Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Prepare for Defence

A report in 2019, “Persecuted and Forgotten?”, warned of Christianity vanishing from towns and cities in the Middle East as the impact of genocide has led to haemorrhaging numbers of the faithful. There were 1.5 million Christians in Iraq before 2003 but by mid-2019, the number had fallen to well below 150,000 and perhaps even less than 120,000 – a decline of up to 90 per cent within a generation. In Syria, Christian numbers have fallen by two thirds since the conflict began in 2011. (Ref. Cath News).

Imagine you trying to give courage and confidence to a small minority of persecuted Christians, such as the early Church.  In those very hostile environments, the early Christians saw Jesus offering, ‘much needed’, wise and insightful advice on how to cope with difficult times. “When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for these things must take place first, but end will not follow immediately.” (Lk21:9)   “They will arrest you and persecute you”. “This will be an opportunity to testify. So make up your minds not to prepare defence in advance; for I will give you words and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to withstand or contradict.” You will be betrayed. “But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your soul” (Ref Luke 21:12-19). That means when the opponents arrest you, do not curse the situation, but consider that as a God given opportunity to bear witness to your faith which the persecutors need to hear. This needs incredible strength of character. There were many martyrs and saints in the history who bore witness to their Christian faith, and because of them we are in a better situation now. If the Christian faith practice is declining around us now, it may be due to the deficiency in inspirational and of totally committed Christians, unlike the early Christianity.

Though in Australia, the church is not persecuted like in the early centuries, we are not short of opportunities to give brave witnesses. There are ideological attacks on Church’s teachings which need defence from the believers. We, Christians, are to be brave defenders of faith in Jesus Christ, but relying on God’s wisdom. The key to such defence is to be filled with the Holy Spirit of God always, that when opportunities arise God’s Word will be revealed through what we say and do. In this regard, our ongoing communion with Jesus in the Eucharist and the Bible reflections are the best practices to help us. The wisdom acquired through them will also help us overcome even the worst of the adversities in our own life as well.