Homily – December 15, 2019

Last Sunday’s gospel John the Baptist was telling the religious leaders who, probably out of curiosity came to listen to him as he preached and baptized at the Jorden river, that they were nothing but a brood of vipers and that they had better change their ways or they would face a future wrath. John pictures the one who would come after him, Jesus, as a pretty rough judge who would gather good men and women into his granary but the wicked would be thrown into unquenchable fire.

Today we find John in prison. He was a person who called things for what they were. He confronts a king, a king living in sin and told him ‘what you are doing is a sin against God’.

Maybe John thought he had it all wrong. Jesus didn’t seem to be warning people, scolding them about the wrath that was to come if they didn’t change their ways. So we have John’s famous question,’ Are you he who is to come or should be look for another?’

Jesus lets John know he is doing the works of God; the blind see, the deaf hear, cripples walk, lepers are made clean and the poor are hearing the good news of God; they are important to God, loved by God. And blessed are they who take no offence, are not shocked by what I am doing. Remember how the Pharisees were shocked that Jesus ate and drank with sinners and that he cured a man on the Sabbath – they took offence at him.

There is a saying, ‘the more things change the more they remain the same.’ We are blessed to have a very human and a very understanding Pope, Francis. He comes from the very different culture of Latin America, where as his predecessors who come a European culture, John Paul from Poland, Benedict from Germany.

There are many in our Church, lay men and women, priests, bishops and cardinals who take offence at what he says and does as he tries to guide our Church into an unknown future. Pope Francis is accused of weakening the discipline of our Church, he lacks rigidity, he is too soft. His remark, ‘who am I to judge’ when asked about those struggling with their sexuality identity was a shocker. He does not prevent couples in second marriages from coming to Holy Communion as he reminds us that Holy Communion is not a reward for the righteous but a remedy for the weak.

Those responsible for our liturgy couldn’t believe it when Francis broke with tradition and the Pope washed the feet of women, one a Muslim, at a Holy Thursday celebration.

Pope Francis is imitating Jesus as he meets people where they are as Jesus met people where they were, be they tax collectors or prostitutes and walked with and led them on to the experience of God’s love and healing.

Could we imitate the example of Jesus and Pope Francis and accept family members and friends and patiently walk with them and support them as they grapple with their personal struggles, no matter what they may be. May we not be intimidated by those who take offence at our efforts to imitate Jesus and Pope Francis.

the God of all consolation, who comforts us in all our sorrows, so that we can offer others, in their sorrows, the consolation that we have received from God ourselves.