Address given by Archbishop Denis Hart
During the Paraliturgy at Justin Villa, Balwyn,
on Tuesday, 16th December, 2003, at 2.30pmAddress
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am delighted to be with you as another year of life at Justin Villa comes to its close. The season of Advent and the longing for Christ’s coming at Christmas and his manifestation in epiphany are a reminder of the hope in which we all share.
In his Exhortation after the Synod of Bishops, which was actually taking place at the time of the terrible events of the 11th September, 2001, Pope John Paul reminds not only bishops but all of us, that we have to proclaim hope to the world. Hope in Jesus Christ - also the hope which awaits the riches of the glory of God, which goes beyond anything that our human heart has conceived.
I am increasingly conscious of the unfailing power of God’s merciful goodness to open up paths of salvation and new life and propose them to the freedom of each person. This is why I rejoice in being with you to thank those who support our retired priests; the Sisters, staff members, volunteers and family members and friends. Central to that hope is a prayer which every priest recites in the Nunc Dimitis
“My eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared
in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 20:30-32)
We remember that these words were spoken by Simeon who waited patiently in the temple for years before God revealed the Messiah to him in the Infant Jesus. Somehow out of all the people in the temple he was revealed by the Holy Spirit to know that Jesus was the one God had chosen to save us.
In this moment of thanksgiving we might well remember that Simeon is a model for all of us who have had some experience of God and yet are thirsting for more of him. The story of Simeon shows that God loves to reveal himself to us. He wants to lift us up and open our eyes, just as he did for Simeon, to know that Jesus is God with us.
Advent is a special time of revelation and we ask Jesus to show himself to us, to open our eyes that we might grow in our faith and know even more clearly than we know today that Jesus is with us.
From Simeon we move to Mary. After the visit of the angel Mary’s eyes were opened to learn of God’s plan of salvation and willingly accepted her part in that plan. She went to visit Elizabeth who was similarly lifted up and the image of climbing to God is one which focuses our Advent hope.
Every day we say at Mass, ‘Lift up your hearts. We lift them up to the Lord.’ Or in one possible translation being discussed to emphasise our oneness with the Lord, ‘Let our hearts be lifted high. We hold them before the Lord.’ We are invited to rise up out of our everyday mentality and climb up to God. To constantly give him praise, worship and adoration.
Notice on earth that people will sometimes sing the praises of a great performer or proclaim the talents of a great sportsperson. They might rave for a while about their favourite television show. But in heaven worship and praise happen all day and all night long. The saints and angels are not robots nor in a trance or victims of a brainwashing scheme. Freely they choose to spend eternity with Jesus the Lord and Saviour of the world. Truly to hold our hearts before the Lord, as Jesus promises that if we seek him then we will find him. Mary is out Mother, full of grace, full of the life of God.
Saint Paul again shows God working in us. “By the grace of God I am what I am and his grace towards me has not been in vain.”
As we thank God for those who have done great things in our lives and particularly those associated with Justin Villa, let us go away today remembering that God wants to work in our lives in the way that he did in the lives of Saint Paul and of the Virgin Mary. It is God’s greatest desire to give us his grace day after day so that we can be transformed, lifted up on high, held before the Lord in whom we live and move and are. May this Advent time be a moment of new hope and realisation of what we can come to be.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.