MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT ST PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 26 DECEMBER 2010 AT 11AM.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Yesterday we welcomed Jesus as Lord and Saviour of us all. Today we remember the family that God gave him and we pray that all of our families may follow their inspiration and be comforted by what they have achieved in bringing us the Redeemer of the world.
We pray too that in our society respect for marriage between a man and a woman involving the birth and education of children and mutual love will be respected.
Let us call to mind our sins.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are very close to Christmas as families are reunited. We learn from the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph what it is to be a family. The family is the basic unit of the Church and society. It is here that we first learn to speak; we learn right from wrong, we learn what love is because it is the love of our parents which has given us birth. The future of our humanity depends upon the strength of family life.
The Readings today pick out very clearly the relationships of family; the gift of fatherhood, the readiness to forgive, the unity between mother and child, the role that each member of families have to protect and nurture each other.
Even when families struggle and communication breaks down every one of us can say that our family is the place which God has given to us, our family members are united by a common love where we are valued for what we are rather than what we do.
Today’s Gospel speaks of the flight into Egypt and the protection of Joseph and Mary of the Infant Jesus; later on the return to the Holy Land and to Nazareth.
I am aware that many people here in the Cathedral today will be on their own or will have lost family members through death or absence. Nevertheless, the fact that we are people of faith so often means that God has spoken in our early life which has been nurtured by family love.
God’s plan for the family involves very high ideals. The love of husband and wife for each other is a reflection of the love of Christ for the Church; totally unselfish, totally open to God’s plan. The obedience and respect which children owe to their parents is something which is God-given and lifelong. Your parents and mine have given us the greatest gift of life. Even though they may have faults that gift is great and their love and care when we were young establishes a lifelong debt.
When the Father sent Jesus to reveal his love he did not come as an adult but as a member of a family. That is why God chose this family to show us how every one of us in our family life can find our way to him.
Let us pray especially today that family life will be loved and respected in our society, that we will value the great gift of life we have received, nurture it and be witnesses to life and holiness in our own relationships, praying particularly for those families who are apart and suffering.
Pope John Paul II wrote in his message to the Pontifical Council of the Family in November 2001: “Family believe in what you are; believe in your vocation to be a luminous sign of God’s love … family be for the people of our time ‘a sanctuary of life’. Christian family be a domestic church faithful to the call that you have received from God to witness to his love.”
Dear friends, my prayers go with you and those you love on this precious day so close to Christmas.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE