HOMILY – 25th Sunday [B] – 2018

Over the last few Sundays you’d be excused for thinking the readings were chosen to fit the time and season the Church and the world are in right now.  You’d actually be correct because the Word of God is alive and active and does speak to us in whatever situation we find ourselves.

As well as the scandal of child abuse within the Church and the shame this brings, there is also the horror of “jealousy and ambition”, spoken of in the Second Reading [James 3:16-4:3], as some senior prelates in the Church turn against Pope Francis.  There is uncertainty in not knowing the consequences of all this.  Disharmony and disunity are always unhealthy outcomes.

Jesus sees all this happening within his own group of friends in their leadership battle; their wanting to be first, in control and being given preference.  As he does with so many world-minded principles, he turns their expectation upside down, telling them that leadership is about serving and that seeds of greatness will get their best start in little containers – as in the hearts of children.

Jesus brought a child into their circle and into his arms.  Then he said: if you want my attention, if you want to be part of my life, to share my dream – then embrace weakness, vulnerability, uncertainty – everything this child and all children experience.  Don’t shun disappointment, don’t avoid situations where you’re not in control, don’t even try to escape disability or ill health – until you take the time to see what these weaknesses might contain to benefit your life, to make you a better person.  Learn, like a little child, to trust.

With the recent exposure of historical clerical abuse and the factions ranged against Pope Francis, the Church’s credibility in the world is probably at an all-time low.  But it also brings an opportunity to learn from this grave weakness, to admit our need of the strength of God’s mercy, to submit to a renovation with humility and a greater respect for one another.  Even the weakness coming from our own diminishing numbers while the cathedral is closed, can motivate us who remain to strengthen our sense of community and create a vibrant platform for regrowth.  Weakness can help us connect.

The abuse of children and the abuse of trust are bringing the Church to its knees.  Jesus, in his reverse strategy, points the way ahead by telling us that we must become like little children – appreciate their weakness, their vulnerability, their dependence and their willingness to trust – and only then can we expect to enjoy a recovery.  With his arms around us we see our smallness and we find hope in his love.

Pope Francis has asked the whole Church to apply the medicine of prayer and penance to the open wounds in both the victims of abuse and the Church for its failure to protect.  The priests of our Archdiocese have chosen Friday 5 October as a Day of Fasting to emphasise their role in the healing process.  With the disciples may we all learn that greatness comes through service, and service means care, respect and the giving of self for others.