Homily - Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr Francis Afu

30 June 2019 

Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 2019


Homily for the Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C 2019

We are bombarded per minute with bad news. You just have to turn on the television or radio and you will be inundated with stories of trade-war between the United States of America and China, tensions among African countries, threat of wars rising in the Middle-East, refugees crisis, global economic crisis, escalating suicide rate in draught affected areas of Australia, the Israel Folau saga, Clerical Child Abuse crisis, natural disasters, terrorist attacks in Europe, etc.

With every breaking news, our hearts are smashed and broken again and again. We carry these “bleeding hearts” around; looking for healing, asking the difficult question, when will all this be over? When can we hear the good news or tell the good story again? Perhaps, we have been asking the wrong question, looking for answers in the wrong places. Ignoring the fact that with each wrong question comes a wrong idea, which for Richard Weaver has grave consequences.

“The holocaust”, for instance, “was in large part the consequence of ideas about the human nature, human right, the imperatives of history and the scientific progress, the character of law, the bonds and the obligation of political community… the holocaust began in depersonalising the victims and ended in depersonalising the perpetrators” (Richard John Neuhaus). And from this consequence comes a chain of other evils and somehow, we are drawn in, affected by evil.

And our immediate reaction is a quick fix for the problem of evil. Like James and John in the Gospel reading from Luke 9:51-62, we ask, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” We want to end violence by being violent, evil by being evil. How has that worked?  This seems to be the question Jesus asked James and John when He turned and rebuked them. “See the Samaritans are inhospitable, they feel rejected, they are hurting”.

How on earth would calling down fire from heaven fix all this, end five centuries of hatred and bickering between the Samaritans and the Jews? Not at all! It will rather ferment more trouble and may result to a full-scale war. So, what shall we do? Let go the grudge. Let go the bitterness the other has caused. Like Daniel J. O’Leary, look at the bright side. “There is a dignity to darkness; there is a freedom hidden in pain”, especially the pain of rejection and inhospitality.

Unfortunately, not many of us find this freedom because we are so absorbed in our own little world that we don’t hear nor see the other possibilities. We drown, we suffocate. Again, Daniel O’Leary is right, “So much of suffering comes not from what is done to us, but from trying to avoid the necessary loses and the fears of each day and decade”. Could it be that we try too hard to avoid the inevitable that we become enslaved by the very things we fear, worry about? 

This is the wisdom of the Gospel. Accept what has happened. Accept what you can’t change and move on. Notice, after Jesus rebuked James and John, “they went off to another village”. Why? Because they found in the pain of the Samaritan’s rejection an opportunity. They found the freedom to say, “This pain is not going to define our mission. This incident is not going to hold us back. If God had allowed it, then He must have something bigger in mind. We have to move on”.

This is what Jesus was on about when He resolutely took the road for Jerusalem. The key word here is “resolutely”. He resolved to move on, to focus on the mission, to ask and answer the Why question. Why did the Father send me to here? In our own case, why did God create me? When we ask the Whyquestion, and sincerely attempt to answer it, we come up with the right ideas that have positive results. We begin to stand firm and we stop submitting to the yoke of slavery.

Like St. Paul said in the Second Reading from 1 Corinthians 5: 1, 13-18, “When Christ freed us, He meant us to remain free”. Free from what? Free from all that holds us back from fulfilling God’s purposes for our lives. There are millions of us just sitting on the sideline because we have sold our freedom for a grudge, for past wrongs, for anger. We don’t want to let to go. We are so attached to what has happened to us that we are not open to what God can do for us.

Elisha in the First Reading from 1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 could see what God is able to do that is why he didn’t sit back and complain about Elijah coming between him and his ploughing. Rather, he jumped up and went straight to fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. But notice, he had to slaughter his oxen and he used the plough to cook them. Why? So that there will be no turning back to his past. He let go all he had in order to let God in. Can we let go our all too?

Jesus is asking us a similar question when He said, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head”. Can we let go our comfort, our security and accept the Lord as our inheritance? “Leave the dead to bury their dead; your duty is to go and spread the news of the Kingdom of God”. Can we let go of our traditions, our sacred obligations, rituals and let God lead us in a whole new way, the way of His Kingdom? 

“Once the hand is laid on the plough, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God”. Can we trust God when He is leading us, when we have “bad breaks” on the way, or like the Israelites, are we going to sit with harps and remember life in Egypt. Don’t forget, all the Israelites who kept looking back at Egypt didn’t enter the Promised Land. Christ wants us to live in the Promised Land, He wants us to remain free that is why He is asking us, “Don’t keep looking back”. Let go and then you can hear clearly the good news amid the bad news. 

Fr. Francis Afu

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