Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Service
Drought, flood and fire, Dorothy MacKellar's poetic description of the Australian cycle in her poem "My Country" is never far from our minds. Coupled with the constant succession of natural disasters occurring in neighbouring countries, the theme of our liturgy, as suggested by the readings‚  - a spirit of service - is especially topical, as we consider ways to help those‚  experiencing misfortune.

Isaiah 49: 3,5-6: From the very beginning, Isaiah sees himself cast as God's servant to all people.

1 Corinthians 1: 1-3 The Christians of Corinth are reminded that they are not the whole Church and, therefore, should not be too parochial, and help their fellow Christian communities experiencing hard times.

John 1: 29-34 Jesus, at His baptism is identified by John as the one come to serve the people.

Point 1: The magnitude of the natural disasters impacting on people brings home to those fortunate enough to be unaffected a sense of urgency to help those who have suffered. For some, it has given rise to questions concerning the very existence of God; for others, it has created difficulties in reconciling the image of a God of Love with the pain, the loss, and the anguish left in the aftermath of the catastrophe. For the majority, however, it is recognised that this is the way life is - whether it is a tidal wave in Asia, a landslide in California, a bush fire in South Australia, floods in NSW, famine in Africa, or a sudden, tragic family bereavement - the immediate need is not for philosophic or theological debate, but action to ease the pain and loss.‚  No doubt, philosophy and theology will influence many in their ultimate rehabilitation. For some, the anger and bitterness against God will affect their attitudes for the rest of their days; for others, the example of Job will guide them - [Job 2:9-10] Then his wife said to him, "Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die". But he said to her, "You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?"

Point 2: And this brings us to consider the motivation prompting people to help in such situations. Without wishing to jump on the band wagon and draw comparisons between who did most and who did least, I think it fair to say that countries where the Christian philosophy has had its greatest impact have been to the forefront in their efforts to help. Even though "United Nations" is stencilled on the crates bringing aid to wherever the latest disaster area happens to be, the bulk of the aid has come from countries whose Christian heritage has made them what they are. The scenario of the Last Judgement scene portrayed by Christ - a cup of water to the thirsty, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked - is reflected in the thinking of many who have provided that assistance.

Conclusion: In providing such aid, however, there should be "no strings attached". There should be no political agendas demanded; nor should the opportunity be taken to proselytise. What we do is done "for Christ's sake", an acknowledgement of our Christian commitment to "put: into life as well as "to take" from it. Nor should this concern be reserved only for the special occasion; it should be reflected in our attitudes at all levels of living - in the home, in the office, and in the community. Many centuries ago, one of the early Popes included in the growing list of titles given to the Papacy the title -"Servant of the Servants of God". In this, he was influenced by the example of Isaiah, but even more so, by the example of Christ. It is an example that is held up to us today!

Scriptural reference: Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Pet 4: 10)