18th / 19th September 2021

posted 20 Sept 2021, 01:11 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B – Home Mission Sunday (18 & 19/2/21)

This Sunday is Home Mission Sunday, and in a few weeks’ time it will be World Mission Sunday. Supporting the mission abroad is easier. It might cost a bit of money in an envelope, but it happens somewhere, far away, and we just get on with life as normal. Mission on our home turf, however, is more costly. We might be afraid in case things go wrong. Of course, though, if it goes well, then it’s a source of great joy. When I was a university student, there was a house of three female students, one of whom was a Catholic. Over time, the second student converted to the Catholic faith, and then the third. Meanwhile, when I shared a house, no-one converted and no-one seemed to be interested whenever the subject of religion was raised. Perhaps it depends in part on the evangelist and also on the soil in which the seed is planted.

The first reading today speaks of the virtuous man being an annoyance. In fact, his way of life is an implicit criticism of those who do otherwise. Nothing changes. Some people might be annoyed when they hear you leaving for Mass in the morning, whilst they are still in bed; it also goes against their whole culture to abstain from meat on a Friday, when to them, Friday evening is a time of rejoicing. There are you, sitting at home, eating bread and cheese, whilst they are going out, partying and feasting (and perhaps other things as well). But in being virtuous, we follow Christ. He too annoyed the people around Him, and in the end was crucified for it. But He had the final word by rising from the dead, and now all will have to face Him as judge when their time on this earth is ended.

In the second reading, St James warns us against what could be described as worldly behaviour: jealousy, ambition, disharmony; people wanting to get their own way by force. And this kind of behaviour can sometimes be found in the Church as well. I don’t just mean the clergy – laypeople are as much part of the Church as well. If we are to draw people to Christ, they had to see something different and better than what they experience outside the Church. St James gives the examples of purity, peace, kindness, consideration towards others, compassion and the absence of partiality or hypocrisy. Being a Catholic isn’t about a series of negatives: don’t do this, don’t do that; rather it’s about offering society something very positive, a piece of heaven on earth, an oasis in the midst of a desert. And as the world

becomes more desert-like, the Church needs to become a more luscious oasis, with a mineral spa, palm trees, tropical fruit drinks and the like – you get the idea.

But, of course, the Church is made up of real human beings, not plaster-cast saints, and even the saints had their faults that needed correcting. No-one is born perfect, and anyone who claims to be perfect will soon have a few faults pointed out. The Church is made up of sinners, hopefully growing towards greater perfection in love. And when we fail, it can be embarrassing. Just look at the Gospel. The disciples were squabbling over who is the greatest. How childish. Yet it’s a trap that adults fall into as well: careerism, ambition. The Lord asks them what they were arguing about on the road, and they are silent, probably embarrassed. It’s one thing to be told off by someone in authority, but just imagine being told off by the Lord! But He corrects them in a good way, not just telling them what not to do, but giving them a concrete example of what they should do. Be the servant of the smallest, not the ruler who rules with an iron rod and looks down on everyone else.

It’s when we provide something different and something better that we draw other to Christ. So in terms of home mission, let’s not be afraid of being called a do-gooder. Because a do-gooder is better than being a do-badder!