My Dear Sisters and Brothers! A few weeks ago I was processing the figures from our 2016 national census. For the first time the biggest ‘religious’ group are the people with no religion, nearly 30%. In the last fifteen years that figure has doubled. What should a believer say to the census’ outcome? Let me recall a sentence from today’s Gospel: “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth.” These words our Blessed Lord proclaimed after he was rejected by his own compatriots. The statistics were not encouraging but Jesus was not analysing statistics but he was recognising the way his Father was working in those “ungrateful” societies of Capernaum and Bethsaida. Why did Christ bless his Father when most of the people pushed him away? “For hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revelling them to mere children.” Jesus saw in the small group of his followers the leaven, the nucleus, placed in the midst of Capernaum and Bethsaida. That leaven, that nucleus was constituted by the people to whom “he chose to reveal the Father” and who responded to his invitation: “shoulder my yoke.”
Later a great missionary, St Paul the Apostle, wrote to the Christians in Rome who had their own challenges as they strived to bear witness to the Death and Resurrection of Christ: “The Spirit of God has made his home in you.” Most of us participating in this Eucharist have been confirmed. We claim to have the Spirit. However the Spirit the Risen Lord gave to the Apostles on Pentecost and the Spirit he still enriches his Church with is not building a safe haven for us to protect us from the influence of the secular world. Rather as we read in the Catechism of the Catholic Church “by the sacrament of Confirmation, the baptised are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”
My Dear Fellow believers! By the sacrament of Confirmation we are more perfectly bound to the Church. Can you hear here an echo of what Jesus said about a yoke? What is a yoke? It is a device for joining together a pair of animals so that they can pull a plough or a heavy load. Pay attention to the important detail: for joining together a pair of animals. A yoke is shared. Jesus already holds firmly his side of the yoke, like he did with his cross, and he turns his eyes to us to take hold of the other side. The other side of the yoke is for the Church. That yoke of proclaiming the Good News by word and deed has nothing to do with propaganda but it is all about continuing the mission of Christ, the mission of love which is not afraid of truth.
The followers of Christ in this Great Southland of the Holy Spirit are called these days to treasure what has been revealed to us by Jesus Christ, the Son of God. However treasuring has nothing to do with hiding under a table what we treasure. On the contrary it is all about exhibiting as a community of believers, not a bunch of individuals, but as a community shouldering the yoke Jesus first embraced in order to evangelise.
What I read from the 2016 census is a fresh call from Jesus Christ to rediscover and to reclaim our identity as an evangelising community. It is not about creating a ghetto or doing propaganda. It is about living in such a Christian way that those who meet us will meet the one we are called after: CHRIST.