Happily, the celebrant for Mass at Carmel this morning was Fr Kene, whom I was pleased to see arriving drest properly as a priest, with a clerical suit and Roman collar - which is rather unusual a sight in the Archdiocese of Hobart, alas! Since the three Nigerian priests came to help supplement our shortage of clergy here in Tasmania, it is has become obvious how much better-trained they are, as their excellent homilies abundantly prove - quite naturally Fr Kene refers to "Holy Mother Church", not a phrase one hears too often.
It was good to see he was to say Mass for another reason: one of the other priests often comes late for the 7.30 am Mass (poor Father isn't a morning person), and moreover sits in the sanctuary during the readings looking disgruntled, even angry, at having to come serve the liturgy for the nuns and congregation there - how petulant and childish, you'd think he'd take stock of himself and do better, such is really unbecoming a man of the cloth. (In his defence, this other priest can preach very well when he has a mind to, when his prayerfulness comes through.) I must say, having lived on the Mainland, and having got to know many priests and people, church circles here can display can an embarrassingly self-satisfied mediocrity, a sort of insularity and provincialism that one would have hoped Tasmanians would strive to overcome, and I speak as one myself.
But enough bellyaching from me: no doubt I've many a beam to remove from my own eye first, and am certainly no saint, far from it!
In any case, Fr Kene preached a thought-provoking sermon, pointing out that Christmas, now just around the corner, is the feast of giving gifts, on God's part and ours. John iii, 16 (my mother's favourite words of Scripture) says it all: God so loved the world, He gave His only Son, that all who receive Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Christ brought innumerable gifts, when He came to do His Father's will, offering Himself once for all, emptying Himself, assuming the form of a servant (cf. Philippians ii): but two gifts in particular that He brings are joyful obedience to God's will, and a peace such as the world cannot give.
In like part, the Blessed Virgin, immediately upon conceiving Christ, did not hug herself, but ran to the aid of her kinswoman Elizabeth, bringing not just gifts for the baby, but above all herself, doing God's will by serving her cousin in need, and bringing her the gift of peace - just as her unborn Son, having come into the world to do God's will, then worked the first of His miracles, by baptizing, as it were, the unborn Baptist, sanctifying him still in the womb, granting him peace with God.
So too, we in our several stations ought imitate Christ and His Mother by giving godly and Christian gifts consonant with God's will and imparting true peace at Christmas, above all by emptying ourselves in service to others.
I reflected that I must strive to be a bringer of peace this Christmas - too often I am argumentative and difficult. Mea culpa!