HOMILY FOR TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)


Dear friends. A few years ago, we travelled to Krakow for a parish pilgrimage. While we were there, we visited the concentration camp at Auschwitz where horrific things happened during the Second World War. It was not an easy visit. As you heard about the terrible crimes and were given an idea of what millions of people suffered there, you could not help but ask the question: ‘Where was God in Auschwitz?’ Closer to home, the same question often arises when bad things happen to good people or especially when children suffer. Where is God in all of this?

The example of Auschwitz and the suffering of children are only two examples of things that happen that leave us speechless and without answers. They challenge anyone even with the strongest faith to make sense of life and to know with any certainty what God is up to. They are like moments when a thick darkness descends and all that seemed clear before now, appears a complete mystery.

But this can also be true for positive experiences. Like the birth of a child or the undeserved love of someone close to us. Or when we enjoy those moments of closeness to God in prayer when we know he is near and experience his love. At those moments too, words fail us before the mystery of God that is greater than our minds can take in. At those moments of mystery, all we can do is join St Paul who exclaims in the second reading today: ‘How rich are the depths of God! How deep his wisdom and knowledge and how impossible to penetrate his motives! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord?’

The scientific age in which we live is not always comfortable with mystery. We want to know why and how things are as they are. Today’s second reading invites us to accept and be comfortable with the mystery of God that we can never fully fathom. It gives us the permission to still believe even if we don’t fully understand. It reminds us that although God communicates to us in ways that we can understand, God remains above and beyond us. If we could understand God fully then he wouldn’t be God! Or as St Augustine once said: ‘If you understand God, then what you have understood is not God’.

Look at the life of Mary. When she gave her ‘Yes’ to God to become Mother of Jesus, she had no idea of what the future held. There was no clear blueprint of what lay ahead. Yet she trusted and believed even when she couldn’t understand the mystery unfolding in her life. She trusted in times of both joy and sorrow. At the joyful birth of her Son, we are told that she ‘stored all these things and pondered them in her heart’ (Luke 2:19). When she stood beneath the cross as her Son died a horrible death, her soul must have flooded with a thick darkness as she asked herself: ‘Where is God in all of this?’ Yet she trusted and believed.

So if life is challenging for you right now and if you are struggling to find God in what you are going through, don’t panic. Even the greatest saints wrestled with the mystery of life and with the mystery of God. Surrender to the mystery that surrounds you, trust in God and believe, even when you don’t fully understand. ‘Oh God, greater than our hearts, higher than our minds, you know us far better than we know ourselves. Help us to live with the mystery of your presence and actions in the world. In you we live and move and have our being. To you alone be the glory for ever and ever. Mary our mother, help us trust in God as you did, especially when we don’t understand. Amen’.

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