Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - I believe!
My reflection last week concluded with St. Paul's statement - "If Christ be not risen our preaching is empty and your faith vain". The readings today focus our attention on the faith of the early Christian community and its doubts. Faith and doubt are a little like the "the horse and carriage" in the musical "Oklahoma" - you can't have one without the other!

Acts. 5:12 - 16 - Following the resurrection, Christ no longer worked miracles of physical healing. This ministry was now taken on by the Apostles. and, together with the devotion of the growing Christian community, it generated great respect amongst people and resulted in many conversions.

Apocalypse 1:9-13, 17-19 - Here we encounter the mystical language of St. John as he seeks to comfort members of the early Christian community who were being persecuted. But, whatever language is used, the message is the same "Believe! because Christ is risen".

St. John 20:19-31 - In this passage, we have an account of Christ meeting with the apostles, and the difficulty they have in believing that it is really Christ speaking to them.

Point 1: We all know people, especially among the young, who tell us that they can no longer be Catholics because they no longer believe. But, ask them what don't they believe in and the situation becomes confused. For some, they do not believe in angels; or papal infallibility, or the church's teaching on divorce and birth control or premarital sex. For others, the celibate clergy is a problem, or their favourite saint has been "deregistered", or they do not like the changes that have been made in the liturgy. For others, they do not like a particular priest, or brother or nun! In every instance, they have missed the point of Faith. Faith relates to God - Is there a God or not? All else relates to how we allow this belief to be expressed in our daily lives. How often do we meet people who state that they "are not of our faith" when we know they are good living people who believe in God, but have chosen a different form of expressing their belief through a different religious tradition usually centred in a different liturgy.

Point 2: In dealing with faith, it is important to recognise that faith rarely exists without difficulty and doubt. Another important consideration is to realise to what extent being part of a community helps the individual deal with such doubts. Faith and doubt coexist in the human personality; they have done so from the beginning of Christianity, and before that. And they always will. For some, the difficulty is that the serene and self-assured guidance provided by the Church to its members is no longer there to the same extent. "If" and "maybe" are now heard as often as "You will" or "You will not" were heard in the past. Many who had built their lives on teachings which are now being questioned or discarded feel betrayed. Many are confused by the presence of "liberal" and "conservative" Catholics. Others have given up on the Church and are trying to forge their own answers. In either case, the community of "God's People" has suffered because it has lost the advantage of the mutual comfort and support that faith-sharing in a community provides.

Conclusion: One of the principal benefits of having a community of believers is that the community supports and strengthens its members in times of difficulty and doubt. A good example of this is the advantage a team feels when it is playing "at home" in front of its supporters rather than playing "away" before a hostile crowd. The old political rallying cry comes to mind "United we stand! Divided we fall! A final thought on this subject is - always remember that a faith challenged can be a faith strengthened! All the great names of history are there because they overcame challenge.

Scriptural reference: "I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart in the company and assembly of the just" (Psalm 111, 1)