Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzwords - Shining Lights
The whole theme of today'€™s liturgy is the impact we can have on others. Few of us give much thought to how our behaviour, good or bad, can influence those around us. All the readings today speak of this matter of "bearing witness".

Isaiah 61:1-2,10-11: The Israelites have just returned from exile and need encouragement to face the task of re-establishing their culture and civilisation in Jerusalem. Isaiah acknowleges that God will speak to His people through him, and he accepts this role of Prophet and Exemplar.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24: Paul encourages this early Christian community to lead lives of personal goodness as encouragement to each other and which, in turn, will have impact on those around them.

John 1: 6-8, 19-28: Here we are told that John the Baptist'€™s role was to "speak as a witness to the light'€™, but he was not the light. The Light was Christ who by word and example has set a pattern for His disciples to follow.

Point 1: Looking back on my school days, vivid memories remain of phrases such as "bad example" and "good example". It was as if to say that because we attended a catholic school, this gave rise to greater expectation in others of how we should behave. And we were constantly schooled against the danger of giving "bad example" or "giving scandal". Unfortunately, there seemed to be the presumption that people were more inclined to follow "bad example" than to be influenced by "good example". As a result, the more positive aspect of setting a "good example" was not equally emphasised.

Point 2: This matter of being influenced by the example of others is very much a matter of concern today. A couple of weeks ago, the results of a survey into why our Catholic schools are not producing in greater numbers, informed, practising Church members suggested that the fault, in certain measure, had to be sheeted home to, firstly, the quality of what is being taught as Christian doctrine, and, secondly, the example of the life styles of teachers and parents. It has long been accepted that, with rare exception, one cannot teach effectively in the school what is not practised in the home.And it has to be acknowledged that the "peer" pressures of a secular society can outweigh the example of a good home.

Conclusion: To "bear witness" is integral to a Christian response to life. At Baptism, we are reminded of this when the priest touches the ears and the mouth of the newly baptised with the prayer to hear the word of God and to make it known. This role of bearing witness should not be confused with button-holing people and engaging in a hard sell exercise - tub thumping as we used to say! No! as Cardinal Suhard, formerly Archbishop of Paris commented -"to bear witness does not mean to engage in propaganda; it means to live our lives in such a way that we would be fools if Jesus were not the son of God". This form of witness is carried out by those whose lives are based on a spirit of Faith and Hope which, in turn, generates a Spirit of Love - doing what we are doing because we want to, not because we have to.

Scriptural reference: "Men do not light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket. They set it on a stand where it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, your light must shine before men so that they may see the goodness in your acts and give praise to your Heavenly Father" (Matt. 5:16-16)