Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter Year B 2021 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes
Readings: Acts 3:13-19; 1John 2:1-5; Luke 24:35-48
18 April 2021
Transformed by encountering the risen Jesus
Sisters and brothers,
The hardest times in life can be the biggest teachers. Hard times can break some people but for others, hard times can also offer the opportunity for positive growth and even transformation. Personally, some of the toughest episodes in my life have been the critical building blocks for the person that I am today. They helped me to navigate through the unknown to a better place.
The Word of God this Sunday teaches us that disappointment and pain ought not to have the last word on the people of faith. For if there is anything certain in our faith journey, it is the pattern of growth through suffering: God’s ways invariably involve the pain of letting go, of beginning again, of going forward with fresh vision and renewed courage and trust.
The Gospel speaks about transformation in terms of having our sense of value and outlook on life changed according to God’s vision. The disciples were transformed into positive people and agents for change, not because their circumstances changed but because they began to appreciate the Christian paradox: that life is lived fully and fruitfully not by surrendering it to self-survival instincts or the dominating powers. Life is fully and fruitfully lived when it can make a difference to others, that it can transform society and make it into a mirror of God’s Kingdom.
The story today is a continuation of the Emmaus story. The risen Jesus came to the disciples gathered at the upper room and opened their eyes to the Paschal mystery. As in the past, and now in the present and in the future, God’s way to victory is never the easy way, never the way of power and glory, never the way of gain without pain.
Instead, God consistently uses what human beings avoid, fear and dread in order to achieve his purpose. Suffering, tragedy, death et cetera will never have the last word on His plan for us. Rather, it is God’s enduring love that prevails over against every force of darkness ever known to mankind.
After his resurrection, Jesus challenges his disciples to look at the events in Jerusalem with new eyes. They were not failure and disappointment in God’s scheme of things. They were God’s version of success and achievement. Or rather, they were the necessary part of the divine equation. As far as the way of God is concerned, suffering and death are a precondition for everlasting life.
This is why the enlightened disciples rejoiced for being able to suffer for the Gospel. We hear in the Acts of the Apostles how they were imbued with the new vision, which enabled them to see things in a different light. They were no longer concerned with their own ambitions and dreams. They were concerned for the Kingdom and they were glad to suffer for the sake of it.
My dear friends,
The disciples were transformed after their encounter with the risen Jesus. They were able to see beyond their broken dreams and shattered hopes. They began to see life beyond their limited horizons. This is the Good News for us too. The same Jesus who appeared and reassured them comes to us in the Eucharist. The same Jesus who challenged them to be the people of hope also challenges us.
We might be nursing a broken dream ourselves; we might be burdened with sadness; we might be weighed down by uncertainty. However, the Good News for us today is that these things do not and cannot derail God’s loving plan for us. As he did it in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God uses these very elements to realise his plan. Out of the ashes of our shattered hopes and broken dreams, God makes new things grow.
“Do not be afraid” is the message that should reverberate in the hearts of the disciples as they embark on the journey of proclamation, communion, and mission. Today, at Our Lady, Queen of Peace, we hear these words of Jesus with a deep sense of peace and joy as we look forward to a new chapter under the leadership of Fr Paul Roberts. After a period of leading the Institute for Mission, it will be a different challenge for him as it is for your former pastor Fr Paul Marshall. I am grateful to both of them for leaving the familiar behind. I am equally grateful to you parishioners for embracing this journey together.
Let this new beginning be the opportunity for us to deepen our sense of being a presence, an oasis of hope, and Good News. May we learn to be a soothing presence, a warmth of God’s care, and a gentle reach of God’s hand, affirming, healing and uplifting. May we like the disciples of old live out the Paschal mystery and fulfil our missionary vocation of transforming the world.