Published in Catholic Outlook, December 2012/January 2013
Fifty years ago, at the end of that momentous day when the Second Vatican Council commenced, Blessed John XXIII looked out from his window to see a huge crowd of waiting, hoping, needing humanity in St Peter’s Square below.
At that moment he inaugurated a less formal way of speaking than was customary for popes till then but has become commonplace since. He came to the window and spoke impromptu from his heart. The speech became known as the Discorso della Luna – the Moonlight Speech or the Sermon on the Moon.
A ‘lone voice’ in the darkness somehow spoke for the whole world. Even the moon, the Pope said, seemed to draw close to witness the spectacle of the 21st ecumenical council. A half-century later Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke from that same window before a torch-lit square and inaugurated a Year of Faith.
Right now our Church in Australia needs kindly light to lead her amidst the encircling gloom. She needs to be renewed in faith in that even more important jubilee, that in which we join the moon and stars drawing close to the spectacle of Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.
We also begin our new year a little earlier than others with Advent, the season of expectancy. Christ is coming, the lone voice of God in our world, and He will speak first in a baby’s cry and last in the cry of desolation from the cross, first in human language and later in signs and wonders. We look forward to that coming, at Christmas, at the end of time, at the end of our own lives.
Advent has its own ‘lone voice’, one ‘crying in the wilderness’.
John the Baptist cried ‘Repent, get ready, Christ is coming.’ He pointed away from himself to the One-who-is-to-come, like Good Pope John who said from the window sill: “My own person counts for nothing: it’s a brother who speaks to you, become a father by our Lord’s will. Altogether, fatherhood and brotherhood and God’s grace … express before heaven and earth: faith, hope, love; love of God, love of neighbour, all aided by the Lord’s holy peace … So let’s continue to love each other, to look out for each other along the way: to welcome whomever comes close to us, and set aside whatever difficulty it might bring.”
Such faith, hope and love despite the difficulties means Advent waiting is never mere passivity or sleepiness, like watching grass grow. No, the Baptist’s kind of waiting actually helps God’s kingdom come, by preparing the way, preparing hearts for the Christmas Lord, preparing ears to hear His voice.
Just as John XXIII looked out upon humanity at the inauguration of the Council, so too did God look out ‘from heaven’ upon all creation in its need and gave His answer, His last word, that New Testament of love that is Christ’s presence in the world.
That presence today is found in His people, His priests, His Scriptures, above all in His Blessed Sacrament that our golden Council called ‘the source and summit of the Christian life’.
What better way in this new Year of Faith to prepare for Christ’s advent than by going regularly to Mass. If we don’t go every Sunday, as we should, let’s resolve to try harder to at least give Him that hour each week. If we already do go on Sundays, how about going sometimes during the week as well?
Let’s also let go of the selfishness, laziness, grudges, whatever it is that is holding us back from throwing ourselves headlong into the life of God’s kingdom.
Our Year of Grace calls forth in us a receptivity to all God’s gifts; our Year of Faith calls forth a response that seeks to deepen and live our holy faith. Let this be our New Year of Faith resolution!
To you and all your loved ones every blessing in the Holy Season of Christmas ahead and in the New Year of grace and faith in 2013. May Mary, Star of the New Evangelisation, light up any darkness in our hearts and homes and world.
A video and audio recording of Bishop Anthony’s Christmas Message will be posted on the Diocese of Parramatta’s website on 24 December 2012: www.parra.catholic.org.au