Homily for 1st Sunday in Advent
MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2010 AT 11AM
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Welcome to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral with the friends and donors to Centacare as we celebrate the First Sunday of Advent.
We participate in a longstanding expectancy for the Messiah because sharing in the long preparation for his coming we, as faithful, renew our desire for his second coming as Lord at the end of our life.
By celebrating John the Baptist’s birth and martyrdom we come to make John the Baptist’s desire our own; God must increase, I must decrease, as now we call to mind our sins and prepare our hearts for this celebration.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We come to the First Sunday of Advent in Year A. This is a very short season preparing us for Christmas, listening to Saint Paul, ‘you know the time has come, you must wake now, our salvation is even nearer than it was when we were converted, the night is almost over, it will be daylight soon’. (Romans 13:11-12)
Cardinal Newman is rather disconcerting when he says of God’s call: “Few will open to me immediately when I knock. They will have something to do first. They will have to get ready. They will have to recover from the surprise and confusion which overtake them on the first news of my coming and will need time to collect themselves and to summon about them their better thoughts and affections. They feel themselves very well off as they are and they wish to serve God as they are. They are satisfied to remain on earth, but they do not wish to move, they do not wish to change.” (J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, 4:22)
So the Church is inviting us with an immediacy to change our lives and hearts. To do so because the news that God is near is a welcome and joyful news, not a portentous and horrible thing. The Gospel we have just read speaks about the suddenness of God’s coming, the unexpected moment, the one that we least expect when God comes to call us.
God’s call is two-fold; a call to life and unity with Christ, to hope and love which takes away the darkness in human life, to a realisation that if we walk with God every day then our coming home to heaven will be the realisation of all we have lived and hoped for.
If we are young we feel we have much to do in life; many ambitions, many possibilities. Certainly we have many gifts and we should use them. One of the joys and discoveries is seeing young people who have gifts develop them, use them and place them at the service of others. When we get older we realise perhaps how much more we might have achieved and yet sincerely we live in God. God’s call is to being fully alive, to welcome Christ into our heart and into our life by our prayer, by our use of our gifts and also to witness to him in the way we encourage the gifts of others.
Every now and then we will get the shuddering reminder that God will come like a thief in the night. Not every one of us will have the option of preparing as we might wish. So let us live in the presence of God in hope, let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, because he will transfigure these wretched bodies of ours into copies of his glorious body.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.