Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B 2018 with the Installation of Fr Christopher Antwi-Boasiako as Parish Priest of Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook, 18 November 2018
Readings: Daniel 12:1-3; Hebrews 10:11-14; Gospel: Mark 13:24-32
18 November 2018
Dear sisters and brothers,
It is a testing time for those of us who are committed to the Catholic faith. We have been battered and bruised. The abuse crisis has shaken the Church to the core. There is a real sense that we are in uncharted territory. Yet in the midst of the uncertainty, confusion and malaise, we are strengthened by the belief that new beginnings can emerge from the ashes of the old and times of great crisis can be opportunities and catalysts for renewal and transformation.
Indeed, the whole thrust of the bibilical narrative is the call to nurture hope in despair, to discern God’s purpose in apparent decline and even destruction.
We are at the end of the liturgical year. The scriptures for this period often speak about the need to discern and act with courage, faith and hope in times of chaos and upheaval.
In the first reading, we hear the prophecy of Daniel regarding divine judgment at the end time. The Book of Daniel was written during the great turmoil in Israel. The foreign ruler Antiochus antagonised the Jewish people, and this led to the revolt by the Maccabees. War broke out and many terrible things occurred, including the sacking of the temple, which was seen as the ultimate humiliation of Israel. It was in this context that Daniel wrote a prophecy of comfort and encouragement to the people. He reassured them that God would see justice done in the end despite evidence to the contrary. The just would rise to everlasting life while the wicked to shame and disgrace.
In the Gospel, Jesus – like Daniel – also uses apocalyptic language and imagery to describe the end time. Earlier in the same chapter, he predicts the destruction of the temple: “Not a stone will be left on another”. Now Jesus speaks of the sun darkened, the moon losing its brightness and the stars falling from heaven. But it is not a time for fear and trepidation. The end time is not doom and gloom for those who believe. Rather it is a time of intense discernment and active engagement. Crisis awakes in the disciples deep listening and courageous action. It catalyses them into agents of hope and Good News for the Kingdom.
Things may be disheartening now but the future belongs to God and the disciples must not lose heart but must act in favour of that future. Therefore, we are exhorted to take heart and discern the way of God in times of turmoil and upheaval.
Daniel speaks of the learned shining as brightly as the vault of heaven, while Jesus, through the Parable of the Fig Tree urges his disciples to be in sync with the unfolding of God’s hidden purpose.
Both Daniel and Jesus caution us against a kind of spiritual amesia which makes us indifferent and unresponsive God’s action in history. What distinguishes us as true believers is the ability to discern and to live the creative power of the Spirit through the chaos of decline, death and renewal.
The chaotic process is unfolding before our eyes. The Church is like a vessel adrift on the choppy waters of the post-Christian world. Many of us like the Jews of old are fearful of the unknown and uncertain future ahead. We yearn for the certainty and security of the past. Yet the call of authentic discipleship is the call to vulnerable trust. It is the call issued to Abraham and Sarah, to the faithful remnant of the exile and to God’s faithful throughout history.
We must learn to die to whatever is no longer life affirming and rise to where the God of the journey is calling us to be. We must let shine the deepest core values of who we are meant to be rather than the trappings of time and culture to inhibit us.
Today, we celebrate a new beginning or a new chapter in the life of this community. We give thanks for the pioneers like the late Fr George O’Mara, who have left us with the legacy of service in mission. We unite ourselves with the new shepherd Fr Chris who exemplifies the missionary spirit by his embrace of the unknown. Together as disciples of Christ, we endeavour to be the Church that is an oasis of hope and a soothing presence.
Scriptures today challenge us to be bold, trustful, alert and open to God’s grace manifested in all vicissitudes of life. Like the disciples of Jesus, commit ourselves to walk as pilgrims open to be formed and enriched by the journey. It is in our human nature to cling to what we know. They say better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Yet our call is the call not to remain anchored in calm shallow waters.
It is a call to launch into the deep, to walk the pilgrimage of faith.
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 we be able to live the creative tension between the pain of the present and the hope of the future with our hearts open to the unveiling of God’s plan for us.