Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - For better, for worse!
One of the more difficult and delicate tasks people set themselves is to live in close proximity with another person. It cannot be achieved unless each, from time to time, is willing to forgive and to forget. Today's readings take the example of marriage to illustrate the relationship between God and His people as one in which He is constantly willing to forgive and to forget.

Hosea 2:16-17.21-22:- Hosea's wife was habitually unfaithful, and he was required by God constantly to forgive her. So it was with God and Israel. The theme of Yahweh married to his people goes back to the very beginning of Jewish religious history. Repeated acts of infidelity brought repeated pardons.

Corinthians 3:1-6:- Paul's relationship with the Corinthian Christian community was a very stormy one. But, for all of his anger at them for their constant criticism, his love for them remains intact.

Mark 2:18-22: By comparing it to the joy of a marriage celebration, Christ emphasises that the religious relationship is not a joyless, guilt ridden state, but one that should be full of joy because inherent in it is to be found the power of forgiveness. The reference to the need to repair one's garment and how to preserve wine are practical pointers to the preservation of our relationships with God or with each other.

Point 1: In the last several Sundays, we have heard much about sin and forgiveness - sin being described as spiritual leprosy having the capacity to paralyse our spiritual life. Today, two applications are suggested by the readings. Firstly, the need to forgive and to be forgiven in our personal relationships because God forgives us. In the Lord's prayer we are taught this important lesson - "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us". If the Lord holds no grudges against us, neither should we hold grudges against those we love.

Point 2: Especially is this so in marriage. In every relationship, and especially in marriage, we offend and give offence; we hurt and are hurt! Sensitivity, patience, understanding, knowing when to speak and when to be quiet are not easy virtues to acquire. Yet they are absolutely essential for relationships to survive. And when failures occur, as they always will, gracious acknowledgement is indispensable. One must be able gracefully to apologise and the other must, equally, gracefully, accept the sorry plea. This graceful and sincere exchange of pardon in a close human relationship reflects the divine presence at work in those concerned. Indeed, one hears it said, that the pain of argument is frequently more than compensated for by the joy of making up!

Conclusion: The second direction in which today's readings take us is to understand that there is nothing we can do that God will not forgive, given our goodwill. We know that reconciliation in a marriage will be followed at some point by another misunderstanding, quarrel or conflict. So it is with God and with us; we both know there will be future offences, future forgiveness, and we take courage and joy from this knowledge that no matter how many times we fall, the opportunity is always there to rise one more time. As the Psalmist writes:

Scriptural reference: "The Lord is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. His wrath will come to an end; he will not be angry forever." (Psalm 102 :8-9)