Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Unity
In recent years we have become accustomed to hearing of the need to be "ecumenical"- meaning, we need to learn to be more tolerant in matters of belief. One of the great scandals of Christianity has been its divisions brought about by an unwillingness to understand the view point of others.

Isaiah 8:23 - 9:3: - The expectation the Chosen People had of the coming of the Messiah, Christ the Anointed One, was that He would be a light for all nations, for all people of different cultures.

Corinthians 1:10-13, 17: A classical example of how, from the very beginning, the Christian community has been plagued by dissension and factions.

Matthew 4: 12 - 23: - Despite His efforts to bridge the gap between Jew and Gentile, Christ's efforts were resisted to the extent that, as Simeon prophesised, "This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed".

Point 1: Two centuries before the appearance of Christ, the Roman author, Terence, wrote "So many men, so many opinions; everyone his own way". Invariably, attempts to resolve these differences have resulted in wars and rumours of war. As an alternative to armed conflict, the League of Nations was established after World War 1. It soon collapsed, and World War 11 took up where World War 1 had finished. When this conflict ceased, the United Nations came into being to give, as Harold MacMillan, the British Prime Minister of the time stated, an opportunity to "jaw, jaw", rather than to "war, war" in other words, 'talk things over rather than fight over'. It stands today reminding us that the diversity of the human condition does not yield easily, even to the most noble idealism. History repeating itself! Then comes a massive disaster that, for the time being, at least, encourages people to bury their differences in the name of compassion.

Point 2: It is easy to be critical of the United Nations and its failure to achieve justice and unity amongst nations; yet, the Christian church does not have a lot to boast of. From the beginning it has been split by dissension and discord. Despite heroic efforts by the ecumenical movement in recent years, the divisions remain firmly in place. Like the United Nations, the bureaucrats meet; the church leaders embrace and exchange gifts, frequently objects that had been misappropriated centuries before! Theologians engage in esoteric exchanges. Fortunately, at grass roots level, church members have become more friendly and tolerant of each other's view. Here, at least, some effort is being made to heed Christ's prayer that His disciples would be recognised by the fact that they had respect for each other.

Conclusion: Unity is not something that we can achieve by ourselves. Ultimately, it will be God's gift. We can, however, play our part in the process. We can help to minimise conflicts and to generate sympathy and understanding by being less abrasive and less assertive in our attitudes. Unity is not achieved by abandoning one's beliefs, but it comes about by being tolerant and more understanding of what it is that makes other people tick. Today's readings are an invitation to trust Christ as the Light generating a unifying force amongst people at the personal and the national level.

Scriptural reference: "How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothers" (Psalm 133)