Second Sunday of Advent
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 8th December, 2002, at 11.00am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Two thousand years ago John the Baptist proclaimed, “The Saviour comes! Your salvation is nearer than when you first learned to believe. God is near to you in your lives.”
As we remember these urgent words and our invitation to start afresh from Christ, to enter more deeply in prayer and hope, and to be courageous in the way we show Christ to others, let us remember that today’s Mass is a new beginning, that God trusts us and challenges us to go forward.
Let us call to mind our sins.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
What do you remember about today’s Gospel? Did you notice John’s clothing of camel hair? His diet of grasshoppers and wild honey? We wonder how he could possibly herald the coming of Jesus with such food and clothing.
Have you ever wondered why John the Baptist did not walk through Jerusalem instead of going out into the desert to invite people to repent? Perhaps he was ashamed of his clothing. And yet he did not seem to think much of what people thought of him. He was fired by an invitation that God gave him. If we do repent and let God do the talking and the acting in our lives, then this may be difficult, but it will be transforming and wonderful. It will give us hope.
In these weeks of Advent we want to know the Lord is near. His coming is far more important, but we have to be ready by our lives. In the prayer we have said, “God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him.”
What are the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy? Is it our busyness? Are we too selfish? Is it our computer, our CD, our TV? Is it all the celebrations that go on before Christmas? We need to make time for God. We need to go into the desert. It may be in our room with all of these things turned off, so we can spend some moments in prayer and begin again with Christ. God is coming. We need to think how we can welcome him.
I remember being in Rome four years ago during the Synod of Bishops. It was dark and rainy, and in the late afternoon I would go around to various churches where people would pray and gather for Mass trying to prepare for Christmas. It was so different from what I knew in Australia and yet there was a longing for light in the darkness of winter.
We have to long for a light, which is not merely human friendship, although that is very important, but which is lasting and which will inspire and support us.
John’s going into the desert was there to close off the things that crowd God out, to experience the first fervour of knowing that God is near. To each of us, as we are – in the family, the work history, the difficulties that we have – he invites us to see his kindness, to know his salvation, to know that he comes with power, like a shepherd feeding his flock, to ask us to prepare the way of the Lord.
John the Baptist invites us to know that God is wonderful and powerful, to uplift our lives and give us hope. In the tragedies, the evil, the losses, the horrors of this year; still we in the Church have hope because God is near. We in the Church have a ministry and indeed a challenge to bring God to others. We are nothing without him and yet he sustains us with his mercy. He teaches us to judge wisely the things of earth and he challenges us to love the things that come from heaven. In the midst of the busyness of year’s end, of the human preparation for Christmas, it is important to make time for God in prayer, in Confession, and to be open to let him do the leading, to change us and make us instruments of hope, joy and of wonder at the future he plans for us and for our world.
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.