WEDNESDAY HOMILY: The Gospel of Failure
"I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves" ( St Paul Miki).
style="text-align: justify;">HYTHE, KENT, UK (Catholic Online) - St Francis converted Assissi. St Francis de Sales converted Geneva. St Jean Vianney - Ars. Jesus? He did not convert Nazareth. And as for St Paul Miki? He did not convert Osaka, Japan.
Today, again in the readings we hear the Gospel of failure. In the Gospel for today we hear that Jesus went to Nazareth and he was obstructed. We read later that they even chased him out and threatened to throw him off the cliff. He did not sway those that he lived with for 30 years that he was the promised One, the Messiah, the Lord.
We are in particular need of knowing that Jesus failed and that he sanctified failure.
Did he say, blessed are the rich? Blessed are the successful? Blessed are those with no opposition?
Exactly the opposite.
We find ourselves today surrounded by the powerful regime of the totalitarian, relativistic, successful mignons of this world. It is scary. It is enough to take the heart out of you sometimes.
But Jesus was an underdog. He died as a failure - abandoned by his closest followers, denied by the one he set as visible head of his Church, misunderstood by the religious leaders of the time, seen as a threat by the political leaders of the time.
Don't get me wrong. Jesus was not afraid of success or power, and neither should we be. He was not afraid of glory, but just knew that glory in this world most of the time appears very differently.
Faith does not depend on success. It is not based on worldly power or odds in our favor. Faith is the conviction of one's inmost heart set like flint on the face of God - God who is eternal, immutable, unchanging, impassible, and undeniably attentive to the cry of the poor.
In this year of faith, expect failure according to the world's standards. Why? So that the power of God may be revealed in our weakness, our powerlessness, our littleness. For God is glorified in the humble, the contrite of heart, the little ones who depend upon him. This is sometimes the only way that faith may increase and that the Church grow.
St Paul Miki, whose feast day we celebrate today, had his greatest moment, according to the eyes of the world, during the moment of failure. He gave his greatest witness and preached his greatest homily from the pulpit of his dying moments on the Cross, embracing crucifixion like Jesus.
He said, "As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves."
He spoke clearly and plainly. This was exactly why he was dying upon the cross, because he was not afraid of the consequences of his actions. He was not afraid of failure in the eyes of the world. He had within him, the fear of the Lord, which is the perfect Christ-centered love that casts out every other fear.
Where are those who are not afraid to look bad in the eyes of this world? Where are the heroes? Where are the saints of our times that are not afraid of human respect?
May the prayers of Our Lady, who was considered at one moment, the mother of a failure, pray for us and obtain for us true faith in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, our victorious and glorious Lord, who often hides his action in the failures of this life.
Father Samuel Medley, SOLT, is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, and is currently based in Hythe, Kent, United Kingdom. He is a speaks to groups around the world on Blessed Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body. Visit his homily blog http://medleyminute.blogspot.com or his blog on sexual ethics http://loveandresponsibility.org
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