10th / 11th October 2020

posted 16 Oct 2020, 01:14 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (Third Scrutiny on Sunday) – 10 & 11/10/20

Today/tomorrow, we celebrate what is called the third “scrutiny”, a third stage for those who are preparing for baptism as adults in this parish. Part of the purpose of the scrutinies is to show that to be baptised and follow the Lord requires a change of heart; the prayers that we use echo the call to conversion, and also include a prayer of exorcism to free those to be baptised from the attacks of the evil one.

When we go back to the beginning of the Gospels, we see a similar thing. Before Jesus began His public ministry, John the Baptist preached repentance and performed a kind of baptism, although we learn in the Acts of the Apostles that John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance; it wasn’t the baptism that Jesus gave to His Apostles to practice, that wipes away Original Sin and makes people members of the Church. When you become a Catholic by being baptised as an infant, everything is rather truncated. As an adult, you take many classes of instruction first, you become a catechumen, then you take part in the three scrutinies on three separate Sundays, and then, normally at the Easter Vigil, you are baptised. As an infant, it is all collapsed into one celebration. You’re too young to undergo any instruction, so that has to happen later. You haven’t committed any sins yet to need to repent. The priest or deacon says just one prayer of exorcism, anoints you with the oil of catechumens, your parents and godparents make promises to bring you up as a Catholic, and then you are baptised. But the important thing is, that whatever age you are when you are baptised, becoming a Christian requires a different way of life to some of the people around you. Living life as a follower of Christ requires not only words, but also deeds. It’s both faith and works. It’s both coming to Mass on Sundays and also putting what you have learnt into practice during the week.

In the parable of the king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding, those who were invited first, decide they aren’t interested and invent excuses. So he gets his servants to invite people off the streets to come in, both bad and good alike. But then comes the slightly strange detail at the end: the man without a wedding garment, who is thrown out. The kingdom of God is open to everyone, whatever their background, good or bad, but they must convert. Just two Sundays ago, we heard Jesus say to the chief priests and elders of the people, “tax collectors and prostitutes are making their way

into the kingdom of God before you. For John [the Baptist] came to you, a pattern of true righteousness, but you did not believe him” (Matt 21:31-32a). The tax collectors and prostitutes were having a change of heart, such as, for example, the Apostle St Matthew, or St Mary Magdalene. So as Our Lord’s crucifixion and death draw near, He goes and raises Lazarus to new life. That is something that actually happened, but his death and being brought back to life by Jesus point to something else. We read in Genesis, and also in the Book of Wisdom, that death came into the world because of the sin of Adam and Eve. That is a fact re-affirmed by the Second Vatican Council (see Gaudium et Spes, no. 18, plus footnotes). Lazarus dies, but through the action of Christ, he is brought to new life. In the same way, the human race has died spiritually, because of sin, but through baptism shares in Christ’s death and resurrection, and rises to new life. So it’s a contradiction, after baptism, to go back to sin again. Unfortunately, we still do.

We all have to undergo daily the battle between good and evil, within our own hearts. It was something that St Paul struggled with as well. But he was able to say in his letter to the Philippians, “There is nothing I cannot master with the help of the One who gives me strength” (4:13). St Paul found it a battle, but he won in the end, and so we call him Saint Paul. He was a flesh and blood character, who had his faults just like any of the rest of us. But he found himself driven irresistibly forwards by the Holy Spirit. And with the Holy Spirit he finally gave the supreme witness to Christ of martyrdom – he couldn’t be crucified like St Peter, as he was a Roman citizen, so they beheaded him with the blade of a sword.

If we follow Christ faithfully, where will our lives lead? That, we don’t know. What we do know, is that if we are faithful, there will be times when it is a rough journey, and things in our hearts have to change. But, as the saying goes, “faint heart never won fair lady”, and in the same way, if you an easy life, well, the door is right behind you.