Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - On guard!
Those of us who are familiar with the Scouting Movement founded by Robert Baden Powell in 1907 will recall its motto - "Be Prepared". Today marks the commencement of Advent when the Church's liturgy asks us to do a spiritual stock-take as a lead up to Christmas; a time to ask ourselves who is Christ and why are we His followers.

Isaiah 2: 1-5 - The mountain to which Isaiah invites all people to come symbolises the place of God's presence on earth. It is a place of peace and harmony "where nations will not lift sword against nation and there will be no more training for war". Obviously, there is a long way to go before the ideal is achieved.

Romans 13: 11-14 - The decadence of ancient Rome disturbed Paul greatly; in common with many of that time, he believed that the second coming of Christ was imminent. And so his urgent message to "Be prepared" to be "on guard" so as not to be taken by suprise when the day of the Lord dawned.

Matthew 24: 37-44 - This passage of Scripture reminds us that Advent is a time in which to think of the "last things", namely, death, judgment, heaven or hell and the return of Christ at the end of the world. To ask ourselves -"are we ready"?

Point 1: I wonder - is it an age thing? But where does the time go! Here we are again, less than four weeks to Christmas, and there are cards to be sent, shopping to be done, holiday arrangements to be made and most of us set ourselves for the annual pre-Christmas panic.

But, of course, the celebration of Christmas has deeper significance for Christians who, at this time, ask themselves about Christ and the reasons we have for being His followers. We may be caught short with our material preparations for the feast, but the Church's liturgy, through Advent, gives us every opportunity to be prepared for the spiritual celebration. In these weeks leading up to Christmas we are sharply reminded to be serious about the fundamental meaning and purpose of our lives.

Point 2: The first thought offered is that we need to be prepared for death. We are one year nearer to the end of our lives than we were this time last year. Looking at the extraordinary conquest that science is constantly achieving in every department of life - even to probing the very origins of life itself - the temptation is constantly there to wonder whether the notion of immortality still has relevance to the modern mind. And yet, for all of the discoveries, there is ever growing evidence of continued failure to achieve life in its fullness. The pills, the antidotes, the alcohol, the drugs all point to the fact that life is not all it could be. In the so-called more advanced societies, delinquency is reaching such a level as to destroy one's sense of trust and security. It would seem that "having sown the wind, we are now reaping the whirlwind". The Advent season asks us to consider three questions - Who am I? What am I doing? And where am I going?

Conclusion: Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul - a destiny which can be different for some than for others. It is in terms of this destiny that we understand Christ's declaration that "I have come that you may have life and that more abundantly".  As a religious Sister commented recently when asked "how old she was" replied "97, and another day closer to death! Thank God!"

Scriptural reference: "Come, let us go to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob that he may teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths" (Isaiah 2:3)