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2nd Sunday of Advent: Year A

1st Reading: Baruch 5:1-9
2nd Reading: Philippians:1:3-6,8-11
Gospel: Luke 3:1-6

During the week I was struck by two contrasting reactions to the same event.  As we are all aware, Australia was bidding to hold the 2022 World Cup. There was a lot of preparation to prepare  the best possible bid and this also involved a lot of money. Many people worked hard and as the day of selection arrived, confidence reigned within the Australian team.  We all know the result.  It was not flattering at all.  There are twenty two people on the governing body of soccer who were eligible to make the selection and we got only one vote and were eliminated in the first round.

What struck me was the reaction of Mr Frank Lowy the head of the Australian team and that of the crowd as I watched them on T.V.  The crowd reacted in such a negative way.  Anger seemed to be a prominent emotion.  People threw things on the floor, made very rude gestures at the camera and expressed themselves in a kind of language that you would not use in front of your grandmother.  Accusations of cheating, narrow mindedness and betrayal started to emerge as people tried to find the cause of such a disappointment looking to blame somebody for such a disaster.  England also lost miserably in their bid to host the 2018 World Cup.  It is interesting to take a look at the headlines of some of the English papers. “The Chief of the Football Association Quits in protest of the Governing Body of Soccer’s duplicity”.  “Retreat and Revenge” cried “The Guardian” while the same time this paper continued to urge “England must make FIFA (soccer’s governing body) pay a price for their vindictiveness”.

On the other hand the comments that Mr Lowry made were these.  Yes we are disappointed. We tried our best.  We lost this battle. Yet there are other battles to be won.  Let us go forward.  Wow what a contrast.  His words came to my mind as I reflected on the words taken from the second reading of today, St Paul’s letter to the Romans”. “Everything that was written long ago in the scriptures was meant to teach us something about hope” (Rom 15:4).  How true. Hope is a quality that is needed so much today.  Many people are striving to hold on to something which keeps them moving forward as they experience so much disappointment and anxiety. How do we as believers in Jesus Christ understand hope?

Hope does not mean sitting back waiting for something to happen.  Hope spurs us to action.  It is precisely because we have hope that we work so hard.  We believe our efforts are worthwhile and that they do make a difference.  Our strength, our commitment depends to a great extent on the degree and the quality of our hope.

Vaclav Havel became the first president of Czech Republic after the fall of communism.  After forty years of deprivation and of so much oppression, this man was able to re-emerge ready to move forward to serve his nation.  What kept him going?  This is what he said “Hope is not the conviction that something  will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out”.  This is all the more true for all of us who believe in Jesus Christ.  We believe that Jesus Christ is alive today and that He is here among us and with us.  He made a promise that He will not leave us orphans.  Rather He would send His Holy Spirit which we have received at our Baptism and Confirmation.  So as Christian people we live in the present moment with the knowledge and trust that our life and everything that we do is guided, nourished and empowered by Jesus Christ.  As Christian people we do not need to know precisely what the future would be like.  We try to do what is right in the present with the trust that God would take care of the future.  This is where our hope lies.

So everything that we do is important.  Every little gesture of kindness, every word of encouragement, every act of charity small as it might seem to be nurtures within us the conviction that God is in charge, that God is in control.  I can still hear today the words that my own grandmother used to frequently repeat “Remember our duty is to do our best and God will do the rest”.  The same sentiment is expressed by Portia in the play written by William Shakespeare “The Merchant of Venice”.  “How far that little candle throws his beam. So shines a good deed in a naughty world”.  Let us never underestimate the good that we do.

One of the major concerns that I hear from priests, bishops and also from our people as I visit the different parishes is with regard to young people.  What can we do so that our young people continue to be nourished by our God and become more active members in our Catholic Christian communities.  These sentiments betray a sense of loss of not knowing what to do.  They are legitimate concerns but the difference lies in our attitude.  The very opposite of hope is cynicism.  Cynicism kills the spirit.  Cynicism manifests betrayal, lethargy and no trust.  What is needed is the sowing of little seeds constantly, passionately and with enthusiasm.  God is in charge.

Well talking about young people here is some good news.  Before World Youth Day held in 2008, there was nothing officially organised on the level of the Australian Bishops Conference regarding pastoral care for young people.  Today the picture is the reverse.  Just one example.  Last October we held a Youth Convention in Melbourne.  Four hundred young people who are working in various youth ministries in our country were present.  Unfortunately we had to turn people away because of lack of space at the venue.  Next weekend we have the ‘Stronger Weekend, which is like a retreat for young people from the diocese and we are also fully booked.  In addition in our diocese there are so many other youth initiatives taking place.  In some of our school programmes have been initiated where young people are enabled to teach other young people how they can talk about Jesus through drama, song and personal testimony, while some of our parishes have a regular monthly Eucharist which is animated by our young people.  We are also looking ahead towards the next World Youth Day due to be held in August next year in Madrid.  Yes there is a question of distance involved and also a cost.  Yet we are estimating that over four thousand young people from our country will take part.

All of this is not wishful thinking.  It is an attitude emanating from the hope that you and I as believers in Jesus Christ have.  We do what is right and just inspite of any difficulties or hassles knowing full well deep down in our hearts that God is in charge.  We are in safe hands.  As Frank Lowy said “There are yet many battles to be won”.   The greatest battle to be won is to know that wherever we are Jesus is with us.  The great thing about this is that the victory depends totally on us.  We have the final casting vote.  So let’s go for it.
Amen

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