1st / 2nd June 2019

posted 5 Jun 2019, 06:09 by Parish Office

Homily for the Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C (1 & 2/6/19)


“May they all be one … so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”  Christian disunity is something of a scandal.  Following Vatican II, there was something of a thawing of relations between the Catholic Church, the Protestants and the Orthodox.  Some believed that by the year 2000, full unity would have been restored.  Sadly, we haven’t reached that yet.  Whilst we are prepared to work and pray together on the areas where we agree, still, so many issues from the time of the Reformation remain unresolved – the role of Our Lady and the saints, purgatory, confession, the priesthood, what baptism is all about, what the Eucharist is all about, the Pope, etc. etc.  With the Orthodox, we have much closer unity in matters of faith and morals, but even still, there is more work to be done.


When I was a child, growing up in the 1980s, one of the cartoons I used to watch was He-Man.  He was one of the good guys, and the baddies were led by someone called Skeletor.  In one of the episodes, Skeletor and his co-workers have been up to some sort of spell that has gone wrong, and a new enemy, Evilseed, has arrived.  Even though Skeletor and He-Man don’t see eye-to-eye, they join forces temporarily to get rid of Evilseed.  Sometimes, a new threat brings people together.


In parts of the world, attacks on Christians from Islamic extremists, whether ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other similar groups have led to Christians being martyred, and they don’t discriminate between different types of Christians.  Pope Francis has referred to this as an “ecumenism of blood”.  It’s one, rather dramatic way in which Christians are giving united witness to Christ.


In the first reading, we heard of the witness given by Stephen just before his martyrdom.  You may have noticed that, just like Christ, he forgave his persecutors and commended his spirit to Lord before he was stoned to death.  The more closely we imitate Christ, the better our witness will be and the cause of Christian unity advanced.  You may also have spotted that, present at the stoning, was the figure of Saul, who entirely approved of the killing.  But we know that later on, Saul converts, and becomes the apostle of the Gentiles.


In our own time, it’s not a perfect comparison, but in 2015 in Libya, twenty innocent Egyptian Coptic Christians were captured and executed by extremists.  Together with them, there was one non-Christian.  He protested against this execution, reportedly saying, “Their God is my God”, knowing that he too, would be martyred.  More recently, following the attacks in Sri Lanka this Easter, we have seen how Muslims have expressed their horror at these act of extremism and shown solidarity with the local Christian population.


In this country, fortunately, we don’t have those kinds of large-scale attacks, specifically targeted at believing and practising Christians.  Instead, we have a “softer” form of persecution, where we are persuaded to go against our faith.  In the Soviet Union, one the things they liked to do was to take the children of their political opponents and bring them up to work for destruction of all their parents had stood for.  In the same way today, through the media – TV programmes, pop music, social media and so on, each successive generation is being brought up to oppose more and more radically the Gospel of Christ.  At times, this persecution too is creating “martyrs” of a sort.  People who lose their jobs because they refuse to go along with the secular agenda, whether it’s unnecessary working on Sundays, elements of the so-called “equality” stipulations, or so-called “rights” that are nothing of the sort.  They witness to the fact that, as the response to today’s psalm said, “The Lord is king, most high above all the earth”.  His authority outweighs all others.  If there’s a conflict between what God teaches and some other human institution, God is the one we serve.  This persecution is also creating a certain amount of ecumenism.  Christians have worked and are working together in the various  countries of the world to oppose so-called “gay marriage”, “no-fault” divorce, being forced to assist with abortions, gender ideology and so on.  One convert to the Catholic faith said that it was through being arrested for pro-life work and being locked up with Catholics that got to see how they lived their faith, how they prayed and their devotion to God, and that was what led him to come and join us.


“May they all be one … so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.”  We may not have resolved all the moral and doctrinal issues that keep us apart yet, but in some ways, persecution is actually helping to drive us closer together.