Homily 30th Sunday Year A

Posted on 5th November, 2023

30th Sunday of Year A

SVP 29th October 223


Did you know that before he was elected pope, when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, our Pope Francis, used to visit the people of the poorest areas of the city and would get there by bus or the metro. No fast car with police escort like his predecessors. They lived in a palace; he lived in a flat above the busy streets of the city. They had a staff of three or four nuns to care for them, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry. He cooked and cared for himself. When he went to Rome, he stayed in a cheap pension house to save money for the archdiocese. When he was elected Pope, he returned there personally to pay his bill and thank his host. He phoned the newspaper vendor on the street just outside his apartment to cancel his daily paper.


He was known for his simple lifestyle. He frequented the poor and was their defender when they were I trouble. He identified with the poor. When he became Pope, he did not change. He continues a simple lifestyle, despite the temptations to accept a papal lifestyle in the huge and spacious rooms of the Vatican papal apartments. Pope Francis does not simply preach the gospel, he lives it.


St paul was of a similar disposition. When he wrote to the people of the church he founded in Thessalonica, he was so close to them all that he knew each one of them by name. If he stayed in a place for any length of time, he would work to earn his living. He was a tentmaker. He went from one country to another, each with its own language and culture, and ate whatever they gave him, slept wherever they put him. Like Pope Francis today, he did not simply preach the gospel, he lived it.


By the time he wrote this letter to the Church of Thessalonica, the community was growing rapidly and spreading out across the region. In today’s reading, he tells the disciples at Thessalonica: “You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you.” Paul’s example of life in the Spirit is what brought them to Christ.


I think I have told you before about when I was in Burkina Faso. I was in a mission area where there were very few Christians; the people were mostly of Animist or Muslim faiths. Every year we would have up to 100 young adults come for baptism at Easter. We did not make it easy for them. They would have to attend catechism classes every week for 4 years. At the end of each year, they were assessed by the community on their knowledge of the faith, and, above all, if they were leaving behind the practices of their other faiths. Then, they could move on to the next stage in their progress to baptism. When their turn came, they would spend the whole of Holy Week at the mission, to have their final preparation and to experience all the ceremonies of Easter.


I guarantee that if you asked these catechumens why they were prepared to go through the pain of quarrelling with families because of the choice of baptism, why they wanted to change their ways to become Christian, invariably they would answer, “I’ve seen how the Christians love one another and love us. When there is a bereavement, the Christians are there to help, when there is famine, they treat everyone according to their needs, whether they are Christian or not. When they have opened a school, everyone can enter. That is why I want to be like them. They are good people.”


Not words, but the witness of the faith in action bring them to imitate the faith. Not coercion, or force, but love alone brings them to Jesus. It’s just as St Paul wrote: “It was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the Gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you a great example to all believers”.


Christians have only one law to live by: love. Love will overcome indifference. Love will overcome hostility. Love will overcome hatred. Love will overcome anger. Love will overcome injustice.

It often takes a lot of courage to keep on loving, especially in the breakdown of our relationships. It takes courage to keep on believing in the power of love. Jesus knows this. This is why he told his disciples in the gospel of John: "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have tribulations, but take courage, I have conquered the world." (Jn. 16:33).


This week, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Catholic Patriarch of Jerusalem, sent a letter to the people of his diocese. Remember that his diocese includes both the Jews of Jerusalem and the Christians and Arabs of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. It is a remarkable document; honest, and full of love and mercy. There are copies at the back of the church, but those of you who receive the newsletter by email don’t need to take the printed copy. In his letter, the Patriarch writes, “To have the courage of love and peace here, today, means not allowing hatred, revenge, anger and pain to occupy all the space of our hearts, of our speech, of our thinking. It means making a personal commitment to justice, being able to affirm and denounce the painful truth of injustice and evil that surrounds us, without letting it pollute our relationships. It means being committed, being convinced that it is still worthwhile to do all we can for peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. Our speech must not be about death and closed doors. On the contrary, our words must be creative, lifegiving, they must give perspective and open horizons”.


He could equally address these words to us, here today, and they would be relevant, don’t you think? Let us pray for the people of Palestine and also of Israel. May they too have the courage to come to forgive each other and to seek through love to live with each other in peace and mutual respect, in the image of Jesus.

Terry Madden 

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