Saturday, October 16, 2010

Homily for the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. (Luke 18:1)

This week, on our television screens, has played out a most extraordinary story, a most inspiring event. So often we see and hear about disasters and tragedies, scandals and cruelties, wars and conflicts. 

Yet this week has been refreshingly different. On our screens we have witnessed from Chile the amazing sight of 33 miners, who had been sealed deep underground for many weeks, being rescued and reunited with their families. It has been a moment of joy and triumph. A tremendous feat of engineering which has inspired the Chilean people to great celebrations of their patriotism. 

Here in the Potteries it is a situation we can feel for perhaps even more deeply than others. Though ours were mines for coal with now only a few marks on our landscape to remind us of them, and theirs still working mines for copper, our communities, parents and grandparents, painfully experienced the dangers of extracting minerals from deep in the earth. 

On New Years’ Day 1942 - in perhaps the most shocking of many events - this city lost 57 men and boys in an explosion at Sneyd Colliery. In 2010 we can rejoice that 33 men’s lives were saved in Chile. 

And alongside the obvious jubilation and the fervent patriotism of those saved and their families, friends and colleagues,  it was striking to notice how many fell to their knees and praised God for the answer to their prayers. Their courage - in maintaining hope and optimism despite being trapped deep underground - was striking and impressive. 

We are only too aware that often our prayers do not get answered in the way we wish. We know very well that optimism can be dashed with tragedy. But not always. Not of necessity. 

These people, thrown together by chance and circumstance,  Imprisoned deep with a long and bleak outlook ahead of them, They kept the faith. They did not lose heart. And eventually, finally, after toil and anguish, with trust in the skill of men and the unfailing love of God, they emerged triumpant from their temporary tombs, like ones risen from the dead. 

Friday, October 08, 2010

Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Your faith has saved you. (Luke 17:19)


I have to confess being slightly puzzled by this miracle. What exactly are we meant to learnt from it? 


Is it perhaps about the importance of saying thank you and expressing our gratitude to God? 


Or is it rather about the faith of the outsider, the Samaritan, and the lack of faith of those who should have known better? 


Or it perhaps about the importance of faith in the miracles of Jesus?


Or is it even, perhaps about the unity of different races and ethnic groups? 


But there’s a problem with all these ideas. Though Jesus told the faithful, grateful Samaritan, “your faith has saved you”, the other 9, who showed little gratitude either to Jesus or by visiting priests, who seemed have less faith than the foreigner, who appear to turn their backs on the Samaritan, these nine are healed too. Any point we might want to draw from the story seems contradicted by this fact. 


So perhaps the message actually is this: God gives to good and bad, rich and poor, Jew and Samaritan alike. He deserves our gratitude, but gives whether he receives it or not. And so should we. It the fundamental principle of Christian charity. As Christians we do not care for others because they are good, or faithful. We do not care for other people because they too are Christians and overlook those who are not. We care because God cares, and our charity is for Christian and atheist, Mulsim and Hindu, European and Asian. We do not seek faith or conversion as the fruit of our charity - because our charity is already the fruit of God’s infinite love. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Homily for the 30th Sunday of the Year

Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.’ (Luke 18:13)

This is a wonderful tale, which proves beyond all doubt that Jesus has a mischievous sense of humour. He pokes fun at the pompous Pharisee - several of whom would gave been amongst his congregation. This is not angry or bitter sarcasm, but a gentle poking of fun, bringing right down to solid earth those who have such a high opinion of themselves.

But the story isn't only poking fun. It is also, when we turn to the tax collector, poignant and sad. Here a wretched and despised man - usually no doubt the butt of many a joke or insult, wrestles with his own inadequacy and failure. He knows his life has gone wrong. He is aware of his sins and failings. And he comes before God, sorry and broken.

So what is the difference between these men? It is not their faith, because both are found at prayer in Temple. It is not their poverty or riches, because both would have been quite wealthy people. It is not age or education either.

No. The difference is that one knows his need of God, and the other does not. One is aware of his failings, while the other is aware only of the failings of others. One can name his sins, while the other can name only sinners.

One is full of contrition, while the other is blinded by pride.

The Pharisee believes his goodness comes from his own efforts, while the tax collector knows that it is only the grace of God which can send him home in peace.