The following is the text of Archbishop Denis Hart's homily at the National Civic Council Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated at the Basilica of Our Lady of Victories, Camberwell, on 5 December 2001.
"New opportunities for presenting the Church's age-old wisdom"
It is a pleasure indeed to join with you in giving thanks to God for the tremendous work of so many of you. As we heard from Saint Paul in our first reading, we, God's chosen people, are to live in a way fitting for future saints: we are to live by his holy teachings and always to give thanks to the God who loves us and saves us. This is our mission, a mission to which so many of you have given loyal service for so many years.
As we all know, even when we are convinced of their truth, following Christ's teachings is not always easy. It has been a long and in some ways a difficult year for many of us. Our compassion has been challenged by events at home and abroad. Many people have felt that we stand at a moment of decision - whether because of the terrorist threat, refugees, or decisions in our local communities.
In this context Christ's cry in the Gospel - "Come to me, you who are overburdened! I will give you rest" - is a wonderful balm for the soul. And now, with the year's end approaching, Pope John Paul II has presented to the peoples of our region a new document, Ecclesia in Oceania, the best of all spiritual Christmas presents, just what we need to refresh ourselves and to help us see the way forward for the New Year.
In his Letter to us the Pope notes the steady increase of secularisation in Australia and asks us to find ways of presenting Jesus as the answer to the questions which secularism fails to address. He asks us to be new missionaries, to create something of the spirit and vision of the first missionaries who converted our land so long ago. The Pope believes we can still touch the hearts of young people - as your success with the young of our country so well demonstrates; but he reminds us that to do so now we must think about new ways of communicating, ways that are faithful to the Gospel, but which will reach the ears of young people trapped in broken and harmful lifestyles.
The Pope praises the movements of renewal for their faithfulness and imagination and he also explains to us what real inculturation is: not altering a syllable of Scripture or Tradition, but the "incarnation" of the Gospel message, which is never foreign to any culture. We are to respect the cultures of our region but also to recall that the Gospel has the power to criticise cultures when they work against the reign of Christ and his saints.
When we add this special program for Oceania to the universal program for the New Millennium, which the Pope presented in Novo Millennio Ineunte, we have a rich and challenging plan for the way forward. What will this mean for organisations such as yours?
This is certainly a time when we should be continuing the best and most effective activities from our past and building these into new thinking about our futures. In the Pope's view, Church movements should embrace new possibilities in order successfully to carry forward the New Evangelisation. We are to see the problems of our days, not as terrible burdens that will wear us down, but as new opportunities for presenting the Church's age-old wisdom; ever fresh, ever new.
This takes a certain courage: the Pope is calling for some new thinking and imagination from bishops, priests and lay people. Your Movement is rich in courage. You have a proud history and generous support and I hope you will take up the challenge and help carry through the next missionary phase in Australia and throughout Oceania. You have much to offer the new century, particularly with the new insights of the generation of young people you have inspired.
As we enter this new period in the life of "Ecclesia in Oceania", we can take comfort that, however challenging the work, the Christ in whose name we serve assures us that the burden he offers is light and gentle compared to the burden of denying him and following the paths of despair and sin.