BEWARE OF SWEET NONSENSE: A HOMILY ON THE 20TH OF DECEMBER
Some things that are true do not sound true the first time you hear them. Also, some things that are senseless would sound very sensible when you first hear them. This is why a prayerful reflection is always important. Those things which do not make sense, but seem to make sense on face value is what I call sweet nonsense. I will give three example of such. There ae people who go about saying they are spiritual but not religious. Many people who hear such things at first think it is a very wonderful idea. But after a prayerful reflection, you will realise that such sweet nonsense is coming from the devil. It misleads people to think that their relationship with God has nothing to do with anyone else and that they can develop a relationship with God on their own terms. Another sweet nonsense is when people say things like ‘I don’t judge anyone and it doesn’t really matter which religion you practice or what church you go to. After all, we are all praying to one God.’ These words may seem to be coming from a very good mind. But after a prayerful reflection, you will realise that we all believe different things and so, if there is an objective truth, then some of us are closer to it than others. In the end, it does matter what you believe. A third example is that of people who say things like ‘Julie is a very good woman. She cares about others but does not care about herself’. After a prayerful reflection, you will wonder when it has become a virtue not to take care of yourself, and how can you be in a good position to care for others if you don’t care for yourself? There are so many of such sweet nonsense we hear everyday.
Our first reading today is the story of one of the ancestors of Jesus, king Ahaz. He was having problems in his kingdom which was overwhelming to him and he could not see a way out. God sends the prophet Isaiah to him and makes him an offer. He is to ask God for a sign. He is to think of something really impossible and ask God to do it. The aim of this challenge is to make him realise that nothing is impossible to God. But he came up with a very sweet nonsense. I call it sweet nonsense because when I first heard it, I thought that was a very beautiful thing to say. He said he will not put the Lord to the test. But after a prayerful reflection, it is clear that he is just using that as a beautiful reason not to do what God has just asked him to do.
How many of us find ourselves doing something very wrong, but we have a very wonderful reason why we are doing it. This way we make our sins even look like virtues. Many catholics will travel on holiday this christmas and they will not go for mass during that period and what will be their reason? They don’t know where the church is. Wow! What a wonderful reason, in this age of internet when google can tell you a lot. Yet, if the same people smoke dagga, they will not struggle to find where to buy one.
With our sweet nonsense, we no longer talk of Christmas, but festive season. Our whole vocabulary has changed from whatever focuses on God to whatever focuses on us. If you watch the television, everybody is talking about the season, but the last thing you will hear is the name of Jesus. Some people will only use that name when they want to swear. Just because something sounds wonderful does not mean it is that wonderful. Subject everything you hear to a prayerful reflection and let the Holy Spirit be our guide.
This is what Mary did in the gospel. When the angel came to her, she did not understand what the greeting was about. But she did not react, she reflected. The fruit of that reflection is that she said yes to what God is asking her to do, instead of coming up with a sweet nonsense why she will not do it. Whatever she did not understand, she asked for further clarification and she became the fulfillment of the promise made to Ahaz that a virgin will conceive and bear a son. She could have said something like “Lord, you know I am getting married. What do you expect my husband to do?” or “I can’t bear the shame of what people would say.” or “It doesn’t make sense that a virgin can give birth to a child.” Which is reasonable to say because it has never happened in human history. At first, it may not make sense, but after a prayerful reflection, she said yes and that ‘yes’ has made it possible for us today to celebrate Christmas. It is a MARY CHRIST MASS. There is no Christmas without Mary, no Christmas without Christ, no Christmas without Mass. Whatever you do, there is no good reason to miss Mass on Christmas day. Beware of sweet nonsense, even when it is coming from your own mind.