Third Sunday of Advent
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 14th December, 2003, at 11.00am
“I want you to be always happy in the Lord. There is no need to worry. The Lord is very near.”
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Saint Paul reminds us of the antidote to one of our most common human preoccupations – worry and distance from God.
As we begin this Mass let us remember the great truth that God never forgets us, holds us in the palm of his hand and makes us wait with eagerness for the coming of the Lord because it is in him that we live and move and exist.
As we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord for pardon and strength to do his will.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Saint Paul tells us there is no need to worry, to dismiss all anxiety from our minds. He speaks with the confidence of the person who has things under control. Yet we realise we need help. Anxiety is all around us. It comes and takes possession of us.
One authority suggested that anti-anxiety drugs are the most prescribed medicine in the country. Even migratory birds become restless when it is almost time to fly, but they do not know where. We know that anxiety does not make sense. Yet forty percent of all anxiety is about things that never happen, thirty percent is about things that have already happened, twelve percent comes from fear of being criticised, ten percent comes from fear of becoming ill. Only eight percent of all our anxiety is about some real and present problem.
We could dismiss all but eight percent of our anxiety, but will we? The psychologist, Gerald May, says, “Searching beneath anxiety we find fear. And beneath fear hurt will be discovered. Beneath hurt will be guilt, then rage and hatred and beneath the rage frustrated desire.” The Bible tells us every day ‘be not afraid’ and the Word of God knows that there is a problem and helps us to address it.
Today the words, “Shout for joy! Sing! Be glad! Fear not! Rejoice – again I say, rejoice!” mean our belief in the nearness of God should put aside all fear and anxiety and plant deep the seeds of true abiding peace.
Spiritually, God’s Word speaks truth in every circumstance. The Living Bread of the Eucharist feeds our hungers and nourishes our souls. The Sacraments bless the various moments of our lives. The wonders of the created universe show us the wonder of God.
Notice people’s reaction to John’s announcing the coming of God. They ask, “What are we to do? What about us?, when John invites them to repentance. John knew that people were repentant of their sins and rejoicing at the coming of the Lord. Perhaps this Sunday let us reflect, what ought we to do? Are we ready to welcome Christ?
Zephaniah, Paul and John would encourage joy in us over what God has done in the past and will do in us and through us in the future. This is not a giddy, senseless type of joy. It comes from the realities of the human condition. It is anchored in the thing that we want to take away today, that God’s love is present in human life, even though there is a gaping distance between God’s hopes for people on the one hand and the needs of life as it is actually lived on the other. God’s hope is there even if we do not expect it. God’s love – his joy, his hope – is a reality. How will we be attentive? How will we draw near?
Archbishop Oscar Romero insisted that those concerned for the lowest and least in our world have God close at hand. “How do I treat the poor, the lonely, the sad, those who are on their own? When you approach them with love, then God is in your midst because what you do to the poor you do to God. The way you look at them is the way you look at God.”
With these words a martyred believer in Jesus affirms the message – that we rejoice because God is in our midst, we repent because he is in our midst, we are responsible for others because God is with us. Oneness with God in prayer, in repentance and Confession. Oneness with God in hope for the world, even in the seemingly impossible circumstances of present day. That is our challenge today.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.