Christmas Day Mass

Christmas Day Mass

MASS CELEBRATED BY ARCHBISHOP DENIS HART AT SAINT PATRICK’S CATHEDRAL, MELBOURNE, ON FRIDAY, 25TH DECEMBER 2009 AT 11.00 A.M. INTRODUCTION Dear Brothers and Sisters, The child born for us is the Saviour of the world. At Mass God looks at us in a way that no one has ever looked at us before. He has pity on our nothingness and sinfulness. He forgives us and utters a word of grace that goes to the heart of all our worries and concerns. God shared what we are. He ennobled it and invites us to respond in faith. At the end of Mass, in the name of the Holy Father I will give the Papal...

Christmas Midnight Mass



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Welcome to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour.  Our God has come so near to us that we might be ennobled and our lives may be touched, changed and enriched by his coming.

At Mass Jesus looks at us in a way that no one has ever looked before.  He has pity on our sinfulness and utters a word of grace that goes right to the heart of our worries and concerns.

As we pray for all the people of our city and especially those we love, let us call to mind our sins that we might be touched and inspired by the coming of God to us.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the silence of night we remember the coming of God in a stable to those who waited for him.  We draw near this night to the child of Bethlehem, to the God who for our sake chose to become a child.  Indeed, we can say that God dwells on high, yet he stoops down to us to share our human nature, to ennoble it.

The angels who had been accustomed to sing at the majesty and greatness of God have now come to announce the coming of God to our human lives.

We know that Christmas is above all a feast of nearness.  God draws close to us while remaining divine.  He shares our humanity and he reaches into the love and grace in our hearts and lifts us up to a new hope and a new way of life.  In imitation of God’s coming, at Christmas we keep in contact with our friends, we draw near to our family, we remember the common goodness which we share and we reach out to those in society who are suffering and burdened.

The world becomes transformed for a day, remembering that God and human life are one.  This Christmas we reflect on the welcome that the shepherds gave to Jesus.  They were watching their flocks.  We are also called to keep watch with a lively sense of God and of his closeness.  We wait for God and are not resigned to his apparent remoteness.  To a watchful heart the news of great joy can be announced, ‘for you this night the Saviour is born’.

It is important for us then to keep that watchfulness in prayer, in faith and in service.  That is why I stress the importance on this day and on all Sundays and Holy Days of being one and near with our God in prayer.  It is vital that we grow in awareness of God’s nearness in our lives so that we will lead an authentic Christian life.

In a world of material prosperity and focus on the individual, we need to have our hearts open for the God who alone will make us happy, help us to realise who we are and open our hearts to God and to others.

The challenge for us this year is to watch for God, to live close to him and to share him with others.  Wherever there is faith, wherever God’s Word is proclaimed and heard, then God gathers people together and gives himself to them in his body, as he will do in the Eucharist and in this way our hearts are awakened.  Christmas reminds us that through faith in God we receive life.  In the Eucharist he gives us himself, nourishing a life that reaches into eternity.

Lord, help us to see something of the splendour of your glory, help us to watch with you in prayer, to walk with you in good deeds and as a sign of your coming to reach out to others.  Grant peace on earth and help us to be the instruments of your presence and love in family, community and society.

As I offer this Mass I pray that the Lord will bless and guide you in all that you do, will keep you and those you love mindful of his nearness and constant love, and unashamedly live the truth of his coming in faith, offering hope to all you meet.

+ Denis J. Hart,

Second Rite Reconciliation Avondale Heights


My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Tonight is a remarkable opportunity for us to know and love the forgiving power of God in the personal life of each of us. We are invited to enter into the realm of grace by responding to his invitation, “Know that he the Lord is God, he made us, we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his flock.” (Psalm 99)

When he sent his Son into the world, God the Father showed us dramatically how nothing human, not even death could separate us from his love. (See Romans 8:38.39) When Jesus was born, the Father looked down from his throne with great joy and expectancy. Finally, the reign of sin would come to an end! Finally, his children could be released from the grip of death! Finally, a way would be open for everyone to come back into his presence!

