2018 Christmas Message
The birth of a child is Always a time for rejoicing. The great joy of the Christmas season is born of our celebration of the arrival of the Christ Child, the one who came to set us free. Around our beautiful city of Sydney, we see lights and decorations, hear carols and greetings and experience a general feeling of merriment among people. The angels’ carol of Glory to God in heaven and peace to people on Earth still rings true today.
Christmas is a time for coming together with friends and family, for pondering words and dreams like peace, joy, love, and hope, for making new resolutions for the year ahead. Above all, they celebrate the birth of the Baby Jesus. But sadly, this season of goodwill is becoming one of the few occasions when the public expression of religious faith is tolerated. A year ago there were promises of new measures to ensure religious freedom is protected in this country. A year later and governments have done nothing about this. Indeed, we’ve gone backwards, and discrimination against people of faith has become more acceptable in some quarters.
There are those in our society who want the same Baby we celebrate every December to be put away with our Christmas decorations, with no claim on the year ahead. A hard edged secularism would exclude faith, and the faithful, from public life. Root out Judeo-Christian heritage from law and culture, and confine faith to an ever narrowing field of private life. We’ve witnessed moves to make the celebration of the sacrament of confession illegal, to defund church schools, to charge an Archbishop with discrimination for teaching about marriage, and to deny faith based institutions the right to choose what kind of community they will be.
The recently canonized Pope, St. Paul the Sixth, told world leaders that what the church asks of them is only liberty, the liberty to believe and to preach her faith, the freedom to love her God and serve Him, the freedom to live and to bring to men the message of life. In exchange, the church comes to heal humanity, he said, to transfigure it and fill it with hope, truth and beauty.
The freedom we ask for, as Pope Francis insists, is the freedom to choose the good. The Christmas message of hope and healing is religious freedom writ large, not for exclusion or power, but for love and service. At Christmas, Jesus comes to us as an infant, so none will fear to embrace him, to welcome him, to experience the freedom He brings.
I pray the joy and freedom of that beautiful Christmas Babe will remain with you, your loved ones and our whole society, not only at Christmas but throughout the year ahead.