Newsletter 16: 4 December 2018
Recently my dear mother who is fast approaching 87, went shopping for my birthday gift. The effort itself these days is quite an overwhelming act of kindness. Over the years I have received pretty regularly the ABC Cricket book for the season ahead, and a few cans of condensed milk, which was part of my diet as a very young fellow in order to gain weight. (It worked splendidly!) This birthday as the beautifully wrapped present was passed into my hands, the familiar shape of the condensed milk cans was sadly absent. Unexpectedly, the present was in fact a book by the Australian political journalist Greg Sheridan, titled “God is Good for You – a defence of Christianity in troubled times”. Possibly it was intended as a clear and direct motherly intervention, but was accepted as a fascinating Advent reflection, and I commend it to you in this holy season.
Sheridan writes from the perspective of a Catholic who has deep respect for the Sikh religion in which, his wife and three sons believe. With great clarity of thought Sheridan seeks to situate Christianity in the context of modern Australia and the world. He posits refreshingly again and again the immense and positive impact of Christianity on human civilisation over the centuries, despite the serious and tragic failures among some followers.
As we approach the celebration of Christmas this year, we are drawn again to the wonder and beauty of the gift of Christ to the world in the most humble and unlikely circumstances. In Matthew’s Gospel, the Angel of the Lord speaks to Joseph in a dream, recalling what had been spoken through the prophet:
Look! The virgin is with child and will give birth to a son
whom they will call Immanuel. A name which means
Increasingly Christmas as a celebration seems to be losing its roots. A way we might untangle the true meaning of Christmas from the commercial extravaganza, is to consider again and celebrate the real impact of Jesus, ‘God-is-with-us’, in the world today. Whilst acknowledging the tremendous work of all the Christian Churches, it is worthy to note the Catholic Church is the largest non-government provider of welfare, health and education services in Australia. Catholic Social Services aids some 450,000 people annually, while the St Vincent de Paul Society’s 40,000 members form the largest volunteer welfare network in the country. Catholic Health is the largest non-government provider grouping of health, community and aged care services in Australia. These do not operate for profit and represent about 10% of the health sector in the nation. Catholic schools educate approximately 760,000 students in more than 1,700 schools, and 37,000 students in Catholic Universities. Overseas development and support through Caritas and other organisations such as Australian Marist Solidarity provide personnel and millions of dollars annually to programmes and emergency relief for communities in need. These are mighty contributions motivated by Jesus, the one we believe remains ever God with us.
As we conclude the 2018 school year I thank every person who has contributed so generously in our Marist schools to the education of our young people. On the next page are listed people from our schools who were recognised in appreciation at one of the three Marist Schools Australia Annual Mass and Dinner celebrations held this term in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. Their contributions are without exception, inspired examples of Christian life.
May you enjoy the peace that Jesus brings this Christmas season with family and loved ones.