Homily 23rd Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - Treat them as a Tax Collector

Homily (sermon)
Treat them as a Tax Collector

The Readings for the Twenty Third Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Ezekiel 33:7-9, Psalm 94:1-2,6-9, Romans 13:8-10, Matthew 18:15-20


[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Our Gospel today is a dangerous reading. It’s one I think we can easily misunderstand and one we need to take in context of the whole Gospel message.

On the surface it sounds like we are being told we have four actions to take when wronged by your brother. First, try and sort it out person to person, then if that fails to bring some friends to help sort it out, next bring it to the community and finally, if that doesn’t work, shun them, as they are beyond saving. Does that sound like Christs teaching to you? Well it doesn’t sound like Christs teaching to me! And it’s in total contradiction to Paul’s teaching to the Romans from our second reading.

Let me read you that again just in case you were drifting off during the readings, don’t worry it happens to all of us:
Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love. If you love your fellow men you have carried out your obligations. All the commandments: You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet, and so on, are summed up in this single command: You must love your neighbour as yourself. Love is the one thing that cannot hurt your neighbour; that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.
Paul’s message is nothing new to us, we have heard Christ say the same thing in the gospels so we need to look at today gospel reading with Love.

So if we feel wronged we need to go see our friend with Love in our hearts. In modern terms I guess that mean there should be tea and cake as well as conversation and you should be doing the buying or baking.

If that doesn’t work it may be because it is difficult to hear of a wrong doing from the person who has been wronged, and that is assuming you are correct in thinking you have been wronged. Get some friends, people again who have heard Pauls message and will approach this next meeting with Love in their hearts, Love for you both. Let them lead the conversation it's not about you it’s about what happened and it’s about staying friends, staying brothers.

If that doesn’t work then the church, the Christian community must respond with Love. It must reach out to you and them and endeavour to make things right. Not with rules and regulations, not with courts and committees but again with Love, the one thing that can not hurt your friend.

Finally, if all this fails, you should treat them as a pagan or tax collector. Surely that can’t mean give up on them. Turn our backs on them. So let me ask you a few questions.
How did Jesus treat tax collectors?
Who is the patron saint of Tax collectors?
And what was the profession of Matthew our Gospel writer of today?

Jesus spent a lot of time with Tax collectors, pagans, sinners. He never turned his back on them, he came for them. In fact let’s stop using the word them. He came for us all, you and me are sinners as much as any tax collector. If we are to treat our friend as a tax collector that means inviting them into our home, sharing a meal with them, talking to them, forgiving them.

Matthew, our Gospel writer, is the patron saint of Tax collectors. Matthew was a tax collector in Capernaum when he first met Jesus. Matthew more than anyone, except maybe Zacchaeus, knew how Jesus loved him and how Jesus worked to save him.

Our Gospel message today is that everyone can be saved. Do everything with Love and never give up on someone.





Homily 19th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - Three years on

Homily (sermon)
Three years on

The Readings for the Nineteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 - Psalm 84 - Romans 9:1-5 – Matthew 14:22-33

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Three years ago when we last heard these readings I was preaching along with the other deacons. I looked this week at my homily from back then and it was all about listening for Gods call and acting on it, you’ll get a very similar homily today as well, but I am going to start today with where I finished back then:

“We are called to be a people of hope, a people of action, a people of God, a people who are called by God to serve. In three years’ time when you next hear these readings what will God have asked you to do and what will you being doing with God.”

Now those are good questions. Take a second now and think about the last three years. What did God ask you to do and what have you and God been doing. I have asked myself the same questions believe me I know it’s not easy to respond to or even hear the call of God. The call can get lost in all the noise and activity of our daily lives. Then if we do hear His call, will we have the courage to respond, the courage as Peter did, to step out of the boat.

While I can think of a thousand challenges for you for the next three years. You could read here at church, teach at our children’s liturgy, arrange flowers, clean, prepare for Mass, welcome, sing, lead bible study, join one of the committees and arrange social events or our liturgy, you could lobby parliament or large corporates for justice, you could invite your neighbours to church events, you could feed the homeless and support the poor, help stop slavery, you could do so many things. But it’s not about me telling you what to do, it’s about God telling you. What you should do first, is listen to God. He actually knows what he wants you to do, so my only recommendation is that you try and find out what that is and give it a go.

Elijah, spent a night alone in a cave waiting for God.  In the morning Elijah listened not to the mighty wind, not to the earthquake, not to the fire, but to the gentle breeze. If you are too hear God in our big and noisy world you need to find quiet, you need to find time alone, you need to listen to the voice no louder than the breeze. The strange thing is once you start to listen that voice, the still and quiet voice has the power to be heard above the loudest of storms.

