Jun 23, 2008

Homily for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - Given at Cronulla on June 22, 2008

Readings:  JER 20: 10-13; ROM 5:12-15; MATTHEW 10: 26-33

“Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf. Rom 1:16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cf. Mt 10:27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern “metropolis”. It is you who must “go out into the byroads'” (Mt 22:9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father (cf. Mt 5:15-16).”  My friends, these are some of the great words preached by our revered and much loved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. He said these powerful words during a very memorable homily on the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, on the occasion of World Youth Day when it was held in Denver in 1993. But the theme of “Be Not afraid” did not begin in John Paul II’s writings in 1993.

When John Paul II was elected in 1978, he said to the world ‘Do not be afraid to be witnesses to Christ, to his life and ways and to his Church.’

Our scripture for this Sunday is a call to live without fear, a call to courage, a call to not be afraid. The readings speak of the opposition we will encounter as we carry on the work of Jesus in the world and they encourage us to persevere in doing the work of Jesus. Today’s readings assure us that we will be successful despite the opposition we will definitely encounter.


The first reading from Jeremiah and today’s Gospel reflect on the suffering that is received for being faithful to the Lord. Being a follower of God has never been easy, and it is not easy today either. The world tells us that we should worry about ourselves before we look after or help someone else. I always find it odd when I am on a plane and the aircraft crew explain the safety procedures, and they always advice us to look after ourselves before helping children with seatbelts or oxygen masks.


The ways of God and People of God are under attack. Many unfortunately believe the Church to be out of touch, and some believe the Church to be simply another presence for evil. The concept of helping another before ourselves has all but disappeared, and with it, the concept of self-sacrifice.


 It wasn’t easy for the Jewish people, and it hasn’t been easy throughout the Church’s history, but the faith has continued to spread, grow and flourish.


Jeremiah experienced the dangers of his friends, and even his own family because he spoke the words given to him by God. He lived almost 2,500 years ago.

He worked most of his life in Jerusalem, the same Jerusalem that exists today. Jeremiah tried to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue, corruption and backstabbing. His situation doesn’t sound that unfamiliar to what we have in politics today, although Jeremiah legitimately feared for his life, perhaps in the same way that the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe today fears for his life when he speaks for peace for his country.

 Nevertheless, Jeremiah was confident that God would not let his enemies overcome him.  Jeremiah said, "But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph.”


Today’s Psalm is a response to the situation of Jeremiah, and is a response to the situation of all people who are shamed and persecuted because they serve the Lord. Our confident prayer today is that God will guide us and protect us as we seek to know and do his will in a world full of conflicting strategies and goals.


Many people are ashamed of being a Catholic and a follower of Christ after they have left the church on a Sunday morning. We look around our church and we don’t see too many young people, especially those in high school and those who have recently left school. I talk to kids in high school and I hear that it is “uncool” to be a part of the Church, and to come to Church on Sundays is just “lame” and “boring”.

Goodness, peace and a strong united community seem to no longer be important to many people today.


In the second reading Paul tell us that we need to not be afraid of opposition because we share not only in the death of Jesus but also in his resurrection. Paul explains that in spite of opposition, our work will succeed. The Gospel and the ways of the Church are controversial. Self-sacrifice seems to be in contradiction to most structures and organizations today.


Today’s Gospel continues this theme of “Do not be afraid” and Jesus gives us three reasons why we should not fear. The first reason is that the opponents will not be able to prevent Jesus' followers from succeeding in our mission because God will expose their evil plans: God will not permit evil to win. “nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered” – the truth will win in the end. At times we may lose hope, but Jesus reminds us that evil will never have the final word.


The second reason to not fear is that God is more powerful than evil. The power of our opponents should not cause us to be afraid to be apostles. Our property can be damaged (as it often is here at Cronulla), our reputation can be reduced, our influence can be diminished. People may ridicule us and laugh at us, but evil has no lasting power over us. God has ultimate power and God’s power overcomes evil. 


The third reason we should not be afraid to live our faith is because we have a loving and compassionate God. We are more important to God than the sparrows. Our God looks after the trivial birds, but he also cares about our trivia -- even the number of hairs on our head. God knows everything that we go through, and nothing that happens to us escapes him. When we feel lonely and totally abandoned, when it seems that our prayers are unanswered, God knows and God cares.

Its hard to be an apostle of Jesus Christ. Everyday we have reasons to be afraid. In fact, in the Scriptures the phrase: “Do not be afraid” appears 365 times, once for every day of the year. Every day we need to be strengthened to become Christ.


On Friday evening 73 young men and women committed their lives to God, to Jesus Christ and his Church. They were confirmed and strengthened in the Holy Spirit by Cardinal Pell here in this church on the Solemnity of St Aloysius.

My hope is that these young men and women will live up to their commitment to Christ and will be examples to each of us of what it means to have the courage of Jesus Christ. My hope and prayer is that our parish will be revitalised through the assistance of these young men and women.


In the past few weeks I have assisted in their preparation and interviewed each of them individually. I noticed that many have not got to the stage that they can say as St Paul says in his letter to the Galatians: “It is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”


My friends, We need to have courage. We need to not be afraid to be Christ and to live the life and mission of Christ in all that we do and say.

I’ll conclude with the words of Pope John Paul II from World Youth Day in 1993. They are directed towards the young people, but I think they have lasting meaning for each and every one of us.

“At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel…has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: “Woe to me if I do not evangelize'' (1 Cor 9:16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel… penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people's hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.”


Let us pray:

Loving Lord and Father, help us to not be afraid to become you and to truly live as Christ in our world. Give us the strength and courage of your spirit to bring your message of love, peace and justice to our world, our friends and our families. Lord, we love you and give you thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.

We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN


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