December 2016

Christmas calls us to be peacemakers, reconcilers

If but one broken relationship could be mended, our Christmas, our God-with-us, might just be real for one other person, writes Good Samaritan Sister Clare Condon.

BY Clare Condon SGS

Jacarandas and agapanthus in vivid purples have dotted the Sydney landscape during November and December. In various cultures and traditions, colours are used to capture the emotion or mood of a particular event, season or religious festival.

Similarly in our own lives, we use colour to describe ourselves and our feelings and reactions. Blue is often a symbol of sadness, red a sign of anger and frustration, green can describe new life and hope, purple calls us to repentance.

Here in Australia, in the summer months, we know when the jacarandas appear that the end of the school year is near. The agapanthus, rather than the mistletoe, tell us Christmas is just around the corner.

During this Christian Season of Advent, while preparing for the Feast of Christmas, in churches purple is used as a reminder of preparing oneself, of getting ready for the great Feast of Emmanuel, God-with-us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the birth of the divine into the human.

In the Church’s tradition, purple has a penitential flavour and it invites us to assess our lives, to right any wrongs, and to come to the Feast of Christmas with new energy. Through our lives, built on Gospel values, we can be the presence of God to all those we meet in our everyday experiences. As it is often said, we might be the only Gospel that some people will read.

My daily life of interacting with a broad range of people regularly reveals to me the brokenness that is present in many family relationships. Past hurts fester and inhibit current relationships. Because it is too painful, some family members can’t or won’t join others at Christmas family events. The emptiness and aloneness lingers on. Pride, resentment, stubbornness or sheer inability prevents people from saying sorry! And so the separation and divide only deepens.

What a change could take place, if each and every one of us over the coming days would pause, reflect and identify any of the broken relationships in our own lives! Who needs to forgive me? How do I know I am in need of forgiveness? Who do I need to forgive? How do I come to reconciliation and peace with them? How can I, in a small way, mend a broken world and seek to create a new world of peace and reconciliation?

During the Advent season, the Church in its liturgy, also presents readings from Isaiah. Isaiah was one of the Jewish prophets who had a vision of a new world when he wrote:

“The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. They shall not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain: for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:5-9)

Idealistic! Indeed it is! However, there are wolves, lions and leopards, adders and asps in our own lives. Sometimes we might be perceived as such ourselves. Yet we have only one life to live.

Let us this Advent and Christmastide resolve to be the peacemakers, the reconcilers, in those places where we know there is pain, rejection, broken relationships and deep sadness. If but one broken relationship could be mended, our Christmas, our God-with-us, might just be real for one other person.

As the Church changes its liturgical colour from purple to white, from sorrow to joy and peace, might we not turn aloneness and bitterness to reconciliation and peace?

A happy Christmas to all!

Clare Condon

Sister Clare Condon is a former Congregational Leader of the Sisters of the Good Samaritan. She served as leader from September 2005 until September 2017. In 2013, Clare was awarded a Human Rights Medal by the Australian Human Rights Commission in recognition of the Good Samaritan Sisters’ work with asylum seekers, Indigenous Australians and the victims of domestic violence. In 2022, Clare was awarded an Honorary Doctor of the University from Australian Catholic University.

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