3rd Sunday Year C - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2016

With Australia Day just two days around the corner, I finally get the feeling that the year is really about to get under way. A few months ago, Pope Francis invited us to join him in celebrating a Year of Mercy. Half unconsciously, I have been putting off doing so until now. The decks have, at last, been cleared – so Here goes! The concluding part of today’s Gospel will provide a good launching pad.

I think I shall approach the Year of Mercy from two angles. Firstly, I want to depth my sense of God’s mercy towards me. And then I want to look closely at my response of mercy towards the world.

So, God's mercy towards me... It is one thing to accept God’s goodies. It is, in fact, easy to take them for granted, give a bit of a yawn, and not really appreciate them. The Gospel today mentioned good news for the poor, liberty to captives, new sight to the blind, relief for the downtrodden. Perhaps some are tempted to think, “That’s nice … for others. But it does nothing for me. I’m free. I can see. I am not exactly poor; and no one is oppressing me particularly. As long as I get to heaven, I’ll be happy; and I think I have a reasonable chance of that, certainly as good as anyone else’s. Why get excited about a Year of Mercy?”

But then I would ask them – “Would you like your experience of heaven to be like your experience of now, your present quality of experience frozen, as it were, forever? What would you want it to be like? And for it to be what you might prefer it to be, would you need to change, radically – and not so much what you do, but how you are, what you are?“

Perhaps we could all well ask, “Do I know God much? and does what I do know enthuse me? What does God’s mercy mean? Have I ever thought much about it? Have I ever had a noticeable experience of it, even if only briefly? Is mercy what I might like most about God?”

I know that God has been good to me. In this Year of Mercy, I want to explore further that mercy. I want to know God from inside, as it were.

As I said earlier, I also want to look at my own quality of mercy. Early in his time as Pope, Francis observed that we in our modern world seem to have lost our capacity to weep. We have lost the tendency, and the readiness, to know and to share the pain of those who suffer. For example, Asylum Seekers challenge us. They are people fleeing chaos and death. They are people traumatised, many of them having witnessed horrors we can only imagine. But they violate our borders. Their presence threatens to affect to some extent our standard of living or our familiar lifestyles. They are a nuisance. Yet they are there. And they are suffering people, whose hopes are being slowly drained from them.

On a different tack, I noticed my reaction a few weeks ago when the media publicized yet again another priest charged with the sexual abuse of children. It was something like, “Oh, not another one!” One more reason to be shamed! One more reason for good parishioners to feel further bewildered, confused, betrayed and angry! But I noticed that my spontaneous response was not towards the young boys abused and their suffering – children violated, their lives changed forever, their capacity to trust stripped from them. I feel quite distressed when I reflect on my reaction – the capacity to weep…

I think that Pope Francis would also like us to reflect more on the interface between Church dogmas and rules and the real lived experience of ordinary people struggling to observe them, or of people wanting to belong once more after having in fact failed to observe them in the past. Is there a place for mercy? But that is another question for another time.