Does Jesus encourage us all to develop some hatred towards our closest relations like we can sometimes see when members of one family are fighting over the inheritance from their deceased father or mother? They don’t need to be encouraged to hate each other. It is more obvious then the sun in the sky. Not an easy topic to reflect on, isn’t it? Maybe we should focus on something more pleasing? No. I believe that we do need to grapple with it, but to do it well let us pray first: ‘Lord Jesus, give us your Holy Spirit, who could lead us to the wisdom indicated in our First Reading today.’ Let us listen to some sentences from that reading again: ‘What man can know the intentions of God? Who can divine the will of the Lord?’ Valid questions, aren’t they? The answer comes from the end of the reading: ‘As for your intentions, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom and sent your holy spirit from above? Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened and people been taught what pleases you, and saved, by Wisdom.’
I would like to recall two people, two saints, whose lives filled with wisdom from above, can help us to accept the words of our Lord Jesus Christ from today’s Gospel as the message much needed in our own time and in our own Australian society.
The first person I want to talk about is Sir Thomas More as he was known in his own time, one of the most successful politicians of the sixteenth century England and a devoted husband and father. As for us Catholics he is a saint: Saint Thomas More. When King Henry VIII decided to separated England from the Catholic Church Sir Thomas More opposed it. He was put in prison and eventually executed. We still have his letters to his family written from his prison cell in the Tower of London. He suffered enormously at the thought that his wife was to be a widow and children orphans. He could go back home if he abandoned his Catholic Faith. Although distressed at the approaching separation from his wife and children he chose Jesus. He knew that it was his faith in Jesus Christ that made him love his family so much. It was Jesus who made him who he was, his faith was his identity.
The Second person I would like to mention was a Jewish woman Edith Stain,a brilliant German scholar and philosopher of the beginning of the twentieth Century. She was the first woman at the University of Gottingen in Germany to get a doctorate. As an adult she discovered Jesus Christ and converted to the Catholic Faith. After a few years she joined a Carmelite convent in Cologne. Her Jewish mother whom she loved dearly didn’t want to have anything to do with her after that decision. As an enclosed nun Edith Stein, who took name Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, was given permission to write a letter to her mother every week. That’s what she did. For number of years there was a weekly letter posted from the convent to her mother. Never came a reply. Edith suffered a lot. But she knew that her faith in Jesus Christ made her love her mother so much. It was Jesus Christ who made her who she was, her faith was her identity.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! At the moment we face a big debate on religious freedom here in Australia. There are big discussions at the high level of our society. However I believe that we need to play our part too. When we talk to our friends, colleagues, relatives let us explain that our faith is not our hobby. Our faith in Jesus Christ has made us into who we are. Our faith is our identity. St Thomas More once said: ‘I am a citizen of London.’ He was proud to be one. However his citizenship was built on his faith and commitment to Jesus Christ, like his love for his family was built on Jesus.
As Catholics in Australia we want others to see where we come from in regards to our love for this beautiful country and its people. It comes from our faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. He takes the first place in our life. Because of that we want to continue to be of service to our fellow Australians as we have been for a long time already. We want to be citizens of Australia who give priority to Jesus Christ as he said in those challenging words about ‘hating.’