HOMILY – 29th SUNDAY [B] – MISSION DAY – 21 October 2018

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor who lived as a devout Christian and died in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945.  His writings on how Christians are meant to live in a secular world have carried great influence, especially through his book, The Cost of Discipleship.  A quote from this work seems to flow from today’s scripture readings and is very apt for this Mission Sunday:

When Jesus bids us to come and follow him, he bids us to come and die.

The disciples chosen by Jesus and named apostles had no intention of dying.  Their aim was to hold the power, to be in charge; prestige and position were their goals – even though Jesus had been telling them that he himself was to be rejected, humiliated; that he would suffer and die.  They were deaf to that message and certainly didn’t hear what followed – he would rise to life again!

Whenever we are focussed on ourselves we cannot hear the cries of others.  When you’re busy or stressing over some issue, you won’t be interested how others are getting on, or let them near enough to offer you help.  We hear what we want to hear, see what we want to see.

An ancient Arab proverb says: I pointed out the stars to you, but all you saw was the tip of my finger!

It took a long time for the apostles to really hear the message of Jesus.  How well have you and I heard it?  What might be blocking the way?

Pope Francis makes the point that, because we didn’t choose to be born, there must be a reason why we are here.  We’ve been put here as a mission, he says – to continue the presence of God made visible in Jesus; to announce that presence by our way of life.  “I am a mission on this earth!”  How does that sound?  If we’re going to be that mission, we have to copy the pattern given by Jesus.  God, in Jesus, came not be served but to serve; God kneels before us to wash our feet – and expects us to do the same for others.

You are following Jesus by the fact that you are here, at this Mass.  So, in what way are you giving your life?  One commentator notes that, like Jesus, we are to give our life as a ransom.  “To ransom is to exchange something for another – in this case our abundant life for the lack in the lives of others.” [Megan McKenna]

This may seem a bit harsh, but it’s doable!  Believe in the strength of the gift of God within you; believe in the power of the Eucharist shared among us here.  You have already died with Christ in baptism.  Live in the light of the resurrection, and be very surprised at the good you – each of you – can make happen.  Say to yourself this week, over and over, I am a mission on this earth!

Look beyond the point of the finger and discover the stars – see beyond what is, to what could be and, like those early disciples of Jesus, learn that serving is not that difficult and that dying is not the end.

When Jesus bids us to come and follow him, he bids us to come and die.