Editorial - The things that divide
Editorial from the Australian Salesian Bulletin, Summer 2018 issue
By Fr Frank Freeman, Editor
The Synod is an opportunity to talk about young people and with young people, but the Church also has a lot to learn from them.
Have you ever stopped to think how often in life the very things that are meant to unite us instead become the things that divide us? We seem to have a shadowy iconoclastic corner in our minds from which rises the urge to disrupt. For the most part, the motivations have nothing to do with the usual reasons given for causing such dissension.
Examples abound. A nation’s flag; revered by generations as a symbol of the citizens’ unity and love of their country. Yet witness now how our Australian community is divided over this very symbol of unity as new voices have the chance to air what it means to them. In families, how often moments of gathering and celebration can turn into moments of conflict in the blink of an eye. I have witnessed many tense wedding day situations between families, unable to rise above personal gripes for the sake of the young couple. An event, which by its very nature should be the wellspring of happy memories for years to come, turns out to serve as little more than a nurturing ground for continuing coldness into the future. In the moment, both sides forget what it is all about.
Christmas, above all, is a family day, a day of coming together, of peace, love, friendship and good will. Yet each year, as police records can verify, there is a marked increase in family violence at Christmas. The root cause is often the focus on self and more often the monotony and superficiality of family’s Christmas celebrations. The same old Christmas tree, tinsel decorations, what’s for Christmas lunch, and maybe even how to best fit in a church service. How boring Christmas can be!
Last year a letter reported how a family, with three teenagers and a younger lass, came up with a solution. A pre-Christmas table discussion evoked, “boring! boring!” “Well, let’s do something different” suggested Dad. A beach party, a picnic were the instant suggestions. “But that is all still about us; what about those who are doing it hard: the homeless ones away from their family. What can we do for them?” After much discussion it was decided that the family would have its Christmas meal in the evening, and during the day they would go along to a charity providing a meal and Christmas cheer to the homeless and be present amongst them.
The boys decided to take along their guitars and provide some entertainment, the others assisted with meal provision. All family members were to make sure they gave a personal present, their affirming encouraging presence to those at table.
As they sat down for their Christmas meal that evening, there was much exciting talk about their varying experiences, the personalities they met, how good their efforts had made them feel and the mutual gratitude and good will shown. “A great Christmas for them and a great Christmas for us” was the consensus.
Then suddenly one remembered: ‘Hey, what about our presents!” The distribution of the same seemed an anti-climax; they had already received a great present from the homeless and the lonely: a sense of wellbeing and good will and great family bonding. The oft-repeated phrases “It is in giving that we receive” and “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to people of good will” took on entirely new meanings.
Following Pope Francis, who spends a good part of his Christmas day with the poor, the homeless and marginalised, let us this Christmas give some thought, time and affirming support to the same. The mutual presents given and received will be a sense of wellbeing, good will and an appreciation of the presence of Christ.
May the Peace of the Christ Child, a Blessed Christmas and Joyful New Year be with you and your loved ones.