Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2020 at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, St Marys
Readings: Jer 20:10-13; Romans 5:12-15; Mat 10:26-33
21 June 2020
Courage to live the demands of discipleship
Sisters and brothers,
We admire people who put their lives at risk in order to avert potential harm and danger from being inflicted on others, especially the vulnerable and defenceless. Thus, we salute firefighters who protect their communities even to the extent of putting themselves in harm’s way; doctors, nurses and health care professionals who risk infection while working on the frontline. Challenging times can and do often bring out the best in humanity.
The liturgy today encourages us to live out the demands of discipleship without fear. As followers of Christ, we are called to grow beyond self-concern and personal safety to a life of witness, mission and service. The Word of God on this 12th Sunday focuses our attention on the risk of authentic discipleship in times of trial. Being a Christian is not a matter of convenience but of integrity and courage. We are challenged to live out our faith in a way that transcends our fears and survival instincts.
In the first reading, Jeremiah reflects on the costs of being God’s faithful mouthpiece. He tells us of the hurt and pain he experiences as a result of his prophetic mission. “I hear so many disparaging me… All those who used to be my friends watched for my downfall”. No wonder Jeremiah is known as the weeping prophet. His adversaries gave him such a hard time: He was attacked by his own brothers, imprisoned by the king, put into the stocks by the temple priests, and thrown into a cistern by the court officials.
But the truth of the matter is that there is always a price for authentic witness. We cannot take a counterintuitive and prophetic stance, like Jeremiah did, and avoid the cost of it. Jeremiah shows us that authentic faith makes us fearless and not fearful in the face of hardship and persecution. It empowers us to live more generously, more trustfully and yet more bravely.
This is also the teaching of Jesus in the Gospel. “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. Yet this reassurance should not be understood as a kind of foolproof security system.
Worse still, it should not be construed as a license for recklessness and extremism – the kind of arrogance contained, for example, in the bumper sticker “Jesus is my vaccine” (!). In fact, as it turned out, the disciples paid a price of their very lives for the cause of the Gospel. Ultimately, they – like their Master – were not shielded against the persecution, hatred and hostility of their enemies, even if they experienced miraculous interventions along the way.
Jesus’ words in this context constitute a challenge for the disciples to stake everything on God’s plan. He points us to the true destiny to which we are called. The cause of the Kingdom is what drives us forward, not our own convenience, safety, security and prosperity. Authentic discipleship commits us to the task of witnessing to the Gospel values even at a personal cost.
Brothers and sisters,
We Christians are meant to be counter-cultural insofar as we dare to name and critique the anti-Gospel attitudes and practices around us. We do so not out of arrogance and loftiness but out of the authentic convergence to the mind and heart of Christ. The challenge that Jeremiah and Jesus face is to act with moral courage out of concern for justice and integrity. It is bound up with the call to stand on the side of the powerless and the vulnerable.
Christian discipleship demands our moral courage, integrity and fidelity. We are to participate in the divine project of reconciling and restoring all things in Christ. We do so by our willingness to confront situations of injustice or conflict without compromising the Gospel and without counting the cost to oneself. It is our commitment to the truth of the Gospel even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others. May we have the courage to follow the example of Christ and live fully the demands of Christian discipleship.
May they grow in their commitment to live more generously, more trustfully and yet more bravely. Let all of us be not afraid as we seek to share the Good News and to take a prophetic stance in relation to many cultural issues facing us. May our endeavour to replace the culture of fear and indifference with that of encounter and acceptance be brought to fulfilment in accordance with God’s vision of the fullness of life for all humanity.