Welcome back.. welcome home! & into the great Season of Advent last Sunday afternoon at private prayer 4 brave souls came out on a bleak drieky day, & together we blessed our Advent wreath, remembering its beginnings as a pre-Christian ritual.. nomadic peoples whose livelihoods centred on flocks of sheep & goats, who wandered round countryside, two weeks here two weeks there, their flocks eating pasture before moving on to better greener ones.. gypsies tinkers we would label them..& shortest four weeks of year, when daylight at shortest & pasture at shortest, they would hunker down, take wheels off wagons & decorate wheel with greenery, a sign of hope, & light one candle each week, expectantly waiting for the return of daylight.. then, when weather turned a corner, they would set off again.. for us four weeks, now three weeks, to take off wheels of our activity speed journey & settle down in our hearts to “prepare the way of the Lord” a time to sweep out our stable, our conscience, & to gather clean straw for our manger, & to pray especially this Advent, this extraordinary Advent, in thanksgiving for the presence & influence as well as the impotency & infertility of God.. in all that some of us are experiencing, & others of us are safely watching from a distance.. three weeks to stop spectating & criticising, either the government the Church or the Abbey & College..& instead three weeks to watch & pray..
“..the Lord is not being slow to carry out his promises” the promise of a vaccine.. ; Lord have mercy
“..he is being patient with you all, wanting nobody to be lost, everybody to be brought to change their ways” ..to live is change.. ; Christ have mercy
“..while you are waiting do your best so that he will find you at peace” ..peace in your stable.. ; Lord have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
38yrs ago as second year novice I was sent into the College to accompany 50 boys going on Retreat to Ushaw College outside Durham, then still a thriving northern seminary for diocesan priests.. the retreat being led by our Br Daniel & I was there very much to be a disciplinary presence not an active contributor.. on coach on way up Br Daniel said to me somewhat sheepishly he was to give the first talk that evg “but I don’t want you there” in obedience I took it.. intrigued at why I was excluded so over hot chocolate & biscuits after talk I waited & one lad spilled beans “you’ll never guess what Br Daniel did in our talk tonight Br Bede.. he smashed a statue!”.. so I gently asked “why?” some months later he went on his summer holiday & came back sporting a beard.. we don’t have beards in our Community & one of us queried it with him, warning him what the Abbot would say “it is about time we caught up with real world instead of living in past!” he said with typical bravado.. by time he came down to 5.15am Matins next morning his beard had gone.. a few years later he left.. he was for us a John the Baptist, a herdwick not a swaledale bless him.. different, likeable, on the edge, controversial & yet still & always one of us.. a prophet.. from 4th cent theologians saw prophet John the Baptist as first monk.. standing for rigorist demands of religion, for the threatening emptiness just outside the boundaries of the known & the familiar, for the wastelands of the heart & mind, in which demons roam & boundaries are lost..& where God & self are found.. a great inspirer for our Advent, he prepares the ground, a builder of superhighways where cut & fill in civil engineering & in spirituality is a vital skill.. cut down mountains & take the excavated earth/spoil to fill up valleys, & the road is straight, levelling out peaks & troughs, the inclines which prove hazardous in winter conditions.. our peaks & troughs in our spiritual lives that find us arrogantly on top of the world at times when our prayers are seemingly being answered, & in trough at foot of Chimney Bank when life & faith go pearshaped, & God is absent.. Advent is divine time to redress the fluctuations, to refind what we call Benedictine balance.. where like John, we have the sensitivity to smell sense the moment of change on wind & react accordingly.. in winter conditions to grit the road night before & urge few prepared to hear & listen to be ready to face hazard & its consequences.. ”stay awake” last Sundays gospel.. & why? because of his loving concern for a people well used, too used, to listening to stories gospels & weather forecasts, but now invited to go deeper, to become real characters in an emerging real life gospel, where the Son of God comes to life.. Emmanuel “God-is-with-us”.. John, & now you & I, preparers of the way.. the way to the stable & the manger.. “not I Lord, surely?” ..take heart these were Marys feelings when Gabriel challenged her in her Advent moment.. Sr Joan Chittister OSB puts the invitation; “we are here to be messengers of God, to be a rudder on the ship of life. We are meant to be heralds lovers & followers of the Jesus who called all of Israel to remember the poor, save the women, embrace the outsider, consort with foreigners, & wrestle the Law to the ground of compassion.. ”prepare a way of the Lord “a most demanding dangerous calling; without it we will never become the whole of ourselves. We may be great caretakers, good scholars, sincere seekers, fine people, but we will never be fully spiritual.. liked admired respected & safe, but truly spiritual?” prepare a way of the Lord “the question is, whose respect would we risk to have? would we want to be found to be on the side of peacemakers, single women, victims of discrimination, thinkers & changers of a society where corporate CEO’s get richer while the middle class disappears, & the poor get more destitute by the hour” prepare a way of the Lord.. £200 a month to our food-poor in our own Village.. corporate CEO’s brings to mind & heart our own John the Baptist, Paul Moore..a herald of gospel, a lover & follower of Jesus, who wrestled to the ground of compassion the purveyors of sub-prime mortgages when he saw the immorality of what could happen in quest for larger profits & increased bonuses.. a prophet of financial crash of 2008 & precious few would listen & even fewer would believe him.. believe the Word of God in him.. a priest friend wrote me last weekend “I was thinking of you & the Community today as I read an obituary of Paul Moore. It’s the stuff of Hollywood. A banking whistleblower. A man with a conscience. I noticed he lived in Helmsley. Then I see he was educated at Ampleforth, but what struck me most was the courage he had to challenge the unethical practices of the banks. I don’t know what type of person he was, but the sense of commitment to fair play & justice struck me as powerful, & that obituary linked in with his faith & Catholic education. What mental suffering. I was touched by the words of consolation by his wife on nervously telling her he’d been fired “this is all part of God’s plan” how our Paul & our Maureen continue to prepare a way for the Lord “look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way.” what is the Holy Spirit trying to tell us in our little parish this Advent?.. ”Fr Bede we never knew, we never realised” he came among us, he sat in that pew over there week after week, & few of us recognised who he really is.. is.. still is.. a voice crying in our wilderness.. one of us.. a prophet cries out, cries out, cries out, without fear, without care for cost & without end”..”go up on a high mountain joyful messenger to Zion, shout with a loud voice, joyful messenger to Jerusalem. Shout without fear, say to the villages of Ampleforth & Gilling “here is your God”.. ”here is my Son, my beloved, listen to him” an Advent of Transfiguration for those of us who will listen to him.. God Christ & our Paul.. a final phrase from another great prophet of our time St Oscar Romero “we provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities” our collective Advent here & our School of the Lord’s Service half a mile east from here, need your yeast & your prayers please.. ..”this is all part of God’s plan”.. [2ndSunAdvent Yr B Mk 1;1-8]