Homily on 24th Sunday (B) – CWC – 12.09.15The Gospel of our Mass for the opening of the academic year just over two weeks ago was Matthew’s account of what Mark’s version which I have just read. In answer to Jesus’ question:Who do people say I am ? – the Apostles give the easy answer: They say ……….. A popular answer in CWC to an awkward question from a Prefect ! In the wider world the they are the media – the opinion polls – newspapers – best-sellers and television.
But Jesus is much more interested in what Peter & Co say: But you – who do you say I am ? And Peter speaks up: You are the Christ ! In Matthew’s Gospel Christ commends Peter – but – in the second half of to-day’s Gospel – what a change of attitude – what tension when Jesus reveals the road He must travel – suffer grievously – be rejected – put to death. It is too much for the impetuous – generous – blustering Peter – who objects to this. Jesus turns on His appointed leader and rebukes him: Get back there ! Get out of My way ! Don’t try to turn Me from Jerusalem ! Poor Peter ! He thought that he was only offering to save his Master from harm – but, for Jesus, he was merely another temptation to abandon the mission He came to fulfil – the triumph of love over all.
To-morrow we celebrate the Solemnity of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross and on Tuesday the Feast of the Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin – who remained faithful and was there at the foot of the Cross when Her Son died. We would not be doing that if Peter had had his way – would not be here this morning – CWC would never have existed. But – because Jesus held steadfast to the Father’s will – we can now celebrate those feasts.
The reality of suffering in life is a given – what the believing Christian is graced to do is to make sense of it – his/her own to begin with – and then that of others. For Jesus Christ – the only person who could ever have avoided suffering – avoided death – Himself chose to accept both to show us the higher way – the way that reaches out to the other – the way that puts love first ……… even at great cost – for greater love no one can show than to give one’s life for someone else. That is being truly Christian – following Christ – Who gave us the example. And giving one’s life does not necessarily mean dying – this supreme example is rare enough – but what we are called on to do – every day of our life – is in many ways more difficult even than that – namely to spend one’s life for someone else.
We have no shortage of examples – from Mother Teresa to Nelson Mandela – from our own John Sullivan and Fr Peter McVerry [past pupil of CWC] – to the unheralded and unsung heroes of people we know in our own lives – here and at home – who spend their lives caring for others – to the volunteers who risk life and limb to come to the aid of people is distress – from wars – famine – disasters of all kinds. All have listened to Christ’s call: If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine – that person must give up self-interest – and carry MY cross in carrying the cross of another. They heeded St James’ challenge in our first reading: Prove your Faith to me by showing me your good deeds – for if good works don’t go with Faith – it is quite dead !
Faced with the present crisis of the human suffering of almost countless thousands of refugees fleeing from danger in their homelands – as they risk life and limb in appalling conditions on land and at sea – Pope Francis, Christlike, asks us: Who do you say these people are ? Do you see Me in each face of a suffering refugee ? And he reminds us of what Christ says: As long as you did it to one of these least of My brothers and sisters – you did it to Me! We as a Community – as a Family – in CWC – cannot claim to have Faith and just stand idly by and hope that someone else will look after them for us. As Fr Bradley said last week – every time we approach the Table of the Lord’s Eucharist – we are challenged to live out the consequences of accepting to be nourished here – and to be counted among the blessed who are called to the Supper of the Lamb. So what are we going to do – here-and-now – concretely and upfront ?
In his Spiritual Exercises St Ignatius leads the retreatant to ask him/herself a triple question: What have I done for Christ ? What am I doing for Christ ? What ought I do for Christ ? This morning – how do we – how do I – answer these questions?
Let us without delay find ways of responding to the appeal from Pope Francis – encourage each other to be imaginative and generous – and let our Faith find expression in doing something real and concrete. Let our leaders lead – and let each of us courageously follow.
In a few moments as we unite in offering ourselves to the Father with Christ – let us ask for the grace to go the extra mile – for and with our brothers and sisters. May the God I will meet in this Eucharist teach me to be generous – to serve Him as He deserves – to give without counting how much it costs me – to struggle without thinking of how much I hurt – to keep going when I may feel like giving up – to freely give of my time and talents – and, together, to do all as real men-and-women-for-others …………. A.M.D.G.
Fr Michael Sheil sj