Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Rules & Regulations
It would be a mistake to imagine that the scribes and the Pharisees of the world have completely disappeared. There are still those for whom religion is still a matter of blind obedience to the external rule, disregarding the dispositions of the heart, and disregarding that serving God is to be found in total living, not isolated incidents.

Deuteronomy 4:1-2,6-8 The instruction not to add to or subtract from the law remains valid. Those who attempt to reduce Christianity to a series of organisational, moral obligations are doing just that.

James 1:17-18,21-22,27 Here, St. James is saying, in a manner of speaking, that "the proof of the pudding is in the eating". A truly religious attitude starts with those around us before it brings us to God.

Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23 Christ takes issue with the scribes and the Pharisees for their rigid, legalistic approach to religion, as well as the incredibly narrow notion of God and of human life that they sought to impose on people.

Point 1: In recent weeks, our reflections have centred upon concepts of freedom, and the danger of using our freedom as an excuse for licence; also we reflected on the responsibility of having to make decisions. Today our thoughts continue on similar lines as we look at the need for an informed conscience which will enable us to serve God within the framework of the diverse cultural and social forces that surround us.

Point 2: No doubt there are those within the Church today who look back on the "good old days" when being a Christian did not involve making decisions to the degree that it does today. Then, "obedience" to the letter of the law as defined by the Church was of the essence. Today, however, it is necessary to achieve balance between this spirit of obedience and the demands of an informed conscience derived from reliable information and taking into account the social and cultural environment of which we are part. Both the individual and the organisation need to remember "not to add to or subtract from" the law. The point of being religious is to develop a total personality conscious of his or her responsibilities towards God and people. The religious person looks to bring to living the wider dimensions encompassed by Faith, Hope and Love. Because we believe, we trust in the promises God has made; and because we believe and hope, love replaces fear as our ultimate motivation. In this sense, then, a human life comes to be judged in its totality, not in terms of isolated instances; for religion is not so much observance of external rules as it is an attitude of mind. Such an attitude admits that although rules have a purpose to be served, they ought not to be confused with the essence of religion or with the presence of God. Religion is not a double-entry book-keeping deal in which God is to be regarded as the Great Accountant sitting ready to exclaim "gotcha" as isolated errors of judgement are recorded against the individual.

Conclusion: The point of this reflection is not to advocate the tossing out of authority and rules that guide and govern our lives; but, rather, is it to emphasise the value of an informed conscience; to appreciate the need for outside information in developing such a conscience; and, most importantly, to insist that the final decision has to be taken by the person. True religion is in "total "living, not in isolated incidents.

Scriptural reference: "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes; but the Lord weighs the spirit" (Proverbs, 16:2)