Sunday, September 13, 2015

When being an example is not being an example

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

The cry of “look at me, Mummy” can cause many reactions in a parent. Perhaps it’s a new dress, perhaps they’ve climbed to the top of a tower. Perhaps they’ve found something you really hadn’t wanted them to find, and here they are waving it around like a flag.

“Look at me, mummy!” It’s a desire for your attention.


Cries for attention are all around us. Adverts try to get noticed by being loud, or funny, or with annoying tunes that you couldn’t get out of your head with caustic soda. There are celebrities who are famous just for being famous. “Look at me, mum! I’m on the telly!” There are even clergy out there who seem to be saying, “look at me”. All around us, we are being bombarded by people who want us to see them. But why should we look at them?


Our Lord has some tough things to say about people who want to be noticed. All around Him, the priests and scribes and Pharisees always want the high chairs, want to be bowed to, want to wear the fancy robes. They want to be the centre of attention. They want their voice to be heard loud and clear. “Look at me!”

Our Lord doesn’t mince His words. He calls them whitewashed sepulchres – nice on the outside but putrid on the inside.

St Paul, too, does not mince his words because he is listening very carefully to Our Lord. He sees that the Church in Galatia is being victimised by those who want Christians to follow the Hebrew Law so that they can say, “look at me, I’m in the right! I’ve made all these Christians do what I want!”

St Paul says that these folk don’t even keep the Hebrew Law, themselves!

The trouble is that we Christians have a message to proclaim but we tend not to proclaim it very well. We, too, can get caught up in wanting to be seen by others as being good and devout Christians but forgetting that we’re supposed to be pointing people to Our Lord Jesus Christ. How can we speak the good news about Our Lord without saying “look at me”? Should we, or should we not seek to draw attention to ourselves?


St Paul says, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. “

St Paul does not boast of anything save that he believes that the Cross of Christ brings salvation to all who will receive that cross. He does not seek to be recognised or looked at. He seeks only one thing, to serve God. St Paul says that he does not care what people think of him, but rather he lets his belief in Christ speak for itself through his living the Faith. If we live our faith, then it will be seen. We don’t need to say, “look at me” for God’s light will shine through His marks in our bodies.


We should say, “look at me!” to God, but not as something to boast about but rather as an act of recognition that not all is well in our lives, that we need to be put right. When we say, “look at me” to God, we invite Him to show us what is wrong with us, show us our sins, our failings, our shortcomings. He will show us these things so that we can confess them freely and know that He will put us right if we let Him.

Saying “look at me!” is a dangerous activity. God might make us look at ourselves instead! Will you take that risk?

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