Friday, December 4, 2009

Advent Homily - Fr Damian Feeney

Let me tell you about Mick Bamber. He’s a former Pentecostal Preacher, who attended my last church in the evenings. He is also a retired builder who oversaw the construction of the new parish extension which was completed in my predecessor’s time. One evening, having heard this passage from Matthew, he came up to me and remarked upon the irony now to be found in this passage. Any builder would know, he said, that Jesus was not in the construction business; houses are actually built on sand these days, not simply built on rock – otherwise they become less, rather than more stable. It’s a perplexing thought for a preacher, until we realise that dwellings were constructed in a very different way from the Wimpey Homes of today.

First of all, houses were only built in summer – during a time when the clay was rock solid itself. When a builder, faced with the agony of digging through the clay to the bedrock below, paused gloomily to consider his lot, he may well have been tempted to cut corners. Although he knew he had to get through to the bedrock, he would be tempted to cut corners, and build the house quickly before the rain came. Having done so, he would wait anxiously, praying that the rains would not be quite so harsh this year.

It was a huge gamble, because (like as not) the winter rains would come, turning the rock-like clay into the consistency of sticky toffee pudding, and the walls (made themselves of clay) would do likewise, and burst, rather than relying on the bedrock to channel the water away.

So – part of building on the rock is avoiding the temptation to cut corners, recognising that there are tried and trusted methods of being faithful to the Lord, to his commandment to love, and each of them require our application and our endeavour. To dig down to the foundations sounds like (and often is) unglamorous work, but part of living within the catholic tradition means building – quite literally – upon the experiences and stories of others in the church who have taken care to dig all the way down.

Our ‘digging down’ consists in being methodical in all we do. If we don’t possess that virtue, we should work to acquire it. Part of the life of the parish priest consists in doing well the things we find unbearably tedious – indeed, we should try to cultivate a liking for them. Such an attitude is indicative of a disciple digging to find the bedrock. To be whimsical and casual about important things – to be cavalier with diaries, commitments, duties – indicates the opposite.

Do the unglamorous. Get to the bed rock. Keep at it, time and time again – then when the storms of priestly life hit you – and they will – there’s a chance you’ll hold fast