Archbishop's 2013 Christmas Message to fellow Catholics
Below is a the written text of Archbishop Timothy Costelloe's Christmas Message to the Catholic community across the Archdiocese of Perth. This message was also filmed and can be viewed on Vimeo at https://vimeo.com/82093088 or by clicking here.
ARCHBISHOP COSTELLOE’S 2013 CHRISTMAS MESSAGE TO THE CATHOLIC ARCHDIOCESE OF PERTH
I DON’T KNOW whether you came across a recent interview given by Pope Francis to a magazine in Italy in which he offered a very beautiful and challenging image of the role of the Church in today’s world.
He said, “I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to first heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds… And you have to start from the ground up”. Pope Francis then adds in this same interview that “the thing the Church most needs today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. The Church needs nearness and proximity…”
Personally, I have been very moved by these words and I would like to offer them as words of advice and encouragement to all of us.
Particularly as we celebrate the great feast of Christmas I would like to suggest that the very best gift we can give to others, both family and friends, is the healing of wounds and the warming of hearts. We live in a beautiful world but it is a world, and a society, that is also deeply wounded. We carry some of those wounds in our own hearts and, even more tragically, we can be the cause of pain and suffering for others, even those we love the most.
Christmas is a time when we remember that God has come near to us in Jesus, precisely to heal our wounds and warm our hearts. In the new born baby lying in the manger we see what it means to say that God loves us. That love is expressed in closeness, as love always is.
God wants to be so close to us, in fact, that he becomes one of us, sharing in everything that is ours as human beings, except sin of course. He in turn invites us to share in everything that is his. This is why, in Matthew’s Gospel, the new born child is given the name “Emmanuel”, a name which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).
We see this little child, born in the stable of Bethlehem, grow up to begin his life’s work. He describes this as “bringing good news to the poor, proclaiming liberty to captives, giving sight to the blind, setting the downtrodden free, and announcing a year of favour from the Lord”. This is what it means to heal wounds and warm hearts. Sometimes Jesus heals physical wounds and often he heals the deeper, spiritual wounds, as when he forgave Peter after Peter had denied him three times (John 21:15-17). He warmed hearts that had grown cold and hard through fear, rejection, suffering or despair and we are called to do the same.
Many, if not all of us, will give gifts this Christmas. These can be both a small sign and a practical step to bring warmth and healing into people’s lives. It is what lies in our hearts rather than what lies under the wrapping paper that really matters. With God’s help we might try to be “healers of wounds and warmers of hearts” not just on Christmas Day but, in some small way, every day.
So, the message of Christmas is not only that God does not abandon us in our time of need but rather that He deliberately comes to His people offering healing through a heart-to-heart relationship.
May this be a time of deep happiness, of reconciliation and peace, and of joyful hope for the future. A happy and holy Christmas to you all.
Most Reverend Timothy Costelloe SDB
Archbishop of Perth
+Timothy Costelloe SDB