Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A 2020 at St Oliver Plunkett’s Parish, Harris Park
Readings: Prob 31:10-31; 1Thess 5:1-6; Matt 25:14-30
15 November 2020
Taking the risk of self-giving
Times of sustained crisis such as this crippling pandemic can provoke fear and self-centred behaviour. We have seen this less noble side of human nature in irrational responses such as panic buying, hoarding, or worst, expressions of racism and xenophobia. However, crisis can also bring the best out of people too. We see this in the dedication and altruism of our doctors, nurses and health care professionals. Then there are also social workers and volunteers who care for the homeless, the neglected members of our community.
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 security to a life of witness, mission and service. We are challenged to live out our faith in a way that transcends our fears and survival instincts.
Jesus consistently teaches us to overcome fears and to take necessary risks for the sake of the Kingdom. He is a true boundary-breaker who constantly goes beyond the borders of every kind in order to show human solidarity. In so doing, he invites us to step beyond our limited horizons and to live life to the full by being all that we are capable of being for others.
The Parable of the Talents reinforces this fundamental message. It is about stepping outside our secure, comfortable and insular world and engaging with others in active solidarity. It is about using the gifts we have been entrusted with for the common good. This parable insists that waiting for the master’s return must not lead to complacency, but to intentional discipleship. We must be learning, growing, carrying out our responsibilities and developing the resources that God entrusts to us until the day of reckoning.
The two servants who have multiplied their talents are commended for their stewardship. But the third is reprimanded because he has not produced the expected results. He is like the rich young man who goes away despondent because he cannot part with his possessions. He has chosen his safety and self-interest and refused to reach for higher goals. He is like that older brother in the Parable of the Prodigal Son whose heart is stifled by pettiness.
So, we cannot be the disciple of Jesus and stay put or play it safe like the third servant. Discipleship is a journey that demands courage because it forces us to abandon security in favour of striving for the moreness of life, self-interest in favour of passion for justice and compassion for God’s poor.
Pope Francis has been leading the whole Church in this direction and many find it a bumpy road. It is a movement from clericalism to service, from self-reference to openness, from splendour to simplicity, from triumphalism to humility, from a siege mentality to engagement, from safeguarding our privileges to learning to be vulnerable in order to convey God’s compassion to those who are on the edges of society and Church.
Today is also the World Day for the Poor with the theme taken from the Book of Sirach, namely, “Stretch forth your hand to the poor”. Aware of the many unjust situations around the world, the Pope calls the Church to be be a place of respite, healing and hope. It is our calling to be a counter-witness to self-centred and fear-induced behaviour. He writes: “The silent cry of so many poor men, women and children should find the people of God at the forefront, always and everywhere, in efforts to give them a voice, to protect and support them in the face of hypocrisy and so many unfulfilled promises, and to invite them to share in the life of the community”.
Thus, sharing God’s blessings for us with the poor is at the heart of Catholic identity. It is not simply a matter of acting with mercy and compassion to those in need with our position of power and privilege intact. Rather, it is a radical discipleship of vulnerability and powerlessness in the footsteps of the humble Servant of God. It is an existential stance in favour of the weak and the vulnerable. It is an expression of our commitment to embrace the self-emptying pattern of Christ.
Brothers and sisters,
As we share in the Eucharist, the sign and reality of God broken and poured for the love of the world, let us be empowered to live for others, through our prayers, acts of kindness and deep communion with them. Let us also be broken and poured for the love of the poor. May we be like those faithful servants who are found worthy and invited to “come and join in the master’s happiness.”