A Christmas message from the Catholic Justice & Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of Brisbane

Another year over, a new one just begun. It’s been another eventful year in many ways, hasn’t it? In my own life, there certainly have been some very  joyful moments such as the birth of our sixth grandchild. There have also been some very stressful and difficult times for us in our  family. I’m sure you could say the same about your year too.

COVID seems to have dominated our lives for another year and it refuses to go away. It seems to me that, while we have been preoccupied with our own health, the collective health of Australian society and the world have suffered. If you watch the TV and look at Facebook, it seems like we have quarantined ourselves, individually and collectively, from the rest of the world. It’s all about being safe, getting vaccinated and, now, lining up for a booster shot. Don’t get me wrong! I think it’s a good thing to protect ourselves and those around us from COVID-19 as best we can, but, when I look at what I’ve done this year, I’m left with the nagging feeling that I’m still too wrapped up in myself and indifferent to the struggles of people, near and far, of the planet itself and all the creatures we share it with. How did you go this year?

We are about to celebrate the birth of Jesus. He is the centre of our faith. In him, God became one of us. Just  like us, he certainly had fun, but he also knew how much of a desperate struggle life can be. What is special about him is that he didn’t get wrapped up in his own worries. Jesus lived the love of God with every breath he took. He put aside his own worries and concerns and brought hope and love into the lives of people he encountered on the streets.

I don’t think I’m anywhere near that yet, as much as I’ve tried. I still have plenty of self-centred, self-indulgent and just plain selfish moments. What was your experience this year?

While we’ve been pre-occupied with getting fully vaccinated and rushing to get our booster shot and preparing to vaccinate our kids, most of us probably didn’t notice that over a quarter of a million Indonesian children have contracted COVID-19 and about 700 have died from the disease. Compare that with 1 Australian child who has passed away because of COVID.

If you’re like me, you’ve been busy this week buying food for a Christmas lunch with all the trimmings. I suspect not many of us have wondered what Christmas Day will be like for the thousands of people surviving on the meagre Job Seeker benefit or the age or disability pension. What about the many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families who will be missing family members at the Christmas table because they have taken their lives or have gone to jail? What about the women and kids who have fled family and domestic violence or people sleeping rough on the streets?

My wife and I  have already had a holiday at the beach this month. Many of you will enjoy a week or two by the sea as well, but many Torres Strait Islanders and Pacific Islanders are worried sick about rising seas taking their homes and hundreds of families in the Philippines are mourning the loss of family members and mopping up after another devastating typhoon. I ask myself whether I really care about them. Should I be doing more to offer hope and what does that look like?

My family has lived in the same comfortable home in Ipswich for 36 years. We have a car and can go wherever we want – well, except when we were in lockdown. Yet, there are many refugees still locked up in detention centres in Australia or offshore after 8 years of waiting. Many have been released into the community, including kids, and left to fend for themselves. Millions of refugees have fled violence and persecution and are either internally displaced or in another country including tens of thousands of civilians in West Papua. Violence and  oppression are still happening in places like Hong Kong and Myanmar even though the media has stopped reporting it for the most part. How does Jesus being born make a difference for them?

I could go on, but you get the idea.

John and Yoko said “war is over if you want it”. They are right! War and injustice and oppression can be over if we want it. And Jesus is our hope if we are prepared to follow him.

I’m taking a break at the moment and will be back fully on 1 February. Our Commission members are also taking a well earned break. Thanks to our Chair, Maree Rose and the members of the Commission for their strength, wisdom and commitment. They are truly wonderful people!

Thanks to you all as well. Whether you’re in a parish or a school or in a religious congregation or a special group or you’re simply doing your best somehow  to make a difference. You are truly precious!

As for 2022, I know I need to be more faithful in following Jesus. For me, that means putting aside my own needs more, getting away from the office and my laptop, and being with people in the midst of their struggles. Are you feeling like Jesus is inviting you to make some changes in your life too? I hope we can help each other to face up to the challenge – wherever it takes us.

In the meantime…A very Merry Christmas And a Happy New Year Let’s hope it’s a good one Without any fear.

Peace to you all this Christmas!

Peter Arndt

Executive Officer

Catholic Justice & Peace Commission

Archdiocese of Brisbane

Bonding time the Nativity in Townsville. Artist Jan Hynes.

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