Homily – August 18, 2019

In the second reading of today’s Mass we have the words of support and encouragement that Paul wrote to the Jewish Christians living in Jerusalem. Paul wanted to exhort these good people to persevere in the face of persecution. At that time, certain believers were considering turning back to Judaism to escape being persecuted for accepting Christ as the Messiah. Jewish family members and neighbours saw them as traitors to the ancient faith. Paul reminded them of the great feats and struggles Jewish holy men and women had endured through the ages in their struggles to be faithful to God. Paul held these people up as examples of those who suffered even death for being faithful followers of the God of Israel.

His last example for them to follow is Jesus who endured such hostility against himself; a hatred and hostility that brought him to the cross. Paul encourages these wavering people to run with perseverance the race that was set before them looking to Jesus, the crucified the pioneer and perfecter of their faith.

In the gospel we hear Jesus foretelling of the struggles those who follow him would have to face; rejection by their own families, and made social outcasts by their religious leaders, made to feel like lepers, unclean, unfaithful.

Following Jesus was never meant to be a walk in the park.

Years ago G.K. Chesterton wrote these words; Christianity is the only religion which worships a scapegoat, worships the one who is hated, excluded, spat upon, blamed for everything, ridiculed, shamed, and made expendable. Christianity is the only religion that focuses on imitating the victim and which sees God in the one who is surrounded by the halo of hatred.

There are men and women in our society today who for their own purposes marginalize and scapegoat the sick, the poor, the handicapped, the unborn, the unattractive, the non-productive, and the aged. We as Catholic/Christians are scapegoated and ridiculed when we stand up for such people.

We’re called bleeding hearts when insist Canada welcome refugees, people fleeing from war and persecution. We’re called lefties when we support a living wage, affordable housing and other social causes. In doing all these things we are one with our crucified Christ who writhed in pain and shed his blood for all of us, this man who wears a halo of hatred.

In all our efforts to work for peace and justice and bring a bit of love to our troubled world we look to Jesus, the crucified, the pioneer and perfector of our faith. God give us the courage to be faithful followers of our scapegoated Christ.