Homily for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Yesterday afternoon, prior to the 4 pm mass, I baptized Harrison Baxter Logan. I have been very close friends with the ‘Logan’ family and was honoured to have witnessed the marriage of Harrison’s parents, Everard and Kenzey. There is such richness in the sacrament of baptism and I really miss celebrating them at Mass with you, the worshipping community, but when we get this pandemic under control, we will return to that practice.
One of the final prayers that I prayed over Harrison is called the Ephiphetha: which means “be open” As I make the sign of the cross over his ears and mouth, I prayed: “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the mute speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith to the praise and glory of God.” From the very beginning we are called to evangelize, that is to speak about and to act like Jesus but first we need to hear it… really hear it and to be amazed or astounded like the disciples in today’s gospel! But I wonder how many people actually hear the texts or the Gospel? Yes, we have heard these same readings many times before… and no doubt sometimes we may shut down after the first 2 lines or so because we have ‘heard it before’. However, we need to keep in mind that we are different people… with different experiences from the last time we heard these readings. Therefore Word should always astound us.
Just over a week ago, much of the world was watching the inauguration of President Biden as president of the United States. I didn’t watch it live, but tuned in to see one part of the ceremony that everyone was talking about – the young poet, 22 year old Amanda Gorman, who read her inspiring poem at that ceremony. Everyone was mesmerized or ‘astounded’ by the power of her words. They touched and moved the heart of everyone who heard them… spoken with such passion and authority… just as Jesus did in the gospel passage for today. I hear that her books of poetry are flying off shelves. So great… Amanda did what she was supposed to do and the people heard her!
As we plainly see in today’s gospel people are astounded by the words of Jesus. He speaks with authority and his words do what they say. We see that all the time in the scriptures. Today he says, “be silent” and casts out an unclean spirit. Later, we know, His words will calm the storm. His words will bring about healing. His words will open the eyes of the blind, the ears of the deaf, and raise the dead to life. All of his words and actions reveals the presence of God. And as his disciples grow in their relationship and understanding of Jesus they slowly begin to realize He is the presence of God at work in their midst. As disciples, first called in baptism, we too are still learning what it means to be followers of Jesus.
In the Second Reading today, Paul tells us that he would like us to be free from anxieties. Really? We’re dealing with a lot of stuff out there. Covid 19 … do I need to say more? Wearing of masks and social distancing, missing our social connections; look at our most vulnerable among us who have been shut up in their homes for almost a year now!
Or in our own lives, ‘working from home’. Or the stress our young people have by attending school by a computer set up in their bedrooms, both students and teachers struggling to adapt and to keep up with this new way of learning.
Not to mention the powerful political pulls in world governments and in our own church. We could easily say, “well Paul was not living in our day!” And as true as that statement is, in Paul’s time, they had their own problems and issues. Regardless, today’s readings invite us to first hear… really hear… the Word of God with our hearts and then be the voice of Jesus for others. In other words to be that prophet; to fulfill our role from our baptism when we were anointed ‘priest, prophet and king.’
Baby Harrison’s baptism, reminds us of our call to ‘astound’ other by our Christian lives. Today he was given a candle, (just as we were), a lit candle representing the Light of Christ and asked to keep it burning brightly… In other words, to be amazed and astonished at what Jesus is saying to us and to model that in our own lives. Or as Amanda Gorman, the Youth Poet and prophet in her own right, reminded us in the last line her powerful poem she recited at President Biden’s inauguration:
“When the day comes we step out of the shade
Aflame and unafraid
The new dawn blooms, as we free it
For there is always light
If only we’re brave enough to see it
If only we’re brave enough to be it.”
There is the challenge: To Listen. To Hear. Be Brave. Be Prophetic