11th / 12th July 2020

posted 14 Jul 2020, 03:40 by Parish Office

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (11 & 12/7/20)

 

Imagine what it must have been like when Christ came to your town or village to preach.  The crowds.  The excitement.  Contact with someone famous.  Perhaps you might get to see miracles taking place, people getting healed.  (Of course, there was no NHS is those days.)  Maybe you had heard what He had done in other parts of the country, and you hope the same might be repeated here.  Or you might have heard that, on one occasion, people said to Him, we’ve heard about the miracles you did elsewhere – do the same here, and He gave them a telling off for only being interested in signs and wonders.  Maybe He might give a few people a telling off this time as well.

 

Maybe it’s now a year later, and Christ has visited, and He is returning.  But this time, the crowds are not as big.  There isn’t the same excitement.  Some people think they know what the message will be, and they don’t like it, or they aren’t interested.  And, of course, at the time of Christ they had some of the same problems we have today:  people who don’t attend the synagogue very regularly, if at all, and people who do, but who just go through the motions.  When Christ preaches, after a while, they begin to switch off.  Or they listen, but afterwards, the message leaves them unchanged, and they just go back to life the same as before.  As Isaiah said:

 

“For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,

their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes”.

 

How to engage them?  This is where the parables come in.

 

We can find ourselves that we have heard the parables so many times that we can be in danger of switching off ourselves.  And we’ve also got the explanations.  But with the parable of the sower, the people aren’t given the explanation.  It’s a bit like this:  Christ comes to Hanley, standing at the top of the steps of the bus station, and begins to preach:  “A woman went to the supermarket.  She bought some bread, a pint of milk, a jar of coffee and a few apples.”  And that’s the end of the parable.  So what’s that all about, you wonder.  You think it over, and discuss it among yourselves.  It’s a way of getting people to engage again.  Later on, Christ tells the disciples privately what the parable means, and then word begins to get out.

 

We need something like this again.  We need to get people to think, to engage.  We need to bring people to Christ, and not to just know about Him from school, just like they might know about Napoleon Bonaparte or William Shakespeare.  The trouble we have is that people do just this.  They treat Christ as a historical, or even a fictional, character.  One or two might want to read a bit more about Him, but the vast majority just pass over to the next new thing.  This why, back in 1983, Pope St John Paul II said,Look to the future with commitment to a New Evangelisation, one that is new in its ardour, new in its methods, and new in its means of expression”.  What he’s saying here is that we don’t need to only fall back on methods that have been tried  before.  We can be creative; find new ways to package the Gospel message and new ways of drawing people to Christ.  I mentioned some time ago about something called Nightfever, where the idea isn’t to go out and engage members of the public in debate, but rather instead to give them an experience of prayer:  the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, worship music is playing in the church, and people go out offering people candles to take into the church, light and say a prayer.  It does actually work.  People do actually respond – young people, because at that time of night they tend to be the majority of the people around, if your church is in the middle of a town somewhere.

 

But Nightfever isn’t the only method.  Furthermore I think we can sometimes get a bit discouraged with evangelisation:  we pluck up a bit of courage and speak to someone, or hand something out, or something like that, and then we get a rebuff.  But look again at the parable of the sower:  the sower seems to waste so much seed – he just spreads it everywhere, and some of it ends up on the path.  Some of it ends up in places where it grows for a while, and then wilts.  But some of it puts down deep roots and bears fruit, and it can be the same with evangelisation – a lot of our effort seems to have gone to waste, and a lot of it seems to yield poor results.  But some of it actually succeeds – the important thing is that we actually sow.

 

Christ faced the problem of how to engage people and decided to use parables.  What method will we use?

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