Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Homily at Parish Mass Lent 1 2015

Genesis 9:8-17
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

The sermon slots in Lent are going to be a bit different, as we’ll be using them for part of our Lent Course, “Hope, Actually”, which we’ll be exploring in greater detail on Tuesday evenings.
What we’re going to do this morning is that I shall say something briefly about today’s gospel reading and unpack some of the things that are going on there. But then it will be over to you to discuss that in pairs or in threes, for you to think about how the Gospel might apply to us here and now. And today we are looking at the joy of the Gospel, and how we can communicate that effectively.
So, today’s Gospel reading. Mark’s gospel is very compact and here at the outset of Jesus’ ministry we have three key themes set out for us.
First, the preaching of John the Baptist warns people to be ready and to repent because the Kingdom of God is at hand, the Lord is coming to visit his people. That is really important news. For the Jewish people it had been centuries since God had last sent a prophet or spoken to them in any way. They had suffered from many foreign invasions and were now occupied by the Romans. The temple in Jerusalem, supposedly the centre of the faith, was widely regarded as fake, just the power base for a priestly elite, but not the place where God dwelt with his people. Even the most faithful were wondering if God had not finally forgotten his people. So when John says, get ready, that’s ending, God is coming to you, that’s big news and people sit up and take notice.
Secondly, at his baptism Jesus is identified as the Son of God. His identity and calling are established. He is the Messiah, the fulfilment of the hopes and prophecies of old. In the temptation in the wilderness that calling is tested and found to be true; and Satan is defeated. Satan in the gospels personifies the destructive spiritual power at work behind the façade of the world: the power of oppression, accusation and exclusion that manifests itself through empires and political structures. Jesus the Messiah has come to defeat those powers.
Thirdly, this is happening now. The time is fulfilled. The centuries of waiting are over, God’s promises to his people have been remembered, and the time of liberation has come. This is huge. At last! It’s like winter has lasted for five hundred years and at last it’s the first day of spring. And this brings both joy and urgency to the message of Jesus. Joy, because this is good news for all but especially for the poor, the outcast and the marginalised. Urgency, because there is now no time to lose. The word “immediately” occurs again and again in Mark, Jesus did this then immediately went on to do that, and so on. The time is now.
And this urgency and joy bring with them a challenge: repent, and believe the good news. Repent, that is, turn around, and see what God is doing, so that you can join in. And believe in the good news. Faith is needed. There will be opposition, as has already been hinted at, because John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus, has already been arrested. But have faith, believe that this Jesus, who will be opposed and crucified, is nonetheless the Messiah, the Son of God. Believe that it will be through his death and resurrection that Satan will be defeated and God’s liberation of his people will be achieved.
And the time is now, so be ready to share the joy of the good news.
Now it’s over to you. Turn to the person next to you, or if it’s easier join in threes, but no more as everyone needs to have a chance to speak. There are a couple of points for discussion on the news sheet, and please share with your neighbour what you think. You won’t be asked to report back today but if you come on Tuesday night there will be an opportunity then to share your insights.

  • ·      Thinking of people we know of personally, who communicates the “joy of the Gospel” most clearly? What enables them to do this? What can they teach us about effective Christian witness?

  • ·      Are there ways in which the Church or Christians might be obscuring the joy of the Gospel, and what can we do about it?

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