Christmas Message 2015


To be Healers of Wounds and Warmers of Hearts


We often are perhaps surprised by the plain language and simple imagery Pope Francis uses to illustrate his messages. He offered a startling interview to a magazine in Italy in 2013, which has been translated into many languages since, – a very beautiful and very challenging image for an understanding of the role of the Church in today’s world.

Pope Francis greeting Monsignor O'Keefe

‘I see the Church,’ he said ‘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 heal wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds … And you have to start from the ground up’. The pope also adds in the same interview that ‘the thing the Church most needs today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful. It (the Church) needs nearness, proximity.’

This imagery in very meaningful to us in a military context but it also contains a sublime message for all of us this Christmas.

I would like to suggest that the 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 deeply wounded. We carry some of those wounds in our hearts and, even more tragically, we can be the cause of pain and suffering for others, even those we love the most.

Sometimes it is in our own families that wounds most need healing and hearts most need warming.

Christmas is a special time for family and friends when we remember that God has come near to us in Jesus. Why? Precisely to heal our wounds and warm our hearts with love. The giving of gifts at Christmas can be both a sign and a practical way of bringing warmth and healing into people’s lives. The gifts can be just superficial or an expression of something deeper. It is what lies in our hearts rather than what lies under the wrapping paper that really matters. These gifts can express and symbolise that we wish to be ‘healers of wounds and warmers of hearts’ not just at Christmas but every day of the year.

I join with our Chaplains in wishing you every joy and peace this Christmas and we pray for you, remembering you in our Christmas masses. May this Christmas 2015 be a time of deep happiness, contentment with family and friends and an expression of great hope for 2016.
On behalf of the Military Diocese, I thank you for your generous support given throughout this year.


Monsignor Peter O’Keefe

Catholic Military Diocese of the Australian Defence Force