Homily: Catholic Education Office Sandhurst, 2015 Commissioning Mass

2015 Commissioning Mass
22nd January, 2015

2 Cor 4:7-15; Mt 10:17-22

Today’s readings offer a rather hard message for the twenty first century mindset! Generally, we like to be in control of our circumstances and operate from a position of strength.

However, this passage from Saint Matthew’s Gospel is taken from the discourse that Jesus spoke to his disciples, sending them out on their mission to do the same work that he was doing and instructing them on how to go about it. Jesus stresses that difficulties will come, but they should see these as opportunities to witness to their Faith. “You will be hated by all men for my name”: a strange fate indeed for those whose lives are built on truth, love and peace! However, we hope in our situations that there may not be such moments of crisis quite like ancient Israel’s, but there will be moments of challenge and deep complexity.

As we accept our mission at the commencement of 2015, we understand that Jesus did not promise us a life of comfort and ease; rather He promised His constant presence within us. He emphasizes that we must not give-up on following him in the midst of these trials. During the hard times, even in our emptiness and brokenness, Jesus will always be there to fill us with His abiding love.

From Saint Paul, there is a similar message:  we learn that the inner life of each one of us is crucial for our wellbeing. In our hearts we need the same openness to God as he had! As we take up our busy tasks for the Diocese of Sandhurst this year, let us not forget that this is expressed in daily moments of tranquillity and prayer, when we regain a true sense of proportion, recognising afresh that God alone fulfils our deepest yearnings. Without such moments we quickly lose a sense of who we truly are, and what are the real aims of our work.

In doing the work of the Gospel, Saint Paul gives a list of some of the troubles he has experienced , but their net outcome is that others have benefited.

In difficulties on all sides, but never cornered;
see no answer to our problems, but never despair;
persecuted, but never deserted;
knocked down, but never killed.

The picture is a negative one but there is always an underlying experience of bringing help and salvation into people’s lives. As, of course, was the ultimate outcome of the suffering and death of Jesus. And so he concludes: “Always, wherever we may be, we carry with us in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus, too, may always be seen in our body.”

What a marvellous saying! Jesus is the paradigm. Paul’s sufferings are connected with Christ’s and his deliverance is a sign that he is to share in Jesus’ resurrection. Even when battered and bruised and rejected, he is reflecting the life-giving suffering and death of Jesus. A saying that could be applied to many who through the ages and even in our own times, have suffered for the Gospel.

The Christ-like suffering which Saint Paul experiences, brings life to those to whom he brings the Gospel. So Paul makes no apology for all that he has done in Corinth. For him, there was no alternative. He clearly proclaims his faith, affirming life within himself and the life-giving effect of his experience upon the Church. We may note the strong expression of unity and reconciliation between Saint Paul and the Corinthians in spite of the difficulties between them.

Whatever people might say or think of him, Saint Paul had only one aim: the glory of God and that as many as possible should know and acknowledge Jesus as Saviour and Lord. Undoubtedly, Saint Paul had his faults, glaring faults. And some of these faults must have rubbed some people the wrong way but, as he will say later, it is precisely because of these that God’s message shone out more clearly through him. The same can be said of us. Let us learn to see our weaknesses not as obstacles but as opportunities.

The one who sends us out, who commissions us, sends us on mission, is the one who is with us. He doesn’t just say ‘see you later at the end of time’ he says: I will be with you. In seeing and hearing Him we understand where the journey begins, we understand how the journey unfolds and we understand how the journey will come to its end.

So let us tonight resolve to be mindful also of the words of the Psalmist in our work for the People of God in the Diocese of Sandhurst this year:
The word of God is integrity itself.
He loves virtue and justice
God’s love fills the earth.

Working together on this great mission in 2015, let us radiate virtue and justice and let us not be afraid, remembering that Jesus will always be with us. …


Bishop Leslie Tomlinson