..fittingly on this last Sunday of Advent, Church has designated it a Day of Special Prayer for expectant mothers..& also, as we worry & fret over deal or no deal Brexit, it is Sea Sunday, DSP for seafarers & their families, where 95% of all our imports & exports come or leave the UK by ship.. “look I am living in a house of cedar while the ark of God dwells in a tent” & prophet Nathan encouraged David to build a house for the presence of God.. God hears this conversation & intervenes through Nathan.. “..the Lord will make you great; the Lord will make you a house” ..the house God wanted for himself wasn’t a place or a building, but a person..an ark of God living in your heart.. a final few days of Advent to sweep out your heart & to furnish it with fresh straw for the Christ childs arrival on Thursday night..
“..are you the man/woman to build me a house [ a heart ] to live in?” ; Lord have mercy “..I will provide a place [ a heart ] for my people; I will plant them there” ; Christ have mercy “..I will be a father to them, & they sons & daughters to me..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“why did you keep the best wine till last?” as guests drank wine at wedding feast blessed by Jesus..& all because his mother Mary was there at the wedding feast & noticed the wine running out..she approaches her Son, at feast with his young pals, as at any wedding feast youngsters in separate company to us golden oldies..gruffly dismissively he says to his mother “woman [woman] why turn to me?” Jesus in a bad mood; she doesn’t take him on in his temper tantrum, she whispers gently to stewards “do as he tells you” in other words his bark is worse than his bite, he’ll melt in a few moments & you’ll see what is possible “for nothing is impossible to God” & where pray had she heard those words before, & gradually gradually come to believe them..& in the angel..& in her God & the Holy Spirit?..at the Annunciation in our gospel..familiar comforting, full of the spirit of Christmas setting scene for Thurs night..well think twice..instead of reading it or listening to it from a safe convenient distance of a socially distanced pew, take the risk to let it get inside you..into your womb space, even us men, a sacred space in our heart in which we are spiritually “with child” pregnant with possibility “Lord we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” “but how can this come about since I am a virgin?” “I am the way the truth & the life”..the way to the manger; the truth of a real not A tinselled domesticated situation; the life coming to birth especially as in first Christmas in difficutly, crises, doubt & an absence of God..
some year ago I gave the talks at our Easter Retreat at the Abbey, six talks in three days to over 400 people..in between I was available to see retreatants individually; a young woman came to see me & asked “why is it wrong for a Catholic to have an abortion?” I explained Church teaching gently & carefully & she left..next day she asked to see me again; I was slightly annoyed she wanted a second bite, given many more wanted to see me..I said yes with gruffness in my heart..she explained question day previously wasn’t just out of interest, it was real; she had had an abortion some years ago & it had troubled her ever since; poor lass living with spiritual covid we call guilt, self-isolating from her Catholicism, ashamed to turn up at the inn never mind the stable. What I said to her next could only have come from the Holy Spirit, covering me with “its” shadow “her”shadow. beyond the tears I saw a glint in her eye & risked asking her “have you thought of naming your baby?” she was deeply disturbed by my question, profoundly excitedly disturbed..I told her her baby was/is a child of God from the moment of conception, living all those weeks in her womb space, perfect in life & in relationship with Our Lord, & would have gone straight to Heaven; explained that happily the Church in recent years had outgrown its erstwhile teaching that unbaptised babies go not to Heaven but to limbo..& her baby needs a name..her face a picture of joy, relief & release..I suggested she should take time & prayer before deciding on a name..I promised to pray for her from then on together with her baby & I would like it if she gave me the name..& my angel left me..2wks later an email from her, thanking me & telling me the name of her baby..Alitheia..in one of my retreat talks that weekend I had told retreatants the meaning of truth..in Gk “alitheia” it means “that which cannot be forgotten” now “she that cannot be forgotten” & now? I get a Christmas card each year signed “with love & gratitude from Zous & Alitheia”..the ark of God living now in two hearts..”do not be afraid, you have won God’s favour..you are to conceive & bear a daughter” “how can this come about since I am not..I am not..a virgin?” “the Holy Spirit will come upon you Zous, & the power of the Most High will cover you with her shadow” “her shadow” being the Holy Spirit? or Alitheia or both?..Zous cured of her spiritual covid, the vaccine being the power love mercy & compassion of her Lord..Our Lord..”I am the handmaid of the Lord, let what you have said” said through Fr Bede “be done to me”.. ..a young woman Mary of Nazareth, Zous of the Midlands, & now you & I, in crisis this Christmas..a real Christmas this year, where we, in crisis like shepherds, are invited to put aside our long suffering spiritual distance from Jesus, & to come to the manger..be careful not to put your names on a bookings list & not put your heart & your real Christmas truthfully into it [4thSun Advent YrB Lk 1;26-38]