Empty Mirror

Sunday 22 in Year A

Fr Richard delivers a thought-provoking homily centered around the nature of a mirror and its ability to reverse our way of thinking. Drawing parallels to the ongoing experience of COVID-19 in NSW, the speaker reflects on past lockdowns and the new skills people had to acquire, such as cutting their own hair. Moving on to the Gospel reading, Fr Richard highlights the significance of the cross of Jesus and how it invites us to undergo a similar process of rethinking what truly matters. He emphasizes that the way of the cross is not about unnecessary suffering, but rather a profound transformation of our hearts and minds. To support this notion, the speaker references Paul’s writings on transformation and encourages listeners to cultivate gratitude for even the smallest mercies in their lives.

The experience of Covid, of course, continues to be there. The latest numbers indicate that some 4.1 million New South Wales people have tested positive for the virus. So it’s still kind of around another 1950 cases in the last reporting period. But of course, one of the things that doesn’t affect us anymore through this experience of Covid is all of the harsh experiences of of lockdown, even though case numbers continue to be much higher than they were in 21 when we went into that intense period where especially here in the Campbelltown Local Government area, we know the restrictions were so severe and so awful and draconian. Of course one of the good things about that time is that many of us had to learn new skills. And so when we were in lockdown and you weren’t able to to go to the hairdresser, I was on a Zoom call with some of my friends, and one of the guys said, oh, yes, you know, he’d cut his own hair. Of course, his wife was probably there to help him him out somewhat.

So I thought, well, I certainly need a haircut, so I might as well try my hand at this exercise. And so got the Clippers out and started going away. And it looked okay initially. And then I thought, I probably just need a bit more kind of taken off one particular part. So I changed the Clippers. I thought from the number two to the number three or something like that. But of course I changed it to the number one and suddenly I’m going for it, you know, tempting to cut my hair in the mirror. And yeah, the result is, is not so, so good. And so in the end, I did go through and kind of effectively shaved my head of everything as much as I could. At least the good news was that no one accused me of going to the barber. During that time, they all went. You try to cut your own hair, didn’t you? Mirror’s a wonderful things. But for people of limited kind of dexterity, like for me, they’re a challenging reality.

Having to think backwards, having to to kind of reverse the way that we normally approach a situation or a circumstance. And the gospel today invites us into this sort of reality, having to reverse the way that we normally think. You know, last week Peter made that great declaration. Who do you say I am? And and Peter was able to make that declaration. You are the Messiah. You are the Christ. You are the one who is coming into the world. And Jesus really praised Peter. It wasn’t flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. So Peter is thinking, Yes, you know, I finally got it together. I’m now the leader of this little ragtag group of disciples and followers, and I’m able to now express, you know, the leadership. And so when Jesus then makes this bold and weird kind of declaration that the way this story is going to go is that he will go to Jerusalem to suffer, to experience all kinds of trials and and suffering and that he will be put to death.

And Peter, I think, tries to come to his defense, heaven preserve. You know, this can never happen to you. You know, the way that this story is meant to be written is that the Messiah will gather a group of followers and we will march on Jerusalem. And as we go, no doubt many more people will join us and we will be able to to go and to correct the horrible situation, the terrible situation that is there in Jerusalem with all those corrupt leaders that aren’t actually bringing us closer to the wonders and mercy of God. You know, we need to correct the situation. And violence is clearly the way that we’ve tried in the past. And the only way forward that we have now is to do the same thing to overthrow the current situation. And now often this line of thought has continued to be present within our world over the centuries. But Jesus will say no, the Kingdom of God is coming soon. We will be marching to Jerusalem, but it won’t be there to overthrow.

It will be indeed that I will suffer because the way of the cross is this reversal of the way that we normally think. It’s a mirror image of the way that we often experience the world, not because the way that we think is the right way and God’s got it wrong, but the way of God is the way of truth, and that we need to change the way that we think in order to begin this process of experiencing the wonders of what God is. Inviting us more deeply into. Because the way of the cross, the way of self emptying is not just about trying to get rid of stuff, not trying to put ourselves down, not trying to say that I’m not worthy and that I need to suffer for the sake of suffering. Now, the point of the cross is this transformation that happens. Paul talks about it in our second reading today when he says, Do not be conformed to the pattern of this present world, but let your minds be transformed. And remember from the Feast of the Transfiguration, it’s the same word.

The word appears four times in the New Testament Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Mark around that experience of Jesus being changed and transformed. And then in First Corinthians and here in Romans 12, when Paul is describing what can happen to us, that we can also experience this radical transformation of our hearts. And it’s the way of the cross that opens that to us. It’s the way of self denial, again, not for its own sake, but for the sake of God making space for God, making ourselves available to the wonders of the God who’s wanting and longing to transform us, wanting and longing that we might be caught up in the wonder of his love. And so indeed, the way of discipleship is the way of following in the footsteps of Jesus taking up across every day and following. But it’s the way of letting go of those things that no longer serve us. Letting go of that junk that is accumulated over the years, letting go of those ideas and those thought patterns that are simply the way of the world and allowing the mirror to transform us, allowing ourselves sometimes to walk away in order to come closer, to let go, in order to receive the way of the cross.

The way of our following of Jesus is the way of transformation. The way we love slowly gets into our system and we’re able to experience all that God has prepared for us. So as we continue today, let’s indeed be thankful for all of the small mercies of the Lord, all of the ways that He continues to invite us more deeply into following him today, to let go of those things that don’t serve us and to receive the wonders, the gift of God’s love and God’s grace.

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