15th/16th December

posted 20 Dec 2018, 02:02 by Parish Office

Homily for the Third Sunday of Advent “Gaudete” (15 & 16/12/18)


Christmas is getting ever closer – have you bought everything you need yet?  Maybe you haven’t even started.  But more important than any of the food or presents, is getting our hearts ready for Christ’s coming this Christmas.  Today, St John the Baptist reminds us that, for each of us, what we need to do is different.  Back in his day, tax collectors had to do one thing, soldiers another.  For each of us, what we need to do will be different.


Some things, though, will be the same.  We all need to look at our hearts and see what obstacles we find to the reign of the Christ-child.  Does God really occupy first place in my life?  Really?  Or is something or someone else there instead?  We may need to look at our attitude towards God.  Do we serve Him enthusiastically and joyfully, or do we serve Him grudgingly, perhaps even stingily?  Talking of stingily, let’s have a look again at Ebenezer Scrooge.  When he travels with the Ghost of Christmas Past, we see that he wasn’t always the same.  But it was a love of money that led him to turn his back on others – he had to choose the one or the other, and he made his decision.  As a result, his life was a misery.  A self-made misery.  The mercy was that he saw this, and that he could change.  There was still time.  He didn’t have to follow his old co-worker, Jacob Marley, to the same fate.


For some of us, love of money may not be the issue.  But John the Baptist’s illustration reminds me of something else I read.  John talks about the Christ being the one who will separate the wheat from the chaff.  But sometimes, as Padre Pio once pointed out, sometimes, wheat-grains are actually all chaff.  If you go through a field full of wheat, you will see that some of the ears point upwards.  They represent pride and vanity.  If you take these ears, you will find that they are hollow.  Instead, if you take the ears that are bend down to the ground, these are the ones that are full, and represent people who are humble.  Pride is vain; it’s humility that bears fruit.


Going to confession in Advent is one of those tasks that perhaps we don’t always like too much, a bit like having to do the housework, or perhaps going to the dentist.  When I was a child, the dentist was next door to the church we sometimes went to for confession if were weren’t able to go to our own parish.  I think I was probably more apprehensive about going to confession that about going to the dentist, even though I knew that I would feel great after going to confession.  It was only in my late teens, when I started going to confession more often than just twice a year, that I overcame the sense of fear and trepidation.  However there would be occasions when what I needed to confess made me a bit apprehensive again.


Sometimes people wonder about what the priest will think.  Sometimes, people want to be as quick as possible, because they are afraid that if they take too long, others might wonder what they have done.  Let me tell you one thing – the time people take is usually more about their style of confessing, rather than what they have done.  Some people are more to the point.  Here are two fictional examples for you.  Which is the bigger sinner?


Example one:  “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been eight months since my last confession.  Since then, I’ve shot the neighbour, I’ve shot the policeman who came to investigate, and I shot the postman in the dark thinking he was another policeman.  I don’t think there’s anything else.”


Example two:  “Bless me Father, for I have sinned.  It’s been, oh, I don’t know, a while since I was last here.  You lose track sometimes, don’t you?  I was only thinking the other day that maybe it was time to go again, but then I kept on putting it off.  Anyway, since last time I want to tell you about the problem I had last Tuesday.  It was six o’clock and I thought that it was time I fed the cat.  I went to the cupboard and opened the cupboard door, but when I went to get the tin off the shelf, the cat must have heard the noise and came running in.  Well, she gave me a fright, she did, and as I went to get the tin I knocked all the other ones over the floor.  I didn’t mean them to land on the cat, but, well, I think I frightened it a bit.  I do love animals.  It’s just that sometimes I’m a bit jumpy when I hear a noise and I wonder what it is.  Anyway, I picked up the tins...”


You get the idea.


Just like with Ebenezer Scrooge, there is still time to change.  Just as he woke up and found out it was still Christmas morning, it is still now just the Third Sunday of Advent.  There is work to be done!  It may be daunting, but just think:  if you’ve been away for a long time from confession, then the joy afterwards will be all the greater.  Don’t put it off, even if you feel you have to go all the way to Shrewsbury Cathedral to confess to an unknown priest behind a screen.  The God of mercy awaits you.  Do not be afraid.