Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Good Shepherd Image
On Easter Saturday, each year many people are officially received into the Church; and, probably in the intervening twelve months, as many give up being practical Catholics. All of which, I think, makes us reflect on 'what is the Church". Why are some attracted to joining it, whilst others see no value in continuing to be members?

Acts 4:8-12 For the Apostles, their new found faith in Christ left them no choice - they had to carry on the work of healing and teaching that He had prepared them to do.

1 John 3:1-2 John compares being a disciple of Christ with being members of a family in which, if one suffers, all suffer; and if one rejoices, all rejoice.

John 10:11-18 The Good Shepherd image is to be found in all the gospel traditions. It was extremely popular in the Church of the Catacombs; then, as now, the well-being of the flock depends on the care of the shepherd.

Point 1: In recent years, many have been disappointed by the exposure of flaws and weaknesses in the church, particularly within the ranks of the higher echelons of church membership. For some, these aberrations have caused them to leave the Church. Other have seen the need to go into defensive mode and to attack those who opened their mouth in criticism, branding them as enemies or bigots or disloyal traitors! Either group is showing a less than mature understanding of what the Church is.

Point 2: Religious association as offered through membership in a particular church group is simply a recognition that individual needs are best satisfied in community. That is why we have social clubs, dart clubs, football clubs and so on, all satisfying individual needs for companionship, competition and so on. The personal and individual relationship that exists between every person and the Creator is no different; it also benefits by association with others. The Church, then, is simply an association of people seeking a common goal, using common means. The faith that underpins this relationship does not entirely depend on the wisdom or the virtue of those we encounter in the course of the association; although we can be encouraged, or discouraged, by the example of those around us.

Conclusion: In the final analysis, it is the recognition of Christ's presence in the association that dictates a person'€™s loyalty. Loose sight of that, and the membership soon falls apart. Recognising this, we soon are able to know that our faith does not require us to turn a blind eye to the human frailty of the church; nor is one's faith based on the erroneous conviction that everything the Pope, the bishop or the priest, or other members of the association say or do, is going to be perfect. For those who make up the Church are human and, therefore, not perfect. Christ did not promise a perfect Church; but He did promise that in it He would be constantly available to as many imperfect types as wanted to reach Him. It is this abiding presence that the individual first recognises in Christ's willingness to forgive. [Isa 1:18] Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. It is worthwhile remembering that there may be a perfect church somewhere, though the day any of us joins it, it would becomes imperfect. The Church has value because it is an expression of Christ's abiding concern, carrying on, as it does, His double ministry of teaching and healing.

Scriptural reference: [Heb 12:1-2] Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.