HOMILY FOR SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)


There is a story in every human heart … the things we’ve done, the people we’ve known and the events that happened. There are the bad times, the good times and sometimes even the times that we don’t understand. Every person’s life is unique. This tells us that everybody’s story is rich with meaning.

This may be why books, television and radio are so popular. We harness our own lived experience to respond to other people’s stories, whether it is a subtle character in a novel, a heroic character in a movie, a skilful player on the sports field or a funny character on stage.

As we do in our everyday experiences, we invest emotional energy in our favourite characters. We root for them and want the best for them. We want to see the hero of the story exact a fitting judgement, see the dodgy character get their comeuppance or see the skilful player score that last-minute goal.

In all great stories, we see something of ourselves. We know that our relationships can be challenging. We know that it is not always easy to get things right. We know that it is hard to balance priorities. We know what it is like to fail at something. And, we know how hard it can be to pick ourselves up and keep going with real hope in our hearts.

All stories are about the drama of life; the good, the bad and everything in between. But the best stories are not just about the good and the bad. The best stories show us how a bad situation can be transformed into something good.

It is no accident that the best stories tell us something about redemption. There is a reason that can be found in Scripture. The mystery of God’s kingdom sets the rhythm for our life in the world. It is the light by which God wants us to see every story.

All wisdom is useful but the wisdom that God shares with us is a treasure that is beyond compare. Living a life of faith is about believing that people are fundamentally good despite their flaws. It is also about enabling the wisdom of God to make repairs in our own lives and in the lives of those around us.

Faith is not about the rigid interpretation of rules designed to make our lives difficult. With God’s help, we come gradually to a more complete understanding of faith as we navigate through life, with all its light and shade.

To believe in Christ and strive to be like him is to travel along a redemptive road. Sometimes, it is only in challenging circumstances that we deeply appreciate the wisdom of knowing the next step to take. We then understand what it means to say: ‘Lord, I love your commands’.

We are asked to let God’s goodness shine through in every circumstance, to let all things work for good. Amidst the complexity of life, this requires us to be continually open to wisdom as we go along. When we see the mysteries of the Kingdom of God as the guiding principle for how we act in the world, we have grown in wisdom.

None of this is easy but true stories never are. Life requires courage, forgiveness and sacrifice. We help ourselves by learning to seek God within our minds, our hearts and our deeds. A clean conscience, a patient discernment and a willingness to take radical action for the sake of God’s wisdom helps us to navigate the complexity of life.

Sometimes, we might hear that the Biblical accounts are very old and have lost their relevance to modern life. But, nothing could be further from the truth. The good news is not finished. It is a story that is still unfolding because we each get to add our own personal account into the great book of life.

The greatest story ever told includes all of us as Christ’s brothers and sisters. Our heavenly Father wants us to be guided by the Spirit so that we can each play our part in renewing the face of the earth. The stage is both intimate and grand. It concerns our own personal lives and the future of the entire world. Now, that’s one story that we all have a stake in.

The Saints are lights lit by God to illuminate us on our journey. They show us that there can be no greater role than letting the presence and providence of God shine through our lives. It’s what we were made for. As Pope Francis says: ‘We are all called to be Saints’.

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