Archbishop's Homilies 2003

Midnight Mass for the Feast of Christmas

Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Thursday, 25th December, 2003

Introduction

“How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is given.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.”

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

From near and far, with great faith, seeing Christ the Light of the World, you are most welcome to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral for this Midnight Mass.

With family members or alone we encircle all your loved ones in our common prayer of the sacrifice of the Mass, as we commemorate the birth of Christ, our Lord and Redeemer. Truly God is near to us as we are and lovingly invites us to see our inspirations fulfilled through his grace.

Carrying the burdens of the past year, this new encounter with God will help us meet him and go forth in hope for a renewed world, walking with him, fulfilling the purposes for which we are made.

As we call to mind our sins, may the newborn Christ show us he is near, fill us with his light and give us hope and encouragement by the warmth of his love.

Homily

My dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is the night of night, the day of days, second only to Easter when Jesus performs our redemption.

It is the coming of our God in human flesh with a light that cuts the darkness of human sorrow, sin and despair. The message of the angel two thousand years ago, “Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy to be shared by the whole people.” (Luke 2:1-12)

It is news which addresses our human condition, enriches it and gives us a sense of mission.

Do not be afraid. Our God born as our Saviour offers to set us free from the burdens of sin, suffering and tragedy. Many of us feel alone or confused when caught up into a society, which is aggressively secular and offers here and now immediate tastes of passing joy.

In modern times the search to blot out religious people, ridicule them or make them irrelevant bites into our Church, our families, our way of life. It is for this reason that the angel says, “Do not be afraid.” Christ changes all this. He comes to share our human nature, to ennoble it like the drop of water absorbed into the wine. We too become absorbed into Christ’s power to save, to renew and to give New Hope.

The words of the famous Christmas Carol show us that the Lord’s coming does make a difference. ‘News of great joy.’ ‘Our God is with us.’ ‘Today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.’

“No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.”

In the midst of our regrets about the past, our fear for the future we remember that we are caught into a mystery. How God becomes human while remaining God. How God ennobles our human nature to make readily achievable what humanly speaking is impossible. To live in joyful hope, to bear the light of Christ. To know even in the most difficult circumstances of war, secularism and tragedy, that God is near, will sustain us on the palm of his hand and will remain light in our darkness, sharing in the peace that he alone can give.

“A joy to be shared by the whole people.” The third part of the Gospel spells out for us the consequences of not being afraid, of realising that Christ is God and comes to us that we who are caught up into the mystery of his support and life have a responsibility to bear that life to the world.

For quite some time we have prepared for Christmas and that is why it is special. There is one love that wants to give us gifts too and that is the God who wants to impart his blessing to our hearts.

Saint Paul gives us a clue as to what we must do to share with others.

  1. To emphasise and sustain the importance of family life and of having time for each other over material profit, success and power.
  2. To acknowledge and live the importance of being who we are close to God, recognising him and walking with him through prayer, reflection and “Love one another, as I have loved you”, Jesus’ gift to the world.
  3. In our places of work, our community, to witness to the difference which we, as his chosen followers, can make to enrich our world through honesty, charity and truthfulness. More and more, Jesus asks everyone who believes in him to behave as sons and daughters of God, to bring his truth, his way of living to others.

To do these things will mean a new way of life, regular daily prayer and reflection, regular choosing to be there for others and to serve them, regular readiness to offer hope to those who have lost their way. Even at the most difficult times in the world’s history it has been the followers of Jesus who have pointed to the ultimate triumph of truth, goodness and of God’s plans for people, in which we share.

This is why we pray in the Carol;
“O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us we pray;
cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels the great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord, Emmanuel.”
 

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.