MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SATURDAY 25 DECEMBER 2010 AT MIDNIGHT.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Welcome to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral where we come to celebrate the fact that our God has come to be near us.
Each year Christmas is different and Christ manages to conquer our hearts. The real Christmas message is that Jesus is born for us. It is a message of light, joy and simplicity, of hope and genuine love.
As we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord for pardon and strength.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” (Isaiah 9:1-7)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the wonder of this night with so many people gathered we come because of Jesus. Jesus, our God, has become human and has ennobled our human nature. Saint Matthew stresses that at the time of census Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem where she gave birth to a Son in a stable because there was no room in the inn.
For me this shows that God embraces every human being in the world. The stable shows us that true simplicity is in seeing the value of each human person, loved personally by Jesus and redeemed by him. The message of the angel is great joy that a Saviour has been born. This means that for all of us there is joy in the present and hope for the future.
In our modern world where so many people suffer, where there are challenges about those who do not have sufficient food, where there are challenges to the weakest in life, whether in the womb or in old age, where people are so determined to follow their own desires and initiatives, we need to stop and realise that God’s coming to us leaves humanity always changed. God invites us to take on the life and the values for which he lived and died.
The weakness and frailty of the crib show us that there is something greater than human possessions and esteem. There is a unique value in each person and it is for that that God died. No matter how frail physically or how broken spiritually we may be, or how remorseful for struggles and failures that we have had we may be, or how lacking hope, the coming of God to us means that every one of us here is of unique value. We are valued for what we are. We are valued for what we can become.
Indeed, the message of the angel which tells the shepherds not to be afraid is a constant reminder that in the midst of the world’s confusions and struggles, tragedies, wars, the onslaught against life, the blotting out of truth, there is still a unique value in every human being.
The coming of Christ is both a comfort and a challenge; a comfort because our God knows who we are and wants to go forward with us in a journey to which he invites us and to which we are totally free to respond. He invites us to union with him through the Mass each Sunday and through prayer. He invites us to justice because it is in justice that we see things as God planned. He invites us to truth about our self, our frailty on the one hand and our great abilities to develop on the other. And he invites us to trust him because his love is unique and personal.
Similarly, it is the same God who sees into our heart, who draws us out of our own self possession and selfishness into a new possibility of growth for him. Christmas can be a watershed. ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace to men who enjoy his favour.’ (Luke 2:14) Another translation suggests to ‘people of good will’. We might ask ourselves how strongly do we realise that God has come to us, how much do we value his presence and reality in the Eucharist, how much do we know peace in our lives in the midst of the struggles because we have good will, are open to him and welcome him, not only into our hearts, but to our family, our lifestyle, 365 days of the year.
May Jesus who came to us in the stable fill us with his love, make us aware that he is near and guide us always.’
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE