Jan 27, 2008

Homily for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. January 27, 2008 - Given at Cronulla.

View the readings: Is 8: 23- 9:3; 1 Cor 1: 10-13, 17; Matt 4: 12-23


Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse came out beaming. 

To the first she said, "Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins." "Terrific!" said the man, "I just signed a contract to become the distribute for U2 and this'll be great press."

To the second man the nurse said, "Congratulations.  You are the father of healthy triplets!" “Fantastic!" he said.  "I'm the vice-president of the 3-Mobile Network. This'll be great P.R.!"

At that point the third man turned around and ran for the door. "What's wrong, sir?  Where are you going?" called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, "I'm dashing to my office to resign.  I'm the CEO of Channel 7!”

Today’s gospel in the fourth chapter of Matthew prepares us to hear a surprising and shocking announcement by Jesus: “Repent; for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”

The news that the kingdom of heaven is near is shocking news, even for us today. So often people are not prepared for it, are not interested in it, or too busy with something else.

My friends, the Gospel is telling us to get ready: the Kingdom may come at any time. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we say “Thy Kingdom Come” but do we mean what we say? Do we want the Kingdom to come today?

Matthew tells us that the people to whom Jesus brings his ministry have been sitting in darkness, but Jesus' coming has brought them a great light. 

Jesus uses exactly the same words as John the Baptist used:  'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near. “To repent” means that we take a complete change of direction in our lives.  Repentance properly understood is an "I can't" experience rather than an "I can" experience.  If repentance is promising God, "I can do better," then we are trying to keep ourselves in control of our lives.  When we come before God confessing, "I can't do better," then we are dying to self and allowing God to live.  We are giving up control of our lives.  We are throwing our sinful lives at the mercy of God. We are inviting God to do what we can't do ourselves -- namely to raise the dead -- to change and recreate us. 

"Repent" is a verb in the present tense. We are called to "Keep on repenting!"  "Continually be repentant!" Christ understands that we always tempted to take control of our lives. So we are constantly called to die to our selfish desires and to allow God to become our focus. Repentance is the ongoing lifestyle of the people in the kingdom.  “Repentance is letting go, and letting God take control.”

The invitation to come and follow Jesus is an important part of the Christian message. In today’s Gospel, Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John to come and follow him and to become fishers of men.

Last week John the Baptist told us to “Look (and see) the Lamb of God.” Today’s Gospel has Christ inviting the first apostles to follow him.

The role of being a witness is not limited only to Christ, but as members of Christ’s family, we have the mission to tell the world that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand.

We tell others about good restaurants, movies, shops, hairdressers, etc. Why isn't there the same enthusiasm over inviting and encouraging people to come and participate in our Church activities, our Sunday worship, our bible studies, our Lenten programs, our courses and our ministries?

Invitations are important, and the role of inviting people to the Church is not only my responsibility and it is not only Father’s responsibility. The role of talking about the faith, talking about Christ, and bringing Christ to people belongs to each and every one of us. I don’t have the access to talk with your friends, to talk with your colleagues at work, or your associates at the bowls club or the golf club. I represent Christ and his Church, but each and everyone of you also represent Christ and his Church. Each and every one of you is called to be another Christ: calling people to follow in the ways of Christ.

Often we may hesitate to talk about faith or to invite people because we feel that talking about religion is a bad thing in our culture.

Often people think that religion is a private matter and it shouldn't be shared with others.

Other people are scared because they feel they don’t have much of a personal faith to share, or that their knowledge of the faith is not good or that our worship services would not be appealing to non-Catholics because we find it boring ourselves at times.

My friends, our faith should make us want others, our friends and our families, to follow and to see Jesus.

Christ has a mission for each of us. Through prayer and reflection, through discussion with Christ’s community and through an acknowledgement of our God-given talents, we are able to discern the ways in which God is calling us to serve in building his kingdom.

The Kingdom of heaven should be the theme of our preaching and witness. The kingdom of heaven is the place where God rules. 

What should be our response to the coming of heaven's rule?  Surprisingly, it is not worship or praise, but it is repentance.  Perhaps this is the big problem with the coming of Jesus at Christmas or Palm Sunday -- we are tempted and we want to only celebrate and praise, rather than repent and allow Jesus to take control.  In telling us that the kingdom has come near, Jesus is telling us that we can dwell in this kingdom provided we turn away from self centeredness and let God reign in our lives. 


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