HOMILY – 3 ADVENT [B] 2017                          [Isaiah 61: 1-2, 10-11]

David Attenborough and the BBC’s BLUE PLANET programme has caused international headlines with its depiction of the bleaching of coral reefs, threatening the balance of all life on earth.  The programme shows how the changing chemistry of the atmosphere is making the oceans less capable of supporting life.  Human behaviour is doing irreparable damage to our common home.  A climate change summit in France this week endorses this outlook.

Another kind of “climate change” is being proposed locally as parliament debates a bill that would make it easier for us to die.  Suddenly our social atmosphere has an acid taste to it, suggesting it is more important to help people to end their life than ensuring all can live well until they die.

It’s both strange and sad that two weeks from Christmas we are presented with evidence of a dying planet and the necessity to debate how long a person should be expected to stay alive.  Perhaps it is not so strange – because the more we downplay life, the easier it becomes to forget what Christmas really means.  Do you sense the change?   Happy holiday!  Happy festive season!  Even the word Christmas is disappearing in our most secular of countries.

Yet, this is the world God loves, and continues to love.  Christmas points to a great visitation when God became visible in a human person, identified with a human family, and became vulnerable within His own creation.  God does not give up on life and neither should we.

Today’s Isaiah reading is the passage Jesus said was fulfilled in his coming: The Lord has sent me to bring good news to the poor, to bind up hearts that are broken, to proclaim liberty to captives…  His was a mission to champion life and from the outset he knew it would not be an easy task.  Jesus did not eliminate poverty, broken hearts or imprisonment.  [He said the poor would be always with us] The reality God encountered in Jesus remains today’s reality.  Tears, powerlessness and despair cast a shadow over joy and freedom and the popular vote goes to anything promising pain relief.

The promise of Jesus was not to relieve us of pain, disappointment or even failure.  These are just part of the natural world and our human condition.  He gave us a way of lessening the impact of pain, disappointment and failure, and of turning them to our good, by drawing us closer to one another.  Love one another as I have loved you, became the command for those who followed.  His way of loving was to put others at the centre of his life rather than himself.

He also said, many times, do not be afraid, and gave another promise that he would be with us, always – especially in the love and care of other people.  By trusting that promise, letting Jesus accompany you through the good and not-so-good times, life will remain a gift rich with potential and linked with all life.

Christmas means that God is with us, in every situation.  Whatever is imperfect in your life, whenever you feel your heart breaking, whenever you don’t have an answer for what’s happening in your life, know that God came in Jesus to be part of that with you.  For Joseph and Mary, their relationship and their journey was uncertain and unsettling; their life as a family never assured – but their faithfulness and hope never wavered.  They knew they were not alone.

Life is hard.  Life is nothing like the brochure! We cannot make life easy simply by claiming “rights” for ourselves because before long my “rights” will clash with someone else’s.  To share one another’s burdens is to put others at the centre of your life and so share the mission of Jesus.  This is the coming of God, making every life so worthwhile.

To claim something as “my right” is to assume that my life belongs to me and has nothing to do with you, or your life.  “Rights” carry “Responsibilities” and exist to link us to one another, not to keep us apart.