Saturday, August 27, 2011

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: Homily/Sermon

If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me. (Mt 16:24)

There's a very mistaken viewpoint which holds that religious belief is all about comfort, that prayer is about not facing up to the challenges of life, that faith is about closing our minds to what the world is really like. It is a very popular viewpoint. It affects the understanding of science, it affects attitudes to moral issues, it affects the way in which religion, and the Church is viewed in society.

And it all boils down to this - faith is false because it is about escape, denial, unreality. Listen to the radio, watch the television, and you'll hear echoes and hints of this viewpoint again and again. Religion is the main case of war, and conflict, and division in society. Religion is responsible for the spread of aids. It stifles free thinking and freedom of expression. Only those without the shackles of religion, we seem to be told, can really understand, explain and deal with the issues that face society. Religious people - in the language of the day "just don't get it".

Of course, they are very wrong. Religious groups, especially Christian groups, contribute millions to the economy through their voluntary work. Churches are the biggest voluntary groups in society. The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental organisation in the world working with the victims of Aids. It was, and still is, religious groups which found and fund schools. Hospitals and hospices too were inspired by Christian faith - which is why nurses are still called sisters. Organisations like Barnados, Oxfam, the Samaritans and Amnesty International were all founded by Christians because of their convictions.

And Why? Because at heart Christianity is not about comfort, or escape, or denial, but about service and sacrifice. It is about service in spite of struggle, in spite of suffering, in spite of conflict, in spite of danger: it is about taking up our cross, and following him.

Glorify the Lord with your life!

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