Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Despondency!
We hear of so little other than of wars, terrorism, protests, inflation, scandals, world wide famine and natural disasters, that it seems natural to ask -"what is happening to the world"? Well, there's nothing new in this; such periods of depression and uncertainty occur frequently in history. It was into such a scene that Christ came, heralded by John the Baptist, calling for repentance and transformation.

Isaiah: 40:1-5;9-11: Isaiah tells the Israelites that their days of exile are about to finish and they will return to their homeland secure in the knowledge that, despite their failures, they are still the Chosen People.

2 Peter: 3: 8-14: This epistle concerns itself with a problem that was a constant with the early Christian community - the timing of the second coming of the Lord. Peter's advice is to concentrate on the present; that way the future will take care of itself however long or short the time may be!

Mark: 1:1-8: John the Baptist, on the banks of the Jordan, commences his mission with the resounding cry "Prepare a way for the Lord, and make his paths straight"!

Point 1: Despondency appears to be a very operative word in to-day's society. Materially, undoubtedly, those who live in the so-called "western world" have more than they have ever had; but it does not alter the fact that a great many are not happy despite the material advantages now available.‚  The current financial crisis is making a good many ask "What do I need? What do I want?".‚ ‚  Basic foundations on which our culture grew are constantly being eroded - marriage, family, sense of justice, honesty with each other - all showing severe signs of strain. However, we need to rest assured that such periods of depression and uncertainty are not novel to our age.

Point 2: It was into such a scene that Christ came. The world then was no more ripe for the Christian message than is the world in which we live. Secularism appealed as much to the Roman society of yesteryear, as it does to the western world today. Then, the vast majority of the people who were not educated replaced religion with superstition, just as so many today look to a combination of science and superstition to the exclusion of "Faith" as a valid component in our quest for knowledge. The sense of "law and order" that characterised Roman occupation derived largely from a marriage of the Roman passion for efficiency and its all conquering armies, with little understanding of the individual and his/her rights. Such a concept only came with the recognition of Christianity in the 4th century under Constantine, although the lawful practice of slavery continued until the early nineteenth century. Even today, despite the Bill of Emancipation sponsored by William Wilberforce in the early 19th century, only lip service is paid to this great Christian ideal- equality of people before God. Greek influence prevailed in the field of philosophy. As the Roman poet Virgil wistfully commented -"while others might write the philosophy, tragedy and poetry, carve the statues; it is yours, O Rome, to rule". (Aeneid, Bk V1 847) No! The age into which Christ came was one of uncertainty and inequality. For all of that, Christ modified the society in which He lived, and we believe that this power of transformation can still be found in His teaching to strengthen the society in which we live..

Conclusion: This is the point of our Advent preparation - a time to review, evaluate and decide - so that the celebration of Christmas will help us to make the necessary adjustments in our thinking and habits. Times are not so different from when Christ first came. Then, for the educated, philosophy was a substitute for religion, whilst the uneducated opted for superstition. Today's world is characterised by the same complacency, indifference, ignorance and hostility as characterised that early period of history. This time of Advent is designed to make us more fully aware of the part that each of us has to play in consolidating the reformation set in motion by Christ.

Scriptural reference: " I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will tell of Your wonderful deeds; I will be glad and exult in You. I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High". (Psalm 9:1-2)