Homily notes for 3rd Sunday of Advent 2006
One can't help being dismayed by all the deaths on the roads especially young people. There is almost a sense of despair as the authorities try to respond to what seems to be an increasingly reckless driving population. You only have to drive down the highway at the speed limit to realise everyone else is going faster!
As we reflect on the deaths of so many young people we look for reasons and someone or something to blame. There are accidents pure and simple. There is irresponsibility on the part of some. There is youthful bravado in others. When people drive these things are compounded by alcohol and drugs. And behind every accident there is a personal story. Sometimes, stories of destructive or broken relationships, and so on. Stories that contribute to the behaviour we see. And behind every accident there is a community story. A society that is often driven by acquisitiveness which feeds our selfishness and greed so that the needs of and respect for other people takes second place.
Looking at it from the Gospel perspective we can see sinfulness in these situations. Personal sinfulness and society's sinfulness. But we can also see the situation as examples of the blind, the lame, the deaf, the possessed that Jesus encountered in the Gospel. Individuals who may be spiritually blind, lame, deaf or crippled, not through their own fault necessarily. And also a society that is often blind, lame, deaf and crippled as well, following a very different gospel from that of Jesus.
John the Baptist challenged his hearers about the imminent wrath of God. He described some as 'a brood of vipers'. He spoke to ordinary people as well as people in authority like the soldiers and tax collectors. They all asked John in response, “What shall we do?” So John gave them some practical ways in which their lives could change. He didn't preach a revolution but the attitudes of selflessness and generosity he recommended could very well undermine the prevailing values of society.
John's strong moral message has become one which is identified with the Christian preacher. So the caricature of the preacher is that of a moraliser who stops everyone from having fun! Putting the fear of God in people. The risk for the preacher is always to remain a moraliser only. The moral code, good and important as it is, is not the Good News. The Good News is the gift of the Kingdom. That Kingdom, that reign of God would be revealed in the person of Jesus himself. In Jesus God reigns supreme. John the Baptist's preaching did indeed help people to be open to Jesus when he came.
To this world of confusion and tragedy, Jesus is always announcing the Kingdom of God. The saviour we await in Advent is making the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk through his disciples still. And the poor have the Good news proclaimed to them. We can prepare the way by those same attitudes of generosity and selflessness instead of the frantic seeking after the immediate gratification of our desires which seems to be the spirit of Christmas for some.
An expectation of some Good News for our world lies behind much of the eagerness we have to celebrate Christmas. But in the process we are not immune to the distortions and false gods of our society. Advent invites us to take time to pray about these things especially those who are involved in tragedy at this time so with St Paul we can still rejoice:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NRSV)
Zephaniah has the same message as Paul, rejoice because the Lord is in your midst. Literally, the Hebrew used here means “the Lord is in your womb”. That is how near the Lord is. You can easily see how much Luke reflected the Prophet Zephaniah when he wrote about Mary and her child.
Now to other things. Last week I spoke of the issues we sought to address by rebuilding the Parish Centre. Now I would like to take a few minutes to speak about how we might fund it. From the outset I said that I would like to keep within our budget. That budget, based as it is on our present income, is just not enough to do all we would like.
I have been impressed with the people who already have suggested ways of raising additional funds. There is the planned Richard Thomas concert in August. He is a tenor from Melbourne. A proposed Art Show in November. And an idea to sell bricks or paving stones. And as well there are quite a few individuals and businesses which have offered their services at little or no cost to help us if we go ahead. People have been very generous.
However, we can only raise loans on the basis of our regular Sunday income. That limits us to about 360,000 at most. If our Sunday offerings could be increased then accordingly we could borrow more. The beauty of a long term loan is that future generations who will use the facility help pay for what we do, not just ourselves. This is so especially for a community as the load is spread widely unlike a family buying a house who have to find it all themselves.
To help this project, on the brochure given out with the newsletters this week, is a plan that is used in various community groups to raise money. Simply it is to ask people to loan money to the Parish interest free. In this way, depending on how many take the idea up, we would save in the long term quite a bit of interest or reduce the amount we need to borrow at commercial rates.
The difficulty for us is that every time we look at this project the cost seems to go up. Nothing new there I suppose. So we are at the stage where we will have to think again if we cannot raise the money. At the very least we would need $400,000 and possibly more. Nevertheless, we do now have a master plan for the Parish which we can work towards over the years if we cannot do it all now.
So, I and the finance committee, ask you to consider the proposal as outlined in the leaflet. If you would like to take part just indicate your interest on the form. In this way we will be able to get a good idea of how much money we would need to borrow from the Archdiocesan Development Fund. Our hope is that we can have something built before the end of next year. Thank you once again.