Homily – January – 2024

28th JANUARY 2024

 Readings: Deuteronomy 18:15-20 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 Gospel Mark 1:21-28

Today’s Readings suggest the topic of Biblical authority.  What does authority in the Bible mean?  What implications do these have for leadership?

The First Reading and the Gospel introduce us to the great figures of Biblical authority.

In the First Reading from the Book of Deuteronomy we have the great authority figure of the Old Testament, Moses.  Recall the quintessential image of Moses holding in his hands the Tablets of the Ten Commandments and speaking from Mount Horeb to the people of God.

He promises that one will come after him with the fullness of authority.

This prophesy is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ – Biblical authority personified.  Here we have, particularly in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus as the “new Moses.”  He goes up the hill and sits down and preaches the Gospel of the New Testament – the Beatitudes: fulfilling all that has been promised.

In the Gospel today the aspect of Jesus’ personality is stressed – His authority.

You may recall that last week in the Gospel the authority of Jesus’ calling power was emphasised.  Without even saying a word or very few words, people would leave their lives in a most dramatic way and follow Jesus completely.  In today’s Gospel it is not so much about calling people to a particular vocation but, it is about His teaching.  In the Scriptures today we hear that, “He taught them with authority…Here is a teaching that is new they said and with authority behind it.”

As we begin 2024 let us now try and live this Biblical authority that attracts all to God.  May I suggest three important aspects of this.

First of all there is the word “Surrender.”  At the beginning of our New Year let us refresh and renew our surrender to the sovereignty and authority of God.

You might be aware that sometimes a Bishop wears a little cap on the top of his head.  We have seen this also in the dress of the Pope and the Cardinals.  It goes back to our Jewish origins.   This skull cap which is placed on the head of the Bishop shows that he is under God’s authority.  It is a visual image of this.  Through our Baptism we come under God’s authority as His sons and daughters.  In a sense, let us all wear this skull cap as a reminder of our Baptism and that it is God who leads us and not the other way around.

The second word is the word “Unify.”  Those that come under Christian Biblical leadership are always unifiers.  They are never scatterers.  There is a communitarian aspect to our faith here.  Finding the middle ground on these issues is not only difficult for Christians but the whole of humanity.

On this Australia Day weekend, Australians still find it very difficult to bring together praise of God for our origins in the setting of our Aboriginal and Colonial backgrounds.  As we articulate our Genesis story we must be able to bring together both elements which seem to be at polar extremes from each other.  This is an agenda that we await in the future as Australia matures and it is expressed in an appropriate Australia Day manner.

Then there is the Middle East.  War is a great defeat of humanity.  So here it is not simply Palestinians or Israelis.  It is both Palestinians and Israelis together forming a new entity in the Middle East.  That is why we pray for peace because this seems to be a reality that is far from coming together.  So much blood has been shed.  Let us pray for peace in this Mass.

A further example is in regard to local political legislation.  Tomorrow I will be representing the Archdiocese at an enquiry into proposed legislation in the ACT Legislative Assembly concerning the introduction of policies regarding Euthanasia.  How we care for the most vulnerable and terminally ill people in our community is always a challenge.  There are some options that are simply not worthy of humanity.  Euthanasia is one.

The third word is “Sanctify.”  Our role as Baptised Christians is to bring the transcendent Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus into everything that we do, especially to the poor and oppressed and our own personal lives.  We try to start with ourselves especially in this New Year.

In a few weeks it will be Lent and we will be concentrating on these aspects of our Sanctification.

I have always been attracted to the beautiful expression of St Hildegard von Bingen, the German mystic of 1,000 years ago who was an Abbess and brilliant composer of sacred music.  In all her greatness she never drew attention to herself.  One of her memorable expressions was the following, “I am but a feather on the breath of God.”  Let us too, like her, be prepared in 2024 to be used by God to sanctify His people.

Let us now go forward with these three words, Surrender, Unify and Sanctify.  To help you remember the “Gospill” today is the word “S.U.S.” an acronym for these three words.  Please remember my “S.U.S.” Homily!

Let us now continue with the Mass by calling down the authority of God through Surrender, Unifying and Sanctifying.