1st Sunday of Advent Year B, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN! COME, LORD JESUS!
Advent is a great time in the Church’s Year, but it is a bit of a challenge for us here in Australia, and living in the Southern Hemisphere. However, when I was stationed at St.Joseph’s in Hobart, Tasmania, a small island state in southern Australia we had three years of white Christmases! When I was stationed overseas, many people said to me that they would find it just so difficult having Christmas in Summer, as well as holidays looming for the kids, and also for many parents as well at Christmas time. In Australia the environment of all the flowers blooming, and the heat….well, for this year we are still waiting for it! I suppose that picks up the Advent theme of waiting….. In the Northern hemisphere, I enjoyed the Advent Liturgical season so much, because the climate etc was in tune, and the desire for the days getting shorter was just so real! I had better stop day dreaming, and get on with it!
Sydney’s Bondi Beach in Advent, 2017.
Let’s look at the Gospel passage for today. There seems to be an unsettled anticipation to be on the alert, keep watch; we do not know when the Lord will return. He could show up at any tick of the clock! For the Thessalonian Church, St.Paul had to give the people a swift reminder not to just sit around and wait, but get on with living the message, or don’t eat! That certainly put some reality into their response to Christ. For the early Church, they had to come to grips with the fact that the Kingdom of God is among them, among us, yet not complete, till the Lord Jesus comes in Glory. We live in between times….
It seems that there are two messages in the Gospel today. First; we don’t know when the Lord Jesus will return in glory, but it will happen. Second; we have the opportunity to meet Christ everyday in our sisters and brothers, in His proclaimed Word, and in Sacrament. The Gospel passage is as relevant today as it was when it was first proclaimed. We cannot rest on our laurels nor have a holiday from the Christian Life. Advent seems to be like the fine tuner that we used to have on our portable Radios; remember the smaller dial underneath the bigger dial for tuning into a station? I think that Advent has allot to do with fine tuning our responses, to meeting the Lord every day, and by doing that, we will be ready when the Lord does come in glory.
Now let us go back to the first reading from the Old Testament. Here we see the Prophet Isaiah, and his community calling out to the Lord God to ‘be with’ His people in a new way! Within this cry, we see a fundamental element of contrition emerge from within Israel…..then there is an acknowledgement of who they are in relation to the Lord God. In short, the faces have changed, but the message remains the same……a true and real contrite heart knows that God is the Potter, and we are the clay, fashioned by the Lord God’s saving hand!
Let’s stay with that metaphor of the Potter, and the clay for a little while. The making of Pottery has always interested me, and in the 1990’s when I was ministering in Israel, and Jordan, I had the fantastic opportunity of seeing a Potter at work at the back of his shop in Amman. It was by a fluke that I called into this shop during the afternoon ‘sleep time’. You see in Jordan, no one has to lock their shops……why? If you steal, and get caught, the family who owns the premises has the right to chop one’s right hand off, ASAP! Yes, I know what it is like to live under Islamic law….. (By the way, I still have both my hands, just in case you were worried about me…..) Anyhow, I dropped into this shop because the door was open! I was wearing my Religious Habit at the time, and I was welcomed in by the Moslem Family who were reclining at the back of the shop. But there was this old man at the Wheel fashioning a pottery Jar! The people could not speak English, but we didn’t need language, we used gestures, smiles and my excitement seemed to calm their fears. The old man could not leave his wheel because he was creating!!!!! But his son called me to come closer, and to look at what was happening. He could see that I was very interested in the process. The young man pointed to his Dad’s head, and then pointed to the pottery in the making….I could understand that the old man had an image of what he wanted to create, but it seems that surprises seem to often pop up. Sometimes a so called flaw in the pottery can be fashioned into something beautiful. I was taken around the shop to look at the most beautiful showcase of Pottery. I noticed that every object of pottery was different; no two were the same! How good is that? That’s us….no two are the same….even identical twins are different….check out their finger prints!
This experience in the Pottery shop in Amman, taught me just so much about its meaning in the Scriptures where clay and pottery is mentioned. This opened up a whole new world of understanding for me, and hopefully this adventure is contagious for you too right now!
One more thing that I noticed in the Pottery shop….there were no signs on the Jars saying, WATER or FLOUR…no, there were pictures etched into the Pottery of an Oasis with Palms, Camels, and people drinking…..that Jar was to contain water. And the pictures went on and on. So, in order to know what was inside the jar, one has to stop and be attentive to the external picture. How good is that? We need to take time and read each other, and not just make harsh assumptions about someone, without taking the time also to look inside, and being respectful, because we are all the work of God’s hands. However, we need to read, and investigate and see the Lord Jesus in our midst. Often, the Lord is in the most unexpected people and places. Advent is a remind for us to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN, to the various ways that God speaks to us in Jesus. If we have wild music blaring in our ears through those little blue tooth headphones all the time, while ‘on the go’, we have buckley’s chance of hearing the Lord speaking to us, inviting us through the sounds of silence.
To finish off……how about a starter at the fine tuning for Advent…..how about we make a Garden; and Advent Garden, seeing that we are in the Southern Hemisphere?
(Live well with the produce of your garden.)
First, plant four rows of peas.
Next to them plant three rows of Squash.
Then plant lettuce.
Let us be truthful.
Let us be loyal.
Let us be faithful.
Let us love one another.
No garden is complete without turnips.
Turn up for the Eucharist.
Turn up for Community Advent Reconciliation. (Check out your Parish Bulletin)
Turn up for ‘Prayer’ at home with the family.
Turn up for sharing & evaluation.
Turn up to celebrate with the
Community….who needs an occasion?
Turn up on time!
Turn off your Mobile ‘phone before you pray with the community!
Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia.