Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Hope
Pessimism and a sense of defeat are in vogue today. Concern over falling church attendance, abandonment of traditional moral values, family disintegration, and widespread anti-religious sentiment all give rise to the question -"What's the world coming to"? Today's readings tell us that there is nothing new in this scenario. God's word has always been challenged.

Isaiah 55, 10 - 11: This reading introduces the theme of the Good News being compared with a seed which, when planted, takes root, survives harsh conditions and, finally, given good conditions, flourishes .

Romans 8, 18-23: The same message of growth, despite hardship, is given by Paul in his letter to the Romans. For him, this is the essence of Christian hope.

Matthew 13: 1 - 23: Christ repeats the analogy of the Word of God being compared with sown seed that, invariably, overcomes difficulties before taking root and coming to fruition in varying degrees.

Point 1: In the days leading up to the disintegration of the Communist regime in the Soviet Union, and when consideration was being given to an alternative system, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Russian author and dissident, made this comment - that while Soviet style communism as a way of life, was "zero and less than zero". should anyone ask me whether I would indicate the West, such as it is today, as a model to my country, I would have to answer negatively. He went on to give his reasons. "Contemporary man's loss of of the concept of a Supreme Complete entity which used to restrain our passions and our irresponsibility" has contributed greatly to the West's present decline as a moral leader. The spiritual exhaustion of western society, Solzhenitsyn continued, is evident in the gross materialism, sharp legal manoeuvring, a press that invades privacy, pornography, TV stupor and intolerable music so characteristic of present day western culture. And, although this assessment was made some years ago, the situation has not improved. If anything, it has worsened.

Point 2: But it is not all "doom and gloom"! Throughout its long history, religious belief has been synonymous with the virtue of Hope. Hope is a component factor of our very being. We hope because we believe, and because we believe and hope, the third great virtue enters our lives - charity, love. With this potent combination of Faith, Hope and Love, Christian permanence becomes a matter of wanting rather than compulsion. The individual wants to be a disciple, not out of fear or 'having to', but out of love.

Conclusion: Cardinal Suenens. formerly Archbishop of Brussel - Malines, Belgium, was once asked:- "Why are you a man of hope, despite the confusion in which we find ourselves today"? This, in part, was his answer.

"Because I believe that God is born anew each morning; because I believe that He is creating the world at this very moment. He did not create it at a distant and long forgotten moment in time. It is happening now; we must, therefore, be ready to expect the unexpected from God. The ways of Providence are by nature surprising. We are not prisoners of determinism nor of the sombre prognostications of sociologists. God is here, near us, unforeseeable and loving. I am a man of hope not for human reasons nor from natural optimism; but because I believe the Holy Spirit is at work in the Church and in the world, even when His name remains unheard...The long history of the Church is filled with the wonders of the Holy Spirit. Think only of the prophets and saints who, in times of darkness, have discovered a spring of grace and shed beams of light on our paths. I believe in the surprises of the Holy Spirit....To hope is a duty, not a luxury. To hope is not to dream, but to turn dreams into reality. Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.

Scriptural reference: "Love the Lord all you his faithful ones: The Lord keeps those who are constant, but more than requites those who act proudly. Take courage and be stout=-hearted all you who hope in the Lord" (Psalm 31: 24-25)