What would you like to search for?

Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Year B: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Year B: 24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mass in Abbeyfeale

When watching the football final yesterday or the Hurling Final a few weeks ago, you couldn’t admire the speed, the tactics, the skills… But when we think about it, we know that the players didn’t just get to this point by chance. They worked hard, trained, gave up going out for a drink, hours of training, discipline, sacrifice, focus.

Maybe that’s a good way to come into today’s Gospel. Jesus is talking with his disciples in a place that is in North East Palestine, a place that has cliffs and in the cliffs people had carved out niches where they could place images of their many different gods. So Jesus uses this place to ask his disciples – do who you say I am? Peter gets the right answer: you are the Christ, but he soon realises he doesn’t know what that really means.

You see, the disciples had seen what Jesus had done – he had healed the sick, cured the blind, consoled the bereaved. It was wonderful. No wonder they were following this miracle worker. But today Jesus is taking them a step further. He is telling them that he going to carry his Cross and go to Jerusalem where he will lay down his life for them.

This was a shock. We know that the episode in today’s Gospel was the turning point in the time the disciples spent with Jesus. From now on, he would talk to them about the key to living – take up your Cross, lay down your life for others, know how to “lose” your life, in the sense of give up being selfish, just thinking of yourself, wanting to get one up on others.

And this it the point. Just as the hurlers or footballers become great players by their sacrifice and renouncing many things in order to train well etc., so too if we want to follow Jesus, we have to go into the training he proposes. when you lose your life you find it.

It’s not that Jesus just thought that up. Look at nature. (we are celebrating the season of Creation. Creation also teaches us) – the seed sown in the ground dies and the plant begins to appear; the flowers must fade before the fruits emerge; the trees must be pruned to bear more fruit.

To make a sacrifice, to renounce ourselves, to lose our life is not easy. It helps to remember that Christians don’t simply renounce themselves for the sake of it. Christians who follow Jesus renounce themselves because they understand that the key to life is love, living for others, not yourself. That’s the Christian meaning of the Cross. True love costs. It involves small and big daily sacrifices.

But that’s the paradox Jesus proposes to us: we become more ourselves the more we give ourselves away in love of others.

We saw this in the life of Pat Hume, John Hume’s wife. God alone knows how many times she had to give up her own plans in order to help others during the Troubles. But in all of that she became greatly loved as we saw in her funeral.

We’ve heard stories in the past days of the 9/11 of people who sacrificed themselves to save others.

I’m thinking today too of Pope Francis who at 85 years of age is still giving of himself so generously, today off to Hungary and Slovakia…

But when we look around we can find loads of examples of being laying down their life, renouncing themselves to help others. It doesn’t have to be the caring professions. At our work every day – maybe in a garage or office or shop, the work we are doing – with the effort that involves is a laying down our lives for. It’s the way we find ourselves. And of course, in our family, parents, grandparents, daughters and sons, that’s where we can practice this sacrificial love for others.

One last point. I was struck by the title of Sally Rooney’s new book, Beautiful world, where are you? Everybody is looking for that beautiful world. And yet we know some very ugly things are happening in our world. But today Jesus is showing us how to find the beautiful world – by making it beautiful, renouncing ourselves, laying down our lives for others.