Take for example Peter and the disciples on the boat in the storm. They were able to hear His voice in the storm, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.” Peter in response to our Lords call, stepped from the boat and walked upon the water.

Could you do that? Would you do that?

I have no idea what our Lord will ask of you, I don’t know if it will be easy or hard, I don’t know if you have the skills and abilities to do it, but I do know, I do believe, I do have absolute faith that if God asks you to do something, with his help you will be able to do it.

Peter soon got scared by the winds and started to slip below the water, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that started to happen to you when you start to do something new for the Lord. Few if any of us would feel we had the faith to step out on a lake and walk across it. And none of us could achieve even the smallest thing for God, if God wasn’t involved.

I want you to listen to God. Pray to Him and ask Him what He is asking you to do. Listen, listen and keep listening. He might not tell you immediately, you might not hear Him immediately.

Once you start to hear, don’t panic. Once you start to think I should be doing something about this or that, I should be helping here or there. That’s when you start to pray for the strength, for the faith, for the gifts to do what’s being asked. That’s when you start to talk to your friends, the people in the pews next to you, Fr Frank and Fr Jim, even me. God may be telling us the same thing or just to help you. Once you start and things start going wrong cry out for help and I promise you, Jesus will reach down and pull you up, just as he pulled Peter from the lake.

We are called to be a people of hope, a people of action, a people of God, a people who are called by God to serve. In three years’ time when you next hear these readings what will God have asked you to do and what will you being doing with God.

Link to the similar homily from three years ago:
http://www.deaconjohn.co.uk/2014/08/homily-19th-sunday-ordinary-time-year.html



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Homily 15th Sunday Ordinary Time Year A - Be the seed that grows


Homily (Sermon)

Be the seed that grows.



The Readings for the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A:
Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm 64
Romans 8:18-23
Matthew 13:1-23

[All these readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks. Remember to scroll down for the readings of the day.]

Let me ask you some questions. You don’t have to put your hands up or shout out answers. Just ask yourself the question and think about your answer, and if you would like the answer to be different.

Are you the seed that falls at the edge of the path and is carried away? Do you find it difficult to understand the Christian message?

Are you the seed that falls on rocky ground?
Do you love what you hear in Church but forget it during the week?

Are you the seed that falls among thorns?
Do you place the worries and desires of the world above your faith?

Are you the seed that falls on rich soil?
Do you work for the church for your faith and help those around you?

If I am honest I can answer yes to all those questions at some time in my life. And that is where this beautiful parable breaks down. Seeds don’t move themselves once they are planted, but you can.

Did you notice or think about what Christ said in between the parable and the explanation. It was an inspiring and troubling line, “Anyone who has will be given more; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

Jesus is talking about faith, your faith! You have to work at your faith, work at being Christian, work at being a member of this family. Let me say right now how proud I am of all of you in this parish, the work you do. How privileged I feel to be able to live my ministry among you. This is a vibrant and growing parish, an active church that is an example for parishes in communion throughout our diocese and country.

But I also want to challenge you to do more, to learn more, to put yourself in a place to be given more by God.

As we grow as a community we should do more for this church and for the wider community it is part of. As we do more God will show us the needs of the community and ask us to minister to them. We need to be involved we need to be looking for things to do. We need to be willing to step outside of our comfort zones and risk disappointment, criticism, embarrassment and pain.

As you might guess I work with the leaders of many of our church groups, both here and across our communion of parishes. I have seen shy and scared people volunteer for roles they were scared to take on. I have seen them grow, like little saplings to mighty oaks.

A man who had never spoken in public volunteered to give a lecture to new Christian’s at the RCIA meeting. A lady with no leadership experience volunteered to be on the committee of the CWL. A young man terrified of reading aloud in front of other people because he couldn’t read well and wouldn’t make sense, gave in and agreed to read at Easter.

The first man now leads regularly in the RCIA and teaches with an authority and knowledge that inspires those attending the group. The lady went on to hold multiple positions and even campaigned for the roles of nation president. The young man found that with practice he could read and he is now standing here giving this homily.

I don’t know where my journey will end, God is still giving me more to do, and I am still terrified about the next thing I will be asked to do. I understand that you have many demands on your time. I understand that you may be scared about doing something you have never done before. I understand being comfortable and not wanting to change. But while I understand all those things I still believe you can do more, I still believe you should do more, and I know, I know with absolute certainty that by doing more you will be given the gifts to grow and thrive. God will support you and help you grow.

I challenge and implore you, to be the seed that moves to rich soil. Be the seed that grows, be the seed that produces a crop a hundredfold. If you do, no when you do, you will be amazed at what you can do and the joy that comes from serving God.


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