Gaudete Sunday 3rd Sunday of Advent..a day of gentle respite & calm away from this season of busy preparation; Gaudete “rejoice” to realise joyfully not concernedly that Christmas is now only 11 days away.. ..some Advent wreaths would have a pink candle for today; priest would wear a pink vestment..we would have a small display of flowers.. We begin this Mass by remembering the call of Isaiah 3000yrs ago “the Spirit of the Lord has been given to me” to him then & to you & I now, in this small safe corner of North Yorkshire..to make a difference through our difference..our valued added..
“he has sent me” & you “to bring good news to the poor” & what good news do you bring to the manger this evg/morning? ; Lord have mercy “..to bind up hearts that are broken” ..broken but never irreparably.. ; Christ have mercy “..to proclaim freedom to those in prison” ..some of us years & years still in spiritual lockdown & self-isolation. .; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
“why has God dealt me this hand?..& there I am again, the one on the outside looking in, the one with my nose pressed against the glass, looking at some other family having a great time of it, sitting happily round the fire?”..voice of a prophet like John the Baptist..a woman I knew some years ago only by emails..a lapsed Catholic eyes of our judgemental dismissive Catholicism might label her; one of my herdwicks; unhappily married..two teenage children, & when she wrote this she was in deep intimate relationship with three men at same time; & little did she realise at time a fourth, Christ himself..I sent her a Christmas card last year as ever, & in Jan a letter from her brother to say she had died suddenly earlier last year..”a voice that cries in the wilderness; make a straight way for the Lord”..a sense perhaps of having lived & then died outside in the wilderness..John was born to be the man at the edge, the man on the outside looking in; he stood on boundary between city & desert; Jerusalem & wilderness; the safety of the known & familiar in a familiar ordinary Advent, or risk of the edge of things between meaning & chaos..which have you chosen this Advent?..& from now, will you choose with 11days to go? John was far different to his cousin Jesus..a John & a message which threatens to invade, to break down walls of our securities; you have only to ponder on last 8months in our own covid wilderness to appreciate how much & how far we have changed; a much different you & much different you this year, & dare I say for the better?..deeper in a faith that is coming to terms with the reality of the non-answer; a world full of questions which distract them & sometimes us from reality of the sacrament of the present moment; 14mins of sacrament of present moment since you stepped in here..time cherished & nurtured, or were you distracted elsewhere? the wilderness a place where people of OT encountered God, a place of revelation..the good news then & now is that there is a highway through the wilderness, the way of the Christ child..clear straight simple for herdwick & swaledale..John, like you & I lived with the question mark “why has God dealt me this hand?” like Mary “how can this come about since I am a virgin?” John sent his disciples to ask Jesus “are you the one who is to come or should we wait for another?” lots of non-answers, lots of faith..& in gospel they came to ask John “who are you? we must take an answer back to those who sent us” you must take back an answer from this Church this evg/morning this Advent to those who sent you..an answer you believe in, understand & are willing to rely on & respond to..Eamon Duffy Professor of History of Christianity at Cambridge wrote “we are travellers on the highway; the wilderness is all around us; it is within us, to the journey’s end; we travel in hope, not in certainty.” last week in St Benedict’s PS blessing Advent wreaths in each class, explained to Class 4 pagan origins of wreath for a nomadic tribal people shepherds of sheep & goats..told them that when mood in tribe hit low moment, tribal leader would gather all of them, & ask them to write their grumbles gripes faults on piece paper..he would choose a goat, each person tied their grumbles sheet onto fleece of goat..looked a real silly billy goat..I asked them what they think happened next? one said “did each person take a piece of paper with someone else’s faults on it & pray for them?” brilliant..told them what really happened to goat..tribal leader took big stick & thwacked goat across its bottom with force..& goat ran off up Yearsley Bank & didn’t pause for breath until it got beyond York..a pagan ritual, a forerunner to confession & general absolution..told them what a scapegoat was & still is..someone we blame for our low moods & mistakes, we load responsibility onto them & hurt them so brutally often in word they run off..escape “an escape-goat” penny dropped & shrieks of delight, familiar territory..20 10/11yr old disciples hungry for faith..Advent, John the Baptist, OL&SB, OL&HA & St Benedict’s PS in wilderness, let’s be real & honest about it..a good place to be approaching a Christmas like no other..making Jesus more easily accessible to “all the peoples” swaledales herdwicks & scapegoats..we each make it when one of establishment send a delegation to check out our credentials & our orthodoxy..our value added..secret of outstanding excellence of Ampleforth College is in its value added..what is its value added?..ask a student or old girl old boy before you ask a member of staff..”who are you? we must take back an answer to those who sent us”..the delegation, the grumblers, come here with an agenda, & they go home from here shocked surprised by an experience, & a host of new different questions.. ..Eamon Duffy refers to Grunewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece I shared with you in last week’s Outreach, with John the Bapist at the Crucifixion, his finger pointing at Jesus crucified..a message for us & from us, that us believers journey through a wilderness of uncertainty; faith brings no immunity from the pain of being human. John reminds us that through the wilderness of our world there does indeed run a road, a way to walk in hope, a direction to follow. Here & now I point towards each of you..as John said of Jesus, I say of you..each of you..a worldchanger & an Advent changer..”I must decrease..you must increase” [Gaudete Sunday Yr B Jn 1:6-8.19-28]