Homily for 4th Sunday Year C Terry

Posted on 1st February, 2022

4th Sunday Ord C


I quite easily find myself saying to someone, “May your faith be a comfort to you”. And I mean it: especially if someone is suffering, like a bereavement. I really hope that their faith in the resurrection of the dead will bring them some relief for the grief that is overwhelming them. Or if they are sick, I pray that their faith will give them hope of a cure. I think it would be true to say that many of us would be thinking likewise: thinking that in moments of difficulty our faith can indeed bring comfort and the wherewithal to see us through those difficult moments.


But there can be a danger to our faith, if we only think of it as a comfort in the difficult moments of life. If we only think of God as the merciful Father who has pity on us and who comforts or strengthens us in those moments of need, we are missing a vital, essential element to our faith. That is that Jesus challenges us too. Our faith is not only a comfort but it is a challenge to live it to its full.


The challenge is to love; to love one another as the Father loves us. And we all know that love is not static but is a continual evolution, a continual motion of opening ourselves up to the other person and to the Other who is God. St, Catherine of Sienna says: A soul cannot live without loving. It must have something to love, for it was created to love.


To look upon faith only as a comfort and as a security in time of need – and nothing more – is to become stagnant and to hold on to faith as an unmovable rock, an anchor that will hold us in the one, secure position where we feel at our most comfortable. And that, as any rock or any anchor, will get us nowhere. It will only leave us hanging on for dear life, instead of venturing out to the deep on a journey of the exploration of love.


This is what may well have happened to the people of the synagogue of Nazareth, the people closest to Jesus. They knew him as the child of Joseph and Mary. News had already reached them about his teaching and miraculous works in the villages of the region. Here was a man, they thought, who would bring fame and maybe wealth to Nazareth; he would put their hometown on the map at last. They knew his family well and their minds were already made up on what they expected of him.


But when he came to the synagogue, he surprised them all by his message of liberation, of freedom. They certainly did not expect the challenge he would hurl at them to change their ways, to repent and let go of their false hopes and unachievable dreams. Their anger rose up within them and crowd hysteria took over. How dare he challenge their certainties and their assurances. He must be rejected. His message shook the ground beneath their feet. He must be thrown out and his challenge be silenced.

This message of conversion, this call to repentance and renewal is still the same message that the same Jesus addresses to us today, whether we are inside the synagogue or out of it, whether we are regular church goers or observers from a distance. “Duc in Altum”; “Cast out into the deep”, as Jesus told the fishing apostles after a night of no catch. Do not stay on the shore side, where you feel safe and sound, but cast over the other side, where the water is deeper”


This is the message of Pope Francis. It is the message of the Second Vatican Council. It is the reason we held our Synod and the reason that the Pope has initiated a universal synod. He is seeking to lead us out into the deeper waters where love becomes an adventure of discovery. It can be unnerving. It can be somewhat dangerous. But hanging on to the security of the well-known and well-practised only brings stagnation and darkness. If the wise men had not followed the bright star that shone ahead of them on a road they did not know, they would never have discovered Jesus. If we only stay at home, where we feel safe and secure, life becomes a bore.


Jesus asks us to rise up, to move forward, to go beyond the known and comfortable: to love. Mother Theresa of Calcutta has a saying: “Love cannot remain by itself - it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service”.

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