Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Motivation
What motivates us? Money, Power, Security? Whatever intermediate force drives us, the experts tell us that the dominant power of motivation is love. Even when driven by "hate", these same experts tell us that "hate" is the absence of love. Religious thinking has always drawn upon "love of God" as the main driving force for creation. The readings today deal with this belief.

Deuteronomy 6:2-8 - One frequently hears the accusation that religious thinking is, of necessity, governed by "fear". Our reading today disposes of this fallacy. The first imperative given to the Chosen People was to "love the Lord your God".

Hebrews 7: 23-28 - By presenting Christ as the perfect model of priesthood, the unknown author of this Letter wanted to boost the morale of the discouraged community of Jewish converts gripped by doubts over their conversion to Christianity.

Mark 12: 28-34 - This exchange between Christ and the Jewish Religious leader strikes a new note in religious practice - meeting human need is shown as a deeper way of honouring God. Ritual observance is all very good; but, human need takes precedence.

Point 1: ‚‚ As the confrontation between Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders deepened, it became apparent that Jesus' concept of religious practice differed from that of his contemporaries. The Jewish leaders had great reverence for the Law. For them it was the way to honor God. Obedience to the Law was the absolute test of fidelity; hence the insistence on the Sabbath rest. Christ's claim that He had not come to destroy the Law, only to perfect it, left them unimpressed. But for Jesus, the process of perfecting the Law was to have it consider human needs; to have it accepted that meeting these needs represented a deeper way of fulfilling the Law. Every Jew worth his salt knew that the Law was summed up in the two Commandments - firstly, Love the Lord Your God and, secondly, Love your neighbour. What Christ did was to link the two; to show that they were intrinsically connected. So much so that St. John writing on this subject later on stated that either one could not exist without the other -"[1 John 4:20] Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen".

Point 2: And who is my brother and sister? Our world is filled with appeals to become involved - whole populations threatened by famine, disease, war, natural disaster and the victims of human ineptitude. There are forests to be saved, threatened species to be saved, river systems to be regenerated, desalination programs to be initiated... as the King in the musical "The King and I" would say etcetera! etcetera! etcetera! To meet all these needs, volunteers come from all walks of life. World wide organisations are formed, providing cushy jobs for numerous people. In many instances, much of their efforts can be seen as being inspired by concern for people and sometimes they reflect "love of God". But not always! We all know persons who are obsessed with causes, many of whom do little other than to tell other people what to do, whilst doing precious little themselves.

Some years ago, the late Mother Teresa visited the United States. At a press conference she was asked "What could the Catholics of the United States do for the suffering people in India and the Third World?" Her reply nonplussed the gathering. "Well", she said, "you might begin by trying to be more patient, more loving, more generous with your own families, friends and those with whom you work!" Her point was - Charity begins at home; and if it does, then it will spread, much like a stone dropped into a pool. To quote St. John again -"[1 John 4:21] The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

Conclusion: For those who claim the title Christian, the ultimate motivation comes from "love of God". Whatever we do that is good reflects that love. It inspires our generosity, our tenderness, our kindness, gentleness, patience, compassion, warmth and reassurance. God knows these qualities are needed in the slums of Calcutta as they are in the depressed communities of the world; but they are also needed in our own neighbourhoods, our own suburbs, our own homes. If they are not here first, there is no lasting hope for us to export them further afield. "No one gives what he does not have".

Scriptural reference: And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Col 3:17]