Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - God with Us
Since the early 1970'€™s, there is hardly an institution or a convention of Australian life which has not been subjected to serious challenge or to radical change. And this quest for constant change on a broad front continues. The most dramatic example being the changed roles for men and women and the consequent impact upon the family structure. For many a great part of the problem is the failure by modern industrial society to provide a sense of meaning, of belonging and purpose in our lives. We no longer feel part of a community or as valued members of society - merely cogs in a great industrial process.

Another damaging feature of today'€™s society has been the attempt to provide a value free education. The argument is made that to educate young people to be a moral force in society implies a programme of indoctrination; this, in turn, suffocates the spirit and takes away their sense of being individuals. The real result of such an experiment has been to produce a culture that gives our children little more than themselves to believe in as gauged by the acquisition of wealth and status. Consequently, many are left without hope or optimism.

The Christmas story, however, lifts our aspirations. In it we find cause for hope and optimism. Christmas glows with a special kind of light. It celebrates the belief that a divine light has been sparked in the world. The point of this light is a child and we are drawn, irresistibly, to the light He radiates. Part of our response springs from a simple sense of joy; and part is a desire to recognise and honour goodness. The sparkle of Christmas reflects a belief that we are capable of achieving and doing good, regardless of wealth or status. The Christmas experience inspires us to transcend our limitations.

Christmas offers options to the individual - compassion rather than aggression; forgiveness instead of '€˜getting even'€™; humility instead of arrogance; love rather than hate. Christ presents us with the option to embrace a gentler, kinder society which, left to ourselves, seems to be beyond our reach.

This choice is not a soft option. It requires a firm sense of responsibility for our individual actions and an appreciation of the worth of others. It does not find expression in mawkish sentimentality or a funny inward feeling devoid of action.

The history of humanity has always centred around two options - to go at life alone, or, to come at it with God as our motivating force. The religious contribution to our understanding of life has been one of coming at life with God. The Christian understanding of God, in particular, is the story of an approach to life with God-made-man in the person of Christ. Christmas is rightly called the Feast of Emmanuel, mean, God is with us.

The attempt has not been without its failures or its contradictions as we grope our way to a more complete understanding of our Christian commitment. Nor has it been easy. To judge its success one should not look at those who have steadfastly refused to give it a go; not even at those who have made a half hearted or emotional response to Christ'€™s invitation to "Come follow Me". Rather do we draw assurance from those countless millions whose lives have been formed and motivated through their contact with Christ - those men, women and children who have accepted Christ as the illuminating influence in their lives.

And so, the question we ask ourselves as we celebrate this Feast of God'€™s presence amongst us - are we really children of the Light; or do we scurry out of the darkness at this time of festivity to celebrate something hastily which we do not fully understand, and then return to the darkness of doubt, of fear, of cynicism, even of despair. How different life is for those who really believe what they celebrate!