Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword €“ Freedom of Conscience:

Our reflection this week, suggested by the readings, really opens up a €œtin of worms€, as the saying goes. We are asked to consider the need for authority in interpreting the written law, whilst, at the same time, to allow  the right of individual conscience.

Sirach 15: 15-20: The author affirms that a person is free to choose or to refuse the commandments; to choose what is right or what is wrong and accept the consequences!

1 Cor: 2: 6-10: St. Paul advises that in our efforts to determine what is right or what is wrong, divine guidance is needed. He warns that the wisdom of the age in which we live can be quite different to the wisdom of God.

Matt 5: 17-37: Christ emphasises the importance of the written law, but argues strongly against the restrictive interpretation imposed by human authority.

Point 1: There is no doubt that living in what is referred to as €œthe Plural Society€ in which there are great differences in human judgement of what is right or what is wrong, one right is respected by all €“ the right of conscience. All people, believers and unbelievers, recognise the voice of conscience.  All agree that an informed conscience needs to promote the good of society and, at the same time, protect the freedom of the individual. There are, after all, great differences in human judgement of what conscience allows or forbids. I remember some years back when controversial legislation was introduced to legalise same sex relationships, one critic distinguished himself with the comment €“€œLegalise yes! As long as they don€™t make it compulsory€

Point 2:  The verdict of conscience, frequently, is accompanied by intense soul searching and inner turmoil.  Being caught between the hammer of the €œlaw€ and the anvil of €œconscience€, has affected the lives of many men and women genuinely committed to Christian living and yet caught in a  state of constant anger and disagreement, they find themselves in an intolerable situation and separate.

Conclusion:  In times past, the harshest judgements in these sad situations, came from the Church- total exclusion from the Community and the Sacraments. Fortunately, today, in this world of failures, it is being recognised that the Church is there to strengthen and to nourish God€™s people. It means that in this imperfect world, there will never be a total identification between law and conscience; no more than the letter of the law will always satisfy the spirit of the law. Ultimately, God is the judge.

Scriptural reference:Stop judging, that you may not be judged.  

For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.