MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON THURSDAY, 25TH DECEMBER 2008 AT 11.00A.M.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
A child is born for us – Jesus the Mighty God, Prince of Peace and Lord of all. He comes to provide light in our darkness, hope and transformation for our world, a new focus for family and society.
Today I remember all of you, your hopes and desires, needs and sufferings, as I offer this Mass. At the end of Mass in the name of the Holy Father, the universal Shepherd of the Church, I will give the Papal Blessing that the peace and transforming power of Christmas may go into your hearts and into your lives.
Humbly, let us remember our darkness and his light, our weakness and his transforming power, as we call to mind our sins.
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of One who brings Good News, who heralds peace, brings happiness, proclaims salvation.”
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the full glory of Christmas Day we realise that the baby born in the stable is Christ, the Light of the world. Last evening we reflected upon the simplicity of the Lord’s birth. Today it is our challenge to see that the Saviour of mankind has been born. As we celebrate Christmas to realise that God’s coming and our commemoration after two thousand years is just as powerful to enrich and transform human life as was his first coming in changing the course of our world.
This year our secular society has permitted legislation obliterating or perverting human life. The effect of such activity is a direct challenge to the family as the basic unit of society, to its role, with a mother and a father, to nurture and prepare future citizens of the earthly city and of the kingdom of heaven, and to provide witness to the authentic value of every human being.
When we reflect the words of Saint John: “God is light and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5), we remember that the coming of God, born in a stable at Bethlehem in the fullness of divinity and truth, immediately engages our world and its people with the Creator, with the truth about humanity and its destiny, which we are committed to perceive and live at Christmas.
In his Message last Christmas Pope Benedict said: “Christmas is the mystery of love, which for two thousand years has spoken to men and women of every era and every place. The great light of Christ shines forth, bearing peace. However, if we are to receive it, faith and humility are needed. The humility of Mary who believed in God’s word and bending low over the manger was first to adore the Lord, the humility of Joseph, the poor anonymous shepherds, the little ones, poor in spirit and yet courageous to be builders of Christ’s kingdom of justice, love and peace.”
Christ comes to us to provide a truth which is authentic, nor merely arbitrary, changeable, which could be refashioned at the whim of human ingenuity. His coming shows the truth of every human being, the importance of family living and the respect which is due to each human being. The humility which comes from the crib into our life is the humility to accept the fact that our human nature depends totally upon God for every moment of our existence, our relationships are those designed and regulated by God in the family and in society, and the purpose of our society is to provide for the wellbeing of each individual in accordance with God’s plan so that each can reach their full human fulfilment and by living a just and faith-filled life come at death to our true and eternal home.
This will only be possible if we recognise God as God and adore him. If we give him a central place in our life through prayer and through just living, nurture the peace of heart, which will enable us in the midst of many contradictory signs to live in the pattern of his plan for us.
The Pope reminds us that when the joyful news of the birth of the Saviour filled with love for us, opening out for us a destiny that we have not even dreamed to imagine, asks who is ready to open the doors of our heart to Jesus. He comes bringing light and peace, but who is watching in the night of doubt and uncertainty with a praying heart? Are we keeping alive the flame of faith, listening to his word, being entranced by his love? If that love through reflection and prayer is present and constant in our heart, then our deeds in family, our witness in society, our respect for life, justice and lasting truth will be the contribution we will make to a society which is so often confused, mesmerised by individual freedom and licence, rather than seeing that true freedom is acquired by living according to the plan of God for us.
If we acknowledge Jesus as God come to us, then this challenges us to lead our lives after his pattern, to know that it is never late to confess our sins and renew the life that he wants us to have. Therein we will be able to make a greater contribution in our family, our workplace and in society than we ever had imagined because our faith and love will be authentic, our life in the midst of struggles and trials will engender hope and as we revere his coming at present so we will wait in joyful hope for the day when we will be called to enjoy “what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has prepared for those who love him”. This is the tantalising, hope-filled invitation, which God gives to us to embrace courageously in this day when a great light of Christ has dawned upon the earth.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.