"What Eye Has Never Seen, what ear has never heard..."
Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 18th November, 2001, at 11.00am
(33rd Sunday In Ordinary Time - Year C)
My dear Friends,
Today's Mass reminds us that everything human in our world that we know and love will one day perish. Just as we will most certainly die, what awaits us is the hope of eternal glory. "What eye has never seen, what ear has never heard, what has never entered into the heart of man to conceive what God has prepared for those who love him."
Because we are destined for God and the most important gifts are those which he has given us to be used in his service and the service of others, let us call to mind our sins that we may celebrate this Mass with a renewed mind and heart.
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Years ago a film entitled, "It Happened Tomorrow", featured an ambitious business executive who wanted to buy tomorrow's newspaper so as to take financial advantage of this privileged glimpse into the future. Suddenly an elderly gentleman appeared before him holding the coveted newspaper, "I have decided to grant your wish" he said. The remainder of the movie detailed what the executive did with his "future" knowledge.
Though such a story may be attention grabbing it is simply an imaginative escapade into the world of fiction. We are indeed grateful that the future is known by and belongs to God, who alone is responsible for its unfolding day by day, year by year. We for our part are to be responsive to God by being responsive for God's gift of the present.
The Readings today are particularly pertinent. From the prophet, Malachi, we learn that the future that is known to God alone will bring healing and reward for the just and retribution for the wicked. Implied in Malachi's judgement is that those who have been forewarned ought also to forearm themselves with words and works of peace, justice, mercy and truth.
Saint Paul writing to the Thessalonians gives us great encouragement that the best preparation for the future is a devoted embrace of our present duties. We, as believers, are invited to strike a wholesome balance between prayer and service, work and play, between the time and energy spent at making a living with that needed to develop enduring family ties and values.
Mother Teresa stresses the importance of recognising the poor, hungry, needy and homeless even "in their most distressing disguises" and cared for in reverence and love. We, as disciples of Jesus, are challenged to begin to think in terms of "you" and "we", rather than "I" and "me". Saint Luke reminds us that the future holds a day when even the most significant human achievements pass away.
Our Church teaching is quite clear, that immediately upon our death we will be judged upon our accepting or rejecting the grace offered by Jesus Christ. Saint John of the Cross says, "at the evening of life we shall be judged on our love". Those who died in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live forever with Christ. All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. Those who are in this state of purification after death depend upon our continued prayers and sacrifices, which not only help them, but increase our virtue and correspondence with Christ's grace. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means that we have freely chosen to remain separated from him forever in the place we call hell.
Ours is not intended to be a time of fear, but one of realism. In the world of today, where there are many temptations and enticements, the Lord does challenge us to consider what is important and to consider the gifts we have which we can use to enrich our world; to be and do that for which we were made and not merely to inherit a personal reward but to be instruments of God's love and grace. I believe that one of the most precious gifts each of us has is our capacity to do good for, and influence, each other. It is given to us whether we are young or old, educated or uneducated, confident or shy. It is precious. It is given to us. Let us treasure and use it.
Walter Burghardt wrote in 1994, "The true temple, wherein God is encountered, praised and petitioned, is not made of stone but of the heart and soul and mind and strength of a human being, in love with God, in love with the human images of God. It is this temple which we are to hold in a constant state of preparedness so as to be ever ready to welcome the future and the God who has created it for us."
+Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.