Third Sunday of Advent
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY, 14TH DECEMBER 2008 AT 11AM
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Many years ago now Father James Keller, the founder of the Christophers, said: “It is best to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
As we come closer to Christmas and reflect upon the mission given to Saint John the Baptist to announce that God is near, we are invited to ask ourselves whether our life spreads the light that comes from Christ and the awareness that God is near. This is cause for rejoicing and the invitation to look at the consequences of God being near upon our thoughts, words and deeds.
God’s coming is Good News. God’s nearness in Jesus changes the path of our earthly struggles and worries. God invites us to repent of our sins, to receive forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to know that he is near.
As we do this, let us ask him that we will be bearers of the light that comes from him, a light that darkness cannot overpower.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Victor Hugo was the 19th century French author of Les Miserables. There was a later theatrical production about the French Revolution and those who started it. Hugo once wrote: “An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
In today’s Gospel Our Lord reminds us that his time has come. He steps forth into the full light of inviting people to God – there is no turning back. John shows that all he did had to give way to Christ.
We live in a city where there is not much darkness. The street lights are always on. Every now and then there will be a blackout in your part of Melbourne. Notice how things change. There is an insecurity. We may go and look for a candle or a torch. How spooky things seem. Yet when the light comes back on this gives a sense of surety.
In our busy lives we can want to carry God’s Good News to our heart, but somehow everyday in the paper there is bad news; corruption, trial, global warming, ethnic cleansing, wars and struggles, the problem of poverty, tragic traffic accidents, what will be the future of youth, the frailty of old age. A multitude of problems come crowding in on us.
Christ invites us to proclaim the Good News that God is near and to do so with joy. Now our joy is not something naïve or unaware of all the things that the world suffers. Our grip on God and on God’s loving goodness is so tight that we can withstand evil. Because we receive forgiveness and mercy from God in the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation, which I urge you to use before Christmas, we can find a way to muster a joy that will uplift and strengthen those who have lost their joy.
This Christmas see what you can do to spread hope and joy, to get off the treadmill of rushing about, to see if you can have time for people. Perhaps we might ask ourselves some questions before we seek to communicate that joy. Is what is contained in the Bible really Good News? Is this good news for the 21st century human community? Is it only for Sundays or holy places? Or do we have a broader mission when we go out from here to spread the hope because of what God has shown himself to us through his Word and through the Eucharist.
Friends, the challenge is often to see what keeps us coming back Sunday after Sunday. Is it personal contact with God who is real in the person of Jesus? He changes the perspectives of our life. He gives us new hope. He helps us to see beyond the problems of this moment to what we can become.
I know that we Catholics live and rejoice because we are not stuck in the words and the world of today. We are always looking to what we can become and how we can contribute to our world. That is why, by our own deep, realistic joy we can lift up others who have lost the cause of their joy because they do not know that God is near. John’s whole purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. Our purpose is to attune our heart, our prayer and our life to God’s heartbeat because he is there at every moment of every day and it is he, whom we welcome at Christmas.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne