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Homily - 26th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Bishop McKeown

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Sunday, 27 September 2020

End of 40 Hours Devotions in Parish of Newtownstewart and Ardstraw East

In today's Gospel, Jesus is in Jerusalem at the start of Holy Week. He has already cast the dealers out of the Temple, something that was guaranteed to annoy the chief priests and the elders to whom he addresses this parable. And in this story, the leaders are portrayed as those who say they will do obey the vineyard owner – but fail to do so. God is interested in those who walk the walk. It is easy just to talk the talk. What can we learn?


Firstly, ever since Adam and Eve, there has been the temptation to give priority to what makes us feel comfortable – and then presume that this is what God wants. Among the followers of Jesus, there has always been the temptation to pick and choose what is most convenient for us. A heresy is not so much a denial of the truth as an over-emphasis on part of the truth. In his time in Jerusalem, Jesus is challenging those who thought that they had tamed God in a way that suited them. The Temple and the synagogues preached a message that pointed to the leaders as being virtuous – and so different from the sinners who had to be condemned. But Jesus was very harsh on those who did not practice what they preached while condemning others. Today he says that tax collectors and prostitutes will make their way in heaven before the chief priests and elders of the people. Jesus was not just telling people that God loved them. He was undermining anything in the religious structures that promoted pride rather than humility. Jesus was not saying that the leaders were bad people. But Jesus knew that power can blind us to criticism which might undermine our status. He wanted to build a community of disciples, made up of people who knew that they needed God. He is critical of leaders who thought that God needed them. It is no wonder that, within a few days, the religious authorities had him killed.

A parish that does not make space for silent adoration of God's love will never be able to be renewed.

Secondly, here in this parish, you are celebrating the end of your 40 Hours devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Adoration is a time of great blessing. During it we learn to come before the Lord in silence. We have nothing to offer but our love and attention. In a noisy world, may people find it hard to be quiet. But Jesus spent much time in silent prayer to his Father. It is in silence that we can let the small still voice of God be heard in our hearts. In silence we can recognise the turbulence that bubbles beneath the surface in our hearts – and bring that to God. We stop pretending. As the tax collectors and prostitutes found out, Jesus does not condemn them for who they were. All he wanted to do was to move them to a better place through his love and forgiveness. He wants people to come before him, not boasting about how good they are and trying to impress him, but simply being grateful for God's love and mercy. Jesus did not come to offer prizes to those who thought they were virtuous, but to offer healing to those who felt most in need of his mercy. Thus, I commend those parishes who are helping children and young people to focus on being silent before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. There are so many noises out there wanting to colonise our hearts and get our attention. Jesus is most easily found in silence. The 40 Hours is a time when this parish community can give time to let the strong, gentle voice of Jesus be heard. That is why it is both a time of blessing over one weekend and a training for the whole year. A parish that does not make space for silent adoration of God's love will never be able to be renewed.


Thirdly, Jesus is preparing for his death on Calvary. He will leave us the Sacrifice of the Mass as the Sacrament of his sacrificial death. What Jesus did on the Cross is sacramentally made present again in our midst. That is why the action of the Mass lies at the heart of our worship. It is where we tap into what God has done and continues to do for us.

Thus, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is seen in Catholic theology as a continuation of what happened at Mass. Jesus did not come to sit upon a throne and be worshipped. He came to die on the Cross. St John speaks about the Cross being like a throne where Jesus is lifted up and glorified. It is vitally important that we do not separate Adoration from the Sacrifice of Calvary. We do not worship Jesus merely as if he were some sanitised God sitting on high waiting for us to praise him. We bend our knee before the humbled God of Calvary who took upon himself the sins of the world. We marvel at the love of God for the world. In the Gospel Jesus condemns those who thought they were better and holier than others. In the second reading, St Paul speaks of Jesus' humility and pleads with his audience that there should be no competition or conceit between them. That is why the Cross takes pride of place in our churches. The Eucharistic Jesus is a sacrament of Jesus' death on the Cross. The Cross is where the world was saved. The Eucharist is where we are invited to be united with the Body broken for us and the blood poured out for us on Calvary. Thus, Pope Francis says he prefers a Church that is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets. He warns – as Jesus does in today's Gospel – against a group of believers 'which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security'[1]. Adoration of the Eucharist sacrament of the Cross should drive us out to those whom Jesus preferred, not drive us in behind protective walls. That is where Mother Teresa got her strength to go out. That is what drove St Vincent DePaul whose feast we celebrate today. As we prepare to celebrate Mission Month in October as well as the month of the Rosary, we pray, not that Jesus will protect us from enemies but that he will send us out to bring them God's love and mercy. That makes your 40 Hours devotions a great preparation for a parish with a mission.

Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father because he carried the Cross on Calvary. He invites us her today to join him in that sacrifice. That is a tough invitation and many shy away from it, preferring a little undemanding God whom they can control. But Jesus asks us to accept him on his terms not ours. That is the price we pay for accepting his enormous gift and blessing.

+ Donal McKeown


[1] Evangelii Gaudium 49


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