Please click on the link for a full copy of the newsletter 19th Sunday Ordinary Time 070816
Joyfully take courage
Our first reading today invites us to ‘joyfully take courage’. This expression is a wonderfully pithy summary of the theological virtue of hope. Christians direct their lives towards the future with absolute confidence in God, trusting that he has a plan for us and for the world and that – however hard it may be to discern – God is bringing that plan to fruition even now, and so facing our present reality with joy and courage.
It is this joy and courage that sustained Abraham throughout his life. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews proposes Abraham as a powerful model of Christian faith because his whole life was lived as a pilgrimage. Even when he was in the Promised Land of Canaan, he recognised that this was not his true homeland, but only a sign of it. It points beyond itself – as all signs do – to the heavenly realm, life with God, for which every human being was created. As St Augustine says in Book 1 of his Confessions, ‘our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.’
So if we find ourselves, in this present life, unsettled, uncomfortable, sorrowful and suffering, then we have the assurance that this hardship is part of our journey into joy. Of course, it is for those of us who are not suffering – it is indeed the task of the whole Church, and of every Christian – to make that hope believable, to make the pilgrimage to God sustainable, to bring into the lives of the sorrowful the authentic joy of Christ’s victory over sin and death.
The Church, through her life and especially through the sacraments, already lays claim to that victory, claiming to offer the world a foretaste and promise of the resurrection. This means that all of us, but perhaps especially our leaders, have the solemn duty of bringing hope. When it comes to politics, people throughout the world, respond better to hope than to fear, to a positive message than to a negative one. What we want from our leaders is people who will lead, who offer a vision of a better life and seem to hold out some hope of attaining it. We want something more than just managers maintaining the status quo or coping with decline.
This must, then, be all the more true of our ecclesiastical leaders.
In today’s Gospel St Peter seems to have some inkling of the task that will lie ahead for himself and his fellow Apostles as the first hierarchs of the Church. To Peter and the Apostles, and to the Pope and his brother Bishops ever since, has been entrusted the care of the whole flock of God, his beloved children, and the extraordinary authority needed to carry it out. From him to whom much has been given, much will be demanded. We should pray hard for our Bishops and for all the clergy…
So let’s get working, and let’s look to our leaders, in the Church and in the world, to lead and to inspire us in this work, so that we can indeed face the future, and the present, with courage and joy.