Sunday, 9 February 2014
5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury
To return, from a rather different angle, to a theme I touched on a few weeks ago:
You may or may not be aware of it, but as a Catholic you are a part of an organisation that is a powerful force for good in the world. And reminding ourselves of that fact can help motivate us to do more in that regard ourselves.
Don't look at it now, I said DON'T look at it now, but the insert inside the newsletter this week lists some statistics on the good work done by the Catholic Church in Africa -to refer to just one continent. Feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, educating the poor. The Church doesn't do these things in order to be SEEN doing them, she does them because it is part of what she is called to do and be:
Last week, at Candlemas, we were reminded how Christ came as the light of the world.
This week, in the gospel text we just heard, The Lord Jesus told us how WE, if Christ is within us, we are called to be "the light of the world"(Mt 5:14). Now, Catholics in England have a long tradition of being reticent about being public, about being public "light", so let me point to the other image the Lord used in that text:
We are to be "the salt of the earth"(Mt 5:13). Salt is not something you SEE in food, but it is something that affects the whole food item it is within. Salt is a small thing, a colourless thing, but we we notice its presence. Colourless but not flavourless. Bread without salt tastes like it is missing something, and when the world is lacking the good deeds Christians do then the world is lacking.
Let me point to something that your parish is doing, not something far away in Africa, but something right here.
Three times, already just since Christmas, the local social services have phoned me and asked whether I or our parish SVP (St Vincent de Paul) group would go and visit someone lonely and in need. Not someone Catholic, not someone already in our congregation, but simply someone in need of being visited.
Maybe you haven't heard of the work our SVP do, but the social services clearly have. The SVP are making a difference locally, being "salt of the earth" -even if just a little.
If we turn to our first reading, and look to see what in particular The Lord highlights must be done if we are to be "light" shining in the world, we read that it is primarily good deeds. Now, it is true, as Pope Francis recently reminded us, that the GREATEST poverty is to lack the good news of who Jesus Christ is (Evangelii Gaudium nn.199-200). But, it is also true that our good deeds to the needy are an essential part of how we are to be "light" in the darkness of so many people's lives.
So, back to where I began, I am saying this to you, and I reminding you that the Catholic Church you are a part of does many good deeds, is a powerful force for good in the world, BECAUSE this is powerful way of reminding ourselves of OUR own need to be part of the good deeds that are being done.
EACH of us would do well to ask what more we can do.
NONE of us can say, well "I'm too busy with my own family", "charity begins at home" -well, it may BEGIN at home, but if it ends there too then it is not real charity!
Our SVP could do with more volunteers -if the group had more members then they could visit the lonely more frequently.
The different funds in our wall box at the back of the hall could always do with more donations.
And there are other things in the life of the parish that by contributing to you help the general charitable work of the parish, like being a church cleaner.
And, last but not least, there is no one here who cannot pray. Maybe you are sick, maybe you cannot do the physical things you once did, but you can pray for those who are, you can offer your infirmities and difficulties up to the Lord for the sake of those in even more need that yourself -this is powerful form of charity, even if it can be a forgotten one because it less visible and less glamorous.
Light to the world, salt for the earth -this is what we are called to be as Christians.
You are part of a body that makes a difference in the world, that gives it light and flavour.
But let us each, also, examine ourselves, to think how better we could let Christ enlighten us within, so that we might more fully be for others that light He calls us to be.