Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. 18 July 2021 (Dcn Jim Curtain)
In every proper Catholic mass, anywhere in the world, two people are prayed for by name in the Eucharistic prayer. There’s the Pope, and there’s the local Bishop. Now we do this not because we think they’re good people, although they both certainly are, or that we agree with them all the time, which many good Catholics won’t. We pray for them because to hold authority in the church is an awesome responsibility.
In our individual ways, all of us share that responsibility. All of us as Christians bear the image of Christ, we represent Christ to the world. If people know we are Christians they will judge the church, they will judge Christ, by our actions
I don’t know about you, but that responsibility scares me.
It’s a responsibility we all share, and even though the responsibility is greater, the judgement of the world is tougher, the more we are identified with the church, all of us who are members, worshippers, in this or another parish are leaders of the church. We all should publicly and continually proclaim and live God’s love for the world, and invite the world to accept and participate in that love.
It’s frankly a greater responsibility than leadership in business or the professions, education or politics. Leadership in those areas is important. People’s livelihoods, their futures, their health and well-being, even national stability and prosperity, are all important and are the responsibility of those who lead in the relevant areas.
Christian religious leadership however bears responsibility for preaching the word of God, and inviting people to eternal life
It’s a big ask, and that’s why we need prayer.
Last week’s gospel spoke of the disciples going out to the world. They come back, delighted but exhausted. They need time to recover, time to pray, time with Jesus.
As it turns out, people follow them, and maybe the disciples didn’t get their chance there and then. The gospel lesson though is that if we want to do the work of Jesus, to spread the word of love and peace, we need to pray.
I once read somewhere, ‘never trust a priest who doesn’t pray’. It’s a good principle, and I’m fortunate that I’ve never worked with a non-praying priest. The same principle applies to lay church workers, religious brothers and sisters, deacons, probably even bishops. Any of us who have the responsibility to hand on the message of the gospel, the message of joy and peace, of justice and freedom from fear, need to be pray-ers.
I hope at least some of you got the implications of that last sentence,
‘Any of us who have the responsibility to hand on the message of the gospel, the message of joy and peace, of justice and freedom from fear, need to be pray-ers.’
‘Any of us’ is actually ‘all of us’. All of us have that responsibility, and all of us need to be people of prayer.
How each of us pray is a matter of our individual circumstances and even personalities. If you want help, then talk to someone you know who prays. Without regular prayer however I believe it is impossible to really hand on the message of the gospel. All of us in the church have that responsibility.
Yes, the responsibility is toughest on those who are the leaders of the institution, Pope Francis and, here in Melbourne, Archbishop Peter. But we all share it.