Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Body & Soul
Crisis inevitably makes us think of the deeper questions in life - evil, goodness, purpose, and so on. And it is then that many return to the roots of our culture, religion, and remember that, like it or lump it, we are body and soul, and our lives revolve around the needs of both. This is clearly stated in today's gospel reading in which the role of Caesar (body) and God (soul) are clearly affirmed.

Isaiah 45: 1;4-6:  Here the Prophet writes of the restructuring of the Jewish society after Cyrus' decision to free the Jews from the Babylonian captivity so that they could resume their traditional culture.

Thessalonians 1: 1-5:  The letter to the Thessalonians is the first book of the New Testament to be written.  it originated some 15 years after Christ's death and already there is evidence of the a Christian community in existence.

Matthew 22: 15-21: The Gospel highlights the dual responsibility of a person within the social structure - religion and civil authority

Point 1: Modern times have seen a tremendous growth in the attraction that materialism exercises upon our culture. Together with the bewildering advances made by science in our understanding of the universe, this attraction has caused people to become increasingly secular in their thinking; as a result, God has been effectively marginalised in the lives of many.

Point 2: I think it valuable, from time to time, to look at the reasons why people are religious. Why are some people religious and others are not? For many , the answer lies in the influence of family and above all, parents. There are others who become religious as a result of discussion and argument which lead them to an acceptance of the existence of God in whose likeness we have been created. But the majority of those who consciously come to a religious faith and are converted, do so because of personal influence. Their experience of seeing someone known to be a believer and observing the behaviour of that person makes them want a similar influence in their own lives.
So much for why people are religious. What about the other side of the coin? What factors influence a person to abandon a religious faith? If it can be said that personal influence is a principal factor in attracting people to religion, sadly, it has to be said, that the same influence is a major factor leading people to abandon religion. Just as good example attracts, unfortunately, bad example alienates. Another reason, too, is that religion constitutes a challenge requiring us to live to a certain standard - to accept a discipline that we find easier to live without.. Then, in an increasingly secular society such as ours, complacency ranks high on the list. Because everything seems to be going well, it is easy to say with Robert Browning, English poet and essayist -" The lark's on the wing; the snail's on the thorn; God's in his heaven - All's right with the world". Finally, situations happen that make it hard for us to equate our belief in a God of goodness with the continued existence of so much that is evil and wrong in the world. I have lost count of the times that I have being asked "Why does God permit so much evil in the world" or "If God can make a statue weep, why wouldn't He stop a terrorist bomb exploding, killing and hurting hundreds of innocent"?

Point 3: It is not easy to answer. But looking at the answers that have been given down through the centuries by some of the greatest intellects the world has known, the best answer appears to be a composite of three mainline arguments. Firstly, because God endowed people with free will, of necessity there will be evil for which the perpetrator will be held accountable before God and, hopefully, man. Secondly, when it comes to asking the big questions about life and death and eternity, it can be argued that it is harder to find meaning in a world that has no meaning in itself than it does in a world that is given meaning by the presence of God. This does not mean that the religious person always totally understands the "why" of what is happening; but there is the recognition that, in some way or another, the events of life, even the bad happenings, can be made to serve our ultimate purpose, which is to achieve final union with God in eternity. Then, and only then, will full understanding come to us. Finally, for the Christian, there is the example of Christ whose resurrection reminds us of the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of right over wrong.

Conclusion: In other words, the religious person is one who seeks wisdom drawing on Faith and Science; we perceive God as "in a mirror, dimly" and only "in part". Even though enlightened by Him in whom we believe, our faith is often lived in darkness and can be put to the test. The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it. On balance, however, it appears better to acknowledge our composite make-up of body and soul in which each is to be given due recognition than it is to suspend belief or reject it altogether. Far better the mystery of God with all its positive values than pointless emptiness with its negativity.

Scriptural reference: For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. [1 Cor 13:12]