Fourth Sunday of Advent
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 21st December, 2003, at 11.00am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“Why should I be honoured with a visit from the Mother of my Lord?”
These words of Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptist, to Mary, who had come to visit, are a tangible reminder of how God enters into the lives of ordinary people. Two mothers of children; one, who will announce the greatest person ever born, the second, the Mother of the Saviour.
It is in the lives of each of us that God is manifest and to whom he calls and invites to bring him to a waiting world. Mary did this in the flesh. We do it after Baptism by word and deed.
As we call to mind our sins, let us examine ourselves on the extent to which we announce the wonder that God is near.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If you or I were charged with announcing the great event how would we arrange it? Would we organise the media? Would we go to a great city – Rome, Alexandria, Athens, Corinth?
Certainly when people have great news they make sure that every one hears about it. Men and women have proposed marriage to each other by writing in the sky, have announced good news for everyone to see. Radio bulletins have carried news of great events. All, so that everyone may be aware and be touched by them.
Yet God overturns all that. Christmas unfolds our hopes for family and friends, for a new life where all the failures of everyday are left aside. For one day in the year we can live by our ideals. By the end of that day sometimes it degenerates into the harsh reality that we are still frail and human.
The greatness and wonder of God, the mystery of the crib, the light in darkness – these are almost mind blowing. Even our preparations for Christmas are a combination of the big idea and hope and the little mundane preparations.
Christmas is a mixture of the unbounded and immeasurable with the unpretentious in God’s action in our lives and we know that the Messiah was expected to be from Bethlehem, a place settled by one of the small Judaic tribes, far cry from what we would expect humanly. Yet God came into a simple town to humble, homeless people to demonstrate that God is close in the ordinariness of our lives. His loving kindness brings us someone to guide us on our journey through life. We recognise Jesus as the promised One in whom God’s loving kindness for each of us takes flesh and is available to us.
As we celebrate his first coming and await his second coming as judge, we Christians are to make every effort to resemble the one after whom we are named. Christ, the baby born humbly in a stable.
The young person devoted to his Father’s will, obedient to his parents. The adult with a sense of mission, who became a sign of contradiction because truth and God’s will lived faithfully in him until he became the suffering servant. The world’s greatest teacher through suffering who won our redemption. Indeed it is the suffering and ordinariness and brevity of his life which is its greatest lesson to us.
It may be easier to be kind and loving at Christmas, but the true test of how Christian we are is how readily we let the selfless generosity of Christmas spill over in to our relationships on all the other days of the year.
We who believe in Jesus are challenged by what we have experienced. God is kind, forgiving, ever near to us, ever patient, ever able to believe the possibilities that we so often flaunt with our weakness.
Just like his arrival in Bethlehem Jesus came unexpected in a way that by human standards was unspectacular, in a place that was unremarkable.
It is therefore in the duties of our daily life, the corners of ordinariness that we will meet the divine and all we really need to do is to seek the small, quiet places of our daily routines and continue through prayer and work and faithfulness, renewed at this beautiful time by generous sacramental Confession, to find our God, to remember that he has come to save us.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.