Proclaiming a Year of Mission

People in a church holding candles, and the Sion Community logoHomily at St Philip Evans for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C

This word is being fulfilled in your hearing!

When Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth, he proclaimed a “year of favour from the Lord”.

Pope Francis has declared this year a Year of Mercy. And today I proclaim to you that in this parish, we are celebrating a year of Mission!

Oh no! More religious stuff!

Sometimes, religion has exactly the wrong effect on us. Our First Reading told how Ezra the High Priest read the Book of God’s Law to the Jewish People. They wept! Nehemiah the Governor and Ezra the Priest said “Do not weep today, rejoice!”

The psalm we have just chanted proclaimed “The law of the Lord is perfect, it revives the soul.”

When God’s law seems heavy, it’s because we are not listening properly. We are broken people, wounded by the failings of others and our own sins, so we zero in on those parts of the law which tell us we are unworthy, we are sinners. We totally miss those parts which are about God wanting to bless and restore us. Yet what was the main work of a priest in ancient Israel? Performing rituals to make unclean people, clean!

When Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth, he proclaimed a “year of favour from the Lord”. What does the Lord’s favour look like?

“The blind will see.”

Some of us come faithfully to Mass because it’s what “we do”. We’re part of the tribe of Catholics, and besides, our friends come to this church. So we turn up and try not to think too much about God. But you have a Father in Heaven who thinks you are amazing. He wants to open your eyes!

“Captives will be released.”

Some of us are here today because we’re afraid God will be angry with us if we don’t show up at Mass every Sunday. If we’re in bed with flu one weekend, we rush to confession because we haven’t “done our duty”. Now it’s true that we are called to show “fear of the Lord”, but that means a healthy respect for God, not quaking in our boots thinking we have failed to meet impossible demands!

“The downtrodden will be set free.”

Some of us are here today out of another kind of duty. We’re not afraid of God punishing us, but we are here out of a rather cold sense of “ought”. Coming to Mass is “the right thing to do”. That’s better than fear, but it’s still not the best God has in store for us.

“I bring good news to the poor.”

Do you think you are worthy of God’s love? Do you think you deserve to be part of this Church? If you are a Reader, or an EMOC, or a catechist, do you think that other “more qualified” parishioners should be doing those jobs? Jesus has news for you. You have been chosen. Not because you deserve it but because he loves you. Look at the people he chose to start his church: tax collectors and prostitutes, fishermen and reformed terrorists. Pope Francis has called the Church “a field hospital for sinners”. There is only one condition for membership – you must be willing to live your life in the way Jesus asks you. And when you fail, because Jesus doesn’t stop asking, pick yourself up and have another go.

These are big ideas – far too big to explore in a few minutes on a Sunday morning. This is why, at the end of October this year, we are holding a Parish Mission. This will be a whole week to take a fresh look at who God really is, what God expects of us, what we can expect of God – and above all, to help ourselves accept that God’s message really is soul-reviving Good News.

When Jesus stood up in the synagogue at Nazareth, he proclaimed a “year of favour from the Lord”.

This year we are invited to move from belonging to believing, from fear to love, from duty to joyful service. This word is being fulfilled in your hearing!