that mirror the Reign of God. May we reflect the largesse, magnanimity and compassion of God revealed in Christ.