Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Hope
With so much bad news to deal with, I suppose it makes sense to hope that things may get better. Today's liturgy encourages us to believe that with Christ a new age has been set in motion that offers hope to people. All three readings speak of such new beginnings.

Isaiah 35: 1 - 6
With poetic imagery, Isaiah speaks of the desert blooming, and the sick and the feeble, the lame and the blind being cured and of the great rejoicing that the new age will usher in. Joy and gladness will replace the sorrow and lament of past ages.

James 5: 7-10
The Christian community to whom St. James was writing was under pressure from persecution and inner dissension. He tells them that they must be patient; that the new age of Christ will not happen overnight, and certainly not without intense opposition. And he was reflecting the belief held by many at the time that the end of the world, and consequently, the second coming of Christ, was imminent.

Matthew 11: 2 - 11
With John the Baptist's arrest, his followers were confused; John had denied that he was the Messiah and so interest now centred on the new face on the block - Jesus. Jesus confirms what John had said - the new age was beginning even as they spoke, and the prophecies of Isaiah were being fulfilled as the blind, the lame, the sick and the deaf were healed.

Point 1: Confronted with such auspicious beginnings, the cynic may be pardoned for wondering - what happened? When did the wheels come off the trolley? Why is there such a discrepancy between the ideal and the reality. Wars, conflicts, animosities, hatreds still prevail. When will it all end? And the brief answer is - not in this life! There are many references in the Scriptures to the New Age, the Good News of New Beginnings that would come with Christ; but there are also many reminders that these new beginnings must first take place in the individual before they can affect the community at large. And even then, because we are imperfect creatures, total fulfillment will only be achieved as each individual achieves his or her final destiny of union with their Creator.

Point 2:
In the meantime, as each individual develops a deeper relationship with Christ, the peace of mind that He promises grows within that individual. It may even overflow to those with whom he or she comes in contact! It is a personal endowment which grows with the knowledge that the individual is at peace with the Creator. It is a state of mind that can, if sufficient numbers share it, become a condition of life influencing others. Just as the ripple does not start at the edge of the pool and spread to the centre, neither does peace come from external sources. The fear, the suspicion and the envy that separate people from each other need to give way to trust. It is true that the "wise man goes strongly armed", but it is equally true that all the bombs and rockets in the world will not produce lasting peace unless they serve to create an atmosphere in which people decide it is better to trust than it is to regard each other as lying, scheming, two-timing no hopers! Oscar Wilde commented that a "cynic is one who distrusts others because he has first learned to distrust himself".

And, of course, such new beginnings are not once only events. We have been given the opportunity to renew our good intentions as often as necessary through sincere reconciliation. Looking back over our Advent reflections, a constant theme has been "repentance". As we examine our lives, firstly, in relation to God; secondly, our own inner self, and, thirdly, our relationship with others and note the discrepancies between ideal and practice, we set ourselves to make a new beginning. We do all of this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where our failures are forgiven by Christ, our weakness is strengthened by Christ, and our sense of hope grows as we contemplate the mystery of God's presence amongst people and make that known to others. That is what Christmas is all about - celebrating Christ's presence amongst people and the Hope that presence brings to people.

Scriptural reference:
"By His great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope... and to an inhgeritance which is imperishable... In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials: (1 Peter 1: 3-6)