Invite Me, Lord!

Homily at St Philip Evans, on the 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B – Prisoners’ Sunday.

Do you know what prayer the Rich Young Man prayed every day? I don’t know, but I’m going to take a guess… something like “Here I am, Lord – use me as you will.”

For many years he had prayed this prayer, because deep down he knew that God was asking something more of him. Yes, he was keeping the commandments, the do’s and don’ts binding on all Jewish people. But he still knew he was called to something more. Why couldn’t he grasp what it was? Maybe he was hiding from it. Maybe it wasn’t God’s time to draw him out…

And then, one terrible and glorious day, the Rich Young Man was faced with a golden opportunity to ask a Rabbi, a spiritual Master, Jesus Himself! So ask he did… and he was forced to face the answer he had been dreading all along: “Sell everything!”

We are not told what he did next. We know that in the short term, he went away sad – he certainly did not do what was asked of him straight away. Perhaps he went away having lost all hope. That’s a sobering thought on this day which is Prisoners’ Sunday. We’re invited to spare some of our love for those rightfully imprisoned because of the choices they have made. Prisoners live separated from family and friends, tempted to despair. Our Christian love must stretch even as far as those who seem to deserve to be unloved. Love demands that we even bring hope to the hopeless.

There again, perhaps the Rich Young Man went off to meditate on the challenge to change. We know that change is never easy – yet change will come to all of us in our lives. The most difficult change to make is the one we have worked hardest to avoid.

Over this summer I received a challenge to change, and a moment of grace. It’s no secret that I’m overweight, enjoy second helpings and Jaffa Cakes, and take two sugars in my coffee. I’ve known for a long time that I ought to do something about it. For several years now, I have been asking God for the grace to be motivated to act. And much to my own surprise, the week I got back from my mini-sabbatical this summer, I found myself taking sweetners in my coffee, avoiding second helpings, and operating a strict “one biscuit only” policy. It’s not easy; it needs daily will-power; but I’m doing it. Why now? Partly because of the encouraging words from trusted friends during my travels, but partly because now is when God has chosen to give grace in answer to prayer.

For many years, we in this parish have been praying weekly, “Here I am, Lord – use me as you will.” What is God’s will? In recent months, we’ve worked hard to develop a Vision Statement – our understanding of what God’s will is for us as a parish.

The Vision Statement covers lots of ground. Some parts we are living out already. Our vision is to be a welcoming parish – that’s partly about attitude, which involves all of us. If someone is sitting in your usual seat, do you ask them to move, or thank God that a new person has come to Mass? Being welcoming is also about having our team of welcomers in place, so a big thank you to the team members who have been doing this for the last few months.

Part of our vision is that we encourage all people in living in our parish to join our church, and that we run social projects to bless our community. These are long-term aspirations – we are not ready to start working on these yet.

It’s time to focus on the middle part of the vision, that part which will prepare us for the greater challenges ahead. In order for us to grow as a parish and fulfil our vision, what we need to do right now is to strengthen the links between individual members of our community, and devote time to prayer and to studying our faith.

There are times when extensive consultation is appropriate – and I have done this to the best of my ability in coming up with our Vision Statement.

There are also times when a parish priest needs to take a strong lead, just as Jesus suddenly challenges the Rich Young Man to leave everything and follow him. Today is one of those times. Through the Vision Group and the Parish Advisory Council, we have agreed the journey we need to make – now we need to pray it into being. From this very weekend – as suddenly as Jesus confronted the Rich Young Man – our parish prayer must change to serve our vision. Today’s First Reading begins with the words “I prayed, and understanding was given to me.” So we are not only called to pray, but to pray for the wisdom we need to do God’s work.

Now, there have been times on retreat when I’ve been asked to repeat a prayer after the leader, and I haven’t known what words are coming next, which has left me reluctant to join in. So here is the prayer I will invite you to say in a few moments:

Invite me, Lord Jesus, to know you better, through prayer, study and the people of my parish.

Through PRAYER – because Jesus wants a heart-to-heart with all of us.

Through STUDY – because Jesus asked his Apostles, and through them His Church, to pass on his wisdom.

THROUGH the people of my parish – because even if you are a visitor and this is not your parish, it is through the people of your own parish that Jesus wants you to come together to build a church of living stones.

INVITE ME – because in asking this you are not promising to take up the invitation, but only to know in your heart what Our Lord is asking you to do.

At the time in my life when I first wondered if Jesus was asking me to be a priest, I was afraid. But then I realised that because Jesus loved me, he would not invite me to do anything harmful to me. And because Jesus was wise, he would not ask me to do anything which was a bad idea. Once I realised that, I knew the very best thing I could do would be to accept his invitation.

So here is our new Parish Prayer:

Invite me, Lord Jesus, to know you better, through prayer, study and the people of my parish.

May the Lord, who has begun this good work, bring it to fulfilment!

  • You can also read the story of how another Christian minister was motivated to tackle his weight,