Sunday, January 21, 2018

TAKE TIME TO BE STILL AND SILENT SO YOU CAN HEAR: "REPENT AND BELEIVE" A homily for the Third Sunday, year B (Mark 1:14–20)

As usual the homily can be heard here.
            Jesus is under threat that is why He moves to Galilee.  His teaching threatened the influence and power of others.  It was a challenge to all those who distorted God's word or rejected it outright.  He does not give up preaching the Gospel though.  He continues to do it through His words and deeds.  Yet our Lord's mission was not just for His own time.  He is building a Kingdom, a Church, which will spread throughout the world and continues to spread because He continues to touch people's lives and bring them to believe in Him.  It is not just near us it is here with us for we are His Body and when we gather He is truly present.  Above all He remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament in the Tabernacle and we get to receive Him into our very selves at Holy Communion.  By His power we become and we are the Kingdom of God  if we listen to Him and do His will.

            To build His Church He calls His new disciples.  Last week we heard that some of them had initially met him at Barabara on the far side of Jordan not far from the Dead Sea.  Since then they had returned to their ordinary lives and work over ninety miles north in Galilee.  There was no social welfare back then.  One worked or one starved.
            It is in the ordinary tasks of their day that He comes to them and calls them to work in a new way for something more important than fish.  They stop what they are doing and follow.  From the start their calling meant sacrifices not only for them but for their families and friends.  The things worth doing in life always come at a price.  They always mean sacrifice.  Every calling, every vocation, is a calling to serve and therefore also a calling to sacrifice.  This call doesn't come in a voice or a vision from heaven.  It is heard in the heart, in one's conscience, urging us to take a certain path despite the cost to ourselves and others.  
            So few today are answering that call.  God has not stopped calling but people have stopped listening.  As Cardinal Sarah has pointed out all too many today are deafened by the noise, the distractions, and the false gospels of the modern world.  They have no time for the stillness and silence where God can be heard.  This is true even of Christians who go to Mass every Sunday.  I wonder how many really pray, that is, make time for God in silence and stillness so that His voice can be discerned in their hearts?
            In addition there is a spirit of selfishness and disobedience in the world and in the Church.  Western culture has come to value individual rights and benefit over that of the community, to value freedom from constraint over the duty of care.   It is one reason why voluntary groups often find themselves short of staff.  This individualism runs counter to the message of our Lord that we put God and our neighbour before ourselves.  This selfishness leads to not listening to the Lord and to not putting the Gospel into action.  We need to remind ourselves that God won’t ask us to answer for our neighbour’s inaction and sin but for our own.

            Who has the courage today to listen to the Lord and seek to serve Him?  Who will encourage their children to take that risk?  I made the sacrifice and so did my family.  Why should my parents do without grandchildren?  My parents both died with their son, a priest, praying at their side and they are remembered in all my Masses and prayers.  Christ Himself has promised those who sacrifice for Him that He will more than replace all that they have lost.
            Lent is not too far away now.  During that holy season we will be called to listen more attentively to the Lord speaking in His word.  Especially we will hear again His call to "Repent and believe in the Gospel."  The original Greek word that we translate 'repent' literally means to do a u-turn, to realise that one has gone down a wrong road somewhere and to get back to travelling in the right direction.  The right direction is the path of the Gospel.  The right direction is serving God and our neighbour.   The right direction is making the sacrifices that He asks of us.
            Lent is not too far away.  The Lord will not come to us in visions or voices but in the ordinary events of our day.  He will speak to our hearts if we give time in stillness and silence to listen to His word, the Scriptures.   If we make space for God He will give us the strength to make space for others.  It is in the sacrifices that space demands of us that we will come to know that we are truly loved and that we are never alone.

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