Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Thursday, 25th December, 2003, at 11.00am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
“We who believe in Jesus have received power to become children of God.”
Welcome to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as we celebrate the coming of our God in human form, to be humanly the weakness of a baby, in reality the great Saviour and Light of the world. He so valued what we are and can become that he came to share our human nature.
It is a particular day when we thank God for his many gifts and we pray especially for Pope John Paul II as, in his name, I grant the Papal Blessing at the end of this Mass to all who have been to Confession, received Communion and are truly sorry for their sins.
In union with the Pope and my brother Bishops throughout the world we profess a belief in Christ our God, which is one, holy, catholic and apostolic.
As we call to mind our sins, we pledge that with the Light of God we will live in union with Christ and each other for peace and salvation in our world.
“A child is born for us. A Son is given to us.” (Isaiah 9:5)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
With great joy every man, woman and child sings out the joy of God being born as a baby in our midst, preparing for his great work of salvation.
Christ is born in a humble stable and thus best identifies with the ordinariness of every human life. Truly it can be said that at Christmas the extraordinary wonder of God comes, touches. ennobles, enriches and gives hope to the ordinary of our every day life.
Today we lift our eyes to heaven to see and believe the unseen, the incredible. The Lord, born for us, is a Light for our path for the rest of our lives. Isaiah tells us that Jesus is mighty God, everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In a few moments we will profess in the Creed that Jesus is ‘God from God and Light from Light. True God from true God.’ On Christmas night the supreme gift of God himself was given to our humanity. This gift is not only a generous gift, but it is an irrevocable gift to each one of us.
As we have just read in the Gospel, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us … to all who received him he gave power to become children of God.”
That is why the Lord’s birthday is an invitation to exchange gifts. Men and women to whom God offers and gives his eternal Son, sharing our nature, feel that we must respond to this gift by giving presents to each other and this readiness to give is a constant characteristic of God’s calling to us as Christians. As we meet today with Christ in the Eucharist many of us will meet at a meal to exchange good wishes and gifts.
For us as followers of Christ, however, there is a far greater gift. Jesus has given himself in the Eucharist and in the other Sacraments in the fullness of his Godhead and humanity to lift us up to God. That is why we can say that you and I cannot fully discover ourselves – how we are made and what we are – except through giving ourselves. I believe we have a tremendous gift to offer each other.
You and I, beginning from Christ, and through our bishops and priests, are called to offer hope to the world. This is an invitation to show that despite difficulties in international relations, families, society, there is another way for us to work through together to our proper destiny, which is that we live always with and under the God who valued us so much that he took our human nature.
I invite you to share in being a witness of hope, especially where the culture of here and now (I want to have it and I want it now) leaves no room for openness to God or waiting. Where hope is absent faith itself is called into question and love is weakened. Pope John Paul reminded the bishops of the world that especially in times of growing unbelief and indifference hope is a stalwart support for faith and an effective incentive for love.
We draw strong hope from the fact that it is certain that God desires all people to be saved. (1 Tim 2:4) And from the constant presence of the Lord Jesus, who remains with us always until the end of the world, as Jesus told the apostles when he sent them out. (Matthew 28:20)
The test for you and to me:
- Model ourselves on Mary, who believed and lived for the fulfilment of God’s words.
- Rely on God’s word in Scripture and hold firm to hope which, like a sure and steadfast anchor, reaches to the heavens. (Hebrews 6:18-20)
We need vigilance, courage, faithfulness, because Jesus is our hope and glory.
Dear brothers and sisters, as I wish you that Christ will show you powerfully that he is near, may I also challenge you that each of us has a role in the world which will be fulfilled if we welcome Jesus into our hearts as Mary did with a love that submits to God completely and if we place our talents at his disposal, given generously for others as he was for others.
That is our challenge as we go forth each of us in our mission for God and for the Church. In that way all the ends of the earth will see the saving power of God.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.