Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday 10 December, 2017

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

What do people see and learn about us when they look at your or me? Is there something about us that shines out? It may be that we are a musician, a sports person, a family person, a believer, a joyful person, a good communicator, and a good listener. Today we see John the Baptist, totally given also, “A voice cries in the wilderness. Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.”

John was a very effective witness to Jesus. People flocked to listen to him and to be baptised by him. Why did he make such an impact?

He lived his message, but it was not only his words; he protested against contemporary life, he stayed in the wilderness, he wore clothes of camels’ hair and a leather belt like Elijah had, he ate locusts and wild honey. John ate the simplest of food, so when he emerged, people had to listen and it was said by Carlisle that, “He preached the Gospel of silence in twenty volumes.”

There are many people who come with a message, which their actions deny; those with a large bank account who preach about not laying up treasures on earth, those who extol the blessings of poverty from a very comfortable home, but in the case of John the man was the message and because of that people listened. For centuries the Jews had said, “If Israel would only keep the law of God perfectly, one day the kingdom of God would come.” But John summoned people to repentance and the Jews knew that for three hundred years the voice of prophecy had been silenced.

So we come to today’s Mass texts. When we prepare a way for the Lord we know that we will receive forgiveness. The suddenness and immediacy of God’s coming is a reminder for us to stop and think, to see whether we are totally followers of Jesus, whether our deeds and words are consistent, whether our prayer to Jesus is the inspiration of all our life.

The invitation that John gives is to set to work towards the salvation of this world. In the prayer we pray, “Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we must continue to prepare the world.” Jesus needs prophets in the world of today as much as he needed them in the time of John the Baptist.

In our time there are roads to be made straight and valleys to be filled in through our repentance from sin, through our effort and fasting, through our focus on Jesus Christ. What will be our light this Advent? How will we respond to the Lord’s invitation to be saved, to know his kindness, to receive his salvation? If we prepare the Lord’s way in our hearts, then not only we, but also others will see that God is near and saves us. But first, like John the Baptist, we must repent of our sins. Use the Sacrament of Reconciliation, be fervent in prayer and seek a unity between what we pray for and the life we live.

That is the invitation because as we pray in the Prayer over the Gifts, “Lord, we are nothing without you, as you sustain us with your mercy, receive our prayers and offerings.” That is our challenge for today and this week.

+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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