Homily – January 2017
ARCHBISHOP CHRISTOPHER PROWSE
CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CANBERRA AND GOULBURN
SUNDAY 29 JANUARY 2017
FOURTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
ST CHRISTOPHER’S CATHEDRAL, FORREST
Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13, 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, Matthew 5:1-12
Welcome back everybody from holidays and a particular welcome to any visitors to Canberra who are with us today in this summer time.
The Church in her wisdom has offered the great Magna Carta of the Kingdom of God in today’s Gospel – The Beatitudes. They constitute a very important pivotal section of all the Gospels but particularly St Matthew’s Gospel. They are part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount. In St Matthew’s case, as distinct from St Luke, Jesus goes up the hill and sits down. Jesus takes on the persona here of the great teachers of the Old Testament. He is to take that teaching and personalise it in his proclamation of the Kingdom of God.
The Beatitudes are the new law of love given by Jesus to all of us.
In the translation we have of today the word ‘happy’ is used a lot. The original Greek would prefer the word ‘blessed’ rather than ‘happy’. This is an important point to make although it does not seem to be important. The word ‘blessed’ suggests that they are gifts from God; they are something God gives us in this initiative of love. It is to the initiative of God’s love that we respond. Therefore when we consider carefully the Beatitudes they become a matter in the first place of trusting God. This is a great first point to make in today’s homily at the beginning of 2017 …. We are to trust GOD in all things, especially in this New Year.
So, in other words, if we want mercy from others then first we must be merciful and ask for that gift from God. If we want peace from others then we are to be a peacemaker and ask for the gift of peace from God and so it goes on: if we want justice then we must be just. If we want prosperity we are to be gentle, if we want comfort in this life then let us offer comfort and conservation to those who mourn.
It is never a matter of saying to God “I want”, it’s more “with your gifts, Lord, I give”.
So we need to trust God in all things that he knows about of our deepest needs and even before we ask for it he will supply them.
I remember meeting many years ago an elderly lady who was a very wealthy woman. In the eyes of the world, she had been a great success. She had been highly successful in a competitive world, and she accumulated huge amounts of wealth and she was by all standards of the world a successful woman. But when the two of us had a small conversation after a function we both attended she took me aside and mentioned to me how lonely she was in her twilight of her life. I could see from her eyes that there were deep pools of loneliness and I understood that she was sharing with me something very deep from her heart. She honestly told me that she had obeyed all that was required of her from the world’s standards. If that is the case, she asked, then why am I so desperately lonely?
It brought to my mind how different the standards of the world are from the standards of the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes are the attitudes of us being not only Christians but fully human. I only had the opportunity of saying the following. I said “Well if you would like to have a friend then start by being a friend”. Obviously this comes from the Gospel strategy of the Beatitudes of today. We can only give what God has first given us. He had given us his friendship, in this case for example, then let us be a friend to others and see what happens when we love unconditionally.
So let’s begin this year by trusting God in all things.
The second point that needs to be mentioned is a point from the first reading.
In the first couple of words of the first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah there is one word that is used three times. It is the word ‘seek’. “Seek the Lord who are humble of the Earth who obey His commands. Seek integrity, seek humanity”.
The word ‘seek’ is a strong word. It is a word that means to look for something intently. To give it a top priority. It reminds me of what Jesus said later in the Gospels “Seek first the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given to you”.
So as we rely on the Lord’s initiative and trust in Him, we seek with all our being to enable his Grace to work within us. It is not something passive. It is not something occasional. It is a top priority for us that we are to trust the Lord and to seek him in all things. We are to seek the good. First of all the good that Jesus gives us deep in our heart and the good that we see in those that we meet in the situations of our life. We are to bring out the hint of goodness in any situation we can and make it grow strongly in our world.
So here we have the take home message for this Mass as we all return back to our routines of 2017. And the take home message is this – trust God and seek the good.