11th Sunday Year B

See Commentary on Mark 4:26-29 & Mark 4:30-34

Homily 1 - 2012

I know that a lot of you are concerned that your children and grandchildren no longer get along to Mass much, if they go at all. You can feel guilty, wondering if it was your fault, and asking yourselves if you could or should have done more.

I suppose that the reality is that none of us is perfect. I have not been a perfect priest; you have not been perfect parents. But even if not perfect, we have at least tried; and possibly are no less perfect than our parents or mentors were before us. Even if we were perfect, the powerful influences of the culture we live in inevitably affect every generation. Anyhow, God has long ago factored our human imperfection into the equation, and is perfectly able to cope with our inadequacies.

Things are certainly changing in the Church. Numbers have dropped noticeably, for a variety of reasons – some quite understandable. The Church itself is seen by some as a scandal.

Confronted by what is happening, we can feel powerless, perhaps, dispirited, certainly saddened and often hurting. Thank God, the Kingdom of God is not the Church [though it is the Church's purpose to announce and to celebrate the Kingdom].

You can see the Church. You can measure and count it. You can see who belongs, who is toeing the line, who is keeping the rules and who is following the party line.

The Kingdom, however, is less tangible. The Kingdom primarily happens in people's hearts; and what happens in people's hearts translates into how we live, how we relate to each other, how we live together in society and even in the Church. The Kingdom is primarily about loving; and loving presupposes working for justice, for reconciliation and peace. The energy enabling and empowering the Kingdom is God's love for the world and God's burning desire to save people and nations from their mutual destructiveness and violence.

Jesus' overarching concern was the Kingdom. He was interested in Church only as the instrument missioned to announce the Kingdom and to identify and support its presence and its continuing consolidation.

Perhaps the important question, then, is: How is the Kingdom going? Statistics are of little help in approaching that question. Nevertheless, there are a lot of people who are no longer all that active in the Church and who are rarely at Mass, and others who have never belonged to the Church, who, as far as we can see, are still wonderful people, living the Kingdom, even if they are not consciously aware that that is what they are doing. We see them working for justice, reaching out to others, serving the community, caring for their families, and consciously striving for reconciliation and for peace. 

Today's parables throw helpful light on our present situation.  According to the first parable of the sower and the seed, when it comes to the Kingdom, God is the life-source, the one who enables. Like the farmer, we are not in control – though we do need to cooperate. As the second parable about the mustard-seed put it, we may not look much at any given moment and our prospects may not be promising. But the life-giving God is there, is always there, able and likely to do the totally unexpected.

As I reflect today on the parables, the message that comes to me is that I am always to do my bit, but I need to let go of the feeling that I can and must control outcomes. Outcomes can be safely left to God. As Jesus died hanging abandoned on the cross, he had few outcomes to show for all his labours; yet he was able to surrender to death, leaving the outcomes in the hands of his irrepressible, life-enabling Father.

Confronted with what is happening today in the Church and the world, my task is to remain as committed as ever, but to sit lightly with results. To do so peacefully involves real and continuing detachment. At the same time, I believe that it is also important to remain always hope-filled, basing that hope not on any desperate optimism but on the faithfulness and power of God.

In the meantime, it helps to learn to recognise the signs of the Kingdom, and to rejoice in the obvious goodness of so many people, who are such not necessarily because of the Church [sometimes, even, in spite of it], but because of the determined and constant love of God for us and for this world of ours.


Homily 2 - 2015

[A talk given to children celebrating the sacrament of Confirmation]

Have you ever noticed what it is like when someone you love a lot loves you too, perhaps mum or dad or grandmother or grandfather? It may be when you do something special, like give each other a hug, or go for a walk together, or play a game together. It makes you feel good inside, happy and joyful. There is more. That joy seems to put you in a good mood. It gives you a new energy. You may even find that you feel a bit kinder about your brother or sister, or have the energy to do something good for someone else. When two people love each other, it is precious

Today you are being confirmed. There will be a lot of mention of the Holy Spirit. Who is the Holy Spirit? I’ll tell how I think about the Holy Spirit, and what the Holy Spirit does. You know that in the Blessed Trinity, the First Person, whom we call God the Father, loves the Second Person, whom we call God the Son. [It was God the Son who became human in Jesus.] Well, those first two persons in God love each other so much, so totally, that their love produces a tremendous joy, so great, so real, that it is personal just like them. Only God the Father and God the Son could love that much. That third person we call the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the joyful energy that comes from the love of the Father and the Son for each other. That is the one who comes to you and works in a special way in you through Confirmation.

Now that you are getting a bit older, you begin to share in what we call the Mission of the Church – God relies on you to make a difference to the world. You know about that time when Jesus appeared to his disciples just after he had risen from the dead? He said to them, Peace be with you. And then, As the Father sent me, I now send you. Then he added, Receive the Holy Spirit. 

The Holy Spirit is God loving you. Remember how, when you are loved and know it and want it, that love puts you in a good mood, and gives you the energy to be kind to others? That is what God’s Holy Spirit does to you. In fact, God sends you out to love people, and to make the world a better place. If everyone at school loved each other, all the time, what a wonderful, happy place it would be – if everyone respected each other, listened to each other, helped each other, all the time. That is why Jesus gives you the Holy Spirit. 

Will you feel different today? You may; you may not. Did you hear the Gospel, that first story where Jesus spoke about the seed sown in the ground? When the farmer sows the seed, nothing much seems to happen for a few months. But then, as the rains fall over winter and the ground warms up with springtime, the crop suddenly seems to get a great spurt on and in no time is ready to be harvested. Noticing the Holy Spirit can be a bit like that. It may take a while. It may need some nourishing, but, if we really want the joyful love energy of the Spirit, it will come. Hang in!