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Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C

1st Reading:  Daniel 12:1-3
2nd Reading:  Hebrews 10:11-14, 18
Gospel:  Mark 13:24-32

In today’s gospel Luke was writing to the Christian community in the midst of many difficulties and persecutions.  The Romans had not long before ransacked Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.  The Jewish people lost a very important reference point.  Jerusalem ceased to be the centre of their faith as many felt compelled to leave the city and seek a home somewhere else.  The Christian community tried to present Jesus Christ as a source of hope but they were constantly disregarded and even harassed by the majority of people living around them.  Luke reminded them that their perseverance in their faith in Jesus Christ will enable them to face what they needed to face and also to overcome any difficulties or problems because of the faithfulness of our God.  That is what they did and we are enjoying the perseverance and the constancy of these fellow Christian brothers and sisters.

The gospel of today however raises a very basic and important question.  How can we continue to proclaim Jesus Christ in the midst of so much negativity and at times aggression?  Where are we going to find the necessary strength and stamina to persevere in what we stand for when very often we feel ignored and even ridiculed?  “Your endurance will win you your lives” This is how the reading of today’s gospel ends.  What does this all mean?

It is so vital to know our identity as Christian people.  It is so important for you and me to understand deeply who we are as people who believe in Jesus Christ.  When we know what we stand for and for what we are called as believers then we continue to live our mission even in the midst of upheavals and personal attacks.  Who are we in God?  I need to revert to Paul.  In the letter to the people of Ephesus, a city where the Christians were a minority surrounded by a variety of beliefs and practices that were very contrary to the values and ideals of Jesus Christ Paul says this to the early Christian Community “Thus he chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy” (Eph1:4).  In plain English what Paul is saying to the people Ephesus as well as to you and me is this.  “Remember who you are as a believer in Jesus Christ.  Each of us has been chosen, wanted by God, from eternity to become like Jesus Christ”.  This is our identity and our call is to change our society and our country based on the values and standards of Jesus by the way we act, speak and behave.

This is an awesome call.  No wonder we are going to attract heavy criticism.  No wonder persecutions of all kinds are part and parcel of all of us as a church.  There is much at stake here.  We are called to give hope and a sense of meaning of life in situations where people are trying to look for these values but without having anything to do with God.  Our mission is to change hearts and minds and this implies a radical change.  This demands decisions which are accompanied by sacrifices and refraining from what I desire to do in order to follow what God is saying.  However it is only in this way that peace and a true meaning of life is found.  St Augustine understood this very well.  After spending many years doing his own thing trying to find peace and tranquility in his own way, he finally came to this conclusion.  “You have created our heart O Lord, and our heart will never find rest until it rests in you”.  People need to keep hearing this and you and I are called to be in the front line in this mission.

We can only succeed if we constantly remember who we are and that we are not alone in this mission.  This has been the experience of the life of the church over these two thousand years.  It has come back to me in a much more tangible manner during the recent Diocesan Pilgrimage for the canonisation of St Mary MacKillop, when we visited Greece and Turkey in the footsteps of St Paul, and when we were in Malta for the ordination of Fr Robert Galea.  What made these three people who they are today?

Mary MacKillop had her fair share of difficulties.  Being born in a family where the father was not able to secure a stable job, she grew up in a situation where she lacked many comforts that we take for granted today.  She had to go to work at a very early age in order to help financially her family.  She had to face the mistrust of many including church authorities as she tried to nurture and empower the religious order to the Sisters of St Joseph which she founded.  She had to travel constantly as she gave her sisters a sound and practical formation as they served in remote places those people who were considered to be worth not much.  Where did she get her strength in persevering?  It is interesting that some people are trying to portray Mary MacKillop as a champion feminist, others are trying to associate the greatness of Mary MacKillop in her opposition to church hierarchy or because she was a rebel.  However, in reality of her greatness is that she persevered in her faith in God.  She knew that God has chosen her from eternity for her particular mission and she remained faithful to that mission. These are some of her quotes, “Do all you can with the means at your disposal and calmly leave the rest to God”.  “Courage, courage, trust in God who helps you in all things”.  “Let God’s spirit guide you in your choice”.  Her motto in life was, “God gives me strength for the necessary”. This is similar to the attitude of Paul as he persevered in his mission inspite of having to confront so many difficulties.  In his letter to the people of Philippi he says to them and to us, “I can do everything in Him (Jesus) who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13).

Similar thoughts come to me during the ordination of Fr Robert Galea.  I kept thinking what has made this young man who is very gifted choose a way of life of total service to God and to others.  What has given this young man the necessary courage and perseverance to choose a way of living which seems to be so contrary to the normal ways in which young people think?  What is motivating him to be so radical?

In talking to him one day about these questions he said to me “My first commitment is to Jesus Christ.  My second commitment is to the priesthood and I use the musical talents which God has given me to deepen my commitment to God and to a life of service to others through the priesthood”.

“I thank you God for wanting me from eternity to become like you.  Help me to always remember who I am.  Help me to understand deep down within me that I am never alone.  You are there with me.  Help me to experience more and more your life-giving presence within me so that I will continue to be a powerful witness of your presence to those whom I meet.  Help me to persevere and to understand that difficulties and problems are moments of growth and maturity rather than moments of discouragement and a reason to give up. Amen”

Items of Interest

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