HOMILY for Thu in Week 4 of Lent
Exodus 32:7-14; Ps 105; John 5:31-47 – preached at the Missionaries of Charity Convent, Edinburgh
Yesterday’s Gospel spoke of judgment, of making a decision, a choice for Jesus. By placing our trust in Christ and believing his Word we already have eternal life. With lives founded on faith in who he is, sustained by hope in his promises, and motivated by love for him in our actions, heaven has already begun for those who believe in Christ. For these theological virtues make of our simple lives “something beautiful for God”.
But there are many who are still searching for God, so that, like the Jews in today’s Gospel, they search books, even reading the Scriptures, and they look to great thinkers and leaders for guidance. But somehow, they fail to recognize the One to whom every authentic quest for Truth, Goodness and Beauty points. Why is this?
In part, I think it is because Man is prone to creating images of himself, to glorying in created things, and to trying to conform God to his limited worldview rather than letting the Uncreated One, who is Other than His creation, challenge and expand Man’s horizons. For that is who Jesus is: the One who initiates us into the freedom and expansiveness of God, so that, by his grace, our humanity is elevated beyond natural horizons to the supernatural, making us partakers in his divinity.
So, an atheistic scientist can marvel at the stars and the complexity of the eye, and refuse to ask why there is something rather than nothing. That question, apparently, is irrelevant, but it is, in truth, the most fundamental. Or a Scripture scholar can undertake a quest for the historical Jesus, and spend a lifetime engaging in stimulating conjecture, only to end up with a Jesus who has become rather like him. Or, as in today’s Gospel, Jesus can work miracles with power that comes from the Father, and people still refuse to recognize that fact, because Jesus does not conform to how God should be; God can’t become Man, for starters. And this is, to some extent, understandable. But this kind of self-limiting mindset, which relies on the comforts of what one is familiar with, rather than the challenge and newness of Truth becomes idolatry, preferring half-truths and lesser goods to the Truth that confronts us, if we dare to look attentively. For thus the people of Israel rejected the Law of God and turned back to Egyptian ways. So too, we might prefer the familiarity of our sinful habits, and the comfort of our assumptions and prejudices, to the risk and danger of encountering the Truth and conforming our lives to it.
However, in part, the problem is also that people are seldom shown an alternative to the familiar, because the Truth is seldom lived. Consider how many Christians today seem to prefer to dilute the Gospel according to the mores and worldview of liberal Western society rather than to listen to the Word, and let God’s Truth change their lives, form their minds, and challenge society as leaven to the dough. Such dilution does not bear witness to the Truth.
So, how will people find God? Only if we listen to God’s Word, and bear witness to Him. And this means allowing our lives to be changed and formed by faith, hope, and love, so that they become “something beautiful for God”. And because they are beautiful, they will attract people. And the Truth we proclaim is that our God is present in humble ways the world does not expect. Here in the Mass, under the appearances of Bread and Wine. But also here in love and service that we share. And in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, homeless and sick. The beggar, the drunkard, the drug addict and prostitute. In the “distressing disguise” of the poor, as Blessed Teresa of Kolkata saw with such clarity.
So it is that through our – your – works of charity, dear sisters, that we become true missionaries for Christ in the world. For these great works bear witness to God’s Truth that has transformed our selfish, closed-in human lives, and opened us up to the freedom and expansiveness that is His Love.
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