Homily: Being a Witness in the face of Hostility
Did you notice that today’s Gospel passage was from Matthew? For most of the rest of the liturgical year, we will hear from Matthew. His Gospel is 28 chapters long, compared with just 16 chapters in Mark’s Gospel (sometimes referred to as ‘the reader’s digest version of Matthew’).
In the passage we have just heard, Jesus says to us three times “Do not be afraid”. Why is there such an emphasis? Well, He knows the environment in which they are to give witness to their discipleship of Jesus. They will meet opposition. Similarly, today we seek to live and witness to Jesus in an atmosphere that is sometimes hostile or more often just indifferent to the Christian way of life.
Fearlessness ought to be a mark of Christian discipleship. Participation in the Eucharist can embolden us in the way we live our faith each day. The danger may be that while we know Jesus we choose not to acknowledge Him before others.
I imagine none of us will need to make the ultimate sacrifice of our life for being a disciple of Jesus. However, we know this does happen today in some parts of the world. Instead we see the active discipleship of Jesus for many in this Parish manifesting itself in active care of others (often beyond our own immediate family) and in readiness to help and care for those on the margins of society.
If you have been following the articles and statistics in the local press recently Shepp./Mooroopna is one of the regions outside the metropolitan area with the greatest need. Fortunately, St Mary’s has representatives in the ecumenical group that is arranging supervised night shelters during winter. Funding has been assured for the project. The programme will come into operation once the Virus restrictions are lifted in the community.
Today while the majority of the world’s Christians do not live in fear about practising their faith, there are still those for whom persecution is a reality. In some parts of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, it is dangerous to follow Jesus and discipleship is perilous. Those who stand firm in witness to the Gospel and the values it enshrines, even to the point of death, can be confident that their ultimate fate is in the hands of God.
Strengthened by together praying this Mass may we go forth joyfully - ready to firstly, live our faith and then secondly, when the occasion arises , may we be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is in us. Even in times of sickness or family problems we are not alone. We can seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Looking round at the Galilean landscape Jesus said “There is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows”.