Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Dear Brothers and Sisters,



As December comes around each year society becomes transformed.  There is a never-ending succession of meals and parties.  Decorations will be put up in houses, streets and businesses.  Some of them are gaudy and distasteful.  It tries to make these weeks special. 



It is right that we thank God for the achievements of a year or that we seek to be more brothers and sisters to others.  Yet the Readings today challenge us to another kind of transformation; the difference that the coming of our God makes to us.  Isaiah gives us the wonderful picture of the desert blooming and those who are weak becoming strong, blind gaining sight.  This is evidence of the power that God can achieve and we see healing in the Gospel.



One great thing for each of us is that if we have failed we do not need to remain in that situation.  There is possibility of forgiveness.  There is hope for change.  Above all, there is capacity for growth if we walk with our God.  This basic idea lies behind the Pope’s suggestion of the Year of the Eucharist, inviting all the faithful to see Sunday Mass as a weekly contact with God’s Word and receiving the Eucharist and prayer in our church as a personal contact with a living God, who knows of what we are made because he shared our humanity.



What has always been attractive to me about Christmas is the newness of life of the Saviour, the indication that things can change.  But while I must confront my own weakness and struggle, God can transform me.  I do not have to be locked in despair.



So many things in our society today can be empty.  People are lonely.  The problems of drugs, the crowded traffic, the things that people do to each other seem to be constantly bearing down on us.  What you and I need as we come to Christmas is a renewed reliance on God, a faith in a real, living person.  That faith which called a Jesuit priest to be shot by the Nazis in 1945 for his unyielding reliance on God.  The suggestion that we can be transformed by this meeting with our God, but let us not be afraid of the disquiet of heart that does touch us when we are faced with God and with grace.



In a way we have become secure in our earthly environment.  We do not want to be too spiritual.  We do not want to reach too high, so we adopt mediocrity.  Yet John the Baptist stands out as someone who gave his all, even to death, because he was so touched and fired by his personal meeting with God.  We want our human hearts to be transformed by real Gospel grace, but we have to allow ourselves to be shaken and sifted and if necessary shattered by grace. 



Dietrich Bonhoffer warned that costly grace is true growth, but cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, Baptism without Church discipline, Communion without Confession, Absolution without personal confession.  The reason for this is, cheap grace is grace without making us really be a disciple, facing the cross of Christ, which is redemptive, and facing our own weakness.  We know that again and again we must search for Jesus Christ and face him.  There we will find the truth, not in the other things with which we deceive ourselves.  Costly grace is God’s gift to us in Jesus, showing us to be transformed.



+ Denis J. Hart,



Archbishop of Melbourne.






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