Homily for the First Sunday of Advent 2007

The Parable of the Leopard Tree.

You may have noticed that the tree out in front of the Parish Centre is gone. It was a shame that such a beautiful tree had to go. It was too close to the present building and will be too close to the new Parish Centre. A few people had commented that it was a beautiful tree and it would be a shame to lose it. (Those who parked their car in its shade learnt to regret it though!) When Wally the tree fella cut it down he was discovered that the interior of trunk of the tree had been eaten away by termites! They had a big nest there. If he had not cut it down it would eventually have fallen down of its own accord! That is the parable of the Leopard Tree!

It is the case that something very beautiful can hide a weakness. It has been said that we sometimes make the mistake of assuming that because a person is beautiful that therefore that person must be good. It is a natural expectation. But it is not necessarily so. Only in God do beauty and goodness coincide completely. We struggle to make the face we offer to the world coincides with the inner truth of ourselves.

In the heart of us there can be a weakness that could bring us down if we are not aware of it. It may be an anxiety, or an illness, or it may be sin. Either way it can eat our hearts out.

Paul says "You know 'the time' has come: you must wake up now: our salvation is even nearer that it was when we were converted" (Romans13:11-14). When we were baptised we came to know the presence of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We too easily forget that we are temples of the Holy Spirit. We insist on looking at external things for God. We insist on the performance of external practices as if that is the only way God will be happy with us. Our Baptism has made us who we are as children of God. We are God's work of art.

This Sunday is the First Sunday of the season of Advent. Advent is a word that simply means "to come to". So Advent is the time we await in great expectation for the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ. We, the Church, are like an expectant mother. We take care not to overdo all the activity but to think reflectively of the child who is to come. We make preparations. But unlike the world around us which is urging us to ever more activity, we try to slow down and pray a bit.

Unlike the Leopard tree, the Jesse Tree does not have any termites. The family tree of Jesus is a trunk that is guaranteed by God and brings forth the Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Baptism we have been grafted into that tree (cf Romans 11:17).

Fr Graham