Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2020 at Mass for the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe at Christ the King Parish, North Rocks
Readings: Ez 34:11-17; 1Cor 15:20-28; Mat 15:31-46
22 November 2020
The proof of authentic discipleship
Dear sisters and brothers,
Today, we joyfully gather to give thanks to God for the gift of this faith community at North Rocks, which began some 50 years ago. It is a Good News story, which speaks of the foresight, hard work, and dedication of the founding pastor Fr Eric Burton and pioneer parishioners. From its humble beginnings with no more than a small centre, it grew into a vibrant place of worship, transformation, and witness. Here, generations of Catholic faithful have lived out their call to be a sign of God’s presence and an oasis of faith, hope, and love. This community through its commitment to Catholic education, support, and outreach has made a difference to so many families and individuals. Together, let us continue to become the Church we are called to be: where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven, and encouraged to live according to the Gospel.
This Sunday marks the completion of the liturgical year with the Feast of Christ the King. It is a rather outdated symbol that was born out of a patriarchal society. However, beyond this conventional metaphor, the Word of God calls us to embody the value system that is rooted in the life and ministry of Jesus, one that is radically at odds with our survival instincts and the success-driven, winner-takes-all culture. It situates our Christian calling in the context of service, empathy, and relationship building as opposed to the worldly notion of prestige, power, and glory.
In the first reading, Ezekiel speaks to the weary exiles and consoles them with a prophecy of the good shepherd King. Both in Palestine and now in Babylon, the Jewish people have experienced largely a succession of oppressive and ruthless regimes. Ezekiel condemns the ruling class who fails in their duty of care for the people. He reassures them that God will triumph over the forces of evil and oppression. The new ruler will bring about a new era of justice, equity, and righteousness. He will be like a caring shepherd who will “look for the lost sheep, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong”.
We can hear echoes of Ezekiel’s prophecy in the way Jesus critiques the ruling elites of his time. He often condemns them for being more concerned about their status and power than integrity, justice, and love. For him, the ultimate requirement, the litmus test of authentic leadership has to do with service and especially service rendered with humility to the vulnerable and the outcast.
The gospel Parable of the Final Judgment makes this litmus test crystal clear. The king does not judge his subjects on any other criteria than their ability to recognise and serve him in their fellow human beings. The Parable subverts our idea of who and what constitutes the ideal, the normative, and the worthy. The more deserving of God’s loving embrace turn out to be the ones we often neglect and reject. In Jesus who surrounds himself with the outcast, we see a God of solidarity and vulnerability. In Jesus, we meet a God who disturbs our comfort and pushes us out to the periphery to be with the least of his brothers and sisters.
Brothers and sisters,
Jesus is the King, but one who identified himself with the marginalised. He walked the dangerous walk with people who were kept at a distance from the powerful and the privileged. We must challenge the prevalent mindset of dominance and exclusion. We must follow his example in forging common bonds of humanity in the face of fear.
In this past week, we learned about the shocking revelations that what amounted to war crimes was allegedly committed by some members of our defence force serving in Afghanistan. There will be an exercise of soul-searching and reflection, not just for our military but the whole nation. As Christians, we endeavour to emulate the Master Servant who stood in solidarity with the suffering and empowered them to attain justice and dignity. We reaffirm our commitment with fellow citizens to restore a culture of service, empathy, and relationship building.
We give thanks for such a rich tapestry of faith that has been woven by generations of faithful, generous, and committed parishioners. As we gather in faith, we commit ourselves again to the way of Christ, the humble shepherd King. Our celebration of the golden jubilee is a time of gratitude, trust, and joyful hope in the future. Let us renew our commitment to walk in faith, to serve with love, and to work towards a hope-filled future knowing that God will bring the triumph of love out of the pain we bear.