5th Sunday of Easter B - Homily 4


 Homily 4- 2018

I had read bits and pieces about the coming Plenary Council scheduled for 2020/1; but it was helpful last weekend to have them brought together in one concise and informative video.

So the consultation process begins with Pentecost and goes until Easter next year. We are being asked to give our ideas and reactions to the questions: ‘What do you think God is asking of us in Australia?’ ‘What are your ideas for the future of the Church in Australia?’ We are assured that no ideas or comments will be censored, that anything can be “on the table”. We are being invited to think and pray about our experiences of life, of faith, of the Church; and to come together in groups to share our thoughts together – in small groups like families, to parish groups, to larger gatherings wherever they may be called. People who come to Church regularly and people who rarely, if ever, come to Church will all be welcome. No doubt we shall hear more about these opportunities as the process unfolds. The national organisers are promising to help us with kits of various kinds.

Pope Francis advises us, when we come together, to speak respectfully but boldly, with no need to look over our shoulders; and also to deliberately listen to each other contemplatively.

Over the past week, I have been thinking over what I heard in the video, and, at the same time, reflecting on the three readings for today’s Mass. Interestingly, each of the readings says something relevant.

The first Reading was from “Acts of Apostles”, and particularly about Paul. The last time people in Jerusalem had seen Paul was when he had gone off to Damascus, with authority from the leading Jewish priests to arrest and to bring back to Jerusalem for trial any Christians he could find there. That had been about three years previously, and there had been no sign of Paul since. Luke had told his readers that Paul had been surprisingly converted in that meantime. The disciples in Jerusalem had no doubt heard the news on the grapevine, but were slow to be convinced. When he eventually showed up and made contact with them, they were naturally wary of him – until Barnabas put in a good word for him, telling them how he had been preaching "boldly" about Jesus in Damascus – preaching boldly. So there is a precedent for us to speak our minds boldly, too. If we are not used to it, perhaps we can pray to Paul for help. Nothing is said about Paul preaching respectfully, though. Was that presumed?

The Second Reading, from the Epistle of John, comments that we disciples live in God and that God lives in us. That fact colours considerably how we both speak to and listen to each other. As we sit here today, it is helpful for each of us to realize that we are living in God right now and that God is living in us; and the same is true of everyone else here. God is as real, and as close, as that – all the time. As we alert ourselves to the closeness of that God, we also realize that the same God has told us to trust the life and message of Jesus, his Son, and to "love one another". There lies the motivation for our contemplative listening to each other – at all times.

The Third Reading from St John’s Gospel makes a similar point to today’s Second Reading. There, Jesus tells his disciples, “Make your home in me, as I make mine in you.” The invitation is made to each of us, and to all of us. Perhaps we need to spend time, a lot of time, quietly letting that truth sink into our consciousness. If we do, it will affect how we generally speak to each other and listen to each other. It will also encourage us to trust what we have to say, and to listen respectfully to what others have to say – contemplative speaking, contemplative listening.