14 Nov Thirty Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
Father Shawn Hughes
November 14, 2016
Homilies are never the creative act of one person. So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it. ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.
God bless you.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but not a hair on your head will be destroyed.
By your endurance you will gain your souls.
Endurance in times of trial, we call it perseverance, is considered one of the key virtues in the Scriptures. St. Paul mentions it over and over again. He lists “patient endurance” as one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Galatians
One of the pieces of Scripture that virtually summarises the entire message of the bible is Revelations 2:10 “ Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. ..Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of Life.”
Another way of stating “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” Is “If you do not endure, you will lose your souls.” Notice how reversing the sentence highlights two important things: first, the need to endure, to persevere; secondly, the salvation of the soul. The first is absolutely necessary in order to obtain the second.
Why is it absolutely necessary to endure in order to be saved?
Today’s readings answer that question by teaching us the importance of endurance. During the First Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in righteousness. In the Second Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in imitation of the saints. And in the Gospel Reading, we heard of the necessity to endure in our living faith. A good summary statement of these three are:
We must persevere in our living faith through righteousness and the imitation of the holy ones who have gone ahead of us.
In the New Testament righteousness is how we are to be with others…not just what we think but more actually what we do with others…imitating God’s commands in our relationship with others: being humble, generous, self-sacrificial, loving, gentle, merciful, forgiving, peaceful, standing up for those who are wronged, standing up for injustice.
In today’s First Reading from the Book of Malachi, [Mal. 4:1-2] we hear the Lord say, evil will not triumph and those who revere the name of the Lord, that the Lord shall heal and sanctify them. It promises goodness will triumph.
It is a very basic rule in the spiritual life. Where there is great good, the devil will attack. When something is producing great grace evil will try to undermine and draw you down. But always remember that! Recognize it!! And don’t give in to it! As our first reading promises…Goodness will triumph.
In today’s Gospel Reading, [Luke 21:5-19] we hear Jesus discourse about the end times and the arrival of the Kingdom of God on earth.
While waiting for these great moments to come, we must adjust to a long period of waiting; that in this time those who follow the faith will be betrayed and persecuted. We are to expect it and not be surprised by it … even when it comes from family and friends…those we care about. We must persevere in our living faith by taking our crosses and carrying them as Jesus did so that we too may arrive to our eternal glory.
Put simply, the gospel today encourages us that day in day out the daily crosses, the daily struggles to live our faith will be rewarded if we persevere.
When Jesus said, “By your endurance you will gain your souls” [Lk. 21:19] He was referring to the suffering that members of the early Church had to undergo following the crucifixion and death of Christ and His glorious Resurrection. He was warning His followers that some families would be divided because some would accept Christ as their Saviour while others would not. Consequently, those who believed in Jesus, could expect they would endure the death of martyrs. Others, fearing death, would betray their family members, relatives, friends, and renounce their faith and disown the Lord.
Today’s Gospel applies to us today. We are still called to persevere in our living faith. This teaching of Jesus has never changed. It is echoed over and over throughout the New Testament. “To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life.” [Rom. 2:7, 5:3-5, 8:25, 14:4] St. Paul says it many, many times in his letter to the Romans alone. You have heard me quote Chapter 5 over and over again…… because it is so true: “Suffering produces endurance, endurance, produces character and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
There is an empty tomb over in Jerusalem. He is Risen. He is alive. And so are we in Him. There lies the hope that endurance in suffering produces.
Some of us do not have very heavy crosses to bear when it comes to persecution. Some do…
The gospel offers the spiritual resources for us to cope with adversity and hardship. In times of distress it says “do not be afraid”. Following Jesus always exposes the faithful to opposition from the authorities. Living the values of our faith often put us in direct conflict with the values of our society…often puts us in conflict with family members, with coworkers…. often with the ones you would least expect it from…however, we should expect it…opposition, persecution, betrayal…these crosses have existed from the beginning.
Truth is tested and faith is confirmed not in idle speculation but in the crucible of adversity.
Those who wish to find a more vibrant religious experience, therefore should not look to be free of trials, suffering and persecution but they should look for the means of enduring through the suffering persecution and trials. A vibrant life of prayer, both privately every day and sacramentally, Mass and regular Confession, are essential to have endurance.
Tomorrow, Archbishop O’Brien will be closing our Holy Door here in the cathedral and the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will come to an end next Sunday. Throughout this year Pope Francis has focussed our living our faith more intensely, by living the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. One of the spiritual works of mercy is “to bear wrongs patiently”…to endure through trials and persecution.
Pope Francis has emphasized over and over again…it is the corporal and spiritual works of mercy that we must do to live out our perseverance…they are the acts of righteousness we are to live out towards our brothers and sisters in need
At the end of this Jubilee of Mercy it is good to review them:
They are actions we can do that extend God’s compassion and mercy to those in need. The Corporal Works of Mercy are those acts of kindness by which we help our neighbours with their material and physical needs: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned and burying the dead.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy are acts of compassion, by which we help our neighbours with their emotional and spiritual needs:
They are: instructing those who don’t know, advising those who doubt, consoling the afflicted, admonishing those who have done wrong, forgiving offences willingly, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for both the living and the dead.
Nov. 4th and 5th, many of the members of the ALPHA course travelled for a retreat to Cornwall for what is called the Holy Spirit Weekend. There was a very powerful experience of the Holy Spirit there. One of the DVD teachings used a phrase that really caught my attention: It said: “We need soft hearts and hard feet. Not hard hearts and soft feet.” Meaning we need to see the need around us AND respond to it…Hard hearts have soft feet because they see the need but do not act!!!!!!!
Pope Francis, right from the beginning of his pontificate, has referred to the Church as a field hospital on the battle field of our lives.
If the Church is like a field hospital, soft hearts and hard feet, call us not to be standing on the sidelines but to be first responders.
Perseverance… Endurance comes in our living faith through works of righteousness. Pope Francis is calling us off the sidelines onto the battle field of battle by instructing those who don’t know, advising those who doubt, consoling the afflicted, admonishing those who have done wrong, forgiving offences willingly, bearing wrongs patiently, praying for the living and the dead and feeding the hungry, giving drink to those who thirst, clothing the naked and providing shelter for the strange, visiting those who are sick and imprisoned.
In doing any of these we are doing them to Christ Himself. Christ Himself assures us: “When you did this to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”