The Catholic Parish of Otaki and  Levin

Faith Communities of Otaki, Levin and Kuku

Homily for the 29th  Sunday in Ordinary Time 22 October 2017


You may have picked up the news item during the week that the Islamic State has been defeated in Raqqa, its Syrian capital. We have all, I’m sure, been a little disturbed by the terrible atrocities that have occurred during this conflict. It is organisations like ISIS that give organised religious faith a bad name. For in the last 2 or 3 hundred years it has in fact been nationalism that has been behind most conflicts, not religious faith as such. Many people today though believe that it is religion at fault. But in fact all the major faiths of the world encourage peaceful coexistence with others. It is those who pervert this basic message of peace who tend to espouse violence or coercion as they seek to impose their slanted views and perverted way of life on others.


The approach of Jesus to spreading his message was radically different. He relied on preaching a message of love of God by caring service of neighbour. He showed in his own life and in the life of his disciples the power and the joy of this way of life. Although he was the victim of violence, Jesus never responded in kind, but rather with a wonderful and inspiring submission to God’s will.


Jesus’ message about a radically new way of life was both about attitudes and behaviour. No wonder it had, and still has, political implications – for politics too is about attitudes and behaviour, although only, of course, in this world!


For Jesus, of course, God’s demands were paramount and overrode any demands of state and society. His opponents though did not want to discuss truth. Their aim was to catch Jesus out! It was impossible to have a proper discussion under these circumstances. I am sure Jesus shared the Pharisees’ discomfort at Roman occupation, but he saw the fatal mistake they were making. It is often made today. Our Faith and moral standards must play a part in forming our political views. However, for some people, political views come first. The role of their Faith is simply to support their politics! The Pharisees had become preoccupied with earthly kingdoms. Jesus was later to tell Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. His concern was with the Kingdom of God.

This message is implied in our first reading. The 2nd  prophet to be called Isaiah speaks at a time when the Israelites were held captive in Babylon some 600 years before Jesus. Isaiah tells the crushed and demoralised people the astonishing news that God has raised up the emperor Cyrus to liberate them! For Cyrus is a pagan emperor who knows nothing about the God of Israel - and yet God is using Cyrus as an instrument of God’s will! But we note the warning.  As powerful as Cyrus is, God warns him through the prophet: ‘I am the Lord unrivalled . . . apart from me all is nothing.’


We are caught in a paradox. On the one hand we look towards heavenly realities. In the light of eternity all earthly kingdoms and powers are nothing compared to God. Our life here is provisional. All earthly kingdoms pass away. The greatest of Empires fade. On the other hand our time here is real. During our period on earth we work out our future destiny. In this respect life on earth is important. We cannot pretend it does not exist. Any political, social or economic scheme which elevates the State to the place of God, and makes us mere pawns in a political or economic game, is a perversion.


We are citizens both of heaven and of earth. A spirituality which elevates the state to the rank of God, is blasphemous. A spirituality which claims to be independent of earthly ties and loyalties is unreal. It is our task as Christians to strike the balance between the two. We must keep our feet on the ground, but not let them be rooted there. We must have enough spiritual vision to see that our life here is a passing thing and a preparation for what is to come. It’s a challenging role for us all, but very stimulating.


It is, of course, an even more challenging role for those called to be missionaries in foreign lands. Whereas in times gone by it may have been sufficient simply to preach to people, informing them that unless they converted to the particular Christian tradition of the missionary preaching they would be lost for all eternity, these days the missionary task is more complex and yet also arguably more true to the gospel of Jesus and hence more rewarding than ever.


Those famous words attributed to St Francis of Assisi that I am fond of quoting seem to sum up the modern missionary task: ‘Preach the gospel, if necessary use words.’


Today, Mission Sunday, is a day we pray for missionaries and seek to support them materially. But it is also a time to consider our own missionary task as the Baptised and Confirmed. For so many people in our own community and society are hungering for a meaning, for a community, for a belonging that only faith in God can offer. It is a challenging role for us to model and to offer what they are hungering for. That’s why we gather each Sunday for Word and Eucharist – for they, and our support for one another, offer us the vital inspiration, strength, wisdom and joy that we need.





























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