Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year B 2021 at Corpus Christi Parish, Cranebrook
Readings: Deut 18:15-20; 1Cor 7:32-35; Mark 1:21-28
31 January 2021
Enacting God’s vision for us
Sisters and Brothers,
One of the persistent themes in the Bible is that disruption can be a catalyst for positive change and even destruction can be a venue of new possibility. Thus, for example, King David suffered humiliation as he fled from Absalom, his own son. Yet he learned the lesson of humility and grew in moral integrity. Similarly, St Paul underwent a reality check on the way to Damascus and radically altered the course of his life and his priorities.
In this perspective, the pandemic that has caused much uncertainty, pain and suffering can be an opportunity for profound transformation. We are challenged to reshape our lives, communities and world in such a way that brings greater justice, human flourishing and sustainability to all.
COVID-19 is a sign that we have alienated ourselves from the God of life and love; that we have become dull to the cry of God’s poor and the cry of God’s creation. It is a time for us to take stock of the way we have contributed to the suffering of Body of Christ, in the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised and our wounded Mother Earth.
Scriptures on this 4th Sunday speak of new beginnings and of the God who heals wounds, engenders hope and awakens confidence in us. We are called to be responsive to what God is doing in the world and to act accordingly.
The reading from Book of Deuteronomy speaks of the impending departure of Moses and the new era of the prophets. It was a transition time that required the people’s attentive hearing and sensibility. Moses assures them that “the Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like myself, from among yourselves, from your own brothers; to him you must listen.”
Indeed, the prophetic era that followed the Law and Moses was tumultuous as well as transformative. The Israelites went through harrowing times of settlement, destruction, exile and colonisation. Yet they also experienced profound transformation as a result.
The Book of Deuteronomy became pivotal for the formation of Judaism during the exile. Dislocation carries with it a temptation to be preoccupied with private wellbeing at the expense of the common good. This is all too evident in our own society, where public responsibility is on the wane and the most privileged desperately work to improve their private estate. Moses reminded the people of the need to witness as a community of faith and not as self-concerned individuals.
The Gospel story tells us of how Jesus goes about proclaiming the Reign of God and acting with authority reminiscent of Moses. At Capernaum, Jesus performs healing for the sick and gives full meaning to the Sabbath. Sabbath is a reminder of the duty to build a community that takes care of the poor, the indebted and the oppressed. In his caring and inclusive ministry, Jesus enacts God’s vision of such a community. His words and actions carry authority for they are stamped with the divine intent of sabbatical freedom, liberation and emancipation for humanity.
Sisters and brothers,
This week, two extraordinary women Miriam-Rose Ungunmerr and Grace Tame were awarded the Senior and Australian of the Year respectively. Both spoke powerfully about their experience, one as an Indigenous person and the other a survivor of sexual abuse. Their voice is prophetic and authoritative. They called us to a better understanding of one another’s experience and build a more just world for all.
The kingdom vision of Jesus guides us as we endeavour to be a community that serves as an antidote to the politics of fear, self-interest and the economy of exclusion in our society. We espouse a love that transcends borders and a social friendship that makes universal brotherhood possible. We are privileged to be partners with God’s plan for a shared destiny of hope, communion and life for all.
May this fallow time allow us to grow more deeply in our identity and mission as people and communities that reflect the values of the Kingdom. May we following the example of Jesus in reaching out to our brothers and sisters, healing wounds, engendering hope, restoring justice through a life of faith, love, and service.