Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - "For or Against"
How often have we found ourselves in situations where we have been advised -"You can't sit on the fence; you have to decide one way or the other"! And no matter which decision is made, the result is division and disagreement. The readings today highlight "for or against" situations.

Jeremiah 38: 4-6, 8-10: Jeremiah, prophet of "doom and gloom" so irritated the people that they decided to be rid of him. His constant pessimism left them drained of hope, and so it was resolved to free themselves from his carping criticism by a fairly drastic solution.

Hebrew 12: 1-4: The unknown author of the letter to the Hebrews continues to hold up examples of faithful men and women as encouragement to a small Christian community experiencing difficulty and persecution, as it struggled to live with the decision to convert to Christ from their traditional Judaic faith.

Luke 12: 49-53: The Gospel passage is puzzling and off-putting, and appears to contradict other statements by Christ where He states that His mission is to bring peace and love into peoples' lives. We need to understand that, here, Christ is making a prediction and a lament. He knew that people would use Him as an excuse for conflict and division. How right He was!

Point 1: Conflict over religious commitment is not new. Indeed, it is often stated that more wars have been fought over religion than any other cause. Maybe, maybe not! It is true, however, that arguments over religion are frequent; so much so that many adopt as a rule of conversation - no religion, no politics! Despite the fact that Christ's message was of peace, love and forgiveness so that people could learn to trust and to respect each other, He realised that this message would generate conflict. In addition to all the other reasons, people would now have another reason to argue and to fight. Current world crisis points to religion as a constant source of conflict; but, at what point religion bows out and politics steps in is open to question.

Point 2: Those who accept Christ soon realise that there is a price to be paid if one is to be Christian. Just as adherents of other beliefs and convictions have a price to pay for being what they are. Christians are strange people whose understanding of life challenges those who do not have the faith. We believe that life has a purpose over and beyond what this world offers. We believe that love can conquer hate! We believe that life is stronger than death! We believe that good is stronger than evil! We believe that it is possible to be open and generous, and caring!

Point 3: Such attitudes provoke those who do not share these convictions. Tough minded, sophisticated hard nosed people, (their description), who don't believe in resurrection have no time for this "naive" belief in immortality that underpins religious conviction.. In extreme situations, their opposition is expressed through prejudice, hatred, even persecution. Today, the favourite weapon is ridicule - statements like "Pie in the sky", "opium of the people"; "peer pressure" is frequently quoted by our youngsters as a reason for giving up the faith. More recently, the sins of the few are brought forward to denigrate the good deeds of the majority. And, of course, the acrimonious divisions within Christianity have not helped. The recent agreement by the Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations on major issues is a move forward to establish mutual trust and respect by the different denominations and could be the beginning of a range of practical initiatives. Commenting on this, Bishop Putney, Catholic representative on the committee said, "There are many fronts to fight on improved relationships amongst Christians," he said. "Between Catholics and Orthodox, there are minimal theological differences, but great differences in history and culture. Amongst Catholics and those of the Reformed tradition, culture is less problematic but ideas of Church, tradition and the sacraments can be a great divide. There is a very great deal to do."

Conclusion: Today's thoughts focus upon conflict between those who hope and those who are cynics. In the final analysis, there are only two ways to approach human life - the way of the cynic and the way of the hopeful. The choice is ours!

Scriptural reference: [Mat 12:30] Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.