Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzz words - Sprat for mackerel
Playing the odds is a familiar exercise for most people. The thought of a small outlay for a bigger return is attractive to most people; sometimes, however, so attractive that sight is lost of the risk involved. This concept of "giving up" a little to achieve a greater return is forcibly projected in today's readings.

Jeremiah 31:31-34: In this passage we have the only explicit reference in the Old Testament to the New Testament. The Old, written in stone, will give way to the New, written in peoples' hearts by the example and teaching of Christ.

Hebrews 5:7-9: Here we see Christ surrendering his will to the will of the Father, even though, initially, he prayed to be delivered. By surrendering his will to the will of the Father, Christ made possible the salvation of everyone.

Gospel Jn. 12:20-30: This passage explains the inevitability of his passion and death and the benefits that would come from it. In order to yield a harvest, the grain of wheat must die.

Point 1: Giving up, surrendering, yielding, accepting - all of these can be painful experiences. The very words sit uneasily on our lips because, in one way or another, they mean we have been beaten, and we do not like being beaten. And yet all are necessary if a mature personality is to emerge; and they are doubly necessary if a complete Christian attitude to living is to develop. Areas of daily living come readily to mind where we see the need to have this ability to yield. Parents must surrender a child to adulthood so that the child may have the opportunity to pursue an independent life. A man and a woman in love must finally surrender to each other, not only in the physical sense, but just as importantly in the psychic sense. They need to give up the pretences, the defences, the desire to manipulate the other and to recognise the right each has to be what they are in themselves and to accept that which the other is. "If I don't want to, you can't make me; but you can always make me want to!" In terminal illness, the acceptance of the fact that the illness is terminal is an absolute prerequisite for the person to adjust to the reality of death. To yield in these ways is not easy.

Point 2: In the same way, the Christian response to living is not easy because it involves giving up a good many things which, at first sight, are natural and acceptable stances. We are called on to control, even to give up, inclinations that arise from pride, covetousness, lust, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. [1 Cor 6:12] "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are beneficial. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be dominated by anything".

Conclusion: In our desire to give a Christian response to life's situations, we set ourselves to follow the example of Christ. He surrendered to the will of the Father so that many would benefit by having the opportunity for salvation. We surrender our will so that we may take advantage of that opportunity provided at such a cost. And this yielding on our part, although it may involve disadvantage in the short term, is not as disastrous as it may first appear, for from it comes peace of mind and happiness in the short term as well as in the long term. In the short term, the strength of character that emerges from the discipline we practise has its own satisfaction. In addition, few things are as satisfying as a good conscience. In the long term, there is the assurance given by Christ in the gospel excerpt that we have just read:

Scriptural reference: [John 12:26] Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.