Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2023
Readings: Acts 8:5-8, 14-17; Psalm 65(66):1-7, 16, 20; 1 Peter 3:15-18; John 14:15-21
14 May 2023
Crossing new boundaries in the name of God’s radical love
Dear sisters and brothers,
We live in a particularly polarised time. In some countries, partisan politics is so entrenched, it threatens to undermine social cohesion and unravel the fabric of a democratic society. Australia is not immune from these global trends. Ideological positions are widening on every issue whether it is immigration, housing, gender or the Voice for Indigenous Australians. As Catholics, we are called more than ever to listen, discern and act with Christian wisdom, integrity and truth. It is more important than ever that we do not lose sight of our calling, which according to the Second Vatican Council, is a sacrament of God’s love for the world.
Scriptures today inspire and invite us to go out of our way and share the joy of Gospel with everyone. Even from the earliest times, the Church was challenged to break loose from its comfort zone and self-referential mentality. They modelled the unconditional love of God in Christ. They show us what an alternative community of hospitality, compassion and love looks like. Christian discipleship 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.
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. 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. It was a radical discipleship of encounter in 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.
Jesus calls us, as he did his disciples, to break loose from our comfort and security, from self-interested and enclosed living to a life open to the kingdom vision of integrity, solidarity and justice for all. In him, we meet the God who pushes the boundaries of acceptance and love. In him, we are challenged to let go of our certitudes and securities, the habits, the routines the patterns of behavior that are no longer relevant and life-affirming. It was this call to deeper truth and justice that guided the early Church to grow beyond its Jewish confines. We must be likewise guided to respond to our own needs and changes today.
Dear brothers and sisters,
We are inspired by the way the first century Christians applied the teachings and examples of Jesus to their particular context. They responded not by fear and defence of status quo at all costs. Rather, in the face of new challenges, they modelled themselves on the radical inclusiveness, compassion and solidarity of the Master. The Church was transformed beyond the original company that Jesus had gathered and yet this creative process remained faithful to his core values.
The Word of God today shows us that faith has a social and political dimension. The early Christians understood this and showed to the world a way forward in how they lived, how they related, how they shared resources. In the face of a fractured society, they shone as a community of radical inclusivity, hospitality and justice. Against the dominant system of exploitation, self-interest and greed, they enacted an ethos of communion, justice and compassion.
We are a community grounded in God’s love. Despite all of our failings and distortions, we host God’s power for life. The Church in a quite specific way is the place where large dreams are entertained, songs are sung, boundaries are crossed, hurt is noticed, and the weak are honoured. We have no monopoly on these matters. Yet we take this agenda as our primary mission.
Our celebration today calls us to live our faith with creativity, discernment and courage. John dreams of the new Jerusalem after the city has been destroyed by the Romans. There is the sense in which the Church of old, steeped in self-security, triumphalism and power is dying. We are called to be the new Jerusalem, the Church that shines with the light of hope, humility, mercy and service. Let us pray that guided by a future to unfold before us, we may not be afraid to embrace the unknown pathways. May God of the journey accompany and form us into his people and his instruments for the transformation of the world.