20th Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: August 14, 2022
This past week we had an exciting moment in the building of our new church. The cross for the top of our church was blessed by Bishop Crosby and then lifted up and put in place. At that moment something happened. One of the two workers who was on top of the crane to guide the cross into place, unfurled an orange flag saying “Every Child Matters,” symbol of the protests about the Residential School history.
Some were understandably disturbed by this, as it disrupted a special moment. But, as I reflected on this, I began to think that this was actually a grace filled moment. A time for us to really reflect on the true meaning of the cross.
“I came to bring fire to the earth.” Jesus says this as he is approaching Jerusalem and he knows that if he follows this path faithfully, that he will be facing rejection, suffering and death. If he continues a path that takes the side of the outsiders, of the poor, of the rejected, then he will come up against the power of the religious authorities, the empire, the rich.
St. Catherine of Siena used to say, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” We are to have a passionate fire burning within us. The love of God burning within us. A fire that burns away all that is false, all that is opposed to the ways of the Kingdom of God. We are not to accept a Catholic Faith that is mediocre. We are not to accept living with indifference, indifferent to injustice, indifferent to the suffering in our world, indifferent to the needs of the weakest among us.
What Jesus has shown us is that God takes the side of the weak, the side of the scapegoat, the side of the victim. In fact, Jesus becomes the scapegoat, the victim as he dies on the cross.
The cross is not a symbol of dominance, not a symbol of power, nor a symbol of victory over others. It is a symbol of God taking the side of the weak, the oppressed, the scapegoat, the victims.
The Church is therefore also called to take the side of the weak, the poor, those made scapegoats by our society. The Church cannot walk away or remain silent in the face of the oppression of any human beings. At times in history we have been tempted to be on the side of the powerful, the rich, the winners. But, like Jesus we must lower ourselves down, must not worry about our own safety, our own success.
The Church, at its best, will always face opposition, will come under attack. Martyrs have been part of our story from day one until now. In various parts of our world today, Christians continue to face persecution and even martyrdom.
We need to make sure that if we are opposed within our society, it is because we are on the side of victims, the side of the poor, the side of the oppressed. We are to be on the side of those who face injustice and racism. We are to be on the side of those who are rejected or treated inhumanely.
The fire that Jesus is speaking about will not bring us a nice, comfortable and peaceful existence. It will lead us to being opposed by some.
St. Paul speaks of a “great cloud of witnesses.” The great Saints in our history should inspire us by the fire that burned within them living under the banner of the cross. The “Every Child Matter” flag, unfurled during the placement of the cross on top of our new church, was a reminder of the meaning of the cross. It was a reminder of times when the church has not lived by the way of the cross.
It is a challenge to our parish to embrace the cross, walking by the side of victims, the poor, those abandoned or rejected in our community. The cross is not about winning or dominating, it is about losing for the sake of justice, healing, reconciliation. This is the fire that Jesus longs to have kindled.