20th Sunday Year C - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2007

Jesus saw that living out the vision he had of people and of society would be divisive.

His vision was of a world that God loved, of people whom God loved - so, consequently, a social order where everyone had a fair go, where everyone’s innate dignity was deeply respected by everyone else, where whole groups of people were not pushed to the margins, or kept there, exploited, or given no real chance; and as well, where the world and its environment were not wasted or destroyed. He knew that that vision would be profoundly divisive and would arouse very strong emotional reactions, that it would be vigourously opposed, particularly by those in power and those with vested interests in keeping things as they were.

The dynamics have not changed all that much over the years. Speak up for the marginalised, the less powerful, the disadvantaged, and you can expect what Jesus experienced himself, and what he warned his followers about: the sword. Their alternative voice would be like the metaphorical sword that would provoke the violent sword of the vested interests.

As we look at the various issues confronting our world today: power and energy generation, uranium supplies and nuclear power, genetically modified crops, embryonic stem cell research, the relentless flood of refugees, and, then, environmental change and degradation …. they are complex issues with many ramifications.

There are strong and powerful economic interests involved, power, control, security interests, big money, high stakes. But there are other issues involved as well: the effect on people, particularly, but not only, on the poorest (struggling to keep their heads above water); the future of the world’s bio-diversity; the freedom of individuals, even the freedom of governments, manipulated by financial corporations like puppets on a string.

Jeremiah in the First Reading just survived an assassination attempt because he kept insisting that to flirt with Egypt in a search for greater national security was to sell out on the values that God stood for. The monied aristocracy disagreed.

As followers of Jesus, our primary concern is the common good, where genuine human needs are valued above surplus human wants; where the fertility and productivity of the earth are directed to serving the needs of all, and not simply the wants and desires of the few.

In the mind of Jesus, those with more than enough (as individuals and as nations) are called to share with those with less than enough, to subordinate their wants and desires in order to meet the real human needs of the rest and, in the process, to put up with the effects on their standard of living.

Market forces, of themselves, are too easily controlled by powerful monopolies, whether nation states, corporations or enormously wealthy individuals. Economic and security related considerations are important – vitally important – not in themselves, but only to the extent that they allow human persons to grow and to mature. They are important not just for some, but for all.

One of the complex issues facing a region like our own with so many primary producers is the introduction of genetically modified crops. There are loud voices on both sides of the debate. What should be the values that shape the opinions of followers of Jesus? It is hard for the average person to know what is relevant, to get the necessary background information, and then to have the capacity to evaluate it. But those directly affected need to face the issues carefully. Unfortunately, it is often easier to argue than to seek the truth together.

Jesus would not be voluntarily silenced. In the end they forcefully silenced him by crucifixion, only to find his voice taken up by generations of followers across the centuries to our own day and within our own shores. I have come to bring fire to the earth! Do you suppose that I am here to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division…