Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Two to Tango!
Motivation is an all important factor in religious expression. Fear has often been employed to motivate people, even by the Church! but, the ultimate motivation for the religious person comes through love - God has first loved us -we are invited to reciprocate that love.

Ezechiel 18: 25-28: Individual response to God's invitation to be law abiding and honest is a dramatic change in Jewish religious thinking. Up to this point, the relationship between God and His people had been of a "corporate" character - God and the Chosen People. Now Ezechiel is spelling it out - the individual is responsible for his own standing before God.

Philippians 2: 1-11: St. Paul develops this theme of personal responsibility - a person commits to God because of the great love God, in the Person of Christ, has shown. God has first loved people; people have the opportunity to reciprocate that love in their daily behaviour.

Matthew 21:28-32: In this parable, Christ is quite emphatic - the choice is with the individual to respond to God's invitation, or to reject it.

Point 1: The theme of unrequited love is an old one and has been used successfully by authors and playwrights for centuries to draw a laugh. Great examples include - Shakespeare in his works "Twelfth Night", and" A Midsummer Night's Dream"; Moliere in his " School for Women"; Oscar Wilde and "The Importance of Being Ernest" and, of course, George Bernard Shaw with "My Fair Lady". In real life, however, the experience is rarely funny, and to the person whose love has been rejected, the pain can be excruciating. Even the first loves of the adolescent which, at a later date may be laughed at, at the time can be very painful when the break-up happens.

Point 2: Those men and women whose wives/husbands suddenly and often without warning walk out of a marriage, have great difficulty in recovering their balance and self-confidence. Children who, despite their best efforts, cannot come up to the demands of perfectionist parents, also suffer greatly. Those who work closely with such difficult situations invariably agree that a good deal of the pain of unrequited love is the implication that one is not good enough! By offering one's love a person becomes vulnerable. This sense of unrequited love is often applied to our rejection of Divine Love - the Good Friday liturgy echoes again and again this theme "My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me".

Conclusion: Fear, in the form of hellfire and brimstone and legal sanction, has often been employed by the church to command obedience. But it is a misguided strategy. The phrase "For the love of God" is common place in everyday conversation. It can be used sincerely as in a religious sense; or, profanely, as an expression of exasperation. When used sincerely, the individual is acknowledging the duty of reciprocity with God - God has first loved - we love in return.
And this is exactly the "Good News" that Christ announced as recorded by St. John -" We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). Each time we say the Act of Contrition, we give voice to this truth.- 'O my God, I am sorry for having sinned, because You have loved me, and I promise with Your help to try not to sin again'..

Scriptural reference: There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4;18-19)