First Sunday of Advent - Year A

Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 2nd December, 2001, At 11.00am


My dear Brothers and Sisters,

"Our salvation is nearer than it was when we first came to believe."

The Church invites us to spend four short weeks preparing for the coming of Christ, remembering that in the lives of each one of us he will come as our judge most certainly on a day and at a time we do not expect. We have to be vigilant in looking for Christ, in following holiness, and courageous in launching out into the deep.

Today we particularly welcome the staff and benefactors of Centacare, the Catholic Family Welfare Bureau.

Today is a Mass of Appreciation for Centacare, for its staff, volunteers and donors and I am delighted to be united with you in bringing your prayers to God, that he may bless you and make you his hands, feet and heart, to bring care and generosity where it is most needed.


My dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today's Mass speaks about vision and generosity. I know it is through Centacare that so many people here in the Cathedral have a vision of what we can do together to support our brothers and sisters, to relieve human suffering, to provide encouragement and hope. Indeed, in the words of the Mass, "We wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ." We do have a vision of a world made new, of a new ability to recognise the spark of the immortal, which is given to each of us and can never be taken away.

So, as we come in thanksgiving, also we are charged to have a new vigilance and awareness for those who need us. We are challenged by the Scriptures today, "Are you prepared to meet the Lord who will come among us at a time we least expect?" (Matthew) "Are you prepared to cast off deeds of darkness and live honourably as in the daylight?" (Romans) "Are you ready to climb the Lord's mountain, follow God's instruction and walk in God's paths?" (Isaiah)

We do have to confront some cold, hard facts. Hungry, sick and homeless people can be found on the streets of virtually every major city in our country. Rationing and long lines to endure, food and medical shortages for the poor, abound in Russia. Newborn Chinese girls can still be retrieved from garbage heaps. Countless numbers starve and die of disease in the gutters of India and Pakistan, while the Governments of these two nations finance wars over disputed borders. The huge crowds of refugees from Afghanistan are one of the great blots on our modern society. Political, ethnic and religious based prejudice and violence in Israel mean that it is impossible for us to call Jerusalem "the Holy City".

Many of us would not hesitate to spend money to help a beached whale return to the ocean or to ensure that fishing nets do not entrap dolphins or turtles, yet we are less enthusiastic for the plight of those who are entrapped by drugs or AIDS. We overeat and waste while the people of southern Sudan and other third world peoples are being starved into oblivion. The tragedies and the suffering that is staring us in the face are a challenge to focus our lives on Jesus Christ.

A challenge to re-think and focus our lives on God's goodness is summed up beautifully in the words of Cardinal Newman, "….. few will open to me immediately when I knock. They will have something to do first, they will have to get ready. They will have to recover from the surprise and confusion which overtake them on the first news of my coming, and will need time to collect themselves, and summon about them their better thoughts and affections. They feel themselves very well off as they are; and wish to serve God as they are. They are satisfied to remain on earth; they do not wish to move; they do not wish to change."

The challenge for us is in the words of the Psalm, "Lord, show us your mercy and love and grant us your salvation." Make us listen to your call. Make us become ambassadors of your mercy and love. Make us sure of your salvation. "Teach us to love heaven. May its promise and hope guide our way on earth."

As we thank God for the goodness of Centacare staff, volunteers and donors, this is the vision that we are challenged to have in putting the Lord back into Christmas and in preparing our hearts for this few short weeks.


+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.

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