On this last Sunday of Ordinary Time before beginning Lent on Wednesday, this was today’s homily.
Just over a month ago, I attended a funeral in Kent of a SOLT member, Sr Trinity. A woman who lived a remarkable life.
As a young girl, she was the only member of her family who practiced, making her way each Sunday to the local Anglican church. Her aspiration in life was to be a missionary.
Then one night as a young teenager she was coming home in the dark. She felt caught up in the physical darkness but also in a type of spiritual darkness or void. She would later attribute this to a manifestation of the Evil One. She panicked and in fear ran home as quickly as she could. As she ran through the front door of her home, she said to herself, there is no God, I’m on my own in this world!
After that she became an avowed atheist and tried to dissuade all her friends at school from believing. Later at college she joined the hippies and their life of drug taking and seeking a pleasurable life. Eventually she left the hippies when she became aware of their false promises of happiness. As she had nothing to fall back on, she returned home to her parents.
This led to a long search for truth and meaning, primarily in eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. A friend suggested that to be truly open-minded, she should give her childhood Christianity an opportunity to speak to her. She reluctantly agreed and set out to read the Bible.
One evening whilst reading JOHN 1, she had a moment of illumination and received back the gift of her childhood faith. Shortly afterwards she joined the Catholic Church having a feeling of being “at home” when she went to a Mass on the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.
She joined SOLT as a nun and spent 21 years in the Philippines as a missionary. This was followed by a term as General Sister Servant. We got to spend 7 years together in the Wales mission from 2005 – 2012.
I was privileged to be the main celebrant and homilist at her funeral. It was probably the only funeral ever that featured a light bulb joke! I was trying to put across what it is like to become a born again Christian, to have lost faith or never having faith, and then be able to see Jesus and the Gospel in a completely new light. So how many born again Christians does it take to change a light bulb? Ten. One to change the bulb and 9 to run outside and tell everybody that they have seen the light!!!
So what happens in our lives when we receive this inner light of the Holy Spirit through which to view the world?
Well firstly, we have a new assurance of God’s presence and love in our lives. Sr Trinity’s life got derailed when as a teenager she had that experience of spiritual darkness and lost the sense of God’s presence in her life.
Today’s first reading holds out a wonderful promise to us. Zion (God’s People) was saying, ‘The Lord has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me’. (We can all relate to feeling like this at times. God responds with a pledge.) Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? (The answer of course is an overwhelming NO!) Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you. So we should remember this promise whenever we feel abandoned. Perhaps even put these words up on our bathroom mirror so we can be reminded of it on a daily basis.
Secondly, when we receive the gift of faith and its inner light, we realise that it is never just for ourselves. It is to be shared with others. As the popular hymn goes: “Freely freely you have received. Freely freely give.” Jesus told us a few weeks ago in the gospel that we are to be the light of the world that radiates his love and presence to others. St Paul reminded us in the second reading today: “People must think of us as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God. What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust.”
Sr Trinity spend the rest of her life serving others as a religious sister. All of you can just as equally serve others according to your vocation in life – especially through serving your family.
Thirdly, conversion to the Gospel detaches us from worldly living. In today’s gospel passage Jesus says: ‘No one can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’
When Sr Trinity went to the Philippines, it was like stepping back 100 years in terms of our own history. No running water, no electricity and sometimes, no food! In the convent up to 8 sisters would sleep next to each other on a ground mat with bugs crawling around at night.
Fourthly, conversion to the Gospel brings with it a deep trust and confidence that with God’s help, we can face all of life’s challenges with hope.
Sr Trinity was diagnosed with developed ovarian cancer in 2008. Nine gruelling years followed in terms of major surgery and chemotherapy. Yet she carried her illness with great courage and good spirit. She continued to serve the Church and was never so happy as going up to strangers or door to door and spreading the Good News.
As today’s gospel passage said: ‘That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body (and whatever illnesses you may have)… Your heavenly Father knows [your needs]. Set your hearts on his kingdom first, and on his righteousness, and all these other things will be given you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself.’
Are we willing to take Jesus at his word?!
In summary: We should pray daily for a deeper appreciation of God’s presence and love in our lives. Then we will be able to serve him better, be detached from worldly living and trust in him for all our needs.
For the Bidding Prayers, I led the congregation in the SERENITY PRAYER as a way of expressing this.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this broken world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.