Mass celebrated at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on Sunday 6 December
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have to admit that keeping a waiting attitude, longing for Jesus, praying and preparing for his ultimate appearance among us is very difficult in the last month of the year in Australia when people are tired and challenged and there are many celebrations.
Even the style and number of these celebrations tends to militate against the celebration of the coming of the Lord. Waiting will mean watching and therefore praying. Waiting will mean preparing, therefore Confession and reflection. Waiting will mean being nourished by the Word of God.
The purpose for waiting does influence the nature of the waiting. We will not wait as eagerly for a root canal filling at the dentist as we will for the coming of a child. We will not wait as eagerly for the plumber as we stand knee deep in water, as we will to hear our most favourite piece of music. We will not wait in a queue or wait for paint to dry in the same way that we wait for the homecoming of a loved one.
The joy and hope-filled anticipation is that Jesus is still our God. Jesus is the loved one whose coming we await, and he should therefore prompt more than joy and hope in us. He who comes is justice and mercy personified. We too need to show justice and mercy to others, to go beyond our comfort zone in forgiving. (Baruk)
Jesus who comes is the one whose wisdom we share to become one with him (Opening Prayer). Jesus is the salvation of God. That is why “The Lord has done great things for us. We are filled with joy!” (Psalm) And the challenge: “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths that all people shall see the salvation of God.” (Alleluia Verse)
Perhaps the greatest challenge of Advent, which is particularly strong in Australia in December, is the lesson to value the things that really matter while we await the coming of Christ. Should the gift-giving of Christmas inspire generosity all the year round, emptying ourselves from the clutter of possessions?
God is merciful. Should not this open our hearts to the needs of the poor? And are they just the materially poor or, in scriptural terms, the disadvantaged, those forgotten, the hungry, the homeless, the jobless, the unemployed, those who are lonely and not valued. This is a much broader category than we might first imagine.
When Jesus returned to his Father he sent the Holy Spirit to pour out God’s love into people’s hearts. We, as Catholics, are invited to be the instruments of that love.
How might we do it? If we await a just and merciful God we have to let the words of Scripture take hold of us, as it did for Baruk, Saint Paul and Saint Luke. The Word of God must be the word I pray and also the word I live. The greatest need you and I have in this modern world is of conversion – a new focus on God who will give us a new heart to look at our lives in his way.
(1) Take on the heart, mind and will of Christ. Love, serve, live and if necessary suffer and die as he did.
(2) Love your neighbour as yourself. That cannot but serve others in their need whether they deserve it or not.
(3) In Scripture the poor are lepers, widows, orphans, sinners. Even Zaccheus, a wealthy man, was poor. We reach out to the needs of others regardless of monetary status. Justice means faithfulness to all our relationships; with God, one another and the world.
To live justly, mercifully and peacefully with others will show that we are waiting for his kingdom.
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.