Today’s gospel is at the bottom of the page. Here is my accompanying homily.
Since dad passed away 3 weeks ago I’ve been thinking about all my experiences with him. In the light of today’s gospel, this event came particularly to mind.
One summer’s day, we were making a reek of hay in the haggard, the field behind the house. I was 7 or 8 years old and I was put into the middle of it to trample down the hay as it was thrown in. As the reek reached completion it was tapered off until I found myself at the top of a fairly narrow ridge. I felt insecure. My footing was unsteady. Not having a good head for heights, the ground seemed a long way down. I thought to myself: If I fall from here, I’ll break my two legs or neck!
That same day there must have been no ladder around. Dad said “Slide down and I’ll grab you.” Not without some fear and trepidation, I let go of my perch and slid down. As I approached the ground, dad grabbed me under the arms and slowed my fall, before dropping me gently on the ground. No broken legs or neck!
I tell you that story because in the gospel, Jesus is telling us that we should have unlimited trust and confidence in our heavenly Father – an eternal Father who will always be there for us unlike our natural fathers who are mortals like everybody else. To quote Jesus: “Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.
Why should we trust in our heavenly Father? The extent to God’s love for us is shown in the life of Jesus. In the gospels there are many healing miracles that show divine compassion for our human frailty. The greatest expression of divine compassion for our human vulnerability is shown on the Cross where Jesus died for our sins. This is the subject of today’s second reading where St Paul speaks to us about the divine grace – or divine favour – that came through Jesus Christ as an abundant free gift. The fact that the gift was free tells us that it was unmerited by any goodness we possessed ourselves.
So what does God expect of us in return for showing us such great favour? As with all other relationships, it is a two way street. God invites and then awaits our response. In today’s gospel Jesus asks us to be his public witnesses in the world. We should be faithful to him as he is to us.
To quote Jesus: “So if anyone declares himself for me [and my Gospel/Truth] in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
To give a practical example, a number of years ago Lucinda Creighton was a rising star in the Fine Gael party and was tipped by some as a future leader. In 2013 she and 6 other TDs and senators were expelled from the party because they would not vote for the government’s abortion bill. This was a bill that legalised abortion on the grounds of suicidality and was contrary to the majority view of medical experts in the field.
If Lucinda had been a pragmatist and compromised her Christian beliefs, it is just conceivable that we would now have our first woman Taoiseach. From the perspective of 100 years from now, it is a far greater good for her to be faithful to Jesus rather than the powers of this world.
So in summary: Jesus teaches us that we should have the greatest trust in the goodness of our heavenly Father. In return we should be public in our witness to Jesus and the Gospel.
Gospel Matthew 10:26-33
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body.
Jesus instructed the Twelve as follows: ‘Do not be afraid of them therefore. For everything that is now covered will be uncovered, and everything now hidden will be made clear. What I say to you in the dark, tell in the daylight; what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops.
‘Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; fear him rather who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing. Why, every hair on your head has been counted. So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.
‘So if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven. But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father in heaven.
The Gospel of the Lord.