Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - New Beginnings - Last Sunday our thoughts were focused on "being prepared" for the day of judgment, and were rather morbid; today, a more joyous theme is presented as we are shown the ideal image of God's presence in and amongst people. Our readings tell us of a vision of peace and joy and hopefulness that contrasts starkly with the reality that we know.

Isaiah 11: 1-10 - In Isaiah's vision, the wolf and the lamb, the leopard and the kid, the calf and the lion shall live together with a child leading them! Evil and Hate shall no longer exist; they will be replaced by Justice and Love under the rule of the Messiah!

2 Romans 15: 4-9 - Paul argues that, with Christ as the common denominator, all people, regardless of origin or background, can live in a state of harmony with each other.

Matthew 3: 1-12 - The thoughts expressed in this passage of St. Matthew's gospel are a little more down to earth. John the Baptist, with his colorful rhetoric tells his followers that one more powerful than he is coming; they must prepare themselves for this new Teacher by changing their life styles through repentance.

Point 1: Every year at this time we find ourselves wondering about the peace that was to come with the coming of the Prince of Peace; and all we see is bloodshed and strife - Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Indonesia or any other place you care to name. It is hard to resist the belief that, in reality, the world is a jungle in which tooth and claw are the dominant factors. Our lives are so influenced by envy and selfishness that it appears to be naive in the extreme to suggest that peace can reign in the hearts and affairs of people. And yet, that is exactly what our Christian Faith expects of us.

Point 2: So! What steps are we to take in order to experience the peace of which Christ is the Prince? We need to know that , in the first instance, it must be found in the individual. It is a personal endowment which grows with the knowledge that the individual is at peace with the Creator. It is a state of mind that can, if sufficient numbers share it, become a condition of life influencing others. Just as the ripple does not start at the edge of the pool and spread to the centre, neither does peace come from external sources. Such peace begins to exist as each person goes through the transformation that John is calling for. The fear, the suspicion and the envy that separate people from each other need to give way to trust. It is true that the "wise man goes strongly armed", but it is equally true that all the bombs and rockets in the world will not produce lasting peace unless they serve to create an atmosphere in which people decide it is better to trust than it is to regard everyone as a lying, scheming, two-timing no hoper! Oscar Wilde commented that a "cynic is one who distrusts others because he has first learned to distrust himself".

Conclusion: Looking at today's Gospel, we see St. John calling his followers to prepare for the coming of the Messiah through repentance. We, too, need to adopt the same program as we examine our lives, firstly, in relation to God; secondly, our own inner self, and, thirdly, our relationship with others. We do all of this in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where our failures are forgiven by Christ, our weakness is strengthened by Christ, and our sense of hope grows as we contemplate the mystery of God's presence amongst people and make that known to others.

If there is no peace today, it is not because Christ's promise has been proved vain;  as G.K. Chesterton so aptly commented - it is not, "that Christianity has been tried and found wanting; it was found hard and not tried".

Scriptural reference: " Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace-- in peace because they trust in you." [Isa 26:3]