Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Complacency
Our folklore contains a great deal of advice about being complacent - "many a slip between cup and lip"; " pride cometh before the fall"; "he who stands, take heed lest he fall". Alexander Pope in "An Essay on Criticism" wrote - "Of all the causes that conspire to blind .... is pride, the never failing vice of fools". Of our readings today, the first and second give encouragement; but, the reading from the Gospel issues a stern warning against taking for granted the fact that everyone will achieve salvation. Eternal life can only be gained by continued effort.

Isaiah 66: 18-21 - Here Isaiah writes of his vision of Yahweh gathering the nations together on the holy mountain in Jerusalem, an image of ultimate union with God - salvation.

Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13 - The early Christian community in Jerusalem was being subjected to serious trials, and the unknown author of this letter is encouraging them to see some purpose in what was happening and to use the experience to strengthen their faith.

Luke 13:22-30 - The confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders has deepened; again he warns them that, regardless of their traditions and status as God's chosen people, salvation is not automatic - not for them, not for anyone! On this question of salvation, there are no grounds for complacency.

Point 1: All religious teaching and practice has as its goal the eternal salvation of the individual. As religious people, we set ourselves the task of achieving an eternal destiny of union with God. Alone of all God's creatures, humans have the choice of a life style that can lead to, or away from, this destiny. In reply to a question on this subject of eternal salvation, Christ explains that whilst everyone has the opportunity to be saved, not all will take it. Those who will be saved are those who "try to enter by the narrow door". There are no privileged free passes to eternal life. It can only be earned.

Point 2: Now few of us are exempt from the very human practice of calling on friendship for favors. "It's not what you know, but who you know that counts"! Well, Christ has made it quite clear that is not the way it works in the matter of eternal salvation. It will not be enough for us to say that we have shared a meal with him - gone to Mass - or met him casually in a moment of need - the urgent prayer of petition in moments of crisis; or listened to him speak to us in the Scriptures. It is not going to be sufficient to say "we have been there". We need to be "doers" as well. Christ even goes so far as to warn those whose ancestors, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the Prophets, were the founders of their tradition, that they have no guarantee of salvation because of their heritage.

Point 3: So! If more is required than just being "hearers" of the word, it is worth while asking, what is meant by being a "doer"? And the first answer, I believe, is to be found in being unselfish. For the unselfish, myriad ways open for them to be "doers". I suppose most of us, from time to time, try to imagine what it will be like when we come face to face with our God to give an account of our stewardship. I imagine a scenario such as this - that I have been given a number of years in which to prove myself, and the following questions will present themselves. How have I used those years? In what way is the world a better place for me having been there? In what way have the lives of other people been better for having known me? To what extent have I bridged the gap between what I could have done and what I have done?

Conclusion: And the answers to this self appraisal will have to be totally honest covering the achievements and failures. Such a scenario is suggested by St. Matthew's description of the Last Judgment - [Mat 25:35ss]. "for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me".

All of which should make us wary of being too complacent with our current efforts.

Scriptural reference: [John 9:4] We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work.