Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2020 at St Monica’s Parish, North Parramatta
Readings: Isaiah 25:6-10; Phil 4:12-20; Matt 22:1-14
11 October 2020
Called to embody God’s generous love
Sisters and brothers,
This week, the Federal Government has delivered what it claimed to be a bold attempt to spend its way out of the recession. The Church in Australia had joined many community organisations in calling for a more compassionate response to those left vulnerable by the pandemic. These include the poor, the unemployed, JobKeeper recipients, and temporary visa holders. The expansion of support would have prevented thousands of families from living in destitution. Unfortunately, the call went largely unheeded. This year’s budget will leave many stranded on Struggle Street. Even the tax cuts or “the cash splash” that are touted as a relief to ordinary Australians are highly skewered towards high income earners.
We, as Christian citizens, are inspired by God’s vision of a compassionate, caring, and egalitarian society. Right from the first chapters of Genesis, God is presented as one who sets in motion a world of abundance and sustains it through his generosity and fidelity. Throughout the course of human history, God calls us away from self-centred and survival-oriented behaviour into a communion of love that mirrors His very divine nature. The journey of the Israelites from Pharaoh’s land of scarcity into God’s land of abundance is symbolic of every believer’s journey. It is a journey that requires us to move away from fear and self-centredness, and instead to act with the generosity and fidelity of God.
Scriptures on this 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak to us about hope in the time of pain and darkness. The God of our ancestors in faith does not shield us from the ebbs and flows of history. But neither does he remain unmoved by our changing fortunes. He leads us and empowers us to move beyond our fears to live a life of faith, hope, love, and service. In Jesus, he calls us and forms us into the living embodiment of the God who cares for his people.
In the first reading, Isaiah speaks prophetically of the renewal of Israel after the exile. He maintains against all evidence to the contrary that God will remake a battered nation and a humiliated people. A veil of mourning will be removed and a banquet of rich foods will be prepared for the poor and the remnant faithful. Tears will be wiped away from every cheek and even death be destroyed forever. Isaiah reframes the experience of his people in new and hopeful horizons. The exile, he insists, will have a transformative effect.
Isaiah’s prophecy is not about some pie in the sky or a utopia. The real challenge here for Israel is to be faithful to the vision that God committed them to ever since the exodus from Egypt. That vision is a vision of an alternative society where the poor and the vulnerable are dignified, where there is no injustice and oppression. The journey or the return to the Promised Land was not so much a physical as a spiritual exercise. To make Israel a model society and to make every believer a member of this ideal society is indeed a lifelong project.
God works in mysterious and surprising ways. He brings good out of evil, life out of death, and hope out of despair. Our response is not fear, resistance, despair, and defeat. It must be faith-filled, humble, joyful, and unwavering commitment.
This is what the Parable of the Wedding Banquet calls for. The invited have no interest in God’s invitation. They treat the king’s messengers with contempt. The wedding banquet hall is then open to all who respond despite their lowly status. Arrogance, self-righteousness, complacency on account of who we are and what we have achieved will not gain us entry into the Kingdom. Rather it is how we reflect God’s limitless capacity to love and forgive. It is the garment of mercy and compassion that we are found wearing at the banquet hall.
Sisters and brothers,
We live in a time, which in many ways is not unlike that of God’s people in exile. The pandemic has struck fear into our hearts. In a time of uncertainty and scarcity, we have a choice to make: to withdraw into a self-centred mode or to turn our eyes to fellow human beings in a spirit of compassion. Like the first Christian community, let us choose to be a place where everyone experiences the divine hospitality, kindness and generosity, including the orphans, aliens and widows of our time.
In a world of fear and the circle of sharing is off-limit to the poor, we are called to be a Church without borders, a banquet hall that admits everyone, and a society that mirrors God’s inclusive embrace. St Paul assures us that whatever we do to others, God will lavishly fulfil our needs. As we share at the table of God’s plenty, let us endeavor to reflect his goodness to us in the way we care for one another, especially those in need.