Third Sunday of Advent
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart
at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne,
on Sunday, 15th December, 2002, at 11.00am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As today we consider John the Baptist, who pointed to the coming of the Lord, we remember the challenge given to each one of us to point to the presence and activity of our Lord and Saviour in a world which does not recognise him.
This we do by holy life, self-giving and not being crushed by our own weakness, but enlightened by all that we are called to be.
As we call to mind our sins, let us ask the Lord that we will be filled with his light.
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today’s Mass invites us to rejoice. We can say, ‘My soul rejoices in my God.’ We want to experience the joy of salvation. Saint Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say, rejoice!”
We are challenged to consider, what does really make each of us happy? In what do you or I find our joy?
We may see the joy of children as they anticipate Christmas gifts that they hope shall be theirs. Shop keepers, employees, look for a Christmas bonus. Teachers and students look for holidays. Grandparents look for the love of grandchildren.
When the weeks of Advent draw to a close and when Christmas has come and gone, when all the goodies have been eaten and the gifts are opened, and all the decorations have been put away, happiness will fade, but the joy to which we have been summoned will be lasting.
Today we ought to think more about the lasting things than about the passing happiness. Isaiah, Saint Paul and Saint Mark call us beyond happiness to joy. Happiness comes from things that happen, which are agreeable and enjoyable. But joy is something holy and religious that comes from the faith in our heart. Joy gives us the assurance that God is with us. We can be confident in him. Our confidence is untouched by outward circumstances and is not extinguished by suffering, struggle or sorrow.
Saint Paul challenges us to rejoice in the presence of God made human, tangible in the person of Jesus. This is but a glimpse of our full oneness with God. Saint Paul challenges us to be prayerful, i.e. linked to God, thankful, remembering everything comes from God, and to become increasingly perfect, as John challenges us, to make a straight way for the Lord.
In our consideration of the challenges of the Church in the new millennium; prayer, which is our friendship with God, helps us to focus on these three things. Or to put it in Isaiah’s way, we need to think about where we find our joy. Is it in the healing, freedom and forgiveness that come from our Saviour, who is with us and whom we will meet at the end of our life, we know not when? That is why it is important to use the beautiful Sacrament of Reconciliation. Isaiah promises the end to exile, a triumphant homecoming.
John the Baptist does not want us to look at him, but points the way to Jesus. Joy in Jesus as Saviour and Light of the world is best brought about by being prepared. John would have us be as happy as the circumstances warrant, but will also have us cultivate that authentic joy which will sustain us in every individuality.
In her book, Something Beautiful for God, Mother Teresa understood that authentic joy does not stay within each of us, but has to be communicated in love and service. Joy is prayer, she said, joy is strength, joy is love …… joy is being with God in Christ, loving as he loves, helping as he helps, giving as he gives, serving as he serves, rescuing as he rescues. Being with him twenty-four hours a day and touching him in his most distressing disguises.
Finding, recognising and tending God in the least of God’s people gave Mother Teresa lasting joy. What makes you happy? In what do you find your joy?
+ Denis J. Hart,
Archbishop of Melbourne.