Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Depression
Last week, our theme was "expectations" - what do we look for in Christ. But, as we well know, expectations that are not met give rise to disappointment leaving us down in the dumps and depressed. One's self confidence is put to the test and one's faith wavers. Today's liturgy sets itself to reassure us; it shouts aloud "Rejoice! do not be afraid" The challenges of life are not beyond those who call on God's help.

Zepaniah 3:14-18 With the exception of this passage, the whole of Zephaniah's prophecy is unmitigated doom and gloom; but, here he encourages the Israelites not to give up their hope in God's power to save, and he tells them to rejoice in this hope.

Philippians 4: 4-7 emphasises that the challenge of being Christ's disciples should be met with joy! Face up to what you are and let people know why you are what you are!

Luke 3: 10-18 tells of John preparing his disciples for the coming of the Messiah. He wants them to be more generous, honest and fair in their dealings with people. His advice is directed to a broad cross section of the community including tax payers and soldiers.

Point 1: This time of the year, each year, as public thinking is whipped into a consumer frenzy about the "happiness" of Christmas and how that "happiness" can only be suitably expressed by the exchange of expensive presents, we are told that for many Christmas is anything but a time of happiness. Regularly, at this time of the year, we read of those for whom Christmas highlights their sense of failed hopes and expectations. Suicide rates rise at this time, and "Help" lines are kept busy as counsellors seek to deal with these discouraged souls. Fr. Raj, from St. Kieran's Parish, Osborne Park, operates a "help" line from today until 31st December.

Point 2: So much of this distress occurs because the point of "Christmas" - God's visible presence amongst people - has not been grasped or understood. The material trappings initially intended to witness to this stupendous event have become the be all of the Feast; and as people find themselves unable, financially and physically, to maintain the pace of these hectic days, depression sets in.

Strange! for the Feast we are preparing to celebrate is a Feast of Confidence. He shall be called Emmanuel, a name which means - God with us! And if God is with us, who can be against us? The image of God coming amongst people to teach and to provide an example for dealing with life is the one sheet anchor that holds fast as we front the various challenges life presents us with. Some battles we may lose, but in the long run we have the resources at our command for good to overcome evil.

Conclusion: Both the Epistle and the Gospel make this point. St. Paul tells the Philippians and, through them, us, to rejoice in our status as Christ's disciples and to to let others know that our confidence stems from our faith in Christ. The Gospel tells how three different groups of people questioned John on how they should prepare for the coming of the Messiah.

There was the group of ordinary, everyday "John Citizens"; there was the group of tax collectors ( a despised profession); and, finally, a group of soldiers renowned for their brutality. In each instance, advice was given - not some high-flying, esoteric rhetoric - but down-to-earth, practical direction. "John Citizen" was told to be more generous; the taxman was told be fair; the soldier to be less of a stand-over bully and to be more honest.

Transformation lies at the heart of the Christmas story. It has the ability to give people sufficient inner peace, greater confidence and encouragement to handle life's ups and downs. How does it do this? Because it is the Feast of God' presence with us.

Scriptural reference: "By His great mercy, we have been born anew to a living hope.... and to an inh eritance which is imperishable... In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials" ( 1Pet. 1:3-6)