HOMILY – 2 ADVENT [B] 2017                                      [Mark 1:1-8]

Last Tuesday I joined other priests from the archdiocese for an Advent Retreat Day.  As part of the reflection we were asked to consider what we each find most life-giving on a daily basis, and also what we find as non-life-giving.  In other words, what inspires and encourages me and what threatens or discourages or holds back my life.

That’s not a difficult task, but if you’re serious about wanting to know yourself better then you can quickly feel challenged as the image you have of yourself gets peeled away by some honest soul-searching.  For any of us, what gives us life is what enable us to have and hold inner peace, and anything that disturbs or damages that peace does not contribute to life.  When you start probing your own motivation and experience, things can get a bit scary.

As we enter the second week of Advent, the readings call us to get rid of whatever blocks the way to a quiet heart.  There are two barriers that stand in our way: the time barrier that denies access to quietness and rest, pushing an exhausting pace; and the independent barrier that traps us into thinking that no one matters more than me – that my comfort, my opinion, my rights must always take priority.  Neither barriers lead to peace.

There’s a beautiful and tender intimacy in the prophet Isaiah’s description of God reaching out to the world, to console, to hold close, to reassure and to calm fears.  Like a shepherd feeding the flock, gathering lambs in his arms, holding them against his breast and leading to their rest the mother ewes.  We warm to such an image.  It’s affection, love, concern and caring unselfish attention that inspire confidence and trust, and through which we find peace.

A tv commercial has children saying what they would like for Christmas.

Many toys are requested, but then a little girl in hospital says, what I want for Christmas is to be able to go home.  To be at home for Christmas is another image that speaks to us of peace and comfort, being known and loved for myself.  Life doesn’t get better than when you’re at home with yourself.

There’s a new word in the building industry: deconstruction.  We see it in action close by as the Defence HQ building is carefully taken down; not pummelled and pulverised but carefully and painstakingly removed.  Making a straight path for the Lord, filling in valleys and levelling the hills, creating space for peace, is an exercise in de-construction.  The pressure of time and the social emphasis on independence are barriers that cannot be crushed overnight, but Advent invites us to think about priorities, to reach inward to reconnect with the loving, gentle shepherd, and to reach outward to touch whatever needs healing with an active concern to make things better, to be life-giving in every conversation and every contact with others.

Little by little you can de-construct what is not life-giving for you, enabling re-construction to be better planned, longer lasting… [Reconciliation opportunity]

One of the things that gives me life is my contact with people – with you – and the life you so generously share with me   What do I find non-life-giving? : my own lack of patience and the pettiness, that can so quickly create a problem out of nothing.  For me and for you there are many barriers eager to block the path to inner peace, to a fullness of life.  Don’t let Advent disappear without at least beginning the de-construction process.

Free the shepherd in you to show that your ability to care is much wider than the narrow band of self-interest.  With the barrier to inner peace overcome there’ll be nothing to hold you back from being home for Christmas.