14th Sunday Year A - Homily 5

 Homily 5 - 2017

We Catholics have had a tough time over the past few years; and now Cardinal Pell has been summonsed to appear in Court in a couple of weeks to answer allegations of sexual abuse of minors. There is going to be more suffering; and it would not surprise me if, whatever the judgment reached, there will be people unhappy with the verdict.

I wonder what the sex abuse revelations of the last few years have done to the Church? Census figures show that there has been a steadily growing number of people who now claim to have no religion. And we ourselves are only too aware of our gradually diminishing congregations.

Whatever about others, though, what is happening to you? It would not surprise me that many of you, to different degrees, feel hurt, bewildered, betrayed. And yet, you are here! What does that say? I hope it does not reflect the effort to blot it all out and simply to carry on with “business as usual”. I say, “I hope not”, because, difficult and all as it is, I believe that the present crisis can present a wonderful opportunity for growth.

Perhaps what began today’s Gospel segment may be relevant to our need, “I bless you, Father, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.” Matthew gives us no hint as to what “these things” might be. But they could well be the practical responses we adopt to deal with the ups and downs of life that might lead to the “rest for our souls” that Jesus would love to bring us. Whatever they are, for us to discover them, it seems that our usual reasoning is apparently no help. Being “learned and clever” will not get us there. To see them, we need to be like "children". But in what way “like children”?

A clue may lie in the capacity of young children to look at reality and to see, be absorbed by, what adults no longer see. Children can be transfixed by a snail, a spider, a flower, the moon, a tree, whatever. What do they see? They see the snail, the spider, the flower, the moon, the tree – and they can be captivated by wonder. Was Jesus saying that sophisticated adults need to recover the child’s capacity really to see what is real? I think so.

Remember Jesus’ invitation when he embarked on his mission – “Repent!” And he added, “The Kingdom of God is close at hand!” The trouble is that “Repent” is a deceptive translation. We hear it as a call to moral change. What Jesus was inviting us to do was to change – Yes! but to change first our way of seeing, of understanding, of making sense. Effectively, like the little child transfixed by the simple reality of the flower, Jesus was inviting us to look deeper, to look past our automatic, comfortable definitions, categories, critiques, fears and expectations, and to see what is there before our noses. There, in the ordinariness of our lives, we might see the signs of the presence and action of God, whom Jesus “chooses to reveal” as the God who simply loves – everyone. After all, “the Kingdom of God is close at hand” apparently. There we might see the God who, as St Paul wrote about in his Epistle to the Romans, “makes all things work together for the good of those who love him”. All things – even sin!

Might God be at work in the reality of this pedophilia crisis, making our sad history somehow work also to our good? Already, if we could recover the child’s eye, we might observe the beginnings of a purified Church, a humbler Church, a safer Church. We might notice in ourselves possibilities of a stronger, humbler and more hopeful faith, that enables us, from deep in the mire of this truly shameful chapter, to be both insightful child and responsible adult, saint and sinner, truly sorrowful yet irrepressibly hope-filled.