Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Hope
This 5th Sunday of Lent could well be called the "Sunday of Christian Hope". All the readings today focus our attention on the virtue of Hope that sustained the early Israelites and Christian communities through to the present day..

Ezechiel 37: 12-14
The Israelites are being encouraged by the promise that their long captivity would end; they would be endowed with the Lord's spirit and they would return to Jerusalem and they would live in, and resettle their own land - the "Promised Land". It is not apparent at this stage that immortality was fully part of the religious understanding of these people. For them, "The Promised Land" was their ultimate hope.

Romans : 8-11
Following Christ's lead, however, St. Paul clearly states the doctrine of immortality with his statement that each person, through the merits of Christ, has been given the opportunity to achieve eternal union with the Source of Life from whom all have originated.

John 11: 1-45
And St. John, with his account of the rising of Lazarus, awakens in us, as it did in Martha and Mary, and absolute Faith in the person and teaching of Christ, Master of Life and Death

Point 1: - The great English poet and essayist, Alexander Pope has given to the English language many pearls of wisdom, one of which comes to mind this morning - "Hope springs eternal in the human breast". Our lives are constantly driven by hope in some form or another.
The acceptance of Christ as the "Way, the Truth and the Life" is not a decision that is made lightly. Even for those who are, as it were, born Catholics, the road to understanding the implications of the title only comes after serious study and practice. The first real sign comes when one recognises that life with Christ has wider dimensions than life without Christ.

Point 2: - Because Christ rose from the dead, a firm Faith is preached that in Christ, life ultimately overcomes death; from this Faith comes the virtue of Hope in the promises that Christ has made -[John 10:10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. And, given the virtues of Faith and Hope as a basis, a third virtue grows, the virtue of Love, encouraging people to do what they are doing in the name of Christ freely; responding to Christ's invitation because they want to, not because they have to. And there is another dimension to Christian living, as people come to realise the importance of a spirit of forgiveness; to recognise that relationships cannot survive without forgiveness. Allowing for the primeval instinct for vengeance that is so deeply ingrained in human nature, this new prayer of "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others" comes as a shock to the system. Do you remember Peter's reaction -"How often must I forgive? Seven times!" and Christ's reply? "Not seven times, but seventy times seven"

Conclusion: - We live in a world where many are desperate and depressed. For them, there is only darkness and ignorance, hatred and divisions, material and spiritual corruption. But for those committed to Christ's leadership, there is the unshakeable hope sparked by His promise -"[John 14:27] Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. We know that our Christian commitment will not exempt us from the trials of every day living, but we also know that with Christ's help we can come at those trials in a different light. Where others are desperate, depressed, and confused, we walk with a courage born of our Christian faith and hope so completely expressed by Martha in today's reading: "You are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who has come into this world" - The response to the Psalm too, is hope filled - "With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption"; reminding us of yet another of the Lord's promises given to his first disciples and recorded for succeeding generations of Christians by St. Matthew:-

Scriptural reference: But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid. "[Mat 14:27]