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Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Homily 3rd Sunday 2021  - St. John's Cathedral

Homily 3rd Sunday, 2021

St. John’s Cathedral

In recent times, we’ve all been listening so much more to the news – to get the latest on Covid, hear forecasts, views, advice. And this week’s news also brought the inauguration of the New President of America. But then there was all kinds of more local, family news we all get though our WhatsApp, e-mails etc. if we’re honest, we can be swamped by news, we can suffer from information overload. And yet, we also know that to know many things won’t change the world. What matters is to know the kind of news that really makes a difference in our lives, the kind of news that can change hearts and minds and lead to actions of peace. And this is where we come to today’s Gospel.

We’re right at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry and the focus is clear: he has come to bring Good News, the Gospel. It’s not just information. What Jesus wants to communicate to us is himself. He is Good News – his words, his example, his actions. And those who follow him, putting his Good News into practice will unleash a revolution in the world. It started in Galilee, a province in the periphery of Palestine, itself on the periphery of the Roman Empire. It started like a small seed, hardly noticeable in terms of world coverage, but it is what lasted. Those who take the Good News and live it can make a difference, leave their mark on history. Think of so many saints Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Chiara Luce Badano – they all discovered the little book of the Gospel as what gave them a new mind, a new heart and new life.

Notice too how the first reading today tells us that the prophet Jonah went to Nineveh “in obedience to the Word”. In other words, it wasn’t just his own idea. It was the Word of God that inspired him. And he bought about a change in that enormous city of the ancient world.

The point is that the Word of God has a power in it. It can do what it says. I remember hearing a story of how a church that was bombed during World War II – I think it was in Dresden – was utterly destroyed. But one part of the building was left standing and it had the sentence from the Gospel on it: heaven and earth will pass away but my Word remains.

We can read about the dramatic calling like today of Simon and Andrew to follow Jesus. But that same calling comes to us in a very concrete manner. The Bible, the Gospel is Jesus coming towards us. Open it, read it and encounter him.

This Sunday worldwide the Catholic Church is celebrating the Sunday of the Word. It has been one of the significant developments of the past 100 years is that Catholics are encouraged in a way they weren’t before that to take the Gospel, read it and put it in to practice. At last year’s Sunday of the Word, Pope Francis said: “let us read a verse or two of the Bible. Let us begin with the Gospel: let us keep it open on our table, carry it in our pocket or bag, read it on our cell phones, and allow it to inspire us daily.” It’s so easy to get the Gospel on our computers, mobile phones. Why not do that today?

On this Sunday we can ask: is there a specific element of the Good News that stands out today? At a time when there are growing divisions in our world – Pope Francis often says we’re in a third world war but we don’t notice it because it’s going on piece-meal – the Covid crisis all over the world and tremendous pressures on family life, the Good News about unity needs to be heard.

We’re in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. We share the Word of God with other Christians. Indeed, the Word unites us. But “unity” is the Word Jesus left us the night before he died: “may they all be one so that the world may believe”. So many of our contemporaries just cannot understand why there are divisions among Christians. It puts them off. As the late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks observed perceptibly: “What led to secularisation was that people lost faith in the ability of people of faith to live peaceably together; and we must never go down that road again.”

Let’s decide to build our house on the rock of the Gospel, particularly with this word “unity”.