Christ with Children, Carl Heinrich Bloch, 1834-1890, Frederiksborg Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Our second reading today from the Letter of St James could have been written for our turbulent federal parliament this week:
Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.
So now we see recriminations from both Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull supporters against those whom they think did not place the party’s interests first.
Without dwelling on what is happening in politics, let us have a look at our own church and see what Christ is saying to us. Like the Liberal party previously, you could say that the Pastoral Area of Yanchep to Lancelin is failing in the popularity polls. Our numbers have dropped from 72 members who attended more or less regularly in the early 2000s to about 12 regular attendees today – and I’m just talking about Yanchep (sorry people in Guilderton and Lancelin, but I would love dearly to hear about your experience as well). As someone who has been attending Mass at Yanchep since 1993, I could give you a list of reasons. What I find strange is that we, as a Pastoral Area, have not sat down and talked about the reasons among ourselves. I think I know why. It’s because it involves being completely open and honest about what we are doing wrong and could do better. It involves people being willing to listen to each other and examine our own role in this trend. It takes a person of great sanctity to examine themselves with perfect honesty and realise their own imperfections. It takes leadership from the priest or a layperson with vision to start the ball rolling. Such a leader needs to be a person of such exalted holiness that he can handle criticism without needing to fire back in anger. In fact it takes such effort that sometimes it’s just easier for a parishioner to drive an extra 20 minutes to another parish rather than to keep banging away and not getting anywhere. And finally, it takes prayer and the Holy Spirit for such an examination to happen fruitfully. Let’s take James’s advice in the second reading seriously:
Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.
… and follow it up with Jesus’ recommendation to the apostles in today’s Gospel:
If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.
Not easy, is it? We have some wonderful people in our small Catholic community here. I’m thinking of Giovanni who faithfully attends every week, picks up the key for the Community Centre, and with his wife, Ann, sets up the chairs for the parishioners and then organises to deliver bread from Baker’s Delight to the needy. I’m thinking of Janie who helps Fr Augustine carry in his bags and equipment every week, sets up the altar and, what’s more, does all his gardening (and she’s over 70 years old)! I’m thinking of people like Christina and Peter who, although they are elderly, persevere in looking after their severely disabled daughter Ruth and still manage to contribute as Lectors. These people never draw attention to themselves but are able to make themselves ‘last of all and servant of all’. I am sure there are many more of you whose good works I am not aware of, precisely because you don’t go about parading them.
But we want to do more! In fact, Archbishop Costelloe is asking us to do more, and he has started a programme of consultation with parishes so that he can have everyone’s input about what we should be doing in the Archdiocese more broadly and how we can go about it. He has asked all Catholics throughout the Archdiocese to go to the Archdiocesan website and complete the questionnaire, The Way Forward. Or save a print copy here: Archdiocese Questionnaire The Way Forward.
There is quite a useful commentary for priests today from Fr Genito OSA at Augustinian Friends,
Jesus exhorts us to listen to him today, just as he exhorted his disciples to learn from him when he placed the child in their midst. St. Augustine spoke of the true leader as one who walks alongside his people, not lording it over them. He used the imagery of being on the journey with his people, the leader shepherding his people as one among them, a fellow Christian. One of his most famous statements was from a sermon commemorating his ordination when he said, “For you, I am a bishop; with you I am a Christian.” In a related sermon he made a similar statement: “We have been placed at the head and we are servants. We are in command, but only if we are useful.” All of us are called to exercise this same attitude whenever we find ourselves in leadership, whether that be as leader of a family, a group, a parish, a city, a nation. The ultimate leader – Jesus – modeled this for us and showed us that it would not be easy.
Word format Year B 25th Sunday 2015
Pdf format Year B 25th Sunday 2015
Finally, go here to listen to Bishop Robert Barron’s homily for today on The Undoing of Original Sin.