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Homily - 14th Sunday Ordinary Time C - Bishop McKeown


Sunday, 3 July 2022 

Last Sunday we heard about Jesus setting out resolutely towards Jerusalem. But he has no intention of just going to the holy city to die there. On the journey, he has a passion for communicating the Good News – and he sends the disciples out to prepare the way for him. What does this tell us about who we are as Church?

Firstly, Jesus has a passion for bringing healing to people. He is not interested merely in setting up an organisation. The disciples are part of Christ's mission to defeat Satan and all that oppresses people. The resurrection of Jesus after his death is not just about Jesus. He wants everybody to experience that resurrection in their own lives, whatever crosses they have known.

The only credibility that Jesus expects from his followers is that we have his outrageous passion to bring divine love and mercy to where it is most needed in our time and place. A church concerned too much about its own self-preservation is incapable of revealing Jesus.

Where is that needed today? We know that our culture struggles with much pain and fear. There is plenty of talk about love. We all known lots of 'ex's'– ex partners, wives, husbands, friends, parents - people who have experienced shattering emotional situations. In that sort of culture, it is difficult for many to believe in love and resurrection. It is easier to believe that they can expect little more than temporary attachments, that they can give their body but not their heart, that relationships should not be too demanding, that they should not expect too much and that their hopes will not be dashed. And then there are those who have been hurt in church contexts. Believing in the eternal love and compassion of God is difficult. And yet, that is what Jesus sends out his followers to do in every generation. That is the whole purpose of the church. Renewal is not merely about new ideas to get us higher in the popularity ratings nor about taking on secular agendas in order to be appear up to date. The only credibility that Jesus expects from his followers is that we have his outrageous passion to bring divine love and mercy to where it is most needed in our time and place. A church concerned too much about its own self-preservation is incapable of revealing Jesus.

Secondly, this seems like a tough task for the disciples. Indeed, when they come back to Jesus, they appear surprised that the message was effective. The Church in our own time has lost much of its confidence that the Gospel is Good News. We often take on a negative story about loss of prestige and relevance – as if that were something bad. Today's Gospel suggests that we can represent Jesus better when we do not go out full of confidence. Jesus says that his followers are like lambs among wolves – and that they should not stock up with loads of human resources. People will be prepared to take the leap of believing in Jesus when they see followers who are prepared to trust in Providence. A strong church that trusts in its own resources and influence cannot reflect the Jesus of Calvary. St Paul talks about is carrying a treasure in earthenware vessels. Today he says that we have nothing to boast about except the Cross. We do not bring our wit or intelligence. In our imperfect ways, we can bring only our knowledge of God so that others might know it as well. Weak people are best able to reveal Jesus. Those who think they are strong often let their egos get in the way. Jesus took the hard path and was seen by many as foolish. Only when we are fools for Christ's sake can we be his messengers.

Thirdly, Jesus says that the harvest is rich, but the labourers are few. There has been the temptation to think that this refers merely to more clergy and religious. Yes, there are those who are called to dedicate their lives to Christ's mission by being public sacraments of Jesus. A church without clear self-sacrificing roles can reduce Jesus to a dealer in religious Dolly Mixtures. Those with public roles in Christ's people are not ecclesiastical civil servants, manning branch offices of the Church. With different ministries, the whole church is called to be on a mission. Couples and families can proclaim the love of God in a world where trust and hope are in short supply, and where many cultural icons are emotional pygmies. Parish communities can be welcoming and caring in an age where we risk breaking down into small sub-cultures. People of all ages can be agents of reconciliation in a culture where victimhood and anger are seen as virtues which are used to ward off any criticism of our actions. But merely changing who can be ordained will not make us into a missionary church! A church that is tempted to turn in on itself needs to believe that the harvest is rich. We are not acting as Christ's disciples if we out to reveal more of our anger and frustration at the sinner – and less of God's infinite patience and compassion for the broken-hearted. There are thousands of people waiting to see signs of hope and resurrection. The harvest is rich – but the labourers are few.

The 12 disciples, sent out to prepare the way for Jesus, are a powerful image for the Church. We are a people who are going out from ourselves, not preoccupied about ourselves. The church in this country was at its strongest when it sought out those lying on the margins. Our confrontational culture would like to drive us into fighting mode. But the only enemy that Jesus names in the Gospel is Satan. Jesus calls us together each weekend to be with others who are also sent out – and to be fed with the Gospel and with the Sacrament of Calvary. When we have been fed, we are told to go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. Next week, the Gospel tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. In the meantime, pray for courage to make Jesus known and loved, reflect on where you have been able to bring peace to those whom you meet. And then, next Sunday, you, too can come back rejoicing. And then we can face Jesus' example of reaching out to the stranger!

+ Donal McKeown


Diocese of Derry Synod Report - What has been heard

The fruit of this listening has been collated and a report has been submitted to the Irish Synodal Pathway Steering Committee on 29th May 2022 to form part of a national synthesis. This diocesan ten-page document is published below for reading and sharing.
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