Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Immortality!
Fact or fiction! This is the ever present question all people ask. There is no doubt that all forms of life die; only the human form knows, from an early age, that it is destined to die. This gives rise to that most fundamental religious question - is death the end? Christ says NO! Today's Feast and readings all centre on this hope of immortality that inspires Christian effort.

Apocalypse 7:2-14 With imagery bordering on the fantastic, St. John seeks to encourage the early Christian community during a time of fierce persecution. The hope of eternal union with God is as valid for us as it was for those suffering because of their commitment to Christ.

John 3: 1-3 In this first letter of St. John speaks of the real relationship that exists between God and people. This relationship is acknowledged by the performance of good works leading to becoming permanent citizens in the eternal City of God.

Matthew 5:1-12 Few passages are as well known, or quoted as frequently, as this passage known universally as the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes. However, because of poor translations and the fact that words have different meanings in different languages and in different social environments, one needs to look closely at the original meanings to understand Christ's words .

Point 1: Of all the paradoxical statements that Christ made during his public ministry, few are more paradoxical that those that we have just heard. They represent a moral teaching that was out of kilter with conventional standards accepted then and, even, today is not totally accepted.. The great bulk of the people in Christ's time were poor. Wealth and power were possessed by a minority. But Christ wanted His words to be heard and understood by all - wealthy or poor. So, let us look a little more closely at what it is that Christ is saying; because there has to be a deeper significance that that which first meets the eye.

The greeting "Blessed" or "Happy" was a congratulatory statement and was used in the sense of a promise of reward for virtue practised. In English, "Blessed" comes closer to the original meaning. Looking now at the eight declarations, we see:-

1. Poor in spirit - Anyone, wealthy, powerful, poor or weak, has need to recognise a spiritual dimension to living. Those who recognise this are 'blessed', because they are admitting that, without such a dimension, life is impoverished.

2. Gentle - As distinct from being proud, arrogant or assertive. Admitting that one needs guidance as to how life should be lived.

3. Mourn - those who are discouraged or depressed by the evil in the world and who regret their own sinfulness.

4. Hunger and Thirst - a desire for a good relationship with God and a recognition that righteousness comes from personal effort combined with God's help.

5. Merciful - Compassion, a constant theme in the Scriptures, involving almsgiving and forgiveness.

6. Pure in Heart - Sincerity in word and action. Not living behind a facade.

7. Peacemakers - Those who make up after quarrels - reconciliation

8. Persecution - Already, a pattern of opposition to Christ was emerging and already his disciples were being persecuted. This pattern of behaviour has continued down through the centuries. Fidelity in the face of such opposition merits reward. In these statements, one sees a pattern of Christian practise that can only be understood in terms of eternal union with the Creator. Today's Feast and Liturgy are powerful reminders of this aspect of our Faith.

Scriptural reference: [Wis 3:1] But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be a disaster, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace. For though in the sight of others they were punished, their hope is full of immortality.