..last weekend Advent message was “come..start the journey to the manger” this weekend it is “be tolerant” of our fellow pilgrims..celebrate the difference between us; those who of you who began to walk & pray with us here last weekend, & those of you recently come..missed & missing last weekend but warmly welcomed here & now to celebrate the difference between us.. us innkeepers, who keep the flame alive in our parish week in week out, & you shepherds out on the hillsides even those half a mile up the hill at the Abbey..a lively parish needs both “be tolerant”..
..for the times we show intolerance towards the different in our faith community & towards the outsider the distant the distanced & the different, let us ask for Our Lords forgiveness.. “he does not judge by appearances” or on religious manifesto’s.. ; Lord have mercy “he gives no verdict on heresay “ gossip nor false promises.. ; Christ have mercy “with equity he gives a verdict for the poor” food poor & wanderers .. ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..when I think of John the Baptist I think of our Joel..he lives in wilderness, in wood opposite Golden Square caravan park..he is tall, an afro-Caribbean, often wears his anorak hood up, he looks different & threatening; his tone of voice challenges, puts me on spot “why can’t I have money instead of food handouts you invite me to take from the food bank tubs ..why won’t you let me use your phone & save me using my own?” the more he tells me of his living conditions in wood, his backpack chewed into by a rodent as he sleeps rough..very rough..more I feel like a Pharisee as I preach tolerance & fail miserably to practice it..” a voice cries in the wilderness; prepare a way for the Lord; make his paths straight”..who’s wilderness is more life threatening..Joels in wood or mine & yours in this valley village parish & monastery of privilege & blessing..”if you are repentant Bede produce the appropriate fruit, & do not presume to tell yourselves, as if you were beloved insiders “we have Jesus, Pope Francis Prior Gabriel & even Abraham for our father, because God can raise up children of his own from the Joel’s & John’s of this world” & even of our village..Joel once a stone now a child of God, & labelled still a wanderer rootless lost..challenging threatening..what we find difficult different in him we find difficult different in ourself..true?..prophetic words last weekend of American poet, post trauma specialist, author of “Women who run with the wolves” remain with me “I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.” Since last weekend have you, in self pity or low self esteem, offered despair chair space or a share of your meal, or a fragment of your host at Mass?..have you?..well take heart you are in good company..Oscar Romero, South America’s John the Baptist, sent from the opulence of Vatican to favela’s of poorest country in world..to bring growing population of Joel’s & John’s as they read gospel differently adventurously with their divine spectacles on, & began an adventure of social & religious repentance & change, which threatened the stability & control of the established Church..he was sent to bring the Church back to heel & obedience..when he got there his prayerbook read differently..as he was offered a chair of hope & promise, invited to eat from the plate of the least & the poorest..he was baptised with the Holy Spirit & instead of treading on liberation theology, he began to grow it on..murdered whilst celebrating Mass in his Cathedral 24 March 1980..his/the gospels challenging message speaking out against poverty & social injustice cost him his life, as he voiced Our Lords own words at the Eucharist “do this in memory of me”..& we here & now are offered a seat & a kneeler of hope & promise eating in moment from my plate..”do this in memory of me” from Christ’s & Oscar’s plate..are we blessed or are we blessed?..”he will baptise you..you..with the Holy Spirit” as he realised his life was under threat from the status quo in the country & in Vatican, he spoke inspiringly then & now “we provide yeast far beyond our capabilities..we cannot do everything & there is a sense of liberation in that [ said Romero ]; this enables us to do something, & to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lords grace to enter & do the rest..we are prophets of a future not our own”..bless him..if our Advent is to be authentic & potentially life changing, we are to be carriers of that same prophetic message to our own time; Sr Joan Chittister OSB one of us said “to be witnesses to a spirituality that is not only faithful to our liturgical tradition but committed to a prophetic spirituality that cries out again [in wilderness of our privileged & blessed valley] the loud & clear divine message..there is no one too busy, too old, too cloistered or too remote from the struggles of the world to have no way whatsoever to promote the Word of God” & particularly in this Year of the Word when God speaks to us..in a world [ & in a valley such as ours] ..the cry this Advent in Year of the Word..”God speaks to us”; through John the Baptist Joel & person in pew next to you..”..& you, now..now, what will you do?. [2ndSun Advent YrA; Mt 3;1-12]