Saturday, 30 August 2008

22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A

Jeremiah 20:7-9; Romans 12:1-2; Matthew 16:21-27

The word seduction is defined in the dictionary as: leading someone out of the way, persuading them into surrender.

In our readings today there seems to be quite a lot of seduction going on.
  • Jeremiah is seduced by God into speaking the difficult word of repentance to his stubborn people.
  • The pagan world of St Paul's era was seducing Christians into behaving like pagans.
  • And Peter is trying to seduce Jesus out of the way of his plan of suffering – which is the plan of God.
And where is the battlefield in which this struggle to seduce one another takes place?

Paul warns: Do not model your selves on the behaviour of the world around you but let your behaviour change, modelled by your new mind.

The battlefield is the mind; change a man’s way of thinking and you change his behaviour.

To Peter Jesus says: Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because the way you think is not God's way but man's (Mt 16:23).

To convert his followers Jesus has to lead them out of their mind; he had to persuade them to surrender their way of thinking; this is not easy to do.

As a priest I try my hardest to show people the importance of thinking the way God thinks which is the way the Church thinks; I practically beg them to let God form their minds. What stands in the way is always that most treasured possession of ours - our own opinion!

We all love our opinions; we are terribly attached to them; we treat them as the final word on any subject. Nothing is more sad than the man or woman totally trapped in his or her own opinion, victims of what they think they know. They are like people floating in an ocean filled with sharks, oblivious to the dangers, and treating would-be rescuers as wicked enemies. How tragic!

A survey conducted by the Pew Forum between May and August 2007 on more than 35,000 American adults revealed that 48% of Catholic respondents favour legal abortion (16% in all cases, 32% in most cases), while only 18% agree that abortion should always be illegal. 58% said that society should accept homosexuality.

At the very least these figures show that a huge number of Catholics no longer think as Catholics; although they vigorously insist on identifying themselves as such. Their thinking is now ‘man’s way’, the thinking of the world. They do not understand, or perhaps they do, that they have broken with the Catholic Church; they are no longer in communion with the Catholic Church’s teaching; they have become something else!

The thinking of the world has invaded our Catholic Church and it terrifies me.

Are the words of Jesus only ‘his opinion’? Is the teaching of the Church only ‘her opinion’? Am I standing here week after week, year after year, telling you ‘my opinions’? Well if I am, you must have a lot of time to waste; you must have a very boring existence; I suggest you need to go and get yourself a life.

Opinions cannot save you! They may entertain you but they cannot save you. Truth alone can save you; only absolute truth can lead you to God. And let me remind those of you who call yourselves Catholics and yet obstinately, wilfully, deliberately express your erroneous opinions to the young and the ignorant, and cause them to fall into sin, that Jesus said: Anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck (Mark 9:42).

If you have been keeping up with the events at St Mary’s Catholic Parish in South Brisbane you have there a prime example of exactly what I am speaking of. Two priests leading an entire congregation out of communion with the Catholic Church. They justify themselves with specious ‘feel good’ arguments but all the time they are drifting away from truth, the authority of the Archbishop, and disappearing over the horizon, taking many with them.

Archbishop Bathersby has written: St Mary’s seems to be an authority to itself. Despite the good that it does, it places itself outside the practice of the Catholic Church. Therefore we might well ask is it a parish in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, or a community in schism. [ .. ] In reality St Mary’s South Brisbane has taken a Roman Catholic parish and established its own brand of religion.

Let me ask you here today: Have you established in your mind your ‘own brand of religion’; your own brand of the Catholic faith? Is your thinking Catholic?

It is not important how great the number of people who think the wrong way, it’s still the wrong way. If the whole world believed abortion or any other grave sin was acceptable, it would still be a grave sin. To put it another way, the truth has never depended on the number of people prepared to believe it, it is still always the truth. I would hate for any Catholic to live, or worse still to die, on the wrong side of the truth.

Our task as Catholic Christians is to ‘put on’ the mind of Christ. We do this by thinking as the Church thinks, by believing what the Church believes and living the moral life of Catholic disciples, following in the footsteps of the Master. I urge all of you to ‘think again’ and if you have drifted, clinging to your ‘opinion’, swim back to the truth, to the barque of Peter, the Church; this is the place of salvation.

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