HOMILY – 20th SUNDAY [A] 2017                                            [Isaiah, 56:1,6-7]

Housing is a big topic in debates leading to next month’s General Election.  A forum of candidates last week, jointly sponsored by Cardinal John and Anglican Bishop Justin, heard accounts of anguished tenants and desperate homeless and social service providers.  All focussed on the absolute necessity of affordable and safe housing for everyone.

But there is also an awareness that the greater need is for a home.  A house does not automatically become a home.  This was illustrated by a homeless man who had been provided with an apartment, but felt more at home on the streets because he said, “that’s where my friends are”!  His reaction tells us something about the meaning of the expression, Home is where the heart is!

Since his election in 2013, Pope Francis has been emphasising the importance of family life – not just the nuclear family of parents and children, or even the family of nations.  He has been reminding us that the whole of creation is linked together; that everyone and everything share a common home.  As people of faith, we have a particular responsibility to take this reminder seriously, because we are privileged to know the God revealed in Jesus Christ as the Creator of all life.  We of all people should love our common home, care for it and make sure it is truly a home for everyone.

Pope Francis points out that where we live our lives affects us.  “In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighbourhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity.”  Disorder, chaos, noise and ugliness, disfigure the environment, and make happiness difficult to find. [cf LS147

Today’s readings provide some helpful reflection on all of this.  God speaks through Isaiah, assuring us that the house of God is not closed to anyone.

Do what is right, care for justice, act with integrity – and I will make you joyful in my house of prayer.  My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

It’s as though the Canaanite woman – someone outside the Jewish community – is reminding Jesus of this promise when she begs for a place for her daughter at the table – even to snatch a few crumbs!

What is God’s house, but all that God has made!  Working with the Creator, as we’ve been asked to do, we can turn that house into a home, by caring for it, showing pride in it, being welcoming and responsible.  As a house of prayer we are also ask to reverence what we find here, to respect the uniqueness of each person and each thing – not to ridicule, or bully, or intimidate…

All of us here have somewhere to live: a house, a flat, an apartment; shelter and privacy.  Turn where you live into a house of prayer by the way you live in it, and pray in it; even if it’s just your own room.  Pope Francis insists that love always proves more powerful that any anti-social behaviour or violence.  [cf LS149]  Love’s ability to weave bonds of belonging and togetherness can turn even the dullest or neglected environment into a haven of safety and peace.

While the housing crisis persists, each of us can determine to do some “home-making” in the way we relate to others: a smile, an offer of help, visit a neighbour, an extra parcel for the Food Bank, being careful not to waste or leave a mess anywhere in the home we all share.