Sixth Sunday of Easter
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 5th May, 2002, at 11.00am
My dear Brothers and Sisters,
Eleven weeks ago I was privileged for the first time to welcome those who were reflecting on becoming members of the Catholic Church at the Rite of Election. Today I welcome you back after the wonderful moment of your baptism or reception into the Church to congratulate you, to join with you in thanking God for the gift of faith, to pray that he will sustain you in that journey.
Today too, as it is the first Sunday of May, we are joined by the Legion of Mary to honour Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who brought us the Saviour, in a simple ceremony of crowning, which reminds us of the care of the Mother of God for each of us. She is also Mother of the Church.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Long after a musical production has been performed for the last time on Broadway its songs seem to live on as if with a life of their own. Many of you may remember the song, "Do you love me?", from Fiddler on the Roof. It is sung by Tevya to his wife of twenty-five years and gives voice to the poor milkman's desire to be reassured of the love of his life partner. In response to his question the wife, Golda, speaks of so many things that she has done as chores and wifely duties throughout her marriage, indicating that her record should speak for herself. Tevya, who has known Golda's deeds, wants also to hear the words of love and both ultimately state unequivocally, in a slightly amusing way, in answer to the question, "I suppose I do."
Today, we thank God for those who have been baptised and received into the Church. This is so because of your love of Jesus Christ and the loving welcome of the Christian community given you at Easter through the conferring of the Sacraments of Jesus himself risen, who is the Light of the world. Truly it can be said that today represents a transition from a learning process to another stage in growth, where witnessing the faith of others which has drawn us thus far, we find that our own faith in God and in his power in our lives is a sacred covenant. Jesus' own words, "All who love me will keep my words and my Father will love them and we will come to them" (John 14:23) are just as vibrant and active in our lives today as they were two thousand years ago.
Living as members of God's Church means that our life has to be shaped by the teaching of Jesus, by his Commandments and by the guidance of the Church. Jesus entrusted to his followers a responsibility to teach all and only what Jesus had taught, and from apostolic times the Church has been faithful to that commission. Jesus' teaching through Pope John Paul II and the bishops of the Church when they teach in union with him is just as real and vibrant and all-embracing as was Jesus' own teaching. Because where Christ is, there is the Church.
Notice that Our Lord's invitation is expressed in the most powerful way of all. "If you love me, you will keep my Commandments." (John 14:15) Religion is not reduced to a set of intellectual convictions or to a response to something which is true and logical, though both of these things are important. Religion above all is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ who saved us from sin and gave us new life through baptism. He is risen, the Lord of our life for all time.
It is appropriate too that we honour Mary, the Mother of the Saviour, in this month of May. We know that Mary gave birth to the Saviour, accompanied him throughout his life, and it was her saying 'yes' that enabled the Saviour to be born. God gave her a wonderful preservation; to be immaculate, i.e. free from original sin and actual sin from the moment of her conception. She is therefore the most perfect model of how to love Jesus. Indeed, when Jesus was invited to change water into wine at Cana, Mary's invitation, "Do whatever he tells you", was something which was effective and ongoing. Mary, therefore, encourages us with her prayers and is a powerful patron as we seek to walk the way of Jesus Christ in faith.
Notice the last sentence of the Gospel because I think it is the clue to the spirit in which we look at what God asks of us, "Anybody who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I shall love him and show myself to him." (John 14:21)
When we love we do not put limits around what we are prepared to do. The Commandments of God, the teaching of Jesus, the teaching of the Church, these are rightly understood as true motives for thanksgiving. We are given the grace and love of Christ. This teaching and guidance is a way in which our life can be filled with hope in Christ, an inspiration and an encouragement to others, as we have been the humble recipients of these beautiful Sacraments at the beginning of our marvellous journey of faith.
Particularly I congratulate those who have been baptised and received into the Church. I recognise the work of Father Elio Capra and Lyn Plummer in the R.C.I.A. Office and the priests and parishioners who have been the direct instruments of your coming to know Jesus Christ in a new way in the holy Catholic Church.
As I am filled with joy, my prayer is that this will be yet another step in your journey to God's love, in which at every juncture you will find the support of your brothers and sisters in the faith, which is God's gift that comes from the apostles.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.