Homily for 20th Sunday in Ordinary time year C 2013
Being here in Australia for 6 years has helped me so much to understand the culture and the people. This includes the footy. And yes I have a team. It’s just amazing to see how people followed their AFL team. One time, Bishop Joe took us for a tour in the diocese and because it was winter, one priest generously gave me a scarf. With joy and gladness of such a gift I wore it unwitttingly because it kept me warm. But when I arrived in the house where we were staying, one lady worker just burst out saying: ‘Take that terrible ‘black and white’ scarf off your neck.’ Another time, I went to one Church one Sunday morning to attend mass. Somebody led me to the sacristy to introduce me to the priest. I think that was the year Hawthorn defeated Geelong on the premiership, one priest who is a great fan of Geelong said to the altar boy who was proudly wearing a brown and yellow scarf: ‘Take that (I am not using the exact word here but it’s not nice) bl…ank thing out of this sacristy!’
I just said to myself: ‘Wow, is that how serious and loyal he is to his team!’ He really looked serious. Then I offered a silent wish: ‘That we will all be as loyal to Christ as we are loyal to our team.’
Friends, dear brothers and sisters, I’m sharing this with you because our readings for this 20th Sunday are also about loyalty- loyalty to Christ. Our Readings invite us to ask ourselves: How loyal are we to Christ? Are we as loyal to him as we keep up with our membership in the footy club? Are we as loyal to him as we follow our team playing week after week?
The Good News is we can test our loyalty to Christ. It’s a challenge for us though to test our loyalty to him and for our being a Christian because we are living in a relative peace. We are living in an affluent society. We are living in a country where we can be indifferent to religion. We are living in the country where we can freely express our faith as long as we don’t impose it to some other people.
How can we be loyal to Christ and to our Christian faith in Australia?
Our Readings today offer us three ways:
First is from the Prophet Jeremiah in our first Reading today and that is we must stand up for the truth of our faith no matter what it costs us or how much it costs us. We heard in the reading that Jeremiah was thrown into a dry cistern, a dry well to die and be buried in the mud because according to his opponent, “he is unquestionably disheartening the remaining soldiers in the city” (Jer 38:4), by telling them about the forthcoming defeat of the King Zedekiah of Judah to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He was also encouraging the soldiers to leave the city and in order to be saved. Effectively, he was discouraging the soldiers to fight for the king and to go out to the Chaldeans to ‘have their lives as a prize of war, and live’ (Jer 38: 2). It was very courageous of him to tell the soldiers to desert the army. But that’s the truth God has asked of him to tell the people. Jeremiah is a true prophet. And a true prophet is one who stands up and say what God says and not what pleases the king.
As Christians, standing up for the truth is a way for us to test our loyalty to Christ. To stand up for the truth now, is to continually listen to Jesus speaking to us through the Church, through our human situations and experiences. This means standing up for Christ. It is a big call because Christ may be comfort to the afflicted but he is also affliction for the comfortable. I also read somewhere that Christ is too conservative for the liberal, and too liberal for the conservative.
Second way to test our loyalty to Christ is to make it our daily resolution to ‘throw off everything that hinders us from following Christ, to keep running steadily in the race and not to lose sight of Jesus’ (Heb 12:1-4) as we have heard in our second reading today. This means that we could not just be passive in our Christian discipleship, rather we should be actively working out and willingly living out our Christian calling. A concrete example of this active witnessing of our faith in Christ is the experience of our Christian sisters and brothers in Egypt today. According the news, many of this Christians were targeted by some radical Muslim group. But they stood up for the faith. They didn’t leave the country. According to the news, they were easy target because they wouldn’t take revenge. They wouldn’t take arms against the people who were attacking them. And it is a courageous Christian witness!
The third way is really a test of loyalty to Christ. Jesus in the gospel says that he came not to bring peace on earth, but division. We might protest saying to him: Isn’t it Isaiah called you the Prince of Peace? How about that song of the angels when you were born ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to his people of goodwill?’ Then he continued on telling that because of him households would be divided-father against son, mother against daughter.’ We need to understand though that when Luke wrote this gospel, people were still under persecutions. So understandably, there would be some members in the families who showed much loyalty to Christian faith and die for it. We have the martyrs as cloud of witnesses. There must also be members in one household who would rather deny Christ- thus causing division among them, in order to be spared from imminent death.
But this also applies to us now. By experience, we have some members in our families, friends or relatives, who couldn’t care less about the faith, about God even. So this is in a way- a kind of division that Jesus was talking about. But even if our faith in Christ caused division and tensions in our homes, in our workplaces, in our community, let’s keep up with it. It doesn’t mean this is really what a Christian is like. It means rather that if we chose to follow Christ we are called to stay focus on to him, to keep following him, even if any of our friends or family would rather choose to stay away from him. Let’s strive for the Kingdom first and then everything, and that includes ‘everyone ’will be given to us.
SO as we continue our celebration of the Mass today, let this be a point for our reflections and prayer during this week: How can we be loyal to our Christian calling and to Christ in Australia in this day and age?