Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Two to Tango
"Dialogue" is a word‚  we hear a great deal of in recent years, and it relates to the reality of life that it takes two to tango. No one person or one group has a complete monopoly on right and wrong. Our readings today, particularly the first and the third, bring this truth home to us.

Numbers 11: 25-29: - Because of age, the burden of leadership had become too much for Moses, and so he decided to share it with 70 others. Two, not included in the original 70, also received the gift of prophecy; Joshua disputed their legitimacy to be prophets, only to be reminded by Moses "that the Spirit blows where it will".

James 5: 1-6 - James departs from his normal, restrained style to attack social oppression, advocating the rights of all people to be heard and to be treated fairly.

Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48: Several points touching on our theme of "dialogue" are contained in this gospel reading
1. Good servants are not jealous of good service provided by others.
2. A warning is given on the malice of hurting simple believers,
3. A more general warning is given about causing scandal.

Point 1:‚  When Rome becomes concerned about an issue, it is always with good reason. In recent years, on a number of occasions, the Church's authority has moved to curb currents of change appearing in church practice since Vatican 11. The most recent has been‚  when Pope Benedict spoke on the need to look at some current practices relating to the celebration of Mass.‚  He specifically mentioned departures from approved texts set down; his words confirmed earlier statements by Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. Already the hackles are up in many quarters. Comments such as "undue interference" by a group of "old men" in Rome; "out of touch" with people - to mention a couple of the more charitable expressions of opinion! However, as with any structured organisation, the "buck" has to stop somewhere. In the case of the two "cause celebre" - Brisbane and Melbourne - currently claiming public attention, the position of the two Archbishops is crystal clear!

Point 2: Leaving aside the higher levels of international church diplomacy, I think it good, from time to time, to look at what model of local church we are part of. Is it one in which the clergy do the talking and the collecting, and the people do the listening and the giving? No doubt there are some for whom such a model is the only one they know. But Vatican 11 has made it plain that such a model is inadequate. There needs to be dialogue between Priest and People allowing both to have turns at saying and listening. This being the case, then, following the lead offered by Vatican 11, an appropriate model is one in which the the Laity are prepared to speak and to listen, and the Hierarchy is prepared to listen and to speak. Both groups, in such a model, will acknowledge that there will be times when one needs to accept the opinion of the other. The Church is not exclusively the Clergy and the Hierarchy; nor is it simply the Laity operating independently of church leadership. The real Church is a partnership of both with each speaking to and listening to the other. And such a model will be able to embrace different cultural influences without undue insistence on uniformity, at the same time preserving unity.

Indeed, looking at the long history of the Church, so much has resulted from initiatives coming from outside the official structures of church organisation. Men and women, believing that they were called by God and responding to that inspiration, have been responsible for so much good despite initial opposition from the institutional church. Blessed Mary MacKillop is but one classic example.

Conclusion: Dialogue is never easy - East and West; Christian and non-Christian; Catholic and Protestant; Labour and Management; Parent and Children; Husband and Wife. It is difficult at most times; it is impossible where one starts with the premise of having a total monopoly on what is right and what is wrong.

Scriptural reference: Therefore I say: "Listen to me; let me declare my opinion. See, I waited for your words, I listened for your wise sayings, while you searched out what to say. I gave you my attention.. (Book of Job, 32: 10-12)