23rd/24th March 2019

posted 25 Mar 2019, 06:04 by Parish Office

Homily for the Third Sunday of Lent, Year C (23 & 24/3/19)


Why do bad things happen to good people?  Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe have been recently hit by a devastating cyclone, leading to terrible loss of life.  There are no easy answers.  One thing we can’t do, though, is fall into the trap of thinking that if you are good, good things will without fail come your way, whilst if you are bad, the opposite will happen.  When the cyclone came, it didn’t discriminate.  It’s now up to God to judge who is who.


Natural disasters and tragic accidents, as well as acts of great evil have been a constant theme throughout history.  In recent years we’ve heard of various terrorist attacks on places of worship – think not only of the more recent attacks in New Zealand, but also the martyrdom of Fr Jacques Hamel in France.  Two thousand years ago, it seems that the Romans attacked the Jews whilst they were offering sacrifices in the Temple in Jerusalem, with the result that their blood mingled with that of their sacrifices.


Hopefully we will never have to experience anything as dramatic as this.  But not one of us knows how long we have got left.  It’s normally expected that parents go before their children.  But I know of a family where the mother lived to 107, so one of her sons went before she did.


The important thing is that we are ready when God calls.


When I was still at secondary school and we were getting ready for exams, we spent a lot of time looking over past papers, and making sure that we knew everything they could possibly ask us.  It would have been foolish to have made no preparation and taken no time to find out what sort of questions we might need to answer.  However I do remember at least one exception to what we were expecting.  When it came to our Maths GCSE, we went in to sit what we thought would be the easier paper, and it was rock solid!  Some of us were thinking, if this is the easy paper, what will the next one be like?  Thankfully, that year they had decided to swap things round, so the next paper was a lot easier.  I also remember sitting a General Studies paper, where I didn’t think to bring a calculator.  As a result, I had to work out on paper something like my seventeen times table and then do short division in order to get the answer.  I never got to see whether I got that question right.


There were also a few memorable phrases we were taught when it came to exams and revising.  One was RTQ, ATQ, which stood for “read the question, answer the question” (not a variation on the question, perhaps a lesson for a few politicians).  Another was, “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”.


How does this apply to our faith?  Much as we may dislike exams and revision, it’s so important that we not only know our faith, but also that we live it.  And in order to live it, we have to know it.  Blessed John Henry Newman put it this way:


“I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it, who know so much of history that they can defend it. I want an intelligent, well-instructed laity.”


It’s sometimes said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing; part of the danger can be that we don’t realise just how little we really do know.


Yes, knowledge is one thing, but putting it into practice is another.  And that’s where we get things wrong.  We all do.  So Christ’s call to repentance applies to everyone, not just the big sinners.  And this is also where confession can be so useful:  Satan can try to distort our conscience, so that we become either too strict or too lax.  I think that over the past one hundred years, preaching in Catholic churches hasn’t helped in this regard.  We have gone from worrying about all sorts of smaller things being mortal sins, to forgetting about mortal sin entierly.  Perhaps we have also moved from thinking that very few go to heaven, to pretty much everyone goes to heaven.  But this is where we need to know our faith, in order to correct these aberrations.  I would suggest the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as one option, although some people find it difficult to understand.  Another option is the YouCat, the youth catechism, which is simpler and has more colourful pictures.  It’s also cheaper and shorter.


Why do bad things happen to good people?  There are no easy answers, and we don’t know when our time will come.  Let’s make good use of Lent to find out what God wants of us and put it into practice, so that when we are called, we may indeed be ready.