AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY, 5 DECEMBER 2010 AT 11AM
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
If we wish to prepare for a big event, we spend some time and step back from our normal preoccupations. It may be that we go away and reflect. It may be that we cut down on other involvements so that a particularly important event will be focussed.
Both John and Jesus went into the desert to prepare themselves for teaching the kingdom of God.
This Advent, amid the busyness of Christmas, let us take on an opportunity to pause and pray, that we will make sure that Christ is in our Christmas.
Let us call to mind our sins, as we wait in hope for Christ, the Light of the world.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Often we can see a contrast between John the Baptist and Jesus. John was a fire-eater. He told it as it was. He strongly called people to repentance. His message came clearly and loudly across the centuries.
Jesus speaks the same message, but it is an invitation, shown with compassion, with respect for free will and with hope that the goodness innate in people will come to the surface.
John the Baptist does invite us to see the problems of our injustice and intolerance. The fact that ten percent of the world’s population own ninety percent of its human resources; poverty, dissension, wars, seem to abound.
Yet the Christian presence in the world is one which focuses on light rather than on the shadows which are there. It invites us to live by the light and to be spiritually renewed; to put the axe to the root of the tree of sin in our lives, to turn to the Lord in opening our lives to him and receiving forgiveness, to lead us away from the domain of sin into the domain of love; which is as strong as death, of love who is like a flash of fire.
Perhaps we have not imagined that Jesus’ coming into our lives can bring joy, hope, challenge and a new way of living, which is life-giving; that he can inspire our work, our studies, our relationships with others, the way in which we conduct our business. It was G. K. Chesterton who said, “The main thing wrong with Catholicism is that it has not been tried.”
As we celebrate the Eucharist seeking to remember that Jesus is really and personally present among us in the Eucharist and in his Real Presence in the church, we might also remember that our response to Jesus is a response to a person.
We can face this with courage. However, he calls us to be instruments of what he proposes for the world. “Justice shall flourish in his time and fullness of peace forever, so that united in mind and voice you may give glory to God the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ;” or of John the Baptist, “A voice cries in the wilderness, prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” (Matthew 3.2)
The critical realisation is that we are nothing without the Lord. Because we are so weak it is his mercy which sustains us and makes us instruments of a new world, where justice, peace and truth are the guiding criteria. We are challenged to work for this in our families and our communities. We know that only this will bring the joy coming from our God and enable us to see his salvation, his new life, offered to each of us. Lying behind all this is the hope, nay, the truth, that each of us, even in this modern, busy world, can make a difference and be ambassadors of our loving and saving God.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.