The Second Sunday of Advent
6 December 2015
St. Macartan’s Cathedral, Monaghan
Vigil Mass, 7.00pm
My dear friends,
In the Scripture readings we have just listened to the people of Israel are told that there are better times ahead. Baruch, an Old Testament prophet urges them to “wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you – for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory with his mercy and strength for escort.
In the Gospel reading, Luke tells how John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness and made his way through the whole Jordan district proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins – “and all mankind shall see the salvation of God.”
In the second reading, St Paul prays for the Philippians that they will be prepared for the Day of Christ ‘when you will reach the perfect goodness which Jesus Christ produces in us for the glory and praise of God.’
This Summer saw an unusually high number of encounters with sharks, especially along the Atlantic coast of Australia. But two encounters had very different results. The first took place at the World Surf League’s Championship Meet in Johannesburg, South Africa. Two of the best surfers in the world, Mick Fanning and Julian Wilson were fighting it out for first place. Fanning was waiting for the next wave to ride when the large dorsal fin of a great white shark suddenly appeared behind him. The shark knocked him off his board. Fanning disappeared under a wave for several seconds but managed to escape the shark. And all of this took place on live television.
Julian Wilson was paddling on his board nearby when he saw what was happening, Wilson immediately raced towards Fanning. Fortunately, Fanning was scooped out of the water by a rescue boat before Wilson got there, but Julian’s first instinct was to race towards Fanning to help. Once safely on the beach, Fanning paid tribute to his fellow Australian – but Wilson downplayed what he did – “I’m just happy Mick is alive,” he said. The extraordinary courage and camaraderie of the pair who were locked in a world title battle when the horror unfolded, has been applauded by surfers around the world as a show of true sportsmanship.
The second shark story happened earlier this summer. A young great white shark, seven and a half foot long, washed up on the beach at Chatham, Massachusetts. Some early morning beachgoers discovered the shark, struggling to breathe. While the harbour master was called, the people there formed a chain to pour water on the shark’s body to keep it breathing. A team from the Massachusetts Division of Martine Fisheries and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy arrived and gently towed the shark a mile out to sea, supporting it until it regained its strength and could swim away on its own. The shark has since been sighted by fishermen in the area and is doing fine. The Chatham Harbourmaster was deeply impressed by the initial efforts of the people on the beach to save the shark. “Twenty, twenty five years ago, they wouldn’t be exactly helping the shark” the harbourmaster said. “They’d be harming the shark. But now every single person on that beach was trying to assist. The people who were there on the beach made the difference.”
Sometimes, in facing our greatest fears we realise the courage we never thought we possessed; in dealing with some catastrophe, we discover the good we had no idea we could do. Seeing a competitor attacked by a shark, a surfer instinctively swims towards his friend rather than away from the danger, a group of onlookers move beyond their fear of a dangerous animal to save one of God’s creatures in terrible trouble.
This is the compassion shown by the Son of God when he came, as foretold, to live among mankind. Jesus does not ask us to initiate great programmes of reform or embark on high profile exploits for the kingdom of God. He asks us to be his disciples by taking on the small kindnesses that mirror the love of God; he calls us to be God’s prophets by living unheralded lives of integrity and honesty that reflect the justice and peace of God. Jesus promises us that even the simplest act of compassion or kindness will one day be honoured by God in the kingdom. In whatever opportunities we have, may we not hesitate to act in the name of Jesus to help any of God’s creatures – human and otherwise.
+Liam S. MacDaid
6 December 2015