Every Christmas, my thoughts return to the promise: ‘Peace on earth to all who enjoy God’s favour’. It is a time for Catholics to ask: ‘Are we doing our bit to advance Christian peace?’ ‘What is our parish community doing?’

Christ told the Christians to share in his mission [Matthew 28:19]. This includes promoting Christian peace.

Circumstances against peace
Many today lack peace because of life pressures. These include

  • single parents and mothers in crisis
  • the sick and the elderly
  • the homeless and those suffering addictions to alcohol, porn and drugs
  • seafarers away from families and friends
  • the lonely and the disadvantaged
  • the unemployed, new migrants and refugees
  • young people confused about themselves, and what to do with their lives
  • spouses of fly-in fly-out workers caring for young children.

While there are Church and parish organisations that work to help people in such situations, what they can do depends upon Catholics giving time to play a part.

Many today give generously to charitable financial appeals. However, they don’t give of themselves or their time – the real giving to those in need. This is the giving that brings inner peace and happiness.

Of course, there are times in life when all our time is taken, caring for the needs of family. Raising children and caring for sick and elderly family numbers are examples. But many no longer have these pressures.

Time poverty is a reality for most of us, and priorities have to be established. For the average Christian, this includes promoting peace by helping those in need. It can be as simple as offering to do the shopping of an elderly person when we are doing our own; or making a point of greeting and spending a few moments with an elderly person living alone as we exercise by walking.

Parish organisations
One of the good things about being a Bishop is that I see the marvelous ways parishioners contribute to the lives of others in need through parish organisations. Across our Diocese, there are ministries which:

  • visit the elderly, the grieving, the sick, the home-bound and the lonely
  • focus on the needs of young people, helping them at a difficult time for pre-adolescents, teenagers and young adults
  • provide food and other necessities, such as furniture, to those struggling to make ends meet
  • visit those in hospital and who have left hospital
  • welcome migrants and refugees, and help protect their employment rights
  • support mothers in crisis, and provide necessities such as baby clothing
  • help older people who want to remain in their homes for as long as they can by, for example, mowing lawns, offering lifts to medical appointments or doing house maintenance
  • visit those in prison.

Our Catholic schools provide a Catholic education for children whose parents have a health card for the same cost as a State school.

Parish based organisations
Most parishes also have branches of state-wide Catholic organisations. The most widespread are the Catholic Women’s’ League and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

The Catholic Women’s’ League (CWL) provides flexibility for those wanting to help others, particularly other women. Members can contribute from their homes. Parishioners in this organisation contribute locally and beyond to women, for example, who are:

  • in prisons
  • patients in, or leaving, hospitals
  • disadvantaged parishes.

Knitters and crocheters can contribute scarves, throw rugs and blankets for the homeless.

CWL members also help campaign at government levels for

  • suitable accommodation for people with severe disabilities
  • the rights of women
  • issues related to maternal health, post natal depression and palliative care.

Parishioners in the parish branch of the St Vincent de Paul Society help those who need:

  • home goods
  • cheap clothing
  • emergency relief in times of crisis, such as family breakdown and homelessness.

The Society also helps migrants and refugees settle into new homes. Members provide recreational and education activities for disadvantaged children.

At the diocesan level, we also provide through organisations:

  • adult education opportunities to help people trying to make sense of their lives in the world of today
  • pastoral care for seafarers
  • marriage preparation to help couples live successful married lives
  • assistance related to drugs including counseling, education, prevention and consultation for individuals and parishes.

There is the wonderful work of the St John of God Health Care system for the sick, those needing palliative care and those on drugs – and Pregnancy Assistance for mothers in crisis.

We need ‘peace-makers’
Jesus said ‘Blessed are the peace-makers: they shall be recognised as the children of God’ [Matthew 5:9]. To promote peace across the south western portion of our state, we need as many parishioners as possible to contribute of their talents and their time.

Can you help? There is no shortage of parish opportunities. If a typical parish ministry has not been established in your parish, why not take the lead?

We share divine love
Divine love is limitless. To help us grow as people of love, Jesus shares divine love with us through Baptism. Through Baptism, he pours divine love ‘into our hearts by the Holy Spirit’ [Romans 5:5].

Jesus taught us to develop this love. It grows as we pray, receive him in the Eucharist and allow him to restore our personal relationship with him through Reconciliation.

As it grows, selfishness and self centredness weaken and personal priorities change. Sensitivity to those in need grows. It is no coincidence that the number of those willing to give of themselves through parish organisations has declined along with religious practice.

Last Judgement
Jesus warned that those who neglect others in need will be judged unfavourably when they account for their lives after death. This told the story of the Parable of the Rich Man, who neglected the starving beggar despite having more than he needed himself [Luke 16:19-13].

Then there is our Last Judgement. Some are condemned because they failed to love Jesus by failing to help those in need [Matthew 25:40-41]:

For I was hungry, and you never gave me food, thirsty and you never game me drink. I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison, and you never visited me.

These days, many forget that they will have to account for their lives when they die.

Let us promote Christmas peace
At Jesus’ birth, the angels promised ‘Peace on earth to all who enjoy God’s favour’ – that is, to those

  • who accept a personal relationship with Jesus
  • draw on his power for their lives, especially through prayer and the Eucharist
  • strive to live as he taught, including by caring for those in need.

May every Catholic ask: ‘How do I give of my time and talents to those in need?’ Those who do so will ‘enjoy God’s favour’ – and Christmas peace.