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
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.”
In this Year of the Eucharist, where we seek 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
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.