Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - 'Be Happy'!
Legend has it that the early Christian martyrs astonished the Roman spectators by singing hymns of praise and joy as they awaited execution. But there should be no wonder in this. Joy is the test of Christian vitality in the individual's soul. Our readings today emphasize this aspect of the Christian personality.

Isaiah 25: 6-10 Here, Isaiah echoes the "Great Feast" theme to illustrate God's kingdom. The Almighty is again portrayed as a source of exultation and joy for His followers.

Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20: Balance is a main characteristic of the mature Christian personality - poor or rich; hungry or well fed; the follower of Christ is ready for any situation.

Matthew 22: 1-14: As individuals, we are free to accept or to refuse the invitation to join in the "great feast'. Refusal, however, comes at a cost.

Point 1: Since World War 1, and probably before it, society has been confronted by 'angry' groups set upon changing the structure of society. In many instances they have devoted themselves to legitimate reform, using legitimate means; however, with the passage of time, many of these groups have become increasingly violent and destructive in pursuit of their goals. A lesser symptom of this mood is reflected in the constant acts of vandalism - graffiti painting, arson etc. - all pointing to the "winter of discontent" being felt by some members of our community. Much of the malaise is due to envy - the wish to take from another, not to possess for oneself, but simply to deny the other the right of possession.

Point 2: Nor has Christianity been totally effective in curbing this mood borne of hatred and personal dissatisfaction. Instead of been seen as a positive force generating joy and gladness, in some instances it is viewed as a negative, divisive, 'killjoy' exercise taking all the fun out of living. In too many instances, its ministers are depicted as long-faced joyless creatures whose presence is enough to dampen any atmosphere. Under the guise of taking life seriously, all they seem to be doing is taking themselves too seriously.
Joy and gladness are at the very heart of the Christian message; the word "gospel" means glad tidings or good news. So it would appear to be reasonable to expect that this joy and equanimity of spirit should be reflected in our Christian response to life's situations. Here we are not talking about becoming 'Pollyanna" refusing to see anything wrong around us; but there are a variety of ways in which we can project this Christian spirit of joy and gladness.

Conclusion: Learn the value of a smile whether it be given or received. St. Therese once commented that 'in heaven there will be no more looks of indifference'. What a contrast, then, heaven will be to this world with its crowds of people who meet with averted gaze and hard, indifferent faces. A smile creates bonds between people and even if for only a second it takes them out of their cold, hostile, anonymity, then a smile is worth while. A sense of humour, too, goes a long way. After all, it is only a smile in another form.
Finally, it must be recognised that if being a a disciple of Christ has not brought joy and serenity to me, I cannot expect the message I bring to others to be effective. What has not worked for me, I cannot expect to work for others.

Scriptural reference: ".... your hearts will be full of joy, and that gladness no oneĀ  will take from you". (John 16: 22)