Homily for Mass – Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, Ottawa
Saturday, 20 October 2012 – 4.15pm
[Readings: Is 53:10-11; Ps 33; Heb 4:14-16; Mk 10:35-45]
Today on the third Sunday of October we are celebrating World Mission Day. Today is a reminder to every community and to every individual in the Church that we all have “the duty and right to work so that the divine message of salvation more and more reaches all people in every age and in every land” (CIC83, c. 211).
We could say, too, that the Church has a missionary vocation, which we all share in. Our faith is something that helps each of us personally. But because of what our faith does for us, we want to share that wonderful gift with others. This is what we call “evangelization.”
You might have seen reports that the Synod of Bishops is currently meeting with the Holy Father in Rome. The theme that they are discussing is what is called the “new evangelization.” In a nutshell: how can Christian people live the faith today in such a way that it has a new appeal for the people of our times? How can we propose the Gospel message in our world today so that people might truly hear and accept that message and want to become part of the work of advancing God’s kingdom?
We believe that the “Kingdom [of God] is already present in the world as a force of love, freedom, solidarity and respect for the dignity of every person” [Benedict XVI, Angelus, 18 October 2009] and we want to join in the work of proclaiming that Kingdom. And wherever love, freedom, solidarity and respect for human dignity are lacking or are threatened, we feel impelled to be present there and to help God’s kingdom win over.
On this World Mission Day we can give thanks to God for the many ways that Christian people are at work, responding in service to so many human situations that cry out for “God’s kingdom to come.” We think of missionaries who go to other countries to carry out this work – often in desparate situations of human need and poverty – but it is obviously something that all of us can share – in different ways – here at home as well. We don’t have to leave the country to find circumstances that cry out for God’s kingdom to come.
The Gospel today is most appropriate for giving us the “tone” of our Christian witness and evangelization. It’s not to be one of earthly power and glory, but one of service. We evangelize – we share our faith and the love, power and mercy of God – not by grandiose displays according to worldly standards – but by service to others … by “rolling up our sleeves and getting our hands dirty.”
We take for our example Jesus himself, who even though he was the Son of God from eternity, lowered himself and shared our human weakness, going so far – as our second reading today proclaims – to even allow himself to suffer the temptations and tests that we ourselves suffer.
Christian service, while it ultimately leads to God’s glory and our sharing in that glory, is characterized by our sharing in the cross of Jesus. Jesus served by giving his life and dying on the cross. And so as we live and share our faith in a spirit of service, we need to remember that it will involve suffering.
We suffer fatigue from the effort of giving ourselves. We suffer sometimes the ingratitude of those whom we serve. We suffer from seeing the huge gap between what we can do and what the needs are. We suffer from being misunderstood by others who misinterpret our service.
We began on October 11 a Year of Faith. In this 50th anniversary year of the commencement of Vatican II which was a great reminder of the part that all of us play in the Church’s work – and as we contemplate this new call to evangelization – Pope Benedict wants us to celebrate a Year when we allow God to rekindle the faith in our hearts. It’s meant to be a time when – following the urging of the author of the Letter to the Hebrews – when we “approach [God’s] throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
As we do that tonight in this eucharist, let’s make a resolution to do some things in this Year of Faith so that our faith might grow a bit, and that we might share that faith a little more in our service to others … so that God’s kingdom of love, freedom, solidarity and respect for the dignity of every person may become more of a reality; and that it might be more clearly evident that Christ is the King of our hearts, the King of heaven and earth.