MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HARTAT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE,ON SUNDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2011 AT 11AM.
(First Sunday of Advent)
On this day when every community throughout the English-speaking world uses the New Translation of the Roman Missal, which we have been using for some weeks, we enter the new season of Advent, where God invites us to be alert at his nearness and his coming and by lives which are watchful of signs of the Divine we begin this new stage in our pilgrimage.
Jesus, our Redeemer and our Judge, is coming to save us.
Brothers and sisters, let us acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to celebrate the sacred mysteries.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s first Reading comes from the time when the Jews were conquered by the Babylonians and taken into exile in a forced surrender. In that foreign land with their hope challenged they learned to surrender themselves to God. They learned that God had not deserted them, but was ever with them with healing and forgiveness. He had sent them prophets to help them face the difficult task of reconstruction.
In our lives these days God can seem distant in the clamour of many voices which cry for our attention.
Many of us will remember our eagerness as children as our Dad came home from work; the family is now united, the waiting and watching for the precise moment when Dad would come home shows us the importance of watching in our life. When we watch we know what we are looking for. When we watch for things of God we know we are reaching out to things that will bring us eternal life.
The Mass today challenges us not to be spiritually asleep, but to realise that God is near. He invites us: “Lord, make us turn to you. Let us see your face and we shall be saved.”
In all the social functions, the exams, the work and the tiredness of end of year there is an even bigger challenge which will prepare for the final ending of our life if we turn to God and see his face. Saint Paul even reminds us: “The witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you, so that you won’t be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for Our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
God offers us the means to know him, the opportunity to follow him and the challenge to make a difference with our lives. That is what turning to God means; knowing his mercy and love, waiting for his salvation, being watchful for the things which are really important; God, prayer, love, sincerity and peace.
It is important that we resolve this Advent to live our lives with true priorities, in the midst of the busyness to make some more time for prayer. Saint Paul was a wise and capable pastor, though he often had to point out harsh truths to the people about where they were going astray. Despite all their difficulties Paul saw the Church as the work of God in the world and he saw in their midst gifts for which God is to be thanked.
If we reflect, we see how we can recognise and build up the gifts in others. A compliment or a word of thanks, an encouragement to someone who is trying to help – all of these things build up the community, show that we are turned to Christ and enable us to draw others to him.
Advent means coming, it means nearness, it means recognising that God comes with abundant gifts for us if we listen to what he is saying and doing in his Son, Jesus. Our God will come and save us. Save us from the confusion, the difficulties, the struggles that we have, make us new and constant in the faith that we have, help us to build up family, society and community. Then we will be the instruments of God’s mercy and love.
+ Denis J. Hart,ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.