Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Year A with the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for a Woman Living in the World of Miss Zara Tai at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Parramatta, 13 August 2017
This morning, we have come together to join in a special celebration in which the Church consecrates Zara Tai to a life of virginity for the sake of the Kingdom.
She is a daughter, a sister, a relative and a friend, joined by the ties of family, friendship and faith. God has called her to be more closely united to himself and to be dedicated to the service of the Church in the world. Her consecration is a call to greater fervour in spreading the Kingdom of God and in giving to the world the spirit of Christ.
Consecrated virginity does not make sense unless you appreciate its transcendental value. It is incomprehensible unless God and his Kingdom are your primary and immediate concern. Consecrated virgins witness to us about the transcendence, about the “more” of life and the call to transformation. Make no mistake and have no illusion: this life is not for the sentimental, the lighthearted or the romantic.
Zara has pursued her dream for the last 15 years and she can attest to the challenges of living as a dedicated virgin in the world. No sentimentalism, no illusion, but only an enduring love, an unwavering faith and an unmitigated relationship with Christ will do.
Scriptures for this 19th Sunday teach us the importance of being centered in God not as an escape from the world but in order to see, hear and participate in his vision. The story of the prophet Elijah on Mount Horeb is an illustration of this immersion with a divine experience. Elijah had been praying in a mountain cave. He was the most wanted man in Israel because he had killed the prophets of Queen Jezebel. At Horeb, he was in a state of crisis, physically, mentally and spiritually. Hungry, exhausted and disillusioned, he wanted to die. But crisis can be catalyst for change. Elijah was shown in a dramatic fashion how God manifested himself not in an earthquake, a storm or a burning fire but in a gentle breeze. Elijah recognised God’s presence in the gentle breeze. He heard God’s voice in the still small whisper and sacred fragile silence. More importantly, he recognised that violence was not the way of God. It was a humbling realisation. Elijah emerged from the cave a transformed man as a result of a deepening of his relationship with God and a sharing with the divine pathos.
The Gospel story also presents us with a lesson in being focused on the Lord, especially in times of adversity. It tells of the journey of the disciples on the sea and how they have to struggle to deal with the unexpected storm on their own. Upon hearing the bidding of Jesus, Peter jumps off the boat and walks towards him on water. Yet Peter’s audacity is short-lived. The moment he takes his focus off Jesus and feels the force of the wind and stormy seas beneath him, he begins to sink. He and his fellow disciples allow fear to overwhelm and paralyse them instead of acting with courage and trust. The lesson here is like that of the loaves and fishes: When we give all of ourselves in absolute unflinching faith, God will make great things happen beyond the apparent impossibility of transformation.
Zara, our sister!
Your consecration is not an act of personal heroism. Rather, it is an act of radical discipleship. In a way, you are like Peter who is emboldened to take a leap into the unknown when he jumps off the boat and walks towards Jesus. It is audacity or St Paul would call it foolishness. We are fools for the sake of the Kingdom. “I count all else as rubbish before the supreme advantage of knowing Christ my Lord.” All followers of Christ are called to exchange everything for that advantage or the pearl of great prize. But religious and consecrated virgins visualise the radicalness of Christian discipleship by the witness of their vowed and consecrated life. Be for us the sign of the Kingdom. Witness for us about the “more” of life, especially in the world blinded by the here and now. Be for us the sign of an unflinching faith through which the apparent impossibility of transformation can be achieved through the power of God.
In a moment, you will lie prostrate on the floor in the form of the cross. By this simple but powerful gesture, you are to crucify your former self and rise to the new person. St Paul in the second reading writes that “If in union with Christ we have imitated his death, we shall also imitate him in his resurrection”. You commit yourself to follow Christ wholeheartedly. If, however, you should sink because your faith falters, don’t hesitate to reach out your hand to His. This consecration is not so much a denial of your human needs as a means to live your life even more completely. It has no other meaning than to witness with an undivided heart to the infinite love of God which is our greatest good.
Let us pray for our sister Zara that she too may persevere in the path she has chosen. Let us pray for all consecrated and religious who endeavour to live each day the audacity of their single-hearted commitment. May Mary the model of Christian life teach us to live our Fiat each day. May her maternal love guide us all each day on our journey of faithful discipleship.
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