This Advent, particularly in the first year of a new millennium, we have a wonderful opportunity to experience more deeply this love of God that forgives and heals. Jesus’ cry to his Father on the cross is the prayer of the Son who offers his life for the salvation of all of us. “His eyes remained fixed on the Father. Precisely because of the knowledge and experience of the Father, which he alone has, even at this moment of darkness he clearly sees the gravity of sin and suffers because of it. He alone, who sees the Father and rejoices fully in him can understand completely what it means to resist the Father’s love by sin.” (John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte 26)

The Lord makes us aware of how much he loves us and how powerful that love is day by day. During this special season God invites us to examine our hearts and bring our sin before him for forgiveness and release. He wants us to undertake this examination not so that we will feel guilty or hopeless, but so that longstanding obstacles to his presence might be removed and so that we will become freer to share his love with those he meets.

The Holy Father writing of this beautiful Sacrament (Novo Millennio Ineunte, 37) says, “I was even more assisted in calling for a rediscovery of Christ as the one in whom God shows us his compassionate heart and reconciles us fully with himself.” The new millennium is an opportunity for a new realisation of the wonder of God’s love; a time when we can leave aside the cares and burdens of everyday living and enter into his love and carry that love back into the world of everyday with new power and enthusiasm.

Tonight we are preparing for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As we pause let us ask the Holy Spirit to bring to light areas in our life that need forgiveness – attitudes, habits, relationships that keep us separated from God and cloud our relationship with his people.

When you bring your needs to your heavenly Father in confession allow him not only to forgive you but also to change your heart. Remember nothing at all can separate you from his love. When you come to individual reconciliation remember the things that you do – confession and sorrow, receiving absolution and saying your penance – are something external. When we mention our sins, we admit to God that we are sinners and he embraces us with his love. Even though it is difficult to admit that we are wrong and in today’s world the concentration is so much on the individual that it becomes impossible.

Nevertheless, the Lord wants us to look at this as the way he wants us to know we are forgiven. The priest is there as his instrument. The priest is saying, “I absolve you from your sins” and with faith-filled and loving hearts we come out with the joy that is depicted in the Gospel, “There is more joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine just people who have no need of repentance.”

+ Denis J. Hart,

Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral Sunday 20 December



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Even when she was carrying the Saviour of the world Mary went to visit her cousin, Saint Elizabeth, filled with joy and Christian charity.

Elizabeth’s greeting, ‘blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled’, is a reminder of the power of faith in God, following Mary’s acceptance of his plan for her life.

Today as we prepare for the coming of the Saviour and once again reflect on the wonderful mystery of God’s coming to share our human nature and enrich it, we too are invited to believe in God’s power in our lives, making us turn to him as we call to mind our sins knowing that we will be renewed.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In a few days yet again we will commemorate the coming of Christ into our world. Our lives and hearts will be touched by the nearness of God and his humanity, reaching with divine love into all corners of the world and changing our world, if only for one day. As we wait in faith and hope we remember that God is near. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews today reminds us that Christ’s readiness to do the will of the Father and come to us challenges us to say ‘God, here I am. I am coming to obey your will.’

In Mary, however, we find that readiness to do God’s will enshrined within wonderful yet human preparedness to see the power of faith, the wonder of saying ‘yes’ and the joy of believing. Mary had already become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit, in a mysterious entry of God into human history. It was puzzling for Joseph her betrothed, who had decided to divorce her informally until he was warned by the angel that Mary was carrying the Saviour of the world by God’s power.

The whole Christmas story and particularly this stage of Mary’s acceptance and belief is a reminder to you and to me of the power of belief in our lives. We are indeed fortunate to have the Word of God in Scripture in a way that we can understand; his invitation, his intervention and the destiny to which we are called.

