Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent 2005
Many will be disappointed to hear Wayne Bennett has quit his coaching job for the Kangaroos, the Australian League team. One of his reasons was an “obsession with negativity” as he saw it in Australian sport. One is not allowed to lose a game and get away with it, it seems. Some one has to carry the can publicly. Other people have said similar things about Australia. We used to call the Poms “wingers who should go back home”. Now are we a nation of wingers ourselves? Who do we think we are?
A question often put to us at Seminary by the Philosopy professor was “What are you doing here?” It was asked by philosophy as it is an age old question about life. Interestingly, it was not asked in our spirituality or theology sessions. Yet it is a fundamental spiritual question. It was not asked as a spiritual question, I suppose, because theology and the Church at that time was more interested in the answers not the questions. The Church had the answers from revelation and its teaching. Nevertheless, it was, and remains, a very important spiritual question. We need to ask it of ourselves often. The answer we give is not as important as to always ask it of ourselves so that we may be open to enter the mystery of God and our relationship to God and the world.
It was the kind of question asked of John the Baptist in the Gospel today. “Who are you?” Who, indeed, is any of us? This is a question put to John at the beginning of John's Gospel. It is a question that is asked of Jesus himself and on which the gospel seeks to shed light.
John declared that he was not the light, only a witness for the light. Are we not tempted to think of ourselves as God's gift to the world! We cling to our importance. We have the light, or so we fondly imagine. To think we have grasped the light fully is really a form of blindness.
Isn't it strange that we can be blinded by what we do see! We become so familiar with things and people we come to think we know them well. It is the same with what we believe. We take things for granted in our busy lives so much that we never question our attitudes and behaviour. It is only after we move away or someone dies that we look attentively again and see things differently.
Then we can be blind to the light because we are so focused on one particular thing or person that everything else gets forgotten of overlooked. We see only what we expect to see or what we want to see.
Thirdly, we can be blind because of our prejudice. We “pre-judge” people and situations. If they do not conform to the way we want to see things we keep them in the dark. We do not let them get too close to us where we might see them as they really are.
All these things remind us that we are not the light. We do not have it all. Isn't that a relief! We don't have to be a messiah. We don't have to be God. We don't have to be perfect in everything! Rather, we are called to be witnesses, like John, to the light. God does not want to keep us in the dark. God wants us to come to know so that we can love. Come to know, God, ourselves, others, and the world.
Negativity is not one of the hallmarks of the Christian. We have a God who has faith in us as we are. As Paul said in the Second reading today: “God has called you and he will not fail you” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
A story to finish:
Once upon a time there was a politician who was running in a very close election against a very clever campaigner. He had a good message and an exciting platform, but he was not well known. Thus he had to make a lot of speeches around the district, go to many meetings, attend tea parties, and receptions, and cocktail parties, and church gatherings, and touch every possible base in the district. It was still an uphill battle. A good friend of his was his Public Relations man, the fellow who made the arrangements for all the events and speeches and logistics for the campaign. He was not a very good PR man; rather he was unreliable and pompous and, worst of all, disorganized. The other people in the campaign hated him, but the candidate stuck with his friend. As the election drew near the polls showed the candidate losing ground. The PR man knew they were going to lose, so he gave up altogether. The campaign self-destructed in the last week. Yet the candidate lost by only one half of one percent of the votes. All the media people said that if the campaign had been better organized, the voters would have got to know the candidate better and he would have won easily. We’re supposed to be PR persons for Jesus. We are his witnesses. Sometimes you wonder why he doesn’t fire us from the job.