First Sunday of Advent 2023

Thomas John Barnardo (4 July 1845 – 19 September 1905) was an Irish-born, Christian philanthorpist and founder and director of homes for poor and deprived children. From the foundation of the first Bernardo’s home in 1867 to the date of Barnardo’s death, nearly 60,000 children had been taken in. Thomas Bernardo  always wanted to be a missionary, to go to China and to preach the gospel.  He then realised that in London, there were many poor children,  and many of them were orphans.  He could find his mission there, on his doorstep.  He started a little home for poor children,  and it was soon full.  One day, a new little boy came and asked if he could come in. He was an orphan, and his name was Johnny.  Thomas Bernardo was very sorry to tell him, that the house was full, but  he could come back in a few days, and there would be room for him.  On Christmas day, he got the news that Johnny had died. Thomas Bernardo was filled with remorse and guilt. He promised that he would never refuse hospitality to any child in need.  And he never did, no matter  how difficult it was,  no matter how many children came, he always opened the door and welcomed them in.  This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent; in the gospel, Jesus asks us to be on our guard, to be awake.  For Jesus, to be awake, does not mean that we do not sleep; it means to be attentive, to see clearly, to be like a sentinel on a tower. In a special way, it means to be sensitive to those in need, to realise that there are people who need me, and who need me very badly. They may be far away, or they may be very close;  they may even be in my own family.  So like Thomas Bernardo, we can find our mission on our own doorstep,  and like him, we can make a promise,  that our heart will never be closed to anyone in need.  This does not mean that we have to solve everybody’s problems,  that would be impossible. Jesus does not ask that; he asks, that anyone who meets me will find an open heart,  that can listen and can understand.  Someone who can walk beside me, even for a little while,  just as Jesus listened and spoke with his disciples.  When we live like that, we are truly awake and when the master comes,  we can then welcome him with a smile and open arms. So don’t forget, your mission is on your doorstep.