MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON SUNDAY 23 DECEMBER 2007 AT 11AM.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In two days time we will commemorate the birth of the child, who is God with us.
Jesus’ coming, revealed by the angel to Mary, prepared for many centuries and announced in our world, is always an invitation to new life and hope.
God is coming closer to us than we would ever imagine. Humbly and with love we call to mind our sins that we may welcome him.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
One of the most frequent phrases in the whole of the Scriptures is ‘do not be afraid’. These words of the angel encouraged Joseph with his terrible worries about Mary and about the coming child. It has been used again by Gabriel to Daniel (10:12), to Zachary (Luke 1:13), to Mary (Luke 1:12-30), it was said by the angels to the shepherds startled by Christmas glory and Jesus said it to the apostles when they thought that he was a ghost walking on the water (Mark 8:50). A voice at Jesus’ Transfiguration told Peter, John and James not to fear (Matthew 17:7), and the same assurance was offered to Mary Magdalene at Jesus’ tomb (Matthew 28:5).
The ‘do not be afraid’ of Christmas is a challenge to engage with the fact that God is near. In the first Reading God is with us. We are invited to receive blessings and reward from the God who is our Saviour and like Arhas, we are reassured that God is near to our ordinary, everyday lives. We can be very constant in the knowledge that God is no distant patriarch. In Jesus, God shared our human nature. In the words of the Christmas carol – “Tears and smiles like us he knew and he feeleth for our sadness and he shareth for our gladness.”
In these days as Christmas approaches we rejoice that God wishes to draw near to us, inviting our hearts to be open, repenting of our sins, filled with hope for what we can be in God’s providence in the future. Whether young or old, whether this is our first adult Christmas or our last, the same beautiful invitation is given, to believe that our God is real, that in Jesus he is near, that through him our human nature is ennobled and given hope.
The challenge for us this Christmas is not only in these days but the whole year, to live by the hope that we have in Jesus, to triumph in his nearness, to know as Saint John said that perfect love casts out fear, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, who will transfigure our wretched bodies into copies of his glorious body.
Our human life is transformed, our friendships, our family, our relationships are transformed, as Mary remained constant and fearless in giving herself to the mystery of God’s entry into this world, just as he seeks to enter in the same unique way into the life of each one of us. We do pray: “Lord, fill our hearts with your love, as you reveal to us by an angel the coming of your Son as man.”
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.