Fr Frank’s Homily – 5 December 2021

By Fr Frank Brennan SJ, 5 December 2021
Image: Shutterstock.


Homily for the 2nd Sunday of Advent

Readings: Baruch 5:1-9; Psalm 125; Philippians 1:3-6,8-11; Luke 3:1-6

5 December 2021


Putting to one side our environmental concerns and anxieties about the ruthless exploitation of our natural resources for short term profit, we can all be inspired by the poetic vision of Baruch in today’s first reading for the second Sunday of Advent:

For God has decreed the flattening

of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,

the filling of the valleys to make the ground level

so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.

And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade

for Israel at the command of God;

for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory

with his mercy and integrity for escort.

Listen at

Oh that all might walk in safety under the glory of God.  Oh that all might enjoy the shade under the fragrant trees.  Oh that all might be guided by the light of God’s glory, mercy and integrity.  In today’s gospel from Luke, this vision is applied to John the Baptist who is a voice in the wilderness preparing a way for the Lord, making his paths straight.  During these weeks of Advent we hope and pray that we too might be straighteners and liberators for those blinded and cowered by oppression.

I was distressed and dismayed during the week to behold the spectacle of our Parliament in Canberra as the politicians closed down for the year, going back to their electorates in preparation for Christmas.  They failed once again to resolve questions about religious freedom and religious discrimination.  Most troubling to me was how they once again treated the issue of discrimination against school children as a political football.[1]

Three years ago as our politicians prepared to leave Canberra for Christmas, Senator Mathias Cormann, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, told the Senate:

“I think that there is broad consensus around this chamber to remove inappropriate discrimination against kids in schools and other education institutions based on their sexual orientation and other related matters.  But there is also a desire, so far unresolved, among many good people around Australia to see appropriate and reasonable protection remain in place for religious schools, enabling them to conduct their affairs consistent with the tenets of their respective religions.”[2]

For her part, Senator Penny Wong, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, replied:

“LGBTIQ kids now face the prospect of returning to school next year knowing that they could be expelled or discriminated against because they are gay.  Only weeks ago it was clear that there was broad support in the parliament for removal of discrimination against LGBTIQ students.  … Mr Morrison told Australians: ‘I believe it is very important we act in this parliament over the next fortnight to deal with the unnecessary anxiety that has been created for children and their parents in relation to potential discrimination and expulsion of students on the basis of their sexuality. We think that needs to be addressed and we think it needs to be addressed urgently.’  Labor welcomed Mr Morrison’s commitment and we hope that together we can resolve this matter, because Australians were shocked to learn that our young people could face discrimination in this way at school.” [3]

There they were three years ago – our leaders pledging that it could all be fixed in a fortnight.  Here we are three years on, here we are 78 fortnights on, and the matter has not been fixed.  The animosity in Parliament on this issue has been maintained.  The misunderstandings in the community have been heightened, not resolved.  There were also many other disheartening things going on in our Parliament this past week.

But not all was doom and gloom.  There was a spark of Advent spirit for all of us, regardless of our political affiliations, when the longtime Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced his retirement after twenty years in the Parliament.  He spoke of his ‘most cherished possession’ which he kept behind his ministerial desk – “a simple letter that (he) received some years ago from Olivia”, the mum of Bella, who at the time was five.  Bella had a very rare disease.  Minister Hunt was able to organise a special treatment for her.  This is the letter: “Isabella celebrated her 6th birthday at the start of August, and I thought this was a great opportunity to thank you and update you on her progress.  We are overwhelmed with her response to the Kanuma infusion she started two months ago.  She’s a changed little girl.  Most notable for us is that she is no longer in constant pain.  She’s started to build muscle.  She has bounds of new energy.  She spends most her free time playing on the gym rings outside.  We hope to enrol her in gymnastics class soon.”  Hunt told Parliament: “Well, she’s just turned nine.  They did enrol her in gymnastics—and in soccer, and in cross-country.  And, if there had been nothing else in these last 20 years, that alone would have been enough.”[4]

Every valley will be filled in,

every mountain and hill be laid low,

winding ways will be straightened

and rough roads made smooth.

And all mankind shall see the salvation of God.

As we end the academic year and the parliamentary year, there is still much work to be done.  Advent is a time for taking stock and giving thanks for what’s gone right this past year, what’s provided that light in the darkness, what’s straightened part of that winding way, what’s made smooth some part of the rough road of life.  We might look back and say, “If there had been nothing else this past year, that alone would have been enough to warrant the sacrifice and to fuel the hope that the one to come at Christmas will bring light, glory, mercy and integrity to escort us on our way.”

During the week, the Irish Professor Linda Hogan delivered the annual Newman Lecture at Campion Hall Oxford.  She spoke on ‘Human Rights: A Moral Language for Our Times’.  She concluded with an arresting quote from Jennifer Hertz:

“Remember that Christians built an array of institutions to care for the poor and sick, transforming the face of the ancient world.  But they also went on crusades and burnt witches.  What this tells us is that the work is never done.  All we can do is attend to our common vulnerabilities, engage the transformative power of disruptive empathy, build the best institutions we can and keep watch for their failures and exclusions to emerge into view.”[5]

Hoping that life will be better for Bella and any children who suffer adverse discrimination, and committing ourselves to better laws, policies, attitudes and relationships, we join the psalmist with Advent hope for a brighter future, keeping watch for failures and exclusions in our Church and in our society.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

 Deliver us, O Lord, from our bondage

as streams in dry land.

Those who are sowing in tears

will sing when they reap.

The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

They go out, they go out, full of tears,

carrying seed for the sowing:

they come back, they come back, full of song,

carrying their sheaves.


The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.

[1] See my articles from 2018 at and from 2021 at

[2] Senate, Hansard, 5 December 2018, p. 9435

[3] Ibid

[4] House of Representatives, Hansard, 2 December 2021, p. 68

[5] See


Fr Frank Brennan SJ is the Rector of Newman College, Melbourne, and the former CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA). He has been appointed a peritus at the Fifth Plenary Council of the Australian Catholic Church.



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