Friday, September 28, 2012

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time : Homily / Sermon

Anyone who is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:40)


On the face of it, this could seem to be a very puzzling statement by Jesus - especially alongside other things he said. In other places we read that the gate is narrow, the first last and the last first, not everyone who says ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. We hear of the likely disappointment of those who lay up treasure on earth. Of the rich man who goes to Hell while the poor man Lazarus goes to heaven. It may seem that the road to eternal life is hard and tough and narrow … and those who are not Christians, not baptised, outside the faith, outside the Church or even inside but do not live faithful lives, simple do not make it .. They are not ‘with us’.

But actually, the more we think about it, the clearer the message becomes. The invitation is generous, but the challenge tremendous … and it is not we who judge, but God.

When Christ speaks of the challenges of the life of faith, he is speaking to me, to each one of us individually. I am the one who should tear my own eye out - so to speak- if it causes me to sin. I am the one who is responsible for myself, my own acts, my life of faith. I am the one who must follow the commandments, keep the law of God, love my neighbour, be honest in all my dealings, not harbour grudges.

And when Christ speaks of the wide open doors of the kingdom, the welcome to those of good will, of other faiths and none, to those who ‘are not against us’, he is not speaking about me, but about my neighbours who I must love and not judge, who I must forgive and not resent, who I must cherish and not fear.

It might seem to be another paradox: it is, and that is the logic of love.

Friday, September 07, 2012

23rd Sunday : Homily / Sermon

Jesus said: Ephphatha’, that is, ‘Be opened.’ And the man’s ears were opened, and the ligament of his tongue was loosened and he spoke clearly. (Mark 7:34)


In the rite of baptism, there is a ceremony, rarely used in England and Wales, when the priest touches the ear and mouth of the baby and says ‘Ephphatha’, be opened. It is a prayer that the newly baptised may hear the Gospel and speak it.

The story in which we find these words comes after disputes between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, when it becomes clear that they are deaf to the truth of the Gospel.

This story is a miracle, and it is more than a miracle. In effect, this miracle is a prophetic act, an acted parable. It is symbolic, and more than symbolic.

Hearing and speech are mechanisms of the human body, which may often flourish, but can sometimes be impaired. Hearing can decline, and fail. Speech may be difficult or even absent. And we know that there is technology, there are medical procedures and training, which can bring great improvement and even cure. Hearing aids, surgery, speech therapy each in different ways can overcome many of the weaknesses of the human body.

And this, in part is what Jesus does by this miracle. He fixes the broken or faulty machinery of the human body. But he does much more.

The body is much more than a machine. Speech and hearing are much more than mechanical functions. We can make a lot of noise, yet signify nothing. We can hear what is said to us, yet take no heed. Hearing and speaking are gifts, like all gifts, which can be used or abused.

In fact, it is not the power of hearing or speech which we need to survive, but the ability, the possibility, to communicate. Those whose faculties cannot be repaired still find ways, through signing and other methods, to communicate. We can survive without speech and hearing - but to thrive we must communicate.

And it is THIS which is what Jesus is about. He is not some kind of divine mechanic, wandering through first century Palestine undertaking repairs. Every miracle has a meaning. Every action is a form of teaching. Every healing carries a message. They all point to some truth. To THE Truth.

And when, today, Jesus calls the ears to be opened he is not only speaking of their functional operation, but their meaning and purpose. It s about listening to his word. It is about speaking what is right. This is not about mechanical medicine, but the pursuit of truth, and mercy, and love.

Let us pray that our ears may be opened to the truth, and that we may speak it with confudence and courage.