13th/14th July 2019

posted 19 Jul 2019, 06:13 by Parish Office

Homily for the Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C (13 & 14/7/19)


Back when I was training for the priesthood at Oscott, every year there used to be a football tournament involving ourselves and teams from various schools in North Staffordshire.  The football players would arrive in time for the mid-day Mass, and after a bite to eat the various football matches would begin.  Invariably, we lost each time, being somewhere towards the very bottom of the various football teams.  The inter-seminary football matches were not quite so bad; some years we won the trophy, but other years we got the large teddy bear instead.


One year, before the North Staffordshire football matches began, it was Fr Paul McNally, now the Parish Priest of Holy Trinity, Newcastle, who was preaching.  He encouraged the lads to discover the real Jesus.


One of the problems we can sometimes face is that people see Christ as being more like a teddy bear.  A teddy bear gives you comfort when you are young.  Teddy is nice to look at, and never tells you off.   Teddy always does whatever you want him to do, and is always nice to you.  And with teddy, you are the one in control.  You make up what he says, what he does.  You can leave him alone on the shelf and he won’t complain.  He doesn’t make any demands of you, unlike human beings.  And unlike God.


God is not a teddy bear.  (Do I really need to tell you that?  I knew you knew that.)  But sometimes, people see God in that way.  They say:  God is nice.  God doesn’t judge me.  God makes no demands of me.  I make up what God wants me to do.  That’s not God, and that’s not true religion.  We are creatures, and God is God.  When the lawyer asks a question to disconcert Jesus, thinking “here’s a tough question that’ll He’ll struggle to answer”, Jesus doesn’t say that in order to inherit eternal life, it’s simple.  Just be nice.  That’s teddy bear religion.  He turns the question back to the lawyer, who says that you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.  Now that’s pretty demanding.  It’s also quoting Scripture, so the lawyer hasn’t made it up.  Look where it led Mother Theresa.  She was moved by God to look after the poor and the dying on the streets of Calcutta, and it wasn’t going to be comfortable, or glamorous, or easy, or even popular.  And it wasn’t going to be a temporary job for a few months or years, but loving Christ as He had never been loved before in the poorest of the poor was to be her life’s work.  When she received the Nobel Peace Prize she spoke of many things, including the beauty of giving and of love.  We are not all called to do exactly the same as Mother Theresa, St Theresa of Calcutta, but one of the pieces of advice she gave in her acceptance speech we can all do.  She said, “Smile at each other, make time for each other in your family”.  She had seen that one of the root causes of so much misery in more affluent countries is the lack of love between people.  I’m sure we all know from experience that it is sometimes in our families that we find it more difficult to love.  Part of it can be that we are on best behaviour when in public, but when at home we expect others to know not to do certain things, and we get annoyed when they do.  But also, family can make greater demands of us sometimes than people we hardly know, and that’s more taxing.  St Theresa of Calcutta, in her acceptance speech, said, “I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at Jesus because he can be very demanding sometimes. This is really something true, ... yet we can give it to Him with joy.”


The good Samaritan was a fictional person in a parable, rather than a real person.  But he embodied the demanding love that God asks of us.  Can you imagine what it might have been like if the Samaritan had been a constant complainer?  It might have gone something like this:


But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him saw him lying there and thought, “Oh no!  Here goes my quiet evening.  Now I’ve got to look after this person.  And it will probably cost me a bob or two.  And I bet he won’t repay me either.  And he’s all messy as well!  I’ve now got to use up some of this wine and oil I’ve just bought cleaning him up.  And when I do get home the wife will ask, “So where have you been, then?”  And I’ll begin by saying, “You’ll never believe this, but...”, and she’ll interrupt and say, “You’re right.  I won’t believe you.”  So he grudgingly cleaned him up, and then lifted him onto his mount, grumbling to himself, “As if I wasn’t worn out enough now as it is, and now I’ve got to take a detour and walk all the way there!”  And when he reached the town, he found that the cheap inn he wanted to use was all full up, so he had to go somewhere more expensive!  He paid the innkeeper, and as he was about to leave, it then dawned on him:  I suppose I’ll have to come back later and check he’s alright.  And there might be more expense as well!  Why didn’t I just stay at home this morning?”


And the moral of the story is this:  St James wrote that faith without works is dead, but works without love rather misses the point.  Our faith is demanding.  Jesus is not a teddy bear.