Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Signs and Wonders
From the human point of view, the Christian message is not very encouraging. As St. Paul writes - an obstacle for the Jews that they could not get over, and madness for the pagans. Not much has changed; many are still repelled by the deeper significance of Christian commitment - dedication to and motivation by the love of God. Others depend on signs and wonders to bolster their faith.

Exodus 20:1-17: - The commandments laid out by Moses are a God-given structure of right attitudes and behaviour based, firstly, on placing God at the centre of life, and, secondly, on respect and regard for others.

1 Cor. 1:22-25: - The Corinthians were attracted by every new fad and fashion that came along; they wanted the wisdom of Greek philosophy and they wanted the signs and wonders of the Jews. Paul dismisses their demands with the blunt - "we preach not signs and wonders, but Christ crucified".

John 2:13-25: - In today's reading, John has combined two different stories - the cleansing of the temple and the prediction of its destruction. Christ also recognises the shallowness of those who have accepted him simply because of the signs and wonders that he had performed, without understanding the deeper message of the gospel that he preached.

Point 1: From time to time we hear of "doomsday cult" holocausts - the Jones massacre in Guyana and, more recently, the  horrific massacres in central Africa, and the daily accounts of "suicide" bombers. No doubt such news items distress you, as they do me. Such fanaticism does nothing to help the cause of religion, especially when it is encouraged by men who had the opportunity, through their priestly training, to know better the spirit of Christianity. But whilst not nearly so extreme, there are many today whose thinking still centres upon signs and wonders for their acceptance of Christ. Under the pressures of secularism from without and complacency from within, the Church today is experiencing upheaval and turmoil; and the result has been a wavering and falling off by many. The more arrogant explain this simplistically by saying that a tree shaken by the wind first loses its dead leaves . The malaise, I believe, goes more deeply than that.

Point 2: For a good many, their Christian response is still anchored in tradition and, in large part, is a hand-me-down performance - baptism, marriage, funeral - and a tick on the census form where it asks "Religion", or attendance at a Catholic school, not so much for the religious input, but because it is considered that a better "atmosphere" exists in such schools. Christianity is not seen as a way of living. Faith in God's love must be the dominant motivating force in those who claim the title Christian. The Corinthian converts, like so many today, were attracted to Christ for the wrong reasons - the spectacular signs and wonders. Paul tries to lift them beyond this level to know that the essence of Christianity is service motivated by love, even if it included Calvary. A similar frame of mind appears , for example, in people whose sense of prayer and worship depends largely on 'getting something out of it!' You know the type - Hardly worth while going to Church; the homilies are awful; all you hear about is the parish debt'! "Or going to Church leaves me cold! Doesn't give me a thing!" The growing interest in the occult, even Satanism by the young reflects this same desire for signs and wonders. Contrast this attitude with the attitude of the person who sees prayer and worship as opportunities to acknowledge love already shown, rather than as being opportunities to ask for more signs.

Conclusion: This is not to say that the prayer of petition should disappear; but keep it where the Lord put it when He taught us to pray - down the line after the greatness of God had been acknowledged.

We all experience fears and anxieties and doubts. The trick is not to let these extinguish the light of Faith that has led us so far. What counts is not being immune from these doubts, but to continue, as Christ did, in spite of them. Christ projected himself in the image of God -  "For I the Lord your God am a jealous God... showing steadfast love to those who love Me and keep my commandments".

The example of Christ's Faith and Christ's love which led Him to Calvary are the only signs we really need. Anyone who cannot be persuaded by these will not be persuaded by anything else.

Scriptural reference: [Exo 31:13] : "You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, given in order that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.