Homily for 2nd Sunday of Year 2005

You may not see much coverage of Caritas Australia on TV about its Appeal and the work that it is doing in tsunami affected areas of Asia. Caritas doesn't rate in a newsworthy way with the other high profile agencies. The Caritas appeal has raised over $6.5 million dollars in Australia so far. This is of course largely from Catholic parishes. (You can find details on their website: www.caritas.org.au) Already, $1.4 million has been allocated to partner agencies in those areas. Over $410,000 of this came from the Brisbane Archdiocese. Donations from St Joseph's already stands at $4239.25! In addition donations to the Red Cross appeal from the Ecumenical Service last Friday amounted to: $1000! Wonderful generosity.

As you may have picked up on the media one of the biggest concerns at present with the aid is the accountability for the enormous sums of money donated around the world. This event really evoked an outpouring of compassion. The UN aid to emergencies has been under scruteny even before this happened. Now all relief and aid agencies have to be very transparent about how they use this money.......

People are still asking the question “Where was God in all this?” One interesting comment struck me as having a real point. Asking 'Why does God allow these disasters to happen?' is pretty much a concern of those in the well off countries. For most of the victims that is not their question. Because in their precarious lives in some of the poorest regions of the world their religion is often the only stability they have. Whether it be Hinduism, Buddism, Islam, or Christianity their religion is where they find comfort and support. It is only us, it is suggested, who have the luxury of questioning God. There may be truth in that.

Nevertheless, the question has remained in Western and Christian thinking from the beginning even more so after Jesus prayer on the cross: “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?”

God's answer to Jesus' prayer was of course the resurrection. This tells us that God does not even want the sinner to die let alone the innocent! For centuries the Israelites and many other peoples had tried to make peace with their gods by sacrifices. Israelite sacrifice in the Temple harks back to the passover in Egypt with the blood of the lamb smeared on the lintels of the doors as a sign that the angel of death might pass over them.

Every year the Passover feast celebrated and recaptured that event of exodus from Egypt to freedom. Lambs were sacrificed by each family. Blood of lambs slaughtered in the Temple created literally rivers of blood. Every family had to have its lamb for Passover. Each family had to slaughter their lamb in the Temple. The priests caught the blood in basins. A row of priests formed a line from the sacrifice and passed the basins to the altar where one priest poured the blood against the altar. It was recorded by the Roman governor in the time of the Emperor Nero that on one particular year 256,500 lambs were sacrificed! That is a lot of blood! So places like the sheep pool near the Temple we hear mentioned in the bible were necessary to provide plenty of water to wash all the mess away.

In this way atonement was made. Reunion with God was accomplised with blood, the souce of life. It was the scape goat or in this case a lamb that carried the sin of the people. John declares Jesus the Lamb of God. He is the ultimate scapegoat. He is the one on whom is heaped the sins of all. Why? To show that the endless stream of blood of itself does not save us. Only the love of God manifested in Jesus' self gift. Yet we continue to shed each other's blood with our wars and violence believing that it will make the world better. And we still dare to blame God for all our troubles.

When standing at the foot of the cross there is only one response: silence. When faced with the devastation of tsunamis there is still only one response: silence.

Fr Graham Gatehouse 16 January 2005