Year C

29th Sunday of Year C

The Admission to the Ministry of Acolyte of Hien Vu and Martino Hoang

The Admission to the Ministry of Lector of Shane Hyland

Luke 8: 1-18

There can be many times in our lives when we know the temptation to lose heart. Sometimes life’s events simply take away our strength to keep hoping.  And we incline to despair. Yet this Sunday we are told a story by Jesus about never losing heart. It seems that we are to be like the importune woman, while God is presented like the judge who eventually gives in to our persistence.  

Yet, perhaps there is another way of looking at the story Jesus tells us.  

I recall a writer, Megan McKenna putting it this way: she was in Mexico sitting in on a group of people discussing the Scripture and talking about praying when a woman stood up – and this was an unusual thing in the group – and said that she had a speech to make.[1]  It was hard for her to do, but she wanted to say what she’d been thinking the whole time.  She spoke of being a widow, of going to a judge just like the one in the parable and pleading for her rights:  to find out why her son had been arrested and taken away and where he was weeks after his disappearance.  She hounded the judge day and night.  She watched him, his moves, his daily schedule, his friends.  She approached him every chance she had.  She had nothing more to lose; she had already lost her husband, her other children.  She was desperate.  She grew to hate him, despise him and all those who were connected to the military, the jail, the courts.  This had gone on so long.  She prayed to God the same way while she pleaded and begged and got angry with the judge.  

And then, as she listened to the parable, she knew that she was the judge and God was the widow!   It is God who is always in our face, begging, pleading, cajoling, hounding us to do justice, and to respond as we should.  God is the widow crying out for justice to us.  We should be praying like that, like God who is always attentive and trying to get us to do justice.  God has nothing to lose; God has lost everything trying to call us back to justice and living with one another as we should.  God does not lose heart over us.  God forgives again and again and calls us to do the same. It is we who are the judge!

This is a parable about not losing heart when we pray continually.  However, the story turns everything upside down.  God is after us!  God is always after us, has been all through history, never relenting, always finding new ways to catch up with us.  

The 18th century Doctor of the Church, Alphonsus Ligouri knew this, too.  He presents God as the iddio pazza:  the ‘insane God’, the God driven by the mad passion of love. He recognised that rather than it being a case of we before God grovelling before the divine majesty, it is God who grovels at our feet begging for love. And God does this in four main ways:  God empties himself into creation, hoping to attract our love by the beauty of the created universe; He empties himself in the  Incarnation, in the life of Jesus who is his Word to us; He empties himself in the Passion, assuming human life at its weakest and most vulnerable; and He empties himself in the Eucharist, in simple bread and wine given to us so that he might live within us. In each of these four ways God comes before us begging us for love.

For the Admission into the Ministry of Lector of Shane Hyland:

In the context of the ministry into which we now invite Shane, preparing for the Permanent Diaconate – the ministry of Lector – let us reflect particularly on the power of the Word that is spoken to us from this passionate Love. Passion is word with many different meanings. Pierre Wolff remarks about the word, ‘passion’:

“In the context of the Christian liturgy, the word signifies sufferings, dereliction, and death. It implies everything that Jesus experienced during those days:  betrayal and denial, rejection and abandonment, and other ordeals.  The word “passion” in this context suggests little that is pleasant for a human being.  [However], we often forget that we use it is an adjective when we speak of a passionate love.  This time the word has a very positive connotation:  it means that what we describe is pushed to its very limits, to its fulfillment.  When we see a passionate love, we sometimes talk about the madness of love. That is what the Passion of Jesus Christ is about.  As Christians, don’t we see in these events a passion-tide of love in human flesh, the crashing waves of God called Love by John (1 John 4:8)?  So, when we read or pray the Passion narrative, we listen to a love story – not a romance, but the story of God’s love for us, the story of God as Love.”[2]

As a minister of the Word, Shane may your words then reflect this Word of Love; this word of invitation. It is not a moralising word or a word which condemns but a ‘poetic’ word’‑ a word which seizes people’s imagination because it deeply respects them and evokes in them the desire for something more, something different, that ‘new beginning’ which is the mark of the Spirit. This is the word which nurtures, which nourishes.  It is a word of hope: “Jesus.” It is the single word which reminds us deep in our hearts that forgiveness is stronger than vengeance, that love is more enduring than hatred, that hope is brighter than despair, that life is stronger than death.  This Word of passionate love enables us to act differently from the way the predicted concerns of the world dictate to us. It leads us into a life of celebration. It is a celebration of the freedom we have now because of this Word, of the beauty that we can create now because of this Word, and of the joy that we can share now because of this Word. In proclaiming this Word, you become the instrument of God’s begging in our midst, his begging for our love.

Then, through your ministry, the people whom you serve will better be able to glimpse the God who comes to them begging for their love, and they will find the courage to respond. They will find heart in their lives because they have come to recognise that God does not lose heart in them! 

This is the meaning of today’s parable. In the Eucharist God comes to us with passionate ardour. If only we dare to respond with open hearts.

For the Admission into the Ministry of Acolyte of Hien Vu and Martino Hoang

In the context of the ministry into which we now invite Hien/Martino, preparing for Holy Orders – the ministry of Acolyte – let us reflect particularly on the power of the Eucharist as this act of passionate Love, about which Alphonsus speaks. Passion is word with many different meanings. Pierre Wolff remarks about the word, ‘passion’:

In the context of the Christian liturgy, the word signifies sufferings, dereliction, and death. It implies everything that Jesus experienced during [his last] days:  betrayal and denial, rejection and abandonment, and other ordeals.  The word “passion” in this context suggests little that is pleasant for a human being.  [However], we often forget that we use it is an adjective when we speak of a passionate love.  This time the word has a very positive connotation:  it means that what we describe is pushed to its very limits, to its fulfillment.  When we see a passionate love, we sometimes talk about the madness of love. . . So, when we read or pray the Passion narrative, we listen to a love story – not a romance, but the story of God’s love for us, the story of God as Love.[3]

Today, Hien/Martino you are instituted as Acolytes. You are being drawn more deeply into the Mystery of the Eucharist, one of these four ways by which God comes to us begging for love, in a very special way. As Acolytes you are commissioned to assist in the celebration of the Eucharist so that it may become an event of the People of God in which they receive the very life of Christ, broken and poured out for them. The Eucharist is the essential Christian act, because it brings into liturgical form the Body of the Risen Christ in worship of the Father in the Spirit. We are drawn into this extraordinary mystery of Jesus’ self-emptying become a self-giving – this powerful way by which he seeks to drawn us into himself. It is not possible for us to be Christian without the Eucharist. The Eucharist makes the Church, just as the Church makes the Eucharist, as the Fathers of the Church teach us. It is both the source and the summit of our Christian life, as we know. And because now you are called to this ministry – assisting priests and deacons in their ministry and as special ministers sharing Communion with your brothers and sisters, particularly those who are sick – strive always to live out the passionate love at the heart of the Eucharist. Then, through your ministry, the people whom you serve will better be able to glimpse the God who comes to them begging for their love, and they will find the courage to respond. They will find heart in their lives because they have come to recognise that God does not lose heart in them!  

This is the meaning of today’s parable. In the Eucharist God comes to us with passionate ardour. If only we dare to respond with open hearts.


[1] See Megan McKenna, Parables: The Arrows of God (Maryknoll, NY:  Orbis Books, 1994), 104-105.

[2] Pierre Wolff, God’s Passion our Passion, (Ligouri, MO:  Triumph Books, 1994), 5-6

[3] Pierre Wolff, God’s Passion our Passion, (Ligouri, MO:  Triumph Books, 1994), 5-6

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