Mass for the First Sunday of Advent, Year A, and the Mass of Ordination to the Diaconate of Tom Green at St Patrick’s Church, Mary, Queen of the Family Parish, Blacktown
Readings: Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 121(122):1-2, 4-5, 6-9; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44
This week, the Mayor of Melbourne, Sally Capp, stated quite controversially that the COVID pandemic has actually been good for her city. She uses the metaphor of the Kintsugi to speak about the ability of the citizens to learn and grow through adversity. Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer or powdered gold, silver or platinum. She argues that the people learned to build a more resilient, sustainable and inclusive community because of the hardship and devastation of the pandemic.
While some, especially those who had to live in the most lockdown city, may disagree with her optimistic assessment, there is always a lesson or two to be learned in times of disruption, chaos and crisis. As a matter of fact, the ability to read and respond to the signs of the times is central to being a Christian. Both the biblical narrative and our living tradition constantly call us to do so.
The Word of God today speaks to us about the God who does not let us get away with our propensity towards the comfortable status quo. He throws a curveball in our direction to wake us from the inertia and amnesia that our culture is addicted to. We must not settle into complacency and forget our task of being a changing agent and a leavening force in the world. We must not allow ourselves to be numbed by the opium of prosperity, security, normalcy and comfort.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah reminds the exiles of what God is doing despite the appearance to the contrary. He speaks of the mountain Temple as a symbol of unity for all the nations. The old Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. But God will build a new one which will not only serve the people of Israel but will bring all peoples together. They will no longer relate with each other as rivals and enemies. Instead, they will “hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into sickles”.
This is an extraordinary prophecy that breaks down tribal barriers and summons the exiled Jews the task of building God’s Kingdom. The remnants of Israel, that is, those who persevere despite of the trial of the great exile, will be the nucleus of God’s universal household. This community will be the antidote to the imperial ideology. The faithful exiles are summoned to rebuild a post-exilic society where fraternal communion, justice, solidarity with and care for the vulnerable will be its distinguishing feature.
In the Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to not to fall into complacency. Previously, he has lamented the apathy of the religious leaders with the words of the children: “We played the pipe and you did not dance; we sang a dirge and you did not mourn.” This time, he uses the story of Noah to wake people out of indifference.
Noah is a leader who has the ability to know what is around the bend and to be ready for it. The rest, instead, just continue on their merry way, completely oblivious to the writing on the wall. We may not be eating or getting into drunken orgies like the Romans in Paul’s time. However, the lesson of being responsive to the signs of the times and the call of the Spirit is very much poignant to us as we too find ourselves in our spiritual exile and the ground under our feet has shifted.
The call of God to us is not to settle in false certitude and security. Rather it is to travel beyond our limited horizons and discern how we can be true missionary disciples and credible bearers of the Good News. Discipleship is a journey that demands a critical discernment of the status quo and an openness to the new ways of doing things that the Holy Spirit constantly asks of us. As true believers, we can do well to listen, see and act prophetically so that the Day of the Lord may be source of vindication, comfort and joy to us.
Dear brothers and sisters,
This evening, we commend our brother Tom to the path of greater discipleship, leadership and service through the diaconal ministry. We acknowledge the critical role of the Green family has played in nurturing his vocation. They have now gifted the Church with two sons dedicated to the pastoral care of God’s people. Their lives of faith, hope and love are a source of nourishment and inspiration for Tom and Jack as they grow in the work of ministry. We also acknowledge the role of St Patrick’s Blacktown, which in addition to the Holy Spirit Seminary, help shape Tom into the worker in God’s vineyard and an agent of the Kingdom.
Pope Francis has constantly challenged us to act out of our commitment to the Gospel values rather than to give in to the collective apathy, aided and abetted by the culture of fear and inertia. Advent ushers us into the challenge of being a hope-filled people. Hope spurs us into action, bolstered by God’s promise. Let us recommit ourselves to being a leaven for the Kingdom. Tom, may you not be afraid to make up all that has still to be undergone by Christ for the sake of his body the Church. May Mary accompany you with her maternal love, her intercession and her example of faithful and humble discipleship.
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