25th & 26th Sept 2021

posted 27 Sept 2021, 01:42 by Parish Office

Homily for the Twenty-sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

(25 & 26/9/21)

Wouldn’t it be better if the Catholic Church was more perfect, and the outside world more obviously evil? Wouldn’t it be better, if there was a greater contrast between light and dark, so that more people would be drawn into the light? Why do we have to have annoying facts such as the scandals within the Catholic Church, and then the goodness of some of the people outside the Catholic Church? In one of the Godfather films there is a baptism scene, where one of the main characters is claiming to be an upright believer, whilst throughout the scene it keeps cutting to crimes that he is responsible for. And yes, in real life, there are people in the Mafia who claim to be good Catholics. Yet real saints normally claim they are sinners. Padre Pio once said words to the effect that he was surprised that his Franciscan habit didn’t desert him. Real life is not always quite so clear cut as we might sometimes want it to be.

And then, like I said, there are the examples of goodness that you see in people outside the Catholic Church. It might be the agnostic neighbour who is a real help to so many other people in the street, who has been doing the shopping for people who were isolating during the pandemic, cutting the lawn for the elderly couple at the bottom of the street and who puts out your dustbin for you when you forget. Or it could be the Protestant lady, whose love for the Scriptures and the Lord makes you feel like a bit of a phoney. Why can’t it be that all the really good people are Catholics, and people see straight away that if you want to become a good person, you need to become a Catholic? Or that if you fall away from the Catholic faith, then very quickly your moral decline is obvious for all to see?

“ ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’ ”

Of course, we do have those real examples of goodness and holiness within the Catholic Church. Just think of so many of the saints. Pope St John Paul II’s sanctity wasn’t one-dimensional. So many people are grateful for the role he played in ending communism in Europe, the numbers of times he spoke against exploitation in the workplace, his defence of human life from

conception to its natural end, his appreciation of sport, including the fact that he even went skiing as Pope, and so on. If you want to find what the Catholic faith is capable of doing to people, look at the best examples, those people who lived the faith to the full, who were courageous in their virtue and in the lengths they went to to serve the Lord. But, we don’t have a monopoly on holiness and goodness. “Anyone who is not against us is for us.”

Vatican II created quite a bit of a stir, and one of the phrases in one of the documents was this: Lumen Gentium chapter 8 said that the Church of Christ, “subsists in the Catholic Church…” Some would have preferred it to have said that the Church of Christ is the Catholic Church. After all, Christ founded the Catholic Church. But, as the document continues, “many elements of sanctification and of the truth are found outside its visible confines”. God does work through the Orthodox Churches – they have seven valid sacraments just the same as we do. With the Protestants, despite they often only believe that there are two or three sacraments, God still works through them. God does also listen to the prayers of the Protestants, as well as those of the Catholics and Orthodox. But, as Lumen Gentium continues, “Since these are gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, they are forces impelling towards Catholic unity”. So in other words, whilst the fulness of all that Christ gave us is contained in the Catholic Church, God’s grace is also found outside the Catholic Church, leading others to conversion. God’s grace is at work everywhere. It’s a bit like a wedding we had here recently. After the wedding was over, we had photos on the church steps, and a few people let off confetti canons. The confetti went over everyone immediately under the explosion of the canons, but some of it also blew elsewhere. In the same way, the grace and truth of God is found in the Catholic Church, but also it can be found elsewhere too. If God’s grace wasn’t at work elsewhere, then people couldn’t be led to conversion, because it is God’s grace that converts hearts. People need to be told about the Catholic faith as well, but God’s grace needs to water the seeds that are sown.

So we should rejoice that God’s grace is at work outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church. And we should also make sure that we respond wholeheartedly to it ourselves, to intensify the light and draw others out of the darkness.