Archbishop's Homilies 2003

Mass of Appreciation for Centacare and Mary of the Cross Centre (First Sunday of Advent)

Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 30th November 2003, at 11.00am


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Once again it is Advent! We wait for the coming of the Saviour; we wonder what the future will hold. Like the people of Israel waited hundreds of years for the coming of the Saviour, we look at what we can become with God.

Today, we pay tribute to those who support Centacare and the Mary of the Cross Centre, as we pray for you and thank you for your service and support. You too believe with us in the possibility of things changing and growing, of God’s grace and human care being entwined as we go forward together.

As we call to mind our sins and thankfulness for these gifts, let us ask the Lord that he will help us to face the future with courage.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Quite often when I read a newspaper or watch the news I see so many places of pain, distress or hostility in the world that I would like to close my eyes and make the world all over again from scratch.

What would it be like to start again with a new Garden of Eden where all people live together in harmony and peace? To make a clean sweep and a fresh start?

It was in the year 2000 that Pope John Paul II proclaimed the Year of the Jubilee by inviting people to forgive deaths, give the land a rest, invite God into our lives. Indeed, in today’s Gospel Saint Luke invites us to be attentive to those who were oppressed, to watch and pay attention.

Fifty-one years ago Bishop Fulton Sheen topped the American television ratings with his program “Life is Worth Living”. The famous television presenter, Milton Berle, who had previously been at the top had asked how this could happen and Berle’s reply was “Bishop Sheen had better writers.” Bishop Sheen tells of being in Philadelphia to give a speech at the Town Hall. On walking there he passed a group of boys on the street and he asked them the way to the Town Hall. They, of course, not to be outdone asked him why was he going there? “To make a speech on how to get to Heaven.” Sheen replied, “Would you like to come?”. The boys declined saying, “If you don’t know how to find the Town Hall you probably don’t know how to get to Heaven”.

Today’s readings remind us of the many signs pointing to God. Virtue, honesty and integrity in the First Reading. Lobbying one another and the whole human race so as to confirm our hearts in holiness (Second Reading). Signs in the sun, the moon and the stars challenge us to watch ourselves, and in the Prayer of the Mass we ask that the Lord will increase our strength of will for doing good. All of these show that if we watch and work with the Lord then we have nothing to fear.

Indeed, the present talk in society about how can our faith influence the culture and the way we live is borne out very effectively by what Cardinal Francis George said in Chicago to the American Bishops last year. Both God and culture make demands. God shows us a pattern of life; culture tells us everybody is doing it. Culture wants us to dumb down God and keep him for special occasions of consolation; forgetting about him the rest of the time. God is God; a challenging Master who leads us to live with him because he is founded on truth and it is truth that will set us free.

We may be invited to be a counter-culture, but God has given us not a new Garden of Eden, but one that is rich with possibilities and newness. God’s own Son came to proclaim the possibilities to the world, the grain of God is possible now. The garden is ours to tend; the world is ours to reshape in God’s image.

As we begin the season of Advent we are filled with hope as we remember what Centacare tries to do in our city. To reach to where there is suffering and pain and to provide a listening ear, a kind word, a professional challenge, a new vision of what we can come to be. Clinically and medically those who share in Centacare do a wonderful job.

The most wonderful work of all is the vision they can provide from God. Things do not have to stay, as they are, “No one who waits for you Lord will ever be put to shame.” It is through Centacare and your support that God truly shows us his mercy and love, and grants us his salvation.


+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.