Archbishop Peter A Comensoli
Homily: 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
I’m old enough now to be able to remember the annual list of the wealthiest Australians was measured in the millions. These days a new millionaire barely raises an eyebrow; it's the list of multi billionaires that counts. Given these sorts of numbers, we are hardly going to get excited over the worth of a couple of hundred sparrows. The measure of worth in Jesus’ day is certainly not today’s measure.
But the point which Jesus was making in today’s Gospel does still matter, because we matter to God. In the eyes of our Heavenly Father, Jesus wanted to assure us, we are each of inestimable value; and it is the Father’s measure of that value which should mark the way we see ourselves, and those around us.
The context in which Jesus assured his disciples of their intrinsic worth was a discussion with them about facing hostility and persecution for proclaiming the gospel. Jesus continually reminded his friends that, to follow him, would mean teaching what he taught and living like he lived. And he never failed to remind them that this would not be an easy gig. “Take up your cross and follow me,” was Jesus’ constant refrain.
But why would we do this, if it might means facing a life of possible struggle and trouble? This is why Jesus wanted to assure his disciples – and us – that there is a worth, a value, in choosing this path that far outweighs any downsides. We are inestimably worthwhile, for we are marked with the sign of God. To be loved and trusted and honoured in this way will sustain us through thick and thin.
Of course, it is not common in our contemporary Australian context to meet with real and deep persecution. We live in relative freedom of faith, yet it is not beyond our experience as Christians to know of the belittling of our belief and trust in God, or to be the subject of ridicule or cruelty for holding fast to Jesus Christ.
Neither is it uncommon for many of us to carry heavy burdens that can be overwhelming and disheartening. Only this week someone shared with me the burden they are carrying with their spouse, as they struggle to sustain a pregnancy in the midst of a societal attitude that can so quickly discard a pregnancy. The burdens we carry, and the troubles we experience can take their toll on the joy and hope that is the promise of life in Christ Jesus, and the gift of grace that brings fruitfulness to our lives is not always immediately evident.
While admittedly the heavy loads we might carry can be personally confronting, and can lead us to be tempted to take the easier road, Jesus says: do not be afraid; place your trust in the value with which your Heavenly Father holds you. As Jeremiah declared – on behalf of all of us who might carry a heavy burden, “The Lord is at my side, a mighty hero.”