Mass at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday, 4 February, 2018

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

The Readings today give us a compelling introduction with Jesus as the great healer. After the cure of Peter’s mother-in-law, people bring their sick and come crowding around the door.

In the first Reading there again are remarkable illustrations of human suffering, so much so the urges and challenges that come across our life seem almost overpowering.

The American author, Joseph Conrad, once wrote to the philosopher, Bernard Russell, “I have never been able to find in any man’s book or his talk anything convincing enough to stand up for a moment against my sense of fatality governing this world. The only remedy is the change of hearts. But looking at the last two thousand years there is not much reason to expect anything, even if man has taken to flying. Man does not fly like an eagle, he flies like a beagle.”

Yet it is important for us to remember that in seeing Jesus as healer, the very concrete examples given in the Gospel and indeed the very concrete examples of suffering given in the first Reading, are a reminder that with Jesus ourselves and our life are cast in a different dimension.

You and I are here today because of our faith in Jesus as the only Son of God and the Redeemer. We come at the beginning of a new year so that we will continue our pilgrimage with love and hope, knowing that we can move forward, that Jesus does make the difference. The same Jesus, who at the beginning of the Gospel was sent out into the desert to pray, so that his union with his Father might be powerful in the great things he would accomplish as teacher and redeemer. So with Jesus everything changes. He cares for us as a Father, he gives us hope, he heals the broken-hearted and this has influenced countless Christians from Christ to the present. Saint Paul says, “My reward is in my preaching to be able to offer the Good News free … I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, to have a share in its blessing.”

The Mass today, being an encounter with our God who saves is a reminder, as the Pope said in his Encyclical Letter, issued a week and a half ago, to help us to know and to believe in God’s love for us, to abide in him and to have him abide in us.

Friends, we know that our God can make the difference, but what is needed is not only good deeds routinely performed, but a change of heart. The same Lord is inviting us to change our hearts and know his blessings. This is the wonder of what he gives us. Jesus offers us salvation and joy, which will never be replaced by anything else.

I conclude with the prayer with which Pope Benedict finished his first Encyclical Letter, focusing on Our Lord.

“Holy Mary, Mother of God,
You have given the world its true light,
Jesus, your Son – the Son of God.
You abandoned yourself completely
To God’s call.
And thus became a wellspring
Of the goodness which flows forth from him.
Show us Jesus. Lead us to him.
Teach us to know and love him,
So that we too can become
Capable of true love
And be fountains of living water
In the midst of a thirsting world.”

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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