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


Dear friends. Opinion polls are interesting to study, especially in the run up to elections. But while they can point in the direction of what the result might be, they are not always reliable. There is always a gap, big or small between what the dominant opinion might be and what the truth really is. The same is true in general for what is right and wrong, true and false. The majority opinion is no guarantee that it corresponds to what truly is right and true. The reason for this is because we are part of a fallen nature. Our opinions are too closely tied to our own interests and desires.

When we look at the Gospels, part of Jesus’ mission was to expand the minds and hearts of all. He invited people to a ‘metanoia’ or a new mind that would be deeper and wider than old perspectives. Jesus’ healing of blindness is an example of this invitation to see reality more expansively (Mark 8:22-26; John 9:1-12). Also with his parables, Jesus invited people to engage with truth and meaning through stories that often challenged people to push back the boundary of their horizons that were too limiting and exclusive.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches Peter a painful lesson. Peter thought that Jesus was a Messiah who would conquer all and make their enemies suffer. This was Peter’s opinion. This was the Jesus he wanted to see. But in the Gospel, Jesus turns these expectations on their head. Instead of conquering, he is going to be conquered and killed. Instead to making others suffer, he was going to suffer terribly himself. Peter needed a new mind to understand who Jesus truly was and not who he expected Jesus to be or thought he should be. That is why Jesus orders Peter to: ‘Get behind me Satan, because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s’.

For us too, we need to be conscious of who or what shapes our thinking because we act according to how we think. We like to think that we are independent and free thinkers but often the way we think is influenced heavily by popular opinion. Popular opinion is important but as we saw earlier, it is no guarantee of truth and justice. It needs to be tested. St Paul directs us towards the true path when he writes in the second reading: ‘Do not model yourselves on the behaviour of the world around you, but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind’. For Paul and for the Gospel today, this new mind we are called to have is always the mind of Christ. It is the mind and heart that sees bigger and wider. It is the mind that seeks to serve and not be served. It is the mind in harmony with the ways of God, the will of God and wisdom of God. It is doing as Paul asks, by ‘thinking of God’s mercy’ that has a logic different to ours and is never calculated on what we deserve (thank God!!).

How can we stay close to ‘the mind of Christ’ and to the way God thinks? By listening carefully to the Word of God, especially to Gospel passages like the one today and the Beatitudes where the ways of the world contrast with those of God. By taking part in the Eucharist and knowing God’s mercy in the confessional. By practicing the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. By a commitment to private prayer every day – in that space where ‘we discover what is good, what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do’ (second reading).

May God renew our minds and keep them close to himself so that our thinking may be in tune with His.

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