Foolish Objections

Homily at St Philip Evans, for the Epiphany of the Lord, 2014.

A jester, holding a STOP signWhen the wise men set out on their journey, there were many foolish voices trying to persuade them against it.

Some of the fools pointed out that there were other gifts more useful to a new-born baby.

The wise knew that the gifts they were taking would come in useful at the right time.

Some of the fools pointed out that the journey would be long, hard and dangerous.

The wise knew that for this particular child, it was well-worth making the effort.

Some of the fools pointed out that the the destination of the journey was rather unclear, for it led to unknown territories.

The wise knew that God would guide them, one step at a time, along the way.

Some of the fools suggested that the journey wasn’t worth taking at all.

The wise knew that this King deserved their personal attention.

We also are called to bring our gifts to Jesus. Between us, we have many gifts. Each one of us has something worth offering. And yet, so many of us have a foolish voice whispering within us, trying to convince us that it ain’t so!

This foolish voice tells us that there’s someone “better than us” to do the job. This foolish voice tells us that if we hold back long enough, someone else will do it. This foolish voice tells us that we would be showing spiritual pride by putting ourselves forward. This foolish voice pretends that the priest and deacon can do everything between them that will make the parish thrive and grow.

You are wiser than that! Deep down, you know that you have gifts worth offering. Many of you have children, and are used to reading them bedtime stories, or singing them nursery rhymes. If you can sing or read, you have the gifts needed to help run Children’s Liturgy of the Word. Many of you have the gift of being able to smile and shake hands. If you can do this, you have those gifts which qualify you to form a team of welcomers. Many of you believe that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament and approach Holy Communion with reverence. If that sounds like you, you have the gifts needed to become a minister assisting with Holy Communion.

In today’s Second Reading, St Paul recalls how he was entrusted with God’s message, to be shared. With his track record as a persecutor of Christians, his foolish voice would have said “send someone else, Lord!” – but he was wise enough to accept the gift God had entrusted to him, and pass it on to others.

What happens when we truly recognise that we have been given gifts which we can use to bless our parish community? That foolish voice starts up again, and this time it gives it reasons why the journey is not worth making. It takes too much time and effort! We have to fill out application forms! We might get stuck in the role because no-one else will share it with us! But the truly wise person understands that unless these difficulties are faced, their gifts will never reach their intended recipients.

In ancient days, one of the wise men must have been the first to propose making the journey. Perhaps he couldn’t have done it on his own. But he was brave enough to say YES, and enough others joined him to make the adventure possible – we still tell the story 2000 years later.

If we look at the possible difficulties, we will stumble. That’s why the prophet Isaiah encouraged God’s people not to look at the difficulty and darkness which surrounded them, but to look up, and see the light of God leading them on. Are you wise enough to look for Christ leading you? When you see him, you too will grow radiant, your heart “throbbing and full”!

One more obstacle remains. Yes, we have gifts to offer to Christ and His Church. Yes, we are willing to tackle the difficulties which strew our path. But, says that foolish voice within us, “Do you know the way? Do you know the destination? Why start this journey when you do not know where it will end?”

The wise men were confident that God would guide them. The star led them westwards. Their learning told them what the first step must be: to find the King of the Jews, they must seek Jerusalem. There, they could seek further guidance, as they did by approaching Herod. They understood what Blessed John Henry Newman put into words in his poem, Lead Kindly Light: “I do not ask to see the distant scene; one step enough for me.”

During this new year, we are going to travel on a spiritual journey together. Part of that journey is about asking how we can better use our gifts to build up our parish community. If we all make a contribution, our parish will thrive. If we leave it to a few, we will continue to limp along.

The Catholic Church has been compared to a football match – 22 people running around doing all the hard work while another 10,000 look on and cheer. It’s not supposed to be like that. Wise Catholics know that if they have been confirmed, they have signed up for the team. Their place is on the pitch, not in the stands. Some will be centre-forwards, others in goal, some even on the subs’ bench, limbering up for their turn. But you are still part of the squad.

Today, I am not asking for volunteers. I am simply asking you to be aware of the foolish voice within which so often stops us from volunteering. Wise Catholics look not at the darkness around them, but at their guiding star – and that star is Christ himself. When the light of Christ shines in your mind, it gives courage to overcome such foolish whispers. Today is all about gifts; perhaps it is a good day to ask Christ to renew the gifts of your confirmation, which include the courage and fortitude for this journey.

When the wise men set out on their journey, there were many foolish voices trying to persuade them against it.

Some of the foolish voices suggested that the journey wasn’t worth taking at all.

The wise men knew that this King deserved their personal attention. Will you be wise enough to give him yours?