Sunday, 28 May 2006

'...and the world hated them.'

Here is a summary of my sermon for the Seventh Sunday after Easter (B): 'Keep those you have given me true to your name...I passed you word on to them, and the world hated them.'

Earlier this week I went on an archives conference at Ushaw College, near Durham. This college was originally founded as the English College in Douai, northern France, and produced many of our sixteenth and seventeenth century martyrs. These men returned to Protestant England and passed on the word of God through their priestly ministry – especially by celebrating secret Masses and preaching behind closed doors. But the world hated them for it. They were seized, interrogated, often tortured and condemned to the horrific death of hanging, drawing and quartering. Their average age was about 31 and the world had everything to offer them but they were true to God’s name and made the ultimate sacrifice.

Here's another example. Later today Pope Benedict will visit the former concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. He will arrive not only as Supreme Pontiff, but also as spokesman for the German nation. It will be an occasion rich in symbolism: a former member of the Hitler Youth passing through the gates of a former Nazi death camp as a global spiritual leader. He will pray for reconciliation and forgiveness. While he will remember in particular the countless Jews who were exterminated in the Holocaust, he will also remember the many priests and religious who suffered at this death camp, such as the Polish Franciscan, St Maximilian Kolbe, or the Jewish convert, philosopher and Carmelite nun, St Edith Stein. They passed on the word of God, even amid the horrors of Nazi occupation and a concentration camp. They were true to God’s name but the world hated them – and so they made the ultimate sacrifice.

As twenty-first Christians, we are called to pass on the word of God and be true to His name. And, so often, the world hates us because of it. Just think of the news over the last week. The Da Vinci Code got bad reviews but still made a small fortune at the Box Office – and, in doing so, spread erroneous views about the life of Jesus and the nature of the Church. Sir Elton John blamed the death of his friends from HIV on the teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual morality, and Madonna appeared on stage fixed to cross and wearing a crown of thorns. It goes to show that, just as there are many people thirsting for the truth, there are those who react strongly against it – because it challenges the materialistic self-obsession of modern life or because they misunderstand the message of the Gospel. This doesn’t mean we should water down the Faith or be afraid of the truth but teach it to the full: the more difficult bits as well as the easy bits. We all know what these 'difficult bits' are – for example, the Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life, divorce, the contraceptive mentality and the authority of the Church. Today we pray for the presence of the Holy Spirit so that we are protected from all evil and become courageous soldiers of Christ.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Super color scheme, I like it! Good job. Go on.

10:06 am  

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