16/17 January 2020

posted 18 Jan 2021, 07:06 by Parish Office
Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (16 & 17/1/21)

How do we renew the Church?  How do we bring new life into things, fill up the pews again and make growing Mass attendance a “new normal”?  Slow decline should not be something we just shrug our shoulders about and accept.  The readings today give us a few pointers.

Let’s start with the first reading and the boy Samuel.  Samuel was a young boy when the Lord first called him, but he didn’t know how to respond, or even how to recognise, the Lord.  It required Eli to show him the first steps.  Faith has to begin in our families, when children are at their youngest years.  “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”  I would suggest in this modern age that we find useful resources on the internet to help young children to get to know about and to love God, including videos, songs, computer games etc.  But of course, nothing replaces the example in the home.  It’s sometimes said, “The family that prays together, stays together”.  Prayer can begin by something as basic as saying grace before and after meals, but it can also then develop into prayer time during the day as well.  Once again, there are resources available – children’s prayer books, websites etc. that can help.  For some of you, it may be that you have grandchildren whose parents don’t practice the faith.  But you still have a relationship with them and are in a position to influence them, and I’ve seen families where it seems that the Faith has skipped a generation, and the new generation has been happy to come to Mass and has even persevered into adulthood.

The second reading:  St Paul warns against fornication and speaks about appropriate treatment of the body.  Teenage years.  How many have left the practice of their faith because of the distractions of lust!  Lust is one of the seven deadly sins, so-called because the deadly sins gradually lead people away from God.  And then misery results.  People may appear happy on the outside, but what is going on deep inside?  How many marriages have failed because they actually married the wrong person, because they were biassed in favour of each other because of fornication?  Otherwise they might have split up earlier on, and married someone else.  It’s not the only reason these things happen, but it’s a reason that society seems to not notice.  It’s so important to educate teenagers in purity.  It’s not easy in these times, but it’s so important.  Purity has never been easy, but it’s worth it.  St Paul writes that we are not our own property – we have been bought and paid for.  It’s an expression that links in with images of slavery.  Imagine the slaves standing there in the marketplace.  Someone comes along and buys them, not to work as slaves, but to set them free.  That is what Christ has done.  He has suffered and died for us on the Cross, and paid the price of our redemption.  We are no longer to be slaves of sin, but set free to follow God and to find our true fulfilment in Him.  That is why we should use our body for the glory of God.  If we fail in the area of chastity, God is always willing to welcome us back in the sacrament of confession.  It can be a real turning point in someone’s life.  The grace of God is experienced; we know that God is real; we know that our faith is very relevant to our life.  And we can go on then to live lives of gratitude towards almighty God.

The Gospel reading:  the calling of three of the Twelve Apsotles, the first Pope and bishops.  Brought up and educated in the faith, and saved from sin in our teenage years, it frees us to respond to God’s call as adults, whatever that call may be.  People talk of a crisis of vocations to the priesthood and religious life, but what about the crisis of vocations to marriage?  It used to be a regular thing, even in smaller parishes, to have weddings, or maybe even a few weddings, most Saturdays.  But now the churches are largely quiet.  We can turn things around, it just requires time, patience and perseverance.  Whatever our calling in life, God gives us the graces necessary to be able to follow Him – we just have to step out in faith.

So how do we renew the Church?  Part of it begins with family life, rooted in both knowing and loving God.  I’ve not mentioned it, but we could also add, devotion to Our Lady, and we could add even further, as she requested at Fatima, the Rosary and consecration to her Immaculate Heart, the vaccination needed for these troubled times.  With God there is always hope.  Or as Padre Pio put it, “Pray, hope and don’t worry”.