Most Reverend Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv DD STL, Bishop of Parramatta
Homily for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year C 2019 at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish, Kellyville
Readings: Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4; 2Tim 1:6-14; Luke 17:5-10
6 October 2019
Grounding our faith in times of crisis
It is interesting to observe the contrasting attitudes that expose the depth of the divide in our society with respect to environmental concerns.
One the one hand, we have a growing movement of mainly young people who are absolutely passionate about the state of our planet. The school strike for climate that was held all over the world was a demonstration of their passion.
On the other hand, though, there are those who think such demonstrations were a waste of time or worse a misguided and manipulated exercise. It is difficult to find the truth in an increasingly polarising society.
How do we as people of faith respond to the crises of our time? What kind of attitude do we need to cultivate and action to take in order to align ourselves to God’s purpose? Fortunately, the Word of God today provides us with some guidance. It calls us to recognise God as the guarantor of our future and to act as his agents for the transformation of the world.
In the first reading, we hear a confronting message from the prophet who ministered during a very tumultuous time in Jewish history. The golden era of David and Solomon was but a distant memory.
The Northern Kingdom had been captured and the House of Judah or the Southern Kingdom was facing a similar fate. Habakkuk has to contend with the twin temptations of denial and despair. He is blunt in his rejection of denial: the disaster is going to happen, no use pretending otherwise or taking refuge in false comfort.
But that is not the end of the story: Habakkuk challenges the no-hopers as much as the deniers. Today’s episode bears this out. To those who say, there is no hope and only despair, God answered that his plan will see fulfilment even if it comes slowly. Habakkuk encourages the people to persevere in uprightness and seek justice.
The Gospel tells us how the disciples feel inadequate before the external challenges they face and the demands of discipleship. We are at the crucial halfway point between the ministry of Jesus in Galilee and his entry into Jerusalem.
The focus is shifting from the signs and miracles to the harder question of what makes a true disciple. Jesus challenges them to be prepared for the long, hard road by way of grounding and deepening their faith.
It’s a wake-up call to the disciples and to us. We must be under no illusions about what we get ourselves into and who we follow. Jesus does not make excuses for the demands of true discipleship. If we want to follow him, then be prepared to put our interest and security on the line.
Our faith must be like the mustard seed. It is a metaphor that reminds us of insignificance, humility and vulnerability. In contrast with the scribes and Pharisees who promote an external religiosity, Jesus teaches us to begin with our internal transformation. It is not ticking all the right boxes but getting one’s heart right with God. Discipleship is a costly engagement with God’s plan for us and for the world.
It is not easy for us to negotiate the confusing terrain before us. We are torn by the polarising forces in society, and making an informed decision in respect of many divisive issues can be difficult.
The Word of God today gives us wisdom and hope. Habakkuk tells us that God is present and active in the world, even in the midst of looming crisis and upheaval. We must have the courage to discern and move to the new future where God calls us.
Denial, apathy and defence of the status quo is not the answer. But neither can we give in to despair and paralysis. God’s vision of justice, right living and an ethic of care and concern for all must guide our way of life.
Jesus likewise made it clear that following him has little to do with safeguarding one’s interest and security. Rather, it is about the courage to follow through the costly discipleship and to align ourselves with the Humble Servant who lived a life of simplicity, witness, service and solidarity.
We are called to be light of the world and salt of the earth. St Paul in the Second Reading reminds us to “fan into a flame” the gift of faith, which is not a spirit of timidity but the Spirit of power and love.
Therefore, we cannot remain as bystanders who are indifferent to what goes on in the world. The power of God strengthens us as we seek to be agents of the Gospel who bring to realisation his vision of justice, mercy and a dignified life for all.
Let us then persevere in prosecuting the cause of God’s Kingdom, in actions born out of faith, hope and love as we stand united in the face of ‘globalised indifference’. May we ground and deepen our faith in times of crisis and upheaval, confident however of God’s unfolding plan for all humanity.