A Reflection for the Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, by Fr Daniel Weatherley.
For three weeks now we have been back in ‘Ordinary Time’, yet this is the first Sunday we are calling ‘Ordinary’, since the last two Sundays we celebrated the great feasts of Trinity Sunday and the Body and Blood of Christ. The designation ‘Ordinary’ might seem somewhat of an anti-climax after the richness of the great season of Lent-Easter. Yet here ordinary does not imply ‘common-place’ or ‘routine’. Instead it refers to the fact that the everyday life of the Church and of the Christian is ordered to the worship of God. And there is nothing ‘ordinary’ about the life of the one who is alive in Jesus Christ. The liturgical colour green is a visual reminder of the new life which the Triumph of Easter has made possible for us; a life which no winter can hold back. For the person alive in Jesus Christ it is always spring!
On this day in the year 1600, crowds gathered a short distance from the Cathedral at the place known as St Thomas Waterings, at the junction of what is now Old Kent Road and Albany Road, to witness yet another execution carried out at that spot. This time it was the priest John Rigby, who was sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered for his defence of the Catholic Faith, the Eucharist and the Pope. On Monday we commemorate two more martyr saints; John Fisher and Thomas More, whose images, carved into the stone of the Cathedral, greet us as we enter the main West Door. St George’s Cathedral is known as the ‘Great Link’ between that time of intense persecution and the restoration of public Catholic life to which St George’s stands testimony. The images of John Fisher and Thomas More, and the commemoration of the four martyr saints in the Chapel of St Peter and the English Martyrs (to the right of the main sanctuary) serve to remind us that the new life Jesus makes possible for us will likely be misunderstood by others, but must reveal itself in witness to others nonetheless.
We live in a time when more than ever there is the near-constant rallying call for change. That is, for others to change. If only this group or that, this country or that, this person or that will change their attitude, their behaviour, then all will be well. But that is not the call of the Gospel! The rallying call of Jesus Christ is that we change; that we come to Him for life, for forgiveness, for healing, for restoration. Then and only then will we be any real use in the building of the Kingdom that He has in mind: the only one worth living and striving for. Of course it is good and essential to seek justice; but the only way true justice will be established is by our own conversion, where we come to Jesus seeking that our minds and hearts and lives will be made ‘right and just’ by the gift of His grace and mercy.
In the Gospel given us today Jesus assures us that everything which is now hidden in the dark will be revealed in the light: when He comes again in glory, all will be exposed to His justice. Our task is to strive for the holiness of life He has made possible for us, and to witness to His merciful love whilst we have the time. And as we manifest His love in the way we live and in our words, Jesus will declare His oneness with us to the Eternal Father. What a sublime vocation we have been given! This is the heart of the witness of the Martyrs; and their blood, spilled in response to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, empowers our efforts here today. And Jesus three times gives us divine reassurance that He will never abandon us: ‘Do not be afraid.’
What was the source of the courage and freedom of heart which enabled the martyrs to pay the ultimate price for living the Catholic Faith? It was that which we celebrated on Friday: the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. To draw near to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to encounter the love of God which burns with the desire to set us free; to drink from the Fountain of Living Water that we might be filled with the beauty and life of heaven itself. God has given us the perfect model of living in the Sacred Heart of Jesus in His own Mother, Mary, who conceived the Son of God in her heart before she conceived Him in her womb. On Saturday we commemorated the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose creation, existence and glory depends totally upon the grace of God. The wonderful privilege of the immaculate purity she has enjoyed and sustained from the first moment of her conception is the work of the Fire of Love which is the Life of the Blessed Trinity, the Fire which consumed the Sacred Heart of Her Son, even whilst in her womb, and which continues to burn with love for us now.
The fail-safe way to live in the Sacred Heart of Jesus is to pay honour to the Immaculate Heart of Mary – God’s greatest masterpiece – and to take refuge there. There we discover the humility which is the very opposite of fear, and the peace which is the fruit of perfect obedience to God. There Mary – the Queen of Martyrs - will lead us in the way of Christian perfection and enable us to live in such a way that our existence too may give glory to God and shine light upon a world which longs for it so desperately.
Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!