AbbotÕs Homily 2nd Sunday of Advent
This 2nd Sunday of Advent, we have some beautiful readings referring to preparing the way of the Lord. The first reading from the prophet Isaiah; if you have seen the musical the Messiah, it opens with this reading from the Messiah. Once you hear the Messiah sung, you never forget any time you hear this reading Ôcomfort my peopleÕ; and the Gospel picks up this prediction, this prophesy of Ôprepare the way of the lord, make straight his pathsÕ. And thatÕs what we are called to do in Advent. WeÕre called to prepare the way of the Lord.
The imagery that Isaiah uses is preparing the way in the desert, filling in valleys and knocking down mountains. The people of Israel were brought out of Egypt through the desert, and if youÕre not familiar with the desert as I am not familiar with it, I always thought it was just a flat place. Apparently it is not. ItÕs full of great hollows and valleys, big mountains, full of twists and turns, and if you tried to cross it, it would be very, very difficult. And so the images make the crossing easy. Fill in the valleys, knock down the mountains. Make it easy.
And so for advent what weÕre asked to do is to prepare our hearts for the presence of Christ coming within; to knock down the barriers that we have, clear the rubble. Make a clear way for God to enter our hearts, and thatÕs the invitation of the Gospel, the invitation of all of Advent, to prepare our hearts to let God in.
It is not a time of negativity even though the Gospel talks about repenting. Repent means to clear out the way, itÕs not a time to be depressed. Because of the human condition, because of the way life is, because of our faults and failings, many things come into hearts, anything can come into our hearts. An awful lot of the time they are negative, they are upsetting. Not a problem! We canÕt control what comes into our hearts, but we we can control what stays. ThatÕs the difference.
Things pass through our hearts every day, but sometimes as they are passing through, we reach out and say ÔIÕll hold this oneÕ, and we keep it, and this we place deep in our hearts.We are invited to look at the things we have held onto. And for a lot of us we have held on to the negative, the hurts, the pain, the brokenness.
If I said to anyone, or all of us, if I said to you, in the next moment I could call down from heaven (wherever Heaven is) all the love and all the generosity and compassion of God upon you, if I could do that in the next moment, how do you think it would affect you? ?????????
It would make no difference in the world. Absolutely none. It would not change you one iota because you are as you are now, this love and grace of God has already been done for you. God has already poured down every bit of love he can on each one of us, he has given us everything. What Jesus was teaching us, listen, God has given you everything, open your heart to what has been given. And that is Advent, open your heart to what has been given to each one of us. Clearing a way all the things that obstruct GodÕs love from coming in. GodÕs healing, GodÕs presence.
You might well say I canÕt do that, itÕs too difficult. The truth is that there is nothing in our hearts that we are not keeping there. All things move through the heart except for the things we cling to and refuse to let go.
Do you realize how much energy it takes to cling to things that are negative? But we tend to do that, we pull them back in, we will not let them go. So we tend to go though life, not realising that we are using our energy to hold onto the negative, and the negative is blocking the love that we so desperately need. The energy is blocking the healing we so desperately need. And whatÕs most frightening about it is that after a while we donÕt even know weÕre doing it. WeÕre tired and we donÕt know why weÕre tired, we could even be negative and donÕt even know we are negative, It is something like, in the farmyard weÕre doing cement work, and itÕs getting late at night and weÕre finishing up tired and so you can leave a shovel against the wall. ThatÕs not where the shovel belongs but you leave it there and go home. So you come up the next morning and you donÕt get around to putting the shovel away. After a while, a few months later the shovel is still there but no one sees it. ItÕs there, itÕs an obstacle and we go around Ôtil someone comes around and says ÔwhatÕs that shovel doing thereÕ and we all look and say Ôoh - didnÕt see itÕ. ThatÕs just the human condition.
ThatÕs what happens in our hearts. We take in things, we become so used to them that we no longer even see them, we donÕt realise they are negative, we donÕt realise they are barriers. I have sometimes walked with friends and meet another person. Myself and my friend are walking along having a great conversation, great joy and then we meet this other person and my friend changes, just for a second and then we go on. And I say Ôwell whatÕs wrongÕ, ÔnothingÕ. Ôyou changed.Õ Ôdid I?Õ. ÔYes, you stopped talkingÕ – Ôwell I never really liked that person anywayÕ. But they werenÕt conscious of it.
See we do that, we take things into our hearts we get so familiar with it, we get familiar with the attitudes, the negative, the prejudice, that it affects the way we live and we wonder Ôwhy am I so exhaustedÕ? Why canÕt I be positive? We canÕt be positive if we are holding onto the negative, it just doesnÕt work that way. It just takes so much out of us, and what is most frightening is that we donÕt know weÕre doing it and so we become angry and bitter and we donÕt even know its happening.
This time of year is a great time of year. ItÕs not a time to be depressed, itÕs a time to look at ourselves and say Ôwhat am I holding on toÕ? What am I keeping? And remember if something is there, there is an energy used to keep it there than its a matter of just simply opening and letting it go and thatÕs the gift of Christ.
And that was the excitement of Christ for all of us –he says open your hearts, let it go, and let the glory of God in, let the peace in, let the gentleness in. ThatÕs what we do for Advent, thatÕs living faith. ItÕs not about just praying, itÕs about actually entering into a dynamic with the living God who wants to fill our lives with joy and peace but he canÕt do it if we keep him out. And so the call of the Gospel for Advent is a call to let go of things, let go of the negative, itÕs a call perhaps first of all to pray for the grace to be able to see it. No problem letting it go, but you gotta see it first. WeÕve got to see the negative that has crept into our lives.
And of course like everything else itÕs only the first part of preparing the way of the Lord. ItÕs only the first part of going into the desert and knocking down the mountains, we have to build a highway as well. And for Christ building the highway is going out of ourselves and going out of our own issues – we have all got them and they can sometimes be very overpowering – but each one of us is asked Ôgo out of your own issues and do something for someone else. Go out in some kind of kindness, in some kind of gentleness to other people, thatÕs building the highway of the Lord.
It not only removing the obstacles but opening our hearts to let Gods goodness in. ItÕs a dynamic way of living. Imagine if every one of us, even those of us here in this church made a promise, even for Advent, ÔI will not sleep any day unless first of all I have done something good for someone else or said something good about someone else? How many of us with get any sleep?
With God this is simple, anyone can do that. This is brilliant news because if everyone can do it then most likely so can we. But I think we can get so caught up in our own issues we can spend the whole day without one act of kindness, can spend the whole day without saying one kind thing to another person and then wonder how come people are so remote, how come people donÕt care. And the reality is, itÕs not because people are remote, but that weÕre remote; itÕs not that they donÕt care, often times we donÕt care.
So today this Gospel is asking us to just simply live our faith, remove the barriers. DonÕt be shocked when you find them because they are in all of us. Just be shocked that you are holding on so tight. Let the barriers go and then act with a little bit of kindness, just a little bit, a little bit of generosity. Come out of ourselves all of us, and when we do that we make room for this coming of Christ. And this great God who has blessed us with so much goodness and so much love is enabled then to touch our lives. To give us the healing that we so desperately need, take away the pain that seems to be such a very great burden on our hearts. For a moment we pray for that grace, to truly celebrate this Advent season.