31st July / 1st Aug 2021

posted 6 Aug 2021, 05:41 by Parish Office
Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (31/7/21 & 1/8/21) 

Almost two weeks ago, on Monday 19th July, the remaining Covid restrictions were loosened up in England. Some have dubbed it “freedom day”, although many other restrictions were relaxed back in May. Traffic on the road has certainly increased since May, and we’ve heard lots about “getting the economy moving”. Certainly it’s good that people have jobs and earn money to put food on the table, but do we need more than that? There’s the joke about two Scotsmen who are walking past a Catholic church. On the door is a sign: £60 to everyone who becomes a Catholic. The first one says to the second: “What do you think about that?” The second says, “Well, £60 is £60”, but the first says he isn’t so sure. So the first one waits outside whilst the other one goes in. Half an hour later, he comes out again and the first Scotsman asks: “Did you become a Catholic?” “I did”, he says. “And did you get you £60?” And the second one replies, “Is that all you ever think about?” 

There is more to life than material well-being, whether we’re thinking about clothes, money, jobs, nice food, whatever it may be. It can’t fully satisfy the human heart. We are both material and spiritual, and both need to be appropriately cared for. We can’t try to be pure angels and spend all day praying and never ever eat anything again, but if we try to do the opposite, look after the body but completely neglect the soul, we suffer as well. So when Our Lord says, “Do not work for food that cannot last”, He isn’t saying we should give up our jobs, live off the dole and not eat anything. Instead he is saying that we shouldn’t be obsessed about material things and neglect the spiritual. The spiritual has to be our focus, whilst also recognising the need to eat and drink. And He is the One to turn to for both of these. Elsewhere, in St Matthew’s Gospel, chapter six, Jesus tells 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.” (vs 24) Money, like drink, can be a useful servant but a terrible master. We were made for God, and will only be totally happy and satisfied when God truly is master of our lives, and everything else comes second: family, friends, prestige, job, wealth, comfort etc. “You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.” Some of the Americans have criticised Pope Francis for saying that they should be generous with their wealth in helping others, accusing him of socialism. Specifically, the Pope has been saying something that isn’t new – you can find it, for example, in the writing of Pope St John Paul II. He has been saying that our wealth is not absolutely ours. 
Unfair distribution of wealth means that it should be fairly distributed, and not just by governments and companies. We ourselves, on a private level, should help others with our wealth and, of course, our time. If our response to charities and people in need is “Clear off!”, and if our response when Christ comes asking for help is, “Clear off!”, then we might find, when we die, that He says “Clear off!” to us, in words to that effect: “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food; I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink; … naked and you never clothed me” (Matthew 25:41-42. 44). God has to come first, and the rest then follows. “ ‘What must we do if we are to do the works that God wants?’ Jesus gave them this answer, ‘This is working for God: you must believe in the one he has sent.’ ” (John 6:28- 29). 
Jesus is the One who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world; that is why He calls Himself the Bread of Life. And that involves a change of heart. As St Paul tells us in the second reading: “You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution…” (Ephesians 4:22. 24) Next week, Our Lord will unpack for us a bit more of what this “spiritual revolution” involves. In the meantime, we must believe in Him, and He will shows us what we must do