18th / 19th January 2020

posted 20 Jan 2020, 02:38 by Parish Office

Homily for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity (18 & 19/1/20)


It seems quite a while ago now that we celebrated Christmas Day.  Yet it’s not a month yet.  Yet here we are, back in Ordinary Time, and the green vestments are back.  Back to work, back to school, back to all the usual routines, and in the Gospel, Christ is now no longer a baby, but a man, and His Mission is starting.


On Christmas Day, the Gospel reading isn’t the account of the birth of Christ, but rather the prologue, the opening, of St John’s Gospel, setting out what Christ is all about.  “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (1:1).  But contained within that prologue, is also a reference to John the Baptist:


“He came as a witness,

as a witness to speak for the light,

so that everyone might believe through him.

He was not the light,

only a witness to speak for the light” (1:7-8)


That is what John is all about.  He prepares the way for the Lord, and the message he preaches is not his own, it is the message of God.  Fairly obvious stuff, you might think.  But this is also the role of the Church.  The Church, all of us included, are to speak as witnesses for the light.  If we speak our own message instead, then we cease to witness to Christ; our witness is dimmed.


Of course, in history before, witness to God had been dimmed.  That is why Christ had to correct those who thought they knew about God, the Pharisees and Sadducees.  The people realised that something was amiss; it’s why, when He preached, they responded:  This is what we’ve been looking for!  Or as it says at the end of Matthew chapter seven:  “his teaching made a deep impression on the people because he taught them with authority, and not like their own scribes” (vs. 28-29).


We begin today/began on Saturday the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.  We have to admit that Christian disunity has taken place in the past, because previous generations were unfaithful in various ways to Christ.  In many ways, it was like a family falling apart.  The bad example of some members of the family, and the fact that they claimed one thing but did another, led to other members of the family refusing to listen, and going their separate ways.  And for many years, it was like a family falling out, with different sides refusing to talk to each other, or when they did, they suspected each other of bad intentions.  Now, hundreds of years later, there has been a thawing out of relations, but the separation of centuries takes a long time to heal.  Much prayer is needed, and much love.  A great outpouring of the Holy Sprit is needed.  The words of the Sequence at Pentecost are so appropriate:


“Heal our wounds, our strength renew;

On our dryness pour thy dew;

Wash the stains of guilt away:


Bend the stubborn heart and will;

Melt the frozen, warm the chill;

Guide the steps that go astray.”


A lot still needs to be repaired.  We can’t, by our own, solve all the problems.  But we can play our part.  If it was poor witness to Christ that caused the problems in the first place, then good witness to Christ can help to undo the problems.  Our Lord teaches us:  “No one can be the slave of two masters:  he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn.  You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.”  (Matthew 6:24)  In some ways, it was love of money which helped lead to the break-up of Christianity in the West.  Love of God is what will help to lead to unity, where money is used as a tool at the service of God, not as a tyrannical master that compromises our witness to the Gospel.  Love of the world is what also helped lead to the so-called Reformation.  But as Christ teaches, we are in the world, but not of the world:


“If you belonged to the world,

the world would love you as its own;

but because you do not belong to the world,

because my choice withdrew you from the world

therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19)


Crucially, we are not totally isolated from the world either.  We live in the world, but we don’t really belong; we live like people who are from another country, whose true homeland is heaven.


John the Baptist lived faithfully as messenger for Christ.  May we increasingly to do the same, and in that way help to build up Christian unity.