Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Renewal
During Lent, in these short reflections, I have touched upon aspects of our Christian response to life - new growth, temptation, transformation, reconciliation - all suggested by the scripture readings of the day. Today€™s readings speak to us of the opportunities for renewal in our attitudes.

Isaiah 43: 16-21: The Israelite people are again in exile, this time in Babylonia. Isaiah assures them that God has not abandoned them. They will undertake another exodus which will bring them back to Jerusalem where they will, again, be free to worship and to restore their culture in expectation of the advent of a new and great Prophet, as yet unnamed, whom we now know to be Christ.

Philippians 3: 8-14: St. Paul acknowledges that from the time he accepted Christ, his whole life had changed and had become one of constant renewal. One task done, another would be undertaken. There was never a question of him resting on his laurels.

John 8: 1-11: Here Christ makes it clear that the narrow, judgmental attitudes of those unwilling to forgive is more of an evil than the sin of the woman taken in adultery. Jesus neither condemns or condones. He simply offers her a chance for renewal €˜"to go and sin no more".

Point 1: Years ago I remember hearing a song the name of which I cannot remember, sung by a "hill-billy" artist whose name, also, I do not remember; but, the opening lines of the song were -"the sun comes up, the sun goes down! life gets taydeous, don€™t it"! and several verses later, all testifying to the monotony of daily life, the song concludes with "hound dawg howling so forlorn; €˜cos he€™s sitting on a thorn and too durn tired to move over"! It is not easy to maintain positive attitudes. It seems easier to settle for monotony, for routine living believing that "the devil you know is better than the devil you don€™t know".

Point 2: What happens, of course, is when we think this way we easily become insensitive and discouraged. Even worse, we may start to look for artificial escape routes - alcohol and drug abuse, infidelity, and laziness, among others. Particularly is this so in specific vocations - e.g. priesthood or marriage. In these vocations, the possibility of getting into a rut is ever present. They are two areas where it is necessary to be on one€™s guard against negative thinking. It is easy for the priest and others working at close quarters with people to become cynical and judgmental, to lose one€™s sense of trust. Oscar Wilde is credited with having written -"a cynic is one who distrusts others because he has first learned to distrust himself". No greater compliment, I believe, can be given to priest or parent than to hear it said €˜they listen as though they really cared". And for those who are married, routine is the great threat. Even if this does not lead to extramarital experimentation, it inevitably leads to stagnation and strained relations on the home front.

Conclusion: Complacency and a feeling of being taken for granted are tell tale signs of monotonous routine in a relationship - "the sun comes up; the sun goes down". Despite the greater freedoms available to people in today€™s society, more and more people are living out their lives in "locked in situations". For the committed Christian there should be no such thing as a complacent routine. Life is intended to be a continuing effort motivated by our unshakeable confidence in God€™s promise to help us start over and to encourage us to constant renewal and growth, no matter how often we fail.

Scriptural reference: "But you are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful. slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and you did not forsake them" (Nehemiah 9: 17)