31st Jan, Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time Year C

Introduction
Our scripture this week is about discrimination. Jeremiah faces rejection by his people but God takes his part. In the same way Christ, because he’s just the carpenter’s son, is cast out of the synagogue. Lets confess any areas of prejudice in our lives..

Homily
You may know the story of Max Kolbe. Sent to Auschwitch because he opposed the Nazi regime he was especially badly treated there because he was a priest. Driven by secularist ideology, Fascists abhorred religion. They said, following Nietzsche, that we must get rid of God and pursue our own desire and power regardless of divine standards of right and wrong. So they crushed the weak and inferior races. In some ways that’s still the creed of a secular age; recently a woman was sacked for wearing a cross to work. Kolbe died witnessing against all forms of discrimination, especially the campaign against Jews on purely racial grounds.
After an attack on Auchwitch by the resistance the camp commandant retaliated by ordering 10 prisoners to be executed. Kolbe saw that one of those chosen was a family man. He asked the guards to take him instead. He was injected with poison and took 3 days to die. The guards finally beat him to death with rifle butts. On his cell wall they found a crucifix scratched by the nails of his hand. What a perfect illustration of faith as defined by St.Paul in our second reading where he says the greatest of all virtues is love. Kolbe lived Christ’s way, not that of the Nazis or other tyrants of our age, or that of the Pharisees in the Gospel. They saw poor inferior racial groups as unclean; even Christ to them was scum, a carpenters son. He died, like Kolbe, to witness that all are equal as God’s children.
As we approach racial justice Sunday we’re asked to live that truth also. To see each person as an equal child of God and love them without prejudice. As Kolbe gave himself for the family man we should love others even to extent of laying down our lives for them. Kolbe was just doing what Christ himself preached and did. Jesus gave to the last drop of his blood for everyone, especially the poor and oppressed. We’re called do likewise. Not looking at skin, color or creed but loving without exception.
That’s a huge challenge today, to hold to Christ’s gentle values rather than those of the hard world. Its interesting that they cast Christ out of the synagogue after he preached from Isaiah that he was sent to set the downtrodden free. He asks us to carry on his work, to love God and others wholeheartedly, completely, unconditionally. We cant pass by on the other side of the road when we see a fellow human being suffering as the pharisees did. We can’t say like Cain: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. We’re responsible for others. Were asked to love the aids or famine victim or sick neighbor or immigrant like ourself. If we live up in even a small way to this Christian ideal the world will be a perfect place. And that’s the world were called to build, the just Kingdom of Christ. We may not be called to sacrifice our lives like Kolbe. But as demanding are everyday acts of non-discriminatory kindness, that cost us but also bring rewards both here and hereafter. For the world’s hard values fade to ashes and leave us empty at last, but Christ is lord of love, peace and grace for this world and forever and ever, amen.
So as God’s people called to build a just all-embracing society here where we are with Christ’s help, lets profess our faith..

Prayers of the Faithful
And as God’s holy people lets pray for the things that we need to our heavenly Father.

For church leaders, that they may reach out to all races with the all-embracing love and justice of Christ the Good Shepherd..

For civil leaders that their care and leadership may extend to all, especially those underprivileged or downtrodden in society..

For our youth that they may have open and unprejudiced minds and hearts and so shape a kind all-inclusive future society..

For ourselves in our homes that in that great tradition of Irish hospitality, they may be open houses for our neighbors..

For the immigrants, travellers and all who come to our shores that they may find welcome, succor and unqualified acceptance..

For the dead that through our prayers they may reach the home of the blessed..

And we ask all these prayers through Christ our lord of love forever and ever, amen.

Reflection
We Irish were once discriminated against when we were forced to emigrate after the famine. Signs in shop windows said no Irish or Catholic need apply. Even Celtic in Scotland and Manchester United in England were clubs set up to serve excluded groups. Our Patrick’s day marches and wearing of the green helped us overcome all that. We should learn from that not to discriminate against others who come here for employment or shelter from famine or war. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were such immigrants in Egypt, and we pray to Mary to give us hearts to embrace all those who come to us in need, or just for a better life..Hail Mary

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