Fr Adrian's Homily
Year B 2021
Fr Adrian Farrelly
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. This year to avoid the risk of spreading the corona virus a pinch of ash will be sprinkled on our heads not placed as a cross on the forehead. Using ashes as a sign of a deep change of heart and mind has a long history from Judaism on into Christianity. Only a few weeks back we walked with the prophet Jonah into Nineveh and saw the people of the city put on sackcloth and sit in ashes after hearing Jonah’s warning of impending destruction.
Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent the six week, forty day, period we devote each year to the preparation for Easter. Some parishes will welcome new members into the church either through full initiation of those who have never received Christian baptism of through reception into full communion for those already baptised in other Christian churches and communities. These men and women have spent months in preparation and now come to the final weeks.
For us who are already members of the church, parts of the body of Christ, our preparation focusses also on our hearts and minds. We do something on the outside (receiving ashes) to make changes on the inside. We are used to this type of activity when we go to play tennis, or bowls or golf. We dress as a player and then take to the court, the rink or the course. The external activity is essential if we want to give ourselves any kind of a chance at playing the game. Sitting at home thinking about being a tennis player, a bowler or a golfer will achieve nothing. Personal investment and involvement is vital.
Jesus cure of the man with leprosy in this Sunday’s gospel, speaks to us at a number of levels. Isolation of those infected was necessary for the good health of the community. Quarantining is not something new with the emergence of the pandemic. In our day the isolation is for a limited time and then people can return to the community. In the time of Jesus, there was a process for giving someone the all clear: one of the priests had to verify the affliction was gone but there is a sense that separation from community life could be almost indefinite. The sufferers became the illness. They were shunned, their human dignity ignored, the early aids sufferers knew this reality.
We know from experience that being alone, isolated, out of touch with those we love is painful. Jesus, who was the first of many brothers and sisters and who knew what the human family was meant to be, was gripped by more than pity when the afflicted man came to him for healing. The situation of the man produced a gut searing reaction in Jesus. In response, Jesus said “of course I want you to be healed, to be liberated from your isolation, to be returned to family and friends, to life as it is meant to be lived. And the man was healed.
Removing people from society is very much in the news. Dangerous and criminal behaviour makes frequent headlines. What is the answer? Loss of freedom imposed by court sentences is one course of action but never goes far enough. Growth in a sense of personal responsibility and self-worth without the support of healthy family relationships, the reality of many we read and hear about, is a task for a community.
So much of behaviours of this kind among young and old alike flow from an inflated sense of my rights as an individual. I can do what I like. Pope Francis calls us to develop our sense of fraternity, family, as a counter balance to an unchecked individualism.
We always keep an eye on our attitudes to see if they are in harmony with what Our Lord desires but over Lent we make an extra effort to welcome change. This year with the Call to all Catholics initiative launched by Archbishop Coleridge last week visit the website of Evangelisation Brisbane and become involved with the activities there. Sadly, the Lenten books are out of print but the 30 day journey “More with Jesus” is available. Our personal worlds will not change in the way Jesus wants them to change if we sit on the sidelines or day dream about someone else doing something. We are the “someone else”.