Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 23rd June, 2002, at 11.00am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Whether we have the reluctance of Jeremiah or the shyness of the apostles, each one of us is invited to be a witness to the power and love of Jesus in human lives.
As we review our lives and remember our sins, let us ask the Lord that he will give us courage which comes from the words of Jesus, "Do not be afraid. I have overcome the world."
"Deliver us Lord from every evil and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety, as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour, Jesus Christ."
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church invites us to consider whether we will live in fear or courageously face present difficulties and indeed the mistrust and disagreement of those who do not share our knowledge of Jesus. To know Jesus as Lord and Saviour, to entrust our lives to him, is a tremendous power of strength.
There is no poison more debilitating, no shadow as insidious as fear. Even when things are going well it can rob us of enjoyment and paralyse us from taking the risks necessary for growth and daily life.
Both Jesus and Jeremiah knew that fear can even halt the best intentioned. Fear is that invisible but tangible place where the frightened hide, where growth is stunted, reason is denied, hope withers and freedom dies.
At his inaugural address on 4th March, 1933, the American President, Franklin Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself - nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyses needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." It is significant that these words were spoken by a man whose body was crippled with polio to a nation crippled by the Great Depression, to a world being threatened by the Third Reich. Roosevelt refused to be further crippled by fear and he rallied his contemporaries to a similar courage.
Many a conversation could be redirected and redeemed if some of us were not so fearful of being "unpopular". The fear of being labelled a prude or out of touch has kept some from living a lifestyle that is in concert with the challenge of the Gospel. Some allow fear to reduce their efforts at goodness to mediocrity. If we are fearful of our financial security we hoard and do not share. If we are afraid of being involved, then we do not foster wholesome relationships and become selfish, superficial and detached.
More significantly, if we are afraid of the hard work of being a Christian disciple, then we can approach Christianity as spectators rather than full participants. The American philosopher, Eric Hoffer, suggested that fear comes from uncertainty. "When we are absolutely certain, whether of our worth or worthlessness, we are almost impervious to fear."
Jesus as the only Son of God did not spare himself death and suffering, but when he said do not be afraid, he did not take away the guarantee that we would suffer. He offered a peace which will sustain us through the various events of life - tragedy and blessing. In the midst of human fear we come to know spiritual peace. In the midst of human uncertainty we come to know that Jesus' vision, which led to the cross, also led on to the resurrection.
We have an invitation to grow towards holiness even if some things can never be resolved this side of eternity. As he tells us not to be afraid Jesus shows the image of the Father holding his child, a strong hand reaching out to support and care, saying to each of us 'you are my beloved child, not a hair on your head will be lost'.
God promises us an intimacy that stays with us as we are living the truth in the midst of the endurance, the struggles of life.
If we have lived each day acknowledging Jesus before our world, whispered or proclaimed from the housetop, over time we will become like him. Better than words, this becoming like him which is holiness, will tell others that this is what life is meant to produce in all of us. Do not be afraid, whatever happens God is with you, loving you towards a perfection you cannot imagine. Be at peace, do not be afraid!
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.