O come, Emmanuel: A hurting world needs you

Categories: Editorial

Joe Towalski

Australian archbishop offers wise words in wake of tragedy

The third Sunday of Advent is known as Gaudete Sunday, which takes its name from the Latin word for “rejoice” — something we’re supposed to do in the last few days of Advent as we await the joy of Christmas.

But much of the news making international headlines this week was anything but joyful. First, there was the hostage-taking in a café by a lone gunman in Sydney, Australia, that ended in the deaths of two people and the perpetrator himself.

maryIt was followed a day later by the horrific news of Taliban militants murdering 132 schoolchildren in northwestern Pakistan.

Add in reports of the ongoing persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in Iraq and Syria, and one can understand the difficulty in finding much to be joyful about this week.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher summed it up well in a homily at a special Mass following the café siege:
“Hell had touched us,” he said.

But, in the end, hell doesn’t win. That’s what those of us discouraged by recent world news must remember in these waning days of Advent as Christmas approaches.

It’s what Archbishop Fisher reminded worshipers, and his words offer some solace and wisdom to a world that often struggles to find the light amid the darkness.

He noted that the backdrop to the Christmas story is rather dark — Jesus’ life is threatened at the time of his birth by an earthly king set on killing him. Herod ends up ordering the murder of the Holy Innocents.

“Yet,” the archbishop said, “we Christians believe that the Babe of Bethlehem is the Prince of Peace, God-with-us, God-one-of-us, God-saving-us. So why, if the Prince of Peace has come, do these terrible things keep happening? Perhaps the answer is in the first Christmas carol, when the angels sang ‘Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to those of good will.’ The God who saves still leaves men free. They choose whether to be of good will or not. The Christ Child proposes peace, again and again; He gives us the wherewithal to be reconciled and live peaceably with our neighbors; but in the end we choose whether to live in His kingdom, by His values.”

The archbishop added: “The darkness need not overcome the light. Indeed, the Christmas-Easter-Christian message is: It cannot! There is something greater than hatred and violence. There is love, that humble, self-donative love that comes in the shape of the Christmas Babe, the Prince of Peace. He can soften the hardest hearts. He can convert the most hardened sinner. Come Prince of Peace. Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

O come, indeed — our world needs you as much as ever.