Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Scandal!
Living in times when we place great emphasis on individual freedoms, the impact that our behaviour may have on others is often disregarded.The Catechism defines Scandal as an attitude or behaviour which leads another to do evil. .... and is a grave offence if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offence. Today€™s readings deal with the dangers associated with external religion as a source of scandal.

Hosea: 6: 3-6: Hosea is not saying that religious ritual as represented in sacrifice is a bad thing; he is saying that religious ritual must reflect an attitude of mind and heart that finds expression in everyday living.

Romans 4: 18-25: In the passage of St. Paul€™s letter to the Romans included in today€™s liturgy, Paul says that Faith means believing that God can do for us what we cannot do ourselves. God alone, with our co-operation, can give us the kind of existence we aspire to.

Matthew 9: 9-13: - The Pharisees had reduced religious practice to an unending set of rules, devoid of soul and inspiration, and centred on the  power to judge. Christ disagreed!

Point 1: We all know how profoundly shocked we are when a politician who has a reputation of being a regular "churchgoer" is convicted of corruption; when a business man who is well known as an active Catholic is revealed to have absconded with company funds; when a paragon of catholic family life leaves spouse and children to run off with a new lover; when a priest is charged with violating his priestly commitments. We know that no one completely lives up to his or her ideals. But a complete break between public ideals and private practice still disturbs us.

Point 2: By the same token, we need to remember the sound advice inherent in a Christian attitude -[Luke 6:37] "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven". This does not mean that offenders should not be answerable to the law of the land that they have broken. It does mean that another€™s misbehaviour is no reason to be a source of scandal leading us to abandon the practice of our Faith, or to judge. Although we can recognise that an act is in itself a grave offence, we must entrust final judgement of persons to the justice and mercy of God, and allow the law of the land to take its proper course.

Judgmental attitudes are an ever present danger where institutional life styles are embraced. People who grow up within one culture invariably have difficulties with other cultures. Followers of sporting teams display great intolerance towards other team followers. Members of different religious congregations have frequently been characterised by sectarian attitudes. As it is today, so it was in the time of Christ and, even earlier, of Hosea. Either teacher is saying the same thing - external religious practice does not always reflect the essence of religious commitment.

Conclusion: Christ€™s defiance of this thinking stemmed from His recognition that no one should be excluded from the love and mercy of God. He had come for the sick; He had come so that sinners may be reconciled, and the only people to be excluded from this divine love and mercy would be people who made that decision for themselves. Certainly, sitting at table and sharing a meal with "outsiders" was no grounds for condemnation.

Such understanding can only come from a deep-seated Faith. The lesson of today€™s Mass is twofold. Firstly, we should not dismiss external religious devotions as unimportant; neither Jesus or Hosea did that. But, neither should we confuse the essence of religion with external devotions..

Scriptural reference: [Mat 7:21] "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.