Vigil Mass of the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C and the 100th anniversary celebrations of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Primary School and Parish, Wentworthville.
Readings: Wisdom 11:22 – 12:2; Pslam 144(145): 1-2, 8-11, 13b-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 2:2; Luke 19:1-10
Dear sisters and brothers,
Australia prides itself on being an egalitarian society. We have long treasured our tradition of ‘a fair go’. We cherish the notion that all hard-working Australians should have a living wage. These days, however, that deeply cherished sense of a fair go is steadily eroded, and we are facing a real danger of becoming a less inclusive society. Last week, the new government delivered its first budget which among other measures endorsed the stage 3 tax cuts. One wonders if this will make income inequality even worse since the financial benefits of this tax policy will flow overwhelmingly to the better off rather than to those on Struggle Street.
The Word of God this Sunday calls us to build a community where the common good is at the heart of its agenda. The message of love, mercy and compassion within God’s vision of communion, solidarity and distributive justice is set against the ruthless, competitive, inhumane, survival-of-the-fittest mindset of the world. We are challenged to stretch the limits of our capacity to love in the way that mirrors the boundless mercy of God himself. Only by living and witnessing to the message of love, mercy and compassion can we be the authentic disciples of Jesus and the voice of conscience for our society.
In the first reading from the Book of Wisdom, God is described as all-knowing, all-powerful but also all-loving and all-merciful. God’s greatness does not make him aloof and distant. The God who revealed himself in unapproachable light is also a loving companion and a caring lover of life. God is almighty and yet at the same time vulnerable in his loving mercy to all creatures: “You have mercy on all, because you can do all things.” That might also be the most countercultural description of power that we will ever find. The God of our ancestors, even in ancient times, was understood to reveal himself in empathy, compassion and vulnerability.
The Gospel reading further expands the parameters of divine pathos. If in the Old Testament, we see glimpses of the magnanimity with which God acts against the background of primitive human morality, his self-disclosure in Jesus is even more decisive and groundbreaking. Here in his humanity, God breaks our narrow confines and stereotypes. He challenges us to a new way of seeing, judging and acting in respect of the marginalised and the vulnerable.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector who had signed on with the imperial system of exploitation. As a result, he was ostracised, rejected and hated by his own people. As far as they were concerned, he was a traitor, and he lost his right to call himself a son of Abraham. Yet against these powerful prejudices, Jesus recognises the dignity of Zacchaeus. Even at the cost of his own reputation, he welcomes the sinner and speaks in favour of him. “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” The transformation that resulted from his encounter with Jesus has not only benefitted the poor whom he had exploited, but has also given him back his true identity.
Jesus was criticised for welcoming tax collectors and sinners. Perhaps that is the cost of love we must not shy from. We are called to practice an ethic of concern, care, support for one another so no one is excluded from the table or left behind; we are challenged to be a community of hospitality, compassion and inclusion. As Jesus reaffirms Zacchaeus’ Abrahamic identity, we must not forget the counter-cultural nature of our faith tradition.
Dear sisters and brothers.
Today we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and School. It was a tribute and a testament to the faith, dedication, tenacity and generosity of the people. Our forebears, like Mary MacKillop, saw a need and decided to do something about it. They took the initiative to respond to the needs of the community particularly after the Second World War. With the coming of the Carmelite friars in 1956 and the partnership of the Sisters of Mercy, the parish commitment to worship, education, support and outreach has made a difference to so many families and individuals.
Our celebration of this milestone anniversary is a time of gratitude, trust and joyful hope in the future. We are grateful for what has been achieved. But we are also confident of a hope-filled future knowing that God will guide our efforts to model the Kingdom community and bring them to fruition. As we walk in the footsteps of our forebears, we renew our commitment to seek justice for the oppressed, care for the vulnerable, hospitality for the unwelcomed, shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry and the fullness of life for all.
May we become catalysts for a better Church, a better society and a better world. Then we can truly be the conduit of Gospel and the sign of hope for all. Let us live by this kingdom ethic and put into action a new paradigm of shared humanity, equality, inclusion and human flourishing.
Share this Homily