Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword "Be Nice!"
One of the more constant expectations we have of people is that they should be courteous, overlooking, frequently, that what we expect of others is also expected of us. Today we continue our thoughts of last week, namely, that serving Christ is not an easy assignment and, "being courteous", an important part of that assignment, constantly proves that difficulty. Today's readings highlight areas where human relationships place a great strain on our efforts to reflect Christ in all our actions, particularly the demands to be courteous, and Christ offers an example to be followed.

Wisdom 2:12,17-20: Last week's theme that it is tough being a servant of Yahweh is continued in today's reading. The just man finds himself the victim of a vicious conspiracy put together by members of his own people for no other reason than to test him.

James 3:16, 4:3: Here we have practical examples of those types of people who make it difficult for us to be "nice" to - the greedy, the impatient, the jealous and the envious.

Mark 9:30-37: In the gospel, Christ suggests a yardstick by which we should measure our courtesy in service - the patience that we need in dealing with children is the patience we need with people.

Point 1:‚  Most of us do not have to travel very far to find proof that serving Christ is not easy. It is right there waiting for us each morning as we get out of bed - the need to have to put up with people, to associate with them and to serve them cheerfully and with courtesy throughout the day. "Have a nice day" came to us via TV and, I have no doubt, was intended to have real meaning when first thought up. Unfortunately, like so many good ideas, it has become glib and fairly meaningless on most lips. Courtesy appears to have become one of the casualties of modern urban living. I often recall the advice given to me on my first visit to New York. Remember! the customer is entitled to be right, ONCE! But the malaise of discourtesy is not restricted to New York or the French. Sydney, too, has its own reputation, although, I believe there, for the Olympics, a moratorium was declared and people were nice to visitors. But, generally, it is easy to form the impression, anywhere, that those paid to be "civil" servants are under major restraint not to be systematically rude.

Point 2: Our point, however, is that courtesy is integral to the Christian personality. By being courteous, the Christian immediately shows respect. By being courteous, we acknowledge a person's worth, a person's dignity as a human being. In addition to its link with respect, courtesy also is closely linked with humility. The proud or self-centred person has great difficulty in serving, and service is the bottom line for the Christian. Finally, courtesy leads a person to be considerate, to feel for others. Cardinal Newman described the gentle person as being one who never consciously inflicts pain. Little wonder, then, that Hilaire Belloc would write of Courtesy that "the Grace of God is in courtesy".

Conclusion: In today's gospel, we see Christ dealing with the subject of "service". The Apostles had wanted to prevent the children from approaching Jesus, revealing their belief, probably,‚  that "children should be seen and not heard"! Also, they wanted to be top-dogs! They are nonplussed when they hear Christ saying that the patience needed in dealing with children must also be extended to dealing with people generally. Little children can, and do, try the patience of a saint and to respond to them without bullying and without anger is no mean feat. Christ expects of us the same type of service in our dealings with people generally; and it cannot be achieved without courtesy.

Scriptural reference: " to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarrelling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone. [Titus 3:2]