Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - "Think Positive"
I recall the lyrics of a song written years ago urging us "to accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative". Motivators tour the country offering similar advice to people experiencing hard times. There are those, however, who try to gloss over the fact that life is a combination of good and bad times; who pretend that evil and suffering have no place in life. That is not the way Christ sees it - life is a combination of good and evil in which, through Faith and Hope, evil can be made to serve good, and Divine Justice will correct any final imbalance.

Acts 3:13-15, 17-19 - Peter reminds the Jewish community of the great evil committed with the crucifixion of Jesus; however, he eases their sense of guilt by encouraging them to understand that God's plan of salvation involved Christ's suffering and death. In a way. they were the unwitting instruments in the fulfilment of this plan that offers the possibility of forgiveness and reconciliation to all. O culpa felix! - 'O Happy Fault"

1 John 2:1-5 - Here, too, we find the same two elements of evil and goodness being emphasised. Evil as seen in the rejection of the commandments; goodness as in reconciliation and forgiveness.

Luke 24: 35-48 - The restoration of the Apostles' faith centred on the reality of Christ alive after Calvary - mixing with them, eating with them, talking with them. Such appearances by Christ convinced those early Christians that it was the real person, just dead, now alive and fully human that they were dealing with.. The hope inspired by Christ's resurrection provided them with the incentive to counterbalance the goodness and evil in life.

Point 1: Regularly, our morning routines are thrown off balance by a never ending series of headlines announcing evil behaviour of horrendous proportions - Mother smothers baby; Husband bashes wife to death; Gunman slaughters bystanders; Famine threatens millions - and, without exception, we wonder to ourselves "What is the world coming too?" Some years ago, there was a production hit on Broadway -"Stop the World, I want to Get Off", and that about sums it up.

It is possible, I suppose, for one to insulate oneself - give up reading the papers, watching TV, stop going to the movies - and, in that way, pretend that such evils don't exist because we don't know about them. Follow the example of Pollyanna and "eliminate the negative". Throughout its long history, Christianity has produced small groups of followers who thought this way. For them, the resurrection mattered, but not the cross. Suffering had no further place in living, they simply pretended that it did not exist. As Karl Marx stated, religion for such people was an opiate, taking them out of the real world, just as today's addicts seek to avoid reality with their "hits".

Point 2: But that is not what Christ taught. For Him, life was goodness and evil. As His disciples, we do not claim to have all the answers to why evil exists in the world. We do believe that much of it is caused by people exercising wrongly their God-given gift of free will. We do not have complete answers to why good people suffer, while "crooks" appear to get away with murder. [Psa 73:12] Such are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all day long I have been plagued, and am punished every morning. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. We readily admit that there is much evil and ugliness in the world; but we also argue that the power for goodness is just that little bit stronger than the will for evil, and that, in the final analysis, Divine Justice is always to be reckoned with.

Conclusion: This is the essence of Christian Hope - a recognition that no matter how powerful evil is, goodness is still more powerful. We may not understand completely the reasons for the conflict between good and evil that dominates the world in which we live; we simply assert that for all the power of evil, it could not keep Jesus in the tomb. We know that , as with Jesus, suffering for us is but a prelude to resurrection. Our Faith and our Hope have the power to transform the ugliness of evil into the bright promise of immortality.

In today's gospel, the apostles recognised Jesus. Over a meal He explained to them the triumph of Life over Death. For us the Eucharist is a repetition of that meal; it is our encounter with Jesus where we hear repeated the assurances that He gave to His followers then. The Mass gives us the opportunity to renew our Faith in Him, and it is here that we receive the encouragement and the strength to contend with life in all its ugliness and in all its beauty. That is real life, a combination of goodness and evil; a time in which we need to learn how to "accentuate the positive and to eliminate the negative".