Sunday, June 14, 2020

Making your apologies

Sermon for the first Sunday after Trinity

Have you apologised?

The word has changed its meaning even in the last hundred-and-fifty years. When St John Henry Newman issues his apology for his life, he isn't saying sorry for being born, he's defending his life, his thinking and his controversial decisions against an attack made by Charles Kingsley who seems to suggest that Catholics can't tell the truth.

Making an apology originally means to defend our position when it has been challenged. Over time, it has come to mean saying sorry for wrongdoing. We see the Archbishop of Canterbury apologising for the Amritsar massacre, but he isn't defending it.

Sometimes, though, Christians need to apologise but not be sorry. We also need to make sure that we do not confuse apology with Christian teaching or with prophecy.


We see St Philip teaching the Eunuch. The Eunuch is interested, eager to learn and open to ideas. All St Philip has to do is explain the Christian Faith so that the man may learn. St Philip is teaching.

We see St Paul before the Areopagus. Questions are being fired at him and he is defending the Christian Faith. St Paul is apologising.

We hear Elijah confront Ahab and Jezebel for leading Israel away from faith in God. He proclaims what God is telling him. Elijah is prophesying.

The Church has a duty to do all three, but not every Christian is called to be a prophet, apologist and teacher all at once.


The problem that many Christians have is  that they believe that they are automatically called to be prophets. These are the Christians who will indiscriminately judge other people based on their lifestyle. The will not invite sinners to repent, they will demand people repent. They quote Holy Scripture at people and condemn people to Hell. 

And yet, Holy Scripture is very clear, to be a prophet requires a clear call from God because prophecy is proclaiming what God has specifically told us to say. It is not an excuse to use the Bible to condemn those who disagree with us to Hell. It is those who disagree with God who condemn themselves to Hell and only then in very specific circumstances not generally known to others.

To be a prophet requires a life of complete dedication. The great prophets spend their lives in the wilderness listening to God and to God alone. It is not for everyone.


Other Christians believe that they have been called to be teachers. They will explain what they think Holy Scripture means and try to force their interpretation on people. The Church's teaching is clearly based on Holy Scripture, Tradition and Reason and those whom God calls to teach must spend a long time in prayer and study. The good teacher educates and informs, presenting what the Church teaches and then letting the student make of it what they will. The bad teacher indoctrinates, denies the student the opportunity to think for himself, and refuses to answer genuine questions. Teaching is not for everyone.


All Christians, however, are called to make apologies. St Peter says:

"Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ."

We must always be ready to say why we believe what we do. In order to do this, we need to be right with God. We need to listen to Him, spend time in prayer, and question ourselves and God as to what we really believe and why. We need to listen to the Church's prophets and teachers so that we know we are not walking away from God by making an false God in our hearts.


A time will come when every Christian will have to stand up and make their apology, speaking the truth from their hearts. A time will come when every Christian will have to present Christ to the world anew. A time will come when every Christian will face those who fundamentally disagree with God and show them that they are loved even if they don't want to be.

But there will never be a time when any Christian will ever have to say sorry for loving Our Lord Jesus Christ.

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