I wasn’t sure exactly what I should say in this homily till last Thursday , when I went to visit a young soldier , recently returned from Afghanistan, who was experiencing severe symptoms of post traumatic stress. He had been in infantryman serving at the sharp end of the operations there last year , and several times the Taliban had tried to kill him and his mates in ambushes with explosives and machine gun fire. He was suffering extreme anxiety – shaking uncontrollably as I spoke with him. And having gone through these scriptures a number of times over recent weeks , I knew these stories – these messages – were meant for him , and I needed to share them with him .
What we have in this weekend’s readings is the Greatest Story ever told .It encapsulates the story of Gods great love for us, especially as it has been lived out in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth . It is a story of great hope for us . It is a story of victory over death , and a promise of life eternal . It is the story of a small group of followers of Jesus , who had faith in the teaching they had recieved . They showed the courage to go and share the story of Jesus with others, and despite all odds and discouragement s, in so doing, transformed the world .
Coming together into a community which we now identify as the Catholic Church they spread the message of Jesus throughout the world , and in practical terms also provided health care , education , charity to the poor and needy to an extent greater than any other government or non government organisationin the world . We are both recievers of that legacy, and we in turn have taken up that mission to continue to spread the good news of Jesus , as Peacemakers , as Healers, as Carers, as Teachers , to make this world a better place. Our parish has many ministry groups that make this happen and our Archdiocese has even more. And we are part of a world wide web of churches that reaches out to all of humanity in love and concern.
This weekend we celebrate that we are disciples of Jesus , people of God , indeed we should feel overjoyed, and confident to shout from the rooftops that Jesus Christ is the hope of the world . We should leave here confident to share with anyone that they should put their hope in Jesus, get to know him , learn of his teachings , and be transformed by his attitudes of love , forgiveness and reconciliation.
I am particularly conscious tonight / today that there are a number of people who may be here for the first time, or for the first time back after a period away . No matter what your situation, we want you to feel welcome in this community . We would hope that your experience here is a positive one. We would hop e that you have been touched spiritually in some way , through your experience of our worship . The many signs and symbols , sights and sounds , words and human interactions that have and will continue to be used tonight/today , are all meant to help us grow closer to the God who loves us and to help us grow closer to each other . The friendship and support you might experience in this community is part of Gods gift to you . But you are also Gods gift to us. We need you r gifts and we are the lesser without your participation. So we hope you would come back.
The first followers of Jesus , didn’t go away and keepto themselves, the message and the experience they had. If you would come back to share with us over the coming weeks you will hear of their story , of ho w they came together weekly to listen together to the word of God , to recieve teaching , to pray and be prayed for , and to receive the eucharistic meal , to receive Jesus, in a holy communion . Their unity ,thei r community, was their strength , and God blessed their occasions of gathering. It was in their growing together, that they came to address the needs of their wider community . We are still following that model here 2000 years later because it is the model that Jesus prescribed and because its works.
We have recieved many word s of encouragement in the scriptures tonight /today :
The Lord will raise us up ; We will imitate him in resurrection ; Death has no power over us; seek the Lord and call to him .
God has spoken directly to us in saying: I shall put my spirit in you – you are my people , and I am your God ; you have been formed in integrity – nothing need you fear ; I will shower my blessings upon you . I’m sure you agree these are words of Good news – they are words of life.
I speak confidently like this because, like many others here, I have seen the glory of the Lord, shine on the darkness that I have had had to deal with in over 42 years, as a soldier, peacemaker, peacekeeper and a humanitarian worker.
I will be continuing to minister confidently to that young soldier over the coming weeks because I have have seen the power of God in action so many times and in so many seemingly hopeless situations .I have experienced that nothing is impossible when you put your trust in God .
I will be encouraging him to recieve the support of doctors and counselors , to accept medication, to exercise and to eat well. But as I have told him already the best medicine he can have for his wounded soul is to hear the word of God , to recieve the spiritual food that is offered in our eucharist , and grow in relationship with Jesus and with a faithfilled community .
It is my hope and pray that everyone leaves here tonight uplifted , encouraged , enthused and joyous that you have had an experience of God’s love tonight .
Do not be afraid, Jesus is risen , that we too might live a new life , that we might in the fullness of life . For this is the Gospel of the Lord. Thanks be to God.