14th Sunday Year C - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2013

I was watching TV footage of the demonstrators in Tahrir Square in Egypt on Friday night – shouting, waving fists, eyes burning with anger, perhaps hatred.  Us! – Them! We’re right! – You’re wrong! Totally convinced.  Shouting past each other; no one listening.  At least, it is not as bad as Syria.  They have gone well beyond shouting there to shooting, shelling and bombing – obliterating each other.

Violence is not inevitable, but it is the easy response, the constant temptation.  Nelson Mandela in South Africa is drawing closer and closer to death.  South Africa could well have gone the way of bloodshed years ago had it not been for him.  Wonderfully, he steered his nation along the path of reconciliation.

Here in Australia we are facing in to one or two months of electioneering.  Same dynamic! Us – them. We’re right! You’re wrong! Goodies and baddies! Slogans and sound-bites.  No one listening to the other side.  Sadly, something similar can happen even in families.  It can happen in the Church.  Have we lost the skill of listening?

There are some wonderful gems in today’s Gospel where Jesus gives advice on setting up God’s Kingdom in today’s world.  Disciples abroad in the world, as lambs among wolves – deliberately! The way of vulnerability, not the way of power.  The message: Peace be to this house.  Not just a casual Hello, but Peace be with you.  Why greet people that way? unless it truly is what we yearn to be the experience of everyone we meet.  And if it is not exactly what we might say, at least is it where we are coming from?

I am not sure it was where Jesus’ disciples were coming from.  They seem to have liked the power trip: Lord, even the devils submit to us when we use your name.  It is a heady feeling – having persons submit to you.  I sometimes think it is the way that some people read the Church.  “If we only had the numbers, we would have them all conform to what we teach is right”.  But we don’t have the numbers; and of recent years we have lost much of the respect that we once might have had.  Is that a bad thing? a good thing? or irrelevant?

Peace to this house! Peace be with you! We can hardly mean it if we do not appreciate it, experience it and cherish it ourselves.  Where does such peace come from? As Jesus said, Not from the power you might have, but from the fact that your names are written in heaven.  Your names are written in heaven – or, as Isaiah had reported God as saying some centuries beforehand, I have carved you on the palm of my hand.  God loves us.  That’s enough! Not peace through the barrel of a gun, but peace simply from being loved, knowing it, and believing it.

Jesus was saying all we heard in today’s Gospel as he was on his way to Jerusalem – the power centre of those priests and aristocrats determined to get rid of him.  He knew what was in store for him.  He chose the way of vulnerability – a lamb among wolves, if ever there was one.  He accepted the price of every choice to love.  Where did he get the courage? Certainly not from the fact that devils submitted to him, but from the fact that his name, too, was written in heaven.  He knew that he was loved.  He was at peace.  He was free to say exactly what he needed to say.

They killed him.  But when he rose on the third day, his first words to his startled disciples were simply: Peace be with you.  He couldn’t help but say it.  He was so full of it.  That is what we are celebrating here this morning as, together, we gather round for Eucharist.