So many of us are comforted by faith, aware that God is near, sure that our lives have been blessed because of our readiness to believe. This contrasts with those without faith, who put Jesus to death so as to get rid of a troublesome reformer. Our faith has given us eyes to see and appreciate Jesus, to see God’s purpose and meaning in our lives. Jesus entered into the simplest circumstances of human poverty to show that love, truth and faithfulness to God’s plan are the three ingredients of finding true happiness, of being there for each other as Jesus and Mary were, and of nurturing, enriching and encouraging others in our world.

Indeed, even if we are young, teenagers or older people with more leisure, we ought never lose sight of what we can become, of what we can contribute and of the hope that we come to bring because of God’s unbelievable goodness to us.

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of ready obedience, God coming to us as people, the Gospel, Mary believing that God’s promises would be fulfilled, and the prophet, Micah, promising to feed us with his power and love.

In these days before Christmas we need to turn to our God in love and wonder, to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that our hearts will be open and pure and we will go forward seeing God’s face as a recognition of how he loves us. If we see his face we will be saved. We need, however, to turn to him, to see him, to love him and to love others as he loves us.

In the Opening Prayer we prayed that the Lord would fill our hearts with his love to recognise the coming of Jesus, the power of his suffering and the new life which he offers for us. Ind

Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral Sunday 13 December



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we listen to the words of John the Baptist people have realised the need to change something in our way of life.  We too ask what must we do?  If we are really to be changed we must abandon our concentration on self and recognise the need to be profoundly touched by the Word of God which will take us out of ourselves.

As we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord that he will make us aware that we find ourselves in going further.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Recently I read a story of a native American grandfather who wanted to make his grandchildren happy. He shared the stories of their ancestors. Each story was not only an entertaining recounting of the past and of their common heritage, but also a life lesson intended to bring wisdom. On one occasion the grandfather told his young listeners that every person has two wolves inside of them who are engaged in an ongoing struggle.  One is the wolf of justice, peace and loving kindness. The other is the wolf of hatred, fear and greed. One grandson asked the grandfather, 'which wolf will win?’, and the grandfather replied, 'whichever one we feed'.

Another very simple way of putting the challenge given us in the Gospel is - do we remain within ourselves or are we prepared to go further outside of self into what God has called us to be?  Indeed, we can say, by hate, fear and greed, we put up the shutters, we do not engage with others, the world revolves around us.
Yet how sad a world it is because it is limited by our feelings, by our judgement, we do not allow ourselves to be touched by the goodness and openness of so many other people and the grace that they have to offer.

When we make life revolve around ourselves we insulate ourselves from any possibility of growth and gradually our world becomes smaller and smaller.  How far this is from the prayer of today’s Mass: "Lord, God, may we your people who look forward to the birthday of Christ experience the joy of salvation.”  Our joy is a very real sense that our God has come to save us, that hatred, fear, struggle and even the difficulties of daily life need to be seen through the prism of God’s promise as but a preparation for the full reality revealed when we know that God is near.

That is why Saint Paul in the Letter to the Philippians says: "Above all, what he wanted as a bishop and a priest of God was that people would be rejoicing in the Lord, being able to ask God in prayer and knowing that God, who is so loving and provident would give them all that they need.”

There is a telling change of emphasis in the Gospel story.  People were coming to John to say, what must we do?  John and Jesus both led them on out of themselves to leave aside the tyranny of possessions, of human estimation and to help them confront the reality that baptism so engages us with the great love of God that we become instruments of that love to the extent that we humbly realise that we are loved beyond what we can imagine and we go forward in a world filled with hope and promise to the extent that we are one with Jesus Christ, that we live in his truth, and we follow him no matter what may be the cost.

In his Parochial and Plain Sermons, Cardinal John Henry Newman: “Be in earnest and you will speak of religion when and where and how you should.  Aim at things and your words will be right without aiming.  There are ten thousand ways of looking at this world, but only one right way.  The man of pleasure has his way;  the man of gain, his, the man of intellect, his.  Each of us has our own way of looking at things and each has a wrong way.  There is but one right way.  It is the way in which God looks at the world.  Aim at l