Homily for 3rd Sunday of Ordinary time (Australia Day 2014)
Our readings and prayers in our masses this weekend are chosen to appropriate our celebration of Australia Day. So we heard of the Prophet Isaiah (32:15-18) a reminder to pursue justice to achieve peace. We also heard of St Paul to the Romans (12:9-13) reminding us to work for the Lord earnestly, in love, in hope, in generosity and in hospitality. And we heard in the gospel (Lk 12:22-32) Jesus urging us to set our hearts on the Kingdom of God for ‘it has pleased [our] heavenly Father to give [us] the Kingdom.’
God has given so much for this country, and thus it is just fitting that we celebrate this Australia Day, not only as a citizen of this country, but as Pope John Paul II wrote the Church in Oceania in his Apostolic Exhortation in 2001 (Ecclesia in Oceania), we as a Church in Australia are to ponder on God’s ‘generosity in Oceania and to his infinite love for its peoples’ and to ask ourselves: ‘How can we fail to give thanks to him from whom every good gift comes?’ (Ecclesia in Oceania par. 53). In other words, in line with our celebration of Australia Day and to celebrate being an Australian, we are to be mindful that everything we have, and all that we have enjoyed, which obviously not many people in the world have the opportunity to get hold of, are God’s gifts for all of us. And these gifts are not meant to be kept selfishly but to be shared generously to those who have little and to those who have none even. It is part of our mission to remind Australia that it is not by accident that we are called ‘the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit’, but that it is all part of God’s plan for this country. It is our mission therefore, as Christian Australians or as believers and followers of Christ living in Australia, to show to all of Australia that God is the meaning of our lives.
To stand up for God and to show to the world God is the meaning of our life especially in Australia is always a challenge and a test for us. It is a challenge because we need to that understand life is not just getting what we want, or possessing things we dreamed of, but it is first of all appreciating the gifts we have received. It is a test because there are many things that would take the place of God in our lives.
For instance, for the past couple of weeks, I had these telemarketers chasing me about their product. I knew then they are telemarketers, so I didn’t answer the call hoping that they would get the message I’m not interested in their product. However, they kept on nagging me and chasing me. They know what time is good for them to ring, but not for me. The other day, I got an idea to stop them. When they called me at midday, I answered the phone, then this lady started talking. I said to her: ‘Ok, hold on for a moment.’ I put the receiver near the speaker of my computer. Then I played the music ‘Please release me’ by Engelbert. Then I left the office. When I came back, they hanged up. Thinking that they would ring me again later in that day, I prepared another song ‘I want to break free’ by Queen. I was waiting for them to ring me. But no, I haven’t heard from them since then. It must have worked.
This is just one of the many ways that would take over the place of God in our lives. Things are laid out before us everyday, pushed in front of us, persuading us to believe we really need them when in reality we don’t. So we need to guard our senses, listen to our hearts and let God form the meaning for our existence.
So how we might be able to live out this mission of showing to all the world that God is the meaning of our lives?
One way to live out this mission is offered in our gospel today: that we are to live as a people of faith and as a people with God in our lives. This is quite a challenge because we got everything we need here, or everything we want are just right there within our reach. This easy accessibility to things sometimes lead us to believe we don’t need God and we don’t need faith anymore. But whether we like it or not, whether we admit it or not, we do need God. As Jesus would say in the gospel: ‘Life is more than just eating or clothing ourselves.’ For Jesus, real life is to be a reflection of God in the world- to be a citizen of the kingdom of God, in our way of loving, in our way of promoting peace, and in our way of advocating for justice.
Another way or actually ways, to carry out our mission to show that God is the meaning of our life is offered by St Paul in our Second Reading today. As St Paul urged the Romans, he is also urging us now to love one another, to prefer the good, to be people of hope, to persevere in our prayers, to be generous to one another, and to be hospitable. In other words, we are to be an embodiment of the Spirit of God in love, in hope, in generosity and in hospitality. As the Great Southland of the Holy Spirit, Australia has a lot to learn from these words of St Paul. In many things, this is a lucky country and many people in the world are wanting to experience the joy of being here, that’s why they would rather put their lives at risk just to take that single opportunity to come and live here. However, they are being turned away. This is not a way of Christian hospitality. This is not a way to welcome Christ in the guise of the strangers, foreigners, needy and persecuted, knocking at our doors. But this is what happens. So we must not let these ‘unChristian’ things continue to occur by looking at our hearts, looking at our attitudes towards the needy, the helpless and the persecuted, and by reminding ourselves: “No matter how beautiful this country is, we are not destined to be here forever. There’s nothing we can do to remain here for eternity. This is just like a stopover, an oasis, as we journey on the way to our eternal home in heaven.”
One more way to show that God is the meaning of our lives in Australia is to live simply in the midst of plenty. This calls us to ‘set our hearts on the Kingdom of God’ with trust that God is looking after us for all that we need and all that we are. This also calls us to listen and trust in the words of Jesus in the gospel: ‘I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat…’ God knows best, and let us allow God take care of it. We just have to trust God and put our hearts in touch and in line to the Kingdom. Yet to live simply is another big hurdle for many because of the many things being fed on us everyday with a false message that this definitely makes our life worth living, or happy or satisfied. As experience tells us, they don’t. So if those false messages come on our way, let us be cautious of them, discerning and do our best to keep up with our resolution to live a simple life and a life with God. Let us also remember that no matter how rich we are, how much money we have in the bank, how influential or how famous we are, we all have the same size of grave in the cemetery. Even if we buy the whole cemetery, for us to be buried, we can’t occupy the whole place. In the end we can only take as much as 6 ft-deep by 6 ft-long and by 2-ft wide piece of land.
In conclusion, let us continue our celebration for Australia Day, but let us ask ourselves also: ‘How grateful are we to God for giving us this beautiful country?’ ‘
As an Australian, am I showing to all the world, and to Australia, that God meant so much for me, that God matters for me and that faith matters to me?’
Let this be our reflection.