Homily: 16 December: 3rd Sunday of Advent

Sunday 16 December 2018

Archbishop Peter A Comensoli 

One of my early tasks as your Archbishop has been to get out and about in the Archdiocese so as to get to know this large and multifaceted family of faith. It has been a good few months of meeting you, and to hear of your circumstances. As I am sure you can imagine, many folk have raised with me the past years of crisis faced by the Church, and the way in which trust needs to be rebuilt and Christian life supported.

In my conversations, I’ve been picking up two dominant, but somewhat divergent thoughts: there is a genuine sense of pain and humiliation among ordinary Catholics at what has happened at the hands of those whom they have trusted, along with confusion about what is or isn’t been done by Church leaders like me.

But at the same time, there has also been a rather strong expression of humble pride in the unsung good that local faith communities continue to do at this time of deep crisis. That the Church in its institutional dimension is much in need of reform is a common theme, but so too is the view that the Church in its personal and local dimensions is full of hope.

The reason for mentioning all this today is because our present time of crisis – and the feelings it is generating – is something that finds an echo throughout the history of God’s People. Pain and pride, humiliation and hope have often gone hand-in-hand in our history, and today’s readings are a good example of that.

When we heard in today’s first reading from the Prophet Zephaniah: Shout for joy, daughter of Zion! Exult with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem!, we may be inclined to think these were words spoken at a time of peace and harmony for the Israelites. But it wasn’t. Rather, they were said at a time when God’s People had been under Assyrian occupation for a century, with little prospect of liberty. Zephaniah was bringing a message of hope into a time of deep crisis and despair. 

It was the same when St Paul said to the Philippians: I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness, [for] the Lord is very near. Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, and the Christians of Philippi were being ridiculed by their fellow citizens. Into this situation of great difficulty, Paul encourages his brothers and sisters to find again their trust and hope in the Lord and to unite around each other.

And finally, we have John the Baptist – the herald of the Good News. We all know that 2000 years ago, the ordinary Jewish people were suffering under the rule of the Roman empire, and felt abandoned by God and by their own leaders. The promised Messiah had not come to save them. Into this loss of hope, John proclaimed the imminent arrival of the Lord, who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and fire. His was a message of preparation: be ready, salvation dawns.

And so, to us. At a time when there is much to be saddened by in our Church, much to be humiliated at, much to be angry or disillusioned or simply frustrated, it is exactly at this time that the Lord comes with a word of hope and a hand of encouragement. As we prepare to celebrate again the birth of Jesus Christ, let us remember that God has not – and will not – abandoned us.

[25th Anniversary of St Jude’s Church, Langwarrin: In a parish context, the building of the Church – as God’s Pilgrim People – goes hand in hand with the building of Church facilities. On this occasion of the 25th anniversary of the opening of this particular Church building, the sense of the presence of the Lord in this location is a powerful reminder that the faith of those who precede build hope for those who follow. May the vision and toil of those who built St Jude’s be a source of encouragement for you to continue to build God’s Kingdom. Happy anniversary!]



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