Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - "Sheet Anchor"
Those familiar with boating know the value of a "sheet anchor" to maintain position in turbulent conditions; just as they recognise the value of a "beacon" to guide them to their destination. In many ways, life is very similar to the boating experience when we need to steady ourselves in tough times, and, at all times, we need guidance to maintain an even course.. The readings today put it to us that Christ, under the title of the "Good Shepherd" fills this role.

Acts 13:14,43-52 - Paul and Barnabas, in their preaching in the synagogues of Asia Minor, assure their listeners of the power and the love of God for all people as manifested in Jesus - "a light for the nations".

Apocalypse 7:9,14-17 -From the island of Patmos to which he had been exiled, John seeks to comfort the young Christian communities experiencing persecution, and assures them that the power of God will not desert His people and that their continued loyalty and perseverance will see them numbered among the Saints.

John 10: 27-30 -This promise is repeated in by St. John in the gospel reading which portrays Christ as the Good Shepherd, caring for his flock. The image of the shepherd portrayed here is vastly different from our Australian image of the sheep farmer managing flocks numbering thousands. In the Palestine of Christ's time, the shepherd 's flocks were small and depended on the shepherd to lead them to pasture and provide protection.

Point 1: Unlike many living creatures possessed of highly tuned instincts enabling them to react to given situations, the human being needs to evaluate and to interpret given situations before responding. Education, a good deal of it coming from trial and error, enables us to equip ourselves to deal with most of the situations that we encounter in daily life. But, there are times when, because of the strangeness of the occasion, we find ourselves at a loss; we find ourselves gripped by confusion, even fear. Some examples of such situations readily come to mind- the first real domestic dispute, a severe financial loss, a crisis of friendship, loss of loved ones in sudden or tragic circumstance.

Point 2: As often as not the only response we have, then, is "Why" accompanied by deep-seated anger and rebellion. We feel as though we have been cut adrift and we desperately need something to cling to - a sheet anchor to steady ourselves and a guiding light towards which we can make our way. This need for comfort and guidance is at the very basis of religious thinking which argues that the only complete Being is the Almighty who comforts and strengthens finite beings in time of need and acts as a Shining Light to guide them to their ultimate fulfilment.

Conclusion: The history of this belief is filled with examples of those who have been comforted and strengthened and guided down through the centuries; and continues today - Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, the Apostles and countless faithful men and women in every century. Why should it be any different for us in our moments of crisis, when we feel vulnerable, or look for direction, than it was for David when he wrote: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want; He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still water; He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me". (Psalm 23:1 - 4) or when Christ promised -

"The sheep that belong to me listen to my voice. I know them and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never be lost. (John 16: 27-28). The answer is - it is no different!