Homily for 2nd Sunday of Advent 2006

One can hardly add to the sense of joy and hope which permeates all three readings today. In doing so the readings reflect the very land into which Jesus was to be born.

It is a land that has been occupied and controlled by many different waves of conquerors, a land that has buried in it the archaeological riches of many centuries, a land of great diversity in geography, climate, vegetation. A land where all kinds of cultures mingle yet remain very distinct, and land of everlasting hills, as the Prophet Baruch says, and perpetual hope, a land of mystics and hermits, of soldiers, terrorists, revolutionaries and immigrants, merchants and farmers.

The Roman Empire was one of those conquering powers. Throughout their Empire they built roads to enabled the mighty Roman Army to move quickly and in force to every part of the lands they ruled. There were no such roads for the Israelites to follow during their Exodus from Egypt. They wandered in the wilderness for 40 years we are told. There were no roads either for the Israelites returning from captivity in Babylon. The prophet Baruch in our first reading is addressing Jerusalem. Jerusalem which had seen its children taken away to captivity now must prepare to welcome them back. So Baruch says it is a time to put aside one's garments of mourning and put on festive garments.

Out of that kind of wilderness John the Baptist appeared calling in the famous words of Isaiah for a straight and level road to be built to hasten the day of salvation. Forget the sufferings of the past and welcome that day. Paul, writing from prison, echoes the same feelings as he writes to his beloved church at Phillipi. Forgetting his own chains he prays with joy for them. He urges them to continue to grow in love so they may be ready for the day of Christ. And so we too prepare in Advent for the coming of the Saviour.

All those details of the Israel and its history remind us that Christianity is an historical religion that has its roots deep in the faith and land of the Israelites. Christianity is a religion of ordinary people living in a real world of political structures and religious institutions within which we often need to struggle hard to make decisions about our lives. As such, just keeping the rules is not enough. Christ demands, even more than John the Baptist did, a constant repentance, a continually re-looking at our lives and our world so we see more clearly the road God wishes us to take.

Last week we had the final meeting of the Site Committee for the year. This sub-committee of the Finance Committee has been looking at all our assets on this site on the hill. We decided to proceed to the stage of obtaining detailed drawing so we can get an accurate idea of costs. So it is a good time then to recall why we are doing this planning.

As you may remember, we began trying to make the Parish Centre wheel chair friendly. However, spending $15000 dollars on a ramp would solve one problem but would not do anything to remedy other issues such as the state of the building itself. It would need at least another $30,000 to refurbish the building and it still would not meet our needs now let alone the future. The house was built as a presbytery, a home to be lived in, but is now used for things never intended.

So the reasons for pursuing a rebuilding of the Parish centre can be summarised in this way:

We need toilet facilities that are accessible to everyone.

We need meeting rooms accessible to everyone.

We need safe access for children especially at night.

We need access to the Parish Office for everyone.

We need a safe and healthy environment for the Parish Staff who work there. Which it definitely is not at present. You only have to ask those who work there.

At the same time this gives us the opportunity to enlarge the gathering area and connect the Parish Centre to the Church, modify the car parks to make exits safer, and maybe earn some income from the use of the meeting rooms. Next week I will present our ideas for funding this proposal. Many thanks for those on the committee who have given so much time and expertise so far. They have committed themselves to continue that work to enable us to achieve our goals at minimal cost.

Finally, on another note, I wish to acknowledge the retirement of Margaret Shievers who has been teaching at St Joseph's School for a total of 22 years. Let us recognise that service and thank her. It is to people like Margaret that we have entrusted our children for their education and to help hand on our Catholic tradition.

Fr Graham