30 October 2011 - 31 Sunday, Year A

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > 30 October 2011 - 31 Sunday, Year A

31 Sunday, Year A
30 October 2011

You may have heard the story about the man who went to see his doctor and he told the doctor that he had been misbehaving. As a result, the man said, his conscience was troubling him. “and you want something will strengthen your will power, the doctor asked. “Well no, the fellow said, I was thinking rather of something that would weaken my conscience.

The man was facing the problem that many people face, particularly those in situations of responsibility in the guidance of others – the shortfall in their actions by comparison with their words and teaching.

One might say that these reading are particularly relevant for me as bishop, one of whose prime responsibilities is that of being a teacher. There is always the challenge for us to match our preaching with our own lives.

One solution to the problem of hypocrisy is to give up preaching, teaching and listening. That is hardly the solution that St. Paul would be suggesting. In the reading today, he says that he was eager to hand over not only the Good News but his whole life as well. In his case, he seemed to be having some good results, with the message of God becoming a living power among those who believe it.

He was anxious to hand over his whose life as well because he was so completely caught up in the mission. He was also aware of the powe3r of God at work in the heart of his listeners.

The other risk is to give up on our efforts, to stop trying. In such instances we should remember that Christ did not condemn failure. What he condemned was pretence.  The Pharisees began their careers as a group of god, fervent men, doing their utmost to please God in every possible way. But they made the mistake of believing that this was done by an exact observance of the law, and then they started to cover over their own failures by using shawls.

To admit to weakness is not harmful so long as we believe in God’s message – not as human thinking but as a living power which is really at its best in time of weakness. This will enable the power of God to take hold of us and so we can preach the ideals to others.

There are two signs that God power is at work within us. One of them is having the patience to accept the failings of others, and the other is to express the humility which allows us to accept our own failings as well.

Humility helps us to be aware of God at all times, in all places, at the centre of all things. It is so easy in our society to make ourselves gods of the tiny kingdoms we occupy and to be enamoured of fancy titles.  We climb up small ladders and then assume that we have risen to the heights of our humanity.

Those whose lives are lived without listening to their hearts and consciences, and those who make gods out of themselves, their work, their status, their money, never find the God of the universe, who waits quietly within, for us to exhaust our compulsive race to nowhere.

That is what the Gospel says: “Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who humbles himself shall be exalted.” Jesus teaches us that serving others and the wider world is the highest vocation and that humility is the greatest virtue. When we listen to God, we are all equal – everybody has the gift of the Holy Spirit, and we are all able to tune into that Spirit.