MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 7 DECEMBER 2008 AT 11AM.
My dear friends,
The Word of God alone can profoundly change man’s hearts, so it is important that individual believers and communities enter into an ever-increasing intimacy with the Word of God. We fulfil the Word in our lives, making his paths straight.
Today we join Rebecca and Darren Walker as they present their loved child Benjamin Thomas for Baptism. His brothers, Joshua and James, are members of the Cathedral Choir. Sarah Rogers and Joshua will be the Godparents. Every child is a gift of God who wishes to give his own life to this little one.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In 1960 an American cartoonist, Bil Keane of Philadelphia, began producing a cartoon ‘Family Circus’. It is now published in more than one and a half thousand newspapers throughout the world. Modelled after his own family the cartoon features a couple and their four children and a frequent subject of the cartoon is the path one of the children may take from point A to point B. For example, rather than go straight to school; Billy or Jeffy may go on a trip that includes a stop at the park, dipping feet in the reflecting pool, a time to play ball, a few minutes to watch television, at that time through a shop window. The journey to school looks like a maze rather than a direct route. But we do remember that through life our journey to God can be circuitous.
For each of us it is a search with some clear signposts, inviting us to go along God’s way. The liturgy today highlights some of these signposts. In the first Reading:
- Console my people. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for.
- Shout without fear. Here is your God.
- Lord, let us see your kindness and grant us your salvation.
- The day of the Lord will come like a thief.
- Look, I am going to send my messenger before you.
In a way these markers in the liturgy of today can be the different highlights, like Billy or Jeffy going to school, of the journey that we take. For many of us we are born into a family, we are baptised, we go to a Catholic school. Then we go to a world of work, study, marriage, relationship. There can be many twists and turns. There can be much sadness, things that we look back on with regret. Yet we know that everything is protected by a loving God.
We indeed do need to be thankful for all that God has given us and for the many wonderful opportunities that are provided. Some of us will have deserted him, forgotten about him for a long period of time. The coming back will be all the more joyful because we know he is still there and he loves us constantly.
One thing that I would say to each of us, young or old, is never underestimate the love and hope of God. We do, however, have to be vigilant and prepared as Saint Peter reminds us. We have the example of Saint John the Baptist pointing to the Lord by his life, inviting us to make the way of the Lord ready in our hearts. This we do through prayer, through forgiveness of our sins, through being instruments of reconciliation and truth, reaching out into our family and our society.
Is there someone in our family with whom we have had a quarrel? Could Advent be the time for making up? Is there someone in our community with whom we do not have a good relationship? Similar making up here. We might ask ourselves whether Christmas is a time for superficial celebration or whether now we stop and think about those people near and dear to us and the quality of the relationship with them, which has to echo the quality and constant love of our relationship with our God. Our God will come to save us. He does want to comfort us. He needs you and I to unlock the doors of our hearts so that we will be filled with the life that only he can give. The hope that we have is that we can make a difference.
In the meandering ways of life, God is the one constant, his love for us in Jesus Christ is limitless, the journey that he puts out for us, if we follow it faithfully and humbly, is direct from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from the old self to new life, hope and joy that only our loving God can give us.
We are one with the Walker family in bringing Benjamin Thomas to baptism. This may help us to remember the day when we became Children of God filled with the life that comes from Jesus as we pray our petitions:
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne