June 17th

posted 19 Jun 2018, 01:59 by Parish Office

Homily for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B (16 & 17/6/18)


On Wednesday, for my day off, I caught the train to York to see a few friends from my university days.  On the way, as we passed through one of the stations (it might have been Leeds, I’m not quite sure) there was a whole carpet of red-pink flowers along the side of the railway line.  It looked almost as if they had been deliberately planted there, but the expanse of flowers went on and on along the line and also filled an abandoned railway line, as well as the same green plants with the same red-pink flowers also growing out of the top of the wall by the nearby canal.  It seems they must have spread in the wild, and they were growing wherever they could find a small spot to grow.


Nature can be an amazing and beautiful thing, reflecting the glory of God.  Today we hear about the man who sows seed on the ground, which grows, but how, he does not know.  It just happens.  It reminded me of one of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortations, Evangelii Gaudium, “The Joy of the Gospel”, in which he describes evangelisation as a process of sowing seeds.  It seems the Pope is simply in awe of the action of God.  This is how he puts it (EG 22):


“God’s word is unpredictable in its power.  The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29).  The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking”.


Those flowers I saw by the railway line were of the sort of quality as if they were not just wild flowers, but maybe the sort you would buy in a garden centre, and they had just spread everywhere they could find a spot of earth.  They were not just growing in the soil by the railway line, but also on the tops of walls and anywhere they could.  It’s a bit like the way the Gospel spreads – in ways both conventional and unconventional.


Last summer a group in the Catholic Church called “The Way” conducted a mission across the whole world, including this country.  After a Mass in London with Bishop John Sherrington, 150 men and women were sent out to the major cities of England and Wales, including Stoke-on-Trent.  They prepared with two days of prayer and confession, and then the pairs were assigned destinations by lot.  Like the Twelve, they were sent in radical simplicity, relying on the Lord for everything.  They went off by public transport, taking only a Bible, a breviary, a crucifix, a rosary and a return ticket.  No money or mobile phones were allowed.  They had to rely on the Lord for food and lodgings.  Sometimes they managed to find somewhere to stay for the night, but at other times they did not, so they slept in parks, under bridges or church porticoes.  What it did mean was that whilst they knocked on people’s doors and spoke to people in the street during the day, they then spoke to the homeless and drug addicts in the evenings, who showed openness to what they had to say.  This is what happened to one of the missionaries:


“A poor Irishman who had welcomed the announcement with joy organized a meeting with the poor, alcoholics and drug addicts.   They listened to the Kerygma [i.e. the basic Gospel message] and each one of them asked and received a word chosen at random from the Gospels.  They went on praying together and talking about their lives for a long time.”


There were other testimonies of encounters with people contemplating suicide who were transformed.  In one case, the two lay missionaries taught a woman who was thinking of committing suicide to pray the rosary.  Her atheist mother told them to continue doing whatever they were doing because her daughter was now smiling, and she hadn’t smiled for years!


What will be the fruits of this evangelising?  We don’t know.  It’s just like seed that is sown in the wind.  It could be, just like the flowers growing by the railway line, that the message spreads and spreads and spreads.  At St Joseph’s in Goldenhill, Fr Julian Green invited the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Renewal to conduct a parish retreat/mission.  The Franciscans have moved on now, but what will be the fruits of their hard work?  We leave it to the Lord.  It’s the same for us with our witnessing to our faith.  We can’t always calculate our impact on people.  Sometimes people can be resistant, whilst at other time they can appear resistant, but later on reflect and begin to change.  Experience shows us one thing, though.  The Gospel isn’t like eating marshmallows; for some, it is more like itching powder, that gets under their skin and irritates them until they do something about it.